Safe and outstanding practice

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I’ve had a query from a teacher about the use of the web for educational purposes and the use of photographs including children.

Here’s what LTS have to say on creating and maintaining a school web site:

How safe is your website?
When creating a website the school is responsible for the care and the safety of every child. They must make sure that no child can be identified or contacted through the school website or as a result of someone visiting it. There should be no personal details such as names, e-mail addresses or telephone numbers. Try to put up photos of groups of children rather than an individual and don’t put their name beside it. You must get permission to use pupils’ photos or work, or to have their input on the website.

From this, we conclude that the main issue is that children must not be *identifiable*. The people who thought faces were unacceptable, We think, maybe made a wrong assumption about what this meant. It’s not the same as *recognisable*. As long as individuals aren’t identified, there’s no reason why faces of groups shouldn’t appear if parents accept it.
There may, of course, be cases where recognition is a risk – say if a family is in hiding. That’s a separate, and unusual, issue addressed by parental permission forms.

Today we’ve also checked what the “world’s largest internet safety organisation”, wiredsafety.org have to say on the subject. Their advice on use of children’s photos on web sites is here:

“So I recommend that a school use photos of children only after they get the parents’ consent, & only in groups of five or more. I also recommend that they not identify the children by name, only by the group: “Ms. Smith’s fourth grade class” or the “Volleyball Club,” for instance. This makes perfect sense when you think about it. We’d never let anyone post our child’s photo on a highway billboard, would we? We need to think of the Internet as a giant billboard posted on the largest superhighway in the world. If we wouldn’t allow something about our children to appear there, we shouldn’t allow it to be posted online.”

Bottom line is, they think the same as LTS.

In education, we have a duty to balance risks against educational benefits, just like we do when we take our children on the roads. In this case there is good evidence that publishing photos on the web has educational benefits, such as improving engagement, encouraging parental/family involvement, and improving school/community links.

We also have a duty to help children develop their own internet safety knowledge, by learning how to manage those risks. At primaries in particular, there’s an opportunity to teach these skills at an early stage, before they start using MySpace, Bebo etc. This is an increasingly important life skill.

An excellent example of a school web site can be found at the Pencaitland Primary School site. It is an outstanding model of the kind of practice LTS and wiredsafety.org are recommending and the staff at the school are to be congratulated for such leading edge and responsible practice.

Thanks to David Gilmour for helping with this post. We are working on detailed guidelines for schools.

4 thoughts on “Safe and outstanding practice

  1. I find it strange that we are delighted to see pictures of individual pupils published in local papers with full names, but not happy for the same thing to appear on a school Web site. Why is that?

  2. We follow that advice pretty closely, and the children all know that photos are fine and first names are fine but names and photos together are not.
    Like Robert I find it ironic that you will always get names and photos together in newspapers
    In our early days of publishing online I had some interesting discussions with our authority about photos. Now that blogging is a lot more common we need to make sure that these safety standards are kept, probably more to protect a powerful classroom practice than to protect children.

  3. It will be a good thing to have a code of practice for East Lothian schools. When taking photos of the science classes I am always acutely aware of the responsibilty of placing picutes of pupils on a website and try to show, when possible, only backs of heads, hands or groups of pupils from afar.

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