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In England, The Department for Education (DfE) have released an updated version of the Teaching Online Safety in Schools Guidance.

This is the latest update since the guidance was first published in June 2019.

Although non-statutory, the guidance provides schools with essential information and direction on how to teach pupils to stay safe and behave online, as part of existing curriculum requirements. We’ve put together some of the key updates and created a short summary of the changes.

Who is the Teaching Online Safety in Schools guidance for?

The guidance provided applies to:

  • school leaders, school staff and governing bodies
  • to all local-authority-maintained schools, academies, and free schools

What is the Teaching Online Safety in Schools Guidance?

The Teaching Online Safety in Schools guidance outlines how schools should teach children and young people about staying safe online and about appropriate behaviour online. It is non-statutory but complements curriculum requirements in subject areas such as relationships and sex education and citizenship.

The guidance covers topics including:

  • teaching about harms and risks
  • vulnerable pupils
  • use of external visitors
  • use of external resources

It also highlights the importance of a whole school approach towards online safeguarding and incorporating the principles of online safety across all elements of school life.

What’s New in the Teaching Online Safety in Schools Guidance 2023 update?

Alongside formatting changes and the inclusion of additional resources, the guidance now has more topic areas covered.

Online radicalisation has been added as a potential harm within the How to Stay Safe Online section. The addition of this topic reflects recent concerns about a rise in extremism online.

The guidance identifies teaching that could be included, such as:

  • how to recognise extremist behaviour and content online.
  • understanding actions which could be identified as criminal activity.
  • exploring techniques used for persuasion.
  • knowing how to access support from trusted individuals and organisations.

All education settings have responsibility under the Prevent Duty to build students’ resilience to extremism and ensure staff are trained to spot signs of radicalisation.

This newly added topic outlines the government’s online media strategy that gives internet users the knowledge and skills they need to make informed and safe choices online.

It sets out five principles that underpin delivery of media literacy education.

  1. The risks of sharing personal data and how to protect their privacy.
  2. How the online environment operates.
  3. How online content is generated and to critically analyse the content they consume.
  4. That online actions can have offline consequences and use this understanding in their online interactions.
  5. How to participate positively in online engagement, while understanding the risks of engaging with others.

This pre-existent section of the Teaching Online Safety in Schools sees new additions, including:

  • touching on the risk of identity theft or targeted approach from fraudsters using information shared online.
  • new suggested teaching on ‘fake websites and scam emails’ and ‘fraud online’, such as how to protect yourself and others against different types of online fraud.

Here’s a selection of some of the smaller updates included in the guidance

  • ‘Teaching about online harms and risks in a safe way’ has been RENAMED to ‘Safeguarding’.
  • ‘The risks of cyber crime, online fraud and identity theft’ has been added into ‘How to identify online risks’ subsection.
  • ‘Impact on confidence’ now includes teaching recommendation of ‘understanding that ‘easy money’ lifestyles and offers may be too good to be true’.
  • ‘Considering how to demonstrate empathy towards others (on and offline)’ has been added to the ‘Online Behaviour’ subsection.

Why is the DfE Online Safety Guidance important?

Despite being non-statutory, the guidance provides schools with a framework for reference that outlines good practice on online safety education.

Online safety education works best when tackled with a whole community approach. This means that whether at home or at school, children and young people are being presented with age-appropriate, relevant information on how to stay safer online.

The Safer Schools Ecosystem is a multi-awarding winning suite of services designed to educate, empower and protect entire school communities. It’s provided at no additional cost to school and local authority customers insured by Zurich Municipal in partnership with INEQE Safeguarding Group. It provides school communities with age-appropriate online safety resources, training and advice. As well as the Safer Schools App, the Ecosystem also offers an additional range of tools, including reputation management, cyber security and safeguarding self-assessment tools.

Teach Hub

Want to access free resources to help teach online safety in your classroom? Visit Teach Hub, where you’ll find resources on a wide range of topics including Image Sharing, Online Bullying and Harmful Content. Materials come in a variety of formats, from lesson plans to activity packs and video media.

Home Learning Hub

For parents and carers, the Home Learning Hub is ideal for helping families teach children and young people to be safer online. There’s online safety shareables, activity packs and articles to keep you up to date on the latest safeguarding news.

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Pause, Think and Plan

Guidance on how to talk to the children in your care about online risks.
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Visit the Home Learning Hub!

The Home Learning Hub is our free library of resources to support parents and carers who are taking the time to help their children be safer online.

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