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Lesson wreckers! Is your school, college or MAT’s digital safety culture up to the job?

Read the experiences below. Do you experience similar frustrations in your school? You may need to review the digital safety culture in your school:

Restricted learning resources

You’re five minutes into a lesson. You’ve taken the register and you launch your carefully planned starter. You’ve planned a real-time interactive quiz that your students can participate on using their iPads. Although the resource worked perfectly when you carefully created it last night, you find that now on your school network, it is now being blocked.

Trying not to show your frustration to the class, you resort to an old-school question and answer. By the time everyone has set up a new document, completed the questions and emailed them to you, your fun 5-minute starter has turned into a 15-minute chore. The quiz would also have automatically marked each student’s answers. Now you have the extra admin task of more marking.

A strong digital safety culture in school will use real-time content filtering. Getting the right content filter is crucial for the smooth operation of teaching and learning in your school. If the balance is not right, you may find students accessing harmful content or you may find that they are unnecessarily blocked from using effective digital resources.

Wasted time and productivity

You then move onto your main activity. You ask the students to load a website. Many students were not listening properly, and you are asked over and over how to spell the website name. Finally, all students have found the website. You give everyone 10 minutes to complete 2 questions that are in the digital textbook. The questions are exam based and students should not spend more than the 10 minutes on the questions.

Time’s up and you ask all students to stop. Although the majority do, it takes you a further 3 minutes to stop all students typing. You then discover that two students did not bother completing the questions at all and had no doubt been looking at different websites.

A school digital safety culture with effective classroom management will enable teachers to be able to load web pages to all screens at once saving valuable lesson time. It can also ensure that all pupils screens lock at the same time so that if a student is setting a timed piece of work or simply wants ‘all eyes up’ they are in total control of the class. Classroom management will also give teachers a clear overview of all screens so that they can see any students off task. This will raise pupil engagement as all students off task will be easily noticed.

Hidden students at risk

You briefly saw a student on a website that looked related to a gang. You can’t prove what they were looking at. Another student has seemed very withdrawn and you are unsure why. They do not respond when questioned. Later that day, you discover that the first student has been caught dealing drugs at the park. The other student goes another year before being found to be self-harming.

Proactive digital monitoring is crucial for ensuring a strong digital safety culture in schools. It can detect hidden safeguarding and mental health issues. Sometimes a pupil’s digital activity will show digital signposts of a pupil at risk. For instance, messaging between a pupil and a dangerous third party may be detected, or troubling search history may identify a student in need of mental health support. Students experiencing adverse experiences may find it difficult to talk out loud and problems may increase significantly before an issue is recognised.

Lack of access to safeguarding records

You’re fairly sure your student was taking an interest in drugs and need to report it to your DSL. The DSL is not available at break time and with a heavily busy day you don’t think of it again until you go home that night. You decide to risk sending an email.

Schools with a strong digital safety culture will have detailed safeguarding records that are secure but easy to access and can speedily make reports when required. Digital safeguarding records enable staff to update records in real-time. They can alert the necessary connected people when a report has been made. A good solution will allow reminders to be set-up so that busy staff do not forget the appropriate follow-up necessary for each case. They protect sensitive information by staff not having to communicate safeguarding issues by email.

The danger of attachments and downloads

An email arrives. You open it quickly and download the attachment before realising there’s a problem with it. Suddenly, the whole network is told they cannot access their folders anymore. They have been infected with ransomware.

Another sign of a strong digital safety culture in schools is the use of an effective firewall that protects schools from cyber-attacks. Staff are often very busy and may only have seconds to check their latest email. It can be easy to click on a wrong attachment. Staff may also not be able to identify when something that looks like a downloadable tool or resource can actually be a security threat. It’s vital your firewall is robust to protect against such threats.

Creating an effective digital safety culture in schools

Having a strong digital safety culture in your school can improve educational outcomes and safeguarding. To create the right culture all stakeholders play their part. Read How to build a digital safety culture for the whole school community to see how schools are implementing a robust digital safety strategy.

If you have any questions about any aspect of online safety in your school, get in touch with the Smoothwall team today. We’d be delighted to help.

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