Let me take you through a few of the key points which leaped off the screen at me. My first point however is a negative one - how much longer do we have to refer to the use of computers and the internet as 'new technology'? Next year will be my 20th on the net, and I've been online for over 30. It's just 'technology' surely? The more that we siphon it off into special little bunkers, the worse we're going to be. So let's drop the 'new' bit and the 'digital' bit as well, and just go back to having cameras and so on. Right, negative rant over. Let's continue, in the order that points are made in the report. Ofsted data in italics.
99% of children in the 7-17 age group access the internet. Even I'm slightly surprised by this figure, but pleased by it. Clearly this isn't all (probably not even half of it) taking place in school, but a fair proportion will be.
An excellent point is made about safety and responsibility. A key quote here: A child whose use of the internet is closely monitored at school will not necessarily develop the level of understanding required to use new technologies responsibly in other contexts. This makes perfect sense to me - Ofsted (and I, in fact) use the example that a child will be safe if you hold its hand while crossing the road, but it needs to be taught how to cross the road independently, and until it does, it's not really going to be safe at all.
Of the 35 schools Ofsted visited 13 had locked down systems; while this kept children safe they didn't learn how to authenticate sites, and time was taken up unblocking perfectly safe sites, thus wasting times. However, in managed systems, while there are still inaccessible sites there are few of them and the school "recognised the potential dangers of new technologies, but tried to equip their pupils to deal with them. Where the provision for e-safety was outstanding, the schools had managed rather than locked down systems. In the best practice seen, pupils were helped, from a very early age, to assess the risk of accessing sites and therefore gradually to acquire skills which would help them adopt safe practices even when they were not supervised." Schools should really take time to teach children what to do when things go wrong, as of course they will. They should teach children how to evaluate the good from the bad, and if they never have an opportunity to *safely* explore both, how are they expected to learn?
Chat sites caused problems for students, as did lost or misused passwords. When this happens, rather than attempt to lock everything down, teachers in schools that embraced technology used such events as useful teaching/learning opportunities.
Osted discussed teacher education as well. Ironically, "training for staff was the weakest aspect of e-safety." Well performing schools saw it as the responsibility of all staff to be involved with the development of IT policies and use of resources, and the best performing schools established a clear vision for sensible use of technologies. This is surely obvious? The internet is not a thing apart from pupils lives, it's *part* of their lives, and to try and treat it as anything else is just painfully out of touch.
Moreover, in the best performing schools, education was incorporated not only into their school lives, but their lives at home - parents were informed and educated as well, and strong links kept up by schools. Surely the best way of doing this is to encourage the use of social media tools, and to encourage parents to become active partners.
In summary, the report continually stressed one thing; education. Education of the pupils based on age, education of the teachers and education of the parents. Locking systems down is, if it's anything at all, a dangerous, ill thought out and lazy attempt to keep children safe, rather than capable and responsible.
The report isn't too long, and I'd encourage anyone to read it!