Online Safety and Ofsted's Common Inspection Framework

A guest blog from Alan McKenzie @esafety-adviser

You will be aware that Sept 15 has seen a renewed focus from Ofsted on safeguarding, including e-safety under the Common Inspection Framework.

Specifically, this is ‘inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills from Sept 2015.’ First and foremost this re-iterates the fact that e-safety is not a technology issue; from the perspective of a school it is primarily a safeguarding matter. Now when I say e-safety, Ofsted has changed e-safety to ‘online safety’ to reflect issues that go beyond the scope of safeguarding.

Similarly, the term cyber-bullying has been replaced with ‘online bullying’. There is no doubt that inspectors are much more focussed in regards to e-safety. Going back a couple of years you wouldn’t see many references to e-safety within Ofsted reports, but now it is becoming increasingly common, not just in schools but in other settings such as childminders.

Safeguarding includes the most important aspects such as:

  • Bullying, to include cyber bullying or online bullying and prejudice-based bullying
  • Radicalisation and Extremism
  • Child sexual exploitation
  • The impact of technologies on sexual behaviour such as ‘sexting.’

As with any safeguarding arrangement, high-quality leadership and management are paramount; managing e-safety is the key here. In other words not just devolving the responsibility to somebody, but having a clear understanding of the risks and issues not only to the students, but also the risks such as reputation of the school. It includes enabling high-quality staff development including one or more persons to lead on e-safety and also having effective, clear and widely understood policies plus appropriate intervention and reporting routes.

If this is all new to you, as a starting point you need to consider this:

Who manages e-safety in your school; is it just the IT lead or is there a shared ownership including a lead governor, IT, designated safeguarding lead, parents and students? It is not unusual to find that a person has been handed the responsibility without any understanding what that means. In other words, the roles and responsibilities have not been defined by senior leaders and governors.

Both Alan and E2BN's Kathy Olsson would strongly recommend that schools should have an e-safety committee or group. Without a doubt, this is the best thing you can do in regards to e-safety. There’s a free, comprehensive guide to setting up an online safety group on Alan's site that you can download. http://www.esafety-adviser.com/esafetygroup/

Other useful documents for online safety and Ofsted Inspecting

Safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings, Ofsted, August 2015; www.gov.uk/government/publications/inspecting-safeguarding-in-early-years-education-and-skills-from-september-2015.

Keeping children safe in education, Department for Education, July 2015; www.gov.uk/government/publications/keeping-children-safe-in-education--2 

Working together to safeguard children, Department for Education, March 2015; www.gov.uk/government/publications/working-together-to-safeguard-children--2.

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