In what is believed to be the largest study of its kind in the world, 547 education establishments in England and Wales assessed their own E-Safety provision.
The report provides an evidence base that has not previously existed and allows teachers and the government to understand national performance as never before.
Schools obviously have a moral obligation to ensure that their IT provision does not put children at risk and to ensure that the children’s mobile phones (which can access the internet) do not put themselves or others at risk.
The report, conducted by the University of Plymouth and South West Grid for Learning reveals that the filtering out of unwanted and harmful websites and the adoption of E-Safety policy by schools is generally strong, but that staff training is one of the weakest areas of E-Safety in schools.
The report also reveals that primary schools generally rated themselves lower compared to their secondary counterparts and suggests that there are fewer opportunities for e safety advice to children in rural and semi-rural schools compared to urban areas.
As Dr Andy Phippen of the School of Management, University of Plymouth said, “We can say with authority that staff training is consistently one of the weakest aspects of online safety practice in schools.”
As a result of these conclusions SWGfL has just created opportunities for certified CPD (Continuous Professional Development) with the introduction of the EPICT Online Safety qualification. This is an online course for all professionals, not just in schools, to further research E-Safety within the context of their own workplace and submit a resulting assignment that will, if successful, demonstrate professional standards. This will enable all professionals who work with young people to gain a greater level of understanding issues and how to improve e safety provision. There’s more information at www.swgfl.org.uk/epict
“This report from Dr Phippen and the University shows just how urgent the need is for countrywide training of everyone involved in E-Safety,” said David Wright. “We are very proud to be at the forefront of this work and I hope that within the next year through EPICT, staff training standards will be better served and that the new SWGfL EPICT Online Safety Qualification is further complemented by a whole range of expert courses and training opportunities”.
Mobile phones and hand held devices are also identified as being a challenge for both primary and secondary schools. In primary schools, Dr Phippen suggested that this is because they assume that their pupils do not have mobile devices.
The report additionally indicates that primary schools are also challenged by the issues of password security and technical security – possibly because these are areas where the expertise can be lacking in smaller schools.
The report represents assessments made by 547 schools in England and Wales who made use of the 360 Degree Safe E-Safety tool (www.360safe.org.uk). The tool not only enables schools to assess their own provision against 28 separate aspects of their e safety provision but it offers improvement advice and is free to use. On examining the programme’s performance Dr Phippen commented that, “Self review is a well established practice within the UK school system and accreditation visits to date have demonstrated that self-review ratings have been generally accurate.”
This report will become an annual publication by the South West Grid for Learning and will provide a “state of the nation” report on online safety that provides an unparalleled evidence base for informing thinking in schools as well effectively informing policy change in the field. The database will continue to grow as more establishments sign up and will increase in authority as the tool and its adoption matures.
For more information on EPICT go to www.swgfl.org.uk/epict or call 0845 601 3203. You can download the full report here.