Forty-one percent of UK school staff have not received any online safety training to date, according to the 10th annual State of the Nation report from digital safety policy and practice charity SWGfL.
This statistic is particularly concerning when you consider the statutory safeguarding requirements imposed on UK schools to maintain effective safety and safeguarding education.
Assembled by Professor Andy Phippen of Bournemouth University, the report digs into data from more than 11,000 education settings via ‘360 Degree Safe’ – an award-winning tool that helps schools review their online safety provision and develop an action plan for improvements.
The report found that areas such as filtering and monitoring, as well as a number of policy aspects, seem to be growing in strength, with 69% of establishments benefitting from coherent and embedded filtering and monitoring, allowing them to check up on exactly what content students are accessing. This ensures a high level of protection from inappropriate or upsetting content, supporting monitoring capabilities that are both useful and proportionate.
On top of this, the State of the Nation report found that 73% of schools have at least coherent and embedded Policy Scope, helping to direct establishments’ policy towards clear and consistent practice, another statutory requirement; while 72% of schools have implemented policy around data protection, highlighting their awareness of their responsibility to keep sensitive data safe.
Additionally, more than 90% of UK schools have some form of Acceptable Usage Policy, allowing them to offer clarity on exactly how technology should be used.
However, there are a number of areas in which schools acknowledge they are lacking, and have been consistently throughout the last decade – including in teacher training surrounding e-safety.
Governor training was also low, with 49% having had no practice or planned practice in the field. This raises the question of whether these school boards are in the position to present sufficient challenge to senior leaders to ensure effective online safety measures are in place to shield young people from harm.
“We still have some way to go in some areas, such as staff training, but it is encouraging to see that the vast majority of schools now have policy related to online safety that relates to whole school practice and the technical measures in place to ensure young people cannot gain access to illegal, inappropriate or upset content on school systems,” said Professor Phippen.
Professor Emma Bond, director of research, head of the graduate school and professor of socio-technical research at the University of Suffolk, said: “In the last 10 years, we have seen significant improvements in public and parental awareness of online behaviours and potential harms, although some of this has sadly resulted from unhelpful media hype.
“We are seeing many more educational responses becoming more appropriate, focused and effective for engaging young people and their families, with nearly 80% engaging with parental engagement,” she added. “However, this also means that 20% are not, which remains concerning.”
Click here to view the full State of the Nation report from SWGfL.