Over the last decade or two, the landscape of education delivery has become increasingly digitised. From humble beginnings and the introduction of desktop computers in the classroom, the ‘digital classroom’ has come on leaps and bounds, with schools hosting online learning environments, forums and resources – and even venturing into the realms of remote learning.
While this provides a vast opportunity to improve the delivery of education – enabling schools to reach out to disengaged students, create new interactive learning models, and prepare young people for the digital world of work – it comes with its challenges. And none are so important to overcome as the challenge of safeguarding children online.
Recognising the increasing use of digital technology and online communications in education, the government has recently published a consultation on a list of amendments and additions to their Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance, with a new focus on digital platforms such as social media.
So how do you ensure your strategy is up to scratch? With so many different areas to think about and challenges to overcome, it can be hard to know where to start.
In our latest blog, we’ve drawn on our years’ of experience working closely with schools and trusts to implement successful, digital safeguarding measures to examine the most important considerations you need to make and – crucially – how to approach them.
Lay the Right Foundations
Many schools and trusts around the country readily embraced digital solutions to continuing the provision of education throughout the pandemic.
Yet, the need to ensure rapid deployment of digital solutions has meant that in some cases, the long-term implications of such technology being used at scale were overlooked.
For example, many digital solutions and online applications require a suitable infrastructure, including scalable data storage and management, to allow schools the adaptability and scalability that they require to future-proof their operations.
Another crucial area relates to security. How does your school or trust monitor access permissions and security settings in your digital environment? Do you know which data is recorded and stored, and why? Are you able to monitor student usage and effectively safeguard them and their data?
It is critical that organisations ensure they have the right set up and infrastructure in place, not only to ensure they can continue to provide education to every child, but also to maintain security and protection throughout the technology’s usage.
Set Out Your Safeguarding Strategy and Procedures
The importance of a detailed and clear online safeguarding strategy cannot be understated. It is essential that your whole school community – including staff, students, governors and parents – are on the same page and know exactly what your policies are.
Think carefully about what your strategy should include. There should be information about how new technology – whether a new device, or a new application downloaded from the internet – is adopted.
Don’t forget to consider every new adoption from a data perspective (will data be stored and managed, and if so, how? Who will have access to this data?), as well as usability, scalability (if needed) and flexibility.
One key thing many safeguarding strategies omit is advice on what to do if something does go wrong. In an ideal world, you’ll never need to use that information, but as hard as you try to implement best practice, you can’t always capture every scenario.
Be sure to provide information and guidance for staff members if the worst should happen. Who needs to be informed? What steps can be taken to mitigate any potential risk? You won’t be able to cover every scenario, but make sure they know who they can turn to for help.
Don’t Forget About Your Communications
So you’ve done all your research and worked hard to put together a sound safeguarding strategy. What’s the next step?
Well, a strategy in itself isn’t very helpful if people don’t know about it. Parents, in particular, will likely be apprehensive about the use of online tools, such as video chats and instant messaging, so make sure they know exactly how and when these tools will be used – and how you plan to make sure the ‘digital classroom’ is secure.
Reassure your parent community about the use of technology in the classroom. Remind them that technology isn’t there to redesign their child’s education from the ground up, it is there to enhance their experience, and provide them with new opportunities to interact and engage.
Taking the Next Steps
Any good school knows that the safety of their students – physically, emotionally and mentally – is paramount. The key to doing so successfully is to future-proof your infrastructure, implement a clear and detailed strategy, and engage your stakeholders with effective communication.
How do you do this? At Eduprise, we have a wealth of experience in helping schools and multi-academy trusts build a comprehensive safeguarding strategy that protects their students and ensures buy-in from their stakeholders.
Need a hand? Get in touch with our Digital Learning team to discuss how you can make sure your school is prepared to safeguard your students online.