Teaching online safety in school Guidance supporting schools to teach their pupils how to stay safe online, within new and existing school subjects June 2019

This non-statutory guidance was published with little fanfare. This is possibly because it says little that is new. It provides a relatively short summary of common practice and thinking in this area.

It recognises that the online world is changing constantly and rapidly. It acknowledges that schools struggle to stay abreast of these changes, so the emphasis is on teaching the ‘underpinning knowledge and behaviours’ which apply regardless of device, platform or app needed to navigate the online world safely and confidently while understanding the risks involved. Further, it emphasises that teaching about online safety harms should be embedded within a whole school approach.

The guidance highlights the place of teaching about online safety harms within the Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education curriculums which will become compulsory from September 2020. Children will be taught about what positive, healthy and respectful online relationships look like, the effects of their online actions on others and knowing how to recognise and display respectful behaviour online in an age appropriate manner. This should complement the computing curriculum and fit with other subjects such as citizenship. It should be part of a fully rounded education, both in terms of how to stay safe and how to behave online.

Online safety should be covered in specific lessons and/or whole school approaches which should include
• Evaluating what they see online
• Recognising techniques used for persuasion
• Online behaviour- recognising acceptable and unacceptable behaviours and that the same standards apply on and offline.
• How to identify online risks
• How and when to seek support

The document then lists a series of risks and where and how they could be covered within the curriculum. These maybe useful for schools when considering how these areas are picked up in their teaching in an age appropriate manner and ensuring their coverage of these areas. However, I am not sure how much of this will be new to schools.

There is a section of additional considerations including
• Vulnerable pupils- this highlights those with SEND and Looked after children but fails to explain fully why they might be more vulnerable or explore how schools can provide them with the additional support they need.
• Use of external resources
• Use of external visitors

The guidance then reflects the need to teach about online harms and risks in a safe way, pointing out that we need to be aware that some of the children being taught will have been abused and that teaching needs to take place in a safe environment. Further, children should feel safe to make disclosures.

The guidance identifies that teaching about safety online is likely to be more effective if it is part of a whole school approach which includes all aspects of the school life, including culture, ethos, environment and partnerships with families and the community. This will include embedding this within the school’s safeguarding, behaviour and bullying policies. Also including online safety across the curriculum.

The document finishes with a useful list of resources.

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