There is no more important issue to a school than the safety of its pupils. The new Ofsted framework for school inspection that came into force in January 2012 reflects this. The importance placed upon safeguarding is greater than ever, and plays a major role in the outcome of an inspection.
Ofsted’s guide to best practice on safeguarding in schools can help school management ensure that effective procedures are in place.
The effective use of ICT systems in schools can play a major role in achieving the Ofsted criteria for safeguarding. In particular, when Learning Platforms are integrated with Management Information Systems (MIS), the ability for a school to record, track and analyse student data enables potential problems to be identified and addressed quickly.
A school ICT system should be able to track data on issues such as attendance, exclusions, incidents of bullying, and complaints, as well as take up of extended activities on a student by student basis. This ensures a joined up approach to safeguarding, meaning issues are communicated, information is easily accessible when required, and that problems do not slip between the cracks (avoiding problems such as the loss of paper records / information being held in different locations).
Learning Platforms can be used to build a repository of information that can prove invaluable for safeguarding. Policy and procedure documents, risk assessments, individual care and education plans, behaviour and incident records and records of contacts with families can all be easily accessed from a central location, both inside and outside of school. Access to this information can be controlled by administrators so only particular members of staff can view certain documents, protecting confidentiality.
A major worry for schools regarding ICT is that students are accessing inappropriate material or having inappropriate interactions online. The effective monitoring of online activity can help teachers and parents identify possible problems and tackle the issue to ensure safe online activity. For example, those attempting to access restricted sites in school or those undertaking unsafe online interactions can be identified and given individual protection through lessons on the potential dangers of such behaviour, and the involvement of families where students do not recognise the dangers of their activity.
Ofsted recommends a school draws upon staff specialisms to ensure ICT is used to improve safeguarding, such as e-learning technicians taking a key role in promoting internet safety.
ICT has a huge potential for teaching and learning, for engaging students and increasing teaching efficiency. Some argue that the use of ICT in schools should be curtailed to ensure safeguarding requirements are achieved, but this is not an appropriate response to the challenges presented by online technology. Schools should seek to harness ICT not only for curricular purposes, but to help identify safety issues and provide guidance to students on its use to ensure that online interactions remain safe and positive.