This ninth review of the database presents a familiar picture to the one explored over the last ten years of online safety self-review. Some areas, such as filtering and monitoring, and a number of policy aspects are continuing to grow in strength. This is encouraging, as policy is an essential part of ensuring schools have effective and consistent online safety practices in place.
At the current time, there are areas of great strength in school online safety policy and practice:
- Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) - More than 90 per cent of schools have some form of AUP. This helps to provide clarity to everyone within the school community around how technology and devices should be used.
- Filtering and Monitoring – 69 per cent of all establishments have at least coherent and embedded Filtering and Monitoring. This ensures a high level of protection from inappropriate or upsetting content and enables monitoring that is both useful and proportionate.
- Policy – 73 per cent of establishments have at least coherent and embedded Policy Scope. This is encouraging as it steers settings policy towards clear and consistent practice.
- Parental Engagement - Nearly 80 per cent of schools have practices in place around Parental Engagement.
- However, there are also areas of weakness:
- Governor Education - Only 49 per cent have Governor Education disclosed as level 4 or 5 (meaning no practice or only planned practice) around online safety issues. This raises the question whether these schools are in any position for the board to present sufficient challenge to senior leaders at schools to ensure effective online safety is in place.
- Staff Training – 41 per cent of establishments disclose level 4 or 5 for Staff Training, which is a statutory safeguarding requirement for schools. This complements the lack of governor education such that schools without a knowledgeable board are not in a position to ensure the school is carrying out its statutory duties regarding online safety training.
- Data Protection – 28 per cent of schools have no data protection policy in place, which means they are not fulfilling statutory duties around data protection and storage. Only 19 per cent of schools have anything about "basic" Data Protection practices, and over 50 per cent are at level 3.
- Impact of Online Safety Policy and Practices - One aspect considered to be aspirational around online safety practice is Impact of Online Safety Policy and Practices, or whether an establishment would evaluate their current policy and practice in a school improvement strategy. Very few schools in the database (13 per cent) have strong practice with this aspect, and almost 50 per cent do not consider this at all.
Performance this year, on average, is very similar to previous years and there are no fundamental changes in the share of the data. However, every aspect shows some level of improvement, albeit generally small. If we compare with last year's averages, we can see that there are improvements across all aspects.
A decade of online safety in schools
Professor Andy Phippen, Professor of Digital Rights at Bournemouth University said: "We have seen 360 Degree Safe grow from a tool used by a small proportion of schools to one helping over half of the schools in the country understand and improve their online safety policy and practice. And as the person who has been looking at the data the tool provides for these ten years, it is good to see schools have certainly greatly strengthened their online safety provision, and it is clear, as a statutory safeguarding requirement, it is in far better shape than it was in 2009. We still have some way to go in some areas, such as staff training, but it is encouraging to see that the vast majority of schools now have policy related to online safety that relates to whole school practice and the technical measures in place to ensure young people cannot gain access to illegal, inappropriate or upset content on school systems."
Given this report is not just the annual update, but also a "ten years on" reflection, the UK SIC has additionally engaged with 45 online safety professionals to get them to reflect upon the changes they have seen in this time, and what were their hopes for the future. There is a belief that on the whole online safety practice has improved in schools during this time, however this is offset with a constantly changing online safety landscape and the nature of risk. This is reflected in the 360 Degree Safe data, which shows Whole School approaches being far stronger than they were ten years ago, and the vast majority of schools now having strong policies that underpin online safety practice in the schools.
Professor Emma Bond, Director of Research and Head of Graduate School and Professor of Socio-Technical Research at the University of Sussex said: "In the last 10 years we have seen significant improvements in public and parental awareness of online behaviours and potential harms although some of this has sadly resulted from unhelpful media hype. We are seeing many more educational responses becoming more appropriate, focused and effective for engaging young people and their families with nearly 80 per cent engaging with parental involvement. However, this also means that 20 per cent are not, which remains concerning."
360 Degree Safe (http://www.360safe.org.uk/) was launched by South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) in November 2009 to allow schools to evaluate their own online safety provision, benchmark that provision against others, identify and prioritise areas for improvement and find advice and support to move forward. It is currently supported and maintained with co-funding by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Commission.
Find out more information about the work of the UK Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.
This article was originally written and published by the South West Grid for Learning from the UK Safer Internet Centre and is reproduced above with permission from the authors. To read the article in its original location, please go to saferinternet.org.uk.