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The Internet has brought unprecedented access to a world of learning opportunities. Yet, recent reports show that the widespread use of technology in education comes at a price. A third of key stage 3 and 4 students have been subjected to attacks, threats or humiliation via mobile devices or online, according to the Virtual Violence II, Beatbullying. Little wonder that e-safety is now a priority for schools and that it has been elevated to top of the agenda within the Ofsted inspection process.
There is a fine balance when it comes to e-safety, however. A locked-down system, where almost every website has to be unbarred before a pupil can use it, stifles learning and does not encourage pupils to become digitally responsible. There is also the question of where parental responsibility begins and ends and to what extent a school can extend e-safety beyond its own gates. Schools, ultimately, however, have the responsibility to provide an environment in which the inevitable benefits of technology are balanced with a strategy to protect young people from harm. Developing an effective e-safety policy is a vital aspect of this.
Ofsted describes e-safety as a school’s ability to protect and educate pupils and staff in their use of technology as well as having appropriate mechanisms in place to intervene and support any incident where appropriate.
Ofsted is looking for schools to provide a safe learning environment through the effective use of appropriate monitoring and filtering. Yet, it is also looking for an e-safety strategy that extends beyond the school day and helps to provide a degree of protection for young people in their own homes.
Five steps for an effective e-safety policy:
1. Involve students – this creates a sense of ownership and provides the first step in education them about e-safety and acceptable use of technology;
2. Involve parents – they need to read and sign policies and have the opportunity to share feedback. This will highlight the need for e-safety outside school too.
3. Review it – agree a date each year when you seek feedback and review the contents of the policy. If using a Virtual E-Safety Officer such as the VE-SO portal, agility is built in to the system.
4. Embed it – policies are no use if they are simply a tick-box exercise. They need to be part of daily life. You could implement a reward system that recognises students who have shown leadership or responsibility in this area, or appoint e-safety monitors whose role it is to keep e-safety at the front of people’s minds;
5. Own it – all members of staff need to be trained and have responsibility for e-safety, but with a designated e-safety officer function, it is more likely to stay high on the agenda.
With the SRM VE-SO portal, a virtual e-safety officer replaces the need for an individual member of staff. Through the portal, we provide a range of e-safety templates and documents to assist with creating an overall e-safety strategy.