Safe surfing in our schools

We talk to Emma Ashcroft about Exa Education’€™s new partnership with Securus Software and its benefit to pupils, students and staff


How does the new partnership compliment Exa Education?

One of Exa Education’s key products is SurfProtect, a content filtering service we offer as a standard add-on to our internet-for-school packages. Content filtering is very effective when it comes to protecting pupils from exposure to inappropriate material coming into the school’s network, but up to now it couldn’t detect harmful behaviour on a school’s network.

This month Exa has bolstered SurfProtect’s safeguarding capacity by officially collaborating with Securus Software. Partnered with Beat Bullying and South West Grid for Learning, Securus is also an Associate Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS). Securus Software gives school staff a greater insight into what pupils are doing online – not only in terms of what’s being accessed, but also in relation to the material they’re creating themselves. The software alerts schools to threats including language which could indicate grooming or bullying, harmful websites, access to pornography or self-harm. It then captures and records the content through a screen grab, providing an automatic reference for the school to have on file so that even if the incident isn’t reported by a staff member or student, it’s there in case it’s needed in the future.

Ofsted safeguarding requirements

The importance of monitoring as well as content filtering has become even more pronounced following the recent review of safeguarding from Ofsted, placing a particular onus on educating pupils how to use technology safely. Because of their young age, pupils and students are still learning the boundaries and choices they have to make whilst using technology. It is important that they understand how to identify these boundaries themselves, but their decisions may not always be the right ones. However, with Exa’s content filtering and Securus’ network monitoring working quietly in the background, there is a secure measure at the root of the system. This enables students to work autonomously, but with the guarantee that they will always be doing so safely. Indeed, an issue that occurs can even be acted upon without the user’s knowledge as it may be reported by the software, but action deemed unnecessary if the incident doesn’t overstep Ofsted’s recommendations. The background reporting also serves to alleviate the responsibility placed on victims of cyber bullying to report the abuse themselves, as the school is alerted to any issue by the software rather than the individuals involved. Ideally, a blanket understanding on the pupils’ part that software is monitoring their usage will encourage students to observe their school’s Acceptable Use Policy, so discourage any misuse in the first place. Should misuse happen, though, the way in which Securus functions is good news for vulnerable young people who have difficulty speaking out for fear of the consequences.

Securus Software is a partner of BeatBullying and South West Grid for Learning as well as an Associate Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).

Exa Networks is a member of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), Réseaux IP Européens (RIPE) and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).