Pupils who are given greater freedom at school to use new technologies have a better knowledge and understanding of how to stay safe online, an Ofsted survey has found.
The schools where provision for e-safety was outstanding ran ‘managed systems’, helping students to become safe and responsible users of technology by allowing them to take more responsibility and manage their own risk. Pupils were more vulnerable overall when schools with ‘locked systems’ restricted access to almost every site; they were not given enough opportunity to learn how to assess and deal with online risk for themselves.
Pupils were helped from an early age to assess the risk of accessing sites, so they gradually acquired skills that would help them adopt safe practices even when they were not supervised
Ofsted evaluated the extent to which schools teach pupils to adopt safe and responsible practices in using new technologies following a report by Professor Tanya Byron, which reviewed the risk that children face when using the internet and video games.
Professor Tanya Byron - clinical psychologist, journalist, author and broadcaster (Photo - courtesy of The doris partnership)
The Ofsted report, The safe use of technologies, shows that the provision for e-safety was outstanding or good in the majority of the 35 schools visited, which included infant, primary and secondary schools, a state boarding school, a special school and a pupil referral unit. The most effective schools visited had a well-considered, active approach to keeping pupils safe when they were online.
However, the report also found that it is important for schools to work closely with families, and use pupils’ and families’ views more often, to develop e-safety strategies. There also needs to be a greater focus on training for all staff so that they can continue to reinforce the importance of e-safety in schools and homes.
In an example of best practice, pupils were helped from an early age to assess the risk of accessing sites, so they gradually acquired skills that would help them adopt safe practices even when they were not supervised.
The report found that the aspect that needed the most improvement was the extent and quality of staff training in e-safety, which should involve all staff and be provided systematically
In one local authority, the schools adopted a ‘think before you click’ policy. Pupils were taught that, before clicking onto a site, they should ask questions such as: Who wrote the material on this site? Is the information on it likely to be accurate or could it be altered by anybody? If others click onto the site, can I be sure that they are who they say they are? What information about myself should I not give out on the site?
Those schools that were judged as outstanding for e-safety ensured that all staff were responsible for e-safety. Assemblies, tutorial time, personal, social, health and education lessons, and an appropriate curriculum, helped pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies. The best schools tailored their approach to their own circumstances with one school giving collective responsibility for e-safety to all staff. Consequently ownership was strong and e-safety pervaded a rich ICT curriculum.
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. At one primary school, two pupils started to receive unpleasant messages through instant chat and the school discovered that some pupils had told others their passwords. It dealt with the incident in the same way as other bullying, but it also took the opportunity to reinforce messages about the safety and security of passwords.
The report found that the aspect that needed the most improvement was the extent and quality of staff training in e-safety, which should involve all staff and be provided systematically.
The report, The safe use of technologies, can be found on the Ofsted website at www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/090231
Safer children in a digital world: the report of the Byron Review, 2008 can be found at www.dcsf.gov.uk/byronreview