By David Tindall, Managing Director, Schools Broadband
The introduction of e-safety to the National Curriculum last year saw moves to help tackle the increase in online risks to the young. All schools were required by law to implement e-safety strategies to help protect vulnerable school children from exposure to inappropriate online content.
Schools ramped up their focus on web filtering, many blanket-blocking access to unsavoury and inappropriate websites. The argument however for safe internet access without over-blocking and the ability to have adventurous but safe online learning meant a demand for more sophisticated filtering services. A managed approach to filtering was to become the recommendation set out by Ofsted, where schools had some control over access to websites and could offer age-appropriate filtering.
But July this year has seen even further steps taken to protect children in schools, with a focus on tackling fundamentalist extremism. The introduction of the Government’s Prevent Duty, which forms part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, states schools should have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.” And with the increased risk of online radicalisation, where terrorist organisations have been known to radicalise young people through social media and the internet, schools without the more sophisticated web filtering will be at risk of missing some of the potentially worrying online student behaviours that teachers now have a responsibility to be aware of.
The duty states: “Schools have an important role to play in equipping children and young people to stay safe online, both in school and outside.” As with other online risks of harm, every teacher needs to be aware of the risks posed by student online activity. Ofsted’s revised common inspection framework for education, skills and early years, effective from 1 September 2015, makes specific reference for schools to have safeguarding arrangements to promote pupils’ welfare and prevent radicalisation and extremism.
‘A filtering system will require advanced functionality that alerts teachers to suspicious search queries, including keywords that could potentially be linked to terrorism or extremism.’
A basic lockdown filtering system then is no longer enough. Schools will need to comply with guidance from the Prevent Duty that includes putting strategies in place to raise awareness of the online activity of pupils who are at risk of being drawn into terrorism. The Prevent Duty advises “staff should be alert to changes in children’s behaviour” as an indicator to those children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation. A filtering system will require advanced functionality that alerts teachers to suspicious search queries, including keywords that could potentially be linked to terrorism or extremism.
Schools Broadband’s cloud-hosted service, which incorporates Lightspeed Systems Web Filtering is designed to do just that. Its reporting function gives schools visibility of all web use via summary reports, giving a high level overview of what’s happening on a school’s network. Dynamic mobile filtering for off-network devices, ensures continuous filtering where teachers are alerted to suspicious search queries including keywords not just tied to terrorism but other triggers such as cyberbullying, child sexual exploitation or anorexia for example.
If necessary the Schools Broadband filtering system can drill down to view lists of websites accessed per user showing the date and time of the suspicious query. Schools Broadband says this function has already benefited several vulnerable students and teachers, enabling intervention which otherwise would not have ensued.
The fact the Schools Broadband web filtering system is customisable, allows schools and teachers the ability to set policies to match the schools area or a particular school’s needs. Reports can be accessed for up to three months after the activity has taken place, with a back-up kept for three years.
Schools Broadband can be contacted on 0113 88 77 633. The Department for Education has dedicated a telephone helpline (020 7340 7264) to enable staff and governors to raise concerns relating to extremism directly. Concerns can also be raised by email to firstname.lastname@example.org