Davy Richmond, Education Operations Director at Capita Managed IT Solutions, looks at the importance of online safety in Northern Ireland schools and shares how the locally-based IT company is committed to supporting schools, colleges and universities to develop students as future digital responsible citizens.
2017 has been a high profile year for cyber security. From viral ransomware attacks to hacking campaigns and intelligence leaks, every type of organisation has been on high alert – globally. The education sector is no different. Combined with the continuous growth of technology in the classroom, the ever-accelerating pace of emerging technologies being launched to the market, and a reliance on online resources to learn – online safety is high on the priority list of every education leadership team’s agenda.
Schools, colleges and universities are moving towards 1:1 device learning, and there’s a plethora of available online applications available to learners.
Pupils and students use their personal devices for social engagement as well as for learning, so the online environment is increasingly at the epicentre of everyday classroom practice.
Capita Managed IT Solutions specialises in education technology and the company has worked with education establishments, from primary schools through to universities, for over 30 years. The Education sector is at the heart of the organisation’s heritage, especially in Northern Ireland, where we provide an IT Managed Service to every school in the country. From our Centre of Excellence in Newtownabbey, our team of IT specialists continually manage and monitor the core IT infrastructure that enables schools to embed innovative technology throughout their classrooms.
Of course, at the heart of all of this, is security. Recent events have catapulted the profile of online security, and it’s the behind-the-scenes infrastructure that is the absolute strength of the Northern Ireland schools’ IT service. Capita Managed IT Solutions is renowned for scaling security based on serving the right technology for each unique customer need, and is at the forefront of ensuring technology and education are properly aligned.
Online safety in Northern Ireland schools
Capita’s education security team continually monitor the schools network, ensuring students and teaching staff are not exposed to online threats. Each month, the team detect and quarantine approximately 1,250 viruses, prevent over one million SPAM emails from entering school’s systems and protect 40 billion internet hits per month against malicious websites. By ensuring the IT infrastructure is secure, students can safely use mobile devices, access online learning resources and download educational apps to enhance their learning. This enables learning to be interactive whilst developing IT skills for the future workforce.
This only touches on the level of dedication to ensuring the online environment is secure. Capita delivers a 24/7 monitoring service, protecting against any cyber vulnerabilities and threats. Regular online penetration tests are carried out to protect against vulnerabilities on the school network and daily network scans ensure the latest security vulnerabilities and exposures do not lead to ransomware or other attacks on school networks and devices.
Educating digital citizens
Technology, however, is not the only solution to the growing online threat. Education to increase awareness of online risks to both students and parents is critical. Guiding students in the rights and wrongs of the online world and sharing information and advice with parents are of equal importance to technical fixes. Empowering our young people with knowledge about protecting themselves from online grooming and bullying, what constitutes responsible use of online connections, and continuous monitoring of what they access and search are vital to ensuring online safety and nurturing a culture of responsible online use.
This will also contribute to improving online safety awareness and practice when children are in their home environments, which typically lack the protections common in school.
Undoubtedly, a key aim of online safety is to ensure students are prepared as digitally responsible citizens with key skills for their future working life. With increasing pressure from society and peers, the welfare and type of content young people access should be continually reviewed and monitored. To support schools in achieving this, there are numerous resources available from both local and international bodies.
Online safety in action
For three consecutive years, Capita has partnered with C2k and the Education Authority to host an awards scheme that recognises innovative practices in the use of technology in Northern Ireland schools. The judging process has exposed many outstanding examples of how schools are making the best use of technology to transform the learning experience of their students – better preparing them for future study and work, whilst also enhancing their performance in school.
Online safety is a core category in the awards submission, and the judging process has highlighted how it is embedded into every element of IT in schools. In addition to core infrastructure security, the online safety of students is embedded into schools’ visions and strategies, with many schools using pupils to mentor their peers in this key aspect.
By doing so, schools have been able to implement innovations and teaching models such as the flipped classroom – a model whereby technology facilitates homework being used to prepare pupils for lessons, meaning teachers can use contact time to solve problems and offer individual support. By educating pupils in online safety, 1:1 device schemes have revolutionised their ability to research and create content – having a hugely positive impact on learning.
Security in further and higher education
In addition to the schools market, Capita has extensive experience of providing scalable, stable and secure back-end IT infrastructures to the wider education sector, with IT security services for further and higher education establishments being a key component of Capita’s portfolio.
Colleges and universities must ensure their IT infrastructures and security environments are fit-for-purpose in order to deliver environments in which students can use technology safely and securely. A secure wireless connection means students can work from any location in a building or campus, but it is the security infrastructure services, email and web filtering that ensure students access appropriate and relevant content without being exposed to hacks or threats.
One of the current hot information security topics is GDPR – with everyone on the countdown to 25 May 2018. The education sector is again no different. With data protection being of crucial importance to every citizen, it is vital that colleges and universities are aware of the implications of GDPR breaches. The regulation is a real concern, but one that our education security specialists have deep understanding of. Capita’s security team has the skills and expertise to deliver consultancy workshops, complete audits, and provide advice on the steps to GDPR compliance. Essentially, we enable colleges and universities to rest assured the countdown and journey to GDPR compliance is smooth.
Technology has changed the dynamics of learning. In Northern Ireland, the Capita team continually work with their education customers to forecast and design new, innovative solutions that adapt with their needs, always making the best use of emerging technology where there is a logical fit. To ensure the education market has access to and best leverages emerging online safety technologies, Capita brings together the globe’s finest education technology partners. For us, it’s crucial to deliver the most innovative education technology solutions for specific client issues and objectives. It is these strategic technology partnerships that offer all the educational and enterprise benefits that students have come to expect.
Capita provides a breadth of services to schools and further and higher education establishments, specialising in end-to-end IT infrastructure. It also delivers innovative enterprise cloud, cyber security solutions and GDPR consultancy services. For more information visit www.capita-mits.co.uk