As published in the March 2013 edition of our magazine.
Debates about internet filtering in schools may never go away - at least not so long as pupils and teachers are prevented from accessing online curriculum resources, and draconian policies are pursued by local authorities or other education bodies. I have visited schools that block as many websites as they realistically can, so afraid are they of the risks to pupils. Ofsted itself frowns on this practice (although I have yet to visit a school that has been asked a question about how they manage internet filtering).
There are three very good reasons why we limit internet access in schools: to safeguard children, to protect the school against liability, and to ensure that pupils use the internet for the right purposes. For the first two of these, a filter - a piece of software that blocks pupils’ access to certain internet content - works reasonably well. Modern filters are relatively good at reducing access to illegal and inappropriate material, and are becoming more difficult to bypass.