A Digital World
As our world continues to move online, it is becoming obvious that we are living in a digital age. From communication to finding information, the internet has become our preferred choice. For children, there is no exception. In fact, the younger generations are the first to grow up with the internet as something that defines their lives. With these changes come unfamiliar problems and insecurities, but also ways of finding our feet in this new world.
Why E-Safety is Important in Primary Schools
Children are learning more and more about the internet at a young age. Ofcom reports that 43% of 10-11 year olds had a social media account in 2016, with 55% 3-4 year olds already welcoming the use of tablets into their lives. With these rising figures, children are increasingly susceptible to online dangers. Unfortunately, primary schools indicate they are less confident than high schools on resolving and responding to online issues. This rise in internet use among younger children is particularly problematic when combined with the lack of confidence in how to deal with potential issues. Thus, Ofsted has made e-safety a priority in inspections and has outlined what can be done in primary schools to help.
eSafety and Ofsted
In 2015, Ofsted released new guidelines on e-safety as a follow up from their previous report. Though online safety has been a part of school inspections for some years, these guidelines recognise that there are further means that can be carried out by schools to better their ratings and keep children safe.
Ofsted takes into account a number of things when carrying out an inspection: the measures a school is undertaking to prevent issues arising; the protocol a school has in place if something happens, and how well teachers are educating children on the dangers they could face. They believe that the earlier a child is educated on e-safety, the more successful the school is at keeping them from harm, both immediately and in the long term.
Implementing a purely restrictive filtering system without talking to children about risks and responsibilities of using the internet is unlikely to have any success. Alternatively, schools that combine curriculum-integrated education with allowing children consistent access to support are the most likely to receive an “Outstanding” status from Ofsted.
The shift to an open approach is clear, but we understand this is a lot to take in and adjust to. The internet can be a wonderful tool, and if used correctly can aid a child’s learning and development. In order to help your school strike the perfect balance, we’ve put together a few tips on what you can do.
1. Educate children about dangers on the web
It is important that children are educated from an early age on how to safeguard themselves online. This doesn’t just mean presenting them with information every now and then, it means embedding it into lessons across the curriculum, and facilitating discussion about it where possible.
Encouraging an honest and open environment is recommended by Ofsted, as involving student contribution was seen to be a characteristic of schools with outstanding online safety practice. By conveying the information to them in the right way, children are less likely to rebel if they are aware of the implications of being unsafe or offensive online.
Things like personal details (address, age, passwords etc…) should be kept safe and inappropriate posts prohibited, all while adhering to age restrictions.
2. Implement pragmatic, regular teacher training on e-safety
It’s unfair to expect all teachers to be experts in technology, but learning basic skills to navigate around things like cyberbullying or online predators is becoming essential when you’re trying to implement a good e-safety system.
Carrying out regular training to update teachers on what they can do is the minimum. In fact, as the world online is changing very quickly, it’s a good idea to let teachers know about this when it happens. This will allow them to be pragmatic as a larger array of problems comes from being online. More importantly, it will help them understand how it can affect children, and the importance of safeguarding.
It is recommended that at least one member of staff receives training to become an E-safety Officer. Accredited courses like those from Kidscape present teachers with training opportunities. You can find out more information on their website: www.kidscape.org.uk.
3. Monitor what they see
Studies have shown that restricting access to every website, or restricting access to none have both proven unsuccessful in keeping children safe. Indeed, it’s best to implement a good VLE to help filter out offensive messages from peers, but also report these issues to a teacher. Learnanywhere and Learner Journey are features that also help safeguard children in school, by keeping personal details safe from Google searches.
For when children are online, it’s also important to make sure they’re unable to access age-restricted or extremist content. Software like K9 Web Protection can help schools and parents do this, without restricting a child from seeing information online that could be useful to them. Certain apps can be useful for schools using tablets in lessons.
However, the key thing to note here is that children need to be educated on why these websites aren’t appropriate, so their minds and mouses don’t wander.
4. Work with parents
Effective e-safety guidelines are not only active in school. It is important that parents are made aware of what the school is doing and what they can do to help to ensure the school’s policy is consistent.
Children don’t spend all of their time in school, and parents often don’t have enough time or resources to know what’s going on most of the time. Discussion should be an open channel for all parts of the school community, and shows how schools are aware that e-safety extends beyond the classroom.
One of the best resources for this is www.thinkuknow.com, which has tools for parents, teachers and pupils alike to equip themselves against dangers on the web.
5. Provide ongoing support
There is still a chance that children are at risk, even when the best safety measures are carried out. This is why it’s necessary to have a good support system in place for when a child becomes affected by something online.
This way, you can report the issue, talk to the child about what exactly happened and carry out the best steps to make sure not only that they’re alright, but that the same thing doesn’t happen again. Luckily, 94% of young children already say they’ll speak to a teacher or parent when something happens to them online, meaning fewer children are suffering in the dark.
This comes as a result of facilitating discussion in the classroom, but shouldn’t be a one-off. By providing consistent support, you’re helping equip children with long term skills of how to deal with online dangers while also boosting your Ofsted status.
If you’d like to make sure you’re up to date with information on e-safety in the inspection handbook, visit www.ofsted.gov.uk.