E-safety: how up to date is your school?

As highlighted by nobullying.com when gathering bullying statistics in 2014, it was found that an estimated 5.43 million young people in the UK have experienced cyber-bullying, with 1.26 million subjected to extreme cyber-bullying on a daily basis.
Being vigilant when it comes to e-safety doesn’t just mean protecting students from this form of bullying, it also means implementing strict policies to protect private data about our teachers, students and all school staff.
With an ever increasing e-connected population, we need to educate our learners, staff and parents, on what e-safety is and what they can do to help implement it. This doesn’t necessarily mean putting blanket restrictions in place, or preventing access to information; it is more about establishing and then maintaining the balance between effectively using ICT whilst maintaining control. While school by school interpretations can vary, the following processes and procedures are vital.

Staff passwords
All staff should have their own username and password that is only known to themselves. If you use another PC or laptop, ensure you log on with your own details, and never log on to someone else’s behalf. Pupils from Year 1 upwards should always have individual usernames and passwords too. They don’t need to be complex but it’s really important that this procedure is in place. From an early age children need to appreciate important issues such as personal identity, passwords and security.

An acceptable use policy
It is important that all schools have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) in place, and that all staff, pupils, governors and visitors using the school’s network adhere to this. AUPs are user agreements to honour the school’s confidentiality and data security rules. These are standard practice within business, and should be in schools too. There are lots of examples and outlines available to use. I suggest schools take advice from their ICT provider, but I do also advise that they involve staff and learners in establishing their approach. Gaining their understanding and appreciation of why an AUP is important certainly helps with buy-in.

Managing personal data
We often associate e-safety as being web related but it’s also about data protection. We’ve certainly heard of situations where USB keys that contain important pupil data have gone missing, or staff laptops with locally held data have been stolen from parked cars. Schools can easily combat these sorts of issues by having the right infrastructures in place, such as having data securely saved in the cloud, still accessible from anywhere but in an encrypted, safe way. It’s really important that there’s a consistent whole school approach. All staff need to be aware, learners need to feel involved, and staff should feel confident that they are not restricted and are trusted. They should also know the pre-established reporting process should they see something or hear about a problem that needs to be brought to light.

It’s important to always consider the key features that Ofsted looks for. Staff should be trained to recognise e-safety issues and should make this a priority. All schools should also consider having a nominated staff member who will be the e-safety champion.
When it comes to training, it should be tailored around what’s right for the school. This could be evening e-safety training sessions involving staff, parents and students. It is important that in areas where there’s a high level of cultural diversity, potentially where English is not the majority of parents’ first language, that a different approach is used. They might be less aware of all the issues surrounding e-safety and how it can affect their children; misinterpretation of the situation is common.
Hosting parent evenings, e-safety sessions on the basics of the internet is one example of what works very well in some situations. Equally, many parents are not aware of the potential for bullying in schools and won’t recognise the signs in their own children. Similar sessions to show parents and teachers how best to approach this issue is key: introducing them to organisations such as the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) can offer them a source of additional information. An essential resource that all schools and parents should be aware of is the UK Safer Internet Centre (UK SIC) where they can find e-safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people stay safe on the internet. The UK SIC also provides a helpline for professionals working with young people and advice for parents about key e-safety topics like social networking and ‘how to’ guides for setting up filters and activating parental settings.
Adequate Software
Software is available to monitor a school’s internet use, such as cyber-bullying, threats or inappropriate approaches. A school’s filtering system should be checked, as well as its anti-virus software. However, as we have all become more aware since the recent high-profile security issues faced by public organisations and large companies, e-safety isn’t just about having anti-virus software in place; it is vital to ensure a school’s complete internet infrastructure is appropriate and secure.
This can be a constant challenge. Hackers and malware become more intelligent on a daily basis. Complete protection is no longer guaranteed. If a student really wants to access something, they will treat it as a challenge. But by educating pupils and engaging with them, it is possible to reduce this from happening.

Nick Madhavji is managing director of Joskos Solutions and a member of Naace, the ICT association.
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