Whiskey, Ofsted and E-safety; a recipe for effective practice

A battle-scarred educator once offered me his measured opinion over the last single malt of the evening at some god-forsaken conference in some god-forsaken hotel at some god-forsaken hour. “There are only two ways to get schools to do anything; inspect it or stick it in a league table”, he smiled …before passing wind and passing out. (Mind you … his view of assessment was that you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it all the time … he had a point.)

Esafety is one of those areas of safeguarding that never seems desperately important until things go belly-up; only then do a host of authorities appear to point out the massive gaps that you missed. The recent SCR at a North Somerset First School where a member of staff had been systematically abusing children over a period of time had technical safeguarding firmly in the spotlight, right down to policy. Password policies never look important until a full blown police investigation needs to identify who was using a specific device at a specific time; staff logging in with each others’ or a generic password only serves to obfuscate those efforts, the impact of which is only obvious in hindsight.

There is an awareness now that schools tend to get physical safeguarding right on the whole, even allowing for the apocryphal stories of inspectors finding holes in the perimeter fence, or walking straight in to school at 7am or being handed a cup of coffee that was too hot! That includes policies, procedures, reporting, monitoring and education. The focus however is beginning to switch to those issues that occur “beyond the school gate” that impact on the well-being of a child where they are acting as a pupil of the school. Safeguarding procedures that are sophisticated enough to identify, respond to, ameliorate or signpost interventions tend not to be as well developed where technology is concerned.

It is no accident then that the new inspection handbook (Sept 2012), the subsidiary guidance for inspectors and the new inspectors briefing sheets shift the spotlight onto these aspects. E-safety and cyber-bullying are mentioned four times in the new schedules, interestingly enough in the Leadership and Management section when describing outstanding schools.

The new Ofsted handbook can be found online at: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/handbook-for-inspection-of-schools-september-2012

My colleagues and I at the UK Safer Internet Centre were fortunate enough early this year to be asked to assist in helping shape and advise on these changes, in particular the inspectors’ briefing sheets. We were careful not to crowd the document but base all of the observations and indicators on current research and accepted practice; but also  360 degree safe descriptors that we use regularly with schools to improve e-safety provision and standardise consultancy. We have also trained HMIs in focused areas of on-line safety such as cyber-bullying.

These briefing sheets are publicly available to schools and give a valuable heads-up to school leaders as to what good/outstanding on-line safeguarding practice looks like; more importantly perhaps,  it clearly outlines what inadequate practice looks like.

The briefing sheets can be found at: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/briefings-and-information-for-use-during-inspections-of-maintained-schools-and-academies-september-2

A salient extract reads:

Key features of good and outstanding practice

Whole school consistent approach

All teaching and non-teaching staff can recognise and are aware of e-safety issues.High quality leadership and management make e-safety a priority across all areas of the school (the school may also have achieved a recognised standard, for example the e-Safety Mark).A high priority given to training in e-safety, extending expertise widely and building internal capacity.The contribution of pupils, parents and the wider school community is valued and integrated.

Robust and integrated reporting routines

School-based online reporting processes that are clearly understood by the whole school, allowing the pupils to report issues to nominated staff, for example SHARP.Report Abuse buttons, for example CEOP.

Staff

All teaching and non-teaching staff receive regular and up-to-date training.At least one staff member has accredited training, for example CEOP, EPICT.

Policies

Rigorous e-safety policies and procedures are in place, written in plain English, contributed to by the whole school, updated regularly and ratified by governors.The e-safety policy should be integrated with other relevant policies such as behaviour, safeguarding and anti-bullying.The e-safety policy should incorporate an Acceptable Usage Policy that is signed by pupils and/or parents as well as all staff and respected by all.

Education

A progressive curriculum that is flexible, relevant and engages pupils interest; that is used to promote e-safety through teaching pupils how to stay safe, how to protect themselves from harm and how to take responsibility for their own and others safety.Positive sanctions are used to reward positive and responsible use.Peer mentoring programmes.

Infrastructure

Recognised Internet Service Provider or RBC together with age related filtering that is actively monitored.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Risk assessment taken seriously and used to good effect in promoting e-safety.Using data effectively to assess the impact of e-safety practice and how this informs strategy.

Indicators of inadequate practice

  • Personal data is often unsecured and/or leaves school site without encryption.
  • Security of passwords is ineffective, for example passwords are shared or common with all but the youngest children.
  • Policies are generic and not updated.
  • There is no progressive, planned e-safety education across the curriculum, for example there is only an assembly held annually.
  • There is no internet filtering or monitoring.
  • There is no evidence of staff training.
  • Children are not aware of how to report a problem.

Whilst there is a realisation that e-safety may not be a high priority in a school that is challenged with more fundamental issues, this renewed focus around technology and safeguarding must surely act as a lever to create safer environments for pupils, staff and families both on-line as well as off.

That journey might actually be easier than you think as there is a whole host of support and advice out there that will not only kick-start that process but help to sustain and grow it too. Back this up with a quality curriculum for all users and the strategy begins to write itself.

A great place to begin to review and map your readiness for this would be be to use 360 degree safe, the free online self review tool for schools from SWGfL.

For an objective external assessment, then book a half day online safeguarding review with a South West Grid for Learning adviser. For more details contact: esafety@swgfl.org.uk

Looking for a progressive, engaging, media rich and effective curriculum for Digital Literacy that is FREE? Then go to www.swgfl.org.uk/digitalliteracy (Released at the end of August 2012)

And promise… not a drop of whiskey in sight (Cue Eric Morecambe bottle and arm routine)

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