Only 37% of schools confident in handling online abuse

Research from RM Education and the NSPCC reveals key findings in online safety policy and practice in UK schools

RM Education and the NSPCC have today released findings from a survey of 1,158 members of primary and secondary school staff on online safety.

Results of the survey revealed that only 37% of respondents felt ‘very confident’ in  identifying and handline online abuse incidents involving children, while 57% of secondary school respondents and 77% of primary school respondents felt only somewhat confident, or unconfident in their understanding of the threats pupils face online.

Related news: European students launch online harassment campaign

Almudena Lara, head of policy at the NSPCC, said: “Social media, sexting and online pornography did not exist a generation ago and this survey underlines how crucial it is that today’s teachers feel equipped to help their pupils navigate healthy relationships in the modern world.

“As part of the government’s rollout of compulsory relationships and sex education lessons in schools, there needs to be comprehensive training and support in place to help teachers incorporate online safety awareness into this programme.”

When asked how they would approach a coercive sexting incident between pupils, in which an image was circulated around school, just 61% said they would confiscate the device and inform parents and police.

There needs to be comprehensive training and support in place to help teachers incorporate online safety awareness into this programme.
– Almudena Lara, NSPCC

Other responses to the questions were varied, suggesting inconsistencies in awareness of recommended practices. For instance, 7% said they would forward the image on, which directly contradicts the government’s advice from their Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance document.

There was an overall lack of confidence among respondents in their school’s approach to online safety. Only 15% of primary and 18% of secondary staff said they were ‘very confident’ in their school’s approach.

Training came up as a recurring theme in the research, with a third of schools not providing staff with regular online safety training, and 12% providing training only when requested by staff.

A quarter of respondents also said they made no changes to any aspect of how they approach and manage online safety after undertaking training.

Related news: Childnet launches online relationship toolkit for schools

The development and implementation of safeguarding practices was also explored, with only 9% involving students in shaping their school’s approach, and 32% not involving students at all in developing policies.

The full report is available at