In a digital world, safeguarding students means protecting them from virtual as well as physical threats. The virtual world is constantly changing, and with it, the volume and type of threats. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of safeguarding policies, making sure they’re reassessed consistently to protect pupils.
With the Department for Education recently updating Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), now seems a pertinent time to look at what’s new and revisit best practice. The new KCSIE guidance will see Safeguarding Partnerships replacing all Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs). Local areas will have access to a dedicated team of key professionals from the Local Authority, Clinical Commissioning Group and the police.
There is, unfortunately, nothing new in the way of digital safeguarding guidance. On the subject of safeguarding schools online, The Department for Education remains somewhat vague, official guidance being that school leaders should implement ‘an effective approach to online safety’, and ‘protect and educate the whole school community in their use of technology and establish mechanisms to identify, intervene in and escalate any incident where appropriate.’
According to our State of Technology in Education report, maximising online safety in school has also been slipping down the list of priorities over the last three years. 50% of respondents saw it as a priority in 2017, only 43% do this year.
The lack of updated guidance from the DoE, coupled with slipping prioritisation of online safety, paints a concerning picture when it comes to keeping pupils safe online. As technology becomes ubiquitous in schools, we can’t afford to become complacent. Safeguarding policies should be updated consistently to stay relevant, and especially whenever a new, specific threat is identified.
With that in mind, now seems a good time to provide a practical list of actions the SMT, teachers and pupils can take to stay safe online.
Essential actions for the SMT to undertake to set the precedent for safe use of technology.
Establish a digital safeguarding team: cybersecurity and e-safety should be a key agenda item at senior leadership meetings.
Put effective online filters in place: sensibly restricting internet access through the school network is key. Content filters should be age appropriate, language appropriate and capable of tracking who has looked at what.
Invest in thorough staff safety training: staff should be taught about online safety as part of your safeguarding procedures. They should be briefed on using online content, school policies and safe use of systems.
Consider the fair use of personal devices: to cover off the almost ubiquitous BYOD culture, clear policies around acceptable on-site device use are critical, as are guidelines for communication between pupils wherever they are.
Conduct due diligence of edtech and any third party software or hardware: task your IT team with ensuring existing and new technologies fall in line with your school’s policies, and ensure that IT has a clear insight into any and all devices running over the school network.
Considerations for keeping your classroom safe.
- Encourage children to talk: create opportunities for your pupils to discuss what they think online safety is and what they should and shouldn’t do online.
- Educate them that bullying isn’t just physical: examine cyber-bullying, investigating its consequences and the ways pupils can protect themselves. Consider providing a secure and anonymous method for pupils to communicate about and report different forms of bullying.
- Start them young: even reception classes can and should be taught how to stay safe online. Teach them about what’s ‘safe’ to share. You could create a collage of ‘shareable’ images and ask them to identify those that are safe, such as food and sports, and those that aren’t, such as their own picture.
- Call in back-up: express to pupils how important it is to ask an adult for help or guidance if they see anything they’re not sure of online.
Some tips for pupils to try, to highlight the importance of online safety.
Search for themselves: search their name and see what comes up. See if they can remove it.
Check their privacy settings: highlight to them the importance of knowing what information they are sharing and who they are sharing it with, and how their information could be used by others.
Think before they post: tell them to ask themselves, “Would I be happy for my parents to see it?” or “Would I regret saying this in 6 months time.”
Deactivate and delete: if an account’s no longer being used, get rid of it properly.
Make a positive footprint: the best way for pupils to keep online a good reputation in check is to use time online to get creative and create a positive footprint.