Organisations have a duty of care to all their learners, staff and volunteers. Everyone is to some extent at risk online although some people may be more at risk for a number of reasons including personal situation, age, disability or health. Fully inclusive and responsible e-safety practice, procedures and policies can help ensure that everyone is safe and no one is excluded.
Our video specifically for HE looks at the legal responsibilities owed and appropriate measures that should be in place when working with vulnerable learners.
Those who use online and mobile technologies may need or feel pressured to use it at speed, often on the move. Information comes in a variety of formats and from a variety of directions at any one time. Some learners may miss out on all of the information they need to make informed decisions. They may not be able to access it adequately or be able to keep up with and assimilate all of the information.
Some users may not be able to understand the meaning of emails and written communications or they may be easily influenced by what is written or said. They may also be easier to make contact with online rather than in a face to face situation.
Key organisational aspects to consider
- Communication – e-safety guidance and policies should be written with knowledge of the activity of both staff and learners. Acceptable use policies need to be in a format which all staff and learners can both access and understand
- Scope – e-safety policies may be framed within the context of the whole community. All members of the community have a duty of care to each other and may be able to influence or support those not in their direct line of contact
- Curriculum – many e-safety issues such as finance and fraud are not covered within the curriculum areas but are a crucial aspect for independent living
- Inductions – staff and learners’ induction to the information technology (IT) systems need to include user friendly guidance on e-safety principles such as password use, (creating, remembering and changing), security of data as well as social media guidelines
- Risk assessment – all learners are individual and their circumstances may change. Many learners will have a risk assessment included within their induction. It is important to have procedures in place to initiate risk management measures if a member of staff is concerned at any time throughout the academic year.
Residential settings and specialist colleges
Our guidance for staff in independent specialist colleges summarises key legal issues involved in the development and use of information and communications technology (ICT).
Monitoring and supervision may be acceptable and relatively straightforward in a learning environment but may seem more intrusive in someone’s own home.
Residential setting – does guidance and policy include recreational and personal use of the internet, do teaching and support staff have the knowledge and skills to be able to support the policies?
While there may be considerable training given to teaching and support staff within the college setting, care and other support staff may not have the opportunity to access this training. Similarly, there may be legal e-responsibility issues with some care staff who do not understand or realise the consequence of their own behaviour online such as file sharing and social networking use.
Risk assessment should include considerations of the learner’s situation and circumstances as well as any difficulty and/or disability? Is scope for additional measures included within the management of any perceived risk.
Colleges and learning provider organisations are communities of adults. Do your policies and procedures reflect this? Do the staff and learners have the opportunity to shape or add to the policies, guidelines or recommendations and do these reflect residential aspects.
The e-safety pathway has been developed with independent specialist colleges, using residential education and training as a focus.
Risks around social media and vulnerable learners
Social media has a lot to offer vulnerable young people who lack support in their offline lives. This opportunity can be developed in a positive way.
For most young people the primary gateway to the internet is now their mobile phone, there is almost no privacy and the technology is changing so rapidly it is hard for adults to keep up. This research was done at Pupil Referral Units with vulnerable learners.
The report addresses these issues and helps to define the real risks to young people whilst remaining conscious of the benefits to them. Resources on this site include a film made by young people from pupil referral units on the risks as they see them.