Understand how to follow safeguarding procedures when planning remote education strategies and teaching remotely.
Applies to England
This guidance is to help schools and colleges support children’s remote education. For the purposes of this guidance, children includes everyone under the age of 18.
It should be read alongside:
- statutory safeguarding guidance on keeping children safe in education
- emergency planning and response for education, childcare, and children’s social care settings guidance
- guidance for schools on providing remote education
Safeguarding children and teachers online
Keeping children and teachers safe during remote education is essential. Teachers delivering remote education online should be aware that the same principles set out in the school or college staff behaviour policy (sometimes known as a code of conduct) will apply.
Schools and colleges may want to update their policies to reflect remote online education provision. Schools and colleges (led by their designated safeguarding lead) should review and update their child protection policy to reflect the fact children may be learning both online and in the classroom.
Guidance on keeping children safe in education includes information and support to help schools and colleges keep children and young people safe online and a dedicated collection of resources (at Annex D) to support safe remote education, virtual lessons, and live streaming. It also includes support for schools and colleges to signpost parents and carers to help them keep their children safe online.
Schools and colleges also may wish to use these resources to understand more about how to ensure online education is safe:
- advice from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) on undertaking remote education safely
- guidance from the South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) on safe remote learning
- Digital wellbeing of learners guide from Jisc which curates a number of resources and guides
Schools can access the free Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH) which supports the online safeguarding of both children and professionals. Call 0344 381 4772 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The helpline is open from Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.
Guidance on teaching online safety in schools provides information to help schools ensure their children understand how to stay safe and behave online.
Important conversations with parents, carers and children
In your conversations with parents, carers and children you should emphasise the importance of a safe online environment, which amongst other things, means keeping any passwords and credentials safe. You should offer support and advice on how to do this.
It is especially important for parents and carers to be aware of what their children are being asked to do, including:
- sites they will be asked to use
- school staff their child will interact with
All school and college staff should continue to act immediately (following their child protection policy and the processes set out in part 1 of guidance on keeping children safe in education) if they have any concerns about a child or young person’s welfare, whether the child or young person is physically in school or learning from home.
Children should be encouraged to speak up if they come across something worrying online.
It is essential to have and communicate clear reporting routes so that children, teachers, parents and carers can raise any safeguarding concerns in relation to remote online education.
These should be reflected in the school or college child protection policy and should be communicated to all children and staff.
Schools and colleges should also consider referring teachers, parents and carers to the following practical support for reporting harmful or upsetting content, bullying and online risks.
Harmful or upsetting content
Get support on:
- reporting online abuse, from the National Crime Agency (NCA) Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) command
- reporting harmful online content to the UK Safer Internet Centre
- safeguarding from radicalisation, building resilience to extremism, and promoting shared values at Educate Against Hate
- your approach to dealing with harmful online challenges and online hoaxes
- handling the sharing of nudes and semi-nudes
Get advice on preventing and tackling bullying to help schools and colleges create safe, disciplined environments where children are able to learn and fulfil their potential. This guidance also includes links to further advice on cyberbullying for headteachers, school staff and parents.
There is information on bullying from the Anti-Bullying Alliance for children or young people who are being bullied.
Schools may also wish to use resources such as Tootoot to provide a confidential route for children to report bullying or abuse.
Online safety advice for parents and carers
Schools should encourage parents and carers to provide age-appropriate supervision for children and young people in their care using the internet. Amongst other things, this should include:
- talking to their children about not accessing age-inappropriate material on devices
- knowing who their children are talking to online
- setting up age-appropriate parental controls on digital devices
Internet filters should be used to block malicious websites. These are usually free, but often need to be turned on.
The following information and resources will help to support parents and carers to keep their children safe online:
- support for parents and carers to keep children safe from online harm which provides extensive resources to help keep children safe online and details of specific online risks, including sexual abuse, criminal exploitation and radicalisation
- CEOP Education provides advice from the NCA on staying safe online
- Childnet offers a toolkit to support parents and carers of children of any age to start discussions about their online life, to set boundaries around online behaviour and technology use, and to find out where to get more help and support
- Internet matters provides age-specific online safety checklists, guides on how to set parental controls on a range of devices, and a host of practical tips to help children get the most out of their digital world
- London Grid for Learning (LGfL) has support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online, including tips to keep primary aged children safe online
- Keeping children safe online has support for parents and carers from the NSPCC, including guides on social media, internet connected devices and toys and online games.
- Let’s Talk About It has advice for parents and carers to keep children safe from online radicalisation
- UK Safer Internet Centre has tips, advice, guides, and other resources to help keep children safe online, including parental controls offered by home internet providers and safety tools on social networks and other online services
Communicating with parents, carers and children
Where education is taking place, it is important that schools and colleges maintain professional practice. When communicating online with parents, carers and children, schools and colleges should:
- communicate within school or college hours as much as possible (or hours agreed with the school or college to suit the needs of staff)
- communicate through the school or college channels approved by the senior leadership team
- use school or college email accounts (not personal ones)
- use school or college devices over personal devices wherever possible
- advise staff not to share personal information
- ensure parents and carers are clear when and how they can communicate with teachers (resources to support communications are available)
- ensure login details and passwords are secure and children understand that they should not share this information with others
If teachers are teaching children from their own homes or any other shared space (for example, if school access is restricted and teachers and children cannot attend in person) they should aim to find a quiet space to communicate with children, parents or carers. If using video communication software, they should use a neutral or plain background.
Virtual lessons, live streaming and recorded videos
Remote teaching might include both recorded or live direct teaching time, and time for children to complete tasks and assignments independently.
If you choose to provide remote education using live streaming or pre-recorded videos, guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on which video conference service is right for your school and using video conferencing services securely could help schools and colleges to set up video conferencing safely.
When organising live lessons or recording lessons, schools may find it useful to:
- use neutral or plain backgrounds
- ensure appropriate privacy settings are in place
- ensure staff understand and know how to set up and apply controls relating to pupil and student interactions, including microphones and cameras
- set up lessons with password protection and ensure passwords are kept securely and not shared
- ensure all staff, children, students, parents and carers have a clear understanding of expectations around behaviour and participation
There is guidance available, including:
- guidance from the UK Safer Internet Centre on safe remote learning which includes detailed advice on live, online teaching
- the safeguarding guidance from LGfL includes platform-specific advice
- SWGfL, using insight from the professional’s helpline provides advice on cameras on or off and recording lessons
In some areas, schools or colleges may also be able to seek support from their local authority when planning online lessons and activities, and when considering online safety.
Providing pastoral care remotely
If children and students are required to remain at home and learn remotely, helping parents, carers and children to make a weekly plan or structure is important. These plans should include time for education, playing and relaxing to reduce stress and anxiety.
As set out in NHS every mind matters guidance, building positive routines are really important for children. A structured routine can give children and young people an increased feeling of safety in the context of uncertainty and it is helpful to try to maintain the same routine they would usually follow at school or college where possible.
Schools and colleges might want to consider whether one-to-one sessions could be appropriate in some circumstances. For example, to provide pastoral care or provide support for children who are vulnerable or have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
This should be discussed and approved by the senior leadership team to assess any risks. There may be helpful solutions, such as including a parent or additional staff member in the call.
Personal data and UK GDPR
Schools and colleges should continue to follow guidance on data protection and UK GDPR. Schools should follow the guidance outlined in the data protection: toolkit for schools and from Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
When managing personal data, education providers may need to consider:
- taking care not to share contact details when emailing multiple people
- being careful when sharing usernames and other personal data for access to online resources
- providing access to school data systems safely
- providing or making available sufficient information to data subjects, children, parents and carers to raise awareness about the personal data captured during lesson recordings, particularly where cameras are switched on