Ken Corish, Online Safety Manager, South West Grid for Learning and Safer Internet Centre

Esafety is one of those areas of safeguarding that never seems desperately important until things go belly-up; only then do a host of authorities appear to point out the massive gaps that you missed, the impact of which is only obvious in hindsight.

There is an awareness now that schools tend to get physical safeguarding right on the whole: however the focus is beginning to switch to those issues that occur “beyond the school gate” that impact on the wellbeing of a child where they are acting as a pupil of the school. Safeguarding procedures that are sophisticated enough to identify, respond to, ameliorate or signpost interventions tend not to be as well developed where technology is concerned.

It is no accident then that the inspection handbook (Sept 2012), the subsidiary guidance for inspectors and the new inspectors’ briefing sheets shift the spotlight onto these aspects. E-safety and cyber-bullying are mentioned four times in the new schedules, interestingly enough in the Leadership and Management section when describing outstanding schools.

The new Ofsted handbook can be found online at: 

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/handbook-for-inspection-of-schools-september-2012

The UK Safer Internet Centre were fortunate enough to be asked to assist in helping shape and advise on these changes, in particular the inspectors’ briefing sheets. These briefing sheets are publicly available to schools and give a valuable heads-up to school leaders as to what good/outstanding on-line safeguarding practice looks like; more importantly perhaps,  it clearly outlines what inadequate practice looks like.

The briefing sheets can be found at: 

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/briefings-and-information-for-use-during-inspections-of-maintained-schools-and-academies-september-2

Key features of good and outstanding practice

Whole school consistent approach

All teaching and non-teaching staff can recognise and are aware of e-safety issues. High quality leadership and management make e-safety a priority across all areas of the school (the school may also have achieved a recognised standard, for example the e-Safety Mark). A high priority is given to training in e-safety, extending expertise widely and building internal capacity. The contribution of pupils, parents and the wider school community is valued and integrated.

Robust and integrated reporting routines

School-based online reporting processes that are clearly understood by the whole school, allowing pupils to report issues to nominated staff (for example SWGfL Whisper) and report abuse mechanisms, as advised by CEOP.

Staff

All teaching and non-teaching staff receive regular and up-to-date training.

Policies

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 well communicated and respected by all.

Education

A progressive curriculum that is flexible, relevant and engages pupils interest; that is used to promote e-safety through teaching pupils how to stay safe, how to protect themselves from harm and how to take responsibility for their own and others safety. Positive sanctions are used to reward positive and responsible use. Peer mentoring programmes.

Infrastructure

Recognised Internet Service Provider or RBC together with age related filtering that is actively monitored.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Risk assessment taken seriously and used to good effect in promoting e-safety. Using data effectively to assess the impact of e-safety practice and how this informs strategy.

Whilst there is a realisation that e-safety may not be a high priority in a school that is challenged with more fundamental issues, this renewed focus around technology and safeguarding must surely act as a lever to create safer environments for pupils, staff and families both on-line as well as off.

That journey might actually be easier than you think as there is a whole host of support and advice out there that will not only kick-start that process but help to sustain and grow it too. Back this up with a quality curriculum for all users and the strategy begins to write itself.

A great place to begin to review and map your readiness for this would be be to use 360 degree safe, the free online self review tool for schools from SWGfL.

For an objective external assessment, then book a half day online safeguarding review with a South West Grid for Learning adviser. For more details contact: esafety@swgfl.org.uk

Looking for a progressive, engaging, media rich and effective curriculum for Digital Literacy that is FREE? Then go to www.swgfl.org.uk/digitalliteracy

For more information from RM on Esafety have a look at http://www.rm.com/esafety

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