Helping schools fulfil filtering and monitoring requirements

21 Sep 2017 Andy Robinson

David Wright, Director of SWGfL and the UK Safer Internet Centre, discusses how we’re helping schools fulfil their safeguarding duties by ensuring appropriate levels of monitoring and filtering.

Since July 2015 schools in England and Wales have had the obligation “to ensure children are safe from terrorist and extremist material when accessing the internet in school. This includes by establishing appropriate levels of filtering”[1]. 

For schools in England, this obligation was extended in September 2016 through ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ to include that “appropriate monitoring systems are in place”.

This year, schools in Scotland are expected to “have policies in place relating to the use of IT and to use filtering as a means of restricting access to harmful content.”[2]

What is ‘appropriate’?

Given that these expectations are now in place, along with knowledge that no filtering system is 100% effective, it is understandable why one of the most common questions posed to the Professionals Online Safety Helpline is ‘what is appropriate?’.

To help address this we have developed a response template for school broadband providers, and for filtering and monitoring providers.

The templates look at what constitutes ‘appropriate’ levels of filtering and monitoring and enables providers to self-certify their solutions in relation to specific areas, such as preventing access to inappropriate content.

When developing the definitions, the particular challenge was to produce a framework that would work for all schools, their context, environment, risk and users. 

We have recently started to publish these responses and will continue to do so as we receive them. You can find these responses here.

So why did we do this?

 The aim of these templates was to empower schools to make informed decisions about what filtering and monitoring systems they use, especially when faced with persuasive marketing materials.

It was through the response templates that we aimed to provide:

  • Schools with aspects to consider of their current, or future, filtering (and monitoring) provider; the features and performance of the solution in use. 
  • Providers with a framework in which to help describe their solutions together with the opportunity to develop innovative features and services.

The recognition and importance of these definitions is reflected within Keeping Children Safe in Education; the DfE’s statutory guidance document.

We welcome comments and feedback on these definitions and will be looking to update these on an annual basis.

[1] Revised Prevent Duty Guidance: for England and Wales, 2015.

[2] Scottish Government national action plan on internet safety

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