digital safeguarding

How to scale digital safeguarding technology across a Multi-Academy trust  

Why digital safeguarding?

The practice of active digital monitoring of students within a Multi-Academy Trust can be a challenge, particularly if budgets are tight. Online safety, however, is a growing problem and is one of the reasons why the Department for Education has introduced requirements for online safeguarding within schools. MATs have a responsibility to ensure that children and young people in schools are suitably safeguarded, and this includes appropriate monitoring and record keeping. 

Active monitoring tools such as Smoothwall Monitor, observe digital devices to check for any signs of risk to children. Record keeping systems such as Smoothwall Safeguard Record Manager allow both online and offline safeguarding incidents to be logged and tracked within an individual pupil’s safeguarding chronology. This enables Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) to record how they manage incidents, escalate to authorities if required and help to ensure organisations fulfil their statutory duty of care. 

Moderation

Active monitoring tools, typically installed on each device within a school, work by recording activity and reporting suspicious events to a monitoring server – which is often a cloud-based service. These services will record each event that triggers certain categories using tools such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

However, automated analysis tools may not be 100% accurate, which is why events need to be moderated by a human – particularly for severe incidents that could cause concern. 

This human moderation is performed either by the school’s own staff or by the monitoring provider.  Unless the MAT is very large, it is unlikely to require a full-time person to review the safeguarding events – so using the provider’s own managed monitoring service can be cost-effective and easy to scale the service. This also leverages the provider’s scale and experience to deliver a reliable service – often during out-of-hours and holidays too, which is vital for MATs who have take-home devices for students.

Hierarchies

MATs may often have a trust-wide safeguarding officer who is responsible for all academies. It is essential that all safeguarding staff understand the structure of a MAT – so that they can themselves help respond to events, observe performance of the individual Academy DSLs, and ensure consistency in the trust’s approach to safeguarding. 

A hierarchy in the system with the MAT as the ‘parent’ and individual academies as ‘children’ allow appropriately trained safeguarding staff at the trust-level to view and manage information across the trust. This avoids the security challenges of managing individual logins for each academy and provide trust-wide reporting, without having to manually aggregate data from individual academy reports. 

Integrated Solutions

An active monitoring tool should integrate with the record keeping tool, so that events can be tracked end-to-end. Additionally, the record keeping tool should integrate with the school’s MIS for pupil information. This then allows for incidents to be managed end-to-end, for example: 

  1. A student types in a chat message about physical abuse that they are a victim of at home.
  2. The active monitoring system observes this and sends the text and screenshots to the cloud system.
  3. A human moderator from the monitoring provider reviews the text, the context of where it was used, which application was used, and other data to validate the event. This is then categorised based on the level of severity – for example in this case as a Vulnerable Person Level 4 risk. 
  4. The event is sent to the MAT safeguarding portalunder the relevant academy, and the appointed DSL for this academy is notified. 
  5. A DSL reviews the event and decides that this should become part of the student’s safeguarding record and requires follow-up actions. 
  6. As the follow-up progresses, the DSL can document further actions in the safeguarding record. They can then cross-reference this incident with historical information about other incidents and behavioural, attendance or other student data from the Academy’s MIS. 
  7. If required, the DSL can also escalate this from the safeguarding record to a local authority, health and social care, police or other third-party bodies – and record the outcome. 

An integrated process with systems connected and aligned is key to scaling. Policies, procedures, tools, systems and training materials can be common across the MAT – helping provide a consistently high level of care in a cost-effective way. 

If you have a question or would like to learn more about how Smoothwall’s Active Monitoring and Record Manager work hand in hand, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to help.

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