Keeping Children Safe In Education – September 2023

The DfE have just published updated KCSIE guidance.

It’s essential that children are safeguarded from harmful and inappropriate content online. School filtering and monitoring are key aspects of your school’s internet. There are set standards for school filtering and monitoring, so they can provide a safe environment for students to learn and work. This week, the DfE released updated KCSIE guidance which includes key changes for web filtering and monitoring.

This new statutory guidance comes into effect on 1 September 2023, so make sure your school is aware and can prepare for these new changes.

Updated KCSIE guidance

The current filtering and monitoring standards for schools.

The DfE has set standards for filtering and monitoring in schools. These include:

  • Identifying and assigning roles and responsibilities to manage your filtering and monitoring systems.
  • Reviewing your filtering and monitoring provision at least annually.
  • Blocking harmful and inappropriate content (without impacting teaching and learning).
  • Having effective monitoring strategies that meet the safeguarding needs of your school.

Your school should already be meeting these standards!

What is web filtering?

School web filtering is clever technology! Basically, it filters out harmful and inappropriate content online by monitoring billions of websites and URLs. It blocks your internet browser from loading anything it regards as inappropriate. This should apply to any device connected to your school’s network. So whether they’re using a school laptop or their own smartphone, the same school filters should apply.

It also filters specific content and keywords. When there’s certain content your school wants blocked, it filters out any websites that contain that keyword or type of content. However you need to be careful not to over block!

Although English will be the primary language for the majority of students in the UK, web filters need to handle other languages too. Students will often search for things in their native language. This can sometimes get past the school filtering system!

What is proactive monitoring?

Monitoring systems monitor the on-screen activity of students. It works alongside school web filtering and adds another level of safeguarding for your students.

They report what students are searching for, the websites they’re on, and the content of the websites. They can also monitor offline activities, such as in word documents and chat messages. There’s two types of monitoring – active and proactive:

  • Active monitoring is where violations are reported and sent to the school, where they can review and act on them. You need to act on any high-risk alerts immediately.
  • Proactive monitoring is where alerts are managed by an expert/moderator in real time. It can report behaviour patterns and alert in case a student behaviour shows vulnerability. The system categorises the alerts based on the levels of risk. Low risk alerts are documented and will be turned into high risks if a pattern of behaviour shows a student is vulnerable. This allows early intervention and potentially safeguarding students before they become a risk to themselves or others.

Why are they important?

Ultimately, school web filtering and proactive monitoring keeps your students safe!

School internet filtering is important as some websites (such as YouTube) have lots of great learning resources. However, there’s also a lot of dangerous and adult material there too. Filtering content allows you to protect the mental health of your students, so they don’t see anything that upsets or disturbs them.

Proactive monitoring gives you the ability to react quickly to any threats to a students’ welfare at all hours of the day. You can intervene early on for any students who are showing a concerning pattern of behaviour.

School filtering and monitoring systems are fantastic tools to help safeguard your students, but they can never guarantee to be 100% effective. That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant and educate your staff and students about safe web surfing!

What is the updated KCSIE guidance?

Although this year’s update isn’t as big as previous ones, there are still some significant changes.

Firstly, there’s been new text added to explain how the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) should take “lead responsibility for safeguarding and child protection (including online safety and understanding the filtering and monitoring systems and processes in place)”. This DSL role (and any deputies assigned) carries a high level of responsibility, so additional training, resources and support must be provided.

Secondly, all staff must undergo safeguarding and child protection training. This training must be updated regularly, and include a focus on online safety (such as the expectations, applicable roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring.

Finally, the school’s approach to online safety must be reflected in the child protection policy. It should include appropriate filtering and monitoring on any school devices and networks. Schools should also have clear policies around the use of mobile and smart technology (as lots of children will be able to have unlimited access to the internet from their mobile devices and data carrier network). Because this poses the risk of them being able to access harmful or inappropriate content whist at school, it’s important for schools to consider how this is managed whilst children are on their premises.

Let us help your school!

Implementing new changes to policies can seem daunting, but this updated KCSIE guidance doesn’t come into effect until 1 September 2023. Therefore you’ve got a bit of time to plan!

Safeguarding and online safety is our biggest focus. We work with Netsweeper and Smoothwall to provide super web filtering that complies with KCSIE, Prevent Duty, Internet Watch and national standards. It filters right down to a device level, so any remote or personal devices on your network are covered too!

We also work with Netsweeper and Senso to bring you proactive monitoring that gives you the confidence your students’ online behaviours are being monitored and categorised in real time. You’ll get alerts when a student becomes at high risk of harm to themselves or others, so you can act straight away.

We’ve also put together an online safeguarding guide for schools. Download it for free!

So if you’re looking for a school broadband provider to keep your school safe, we can help! Just get in touch with us – we’ll chat about the best solutions that could work for your school.

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