Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DfE Passes Buck on e-Safety

My kids are pretty safe at school - they are cared for by people who often go a beyond their remit to make their day as safe as it can be.  They are taught by qualified teachers who are in turn monitored by OFSTED (as a School Governor I'll not go there today).  The equipment and services in their school are of the safest kind;  electrical installations by NIC EIC accredited contractors, we've got BS Standard fire alarms, they eat nutritionally balanced meals created in monitored and carefully managed kitchens.  They even go on school trips in Department of Transport inspected buses driven by trained drivers with licences.  Schools are probably about the most regulated part of our society.

So, today we find out that the UK Department for Education have finally decided that they are not responsible for setting national minimum standards for e-safety provision (read web filtering and security technology) in schools.  A bit of a shocker - as huge bits of their curriculum is delivered using on-line systems and tools - and our kids are now more digital than most of us.

The sad thing is that the DfE were once responsible and (in their Becta guise) really good at it. They put vendors through the wringer to make sure any system they supplied actually did what it said it would do - protect creative, inquisitive kids from the more savoury bits of the web when their hard pressed teachers had their backs turned for a second.  And, they gave solid advice on what actually worked and what was good value - very hard for an individual school or LA to do in a tech environment that changes by the day and with local budgets pared to the bone.

So what happens now?  The DfE claim that the Accreditation scheme was just a starting point and that now schools should chose the system that suits them (and their budget).  Tell me if I'm being dense but it sounds like - 'trust the computer sales man because they always tell the truth' and 'buy the cheapest system because they all do the same thing'.  Oh, and if something goes wrong (and things do) blame somebody else (as a Head Teacher/ Governor / LA there isn't anybody else to blame - sorry).

We can all appreciate that must be really hard to make decisions to cut vital services because you don't have the money.  But, to abandon existing e-safety standards because you haven't the vision to see the consequences looks a bit negligent to me.  But what do I know?

1 comment:

  1. Ridiculous really. Even if the DfE had to have a person, or 2 people whose job was evaluating filtering systems and defining the standards, you're talking what? £75k a year at most to run this as a scheme? Out of the education budget, that is nothing. Especially for something as important as esafety.