Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Internet Safety and Filtering

As part of the eLearning strategy we're setting up a new filtering system at every academy. As well as looking to make filtering more effective in managing content and warning us of any at risk behaviour, we've chosen a system that should be as unobtrusive and hassle free as possible - because we don't want the cost of making the web safe to be making the web unusable and frustrating.

We're using a product called Smoothwall. A master filtering unit maintains what the rules are and synchronises with lists of proscribed sites and terms from sources such as the Internet Watch Foundation and the Home Office, plus any additional black or white lists. We maintain one set of lists of sites that are and aren’t allowed, and one set of keywords that imply risk (eg in an internet search).

We already know who the people are on our system, so we can place them into a series of levels that decides what they can and can’t access appropriate to their role.

Each academy has its own filter that uses the master database plus the directory of users on our system. They will have a named member of staff who receives both routine reports on use as well as emergency alerts (for example when at risk behaviour is identified). They are also able to blacklist and whitelist sites on a fast track system.

No filtering system is perfect. The scale of the challenge of making the web safe without preventing people from accessing what they need is huge. We know that the filter is one part of the puzzle - far more important is the education of students to handle the risks of being online well, and the care and attention of the staff in our academies who work with children and parents as needed.

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