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Monthly Archives: June 2017

Is your school ready for the new General Data Protection Regulation?

Next year, the current Data Protection Act (DPA) will be replaced by new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The changes take effect on 25th May 2018 and at this point there will be an even greater emphasis placed on data protection that will change the way information is managed within your school.

The tighter regulations will place additional responsibility on schools to safeguard the information they hold. The rules are related to what information is stored, and how it is stored, similar to the original DPA although the new rules are more stringent. Depending on your current infrastructure, the changes may require investment in software but it may be possible to achieve compliance without a major outlay.

We recommend a full information audit which will help you understand what actions you need to take to ensure that you don’t breach the rules. Along with providing some stricter guidelines, the GDPR also carries some significant penalties for any organisation that breaches the new rules so it’s worth making sure you meet the requirements. You may find that you’re already operating within the guidelines, or some minor adjustments can bring the school in line.

However, that initial audit goes, it’s worth knowing what you need to do before you’re at the point of incurring penalties. We can help you look at your current practices, policies and software and help you develop a plan of action – and if required, a budget for technical investment – to ensure that when the GDPR comes into force in May next year, your school will already be meeting the new standards.

Who is responsible for e-safety?

Can IT companies protect children?

We’ve always taken e-safety very seriously. We offer schools sophisticated content filtering systems which provide control over what can be seen online and can tailor this to suit classes of different ages. Of course, it’s not always easy to know in advance what you want to filter out and the threats online keep evolving. No filter can be 100% effective because new sites are popping up all the time. That is why we also offer a content monitoring system that detects inappropriate content being viewed and flags it up for teachers to take any required action. These systems are effective tools to protect children online, but they are not the only thing in the e-safety toolbox.

Can teachers help children to protect themselves?

Education plays a significant role in the success of e-safety programmes. This means educating children about what actions they can take in to stay safe online, but also reinforcing the idea that the online landscape changes rapidly. It is not effective to simply test children once on issues of e-safety and assume that they’re sticking to the rules. Some will forget, others will be looking for ways around the safety checks and meanwhile new threats will be evolving online. Education in this sense means keeping the conversation open about issues such as cyber-bullying and incorporating regular updates and discussions on the topic throughout the year.

How can parents get involved in e-safety?

Education doesn’t stop with the pupils; teachers and parents also have a role to play in helping children stay safe online. We also offer a range of training courses online and in schools with our partners Safety Net for teachers and parents as well as students, which help to inform them of the possible threats and behaviours to look out for. This is important because although content filtering and monitoring systems are very effective, it’s unlikely that children are encountering similarly sophisticated protections at home. That’s why it’s as important to know how to work with children on e-safety, and the right training can help parents and teachers spot signs that a child may be encountering something upsetting online.

So, who IS responsible for e-safety?

IT companies can offer tools to protect children from online threats but that’s only part of the story. Teachers, parents and the children themselves all have a role to play and training and ongoing education ensure this takes place. The more knowledge they have, the easier it is to exercise a measure of judgement on the issue -you may want to supervise very young children online, but with teenagers you can provide a measure of independence but make sure you understand, for example, the signs of potential cyber-bullying and what can be done to combat it. In both cases, the technology may play a vital role in protecting children and young people online but often education is the most powerful layer of protection.

Protecting children from bad news doesn’t mean shutting out all information

It’s hard to know where to start regarding the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. One of the aspects which appears to have horrified so many people regarding the Manchester bombing in particular, is that pop star Ariana Grande has a young fanbase and that means it’s impossible for children to remain innocent to the threat of terrorism. So many young people were killed and injured. Many have lost friends and family members, many more will be afraid to discover the pleasure of live music, or indeed of exploring any new experience for fear of being harmed. As adults, we understand at least that such a senseless attack can’t ever truly make sense but for children, the thoughts and feelings regarding this event may be overwhelming.

The online, 24-hour news cycle of updates on these attacks doesn’t help. It becomes almost impossible for children to avoid the bewildering and upsetting images and information from almost every corner of the Internet. The solution isn’t to shut down the information flow, however. The chances are that children will discover this information somehow, and second-hand accounts may be more damaging and isolating in the long run. Teachers and parents have a duty to make sure that children are protected from the worst of the news, but are given a forum to discuss and come to terms with what has happened.

The BBC programme Newsround has been praised for its coverage of the Manchester attack, which presented the information in a clear way without dwelling too long on the horror and stressing its rarity. The Childline website provides some excellent resources for how to support and discuss these events with children and young people. These examples demonstrate that there are suitable resources available online and while nothing can undo the horror of events like these, it is possible to use the information on the Internet to help children come to terms with it. Given the sensational nature of some news channels, it may seem right to shut down all platforms, but it is possible to tailor access within a school to prevent specific media from being seen, even providing different levels of access to classes of different ages.

Protecting children from the worst aspects of the world is about more than hiding the truth from them. The right resources could help young people move past their initial feelings of shock and fear, as long as they are made available in a safe environment. Many of our schools have stated that they will strive to support children who are experiencing concern or anxiety following these events. Further advice on ways to discuss these difficult issues with young people can be found on the NSPCC website.

If teachers and parents are empowered to discuss these events and related issues such as bullying, perhaps eventually this tragic cycle can be broken. In reaching some understanding, perhaps our children can – as another pop star favourite Harry Styles urged after the attack – choose love, even in these difficult times.

Our hearts are with all the families who lost someone in the recent Manchester and London attacks.