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

    Computer Education vs Computing Education

    Computers are now common place in schools. However, despite the perception that today's young people are tech wizards, it's possible that their parents actually had a better comprehension of what computing is.

    The BBC model B computer entered schools in the early 1980's. In addition to the large range of application software that developed over the years, one of the main strengths of the machine was that it offered a simple introduction to programming.
    Contemporaneous 'home computers' developed by Sinclair, Commodore and their ilk similarly fuelled the appetite for computing in the young such that computing activity was often times split between playing games and writing programs of their own.

    It is no coincidence that the UK games and software industry grew so rapidly at the end of this decade, and it was the years immediately after this generation graduated college that the Web grew so big, so quickly.

    As computers became more mundane and every office desk sprouted a PC, the education around computing started to concentrate not on computing but on the use of computers. This is only to be expected, preparing young people for working life necessitates developing the skills they will need in employment and so writing basic programs gave way to using word processors, spreadsheets, design packages and the dreaded presentation.

    Consequently, although today's school children are more familiar with computers and computer based devices, it could be argued that they understand less about their inner workings, capabilities and implications.
    A computer is a tool. However, unlike a tenon saw for example, which has evolved with the input of craftspeople over hundreds of years to be a precision instrument with a specific optimum method of use, the computer is a highly flexible device ripe for use in any number of innovative new ways.
    The concern is that by concentrating education on current usage, the potential for invention is lost.

    A recent Government Report has highlighted this and has suggested a refocusing of ICT towards a greater degree of development and creation.

    Of course, it's not just about computers any more. The Web evolved beyond an electronic publishing platform many years ago and is now better characterised as a computing platform, complete with distributed processing and data storage features and functions.
    The notion of computing is now so closely tied with the connectivity between computers that in years to come it is likely that the invention of the PC and the subsequence connectivity of the Web will be seen as one and the same revolution.

    From an e-safety point of view, this is all very important. Time and again we see preventable issues with communication technology being rooted in lack of understanding or comprehension as to the repercussions of our online actions. By focusing computing education on computing practice rather than scope and capability we risk not correctly equipping our young people to critically assess their actions now and in the future.

    It is no small task. We are faced with training our children for a future involving societal practice and jobs that don't yet exist, which will utilise technology yet to be invented. The best way to do this is as with other subject areas, to provide a solid foundation of first principles which can be applied to new problems as they arise.

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on October 14, 2013 12:06


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