As young people spend more time online from school and college closures due to COVID-19, there is also an increase in the chances that they will experience something negative online.
Whether this is fake news, grooming or online bullying, it’s important that schools now, more than ever, support young people in understanding the skills needed to be safe online.
Although Ofsted have currently suspended all routine inspections, now is also a good time to review your current provision and identify where further training or education may be necessary.
Ofsted identify a that key indicator of outstanding schools is that they strive to support e-safety at home.
As well as guiding you though what you need to know about online safety within the new Ofsted EIF and Ofsted Handbook, this article will also give you some key points to consider during COVID-19 to upskill your staff and students on working safely online.
What do Ofsted see as indicators that your school is not adequately addressing e-safety?
Ofsted identify some key indictors if they believe there is inadequate practice.
This includes school policies being too generic and infrequently updated. It also includes ineffective internet filtering/monitoring, no evidence of a progressive or planned e-safety education for students and little evidence of training for staff across the school.
Another indicator may be that young people are not aware of how to report a problem.
What can schools do now?
Within the new EIF, Ofsted identify one of the key roles of schools in relation online learning is to ensure that pupils and staff are protected and educated in their use of technology.
So what are the expectations?
One is that schools develop an age-appropriate curriculum for e-safety to help young people become responsible users of new technologies.
For example, in Key Stage 1, children need to know how to be respectful towards others when communicating electronically and that if they’re worried, they should seek adult help. Pupils in these stages should also be encouraged to balance their screen time with real interactions and experiences.
As children move into Key Stage 2, they need to develop an understanding of their responsibilities when using technology. This includes thinking about how they treat others and being aware of how their digital footprint stays online forever.
Categories of risk
It is important to note that Ofsted categorises online safety into three areas of risk:
- Content – being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material.
- Contact – being subjected to harmful online interaction with other users.
- Conduct – personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of harm.
The new EIF highlights that schools must have appropriate mechanisms to intervene and support any incident where appropriate. This is why this so key.
What do Ofsted look for?
Ofsted are keen to see that schools and colleges teach young people how to use systems responsibly and intervene and support rather than just ‘locking down’ systems to prevent incidents happening.
It’s important to remember that locking down in house systems may have a negative impact on learning and prevent both staff and students gaining access to essential learning resources.
A key question for teachers and leaders around this is: What is your understanding of internet safety and how effectively do you check that the school is safe?
Regular training in online safety
It’s important to not only have a progressive, planned e-safety education across the curriculum, but to ensure that staff receive regular training and updates to enable them to intervene and support pupils when necessary.
It is important that the content delivered in training changes each session to reflect advances in technology. For example, are staff aware of the latest online platforms used by children? Do they know what TikTok is or have they heard of Omegle?
If not, it’s important that they are given up to date training on the challenges and risks faced by the young people they are working with online.
Involve your students
Ask your students questions to find out what they know about online safety. Find out how savvy your students are by asking them some of following questions:
- If you felt uncomfortable about anything you saw, or if anybody asked you for your personal details such as your address on the internet, would you know where to go for help?
- If anybody sent you hurtful messages on the internet or on your mobile phone would you know who to tell?
- Can you tell me one of the rules your school has for using the internet?
- Do you understand what the risks of posting inappropriate content on the internet are?
Take actions to support them in developing the skills to identify and report risks and do the right things.
The impact of COVID-19 and the role of schools
The closure of schools means that opportunities for children to talk to and play with friends will be limited to online interaction. This will almost certainly lead to children spending more time online.
Schools need to encourage maintaining a balance between being online and offline and promote other ideas for activities to do from home.
Give parents/guardians of children activities that they can do at home to support them in developing their understanding of how to behave safely online. Develop your own lessons or activities for parents or young people to do to further their knowledge.
Article written by Stefan Fusenich, a qualified inspector and DfE Advanced Teaching and Learning Coach.
Is your school in need of support during the coronavirus outbreak?
It’s our mission at National Online Safety to ensure children are kept safe online. This includes both when they are at school and now even more so, when they are at home.
As a school, it’s important that you continue to encourage online learning and education around online harms and dangers, particularly in these uncertain times and now that many children at remote learning.
That where we can help. The National Online Safety Certified School Programme is a perfect solution for schools during these unprecedented times.
You can learn more about the programme here or you can email us at email@example.com and one of our Online Safety Consultants will be available to help.