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Schools’ new duty to monitor children’s internet use under fire

By Megan Rose

A new legislative duty that forces teachers to monitor pupils’ activity on school computers has raised concerns from privacy campaigners.

The measures, part of the government's Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance, instruct schools to check what children have been accessing online and are designed to prevent pupils falling victim to online grooming and radicalisation. The classroom management packages enable teachers to monitor sites pupils have accessed and what they’ve typed into search engines, as well as blocking certain websites with what's deemed inappropriate material.

In response to a Freedom of Information request  by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, figures show that over 1,000 secondary schools in England and Wales have introduced the new measures, but only 146 of these have written an acceptable use policy alongside them.

Privacy campaigners have criticised the new software, saying it violates children’s privacy as well as placing undue pressure on teachers. As well as this, they say, the lack of information provided to pupils and their parents about what the measures really entail sets a ‘worrying precedent’ in regards to filtering and monitoring.

Despite these fears, suporters of the new measures have stressed that use of the software is simply a new way for schools to safeguard their pupils and is not designed to ‘snoop’ or ‘spy’ on them.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘Computer monitoring software is used in schools to safeguard the welfare of children and young people by ensuring that they are not exposed to damaging online material.’ 

Image: Public Domain