Everything DSLs Need to Know to be #SeptemberReady in Online Safety

The rapid growth of digital technology to facilitate learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many educational settings have had to rethink and explore online safety in more detail.  

Schools are preparing to open to all pupils for the start of the new academic year. As the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), it’s important to know what actions you'll need to take to keep everyone safe online.

Although the way that schools will be operating in September will still be different to normal, the core safeguarding procedures remain the same. Having a plan around safeguarding requirements in relation to online safety is vital particularly as schools will need to ensure continuity of education which could be a blended learning approach in the event of a local lockdown.  

The aim of this article is to highlight what Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) need to be thinking about with regards to online safety.  

Know Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE) 2020  

In June 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) published the updated ‘Keeping children safe in education’ (KCSiE) 2020 guidance ready for implementation from the 1st September 2020.  KCSiE is the main statutory guidance from the DfE which all schools and colleges must adhere to when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. 

Annex C of KCSiE 2020 clearly identifies online safety as a safeguarding responsibility and highlights the need for all educational establishments to ensure that all members of their community have an appropriate understanding and the necessary skills to prepare them to respond to online safety issues.  

It is important to note that throughout the KCSiE 2020 guidance the DfE use the terms ‘must’ and ‘should’ and what the difference is. ‘Must’ is used when the person or body in question is legally required to do something whereas ‘should’ is when advice set out should be followed unless there is good reason not to.  

For example: 

  • Page 4 of KCSiE 2020 states that Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure that all staff read at least part one of the guidance. They should also ensure that mechanisms are in place to assist staff to understand and discharge their role and responsibilities as set out in part one of the guidance. 
  • Paragraph 120 of the guidance states that Governing bodies and proprietors must appoint a designated teacher and should work with local authorities to promote the educational achievement of registered pupils who are looked after. 

This article only focuses on parts of the KCSiE 2020 related to online safety. However, it is highly recommended that Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) and their deputies (DDSLs) read the entire KCSiE 2020 document when reviewing whole school safeguarding practice.  

What should DSLs be preparing for the new year? 

  • Schools and colleges should review their current online safety practice and implement any changes as required from 1st September 2020.
  • Review the safeguarding policy and/or the online safety policy to ensure that it has been updated with changes to the KCSiE 2020. 
  • Ensure that all staff have read ‘Part One: Safeguarding Information for all staff’ before the students return. Highlight to staff that paragraph’s 21 and 28 have been updated and that all staff should recognise that online safety issues that happen offsite should be treated in the same way as other offsite safeguarding concerns.
  • Part One also includes an updated section on Mental Health. It is important that staff recognise that mental health concerns could indicate online abuse and are aware that mental health concerns may be because of online behaviours. 
  • All staff should continue to be provided with online safety training at induction and as part of the regular child protection training and updates. This training should focus particularly on the following areas peer on peer abuse including cyberbullying, upskirting, sexting and online contextual safeguarding.  

What about DSL’s training? 

Consider your own training on online safety. Do you have access to appropriate training and support regarding online safety? Does it include the following: 

  • An up-to-date awareness of both the risks and benefits of technology? 
  • An awareness of national and local policy and procedures? 
  • An exploration of issues relating to online safety and SEND? 

Review the anti-bullying policy and ensure that it outlines the procedures for children, staff, and parents to follow if cyberbullying concerns are reported.  

Review the staff code of conduct too ensure that it covers the acceptable use of technology for staff, online staff/student relationships and communication via social media.   

What actions should DSLs take?  

  • Review your existing online safety policies 
  • Liaise with the CPD lead for your organisation to ensure that you have sufficient opportunities throughout the year to keep staff up to date with developments within the online safety agenda.
  • Liaise with the Behaviour Lead to ensure that the school’s behaviour policy outlines procedures and sanctions to deal with incidents of cyberbullying. 
  • Review the teaching of online safety with key personnel in the school such as the Head of Computing, PHSE and Citizenship to ensure that the curriculum is flexible, relevant and engages learners’ interest. It should be appropriate to their needs and abilities and encourages them to develop resilience to online risks. 
  • Use the questions from the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) to check whether the school or college’s arrangements continue to effectively safeguard children online. This guidance is aimed at Governors but is useful for Senior Leaders as it is important that all SLT understand the current filtering and monitoring systems in place with the organisation. 
  • Review the Acceptable Use policy and the use of mobile technology in the school or college policy. Consider how this information is communicate to staff, students, and parents/carers. Does your current policy reflect the new remote learning situation well enough? 
  • Consider how information relating to online safety is shared with parents/carers. Does the safeguarding section on the school or college website or the visitor’s information leaflet require updating?
  • Consider how you evidence policy, procedures, and practice in relation to online safety. 
  • Liaise with the Data Protection Officer – is your school GDPR compliant following updates in KCSiE 2020?
  • If you use a virtual system for reporting and recording safeguarding concerns, are staff sufficiently trained? Have you planned training sessions?
  • Finally, are all staff are aware of the safeguarding procedures and how to report a concern in relation to online safety? 

Final thoughts 

As the DSL you may be completely on top of everything with regards to online safety. But if you are not, do not panic. It is best to create an action plan and prioritise what needs to be done first.  

However, the online safety agenda will continue to progress as digital technology advances. It is therefore essential that DSLs, governing bodies, and proprietors have effective policies and processes in place to address online safety.  

But more importantly educational establishments should be able to provide evidence that recognises the importance of online safety within their statutory safeguarding responsibility for the whole school community.   

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