This analysis of data from the 360 Degree Safe draws from the self-review data of over 11,000 schools across the country to consider the “state of the nation” related to online safety policy and practice in English schools, as well as allowing us to reflect on 10 years of 360 Degree Safe, and analysis of the data it collects. This 9th review of the database presents a familiar picture to the one we have explored over the last ten years of online safety self-review. We continue to see that some areas, such as filtering and monitoring, and a number of policy aspects are growing in strength, which is encouraging as policy is needed as part of the foundation for effective and consistent online safety practice in schools.
While the shape of the data has remained the same over the last ten years we can see constant improvement across the country overall. In the last ten years we have seen changes to the education landscape which have, arguably, placed greater importance on online safety. When we began this evaluation journey, there were no statutory requirements on schools to consider online safety, now there are many. We have seen improvement in all aspects of online safety over the last 10 years, with some, such as Whole School (which considers how embedded online safety policy is and how it is consistent with other safeguarding responsibilities), Mobile Technology (how mobile devices are used in schools) and Professional Standards (relating to staff use of technology, both professionally and socially) have all improved by almost a whole level over this time.
At the current time we have areas of great strength in school online safety policy and practice:
Over 90% of schools have some form of Acceptable Use Policy, which is needed to clearly detail the expectation of all in the school regarding use of establishment technology and devices.
- 69% of all establishments have at least coherent and embedded Filtering and Monitoring, providing a high level of protection from Illegal, inappropriate or upsetting content, and enabling monitoring that is both useful and proportionate.
- 73% of establishments have at least coherent and embedded Policy Scope, which is encouraging as policy contributes toward clear and consistent practice in the setting.
- 79% of schools have some form of practice around Parental Engagement.
However, there are also areas of weakness
- 49% have Governor Education disclosed as level 4 or 5 (meaning no practice or only planned practice) around online safety issues. Therefore we would question whether these schools are in any position for the board to present sufficient challenge to senior leaders at schools to ensure effective online safety is in place.
- 41% of establishments disclose level 4 or level 5 for Staff Training, which is a statutory safeguarding requirement for schools. This complements the lack of governor education such that schools without a knowledgeable board are not in a position to ensure a school is carrying out its statutory duties regarding online safety training.
- There are only 19% of schools who have anything above “basic” Data Protection practices, and over 50% are at level 3. 28% of schools have no data protection policy in place, which means they are not fulfilling statutory duties around data protection and storage.
- One aspect we would consider to be aspirational around online safety practice is Impact of Online Safety Policy and Practices, or whether a school would evaluate their current policy and practice in a school improvement strategy. Very few schools in our database (13%) have strong practice with this aspect, and almost 50% have little evidence as to whether the safeguarding protocols and interventions they have in place are effective.
Given this report is not just the annual update, but also a “ten years on” reflection, we have additionally engaged with 45 online safety professionals to get them to reflect upon the changes they have seen in this time, and what were their hopes for the future. There is a belief that on the whole online safety practice has improved in schools during this time, however this is offset with a constantly changing online safety landscape and the nature of risk. We can see this reflected in the 360 Degree Safe data, which shows Whole School approaches being far stronger than they were ten years ago, and the vast majority of schools now having strong policies that underpin online safety practice in the schools.
However, we can also show that, even with statutory and inspection pressures, many schools are not fulfilling their legal duties related to effective online safety training and school boards are not sufficiently knowledgeable to make this happen or to be in a position to make judgements on the efficacy of the online safety delivered to students at a school. Looking to the future, we can see the value, and impact of pragmatic statutory guidance and inspection, and would hope this helps schools continue to improve their online safety policy and practice. We have come a long way in the last ten years, but there is still more to do.