The Safe Use of New Technologies – New Ofsted Report

On the 10th February 2010, Ofsted published its report: “The Safe Use of New Technologies”. This report is based on evidence from a small-scale survey carried out between April and July 2009 in 35 maintained schools in England (Including a variety of settings including Primary, Secondary, Special, PRU contexts), which included a Primary and a Secondary School in Kent!

The report evaluated the extent to which the schools taught pupils to adopt safe and responsible practices in using new technologies, and how they did (or did not) achieve this. It also assessed training on internet safety for the staff in the schools visited and considered the schools’ links with families in terms of e-safety.

All of the schools visited reported that they had dealt with a variety of e-safety incidents, such as pupils accessing inappropriate websites, as well as problems with social networking sites and instant chat sites.

The inspectors focused on 5 key areas:

  • Overall effectiveness of e-Safety
  • Outcomes for pupils
  • E-Safety provision
  • Leadership and management
  • Training for all staff

The provision for e-safety was outstanding in five of the schools, good in 16, satisfactory in 13, and inadequate in one.

The 21 most effective schools were considered to have a well-considered, active approach to keeping even the youngest  pupils safe when they were online and were helping them to take responsibility for their safety with knowledge that is appropriate to and sufficient for their age and stage of development. The schools carefully considered the pupils’ knowledge and understanding and supported them accordingly. The staff training was well established, incidents and activities were logged and recorded and the e-Safety curriculum was planned and coordinated effectively across all subjects and Key stages.

In the “outstanding” schools all the staff, including members of the wider workforce, shared responsibility for e-Safety and its delivery and development across the school. Assemblies, tutorial time, personal, social, health and education lessons, and an age-appropriate curriculum for e-safety all helped their pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies. Senior leaders, governors, all members of staff and families worked together to develop a clear strategy for e-safety and policies and procedures were reviewed regularly in light of technological developments. These schools also recognised that, although they had excellent relationships with families, they needed to keep developing these to continue to support e-safety at home.

All of the ‘outstanding’ schools used ‘managed’ systems to help pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies. ‘Managed’ systems (filtering and monitoring systems) have fewer inaccessible or blocked sites than ‘locked down’ systems and so require pupils to take responsibility themselves for using new technologies safely. ‘Locked down’ Systems were felt not to provide pupils with enough opportunities to learn how to assess and manage risk for themselves online. 13 schools used ‘locked down’ systems which kept their pupils safe while in school, Ofsted felt that such systems were less effective in helping them to learn how to use new technologies safely. These pupils could therefore be considered more vulnerable overall. This was considered to be a particular concern when pupils were educated away from their main school, e.g. in work-based learning.

The area Ofsted felt to be the weakest aspect of provision in those schools visited was the extent and quality of training provided for staff. It did not always involve all the staff (including all member of the school support and site team) and was not provided systematically and monitored. In addition, although many schools had policies and procedures for e-safety, most of the schools did not review or evaluate these regularly and include input from stakeholders including pupils, families and governors.

Ofsted felt that the schools visited needed to focus more consistently on a number of important areas, including:

  • developing a curriculum for e-safety which builds on what pupils have learnt before and which reflects their age and stage of development
  • providing training which enables all staff, not just teachers, to support pupils
  • helping families to keep their children safe

To do this, Ofsted felt that schools need more support from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Becta, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and local authorities, in developing and maintaining good practice.

The recommendations that Ofsted are now making to schools are that they should:

  • 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 which enables all 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.

The full report can be found here: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/Publications-and-research/Browse-all-by/Documents-by-type/Thematic-reports/The-safe-use-of-new-technologies  and includes details about the process and what some schools had implemented in order to achieve their grading. There are also some useful hints and tips which schools may find helpful!

 The BBC’s education coverage can be seen here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8505914.stm

As a result of this report Kent County Council will be reviewing its current procedures and policies including a discussion about the use of ‘locked down’ and ‘managed’ systems in our Primary and Special schools.

 

We welcome any comments or views on how Kent County Council can help schools achieve an ‘outstanding’ grading below.

Rebecca Avery, e-Safety Officer

 

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