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Is Your Online Safety Policy Due an Overhaul?

September 4, 2018, 10:54 GMT+1
Read in 7 minutes
  • Clare Elson looks back on the planning, activities and engagement involved in one school’s wide-ranging revision of its online safety policy
Is Your Online Safety Policy Due an Overhaul?

Roebuck Academy was formed in July 2017. We’re now part of Hart Schools Trust and have developed strong links with The Thomas Alleyne Academy, a local secondary school. We’re a two form entry school up to year 3, with plans to be fully two form entry by 2020. Roebuck Academy is a new build with extensive school grounds, and has a media room equipped with two iPad trolleys.

We began with a two-pronged plan – to develop a broad and balanced curriculum that inspired and motivated all of our pupils, and to establish a robust culture of safeguarding. As part of that plan, we identified a focus area that drew on elements of both – to improve the online safety of pupils, parents, staff and governors.

With the school having previously not had any dedicated online safety policies in place, it was agreed that pupils, parents and staff alike were in need of up-to-date information and training in how to stay safe online. The absence of online safety information within the school setting, and lack of such information communicated to parents via newsletters and other means was also recognised as an area that needed to be addressed.

The final motivating factor was feedback we received from a joint annual review carried out by the Hertfordshire Improvement Partner (HIP) programme.

What we did

An action plan containing a series of tasks and activities was drawn up, which required the involvement of five distinct groups:

Governance: Our governors supported the school’s efforts at organising a themed ‘technology day’ and ‘computing week’. They were also interviewed by HIP advisers and had input into a new online safety section that was added to the school’s website. Governors were then assigned their own email addresses and proceeded to receive training and find out more about online safety themselves.

Staff: The school’s teaching staff were tasked with implementing an action plan, which included a series of pre-arranged teaching and learning opportunities, and teacher-specific training sessions that I provided and oversaw.

Pupils: We made sure that our pupils were kept informed and given a say in the plans by consulting with our School Council, holding whole school assemblies during technology week and organising themed competition activities. Our school council recently held interviews with children who had applied for the role of online safety leader, ultimately selecting two children from each class. As well as attending regular training sessions that I convene, our online safety leaders issue safety reminders when their classes have computing lessons or use iPads, with the aid of posters created by our school council. A competition was held to design an online safety leader badge.

Familes: We invited pupils’ parents and carers to attended online safety workshops and share any concerns they had regarding their children’s use of technology and online behaviour outside of school. The headteacher is responsible for logging any online safety incidents, but we’re proud to say that so far there have been no recorded incidents since the start of the project. Families have also helped to lead our technology week assemblies, with some additional support provided by local businesses.

The impact it had

Following this initial series of activities, the school drew up and put in place a full, up-to-date online safety policy that included some online safety rules contributed by pupils. The school has also adopted a Sing Up song titled ‘Internet Rules’ which we sing during online safety assemblies. Online safety posters are now clearly displayed in every class.

Having successfully completed the activities set out in our action plan, we were able to achieve Herts for Learning’s Healthy Schools ‘enhanced status’. The school’s staff, pupils and families now possess a much more informed understanding of what online risks entail, and all three groups now know where they can access information and support if they need it.

Pupils can discuss using the internet for different purposes, such as for educational research or social interaction, and now recognise that advances in technology will play a big part in their future.

The ‘parents’ section of the Roebuck Academy website now includes a page that hosts helpful links, a downloadable ‘eSafety Rules’ poster and the latest editions of our termly eSafety newsletter for parents – a separate edition produced by the Herts for Learning team goes out to pupils and staff.

What next?

The process of improving online safety remains ongoing, however. We will be holding annual pupil, staff and governor voice listening sessions, and have timetabled in online safety training throughout the year for staff, governors, parents and pupils. We will be looking to keep ourselves updated on the latest news and developments concerning popular online platforms and new technologies.

We’ve also mapped out a number of PSHE curriculum-linked online safety initiatives that we plan run throughout the school year, including teaching pupils about the potentially addictive nature of consumer technologies and the possible impact of excessive screen time on physical health and emotional wellbeing. Drawing on the Children’s Commissioner’s ‘Digital 5 A Day’ campaign, our activities in this area will also touch on the importance of face-to-face socialising and maintaining good mental health.

The teaching will be structured around around online safety-themed assemblies, followed by classroom sessions. The core PSHE themes of ‘health and wellbeing’, ‘relationships’ and ‘living in the wider world’ will give our pupils opportunities to consider their own online behaviour and responsibilities within a wider context.

Pupil voice

“The School Council had an e-Safety walk to see how the school helps us to be safe online. We’re currently making a book which includes eSafety. This project has had an impact on the school, as we now have eSafety assemblies about it.”

Vanessa, year 6 school council representative

“I am an online leader. I feel happy, because I want people to be safe. I have learnt you don’t give away your details. You don’t go on a programme without help. In science we took photos on the iPads and I told the class not to take photos of each other without permission.”

Poppy, year 2 online leader

“I think online safety is now amazing because we have a policy, posters, competitions and online leaders.”

Christopher, year 5 online leader

Clare Elson is a teacher at Roebuck Academy

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