Safeguarding Software for Schools: Everything you Need to Know
What is Safeguarding Software?
Safeguarding software comprises digital tools and systems specifically designed to enhance the safety and wellbeing of students within educational institutions. They are intended to complement your school’s existing safeguarding policy, making processes easier, quicker, and more robust.
For ease of understanding, we have grouped the technology into five separate categories:
Case Management: Often referred to as a recording system, this software serves as an information management hub and record-keeping repository for maintaining a secure environment. It delivers structure to your school’s safeguarding policy, ensuring incidents are tracked, investigations are managed, and follow-up actions can be pursued.
Content Filtering and Monitoring: Monitoring safeguarding systems are designed to track student device usage, identify potential risks or concerns, and support the actioning of necessary interventions. Filtering tools allow schools to restrict access to inappropriate or potentially harmful material.
Student Reporting: This safeguarding software enables students to report concerns or incidents anonymously and share information regarding their own mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Teacher Training: Training platforms equip teachers and staff to recognise and handle potential safeguarding risks. They also function as a management hub, allowing schools to coordinate and track teachers’ training and CPD.
Security Systems: These solutions encompass a wide range of software and hardware designed to protect computer systems, networks, and data from potential threats.
Typical Features and Benefits of Safeguarding Software
The features and benefits of safeguarding software for schools are dependent on their specialism. Here are some of the most popular safeguard software categories, along with their corresponding features and benefits:
Report Generation and Customisation: Individual, year group, or whole school reports can be automatically generated. They can also be customised to address one or multiple categories of concern.
Auditable Evidence: Safeguarding concerns can be reported, categorised, and timelined, leaving a clear and auditable trail for schools to show inspectors.
Concern Categorising: Issues and concerns can be categorised, making searching and tracking a much more efficient process.
Chronological Automation: The number and dates of reports and alerts attributed to each child can be tracked, allowing patterns of concerns, frequency of reports, and escalations of risk to be easily discerned.
Information Collation: Information can be collated and analysed, allowing instructors and school leaders to reflect meaningfully on incident reporting and determine better ways of working.
External Agency Collaboration: Information can be shared with relevant agencies, such as social services.
Automatic Alerts: Teachers can be alerted to a safeguarding concern that has been flagged against a particular student.
Record Transfer: A student’s record can be safely transferred to their new school, meaning an understanding of their previous history and needs can be formed.
Ultimately, case management systems, by acting as a specialised information management system, can improve the efficiency and capability of schools’ safeguarding processes.
“Having an accurate and comprehensive record ensures no issue, however minor, can fall through the gaps. Gathering all the details of all incidents enables professionals to see the whole picture, ensuring that the right actions are taken and a full follow up completed.
For instance, if a case is particularly complex and a record is required for court purposes, having a reliable and accurate system that recorded an identified issue, demonstrated the actions taken, and ensured that follow up was completed will be invaluable.” – teamSOS
Filtering and Monitoring
Real-Time Tracking: Monitoring systems provide real-time tracking of students’ internet activities, allowing for early identification of potential issues requiring timely intervention and support.
Usage Reports: Detailed reports and analytics on internet usage allow schools to identify trends, risks, and areas for improvement in their safeguarding measures. Insights from reports can also be shared with parents to facilitate discussions surrounding students’ online safety.
Alerts and Notifications: Alerts or notifications can be sent to administrators when attempts to access restricted content or concerning activities are detected.
“The digital realm has no boundaries and Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) cannot afford to leave any corner untouched. Monitoring solutions eliminate the worry of potentially missing a vital concern: the email written and never sent; notes written in a word document which are later deleted, and so on.” – Smoothwall
Content Control: Schools can restrict access to specific websites, categories, or content deemed inappropriate or harmful, reducing exposure to cyberbullying, explicit material, or potential threats.
Keyword and Category Blocking: Filtering systems can block specific keywords, phrases and categories of content – such as gambling, adult content, violence – to ensure a broader level of student protection.
Access Customisation: Internet filters can be selectively adjusted according to year group or lesson type, helping to streamline workflows by limiting unnecessary delays caused by seeking permissions.
Device Management: Filters can be applied to the full range of devices and hardware used by students at your school, creating a centralised control for efficient management.
User Accountability: Devices can be identified at an individual level when a student tries to access inappropriate content online, making users more mindful of their web activity.
Usage Reporting: Instant reports on device usage can unearth user trends and statistics, helping schools learn how to keep their students safe.
MAT Alignment: Filtering can be coordinated across all schools in a MAT, allowing a collective safeguarding policy to be uniformly implemented.
As technology becomes more deeply ingrained in education, students are increasingly engaging with various online platforms and resources. This heightened digital presence exposes them to potential risks such as cyber threats, inappropriate content, and online harassment. By combining filtering and monitoring systems, schools become empowered to maintain a safe digital environment for students, offering control over content access, real-time tracking, and comprehensive insights into online activities to proactively ensure student safety.
“All schools need to have both a robust filtering solution AND a robust monitoring solution in place, a key focus within the latest KCSiE guidance and the Ofsted inspection framework.” – Securus Software
Digital Reporting: Students can report incidents by sending alerts or messages via an app, and, if they so wish, can do so anonymously. This can take the stigma out of reporting incidents, and make it easier for students to report concerns they may not feel comfortable talking about face to face.
School-wide Incident Reporting: Student-oriented safeguard software enables schools to gather accounts from different learners, providing a wider picture of concerning events.
Emotional Wellbeing Monitoring: Students can answer questions and surveys regarding their mental health, allowing schools to increase their general understanding of students’ wellbeing – including common areas of concern – and administer direct interventions where necessary.
“Safeguarding software offers students a direct outreach tool, without having to admit to needing help in person. It takes away the fear and hesitation of approaching someone for help, and offers an intervention tool that allows a vulnerable person to receive support within seconds.” – Smoothwall
Immediate Resource Access: A range of safeguarding courses focused on differing age groups or categories of concern can be accessed, enabling teachers to develop their knowledge and skills across a wide spectrum of safeguarding topics.
Training Coordination: Your entire staff’s training needs can be managed from one platform, making compliance easier to implement and monitor.
Developing a Safeguarding Software Procurement Strategy
An essential precursory step of market research is crafting a procurement strategy, and an effective strategy is framed around three key factors:
Consumer Needs: Your accessibility and pricing requirements that ensure smooth implementation of the product in your school.
Intended Role: How employment of the software is intended to look in your school.
Expected Impact: The Area and Typeof impact your prospective solution should have.
Mapping your Consumer Needs to your Procurement Strategy
Technology widely varies in accessibility, meaning it is important that you discern the exact level of training and support that your school will require. With EdTech, users not only need to understand the features of the technology, they also need to feel confident in using them effectively.
At EdTech Impact, we ask suppliers to provide details about their product’s accessibility. For the purposes of this guide, we have also collated this information to provide an overview of the types of training and support provided by safeguarding software for schools. Here are the results:
An effective procurement strategy will be appropriately budgeted, and recognise the type of pricing model that is best-suited to the needs of its school. To help elicit an understanding of how to approach crafting your contractual considerations, we collected data on all the specific pricing models adopted by our safeguarding software, and calculated their average and median cost:
Ultimately, mapping your accessibility and contractual needs to your procurement strategy can limit the potential for hiccups when implementing the solution in your school. Be mindful of not overlooking this important step: once the contract is signed, your options are limited.
The Intended Role of your Safeguarding Software
Effectively assigning a role to your prospective solution hinges on a well-formulated understanding of exactly what the technology can do. In order to help with with, our earlier “Features and Benefits” section grouped safeguarding EdTech into its four predominant categories: “Case Management”; “Content Filtering”; “Student Reporting”, and “Staff Training”.
However, a further step towards addressing the potential of safeguarding software involves confronting potential misconceptions. You may think the technology “does this”, when in actuality it is designed “for this”.
To help with addressing any potential conceptual shortcomings, we reached out to our community of safeguarding providers and educators for further insights. Here are the noteworthy misconceptions they commonly observe surrounding their products:
1. The Technology’s Potential is Underutilised
Due to the ease in which filtering systems can block websites, the pre-emptive benefits of monitoring systems are often overlooked:
“One of the major misconceptions we face is the assumption that employing a filtering system meets all of the requirements for safeguarding software. We are therefore constantly discussing the difference between filtering and monitoring solutions. A specific safeguarding monitoring solution, like Securus, monitors in the background and detects incidents of concern; it does not just block websites as a filtering system does. This provides a truer picture of any background issues a student could be facing. – Securus Software
Similarly, the focus on recording systems’ capability to retrospectively document incidents has led users to overlook the predictive potential found among monitoring solutions:
“Whilst recording systems can be effective, they only store details after the event or incident has occurred. This means they do not safeguard against, or in advance of, the incident. Monitoring systems provide an early warning system to highlight potential (as well as actual) instances of a child at risk, and the screenshots and detail produced act as hard evidence, allowing school safeguarding staff to deal with the situation and help change future behaviours.” – Securus Software
However, it isn’t just certain types of safeguarding technology that are sidelined. Digital citizenship education is often substituted for the immediate short-term solutions delivered by filtering systems:
“It is believed that safeguarding software’s primary purpose is to restrict access and limit students’ freedom on the internet. This is true to a degree, but its main purpose is to educate and empower students to use digital resources responsibly. It’s not just about blocking content, but also about teaching students how to navigate the digital world safely.” – Musah Abdulmumini, IT Administrator
Moreover, the general perception towards safeguarding can be limited in scope. Digital citizenship shouldn’t be restricted to students, yet it often is:
“Another misconception is that safeguarding software is only relevant for younger students. In reality, all age groups can benefit from this technology, as it helps develop digital literacy skills and promotes responsible online behaviour. ” – Musah Abdulmumini, IT Administrator
2. Safeguarding Processes Incorrectly Fall on Individuals
Often, the buck for recording and managing safeguarding incidents is passed to specific individuals:
“Many users consider safeguarding systems to be specific solutions for recording and dealing with specific safeguarding related incidents. They are systems for the DSL, and for reporting issues to the DSL. This can be a limitation in understanding the bigger picture around children and their wider activities within schools, especially regarding the broader issue of Keeping Children Safe in Education.” – Team SOS
“Unfortunately, many schools have relied on hardworking teachers to deliver a high standard of student care above and beyond their normal workload, leading to burnout and inefficiencies. Modern safeguarding software is designed to relieve the pressure on teachers to safeguard, allowing schools to share the duty of care and create a safe and nurturing school environment.” – Orah
And to make things worse, previous realisations of safeguarding solutions have fostered preconceptions that the topic represents a tick boxing exercise. But this shouldn’t be the case; in fact, effective technology should make safeguarding practice easier:
“It is human nature to resent additional paperwork or mandatory training requirements, especially when added on to an already busy workload. This means safeguarding faces preconceptions as a tick box exercise.
Safeguarding software should be employed to aid and speed up the recording of all concerns, allowing good safeguarding practice to become a part of our every day. It should never be cumbersome, nor should it be reserved for escalated cases.” – Tes Safeguarding
The Expected Impact of your Safeguarding Software
An in-depth understanding of which areas require extra attention or improvement will provide focus to your market research. If you’ve had difficulties with students accessing inappropriate content at school, then you may want safeguard software that can filter all devices in a large school setting. If your students are typically reluctant to speak with staff about their wellbeing and safety, you may want software that enables them to do this over a platform rather than face to face.
Furthermore, the evolving statutory guidance for schools and colleges necessitates mapping the role of your prospective solution to the official safeguarding systems in place at your school. In 2023’s Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE), the UK’s DfE noted these to include:
Child Protection Policy
Staff Behaviour Policy (sometimes called a Code of Conduct)
Safeguarding Responses to Absent Children
The Role of the Designated Safeguarding Lead
Following national guidelines will steer your school’s safeguarding policy, and can also help you understand what kind of safeguard software is best placed to meet your school’s needs.
Meanwhile, on EdTech Impact, our solutions are mapped to their impact (the outcomes they claim to improve), allowing you to quickly filter to the objectives best suited to your goals. Here’s our top-level taxonomy:
The Area of Impact
To devise a procurement strategy that is shaped around your schools’ specific needs, it’s important to address who it is for. This will ensure that your market research is focused on products contextually relevant to your institution.
Within our impact taxonomy, this “Area of Impact” falls under three groupings: Student; Teacher, and School Outcomes. We have mapped the safeguarding solutions on our marketplace to identify the most common groupings among this category’s platforms. Here are the results:
Furthermore, our providers are asked to provide information on their product’s learner age appropriateness, and whether it supports parent access. This supports greater understanding of the prospective solution’s relevance in relation to the contextual needs of your school. Here is what collating supplier information revealed:
The Type of Impact
The “area of impact” provides a framing yardstick for your procurement strategy. Meanwhile, the “type of impact” pertains to the distinct outcomes found within our taxonomy’s three groupings. Identifying your specific objectives adds precision to your market research, enabling a clearer focus on the prospective solution that will deliver your goals.
With that said, you don’t simply want to know what your objectives are. It is also important to know how likely it is that your strategy’s goals can be realised. To help with this, we conducted an analysis of our safeguarding solutions, uncovering their most commonoutcomes and, based on user experience, the effectiveness of their impact. This is what we found:
Evaluating User Experience to Improve Market Research
A fully-developed procurement strategy, coupled with our supplementary data generalisations, can underpin effective market research. However, to really develop a concrete perception of the likely impact a product will have, and how it is successfully (or unsuccessfully) employed in educational contexts, it is imperative that your market research scrutinises authentic user experiences of the prospective solution.
At EdTech Impact, we have published over 10,000 independent peer reviews, each revealing diverse insights into what it’s like to be a customer, whether the product’s performance is improving or declining over time, and how they rank against their competitors.
Leveraging User Reviews for Nuanced Insights
User reviews on our website go beyond a mere rating and comment. Instead, we ask our reviewers to provide a rating and accompanying summary for each of the solution’s purported outcomes. By doing so, we aim to maximise your ability to unearth insights relevant to the needs and goals outlined by your procurement strategy, as well as solidify your trust in a product’s ability to meet them.
It’s the detail found within user reviews that can really illuminate the mechanisms at play. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at a real-world example in our safeguarding category:
IRIS Adapt, as described in its EdTech Impact profile, is a “tracking system” that purports to be “fully customised to your requirements – using your own familiar language, layout, and workflow.” But does this actually play out in reality? And how effective is the support at ensuring successful customisation?
Review 1: “Our initial system was built bespoke for us to meet our unique needs as a school. It is also fully customisable, only requiring an email request before being completed in a matter of minutes.”
Yet, considering this is just one reviewer’s opinion, it prompts a further question: Can the customisation features handle the diverse needs found in different schools?
Review 2: “We have been given a system that is bespoke to our needs. The company has worked hard to ensure it is right for us. Since it arrived, the company has worked every day on adding and editing the system to further suit our needs. Any changes I ask for are instigated within the hour.”
User reviews can strengthen your trust in a product’s ability to meet specific goals, as evidenced by the praise lavished on IRIS Adapt’s customisation. Moreover, they reveal details that might not have been considered before. In the above examples, both users were appreciative of the prompt and effective support received by IRIS Adapt’s team in addressing their unique requests. In fact, the latter review even drew attention to the team’s dedication to ensuring their needs were met.
Comparing Reviewer Context to your Own
On top of asking our reviewers to provide detailed judgements on EdTech products, we also ask them to provide contextual information. This includes school-specific information, such as their institution and staff role, as well as usage pattern insights, including how long and how often they used the solution.
As many factors can influence a user’s experience with a solution, comparing the reviewer’s situation to your own can assist you in evaluating how relevant and useful their assessment is in shaping your own judgement of a product.
The Future of Safeguarding Software
Given the stricter safeguarding requirements outlined in the 2023 KCSiE report for schools and colleges, and the continual shift towards a more digitally focused education environment, understanding the forthcoming evolution of safeguarding software is crucial. In light of this, we consulted our experts to share how they anticipated the transformation of safeguarding EdTech would look over the next few years. Here’s what they had to say:
1. A Greater Emphasis on Digital Citizenship
“As learning becomes increasingly tech enabled, safeguarding is shifting from something that’s ‘done to you’ into something with involvement from all parties. The school, the parents, and the students themselves will feel like they have more of a voice, meaning we will begin to see lines blurring between who is responsible for wellbeing.
This is where more education is needed across the whole school community. Smoothwall’s Online Safety Hub exists to educate parents, staff and Governors to understand the latest online risks and what they can do to reduce them, and we envision more opportunities to use our safeguarding tools to help students.” – Smoothwall
2. The Rise of Monitoring Systems
i) As a preventative tool
“There should be a movement from recording events after the fact to preventative “in the moment” responses, allowing interventions to be faster and more appropriate.” – teamSOS
ii) As a fully moderated service
“It will be compulsory, or widely recognised, that any monitoring provision must be a fully moderated service. This will allow DSLs to shift their focus onto intervention, rather than sifting through thousands of unmoderated alerts. Their role should no longer be to take personal accountability to find the needle in the haystack; instead, they will only be expected to respond to validated alerts, allowing their time to be spent on supporting vulnerable people in need; a vital and transformative evolution.” – Smoothwall
3. The Development of Reporting Systems into a Holistic Solution
“We predict an evolution from standalone, single purpose systems to technology that supports a more holistic view of children. This could involve greater integration with management information systems or the broadening of reporting and analytics capabilities.” – teamSOS
4. An Increased Overall Importance in Education
“As student safety and welfare becomes more critical in the eyes of parents and families, we predict that more families will make decisions on where to send their children based on how much a school shows that they care.” – Boardingware
5. In Line with the Increasingly Volatile Digital Landscape
“With more intelligent technologies being promoted and new platforms geared towards the younger generation, we have to keep up with the new digital threats that we see emerging. In this ever-changing digital landscape, there will be a greater need to protect children, both online and offline. For Securus, our development mapping continues into the future with advanced OCR technology, AI functionality, increasing integration with other EdTech platforms, and an increased focus on behavioural analytics as we expand our ability to support safeguarding teams across education.” – Securus Product Suite
“With the advent of generative AI, safeguarding technology will have no choice but to evolve to keep up with the rate of increasing threats. For instance, technology firms are vowing to tackle the increasing spread of AI images of child sex abuse after The Internet Watch Foundation recently found 2,978 AI images of children which breached UK law, a heartbreaking statistic. It will be a challenge but safeguarding tools will have to transform along with wider technological innovation.” – Smoothwall
“Safeguarding software will evolve in its ability to detect and respond to emerging online threats, such as cyberbullying, hate speech, and misinformation.“ – Musah Abdulmumini