Online safeguarding compliance and the Education Inspection Framework

With Ofsted committed to inspect all schools by summer 2025, many schools are taking the opportunity to evaluate their self-assessment processes and update their improvement plans.

A key area to review is the school’s safeguarding and online safety monitoring policies, procedures and tracking, given the recent changes to the Education Inspection Framework.

What changes have been made to the EIF?

Under the new inspection framework for 2019, schools are now required to ensure that their students:

  • understand what constitutes a healthy relationship, both online and off,
  • are aware of exploitation, particularly criminal exploitation, and
  • understand the risks that relate to using social media.

The guidance also identifies some new risks associated with technology and social media. These are: online bullying; the danger of being groomed online for radicalisation or exploitation; and the danger of accessing and generating inappropriate content.

As before, the new framework assesses safeguarding under the judgement for ‘Leadership and management’, a key contributor to the overall judgement. As a result, a school with ineffective safeguarding is unlikely to be judged as anything other than inadequate.

What evidence will Ofsted inspectors want to see?

In line with the changes above, inspectors may want to see any of the following:

  • safeguarding policies and procedures
  • records and analysis of direct and indirect bullying, discriminatory and prejudiced behaviour
  • a list of referrals made to the designated person for safeguarding in the school and those that were subsequently referred to the local authority, along with brief details of the decision-making process and resolution
  • a list of pupils who have open cases with children’s services/social care and for whom there is a multi-agency plan
  • details of safeguarding training programmes staff have attended
  • monitoring of the effectiveness of the safeguarding procedures
  • lessons learnt from previous safeguarding failings and details of how they are being taken forward

Ofsted changes within the context of COVID

At the same time as the Education Inspection Framework has extended its scope, the typical school network has increased in complexity. Since lockdown, many teachers have been encouraged by studies that suggest that online learning leads to increased retention of information. Whilst others, having had the time to experiment with new applications and software, are simply enjoying the flexibility that having more resources gives them. Consequently, there has been a significant uplift in the use of technology.

Similarly, the students themselves, having become more accustomed to using devices for educational purposes during lockdown, are seeing the benefits and continuing to use laptops, computers and tablets when learning at home.

Web filtering, web monitoring – aren’t they one and the same thing?

When it comes to safeguarding, the increased number of applications, software and sites in use can create an issue. Web filtering is often considered the answer to protect children from exposure to the worst that the Internet offers but solely relying on web filtering comes with several disadvantages. 

The first is purely educational: the blanket coverage web filtering provides can mean even websites that do have real educational value are blocked. 

Secondly, web filtering systems may record some data – in terms of the websites being searched (and subsequently blocked). But they don’t provide any insight into the specific user, the specific device or insight into the behaviour behind those searches. This means vital information about the searcher, their wellbeing and intention is being lost, which could be invaluable from a safeguarding perspective. 

Lastly, web filtering only works for online applications, so email (excluding web-based email) and MS Office sit outside the monitored environment.

A more robust approach – and one required by DfE – is for schools to ensure they have web filtering and web monitoring in place. This not only maximises the learning potential of the Internet and keeps students safe but also better educates students about the risks, so that they can use the Internet more safely at home and in the future.

Securus only makes monitoring software and as such offers the very best in terms of its sophistication and ease-of-use. This type of monitoring allows schools to be alerted when specific trigger words or key phrases are used (typed and untyped) relating to all areas of KCSIE including child-on-child abuse, racism, sexism, exploitation and extremism. Monitoring takes place across the school’s entire network, whatever the device, and no matter if the activity is online or offline. In all cases, a screenshot capturing the incident is recorded and sent to notify the assigned user. This helps schools build a structured safeguarding mechanism including clear evidence necessary to report to statutory bodies such as Ofsted.

Securus software has been rigorously designed to meet the statutory safeguarding and legislative requirements of all schools and learning establishments, irrespective of their size.

We support any member of school staff with a responsibility for online safeguarding to identify harmful online behaviour without impacting on workload. 

Get in contact with us for a quick demo of Securus and find out how we can help protect a greater number of your students from online harm while unlocking the internet to promote a broader digital curriculum.