Anyone who has ever been in any kind of safeguarding or online safety training will already know the answer to the above question. And as soon as you saw this title you will have said it in your own head… Everyone is responsible for online safety in schools.
It’s the stock answer and trainees are often explained to at length about how it can’t come down to one person and that communication between groups is key to pulling together and ensuring everyone is safe.
However, whilst it is a fact that all members of a school community are held responsible – what areas each group are actually responsible for do differ. We can’t all be doing everything. We are all pieces of a jigsaw that come together as one.
Too much responsibility will only make sure that those people are overwhelmed and therefore not effective in their role. Too little responsibility could result in people not giving it the attention it deserves.
So rather the question should be – what roles are responsible for online safety?
The Online Safety Lead
The Online Safety lead is likely to have fallen into this job alongside their Computing Lead role and will often be the person who people turn to for a quick query such as ‘What is a loot box?’ or ‘What is the age restriction on Grand Theft Auto because half of the boys in my Year 4 class are on it?’
It is their responsibility to either know the answers or know where to turn for the relevant information. They need to be able to locate quality advice quickly, be up to date with current trends in the online world and then use this to update staff and parents on a regular basis.
This could be in a variety of ways: attaching platform guides to newsletters; organising and delivering staff and parent training; keeping the school social media account up to date – there are many ways to spread information.
The Online Safety Lead will be the one who has an overview of the teaching and learning in lessons across the school. They need to ensure that it is age appropriate and that the children are making progress – they need to make sure that the teachers know what they are to teach in their year group.
They will also liaise with staff in charge of other areas of the curriculum in which online safety features such as the SMSC and RSHE lead. Other areas of responsibility include reporting to governors and SLT, making sure children and staff AUPS are up to date and organising the Online Safety Team. They will have written the Online Safety Policy and it is essential they understand exactly what is in there and can explain it to other members of staff.
Teachers are best at delivering lessons that are engaging, motivational and fun for children. The trouble with the online safety curriculum is that it is ever-changing and it can be daunting for less confident teachers who can sometimes believe that the children know more than they do. It is therefore the teachers’ responsibility to ensure that they listen to training and advice provided by the school and that they seek advice if they come across anything that they are unsure about.
They are responsible for being a good role model and it is essential that we practise what we preach – we tell the children not to share passwords, to be kind to others online, to have regular screen breaks therefore we should be doing the same, however hard this can be at times!
Teachers know their children thoroughly and are fantastic at being vigilant – they can detect slight changes in children’s behaviour that could indicate a problem and then report incidents promptly which is necessary so that the DSL and Online Safety Lead can make decisions on the best course of action to take.
Finally, it is important for the classroom to reflect the importance of online safety. Best practise would be for a copy of the children’s Acceptable Use Policy so that they can remember the key principles that they signed up for to help themselves be safe online.
Information on how to find help would also be beneficial such as the Childline number or an image of the CEOP button. These then need to be referred to throughout the school day so that it doesn’t become wallpaper and children stop using it.
Online Safety Team
Being part of the Online Safety team is an honour! Analysing reports of online safety incidents across the entire school is not only a daunting task, but it can also be horrifying at times.
There can sometimes be a feeling of ‘that wouldn’t happen in our school’. Therefore, when you read about exactly what has been happening it is a real eye opener and helps if there are a few of you to rely on each other!
The Online Safety Team are the people who will then discuss possible future actions at school. If there have been 8 incidents revolving around Instagram in the past month in Years 5 and 6 then you need to decide how best to engage parents in these year groups with specific advice.
It can be all too easy to see what is trending in the news, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the case at your school. Looking through incidents is the only way you can truly know where your school is at and this is best completed as a team. Ideally, alongside the Online Safety lead, there would be a member of the SLT, a governor and representatives from different key stages.
The Senior Leadership Team are in the ideal position to ensure that the Online Safety Lead has access to recent training. They then need to ensure that they are given the opportunity to disseminate this information to other members of the school to make sure that everyone is kept up to date.
They need to know the current status of online safety at school by listening to reports generated by the Online Safety Team and check that appropriate action has been taken to minimize risk to the safety of the children at their school.
All School Staff
The amount of adults that a child in school sees in a day is phenomenal and they will all act in different ways with different members of staff.
For example, a child might feel more comfortable talking to dinnertime staff when there isn’t the pressure of their peers being around like they would be in the classroom. Special Needs Assistants are best placed to spot any change of behaviour in SEND children who are the most vulnerable online. Teaching assistants might overhear conversations that might make them feel uncomfortable but can’t quite put their finger on why.
The list is endless but that one extra member of staff making a report about a child being more withdrawn than usual can be the missing piece of information that comes together to point the way to a bigger problem. It is everyone’s responsibility to report changes in behaviour however meaningless it may seem on its own.
Governors need to share the school’s vision with regards to keeping our children safe and make sure that questions are asked to make sure that the school is doing everything they can.
The way they can do this by receiving reports generated by the Online Safety Team so that they know what issues their school is currently facing. They then need to make sure that school are reacting to this information.
Is the Online Safety Lead training up to date? Are all members of staff receiving appropriate CPD? What impact has the school’s activity had on incidents in Online Safety? If the governors don’t receive sufficient answers then engaging with the school to create an action plan going forwards is vital.
Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) and Deputy DSLs
Online Safety and Safeguarding go hand in hand so it’s no surprise that the Designated Safeguarding Lead has a large amount of responsibility. Understanding when something is inappropriate or illegal and knowing when to contact external sources is down to the DSL who is specially trained to be able to make these decisions.
The DSL will also know statutory policies such as Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE) 2020 by heart and will be able to ensure that they are adhered to by the school.
Parents and Carers
The majority of online safety issues arise at home and it is then at school that they have in impact on behaviour or learning.
There is no way that group of boys are going to forget what was said on the Xbox last night and not mention it all at school. Or that a child who has been on their tablet until 3 in the morning will not be sleepy in class.
This is why the responsibility that parents have is essential. Parents need to let school know if there is an issue that has started online that will have an impact on the children’s behaviour. By attending the training that the school provides; completing online training or reading the guides attached to newsletters, they will hopefully know how to deal with issues that may arise or approach the school for advice if they don’t without fear of being looked down upon.
We need parents to have an open dialogue with the children about what they are accessing so that children will come to them if they have made a wrong choice and they are now worried about what will happen next.
Following advice from lessons. Adhering to AUP. Finding a trusted adult when they need it. Keeping themselves safe. Ultimately, the whole school community can communicate, train, teach, listen, but it all very often boils down the most important individual in this whole tangle of people – the child.
We can put all of the support we can in place, provide rich and engaging lessons, inspiring learning environments, encouraging an open dialogue; however, if at the end of the day, a child wants to actively put themselves in danger online, they can do.
It can be in a variety of ways. Perhaps messaging back to the person who asked for too many personal details because they were being really nice and thinking – it won’t happen to me. Or maybe downloading the game that has an age restriction too high for them because all of their friends have it and they don’t want to be the one left out.
There are many reasons why children might put themselves at risk. It’s up to us, as a school, to ensure that these events are in the minority, and if they do happen, that they know who they can turn to without fear of retribution.
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Posted by Heather Cardwell