Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges: Filtering and Monitoring

In News by Olivia Johnson

In light of the Department for Education (DfE) publishing an updated version of the statutory guidance for safeguarding and child protection for schools in England, “Keeping children safe in Education 2023”, we wanted to talk a little more about how technology can not only simplify this process but, more crucially, enhance safety measures.

The guidance sets out what schools and colleagues in England must do to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people under the age of 18.

Updates made in 2023 include:

In this blog, we will be focusing on the first point: Clarification around the roles and responsibilities of education staff in relation to filtering and monitoring.

Filtering and monitoring is an encompassing term used to describe safeguarding pupils and staff from potentially harmful and inappropriate online material. Well-defined roles, responsibilities, and strategies play a crucial role in the delivery and continuous maintenance of efficient filtering and monitoring systems.

When it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being of children and providing them with a secure learning environment, governing bodies and proprietors should take reasonable measures to minimise children’s exposure to risks through the school’s or college’s IT system. As part of this effort, they should implement suitable filtering and monitoring systems and regularly assess their effectiveness. It is important for the leadership team and relevant staff to be aware of and understand these measures, manage them effectively, and know how to address concerns if they arise. Governing bodies and proprietors should also consider factors such as the number and age range of children, those who may be more vulnerable to harm, frequency of IT system usage, and the balance between costs and safeguarding risks.

It is down to each individual school or colleague to decide on the appropriateness of any filtering and monitoring systems, informed in part by a risk assessment required by the Prevent Duty.

To assist schools and colleges in fulfilling this responsibility, the Department for Education has released standards for filtering and monitoring.

These standards outline the following expectations for schools and colleges:

Governing bodies and proprietors should take the time to review these standards and have open discussions with IT staff and service providers to identify any additional steps that can be taken to effectively support schools and colleges in meeting these requirements.

With all this new information in mind, it can be easy to overlook the cyber security standards that apply to schools and colleges as well. It’s now more critical than ever to highlight the importance of meeting these standards.

Here is an outline of these standards:

All this can seem a little overwhelming, so what are the key actions that schools need to take?

The key actions are as follows:

All of these actions should be carried out under the guidance of the designated safeguarding lead who will need to work closely with a IT provider.

We know this all can be a lot to process, but how prepared do you feel regarding the above expectations? Do you feel confident that your institution not only passes and exceeds these guidelines, but your students and staff members are protected and safe?

Helpful links:

Additional guidance on filtering and monitoring can be found at: UK Safer Internet Centre: “appropriate” filtering and monitoring.

South West Grid for Learning has created a tool to check whether a school or college’s filtering provider is signed up to relevant lists to ensure the correct content is being blocked.

Support for schools when considering what to buy and how to buy it is available via the: schools’ buying strategy with specific advice on procurement here: buying for schools.