In light of the 2016 update to Keeping Children Safe in Education, all UK schools need to have an “appropriate” level of monitoring and filtering in place, we recently published this blog to explain how monitoring works and what it means for schools. To many this can be a daunting task, but fear not, SWGfL is here to help.
Drowning in data
To recap, one of the main concerns for schools we're hearing is that monitoring can become a very time consuming and resource intensive exercise. While the software is improving all the time, the amount of data created is often unmanageable.
Unlike humans, technology has little room for context. For example, imagine a secondary school with class sizes of around 30 students. If all 30 learners were researching human reproductive systems for biology, this would probably result in a number of ‘violations’ caused by mentions of words such as “breast”.
Most monitoring software will take a screen capture once or twice a minute, so if each of these learners had the word “breast” on their screen for 5 minutes, this could potentially generate 300 violations in one class. If there are five year groups, that could mount up to 1,500 ’violations’ generated in five minutes of lesson time.
You may think “if the learners are researching for biology then those sort of violations won’t count”. That’s true, but what if one of the students was also having an inappropriate chat with someone online at the same time. You could miss something really important, and if you had the means to check but didn’t, that’s a real safeguarding concern and you could find yourself in a sticky situation as a result.
If we assume each of the 5 school days has 5 lessons, and we use the same calculation as before for 5 year groups, a full day could result in a total of roughly 37,500 captures. When it comes to reviewing that data, even if it only takes you 5 seconds to review each capture, that‘s more than two full days per week spent just reviewing violations. Do you have the time, people and resources to manage this?
At SWGfL we’ve got a long history of working with schools and are well aware of the challenges they face. We know that most simply cannot afford to fund a two day non-teaching post. Similarly, data sets this size make it impossible to ask over-stretched staff to make time in their already crowded timetable to manage this on top.
Some schools opt to have one member of staff checking the captures for one hour a day, but it’s probably not the most cost-effective solution.
Consider this: on average teachers in the UK earn around £40 per hour, over one week that’s £200. If you adopt that approach over a school year, (40 weeks) that’s £8,000. This is on top of the price you have already paid for the monitoring software in the first place. Do you have a spare £8,000?
It’s also worth considering that one hour a day may not even be enough time to get through the captures generated, and as we touched on before, if you miss something it could lead to some serious conversations.
Assisted Monitoring Service (AMS)
To help address these very real data-management concerns, SWGFL has developed an Assisted Monitoring service that will do the legwork for you.
With AMS a trained and dedicated person will essentially hover over your data, and notify you within 3 hours if a violation of concern has appeared on your system.
It's true that there are other services out there that offer to do this, but many of these will then have the rights to your data, meaning you can’t access it at all. AMS doesn’t do this, unlike other services, not only will we act on serious concerns but we also empower schools to access and make the most of their own data.
AMS will draw on expertise form the Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH) to help us review and respond to safeguarding concerns.
SWGfL is a world leader in online child safety, a founding member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, as well as an advisor to Governments, and the lead partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre. With our grounding in providing schools internet services for over 15 years, we have seen the internet grow and learnt a lot along the way.
We are currently teaming up with Futures Digital as a software provider but we are not limited to one service. As AMS will sit on top of the monitoring software, we are able to work with a range of software providers, meaning that we can adapt to what your school already has in place.
Ensuring “appropriate” monitoring in your school setting is not optional, and unfortunately that means your budget is going to take a hit. Our goal is to take the pressure off schools by providing a quality, reliable service that is affordable, and works to protect and empower schools to manage their communities more effectively.