E-safety Dynamic and Proactive Policies, Practices and Procedures through Dedicated Time for Lead Teachers

E-safety, as an aspect of the school curriculum, is a dynamic entity and an essential component in safeguarding.

Consequently, e-safety policies and practices can be viewed as having two strands. First of all, known risks in relation to privacy, contact with strangers and accessing inappropriate material (such as violence, pornography and hate sites, for example) remain a constant. In one respect, the key messages that need to be communicated to children are static and unchanging. For instance, not divulging personal details and contact information via social media and networking websites and the steps children can take when confronted with online material and communications that make them feel uncomfortable.

However, the rate of technological developments and digital applications demands e-safety policies and practices need to evolve and progress as and when new issues and concerns surface. It is this balance between static, or core e-safety education (which can be covered as a series of planned assemblies, an appropriate scheme of work and day-to-day highlighting of issues), and an appropriate reactive and proactive response, the non-static nature of e-safety, that poses the significant challenge for schools.

Let us take a relatively recent example. Sending photographs via text message, email and sharing online through social networking websites has been with us for a while now. It is reasonable to suggest that the potential for images to be copied, altered, forwarded and put into the public domain (whether for positive purposes or driven by more malicious intentions) is known and understood. With the advent of Snapchat, digital communications can be sent with the assurance they will effectively ‘self-destruct’ after several seconds and be deleted from devices and servers. Schools are then in the position of needing to rapidly respond to a form of digital communication and sharing of media that has the potential to undermine previous work with children on e-safety: if the evidence of cyber-bullying or inappropriate communications doesn’t exist, then all that is left is the impact on victims and the courage of others not to act as bystanders.

So, where does the static and dynamic model of e-safety leave those who develop policies and practices in school? Clearly, there is a need for the lead on e-safety to have sufficient time to be able to respond to more established issues in this area as well as emerging issues or anticipated safeguarding problems by having a current knowledge and understanding of technological and digital developments.

An e-safety policy should acknowledge that the lead has dedicated time to ensuring practices are proactive and not simply reactive. There is a need to protect time for the lead to regularly review and update Acceptable Use Policies for both staff and children as well as consider how parents and carers can be made aware of potential dangers and risks as technological and digital developments continue to progress at a rapid pace. Dissemination of information related to new risks and responsible use issues also requires the lead to invest time in continued professional development to ensure all colleagues have the knowledge and understanding to address e-safety.

Of course, stating that e-safety policies and procedures are in place (from a dedicated lead with adequate time for the role through to parental engagement) is different from accounting for the impact of steps taken. Evidence of impact, both qualitative and quantitative, is necessary to evaluate the success of e-safety education within the school to inform future priorities and demonstrate to OFSTED that this area of safeguarding has a high profile and the policies, practices and procedures in place are embedded. Once again, this brings us back to the need for an e-safety lead with adequate time dedicated to this area of work in schools.

So, how can this be taken forward in practice? A good starting point is to audit the current position using the questions below. Where an aspect is not in place or needs review and attention, then this should form the basis of action planning and projecting the time necessary to address these areas for development.

  • Is there a dedicated e-safety lead in place?

  • Does the school have an e-safety policy? Is it updated on a regular basis and in response to emerging issues?

  • Is there acceptable use document for children? What about a user agreement for staff?

  • Has there been staff training related to e-safety? Does this include all staff groups? For example, teachers, leadership and management as well as support staff.

  • Is there a proactive approach to getting e-safety messages across to children? For example, a planned series of assemblies, a scheme of work and so on.

  • Are parents and carers involved in the school’s e-safety work?
  • By establishing a baseline in relation to these areas, formulating a plan of action, schools can therefore progress towards stronger e-safety provision and develop clarity in the impact on the school, staff, pupils and parents and carers.



    If you would like to share your thoughts on the issues raised in this article, please let us know by using the comments section below

    Written by Jazz Williams on November 28, 2013 11:36

    A school e-safety policy is so much more than a set of rules

    In the months since the inclusion of e-safety as part of the Ofsted inspection criteria, many schools are beginning to come to terms with the e-safety inspection criteria which includes; having a whole school consistent approach, developing robust and integrated reporting routines, having staff training and responsibilities identified, delivering age appropriate education, having the correct infrastructure, monitoring and evaluation, management of personal data and last but certainly not least, a school e-safety policy.

    In the most recent Ofsted ‘Inspecting e-safety in schools’ briefing, they identify key features of good or outstanding practice for e-safety policies as:

  • Rigorous e-safety policies and procedures are in place, written in plain English, contributed to by the whole school, updated regularly and ratified by governors.

  • The e-safety policy should be integrated with other relevant policies such as behaviour, safeguarding and anti-bullying.

  • The e-safety policy should incorporate an Acceptable Usage Policy that is understood and respected by pupils, staff and parents.
  • Significantly, there is only one indicator of inadequate practice:

  • Policies are generic and not updated.
  • It is easy to see why schools could fall into the latter category, not least because the e-safety inspection is a relatively new addition to the Ofsted inspection and may not yet be fully integrated with the other school procedures and policies. Downloading a 'one size fits all' policy template from the internet is a quick fix, but isn’t ideal and indeed, not a satisfactory solution where Ofsted in concerned.

    If e-safety issues are global and the associated risks applicable to all young people, why is an off-the-shelf policy inadequate. The answer to this lies with the whole school community involvement. If a policy were aimed at just students in a single year group, then it’s possible that a generic policy could well stand up to interrogation. However, add several more year groups, plus their parents and not forgetting their teachers, governors – the entire school community – and the parameters for the policy become vastly different.

    Each school will have a different relationship with its stakeholders – some school may have a locked down IT systems which prevent certain websites within the school, however once outside the school environment, pupils could have unrestricted access. This situation would require a different policy for pupils and parents to those which allow unrestricted (but monitored) access to the internet.

    Alternatively, a school may have a defined code of practice about personal social media accounts for teachers, while others may have accounts set up specifically for school use – again in each case, a different policy would be required.

    One area which all schools should have in common is the involvement of the students in the creation and implementation of the school e-safety policy – how this is applied however is again down to the individual school.

    These highlight just some of the areas where a policy would benefit from being unique to the school – let’s not forget, that there are several more areas from the Ofsted indicators that could also be interpreted differently. With all the possible variables, it becomes clearer why each school requires its own policy, even to the extent that schools sharing the same site could very well require different policies despite their shared location.

    On a final note, there is also the issue of a policy being ‘updated’. While the digital landscape is constantly changing and schools are become more e-safety aware, the school policy will need to be adjusted appropriately. There are no hard and fast rules about how frequently this will need to happen, but Ofsted suggest that a good policy should be updated regularly.

    If you would like to share your experience about implementing an e-safety policy in your school, we would love to hear from you – simply complete the comment section below.

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on October 31, 2013 17:42

    E-safety – Facing the Facts

    As part of our partnership with Fantastict, a national provider of educational consulting and training services, Joe Basketts, Education Director at Fantastict, shares his thoughts on e-safety strategy.

    The new briefing paper from Ofsted (released September 2013), is much more detailed and comprehensive than previous, making specific reference to an e-safety curriculum, how parents are engaged, training for staff and how the school website can contribute to informing parents and keeping them up to date. Reference is also made to schools that have obtained the E-Safety Mark or other recognised standard.

    The Ofsted briefing paper lists indicators of inadequate practice as:

  • Personal data is often unsecured and/or leaves school site without encryption

  • Security of passwords is ineffective, for example passwords are shared or are common with all but the youngest of children

  • Policies are generic and not updated

  • There is no progressive, planned e-safety education across the curriculum, for example there is only an assembly held annually

  • There is no internet filtering or monitoring

  • There is no evidence of staff training

  • Children are not aware of how to report a problem.
  • Understanding responsibilities with regard to e-safety is the first step towards achieving Good or Outstanding practice. However, the critical success factors lie in having the knowledge and skills to translate this understanding into workable strategies and processes within the school environment.

    There is a wealth of support available to assist schools in raising e-safety standards in line with the new guidance, an excellent example of this being E-Safety Support. Given the breadth of materials and sources available, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate the choices and identify which are most relevant to specific needs or will help address the most pressing issues.

    At the same time, some learning experiences are much more effective when supported by directed or face-to-face training. For example, online resources are excellent for providing insight into a topic, but cannot replace valuable peer-to-peer engagement which can only truly be realised through group workshops.

    In the same way as some content is better delivered in a workshop environment, when it comes to e-safety and indeed wider ICT and school strategies, external benchmarking will also provide great insight and a fresh perspective. For example, 360 Safe is a leading audit tool which can give a complete picture of a school’s current e-safety policy and practice. Working with an approved 360 Safe consultant, the school can then prepare a development plan which ensures the very best practice according to Ofsted guidelines.

    As with any aspect of school operations, understanding where you are as compared to where you need and want to be, is an essential part of strategy development – and a process where an external viewpoint and objectivity can help save a lot of valuable time and add significant value.

    Written by Joe Basketts on October 22, 2013 09:26


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