ETS Mythbuster: Online safety in Schools

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Hi everyone.

We have had a significant number of schools contacting us seeking clarification as to what they need to do to ensure they are compliant with the latest Government Advice re: Keeping Children Safe in Education.  

There appears to be a great deal of confusion and misinformation about this so in this blog post we are going to (attempt to!) set the record straight.

This will be a slightly longer blog post that we usually write, mainly because there are several key points we need to get across - so please feel free to grab a cuppa, sit down, and have a read...

Short version for busy people (tl:dr)

The flowchart below provides guidance for schools, outlining if you should consider subscribing to our "Real time e-safety monitoring service".


(In summary, if you have pupils using computers unsupervised, then you need our services)


If your pupils never use your school's internet connection without a teacher, TA or other member of staff in the same room & who is actively watching what they are doing, then you only need Service #9: Internet Content Filtering. 

If your pupils are able to use your school's internet connection unsupervised, then you should consider subscribing to both Service #9: Internet Content Filtering and Service #10: Real time e-safety monitoring.

Longer version for people with more time

On the 26th of March 2015, the UK Government released the following documentation:

In this document, on page 62 there is a specific section concerning online safety, we have highlighted the important bits below, it reads:


"The use of technology has become a significant component of many safeguarding issues. Child sexual exploitation; radicalisation; sexual predation: technology often provides the platform that facilitates harm. An effective approach to online safety empowers a school or college to protect and educate the whole school or college community in their use of technology and establishes mechanisms to identify, intervene in and escalate any incident where appropriate. The breadth of issues classified within online safety is considerable, but can be categorised into three areas of risk:
  • content: being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material;
  • contact: being subjected to harmful online interaction with other users; and
  • conduct: personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of, or causes, harm.
Filters and monitoring Governing bodies and proprietors should be doing all that they reasonably can to limit children’s exposure to the above risks from the school or college’s IT system. As part of this process, governing bodies and proprietors should ensure their school or college has appropriate filters and monitoring systems in place. Whilst considering their responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and provide them with a safe environment in which to learn, governing bodies and proprietors should consider the age range of their pupils, the number of pupils, how often they access the IT system and the proportionality of costs vs risks. The appropriateness of any filters and monitoring systems are a matter for individual schools and colleges and will be informed in part by the risk assessment required by the Prevent Duty. The UK Safer Internet Centre has published guidance as to what “appropriate” might look like..."

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/550511/Keeping_children_safe_in_education.pdf


What your school needs to do

Your school must do all it can to mitigate the 3 areas of risk listed above (Content, Contact & Conduct).

In practical terms this means you should:

“...ensure appropriate filters and appropriate monitoring systems are in place. Children should not be able to access harmful or inappropriate material from the school or colleges IT system” however, schools will need to “be careful that “overblocking” does not lead to unreasonable restrictions as to what children can be taught with regards to online teaching and safeguarding.”

Source: https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre/teachers-and-professionals/appropriate-filtering-and-monitoring

ETS Services which keep pupils safe online

This year, ETS is offering two services to schools which allow them to:

  • Filter the online content which pupils can access via your school internet connection. This is provided by Service #9 Internet Content Filtering and the vast majority of schools in Shropshire already have this in place.

  • Monitor what communications a pupil is having with another human being, anywhere online, via your school internet connection. This is provided by a new service, called Service #10: Real time e-safety monitoring.

The vast majority of the confusion we are seeing coming from schools concerns the Monitoring issue.  

The UK Safer Internet Centre provides very clear guidance on this matter, it says:


Monitoring Strategies

There are a range of monitoring strategies and systems however the appropriate monitoring strategy selected should be informed by your risk assessment and circumstances.  It is also vitally important to also review and refine the relevant policies as part of assessing (or implementing) a monitoring strategy or system.  The following are examples.

1) Physical Monitoring

Most suited where circumstances and the assessment suggests low risk, with staff directly supervising children whilst using technology.  This could be: physical supervision of children whilst using the Internet; assigning additional classroom support staff to monitor screen activity; or actively monitoring all screen activity during a lesson from a central console using appropriate technology. The following are possible limitations or points to consider
  • Can be resource intensive
  • Less effective across a larger group or a group using mobile devices
  • Students often adapt screen behaviour to avoid monitoring
  • Advantage of immediate intervention when an issue arises which can be developed as a teaching opportunity

2) Internet and web access

Some Internet Service Providers or filtering providers provide log file information that details and attributes websites access and search term usage against individuals. Through regular monitoring, this information could enable schools to identify and intervene with issues concerning access or searches.  The following are possible limitations or points to consider:
  • Assign appropriate responsibility for analysing the log file information. These reports can often be difficult to understand and may require specialism to analyse. 
  • The frequency that block or monitoring lists are updated by your provider
  • The log file information should be able to identify an individual user (or group as appropriate) for effective intervention
  • Logs need to be regularly reviewed, interpreted and alerts prioritised for intervention
  • Information held by the school that indicates potential harm, must be acted upon
  • Be aware of any limitations of the log file information

3) Active/Pro-active technology monitoring services

Where the risk is assessed as higher, Active or Pro-active monitoring technologies may be suitable.  These specialist services provide technology based monitoring systems that actively monitor use through keywords and other indicators across devices. These can prove particularly effective in drawing attention to concerning behaviours, communications or access. These systems can take the form of:
  1. Active monitoring where a system generates alerts for the school to act upon
  2. Pro-active monitoring where alerts are managed by a third-party provider and may offer support with intervention. 
The following are possible limitations or points to consider
  • Can be expensive in terms of installing and maintaining technology
  • Pro-active monitoring uses specialist organisations and may involve additional expense
  • Active monitoring requires sufficient internal capability and capacity
  • Active monitoring can initially generate significant volumes of information and alerts which can be difficult to interrogate and interpret.
  • Assign appropriate Safeguarding expertise to review, prioritise and take action on alerts that signal potential harm"

Source: https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre/teachers-and-professionals/appropriate-filtering-and-monitoring/appropriate-monitoring


All of this can be quite intimidating, however there is one simple question you need to ask yourselves:

At any point in time, do any of your pupils have unsupervised internet access?

If the answer is NO (and for the vast majority of Primary Schools this is always the case) then you only need Service #9 Internet Content Filtering because then you are implementing Physical Monitoring and Internet and Web Access Monitoring.

If your pupils are always supervised when using your internet connection you do not need service #10 Real time e-safety monitoring.

If the answer is YES where there are times when your pupils are using your internet connection unsupervised (and sometimes this is the case for Secondary Schools & lunchtime/after school clubs), then considering Service #10: Real time e-safety monitoring would be worthwhile.

Summary & Conclusion


If your pupils never use your school's internet connection without a teacher, TA or other member of staff in the same room & who is actively watching what they are doing, then you only need Service #9: Internet Content Filtering. 

If your pupils are able to use your school's internet connection unsupervised, then you should consider subscribing to both Service #9: Internet Content Filtering and Service #10: Real time e-safety monitoring.

I'll leave the last words to the UK Safer Internet Centre:


 "Filtering systems are only ever a tool in helping to safeguard children when online and schools have an obligation to “consider how children may be taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities, as part of providing a broad and balanced curriculum”.

Source: https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre/teachers-and-professionals/appropriate-filtering-and-monitoring/appropriate-filtering


Thanks for reading!

Paul

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