How School Governors Can Deliver Best Practice Online Safety Provision

On the 30th June 2020, The UK Council for Internet Safety released their ‘Online safety in schools and colleges: Questions from the Governing Board’ guidance. It includes key questions that governors should be asking of senior school leaders around online safety and acceptable use policies and how they are supporting students, staff and parents who may be facing online safety issues.

Who is the guidance for and why has it been updated?

The guidance has been released for school governors to help governing boards support their school leaders to keep children safe online. It should be used alongside the DfE’s Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance.

How should it be used?

The guidance can be used to:

  • Understand the school or colleges current approach to keeping children/pupils safe online.
  • Learn new methods and tools which can be used to improve this approach where appropriate.

A connected world can bring a host of opportunities to children, appropriate to their age and stage, which means they will benefit from having access to safe online spaces to enjoy their time online.

What does it mean for governors?

The document has five key questions covering different areas of online safety that school governors should have oversight of and should be ensuring senior school leaders are implementing.

This article will briefly look at each question and pick out the key points that you, as a school governor, need to be aware of.

1. “Does the school/ college have an up to date online safety policy and acceptable use policies in place?”

“How does the school/college assess that they are clear, understood and respected by all children and staff?”

KCSiE states that it is the responsibility of school governors to ensure that relevant policies are in place around online safety practice, such as acceptable use policies and the use of mobile technology.

As a school governor, you should make sure that systematic and regular reviews of your policies are conducted at least on an annual basis and that evidence of these policies are readily available. This can be done both online and in staff handbooks or posters.

As a school governor, key points you should look out for which will indicate that your school or college is not meeting these criteria are:

  • Having minimal or no online safety policies.
  • Policies being too generic and not being reviewed.
  • Having policies that staff and pupils/students are not aware of.

Implementing and policing an up-to date online safety policy is crucial and at National Online Safety, we have the support to help you do so.

As a certified school member, you will receive access to our comprehensive range of online safety training and resources. This includes our recent “Adapting your Online Safety Policy” webinar which discusses how schools should look to adapt their online safety policy in 2020 in line with recent government guidance and legislation. It provides school governors with practical advice and guidance on how to develop key areas around policy development, staff responsibilities and online safeguarding for remote learners. You will also receive a free template online safety policy for schools.

2. “What mechanisms does the school/college have in place to support pupils/students, staff and parents facing online safety issues?”

The KCSiE statutory guidance states that school governors should ensure appropriate monitoring and filtering systems are in place to ensure that children are safeguarded from potentially harmful and inappropriate online material.

Creating a safe environment where pupils/students feel comfortable enough to say what they feel without getting into trouble or being judged by something that may have happened to them online is critical. Without this environment, pupils may be put off reporting incidents and getting help.

Methods of good practice which can be adopted by your school or college are:

  • Creating an online reporting mechanism for pupils/students and parents.
  • Training all staff with appropriate safeguarding and child protection training.
  • DSLs have the appropriate skills and are trained to deal with the risks.

As a certified school member, you will be taking a whole school approach to online safety. All of your senior leaders, school staff, parents, carers and pupils/students will receive access to our comprehensive range of online safety courses, lesson plans and resources so that they feel confident, informed and supported when faced with any online safety issues. 

3. “How do you ensure that all staff receive appropriate, relevant and regularly updated online safety training?”

The 2019 KCSIE statutory guidance states that “all staff undergo safeguarding and child protection training (including online safety) at induction” and that “online safety training for staff is integrated, aligned and considered as part of the overarching safeguarding approach”.

Furthermore, Annex B of 2019 KCSIE statutory guidance states that DSLs should ensure that ‘they are able to understand the unique risks associated with online safety”, are “confident that they have the relevant knowledge and up to date capability required to keep children safe whilst they are online at school or college” and that they “can recognise the additional risks that children with SEN and disabilities (SEND) face online”.

Creating a workforce of highly trained school staff who have access to up to date appropriate training/CPD and resources means you have a team who are confident in covering the required content in a way that is relevant to their students’ lives.

As a school governor, key points you should look out for which will indicate that your school or college is not meeting these criteria are:

  • Little or no training for all staff. This could also be outdated.
  • All training is not undertaken at least annually.
  • Lack of clarity of who coordinates staff training.

As a certified school member of National Online Safety, your school will receive access to our range of online safety courses. This includes dedicated training for roles such as school governors, Designated Safeguarding Leads, SENCOs and ICT Leads. You will also receive access to our monthly webinar programme, weekly and monthly newsletters, and receive our WakeUpWednesday guide direct your inbox each week ensuring that all staff are kept up to date with the latest hot topics in online safety.

4. “Describe how your school/college provides the learning required to educate children and young people to build knowledge, skills and confidence with regard to online safety. This will include learning contained within the statutory (September 2020) Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education, the Computing curriculum, Citizenship and other subjects where relevant.”

Relationships Education will become compulsory for all primary aged pupils and Relationships and Sex Education (RSHE) compulsory for all secondary aged pupils in England from September 2020. Health Education will also become compulsory for all pupils in state-funded schools. Online Safety Education is embedded throughout these subjects making it crucial you get it right within your school or college.

Signs that your school or college may not be prepared for this change or need to adapt how you currently approach Relationship Education, Relationship and Sex Education and Health Education could be:

  • If your school is only currently offering ad-hoc sessions on online safety, such as in assemblies.
  • Content is inaccurate or out of date.
  • Your school isn’t using DfE guidance or UKCIS guidance effectively.

The statutory guidance on Health Education, Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education means schools are under increasing pressure to design a curriculum which is more reflective of the online world, especially as children increasingly engage online.

Our certified school programme provides you and your school with full access to our interactive and engaging online safety lesson plans. From Early Years through to Key Stage 4, we provide full lesson plans that are easy to pick up and ready-to-teach. All lesson plans are based on the UKCIS Education for a Connected World Framework and in line with DfE guidance ‘Teaching Online Safety in Schools’ and the new DfE RSHE curriculum coming into effect this year. 

5. “How does the school/college educate parents and the whole school /college community with online safety?”

The 2019 DfE document ‘Teaching online safety in school’ states that the school culture should “incorporate the principles of online safety across all elements of school life ... reflected in the school’s policies and practice ... communicated with staff, pupils/students and parents.” And “Schools should also ensure they extend support to parents, so they are able to incorporate the same principles of online safety at home.”

Schools should be in regular communication with parents and raising awareness on online safety issues and reporting routes such as via your school website or newsletters.

It is good practice to create interactive engagements with parents with the aim of building the confidence to support their children in dealing with online risks, as well as general awareness along with encouraging pupils/students to educate parents too.

As a certified school member, your school will receive all the tools you need to develop an effective communication platform with parents and carers around online safety. On joining our programme, we will provide you with a template communication email to send out to parents and carers and we will continue to supply you with advice and updates that you can share freely in order to keep them engaged and involved in their children’s online safety. You will also have access to our webinar on ‘Effective Strategies for Better Parental Engagement in Online safety’, which explores different approaches that your school take to break down the communication barriers between schools and parents.

Are you confident that your school is embedding best practice online safety measures?

Join our Certified School Programme today and make sure you and your school are meeting your DfE statutory requirements and complying with the UKCIS best practice in online safety.

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