The Department for Education is proposing revisions to the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) and is consulting on this as well as the new non-statutory advice on sexual harassment and violence between children in schools and colleges.
The Diana Award welcomes the proposed changes to KCSIE, in particular the inclusion of online safety as a key consideration for inclusion in safeguarding training as set out in Annex B. We also welcome the in-depth guidance on prevention and dealing with reports of sexual violence and harassment between children.
The guidance makes multiple references to sexting and the importance of schools and colleges stating their approach to dealing with it as part of their child protection policy. This is an important inclusion given the scale of the issue which staff members often report feeling ill-equipped to deal with: a survey of students attending our Be Strong Online Ambassadors training indicated that 31% reported having seen young people in school being affected by ‘sending, receiving or sharing indecent images’ at least a few times a month, with 6% having seen this ‘daily’. A further 36% reported having seen young people in their school having been affected by ‘unwanted contact online’ at least a few times a month.
The Department for Education is also inviting suggested additions to Annex C: Online Safety. We would recommend the addition of guidance on including the student population in the creation of an online safety policy.
Proposed additions to Annex C: Online Safety
From working with young people and staff in thousands of schools across the UK, we recognise the need for policies which clearly state the school’s approach to bullying and online safety. In a survey of over 500 young people attending our Anti-Bullying Ambassador training, nearly a quarter (23%) stated that they did not know whether their school had a policy which states how they will deal with bullying, and 36% claimed that they did not know the contents of their school’s Anti-Bullying Policy. Just over half (53%) stated that their school did have a student-friendly version of the Policy.
Our Anti-Bullying Ambassador training covers the importance of having an easily-accessible, youth-friendly version of the school’s Anti-Bullying Policy which is created with the input of the student body. Therefore we feel that it is crucial that this approach is extended to an online safety policy which sets out the school’s safeguarding duties in regards to concerns which arise online. Given the constantly-changing nature of the online world, we recommend that students are given the opportunity to contribute and that the policy is updated on at least an annual basis.
Furthermore we recommend guidance or examples of best practice on policies concerning student use of the internet whilst in school. From working with thousands of schools across the UK we understand that there is a wide disparity between how different schools approach online safety and specifically the school’s policy on tech and internet use. Many schools block all social media sites or impose whole-school bans on use of phones and devices. A consequence of this can be that they believe that online harms affecting their students are not within the remit of a school’s responsibility. Therefore we would recommend if schools are to be expected to handle online issues that have taken place outside school hours that they are given guidance, recommended policies or examples of best practice in implementing a whole-school policy on tech use.
For more information on this consultation visit https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/keeping-children-safe-in-education-proposed-revisions