A guide to choosing a safe online provider for teachers and education/safeguarding professionals
Protecting students from harm is paramount, and in the case of AP online learning it is the first thing any education professional must check before engaging or recommending a provider.
Most professionals are aware of basic safeguarding procedures, but special attention must be paid to the online environment. Technology is not, in itself, the cause of harm to anyone, but it can facilitate inappropriate or even criminal activity, often out of sight of those whose remit is to protect students. So careful consideration must be given to the additional concerns surrounding online learning.
- Technology. Is the provider offering a proven, safe, and encrypted platform? All communication between student and teacher must offer SSL encryption (the same type of encryption used for online shopping) to prevent unauthorised interception of messages.
- Are lessons recorded? If there is a complaint or concern reported by a student or parent, the recordings can then be reviewed and checked.
- Monitoring & Supervision. Linked to the recording of lessons, there should be clear information regarding the monitoring and supervision of all members of staff, according to their roles and responsibilities, together with guidelines for reporting of incidents and concerns.
- Safe employment. Teachers and staff who have contact with children should all be subjected to an enhanced Disclosure and Barring check (DBS – formerly CRB). The enhanced check goes much further than simply checking criminal records and includes information on suitability and whether an employee has been barred from working with children.
- Staff guidelines. A code of conduct should be inspected and it should have a clear description of the consequences of breaching the code and disciplinary procedures.
- Procedures for attendance. Can you check procedures and records of attendance?
- Confidentiality. Is there clear guidance on information sharing and data protection?
- Training. Are relevant members of staff fully trained in Safeguarding procedures? And is there ongoing training covering emerging child protection issues?
- Contacts. There should be a named person in the organisation with clearly defined responsibilities for Safeguarding. Ask who is the designated safeguarding lead.
- Vulnerable children. What is the provider’s approach to vulnerable, underperforming, or disengaged students? Beyond the legal requirements, do they have a program to improve outcomes and support students in areas such as well-being, coping skills, and motivation? Our responsibility in Safeguarding not only covers the prevention of harm, but also the provision of opportunities for advancement in all areas of life.
- Transparency. All providers' policies should be available for inspection on request.