What Is The ‘Whole School' Approach To Online Safety?

In the last decade, there has been a positive and much-needed reassessment of online safety measures for children — and in turn, legislation in the UK has become much more robust in its guidelines for safeguarding within the education system, steering towards a ‘whole school’ approach across the sector.

First published in 2015 and updated most recently in September 2023, The Department of Education’s Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidelines are unequivocal in their expectations of school communities and their handling of online safety concerns:

“Schools should create a culture that incorporates the principles of online safety across all elements of school life. The principles should be reflected in the school’s policies and practice where appropriate, and should be communicated with staff, pupils/students and parents.”

Bullying, grooming, exposure to extreme content and exploitation are all appreciable dangers within the hyper-connected internet landscape, and these policies should aim to both protect children and give all stakeholders the agency and skills to combat issues when they arise.

What is a whole school approach?

A comprehensive, holistic strategy

In a broad sense, a whole school approach involves a collective effort to ensure a safe online environment for young, developing minds. While these efforts can be underpinned by a series of practical strategies — including escalation, regularly reviewed policies and state-of-the-art filtering — the end goal is to create an education programme which relies on the input of an entire school community for it to be successful. From teachers and education leads to technology providers, governors, and the children themselves.

Indeed, a whole school approach looks to integrate online safety across all school operations, absorbing it seamlessly into the curriculum, policies, and culture; ensuring that all stakeholders understand their role in maintaining a safe digital environment. 

Alongside practical measures and the integration of safeguarding technology, this can also include critical thinking, the teaching of fundamental digital literacy skills to help students navigate the online world safely, and regular training sessions for school communities in order to stay ahead of the curve of emerging online threats and safety measures.

children using computers

Government guidance to whole school approach online safety

Integrating safeguarding across the school

Keenly aware of the ongoing dangers facing children and their online activities, the DfE offers regular guidance to support schools in delivering online safety education as part of existing curriculum requirements.

Instead of focusing solely on platforms, apps, or internet trends, the guidance puts great stock in teaching foundational skills within schools; key touchpoints such as evaluating online content, recognising persuasive techniques, understanding acceptable behaviour, identifying online risks, knowing when and how to seek support, and understanding age-appropriate online safety skills, as outlined in the 2020 Education for a Connected World framework provided by the UK Council for Internet Safety. This valuable resource helps highlight the knowledge and skills children and young people should acquire at different stages of their development, enabling educators to better handle online risks.

The DfE emphasises the importance of embedding online safety education within a whole-school approach, integrating safeguarding principles into all aspects of school life, including policies, procedures, and curriculum subjects. By integrating these principles in policies, actively involving staff, pupils, and parents, and continually reviewing and updating practices, schools can create a safer online environment for their community.

Computeam staff working around a computer

How technology can help: internet safeguarding for schools

Tailored solutions from Computeam

While there have been significant steps made by the UK government to install more robust safeguarding measures within schools, the task is rarely straightforward. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for developing an effective whole-school approach to online safety. Disparity between regions, socio-economic backgrounds, and cultures ensures that what might work for one school may not necessarily work for another. 

With that in mind, here at Computeam, we offer bespoke internet safeguarding solutions for schools tailored to the specific requirements of each educational institution. From secure and reliable internet connections, supported by robust firewall protection, to a comprehensive suite of safeguarding, monitoring, and filtering solutions designed specifically for the educational sector. 

Meanwhile, by enabling efficient remote network management, we look to minimise the need for onsite visits, ensuring seamless technology integration while keeping costs and downtime to a minimum.

Schools are also given the option to add Securly Aware to their safeguarding package which uses an intelligent proactive student wellness support system, offering insights into students' mental health. With this technology, schools can identify and address the early warning signals of depression, anxiety, and bullying effectively. Through continuous monitoring of students' online behaviour, Computeam can provide a much-needed safety net for those most at risk.

teacher training over the internet

Online safety staff training and development

Bespoke learning opportunities with Learning Locker

One of the key take-homes from the DfE’s "Keeping Children Safe in Education" (KCSIE) guidelines is the importance of integrating online safety into every aspect of a school's safeguarding responsibilities. This means ensuring that all staff are trained in online safety, policies are updated to address evolving online risks, and a culture of awareness and proactive management of online safety is created among students, staff, and the wider school community. 

This strategy recognises the nuanced challenges of digital environments and seeks to protect students from various online risks through comprehensive education, policy, and practice. While there is no suggestion that all staff are required to be experts in online safety, upskilling and investing in their development and safeguarding knowledge is a valuable part of a whole-school strategy.

Through Learning Locker, Computeam delivers a bespoke suite of dynamic learning opportunities for school staff. With a vast course library that caters to educators' varied needs, with self-directed learning and essential compliance modules like GDPR and cyber security, there is a real opportunity for both personal and professional growth for staff, with the express interest in keeping children safe online.

How can we help?

There are no fast-track remedies when it comes to integrating a successful whole-school approach to online safety.  It takes time, effort, and careful investment — and, fundamentally, requires ongoing support and contributions from the entire school community. 

Online safety itself is also a complex idea, one for which the paradigms are constantly changing and evolving. The aim should be to regularly review, test, and monitor strategies and be open to modifying as the online threats become more sophisticated. The work is never complete! If you’d like to discuss your school’s online safety strategy or any other services mentioned in this article, then please do get in touch by clicking the button below. We’re here to help.

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Posted on March 20th 2024

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