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 E-safety Support on October 31, 2013 17:42


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