DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION PASSES THE BUCK ON E-SAFETY
WEB filtering and security specialist Smoothwall is warning that this week’s decision by the Department for Education (DfE)* to withdraw from any responsibility to maintain national minimum standards for e-safety in schools is nothing short of negligent.
Simon Wilcox from Smoothwall explains: “The DfE was previously responsible for setting standards for schools to provide safe Web and Internet access that complied with a minimum national standard via the education ICT agency Becta.
“Becta also helped schools choose how to protect creative, inquisitive pupils from the more unsavoury bits of the Internet by providing solid advice on what systems actually worked and what solutions offered the best value, something that is very hard for an individual school or Local Education Authority (LEA) to do in a technological environment that changes daily and with local budgets stretched to the limit.
“When it was announced that all funding would be withdrawn from Becta, everybody expected that some sort of national regulation or accreditation system would be created in its place – especially considering how much of a school’s curriculum is now delivered via on-line systems and tools.
“We are astounded that the DfE has decided to abandon any such regulation that would put ICT vendors through a stringent system of tests to make sure that the web filtering and security products actually do what the sales people claim they will, and protect pupils from online threats and harmful content.”
The DfE has stated that it has provided a sound starting point for the education sector and that schools, colleges, academies and LEA’s should now choose the system that best suits their individual needs and budgets.
Simon continues: “By abandoning existing e-safety standards the DfE has lacked any vision to see the consequences of leaving the industry to self-regulate and we are predicting a huge backlash from Head Teachers, Governors and the LEA’s who will now bear the responsibility when something goes wrong.”
As part of Smoothwall’s commitment to e-safety in schools, the firm is currently working with leading Oxford University and Tulsa Professor Dr. Brian Bandey producing White Papers on e-safet law in education to help ensure that the highest levels of protection are guaranteed in schools. The company is also encouraging people to petition the Government to define and maintain an e-safety quality framework (through internal or external agencies) that meets or exceeds the existing levels via http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31372
Smoothwall, which is privately owned, has a £5millon turnover and employs over 80 staff across its offices in Leeds, Southampton, North Carolina and California. The firm has seen year on year growth of just over 40% since its inception in 2001 and clients include Local and Central Government, Schools, Further & Higher Education providers; Fire Services, the NHS and businesses operating in the Corporate Sector in the UK, Europe and USA.