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Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

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Online Safety

Keeping learners safe online

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Online safety for schools

The online safety zone for schools is where you will find information on how young people, staff, and the wider school community can stay safe online. It also contains specific guidance on the Acceptable Use of Hwb+ and other safeguarding guidance documents, resources and advice for education professionals.

Online safety for schools

  • What is ‘the cloud’ and why should I put my information there? Is it safe?

    The cloud simply refers to software, apps and services that run on the Internet instead of your device. For example, rather than storing information on one device, if it is stored on the cloud then it can be accessed from multiple devices via the internet.

    Rules around the safe storage and protection of data have been agreed across all European countries, so if you know that your data is being stored within data centres in the European Union then you can assume a reasonable level of protection e.g. Microsoft use data centres in Amsterdam and Dublin to store data for Office 365 delivered as part of the Hwb offer.

    In October 2015, the data security agreement between the European Union and US companies known as ‘Safe Harbour’ was struck down by the European Court of Justice after some well publicised leaks showed that US companies were not doing enough to protect data about European companies and citizens. Google, Apple, Facebook and Dropbox were all granted access to EU data under a Safe Harbour agreement.

    A new ‘Privacy Shield’ pact governing EU-US data flows has been approved by European governments and is due to be signed off in July 2016. This should afford teachers more peace of mind over the wide range of US based services on offer which might hold their personal details or details of their students. Sensitive, personal data must never be stored on cloud solutions without further security measures in place e.g. extra passwords or encryption.

  • How can I protect my online identity?

    Just because you don’t use social media doesn’t mean you’re not online. You may find yourself being named in the posts of other users and be completely unaware of this fact e.g. on staff social events or school trips. It is not uncommon for students to create fake profiles for their teachers using information they can gather online in this way. Fake accounts can be reported to the social media providers and they should then be taken down. If you suspect that a fake teacher or school account has been set up and you need more advice, contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline - 0844 381 4772 or email: helpline@saferinternet.org.uk

    If you do have social media accounts, then it is important to set your privacy settings to restrict access to your information. Users of social media should be aware that profile pictures are never set as private. Be aware when accepting friend requests from people you know and never from parents of pupils or pupils themselves whilst at your school. Your organisational policy should make it clear whether or not it is acceptable to accept requests after the pupil/parents has left the school. Finally, use your professional judgement as to what you want your outward online profile to look like whilst remembering that things posted online can stay there for a very long time.

  • What can I do if I am being abused online by pupils or their parents?

    Schools have a duty of care to protect and ensure the wellbeing of their staff and this includes in dealing with online abuse. According to the latest information reported on the NASUWT website,

    66% of teachers had insulting comments or information about them posted on social networks by pupils; 63% of teachers had insulting comments made about them by parents.

    It is important that if staff become aware of this online abuse that it is reported and challenged appropriately. Schools should outline via social media policies that parents should not be using this medium to express abusive opinions of either the school or its staff. It is useful for schools to be in the same spaces as these parents and pupils and a good way to deal with the abuse is to share the school’s formal complaints procedure via the social network to deal with the issue or ask the offending pupil or parent for a meeting.

    It is also useful to consider the role that the parent takes in shaping the online behaviours of their children. As digital role models, the abusive behaviour that the parents may be exhibiting could have an impact on that of their children too.

    Whilst some comments can be hurtful, with freedom of speech laws as they stand, expressing an opinion rarely crosses the line. However, where the comments have become threatening or abusive, then these may break provider terms and conditions and can be removed. Contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline - 0844 381 4772 or email: helpline@saferinternet.org.uk for further advice and support. The helpline is able to provide support in a wide range of situations but may, in certain situations, advise you to seek legal representation.

  • Can I stop pupils from using mobile phones in my lesson?

    Research indicates that the overwhelming majority of teenagers own a mobile phone, most of which are internet ready smart phones.

    It is vital that the school has a policy around the use of mobile phones in place which is clearly implemented and understood by pupils, parents and staff. For example, a policy which does not allow the use of mobile phones in school might be challenged by a pupil just wanting to charge their phone in a spare socket in the classroom without actually using it. A well thought through policy is the only way to ensure that the expectations of the whole school community are met and that challenges are dealt with consistently and proportionately.

    Phones can provide an opportunity for teachers as well as a potential threat. Phones can be used to record science experiments, artistic performances or sporting events. They can also access websites on school premises which might otherwise be blocked by the school’s web filters. Each school needs to address their understanding of risk vs benefit in their policy. Further information can be found at hwb.wales.gov.uk/Resources/resource/f71d4a62-8d18-4ac4-9d2c-59d56a244961/en Users of the 360 degree safe Cymru tool also have access to a wide range of additional support, advice and guidance.

  • How should we deal with sexting issues in our school?

    The best way to deal with sexting in your school is to engage in conversations with children around their digital footprint and online reputation from foundation phase onwards. Sexting and relationships teaching materials can be found within the Online Safety Resource for Wales http://onlinesafetycymru.org.uk/Hafan.aspx.

    Children and young people need to be taught about the implications of producing and sending images if they are under 18 as they do risk a prosecution. Whilst this may be unlikely, it is important that children understand the legal implications. The latest advice for schools from SWGfL can be found at hwb.wales.gov.uk/resources/resource/3d7077ae-9359-4ae3-84a4-a35fa3b86422 although the National Police Chiefs Council is looking to provide updated guidance to schools for September 2016.

    There are further sexting resources available as Hwb playlists to logged in users. Further support should you encounter an issue can be obtained from the Professionals Online Safety Helpline - 0844 381 4772 or email: helpline@saferinternet.org.uk

  • How real are the threats of online radicalisation?

    It is well known and understood that terrorist organisations are trying to radicalise and recruit young people through an extensive use of social media and the internet. As with any other online danger, teachers need to be aware of the risks posed by the online activity of extremist and terrorist groups. A good source of information is the UK Government’s Educate Against Hate site.

    Schools (and other statutory agencies) in England and Wales, as a result of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 and subsequent Prevent duty guidance, are obliged to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. The guidance lists five key areas:

    Risk assessment: Schools need to assess the risk, with local partners, of their children being drawn into terrorism, as well as their support for extremist ideas and terrorist ideology. They should have robust safeguarding policies to identify children at risk, appropriate intervention and the most appropriate referral option. The policy should also cover the suitability of visiting speakers.

    Working in partnership: Schools are required to ensure that their safeguarding arrangements take into account policies and procedures of their local safeguarding children board.

    Staff training: Schools should ensure that their staff are equipped to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism, as well as challenge extremist ideas. They should know how to refer children and young people for further help. The Home Office’s free training product about radicalisation awareness, Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP), may be a suitable option. Visit: https://www.elearning.prevent.homeoffice.gov.uk/edu/screen1.html

    IT policies: Schools are expected to ensure that children are safe from online terrorist and extremist material in school, typically via appropriate levels of filtering.

    Monitoring and enforcement: Estyn Inspectors will assess a school’s approach to keeping children safe from the dangers of radicalisation and extremism and what is done when the school suspects that pupils are vulnerable to these threats. If a school is considered to be failing in this regard or if their staff or children’s safety is threatened, maintained schools will be subject to intervention. For independent schools in England or Wales, they must remedy any failing or be subject to regulatory action. Early years settings are also covered by this monitoring provision.