Child online safety – Why isn’t the message getting across in schools?

A reflection on recent statistics from Ofsted on e-safety education

E-safety Ofsted WarningI was thumbing through the TES the other day and I came across the headline ‘Online safety lessons failing to reach more than one-in-four secondary pupils, Ofsted warns’. The article reported on a presentation that Ofsted inspector David Brown had given at a summit on child Internet safety. Mr Brown had presented some research, gathered during inspections at 39 primary and 45 secondary schools.

The information revealed that even though 95 per cent of the schools had online safety policies, students within those schools were not always aware of the existence of these policies and furthermore it found that 27 per cent of the secondary school students could not recall whether they had been taught about online safety during the last 12 months. The research also stated that 28 per cent of secondary students said that they did not have confidence in their teachers’ understanding of online safety – a fact reinforced by teachers who said that they didn’t believe that they had received sufficient training focusing on online safety.

After reading the article I pondered about why there are significant hurdles in getting this serious message across to students. In my own experience as an ICT teacher, there appears to be wide variations in the levels of understanding of the issue and its associated facets, both within student community and more importantly within teachers.

One of the problems I believe is that in some schools, online safety is discussed in ICT lessons, where the teacher may only tackle the techincal issues and side-step the behavioural and emotional espects. Where in other schools, e-safety is handled in PSHCE lessons or during form time by non-technical teachers who, perhaps, lean towards the ‘technophobic’ and have a fear that their lack of understanding will make them appear foolish in front of their students should they start asking them probing more complex questions. This highlights the need for a truely cross-curricular attitude to e-safety education in schools to ensure students can understand the whole picture.

It could also be said that there is a part to play in this for parents/guardians and that is correct, however, sadly in the majority of cases the lack of understanding is also true but with the added problem that some parents appear to acquire their knowledge from emotive and misinformed articles within newspapers or on TV, where the purpose of the piece is to either sell the paper or gain viewing figures and not to offer parents properly researched and explained information.

It is one of the main reasons that I regularly browse sites like as the technological world moves along at a great pace and, unfortunately, new online threats to the well-being of young people appear equally frequently – whether it is the latest online 'fad', ‘sexting’, ‘trolling’ or cyber self-harming. However with the knowledge provided by sites such as this one, teachers and parents can keep informed about the latest online spectre and feel more confident when they are talking about these issues with young people.

Within schools, Internet policies should be student-friendly and one of the best ways to ensure this is to involve students in their design, authoring and promotion. In David Brown’s presentation the research demonstrated that disappointingly, 76 per cent of the primary and secondary schools, within the study, said that students were not involved in the writing of the schools Internet policies. By involving the students, the policy’s importance and relevance to them is raised and they gain a certain ownership of the document.

Finally, it is unfortunate that even in this day and age, in some school settings, the importance of child online safety can suffer from a lacklustre enthusiasm and sadly it is only when an incident occurs involving one of their students (or indeed a member of staff) that it becomes enough of a priority to be taken seriously.

The Internet is a fantastic resource for learning and it is here to stay, but as in real-life, there are those who wish to act illegally and do evil and unpleasant things to others online; however, it is up to the responsible adults such as teachers and parents to bring to the attention of young people the seriousness of online safety but for that to happen those adults must arm themselves with high quality information and understanding.

Ofsted E-safety Statistics

To see the full presentation, click on the image

Share your thoughts on e-safety education in schools using the comments section below

Written by Steve Gresty on July 15, 2015 13:13

The Troll in the classroom

E-safety for schools is about more than safeguarding the pupils

E-safety Teachers BulliedTeachers are facing a growth of incidents of online abuse, including name-calling, personal insults, sexual smears and even threats of violence from both students and their parents.

In the past, the most abuse that teachers could expect was maybe a bit of cheeky back chat, which would be quickly dealt with, with nothing much more than a stern word and a detention and if parents asked the child why he/she had been detained then their reaction would be along the lines of “Good! I hope you learn your lesson and don’t do it again?”

These days, however, there has been a quantum leap in the attitude to teachers by some parents and, digital technology, along with all the positive opportunities it offers, has provided these parents with a sinister outlet to vent their anger when they find out that their ‘pride–and-joy’ has been reprimanded (nearly always wrongly, in their eyes) for some misdemeanour.

Increasingly, teachers are having to endure online abuse from not only students, but their respective parents as well. This growing abuse includes personal insults, accusations of paedophilia or of having sex with students, as well as racist, sexist and homophobic remarks and threats of violence towards teaching staff.

Incidents include a parent informing a teacher on social media that they were “rubbish” and that she was a “bitch” who attempted to kill their daughter by making her do P.E. and not allowing her to use her inhaler – an accusation that the teacher vehemently denied.

Another member of staff, who was heavily pregnant at the time, received vile comments such as “I hope she gets cancer” and “ugly [expletive] bitch”. She also had an abusive Facebook account established in her name. Other teaching staff described how pictures, which have been taken of them in the classroom, without their knowledge were uploaded and then commented on in a flurry of expletive-laden insults.

Now, some may say, “Well, it’s just kids being mischievous; teachers should have a ‘thick skin’ and be used to this sort of behaviour”. But, in reality, as one teacher experienced, who would put up with being sent sexually explicit abusive messages over a prolonged period of nine months? I would hazard a guess, not many!

But surely, don’t teachers report these instances to their senior management team?

Yes, they do but, as the unions report, in an educational world ruled by league tables and Ofsted ratings, schools and head teachers are reluctant to get involved because they don’t want to annoy parents and risk the reputation of their school.

In a survey conducted by the teaching union, the NASUWT, it reported that 60% of 1500 respondents had suffered abusive comments on social media sites by students and parents in comparison to just 21% in 2014. Worryingly, this rise appeared to be entirely attributable to an increase in the number of parents posting abusive remarks.

As a consequence of this problem, coupled with a myriad of other pressing issues within the teaching profession, research in ‘The Independent’ in early April 2015, reported that around 40% of teachers quit within their first year when the harsh realities of life in the classroom become too much.

The issue of the online abuse of teachers is a very real problem that, if not dealt with urgently, will only get worse and potentially contribute to the growing crisis within the teaching profession, but, if it is to have any chance of success, it will require a cohesive plan and the collaboration of stakeholders from education, Government and the social media industry.

If you would like to share your experience on this topic, please use the comments section below.

Written by Steve Gresty on May 14, 2015 11:12

What is E-safety?

A back to basics explanation of e-safety in relation to schools

Back in 2012, Ofsted added e-safety to their school inspection requirements, placing more demands on the school timetable, school budgets and school staff. These requirements extended way beyond the classroom, encompassing the “whole school community” within the schools expected scope of delivery.

But now, almost 3 years later, it’s still easy to find staff members in schools who are unclear as to what e-safety is, let alone know who is responsible for making it part of the school agenda. Is it ICT? Is it pastoral? Is it SLT? In our experience, it’s everyone!

There are many statistics regarding the use of ‘connected devices’, incidents of cyber bullying and indeed teachers falling foul of inappropriate use of social media which support the need for e-safety awareness across the school, but what is e-safety?.

Firstly, let’s tackle the term ‘e-safety’. This can also be called ‘internet safety’, ‘online safety’ or ‘web safety’. E-safety is often defined as the safe and responsible use of technology. This includes the use of the internet and also other means of communication using electronic media (eg text messages, gaming devices, email etc).

In practice, e-safety is as much about behaviour as it is electronic security. E-safety in this context is classified into three areas of risk:

  • Content: being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material
  • Contact: being subjected to harmful online interaction with other users
  • Conduct: personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of, or causes, harm.

Quoting directly from the Ofsted inspection briefing, e-safety (in the context of an inspection) is described as the school’s ability:

  • to protect and educate pupils and staff in their use of technology
  • to have the appropriate mechanisms to intervene and support any incident where appropriate.

A good way to see how your school fairs against the Ofsted requirements it to ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. How do you ensure that all staff receive appropriate online safety training that is relevant and regularly up to date?
  2. What mechanisms does the school have in place to support pupils and staff facing online safety issues?
  3. How does the school educate and support parents and whole school community with online safety?
  4. Does the school have e-safety policies and acceptable use policies in place? How does the school know that they are clear and understood and respected by all?
  5. Describe how your school educates children and young people to build knowledge, skills and capability when it comes to online safety? How do you assess its effectiveness?

These questions, along with examples of good / outstanding practice can be found here

It is essential that all members of school staff (teaching and non-teaching) are aware of e-safety and their own responsibilities when using the vast array of technologies now available for both personal and professional use. For pupils, it is no longer acceptable to simply have a firewall in place to prevent them accessing certain sites from the school network – the vast majority have a connected device in their pocket they could use instead, making education on this topic essential. And parents must also be made aware of e-safety to ensure that good practice continues outside of school grounds.

For more information about e-safety for staff, E-safety Support members can download a guide to E-safety from your dashboard. If you are not an E-safety Support member and would like a copy of this report, join our free membership package.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on March 19, 2015 15:38

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