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Education

School internet risks

Official proposals to protect children from harm online – including cyber bullying, pornography and the risk of radicalisation – have been welcomed.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “As a parent I’ve seen just what an important role the internet can play in children’s education. But it can also bring risks, which is why we must do everything we can to help children stay safe online – at school and at home. This includes ensuring young people know how to use the internet responsibly and that parents and teachers have the right measures in place to keep children safe from exploitation or radicalisation. These measures are delivering on the government’s commitment to keep children safe from harm, as well as providing helpful support and information for professionals and parents so we are all equipped to help protect children in this digital age.”

A new guide for parents on social media has been produced by the UK’s Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCISS), it includes tips about use of safety and privacy features on apps and platforms, and some conversation prompts to help families start talking about online safety. And a guide on child safety online for social media companies, and interactive services such as apps, cloud services and games, encourages them to think about online safety issues

Contact

The Department for Education set up a telephone helpline (020 7340 7264) and an email address counter.extremism@education.gsi.gov.uk.

What it means

Keeping children safe in education is statutory guidance that all schools and colleges must have regard to, which replaces 2014 guidance. The 61-page document covers recruitment, such as pre-appointment checks; and what to do about allegations of abuse made against teachers and other staff.

The Government points out that it made internet safety a compulsory part of the new curriculum in 2014. Schools can also teach e-safety during PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) lessons and they are all required by law to have measures in place to prevent bullying and cyber bullying.

Schools are expected to assess the risk of children being drawn into terrorism, including support for extremist ideas that are part of terrorist ideology. This
means being able to demonstrate both a general understanding of the risks affecting children and young people in the area and a specific understanding of
how to identify individual children who may be at risk of radicalisation and what to do. The guidance adds that schools and colleges need not have distinct policies on applying the official ‘Prevent’ counter-terrorism policy. Under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, schools and colleges among other public bodies must have ‘due regard’ to ‘Prevent’, which was controversial as doctors, teachers and college lecturers among others feared it would compromise their work and relations with patients and parents. As for what teachers need to know or be trained in, the guidance says that as a minimum, schools should
ensure that the ‘designated safeguarding lead’ takes ‘Prevent awareness training’, and ‘is able to provide advice and support to other members of staff on
protecting children from the risk of radicalisation’. And schools ought to know when to refer to the authorities, at an early stage, people who are identified as being vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

Comment

Ed Macnair, CEO of cloud security company, CensorNet, said: “It is good to see that the Government has published a draft reform on ‘Keeping children safe in education’ asking schools to monitor pupils’ web use and are taking the threat of radicalisation so seriously. As education secretary Nicky Morgan said, there has been worrying evidence in recent months of pupils within our schools having access to information about so-called Islamic State. The sad truth is that extremist groups attempting to radicalise our children online is always just a click or two away. The assumption that this content is hidden away within the ‘dark web’ is unfortunately not true. Much of the radicalised content this reform is aiming to protect students from, actually resides within popular cloud-based social media apps such as Facebook and YouTube.

Schools need to have safeguarding policies in place and protect pupils and staff alike from extremist material when accessing the internet. While many schools already have legacy internet filters and monitoring arrangements in place, many do not have the ability to see within the content that is being posted and accessed on cloud-based applications such as Facebook and YouTube. A solution combining web filtering and social media control can act as an early-warning system and highlight any pupils who could be susceptible to radical messages.”


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