From education to employment

Three things to consider when reviewing your learners’ online safety

The pandemic threw so much apprenticeship delivery online in a short space of time that providers should be applauded for getting to grips with new technology and ways of working quickly, while ensuring safeguarding issues were maintained.

However, technology moves so fast, that it’s important not to rest on your laurels.
Making sure that your practitioners have up-to-date safeguarding training and are comfortable using the platforms they are working with, will allow you to stay ahead of potential threats and protect your learners in an ever-changing virtual environment. 
In this blog we cover three areas to explore when reviewing your online learning delivery:

Make sure your online policies are future proof
Most providers will cover online safety as part of their safeguarding policies and procedures, but it’s important to check the policies are specific to the platforms you use to deliver, and relevant as new features to those platforms are added.
For example, you can use software like FaceRig to give yourself an avatar in Microsoft Teams. This could be a bit of fun to use in some situations but may also be used to mock or shock other learners. This is why it’s important your online safety procedures have the practitioner in control of the virtual space and are reviewed periodically in light of new technology.
Do practitioners get regular training?

Unfortunately, just having up-to-date policies and procedures in writing is not enough. It’s just as important that new staff have a thorough induction to the way your organisation protects learners online, and for all staff to access training on how to manage online sessions safely, responsibly, and consistently.
Are practitioners clear about what is inappropriate behaviour? Are they able to spot the impact this behaviour could have on safeguarding? Do they know what action they should take in uncomfortable situations? This might be when to remove someone from a lesson and how best to follow up the incident, for example.
Essentially, setting clear standards and acting on them is vital to mitigate potential safeguarding risks and improve learning outcomes. This is true both virtually and face-to-face. However, the informality of virtual learning may inadvertently facilitate slippage in standards, so being aware of this and giving staff specific training is important to success.
Hyper-aware of tell-tale safeguarding signs  
When delivering sessions through a computer your brain must work harder to read people’s facial expressions and tone of voice, compared to face-to-face. The term ‘Zoom fatigue’ was even coined to explain how difficult it can be to work with others online successfully.
However, as practitioners, it is vital that we are aware of this phenomenon and pay extra attention to ‘read the room’ in virtual lessons, so that we can pick up on any potential safeguarding concerns.
For example, a student that doesn’t have their face on camera, or is withdrawn from the session may be experiencing safeguarding issues outside the classroom that need to be followed up on.
Making sure staff understand the importance of being hyperaware of their student’s behaviour online and following up on feelings or talking about any concerns with colleagues after the session, could allow you to uncover a safeguarding issue that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. 
Let SDN support your safeguarding training
If you or your team could benefit from external safeguarding training and wish to share best practice with practitioners across different settings, why not register for our upcoming safeguarding workshops:
Safeguarding essentials for apprenticeships (6 February 2023)
If you’re new to safeguarding, or are looking for an annual refresher, this interactive online workshop is designed to increase your knowledge, skills, and confidence around working with young people and adults in the FE and skill sector.
Digital safeguarding in apprenticeships (10 February 2023)
To take a deeper dive into digital and online safeguarding this is the workshop for you. We’re excited to be teaming up with our friends at Psych-Logical to host a half-day interactive online workshop focused on digital safeguarding.
Designated safeguarding officer training (2 March 2023)
Whether you’re new to the Designated Safeguarding Officer role, or are looking for a refresher, this interactive online workshop will cover both virtual and face-to-face settings and will equip officers with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to respond to a variety of safeguarding concerns.

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