Online Safety; making consultancy work

360 degree safe, the on-line safety self review tool for schools has proved to be a real success for us here at South West Grid for Learning. With nearly 3000 schools now using the tool and a growing number achieving the associated “E-safety Mark“, it is remarkable how something we developed to standardise our consultancy judgements grew into what is now a multi-award winning on-line tool. And it continues to grow. It’s currently the central metric in a suite of on-line safety tools , “Generation Safe™” being developed in the US, Australia and Asia Pacific, soon to be released in the UK.

However, the establishment of the original 360 criteria was a defining moment in building a set of maturities towards what we saw as effective or indeed aspirational practice. These were standards that had their roots firmly embedded in school improvement processes in which many of us were engaged as Local Authority Advisers, built around the then BECTA “P.I.E.S” model used to underpin the BECTA ICT Self Review Tool.

Whilst the online version of 360 is designed to empower schools to manage and sustain the journey towards effective on-line safety practice, it is often the valuable dialogue between adviser and schools that kick-starts the process and provides an initial roadmap. Those conversations have been as scarce as hen’s teeth lately, with the decimation of LA advisory services and so even the signposting of tools like 360 at school level have become more sporadic; less-centric.

When one considers the recent shifts in Ofsted emphasis towards online safety outlined in the Ofsted Draft Schedules for School Inspection (Sept 2012) ; the inclusion of e-safety descriptors in the OFSTED subsidiary guidance for inspectors and the imminent appearance of an inspectors briefing sheet for on-line safety, there has never been a moment when this area of safeguarding has appeared more vulnerable.

I was interested in finding a way to define a rigorous consultancy process wrapped up in a single visit that would allow those “kick-start conversations” to happen again and leave the school/organisation with a set of actions/ next steps and comparators that would define a roadmap for what for many is a difficult yet important part of their work; on-line safeguarding.

With this in mind I designed a consultancy tool built around the 360 descriptors that:

  • Allows commentary and evidence to be recorded quickly as the conversation progresses and reported as a set of actions
  • Records the maturity level and automatically reports next steps
  • Bank of resource that can quickly be assigned to each of the improvement actions from a resource pack
  • Generate a report that includes areas of strength; areas for development and holistic comments
  • Generates radar graphs that show where the school is against accreditation thresholds
  • Generates comparative radar charts that show where the school is against (a) everyone else using the 360 on-line tool and (b) other schools in their LA using the tool.

A sample pilot of ten schools in Plymouth confirmed the value of this process and how it generated the impetus to continue the journey by registering and using the 360 degree safe on-line tool. It not only enabled schools to focus on the key priorities and vulnerabilities in their practice but also identified gaps which could be plugged with simple and effective quick win solutions.

And even in that small pilot, patterns emerged as to what schools found most difficult. It aligned with the findings of Professor Andy Phippen’s Plymouth University research evaluation of 360 data over the last few years.

  • Developing a skill-set amongst staff to educate children effectively in e-safety and recognise issues concerning on-line safety
  • Engaging parents and the wider community to understand and support the school in managing the issues arising from on-line incidents both in and out of school
  • Implementing a progressive scheme of education that develops the resilience of students and pupils beyond simple preventative messages, towards a wider digital literacy skill-set that includes digital citizenship and critical evaluation.

Hmmmmm ……. if only someone had the vision to adapt and create an off-the-shelf curriculum for schools to use that is media rich, easy to plan and integrate, is engaging and  … free?

That would be good … wouldn’t it?

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