Student Safeguarding - What Schools Need To Do To Protect Online Safety
By Martyn Lowes
September 21, 2023
In 2023, schools in the UK have continued to face waves of disruption throughout the year. Whether it’s teachers striking for better pay, organised ransomware and cyber attacks, or, most recently, the discovery of unsafe concrete forcing schools to close, students are certainly not having an easy time.
The role of schools in safeguarding students has therefore never been more important. Yet in the face of ongoing disruption and ever-thinly stretched resources, many schools are now turning to technology to help keep students safe, while also keeping up with evolving government standards.
Today we’re going to take a closer look at exactly what schools need to be aware of when it comes to the latest government guidelines on student safeguarding, and how you can effectively meet these standards by implementing a comprehensive safeguarding solution.
What is safeguarding?
As defined by the NSPCC, “Safeguarding” refers to the action taken to promote and protect the welfare of children. This means protecting children from things like abuse, maltreatment, harm, and making sure that children develop in a safe environment.
In terms of the specific actions taken to protect children, this means having child protection procedures and solutions in place to swiftly identify children potentially or already at risk of harm, and to be able to intervene appropriately.
To ensure schools in the UK maintain high standards for student safeguarding, the Department for Education provides both legally binding and advisory guidance through its Keeping Children Safe In Education (KCSIE) Guidelines. Let’s take a look at exactly what’s involved and what this means for school IT teams.
What is Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE)?
Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is crucial statutory guidance issued by the Department for Education (DfE) under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002. It establishes the legal obligations that all educational institutions in England, including schools and colleges, must adhere to in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children under eighteen.
Introduced in 2014, KCSIE recognises the pivotal role of education staff in safeguarding children and integrating the education sector into the broader safeguarding framework. The guidance, spanning 179 pages, is structured into five key sections:
Safeguarding Information for All Staff: This section is essential reading for all school and college personnel, even those not in direct contact with children.
The Management of Safeguarding: Targeted at headteachers, designated safeguarding leads (DSLs), and governance teams, this part delineates the responsibilities of governing bodies and proprietors.
Safer Recruitment: This section details an institution's recruitment processes, covering advertising, applications, interviewing, checks, and record keeping.
Allegations Against Educational Staff: This part addresses concerns and allegations regarding teachers, including supply teachers, other staff, volunteers, and contractors.
Child-on-Child Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment: Expanded in the 2022 update, this section now incorporates the previously separate DfE advice on this topic.
KCSIE also includes six annexes:
A. Shortened Version of Part 1: Designed for staff not directly working with children.
B. Additional Guidance on Specific Safeguarding Issues: Covers various topics, including child abduction, exploitation, domestic abuse, and more.
C. Role of the DSL: Explains the role and responsibilities of the designated safeguarding lead.
D. Host Families and Homestays During Exchange Visits: Focuses on safeguarding during exchange programs.
E. Statutory Guidance for Regulated Activity (Children): Pertains to supervised activity with children.
F. Annual Changes: Highlights substantive modifications in each year's guidance.
Additionally, KCSIE outlines the essential structures educational institutions must establish, including a publicly accessible safeguarding policy on their website. Ensuring compliance with KCSIE is vital to upholding the safety and well-being of children within educational settings, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an overwhelming challenge. By implementing a comprehensive safeguarding solution, schools can rapidly improve and advance their safeguarding procedures and capabilities to meet both the KCSIE legal and advisory requirements.
What are the 2023 KCSIE Guidelines that School Leaders and IT teams need to be aware of when considering a safeguarding solution?
The 2023 KCSIE Guidance firmly places the duty for implementing and overseeing web filtering and monitoring solutions on school leadership, rather than solely relying on the IT team to manage this responsibility:
School governing bodies and proprietors bear the overarching strategic responsibility for filtering and monitoring.
Senior Leadership Teams (SLTs) are accountable for the procurement of filtering and monitoring systems, documenting choices regarding content blocking or allowance along with their rationale, assessing the efficacy of filtering provisions, and supervising reports.
Both SLTs and Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) share the responsibility of comprehending filtering and monitoring systems.
When it comes to monitoring students, KCSIE guidance says that “monitoring user activity on school and college devices is an important part of providing a safe environment for children and staff. Unlike filtering, it does not stop users from accessing material through internet searches or software”.
“A variety of monitoring strategies may be required to minimise safeguarding risks on internet connected devices and may include:”
Physically monitoring by staff watching the screens of users.
Live supervision by staff on a console with device management software.
Network monitoring using log files of internet traffic and web access.
Individual device monitoring through software or third-party services.
In terms of web filtering, there are a number of standards that must be met by your school’s filtering provider. For example, this includes:
Ensuring your provider is accredited appropriately, such as being a member of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit list (CTIRU).
Blocking access to illegal content.
Ensuring your filtering system is kept operational, up to date, and applied to all users and school-owned devices (including devices using your school’s network).
Filtering all internet feeds and identifying filter-bypassing technologies such as VPNs and proxy services.
Providing alerts when content has been blocked.
Including functionality to accurately identify devices and users that breach filtering rules and attempt to access blocked content.
How can Safeguarding solutions help my school to meet the 2023 KCSIE guidelines?
Well-recognised and comprehensive safeguarding solutions such as Securly can help your school to fully meet the KCSIE’s guidelines for student safeguarding. With cloud-based web filtering and AI-powered monitoring, Securly effectively prevents access to inappropriate websites, issues alerts for detected student safety concerns, monitors student well-being, and enables teachers to supervise student device activities in the classroom.
Throughout the solution, there's a strong emphasis on reducing staff workload while identifying students at risk and facilitating early intervention. Securly's suite of solutions is designed exclusively for schools, offering intuitive and user-friendly products tailored for teaching staff and Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs).
Securly's delegated administration options grant teaching staff direct access to web filter policy management, alerts, and wellness dashboard data. Securly Filter and Aware are customisable to ensure that staff only access information pertaining to the students they are responsible for, streamlining workflow and safeguarding data.
Filtering and Monitoring - Any Device, Anywhere
Securly's cloud architecture supports all device types (Windows, Chrome, iOS, MAC, Android, etc.) in any location, both within and outside the school premises. It accommodates school-owned devices, guest networks, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.
Student Safety Alerts
Securly Aware employs advanced AI technology to analyse student internet activity across various platforms, including searches, social media, web browsing, email, chat, and shared documents. It detects potential issues such as bullying, violence, self-harm, grief, and suicide and promptly notifies DSLs.
Monitoring Wellness Levels
Securly Aware continuously assesses student activity in real-time to identify signs of distress and assigns an accurate wellness level. Wellness level scores offer a straightforward indication of an individual student's emotional state and its changes, aiding DSLs in identifying those requiring immediate attention.
Securly Classroom provides cloud-based classroom management, enabling teachers to view student screens during class sessions. This feature assists teachers in guiding lessons, tracking student progress, and maintaining a focus on learning.
Minimising Staff Workload
Securly's AI and configuration options work together to minimise false positives and alleviate staff workload. By analysing complete sentences and employing sentiment analysis to identify negative context, Securly reduces false alarms. Alert triggers can also be tailored for different student groups, adjusting the threshold for triggering alerts.
Outsourcing Alert Monitoring and Investigation with On-Call
Schools rely on Securly On-Call to help identify and respond to students at risk of self-harm, suicide, bullying, and violence. The On-Call Team reviews alerts from Securly Aware and promptly notifies school staff, ensuring swift follow-up on alerts, allowing teachers to focus on teaching.
Why is it important to have a safeguarding solution in place for your school?
Ensuring safeguarding measures are firmly in place is key to shielding vulnerable children from harm, abuse, and neglect. Neglecting these crucial responsibilities risks exacerbating the distress endured by those already suffering. The essence of effective safeguarding lies in its ability to swiftly recognise signs of abuse and promptly engage the relevant authorities.
In schools, the significance of safeguarding takes on added importance. Educators possess a distinctive vantage point, affording them insight into children's development, behaviour, and social interactions. This unique perspective equips them to identify potential signs of both physical and psychological abuse. Additionally, they can harness this unique position to impart vital knowledge to students, empowering them to comprehend the hazards they may encounter within and beyond the school environment, while also guiding them on seeking help when they encounter uncomfortable or difficult situations.
How can you keep your students safe while online?
Throughout this post, it’s easy to see how keeping students safe online at school remains a top priority for educators and school leaders. Below are just a few of the steps we'd recommend you take to help protect your students and staff from cyber threats and harmful content:
Robust Filtering and Monitoring: Implement a strong student safeguarding solution with content filtering and real-time monitoring to block inappropriate content and spot risks.
Educate: Teach students responsible internet use, privacy protection, and how to identify online threats.
Regular Training: Provide ongoing digital literacy and online safety training.
Password Security: Encourage strong, unique passwords and educate students on password safety.
Safe Browsing: Promote safe online habits, like avoiding suspicious links and not sharing personal information.
Reporting: Set up clear reporting procedures for students to report online concerns.
Secure Network: Maintain a secure school network with up-to-date security measures.
Privacy Awareness: Emphasise the importance of safeguarding personal information.
Supervision: Monitor online activities during school hours.
Parental Engagement: Keep parents informed and involved in their child's online life.
Regular Updates: Continuously assess and update your safeguarding solution to stay ahead of online threats.
With these steps and a strong safeguarding solution in place, schools can create a safe online learning environment for students.
When it comes to student safeguarding, we take it seriously. If your school is in need of assistance in selecting and implementing a robust safeguarding solution, talk to our friendly team of specialists and we can help you to protect and improve the wellbeing of your students.
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