Staying e-safe at school

2014 is the year to push e-safety in schools forward, says Jon Valentine, managing director at e-safety software specialist Impero

At the end of last year a concerning report released by the Press Association detailed the number of children being excluded from schools for sexual misconduct. The report indicated that more than 2,000 reported incidents occurred between January 2010 and September 2013. Though not all of these related to e-safety, many involved the accessing of pornographic websites or inappropriate online behaviour. Data like this, as well as the ongoing sex education debate, shows the growing importance of e-safety management in schools and the need to educate pupils about appropriate online behaviour in 2014.

Here are three simple steps schools can take in the coming 12 months to improve the safety of their students:

Sex education

In 2014, the focus should be an update or reform of sex education in schools. It’s a point that Prime Minister, David Cameron raised last year when he signalled that sex education guidance should be updated to reflect the ‘dangers’ of online pornography, and again when speaking at a select committee in January 2014: “I think we can do better in terms of sex and relationship education.

“We can add … better guidance on some of the modern problems of cyber-bullying, sexting. We need to deal with that.”

The fact is, the UK’s existing sex education guidance has not been updated since 2000, and for that reason, contains no reference to the internet. This seems incredible. A school’s PSHE classes are intended to help safeguard young people by dealing with real life issues which affect them. Online behaviour and e-safety clearly fall within this bracket and are topics which must be considered and dealt with.

Online management and monitoring

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Over the coming months we expect schools to shift from blocking policies to online behaviour monitoring. Local authorities and schools now realise that blocking websites isn’t the best approach to e-safety. Notonly does this prevent students accessing useful websites on topics such as sex education, but many tech-savvy students now have the expertise to circumnavigate blocks rendering many filters useless.

Monitoring technology on the other hand, alerts teachers to online violations as they happen, thereby giving them the power to deal with misdemeanours then and there like they would any other unacceptable behaviour. 

Disclosure

Another way teachers can get to grips with online behaviour is to offer students an anonymous method of disclosure. We know from our own days at school that ‘telling’ on another student isn’t approved of, and this hasn’t changed. Few students will tell a teacher if a classmate is breaking the rules for fear of repercussions. But if schools instigate an anonymous reporting mechanism in 2014 they will find that students are far more willing to report incidents when they occur and it’s a method recognised and encouraged by Ofsted

This coming year will be an important one for e-safety in schools. The number of incidents of online abuse is increasing as it becomes easier for students to access inappropriate content. While teachers can’t prevent their pupils using their smart phones or home computers in this way, they can educate them as to how they should behave online, and they can monitor and manage conduct on school systems.

Impero Software will be exhibiting the latest in e-safety technology at Bett this year on stand D286.

 

 

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