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Online safety

Keeping children safe in education (2019) sets out

Annex C: Online safety

The use of technology has become a significant component of many safeguarding issues. Child sexual exploitation; radicalisation; sexual predation: technology often provides the platform that facilitates harm. An effective approach to online safety empowers a school or college to protect and educate the whole school or college community in their use of technology and establishes mechanisms to identify, intervene in, and escalate any incident where appropriate.

The breadth of issues classified within online safety is considerable, but can be categorised into three areas of risk:

  • content: being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material; for example pornography, fake news, racist or radical and extremist views;
  • contact: being subjected to harmful online interaction with other users; for example commercial advertising as well as adults posing as children or young adults; and
  • conduct: personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of, or causes, harm; for example making, sending and receiving explicit images, or online bullying.


Opportunities to teach safeguarding, including online safety, are discussed at paragraph 88-90. Resources that could support schools and colleges include:

  • Teaching online safety in school- DfE guidance outlining how schools can ensure their pupils understand how to stay safe and behave online as part of existing curriculum requirements.
  • UKCIS has recently published its Education for a connected world framework. Online safety is a whole school and college issue. The framework aims to support the development of the curriculum and is of particular relevance to PSHE education and Computing. It is designed, however, to be usable across the curriculum and beyond and to be central to a whole school or college approach to safeguarding and online safety. It covers early years through to age 18.
  • The PSHE Association provides guidance to schools on developing their PSHE curriculum –
  • Parent Zone and Google have developed Be Internet Legends a free internet safety curriculum with PSHE accredited lesson plans and teaching resources for Key Stage 2 pupils.

Filters and monitoring

Governing bodies and proprietors should be doing all that they reasonably can to limit children’s exposure to the above risks from the school’s or college’s IT system. As part of this process, governing bodies and proprietors should ensure their school or college has appropriate filters and monitoring systems in place.

Whilst considering their responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and provide them with a safe environment in which to learn, governing bodies and proprietors should consider the age range of their pupils, the number of pupils, how often they access the IT system and the proportionality of costs vs risks.

The appropriateness of any filters and monitoring systems are a matter for individual schools and colleges and will be informed in part, by the risk assessment required by the Prevent Duty.[1] The UK Safer Internet Centre has published guidance as to what “appropriate” filtering and monitoring might look like: UK Safer Internet Centre: appropriate filtering and monitoring.

Guidance on e-security is available from the National Education Network. Support for schools is available via the: schools’ buying strategy with specific advice on procurement here: buying for schools.

Whilst filtering and monitoring is an important part of the online safety picture for schools and colleges to consider, it is only one part. Governors and proprietors should consider a whole school or college approach to online safety. This will include a clear policy on the use of mobile technology in the school or college. Many children have unlimited and unrestricted access to the internet via 3G, 4G and 5G in particular and the school and college should carefully consider how this is managed on their premises.

Whilst it is essential that governing bodies and proprietors ensure that appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place, they should be careful that “over blocking” does not lead to unreasonable restrictions as to what children can be taught with regard to online teaching and safeguarding.

Reviewing online safety

Technology in this area evolves and changes rapidly. A free online safety self-review tool for schools can be found via the 360 safe website. UKCIS has published Online safety in schools and colleges: Questions for the governing board

Staff training

Governors and proprietors should ensure that, as part of the requirement for staff to undergo regularly updated safeguarding training (paragraph 84) and the requirement to ensure children are taught about safeguarding, including online safety (paragraph 87), that online safety training for staff is integrated, aligned and considered as part of the overarching safeguarding approach.

Information and support

There is a wealth of information available to support schools, colleges and parents to keep children safe online. The following list is not exhaustive but should provide a useful starting point:

Organisation/Resource What it does/provides
thinkuknow NCA CEOPs advice on online safety
disrespectnobody Home Office advice on healthy relationships, including sexting and pornography
UK safer internet centre  Contains a specialist helpline for UK schools and colleges
swgfl Includes a template for setting out online safety policies
internet matters Help for parents on how to keep their children safe online
parentzone Help for parents on how to keep their children safe online
childnet cyberbullying   Guidance for schools on cyberbullying
pshe association Guidance and useful teaching resources covering online safety issues including pornography and the sharing of sexual images
educateagainsthate Practical advice for parents, teachers and governors on protecting children from extremism and radicalisation.
the use of social media for online radicalisation A briefing note for schools on how social media is used to encourage travel to Syria and Iraq
UKCIS The UK Council for Internet Safety’s website provides:


•      Sexting advice

•      Online safety: Questions for Governing Bodies

•      Education for a connected world framework

Organisation/Resource What it does/provides
NSPCC NSPCC advice for schools and colleges
netaware NSPCC advice for parents
commonsensemedia Independent reviews, age ratings, & other information about all types of media for children and their parents
searching screening and confiscation Guidance to schools on searching children in schools and confiscating items such as mobile phones
lgfl Advice and resources from the London Grid for Learning

Updates and changes


These pages are updated regularly and should be used as the main source of information.  Printed versions should be used with care as they can become out of date.