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What does successful safeguarding look like?

What does successful safeguarding look like?

The use of technology in schools has provided students with a whole new way to connect and communicate with each other and their teachers, in addition to being a great source for learning. On the flipside, access to the wider internet may mean that there is a temptation for students to access websites with inappropriate content – or use it as a platform for negative behaviour, such as cyber bullying or other undesirable activities. 

Here are some top tips to help keep students safe.

Staff training

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility in education, whether you are teaching or support staff. There are several ways schools can educate all staff about the risks, but a key feature of any strategy is to ensure that it does not happen in silos.

The training should cover the following topics:

  • the risks of online child sexual abuse and exploitation

  • how to identify and report concerns

  • how to use the school’s filtering and monitoring systems

  • the importance of talking to children about online safety.

Staff training should also inform colleagues of the latest updates to legislation or best-practice advice such as KCSIE, DfE or other bodies that provide guidance around online safety support.

Empowering students

It’s important to remind students of the role they play in their own online safety and general wellbeing, for example, by asking them to agree to the school’s Acceptable Usage Policy before going online. Additionally, helping students to access help independently, by supplying a tailored list of safeguarding resources or allowing them to report their concerns, is key to supporting them proactively.

A popular and effective way to strengthen digital safety throughout a school is to implement a Digital Ambassador programme. There are some superb programmes that coach older children in school to be online safety experts. These ‘ambassadors’ then promote the safe and responsible use of technology to younger pupils. The ambassadors’ voices often carry more weight than that of the teacher and, when the younger pupils have problems or are worried by something that has occurred online, often it’s easier for them to tell someone closer to their own age first – and the ambassador will then report it to the member of staff in charge of the programme.

The bigger picture

In England, Ofsted, Keeping Children Safe in Education and the National Curriculum for Computing require education settings to deliver online safety education through their broad and balanced curriculum, from the youngest phases right through the key stages. 

Undertaking ongoing reviews of where the school organisation sits against a clear framework – such as that provided by the Online Safety Review tool from SWGfL – is a great way to benchmark your provision and highlight areas for improvement. Interweaving online safety into the fabric of your day-to-day curriculum is where best practice sits. Educating staff about the resources available, how to support young people and how to role model best practice themselves, all help to provide the best support possible.

Context is king 

There are compelling educational reasons for not blanket banning everything. For example, we wouldn’t want to stop children from learning about areas like online safety, where difficult results and topics such as sexting and pornography might come up. We do, however, want children to not have access to tools and sites that share and promote this content. Just as blanket blocking and internet monitoring do not provide context, a lack of tracking means you’re missing crucial information when understanding students’ issues and the reasons for seeking out this content in the first place. 

Considering solutions that allow for contextual analysis as part of your internet monitoring processes could be a better approach. Contextual analysis is useful when tracking what young people are typing because it helps to provide insight into their thoughts and feelings. It helps to identify any potential risks or concerns, such as signs of cyberbullying or self-harm. It can also provide an understanding of the context of messages, helping to identify any potential red flags and allowing adults with safeguarding responsibility to intervene and provide support in the moment before a situation escalates. The algorithms use variables to consider surrounding activities, such as search parameters used, the time of day and websites being visited (including previous activities that have triggered alerts). All of these help to create a ‘risk index’. This index ultimately helps adults to identify genuine concerns and balance them according to the risks shown. 

The community

The key to success here as a school community is to involve parents and carers in what you are doing in school to support their children around all aspects of school life, not just online safety. 

Here are some ways you might like to consider working with parents/carers to support young people.

  • Invite parents to digital parenting events: Regular events for parents to attend to learn about different strategies or tools to support their children are often very well received and are a great tool in providing a wrapper of care. Topics often include gaming, online harm prevention, screen time, use of devices, parental controls and many more.

  • Use digital signage: By sharing important messages on digital signage in high-traffic areas that parents visit, they will soon see that online safety is high on your school’s agenda.

  • Survey parents and students: As seen from surveys of parents/carers and children, the perception and reality of what parents think is happening with their children are often at odds with each other. By investigating reports such as ‘Children’s wellbeing in a digital world’ from Internet Matters, you will uncover some great talking and learning points about where young people may need additional support.

For more information, access our free online safety guide.

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