Not only is it a regulatory requirement, it is absolutely vital for the safeguarding of pupils that a school’s filtering system meets the Department for Education’s appropriate filtering and monitoring standards, and is able to proactively alert Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSL) of suspected online activity of vulnerable pupils.
Filtering and monitoring standards are constantly evolving to match the pace of online threats – the most recent definitions of what constitutes “Appropriate Filtering and Monitoring” were updated as recently as May of this year. This includes blocking illegal child abuse images through implementation of the Internet Watch Foundation’s URL list and integration of the police-assessed list of unlawful terrorist content.
With hundreds of thousands of websites springing up every single day, the old method of manually adding URLs to blocklists simply can’t keep up. DSLs need all the help they can get, so fighting technology with technology provides critical support. This is where Artificial Intelligence comes in.
Using AI, the Netsweeper Filtering Platform from Schools Broadband carefully categorises content on the Internet, all while ensuring minimal disruption to a student’s learning experience. Once inappropriate content is categorised, Schools Broadband filters block the website URL, preventing access to harmful content. This is done in real-time, 24/7. Not only is it constantly updated, but the Netsweeper policy is “Block First, Allow Later”, meaning a brand-new website can’t sneak past filters simply because it hasn’t been categorised yet. This has been refined through trial with over 2,000 schools to ensure education-based websites and resources are not blocked.
This filtering service goes beyond content that is socially unacceptable for children to see like weapons or hate speech, to things more nuanced or hidden, like phishing, malware, and viruses – things that may not be immediately apparent to the human eye.
As well as preventing access to inappropriate or harmful content, an often-overlooked benefit of filtering is the ability to ensure students stay on task and only access reliable sources of information. With the dawn of “Fake News” this is more important than ever. DSLs can set their own filtering policies if required and have the option to filter out unreliable websites, or anything that might be a distraction to learning, ensuring students stay focused and accurately informed.
Equally as important as catching and preventing access to harmful content, is reporting on this activity. In order to meet standards, you need to demonstrate that you’re monitoring appropriately as well as filtering. With Schools Broadband, you can schedule reports based on customisable criteria, to run at intervals you choose. For example, a DSL could receive regular alerts and a daily report, while the Headteacher receives a weekly report, plus a monthly summary for the Board.
In addition to this, once an alert is triggered, you can access back-logs of student activity to see what type of behaviour led up to the incident. For example, were there missed signs that a student was depressed before they attempted to access content on self-harm, or was there evidence that a student was being radicalised before they attempted to access extremist content? On the other hand, does innocent research on biology show that an alert for pornography was triggered accidentally? Using this information, safeguarding measures can be put in place to protect students before they reach this stage.
With cyber-crime and other harmful content evolving constantly, students brought up with technology from an early age, and internet access ever more entwined in the delivery of education, it’s crucial that schools and DSLs do not hesitate to use every tool available to their advantage. For more information on Network Security and Filtering Services from Schools Broadband, get in touch.
Specialist Internet Services for Education
Schools Broadband is a specialist Internet Service Provider to the Education sector, currently providing filtering to over 700,000 school pupils and staff. Specialists in Education Specific Web Filtering and Online safeguarding, Network Security, VoIP phone services and Secure Private Wide Area Networks for Multi Academy Trusts. Schools Broadband also provides Secure Leased Lines up to 10Gbps, FTTC, EoFTTC and FTTP.