Although there’s little doubt that the increasing use of technology in schools is a huge plus for academic learning, there’s also no mistaking that it’s a platform open to abuse. Grooming, paedophile activity, child abuse, sexualisation, bullying and radicalisation – these are just some of the safeguarding risks we need to be vigilant of in today’s digital world. In response to this growing concern, the Department for Education (DfE) has updated its statutory guidance on safeguarding, “Keeping Children Safe in Education,” and this came into force this September.
While acknowledging both the opportunity and the threat that ever advancing technology brings, the guidance increases the responsibility for school leaders to put in place an effective approach to safeguarding. Overall, it is designed to help identify children at potential risk from the range of safeguarding concerns – so that effective intervention/prevention strategies can be put in place.
With this increased responsibility in mind, e-Safe, our approved e-safety partner, has shared some important facts that you should consider when reviewing your safeguarding strategy.
Fact #1 – Appropriate filtering and monitoring systems must be in place
When it comes to online safety, traditional filtering solutions play a significant role in achieving a safe environment. Yet, with over 1 billion sites on the web today (Internet Stats, August 2016), the DfE recognises that it’s pretty much impossible to filter out all the illegal, inappropriate and potentially harmful content. Add to this the responsibility to avoid ‘over blocking’ to ensure our children’s learning opportunities aren’t stifled, and it becomes imperative that, in addition to filtering solutions, effective monitoring systems are also in place.
Fact#2 – The markers of harmful and inappropriate behaviours are often incredibly subtle
The new DfE guidance states that you must have early visibility of the markers of harmful and inappropriate behaviours, so that intervention strategies can be put in place to stop the risk from escalating. The challenge here is that the markers associated with the range of safeguarding risks can often be incredibly subtle. Rarely is it single stream behaviour that registers intent, but more likely an overall pattern of seemingly isolated incidents over time. Expertise is needed in the range of behaviours to ensure the subtle markers are identified.
Fact #3 – ‘Poor practice’ is failing to react to the early warning signs of abuse and neglect
The new DfE guidance states that not only must you have visibility of the behaviour markers for safeguarding risk, you must also react as early as possible, putting in place an effective intervention strategy that’s designed to prevent that risk from escalating. Failure to do this, to spot the early warning signs, can damage reputations – of the leadership team and of the establishment – as Ofsted inspectors will always report on whether or not arrangements for safeguarding children are effective.
Fact #4 – Record keeping is vital: the effectiveness of interventions must be measured and reported on
Both the DfE and Ofsted require that when intervention plans are put in place, the effectiveness is measured and used to refine future intervention strategy. The reporting element of the monitoring solution that’s in place is important for providing a baseline of behaviours for this measurement: helping to illustrate the effectiveness of interventions as the baseline changes over time.
Fact #5 – Behaviour trends – and markers of risk – change all the time
Threat libraries need to evolve and adapt to detect emerging behaviour trends, at an international, national and local level, in order to maintain detection accuracy across the range of threats.
Fact #6 – Almost 1/3 of incidents happen offline – in the evenings, weekends and holidays
Most monitoring software solutions, and all filtering solutions that offer a degree of keyword detection, are focused on online activity, usually onsite. This means that the significant volume of incidents that happen offline – in the evenings, weekends and holidays – are invisible to the safeguarding team. Therefore, in order to be truly effective, monitoring of school owned devices can’t be confined to school premises in school hours, as incidents are happening off site, offline and out of hours. What is needed is monitoring 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Fact #7 – The markers of the more serious threats are much more likely to be imagery based
While digital content must be monitored for words and phrases in any language, extreme behaviour markers are often detected through imagery, typically moving imagery, on webcam, chat roulette and encrypted applications like Skype. For example, 95% of online child abuse is imagery based. It is vital that the detection technology doesn’t only rely on text or meta data to detect these areas, it must have the capability to monitor static and moving images in isolation.
Who is e-Safe?
e-Safe provides a unique, comprehensive outsourced monitoring solution for schools that’s designed to help school leaders to meet their statutory duty to safeguard the children in their care. How e-Safe helps with safeguarding e-Safe provides the 3 vital components for detecting early safeguarding risks, online and offline, 24/7 365 days a year:
1. Advanced detection software – with the capability to monitor words and phrases in any language, as well as images that are moving and static.
2. Expert interpretation & assessment. A dedicated team of behaviour experts work behind the scenes to identify the early warning indicators of inappropriate and harmful activity.
3. Dynamic Threat Libraries – updated daily to maintain detection accuracy, in line with emerging behavioural trends within the locality, across the country and around the world.
For further information about e-Safe, and how it can form the basis of a comprehensive safeguarding strategy, please contact us directly.