The Blessed Hugh Faringdon School in Reading has 850 students on a single campus split across five year groups and a sixth-form. With a network of 450 computers to manage, e-safety has become a major priority for the school and Network Manager Terry Bartram.
It's widely acknowledged that the learning opportunities that technology can offer are huge, but it also means that schools increasingly need to think about the risks to the students in their care. At Blessed Hugh Farringdon, Terry was well aware that they "didn't want a system that was too constrictive or one which distracted from teaching and learning." So how do schools allow children to make the most of technology without letting the risks hold them back?
Why eSafe education?
After trialling several alternative products, Terry recommended eSafe as the monitoring solution to base their e-safety policies around. Key to choosing eSafe was the managed service aspect where eSafe sends regular reports to the school proactively highlighting issues. "We wanted a managed service so that we didn't have to manually go through lots of data ourselves, eSafe does that for us." As a result, the daily and weekly reports have positively helped the school to identify and deal with e-safety issues that would never previously have known about, in a timely manner.
Another important part of choosing eSafe was how flexible it is. Terry says, "eSafe can be fully customised, so we get to define how strictly we set things. For example, we don't have the image filters turned up to the higher level, as we don't want to restrict searches for art classes and other lessons".
The school also use eSafe to encourage responsible use of the internet by both staff and students. Because users know they're being monitored, they have adapted how they use the technology. This has allowed Terry to reduce restrictions. "Our policy is not to block words but use the Virtual Teaching Assistant to ensure users are aware when they have typed restricted words and then to log these events for future follow-up."
Over 20% of children at Blessed Hugh Faringdon are Polish. But because eSafe is multi-lingual and recognises the characters of almost any language, it means the school are able to provide protection regardless of ethnicity and background.
A smooth transition
"The installation was a really pleasant experience, it's a managed service and nothing is onsite, so the engineers set everything up remotely and it was really easy". When the system was new he spent longer, but today Terry spends around half an hour each day on eSafe, so it's really low maintenance.
The staff and students have barely noticed any changes since the school got eSafe. All they see are where images are filtered and the on screen pop ups telling them when they have typed in a restricted word or phrase. As Terry says "We've been using the software for 18 months now and the students are used to it".
Dealing with incidents
Prior to having eSafe, the school had processes in place which were in line with Becta, but were quite limited. Having eSafe has forced the school to think harder about how they deal with e-safety incidents. Terry says, "eSafe has helped us to put a rigid e-safety structure in place, with clear internal feedback loops that drive our operational procedures. This is fully backed by the SLT and Governors. When incidents occur, they're dealt with in a more structured and efficient way since we bought eSafe."
Advice for other schools
eSafe is a comprehensive approach to eSafety that puts management back in control of ICT, reduces the burden and removes the legal liabilities created, but perhaps most importantly today, frees up teachers' time to focus on education and support. eSsafe also allows children to exploit the power of the internet, Web 2.0 facilities and mobile technologies in a responsible and positive manner without the need for constant supervision.
When asked if he'd recommend eSafe, Terry says "Definitely. I looked at 4 or 5 other systems but after seeing eSafe in action at BETT I was so impressed. Most importantly, I would suggest that schools really question whether they want an unmanaged system, as having a managed one reduces your overheads and makes the whole process more streamlined."
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