UK Schools Online Safety Policy and Practice Annual Report 2021 Released

26 May 2021 Andy Robinson

The annual UK Schools Online Safety Policy and Practice report looking at trends around online safety over the last year has been released. The report takes data from the 360 Degree Safe tool which covers schools and colleges in England, and analyses where their strengths and weaknesses lie when it comes to online safety.

The report has been compiled by Professor Andy Phippen from Bournemouth University and is the tenth analysis to take place. It builds on over a decade of the 360 Degree Safe tool being used by thousands of schools across the nation. As with reports before, it shows a lot of promising findings yet still highlights areas of concern.

Schools Strengths in Online Safety

The majority of schools have generally shown to have the correct policy or technology in place to tackle specific issues which ultimately fulfil their safeguarding duties in these areas. These include:

  • Online Safety Policy – overall policy to keep children safe
  • Filtering – removing harmful or upsetting content
  • Monitoring – preventing and responding to harmful or upsetting content being seen
  • Acceptable Use – outlining guidelines of use
  • Digital and Video Images – appropriate use

These areas have shown that schools have a consistent policy response to online safeguarding incidents whilst ensuring students are not exposed to harmful or upsetting content.

Schools Online Safety Weaknesses

Weaknesses that have been highlighted refer to areas that need more investment, as well as long term commitment from schools to become compliant. These include:

  • Data Security – ensuring sensitive data is protected
  • Staff – online safety training
  • Impact of Online Safety Policy and Practice – awareness and implementation
  • Agencies – appropriate use

Two of the key statistics pulled from the report showed that:

  • Over 40% of schools have no staff training in place
  • Just under 30% have no practice in place around data protection

Professional development was also a key aspect of how well schools performed within the 360 tool. It was shown that deficient professional development had an overall negative impact on how the school performed.

Professor Andy Phippen said: Our analysis shows both good and concerning aspects of online safety policy and practice in English schools. While we know they have good policy in place and have implemented technical tools to manage online interaction, the fact that 40% of schools have no staff training programme is of great concern. Staff are the frontline of online safeguarding in schools and beyond, and without regular and up to date training, they will not be equipped to tackle the risks associated with this ever changing digital world effectively.

360 degree safe was launched by SWGfL in November 2009 to allow schools to evaluate their own online safety provision, benchmark that provision against others, identify and prioritise areas for improvement and find advice and support to move forward. You can see our full report here:

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