The Keeping Children Safe in Education: Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges* drives actions for senior management and leadership teams to consider in relation to staff understanding and knowledge of safeguarding in schools, and provides a framework enabling each school to determine its own interpretation.
However, there’s some commonality as schools are required to demonstrate both a general understanding of the risks affecting children and young people, and ‘a specific understanding of how to identify individual children who may be at risk of radicalisation and what to do to support them.’ Schools must also have clear procedures in place for protecting children ‘at risk of radicalisation’, which may be set out in existing safeguarding policies.
Since September 2016, schools have to do all that is reasonable to limit a child’s exposure to the areas of risk from an IT system and, as part of this process, those with responsibility have to ensure the appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place. These have to take into account the restriction of access to online material that can be divided into two different categories: illegal content and inappropriate online content.
The DfE has put forward helpful criteria that must be met if a filtering provider’s system is to be considered fit-for-purpose: they have to be a member of Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), block access to CAIC (Child Abuse Images and Content) and integrate ‘the police assessed list of unlawful terrorist content, produced on behalf of the Home Office’.
The guidance makes it clear that it’s not enough to block content; children need to kept safe by looking at the intent of what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve
However, while schools are told to ensure that ‘appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place’, they are also cautioned against ‘over blocking’, which might lead to ‘unreasonable restrictions’ on what can be taught. The guidance stresses that each school is different and is required to determine its own interpretation of the content – throughout the guidance there is specific reference to the need to assess risks and put appropriate measures in place.
In assessing the guidance’s impact, schools need to evaluate whether changes are needed to their technical systems, policies, processes and procedures to ensure that they are secure and safe from risk. Given the requirements of the guidance this will undoubtedly mean a good deal of schools are reviewing and completing an in-depth assessment in each of these areas.
The expectation is that the school has a robust strategy or plan built around a combination of technologies; policies, processes and managerial procedures, which enables vulnerable children to be identified and profiled, alerting the authorities which can then actively assess and manage the problem or situation. It follows that it’s important schools make an assessment under of each of these to understand whether they are fit for purpose and appropriate given the updated guidance.
The guidance makes it clear that it’s not enough to block inappropriate content; children need to be kept safe by actually looking at the intent of what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve. It’s no easy task, and presents a difficult problem for those with management, administrative and teaching responsibilities. What is certain is that schools must review their IT systems in the light of the regulations and build a safer online environment and network. Failure to do so could have far-reaching consequences now and well into the future.
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