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4 June 2024
By Education Safeguarding Service

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2024: Online Safety Summary for DSLs and Leaders

The internet and technology are an essential tool for everyday learning and socialising. The online safety agenda continues to evolve and increase, and it continues to be crucial that schools and colleges recognise online safety as a key safeguarding consideration and part of their statutory safeguarding responsibilities. Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs), governing bodies and proprietors should understand and be able to evidence the recognition of online safety within their safeguarding ethos and implement approaches which will safeguard their community online.

On the 24 May 2024 the Department for Education (DfE) published the updated ‘Keeping children safe in education’ (KCSIE) guidance ready for implementation from the 1 September 2024. KCSIE is statutory guidance from the DfE and all schools and colleges must have regard to it when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The 2024 version of KCSIE does not contain major system changes as there is a call for evidence on safeguarding in schools and colleges which is planned to close on 20 June 2024. Ministers decided the 2024 guidance would contain "technical changes only... with a view to providing a more substantively updated document, encompassing wider changes, to be delivered in 2025."

We encourage DSLs and school/college leaders to read KCSIE 2024 in full to ensure they understand the safeguarding requirements from 1 September 2024. To support Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) and Senior Leadership Teams (SLT), Kent County Councils Education Safeguarding Service have created a summary document which explores the online safety specific statements within KCISE 2024 in more depth and highlights any new/updated content.

  • A list of substantive changes can be found in Annex F; however, the 2024 version has minor updated content, terminology, and revised links throughout.
  • The updated definition of safeguarding (in line with the updated ‘Working Together to Safeguarding Children’ guidance) in part one now explicitly includes recognition that children may be maltreated online.
  • The DSL has overall responsibility for safeguarding and child protection, including online safety and understanding the filtering and monitoring systems and processes in place; they can be supported by appropriately trained deputies and should liaise with other staff as appropriate, but this responsibility cannot be delegated.
  • DSLs should evidence that they have accessed appropriate training and/or support to ensure they understand the unique risks associated with online safety, can recognise the additional risks learners with SEN and disabilities (SEND) face online, and have the relevant knowledge and up to date capability required to keep children safe online.
  • All staff (including governors and trustees) should receive appropriate safeguarding and child protection training, including online safety at induction. This should amongst other things, include an understanding of the expectations, applicable roles, and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring.
  • Online safety should also be addressed as part of regular (at least annual) child protection training and staff should receive updates, as appropriate.
  • Children should be taught about online safety, including as part of statutory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), however schools and colleges should recognise that a one size fits all approach may not be appropriate, and a more personalised or contextualised approach for more vulnerable children eg victims of abuse and SEND, may be needed.
  • Schools/colleges should be doing all that they reasonably can to limit children’s exposure to risks from the school’s or college’s IT system and should ensure they have appropriate filtering and monitoring systems in place and regularly review their effectiveness. The leadership team and relevant staff should have an awareness and understanding of the filtering and monitoring provisions in place and manage them effectively and know how to escalate concerns identified. When making filtering and monitoring decisions, schools/colleges should consider those who are ‘potentially at greater risk of harm’ and how often they access the IT system along with the proportionality of costs versus safeguarding risks.
  • Schools/colleges should recognise that child-on-child abuse, including sexual violence and sexual harassment can occur online. School/colleges have an essential role to play in both preventing online child-on-child abuse and responding to any concerns when they occur, even if they take place offsite and should have appropriate systems in place to support and evidence this.
  • Schools/colleges should ensure their child protection policy and wider safeguarding policies specifically address online safety, especially with regards to appropriate filtering and monitoring on school devices and school networks, child-on-child abuse, relationships on social media and the use of mobile and smart technology.
  • Schools/colleges should consider carrying out an annual review of their approach to online safety, supported by an annual risk assessment that considers and reflects the specific risks their children face.
  • Online safety should be viewed as part of your school/college statutory safeguarding responsibilities and will require a whole school/college approach.
  • Ensure your DSL is recognised as having overall responsibility for online safety, and that they access appropriate training and support to enable them to keep up to date.
  • Ensure your safeguarding policies (including your child protection policy), education approaches and staff training address the breadth of online safety issues as identified in KCSIE; content, contact, conduct and commerce.
  • Update your child protection (and/or online safety policies if you have a standalone document) and behaviour policies to address appropriate filtering and monitoring on school devices and school networks, online child-on-child abuse, and the use of mobile and smart technology on your premises.
  • Ensure your staff behaviour policy specifically covers acceptable use of technologies, including the use of mobile devices, staff/pupil relationships and communications, including the use of social media.
  • Work with curriculum leads (especially RSE leads) to ensure there is a range of opportunities within the curriculum for children to be taught about online safety in a way that is appropriate to their age and needs.
  • Ensure all staff, including governors and trustees are provided with appropriate and up-to-date online safety information and training at induction, and as part of regular child protection training and updates.
  • Staff training should include an ‘understanding of the expectations, applicable roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring’.
  • All staff should be made aware of the policies and procedures to follow with regards to responding to online safety concerns, including online child-on-child abuse issues.
  • DSLs should access the UKCIS ‘Sharing nudes and semi-nudes: advice for education settings working with children and young people’ and the DfE ‘Harmful online challenges and online hoaxes’ guidance to ensure they are familiar with its content and when it should be followed.
  • Schools/colleges should ensure appropriate filtering and monitoring approaches are in place which are suitable for the local context and use of technology. The leadership team and relevant staff should have an awareness and understanding of the appropriate filtering and monitoring provisions in place, manage them effectively and know how to escalate concerns when identified.
  • DSLs and school/colleges leaders should access the DfE ‘Filtering and monitoring standards for schools and colleges’ and ‘Cyber security standards for schools and colleges’ and consider how the school/college is meeting the requirements, and if any further action is required.
  • The school/college recruitment process should be transparent and ensure that shortlisted candidates are aware that online searches may be done as part of due diligence checks.
  • There should be regular and appropriate parental engagement in online safety, and specific concerns should be responded to in line with child protection policies.
  • DSLs should ensure online safety approaches are regularly reviewed and supported by an annual risk assessment that considers and reflects the specific risks their children face.

How the Education Safeguarding Service Can Support Your Online Safety Practice

Specific guidance and information regarding online safety can be found on the Education Safeguarding Service area of this website – this includes links to national guidance and resources and local template policies for schools and settings to adapt.

The Education Safeguarding Service provide a number of training courses, services and standalone products (including an online safety policy toolkit and an official use of social media toolkit) which can help support schools and colleges update their online safety practice.

Download 'Online Safety Within Keeping Children Safe in Education 2024'

Please note the Kent County Council/The Education People make every effort to ensure that the information in this document is accurate and up to date. If errors are brought to our attention, we will correct them as soon as practicable.

The copyright of this document is held by Kent County Council. However, educational settings that work with children and young people are granted permission to use all or part of the materials for not-for-profit use, providing Kent County Council copyright is acknowledged as the source and we are informed of its use.