Response to DfE – Teaching online safety in school

By Colin Green - 5 Jul, 2019
4 Minutes Read

DfE Guidance supporting schools to teach their pupils how to stay safe online, within new and existing school subjects

On 26th June the DfE published new guidance for schools on teaching online safety. Its publication is timely as schools are set to introduce Relationships and Sex Education in the Autumn term ahead of its statutory requirement from September 2020. The document draws together strands from across the range of subjects that contribute to children’s understanding of staying safe online from relationships education to the computing curriculum.

The guidance is a welcome addition to the information available to schools. It fits neatly with our Six Steps to Success and brings much needed focus on to some areas that have previously gone under the radar in this important area.

Coherent Curriculum

The guidance emphasises the need to teach online safety through a well-designed, coherent, progressive and age-appropriate curriculum. It references the Education for a Connected World Framework. We recognise this as a good starting point for schools to audit their existing provision and to see where gaps may be plugged.  This does not mean schools need to start again with their curriculum design, but they should recognise the importance of taking opportunities to blend learning about the internet with those offline. The framework gives a good insight into the breadth of issues that surround online safety.

First-hand Experience

Although the guidance doesn’t directly reference first-hand experience, the section on Underpinning Knowledge and Behaviours (p6) is clearly enhanced by children having opportunities to communicate and collaborate online. Such opportunities may take place through school-based systems that offer age-appropriate protections to children, that minimise risk but give opportunities to embed desirable behaviours.

Understanding what children are doing online.

The guidance makes it clear that schools need an understanding of the risks that exist online (p8), so they can tailor their teaching and support to the specific needs of their pupils. To do this, it is essential that schools give children the opportunity to discuss their use of the internet. Teachers need to understand their children’s experiences and to enable them to speak openly and honestly about what they are doing. In this way the teachers can prioritise the teaching and develop the curriculum accordingly.

Knowing the signs of manipulation

We placed understanding the signs of manipulation at the centre of our Six Steps to Success approach and are delighted to see the DfE include this as part of the guidance. This is an area where, in our experience, teachers lack confidence. Understanding how people communicate and techniques that are used to manipulate and coerce are essential components of staying safe online.

Guidance and approaches for children & parents

The DfE Guidance references a trusted adults’ approach which is the standard support mechanism for children in most cases. We promote the Stop, Check, Share approach as our particular version of this and apply it in all scenarios. We also recognise the importance of engaging parents in this. The internet knows no boundaries and working in partnership is the only way to keep children safe online (p27).

Whole school approach

Our Six Steps to Success are held together by a whole school approach. It isn’t possible to have a coherent approach without whole school involvement. The guidance devotes a whole section (p 26) to this and states that a whole school approach is one that goes beyond teaching to include all aspects of school life, including culture, ethos, environment and partnerships with families and the community. Every member of the school community has a part to play and the guidance offers some indication of what this looks like in practice.

Next Steps

New Era Education will use the guidance to further develop our support for schools. There are some very useful sections and recommendations that we will incorporate within our Six Steps to Success. We will continue to develop resources and materials to help schools teach children effectively how to stay safe online.

More info?

If you’d like to find out more about our Six Steps to Success approach to online safety or our CPD Accredited training events, contact us here.

Author: Colin Green

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