Ofsted and e-Safety – Is your school ready for inspection?

In June 2012, Ofsted released the latest version of their school inspection handbook which now features e-Safety as an important part of an inspection. With the inclusion of e-Safety, Ofsted have now included a range of indicators that evaluate the breadth of a schools safeguarding strategy to include the online environment in which staff, pupils and their families learn and communicate.

When making a judgement about a school, e-Safety and cyberbullying is highlighted in the Ofsted inspection in two of the four key judgements: “the behaviour and safety of pupils at the school” and “the quality of leadership and management” when describing outstanding schools.

In addition to this, inspectors will also be evaluating schools provision for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, including pupils’ ability to “develop and apply an understanding of right and wrong in their school life and life outside school”. It is clear that schools must increase their safeguarding agenda to include e-Safety as it will be an important area to ensure that children and young people are kept safe and aware of how to manage risks, even when they are not on the school site.

Ofsted have now published a section 5 briefing for inspecting e-Safety which highlights some key points which schools will need to consider when extending their safeguarding obligations to the online world. The briefing sheets is publicly available to schools and will help to give a direction and focus to school leadership teams as to what good and outstanding online safeguarding practice looks like and additionally clearly outlines what inadequate practice looks like.

The new briefing “Inspecting e-Safety” has been developed building on the 2010 Ofsted publication “The safe use of new technologies“.

The key findings of the “safe use of new technology” report were:

  • In the five schools where provision for e-Safety was outstanding, all the staff, including members of the wider workforce, shared responsibility for it. Assemblies, tutorial time, personal, social, health and education lessons, and an age-appropriate curriculum for e-Safety all helped pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies.
  • Pupils in the schools that had ‘managed’ systems had better knowledge and understanding of how to stay safe than those in schools with ‘locked down’ systems. Pupils were more vulnerable overall when schools used locked down systems because they were not given enough opportunities to learn how to assess and manage risk for themselves.
  •  In the outstanding schools, senior leaders, governors, staff and families worked together to develop a clear strategy for e-safety. Policies were reviewed regularly in the light of technological developments. However, systematic review and evaluation were rare in the other schools visited.
  • The outstanding schools recognised that, although they had excellent relationships with families, they needed to keep developing these to continue to support e-Safety at home.
  • Few of the schools visited made good use of the views of pupils and their parents to develop their e-Safety provision.
  • In some schools there were weaknesses in e-Safety where pupils were receiving some of their education away from the school site.
  • The weakest aspect of provision in the schools visited was the extent and quality of their training for staff. It did not involve all the staff and was not provided systematically. Even the schools that organised training for all their staff did not always monitor its impact systematically.

The report recommended that all schools:

  • audit the training needs of all staff and provide training to improve their knowledge of and expertise in the safe and appropriate use of new technologies
  • work closely with all families to help them ensure that their children use new technologies safely and responsibly both at home and at school
  • use pupils’ and families’ views more often to develop e-Safety strategies
  • manage the transition from locked down systems to more managed systems to help pupils understand how to manage risk; to provide them with richer learning experiences; and to bridge the gap between systems at school and the more open systems outside school
  • provide an age-related, comprehensive curriculum for e-Safety that enables pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies
  • work with their partners and other providers to ensure that pupils who receive part of their education away from school are e-safe
  • systematically review and develop their e-Safety procedures, including training, to ensure that they have a positive impact on pupils’ knowledge and understanding.

When conducting inspections, from September 2012, Ofsted will be identifying the following aspects as key features of good and outstanding e-Safety practice

Whole School Consistent Approach

  • All teaching and non-teaching staff can recognise and are aware of e-Safety issues.
  • High quality leadership and management make e-Safety a priority across all areas of the school.
  • A high priority given to training in e-safety, extending expertise widely and building internal capacity.
  • The contribution of pupils, parents and the wider school community is valued and integrated

Robust and integrated reporting routines

  • School-based online reporting processes that are clearly understood by the whole school, allowing the pupils to report issues to nominated staff, for example SHARP.
  • Report Abuse buttons, for example CEOP


  • All teaching and non-teaching staff receive regular and up-to-date e-Safety training.
  • At least one staff member has accredited training, for example CEOP, EPICT.


  • Rigorous e-Safety policies and procedures are in place, written in plain English, contributed to by the whole school, updated regularly and ratified by governors.
  • The e-Safety policy should be integrated with other relevant policies such as behaviour, safeguarding and anti-bullying.
  • The e-Safety policy should incorporate an Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) that is signed by pupils and/or parents as well as all staff and respected by all


  • A progressive curriculum that is flexible, relevant and engages pupils interest; that is used to promote e-Safety through teaching pupils how to stay safe, how to protect themselves from harm and how to take responsibility for their own and others safety.
  • Positive sanctions are used to reward positive and responsible use.
  • Peer mentoring programmes


  • Recognised Internet Service Provider or RBC together with age related filtering that is actively monitored

Monitoring and Evaluations

  • Risk assessment taken seriously and used to good effect in promoting e-safety.
  • Using data effectively to assess the impact of e-Safety practice and how this informs strategy.


Indicators of inadequate e-Safety practice

Indicators of inadequate e-Safety practice in schools will include the following concerns:

  • Personal data is often unsecured and/or leaves school site without encryption.
  •  Security of passwords is ineffective, for example passwords are shared or common with all but the youngest children.
  • Policies are generic and not updated.
  • There is no progressive, planned e-Safety education across the curriculum, for example there is only an assembly held annually.
  • There is no internet filtering or monitoring.
  • There is no evidence of staff training.
  • Children are not aware of how to report a problem.

The briefing also includes some sample Questions which inspectors may ask when visiting schools. Schools may wish to use these questions to highlight areas to target for review.

Sample questions for Senior Leadership Teams

  1. How do you ensure that all staff receive appropriate online safety training that is relevant and regularly up to date?
  2. What mechanisms does the school have in place to support pupils and staff facing online safety issues?
  3. How does the school educate and support parents and whole school community with online safety?
  4. Does the school have e-Safety policies and acceptable use policies in place? How does the school know that they are clear and understood and respected by all?
  5.  Describe how your school educates children and young people to build knowledge, skills and capability when it comes to online safety? How do you assess its effectiveness?

Sample questions for Pupils

  1. If you felt uncomfortable about anything you saw, or if anybody asked you for your personal details such as your address on the internet would you know where to go for help?
  2. If anybody sent you hurtful messages on the internet or on your mobile phone would you know who to tell?
  3. Can you tell me one of the rules your school have for using the internet?
  4. Do you understand what the risks of posting inappropriate content on the internet are (secondary students only)?

Sample questions for Staff

  1. Have you had any training that shows the risks to your and pupils online safety?
  2. Are there policies in place that clearly demonstrate good and safe internet practice for staff and pupils?
  3. Are there sanctions in place to enforce the above policies?
  4. Do all staff understand what is meant by the term cyberbullying and the effect it can have on themselves and pupils?
  5. Are their clear reporting mechanisms with a set of actions in place for staff or pupils who feel they are being bullied online?
  6. Does school have any plans for an event on Safer Internet Day (note: this is an annual event now in its fifth year at least so any school who are engaged would know about it)?

In a good or outstanding school then Ofsted will expect positive answers to all of the above. It would demonstrate a schools commitment to e-Safety if all members of the school community have received e-Safety education including awareness training for all members of staff outlining what the current risks are and what resources are available to help them keep pupils and themselves safe online.

Kent Schools can contact Rebecca Avery, e-Safety Officer to discuss and review their current practise or to enquire about training or any other concerns relating to e-Safety and safe and responsible online behaviour. Schools can also find useful guidance and resources to support them in developing their e-Safety approach at www.kenttrustweb.org.uk?esafety

Training is also available for Kent schools specifically focusing on developing an outstanding approach to e-Safety via Kent CPD online called “Child Protection and New Technology”.

A useful place for schools to begin to review and map their readiness for this may be to use 360 degree safe, a free online self review tool for schools from SWGfL which can be accessed at www.360safe.org.uk

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