Every school, college, academy and MAT needs web filtering. Not only does it safeguard young minds from certain places on the internet, but also increases productivity and helps protect the reputations of staff and the school itself.
Traditionally, web filtering for schools has been supplied by local councils, but now these services are being withdrawn due to budget restraints. This has been seen most recently in Worcestershire, Birmingham and Essex.
Initially a source of concern for schools, it does give them the opportunity to seek out a better solution. Council-backed services were rather restrictive. While schools had peace of mind as all internet access and content were vigorously filtered without their involvement, it left them little flexibility for change and hindered their ability to meet education and staff needs.
For instance, if a school wanted to deploy a new application or if art students were studying nude sculptures from the Renaissance period, the council-backed web filtering would prevent them from quickly accessing this content.
To achieve either, the school would have to raise a ticket, which could take weeks or months to activate. In some cases, the request would be denied as any changes made for one situation would affect everyone, not just the small allocated group.
Staff devices would also be vigorously filtered, which meant taking even more work home when teaching staff needed perfectly innocent areas of the internet for inspiration for their lesson plans.
Web filtering has moved on. Now school IT managers are in control of their school’s policies and they can apply blanket restrictions but lift them for educational use. These restrictions can be lifted per year group, by time of day, by classroom or staff area, as well as by content type.
For example, a year eight history class can look at YouTube videos on Iron Age weapons for one hour at 10am on Tuesday in a classroom called H2. It is that granular and very easy to manage. No more lengthy waits and the flexibility to use suitable internet content can inspire more immersive teaching and learning.
Teachers and administration staff working in the staff room and office can have more freedom while working on site too while still benefiting from an element of filtering to protect their reputations and the school’s too.
The withdrawal of council-backed services should not be viewed with concern as there are better, education-focussed web filtering solutions ready to take their place.
We have worked with schools for more than 35 years. If you need advice on your web filtering solution, please do not hesitate to contact me.