Starting September 1st, 2023, the UK Department for Education (DfE) will be introducing changes to the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) statutory guidance. This statutory guidance applies to all children under the age of 18 and details both the legal (“must” do) requirements and best (“should” do) practices for safeguarding in schools. This document is periodically updated to ensure it remains current and comprehensive. While the 2023 revisions are fewer than found in previous updates, it may be suggested that their impact on school responsibility and accountability is significant.
The increasing rate of mental health concerns among children in the UK is a tragic reflection of the complex challenges our young people face in today’s digital world. Failing to establish robust safeguards puts children at risk of encountering harmful online content, potentially leading to severe consequences for their mental health and overall well-being. Embracing proactive and comprehensive solutions like onGuard, prioritises the safety of the children as well as enabling DSLs the time to address these critical concerns via our managed monitoring team.
There are four significant changes related to required online filtering and monitoring software used by schools to monitor students’ website visits or attempted visits, as outlined in the updated KCSIE guidance:
- DSLs now have a responsibility for “understanding the filtering and monitoring systems and processes in place” as part of their remit (p. 28, para. 103): The updated guidance emphasises that Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) should not only be responsible for safeguarding and child protection, including online safety, but also have a strong understanding of the filtering and monitoring systems being employed. With schools relying on these systems to enhance student safety online, it is crucial that the chosen solutions provide constant and reliable support to DSLs, enabling them to identify and assist students facing serious risks.
- Governing bodies should ensure that all staff undergo safeguarding and child protection training. It should give them “an understanding of the expectations, applicable roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring” (p. 32, para. 124): This update emphasises the significance of educating staff not only on child protection but also on monitoring and filtering roles and responsibilities. When staff comprehend the importance of both their systems and their duties, they are better equipped to identify students in need of support. This knowledge empowers schools to adopt a comprehensive approach to digital safeguarding and enables staff beyond the DSLs to become stronger advocates for student safety and well-being.
- A school’s child protection policy should include how it approaches ‘appropriate filtering and monitoring on school devices and school networks.’ (p. 36, para. 138): The updated guidance highlights the inclusion of appropriate filtering and monitoring in the child protection policy. When reviewing and updating the policy, it is beneficial to involve those responsible for implementing and managing these systems, along with individuals carrying pastoral responsibilities, as their insights can offer valuable contributions. The appropriateness of a given solution should be based on how proactive it is in identifying online risks to the children using the school’s devices and network.
- Schools and colleges should consider meeting the DfE’s new Filtering and Monitoring Standards (p. 37, para. 142) and Cyber Security Standards (p. 38, para. 144): The updated KCSIE guidance for this year directs schools to the DfE’s Filtering and Monitoring Standards, which highlight important aspects such as assigning responsibilities for managing filtering and monitoring systems, blocking inappropriate content effectively while avoiding excessive blocking, and implementing safeguarding strategies that align with the school’s needs. The guidance also suggests that schools should consider meeting Cyber Security Standards, focusing on areas like cyber security, user accounts, and data protection to safeguard their systems, staff, and students. It is important for schools to ensure their filtering and monitoring provider can demonstrate how their systems facilitate compliance with both sets of standards.
Although the KCSIE does not explicitly outline technical requirements, it emphasises the importance of following established guidelines. Among the 14 filtering system features recommended by the UK Safer Internet Centre, network-level filtering, which involves implementing filtering measures at the network level without relying on user device software while on school premises, is one that should be discerningly addressed. This approach recognises that while device configuration and software may be necessary for filtering beyond the school infrastructure, a primary filtering solution should be implemented at the network level within the school environment.
While this may present a challenge to some of our competitors, Netsweeper’s hybrid deployment capabilities ensure that schools remain compliant with all regulations while delivering consistent and reliable filtering across various devices and platforms and ensuring a safe and secure online environment for students. In fact, Netsweeper’s products align well with all UK Safer Internet Centre recommendations and allow for seamless implementation and management of filtering policies, while providing schools with a robust solution that effectively safeguards students from harmful and inappropriate content.
- Netsweeper has extensive experience in meeting compliance regulations, making it a reliable choice for schools seeking filtering and monitoring solutions. Our solution is designed to meet evolving compliance requirements related to data protection, privacy, and online safety. By staying up to date with regulatory changes and incorporating best practices, Netsweeper ensures schools have a compliant platform. We provide comprehensive support and guidance to help schools navigate compliance requirements and implement effective policies.
- With expertise in filtering and monitoring solutions, we understand stakeholders’ concerns and pressures. Our personalised support and comprehensive guidance help customers make informed decisions and address complex issues, building strong partnerships along the way. Stakeholders can trust Netsweeper to provide the necessary support and reassurance in navigating digital safeguarding effectively.
- Netsweeper aligns closely with industry best practices and regulatory requirements, ensuring that our solutions address key guidelines. Whether it’s implementing network-level filtering, user authentication, or providing customisable and granular filtering policies, our solutions directly align with the established guidelines.
As the September 1, 2023, deadline nears, schools should acquaint themselves with the upcoming changes to KCSIE to better enhance their safeguarding practices, prioritise the well-being of their students, and establish secure environments conducive to student growth. Netsweeper can be instrumental in this process by providing robust filtering and digital safeguarding solutions that align with the evolving statutory guidance, enabling schools to adhere to regulations while mitigating cost and effort.