With more students than ever gaining access to online learning platforms, Ofsted are continually adapting their guidelines to include more stringent inspections of online safety policy in schools across the UK.
It can be difficult to establish a balance between providing a secure online learning environment and giving students enough freedom to enhance their learning with technology. This checklist aims to provide you with an overview of five simple steps you can take to implement a practical, comprehensive online safety policy at your school.
1. Implement a consistent, whole-school approach
There is no better way to approach online safety than to arm your school community with the tools, knowledge and resources they need to protect themselves online. Ensure that your online safety policy is inclusive of parents, guardians and students alike, and that it is adaptable to the needs of the school community more broadly.
A consistent approach is a successful one. As a school, SLT should implement a structural, practical method to policy-making to ensure that all staff, students and parents are regularly made aware of school guidelines and kept up to date with policy changes.
2. Provide clear channels of communication
In order to implement a whole-school approach to online safety, schools must engage fully with students, parents and the school community at large. This engagement requires clear and open channels of communication between all stakeholders, where potential threats to online safety can be safely reported and efficiently addressed.
Encourage feedback and offer both advice and resources to ensure that your school community feels supported and engaged in your approach to online learning.
3. Establish a transparent online safety policy
Your online safety policy should be clear, concise and regularly updated to reflect current Ofsted expectations. Easily accessible to all students, parents and staff members, your policy is there to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and help you get the most out of e-learning.
Online safety need not be taught as a subject in it’s own right, but should be deeply embedded alongside other crucial elements of the curriculum. Ensure that school policies such as homework, anti-bullying and behaviour have been adapted to remain relevant in the context of digital learning.
4. Supply regular, high quality, inclusive training
Ofsted recommends that all staff (both teaching and non-teaching) receive regular training in online safety awareness. Due to the fast-paced nature of technology it is crucial to remain as well-informed as possible.
Schools should ensure that all staff members are aware of how technologies like instant messaging and social media channels work so that you are in a position to ensure that they are not misused.
Teachers are fully educated in how to deal with cyberbullying, online exploitation and potential threats to data security. Ideally, at least one staff member should be trained and accredited as an E-Safety Officer.
5. Ensure resources are both up-to-date and available
An effective online safety policy is one which is both positive and inclusive. Ensure that you make resources readily available for students to educate themselves in their own time.
Provide parents, students and teachers with the online resources detailed below, allowing all members of your school community to learn how to develop a positive, informed and safe attitude to online learning.