How Web Filtering and Monitoring Impact Your Ofsted Inspection

Originally published May 30, 2016 and updated October 16, 2020.

While the internet provides students with incredible opportunity, it also comes with immense danger.

Children face radicalisation, exposure to harmful and inappropriate content and cyberbullying online. The COVID-19 crisis has seen the rise of the internet being used by students for remote learning, where they are facing increasing exposure to safeguarding risks.

Children are facing many changes and challenges from their regular routine. As schools, parks, recreational facilities and more become altered or remain closed because of COVID-19, students are feeling increasingly isolated and anxious.

There has also been a significant rise in the number of human traffickers and predators looking to exploit children online. With anti-trafficking organizations and charities struggling to survive and support victims, online safety has never been more of a necessity.

The UK Department for Education has created online safeguarding requirements that set the standard for child protection. These requirements are intended to ensure that schools provide the necessary online protections to complement their overall safeguarding strategy.

OFSTED is all about providing and regulating services that care for children and services that provide education for learners of all ages. Every week inspections and regulations are carried out in England and the results published online. OFSTED helps schools that are not doing very well to improve by monitoring them and sharing with them best practices that we find on a weekly basis.

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020

Schools in England must have a regard to the ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ statutory guidance when safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in their care.

The KCSIE guidance outlines several core requirements that ensure students are being properly protected:

• Ensure schools have appropriate filtering and monitoring systems in place
• Ensure that the filtering and monitoring systems are not “over blocking”, leading to unreasonable online restrictions
• The designated safeguarding lead (DSL) takes responsibility for safeguarding and child protection (including digital and online safety)
• DSLs must understand and stay up to date on the risks associated with online safety
• DSLs must be able to recognize the additional risks that children with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) face online (which can include bullying, radicalisation and grooming) and have the capacity to support them
• Governors and proprietors must consider a whole school approach to online safety, including a policy on the use of mobile technology

What is appropriate monitoring?

Monitoring student activity online, in addition to filtering, introduces an additional level of student safeguarding by providing you with the opportunity to be proactive when a student is at risk.

Monitoring involves both internet usage monitoring, the type that is provided by standard web content filtering platforms, as well as active monitoring, and involves specialized technology that can scan the internet content students are viewing and posting online.

Active monitoring takes student protection “beyond the URL” by looking at online content (not just web addresses) and includes activity that might not be posted online, like writing a document, making notes on a computer, or even playing a game. As with web content filtering, there are standards that provide a baseline of functionality and should be in any monitoring solution.

Are you sure you’re providing the necessary online protection for students?

An important element of an Ofsted report is safeguarding. Education providers are expected to have appropriate measures in the place to promote the welfare of children. Using advanced categorisation methods the Netsweeper “extreme” and “ hate speech” categories block radicalization and terrorist websites.

Netsweeper’s reporting suite allows you to run specific reports on categories and configure alerts to be triggered in real time if a student tries to access the content. Block pages can be customised for safeguarding purposes. For specific categories accessed different block pages can be displayed for more vulnerable staff members or students.

The team at Netsweeper has been analyzing the safeguarding risks students have been facing since lock downs began. Download our Student Safeguarding and Monitoring whitepaper today to learn more and download a checklist to ensure you’re meeting these core requirements.