Five key takeaways from the DfE’s new online safety guidance

When consulting on the new Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex, and Health Education curriculum, the Department for Education (DfE) shared its commitment to supporting schools to deliver the subjects.

As a part of this commitment, the DfE has released new guidance to help you to teach online safety.

We take you through the five key things you need to know about the new guidance.

1. It does not set out any additional teaching requirements

The new guidance is designed to help schools to ensure pupils understand how to stay safe online as a part of existing curriculum requirements. This also includes the new subjects of Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex, and Health Education that should be taught from September 2020.

2. Focus on teaching knowledge and behaviours rather than focusing on platforms, apps and the latest trends

The online world is constantly changing and it can be difficult to keep on top of the latest apps and platforms young people are using.

Therefore, the DfE highlights the importance of focusing on the knowledge and behaviours that help young people to navigate the online world safely and confidently regardless of the app, platform or device they are on.

Knowledge and behaviours include:

  • How to evaluate what they see online
  • How to recognise techniques used for persuasion
  • Understanding acceptable and unacceptable online behaviour
  • How to identify online risks
  • How and when to seek support, including reporting to CEOP

You’ll find that our Thinkuknow resources and websites address all these topics.

3. Understand the risks that exist online

In order to tailor your teaching and support to the needs of your pupils, it’s important to have an understanding of the risks and harms online.

The guidance outlines some examples of risks and harms and where you may cover them in the curriculum. Three examples are given below.

Live streaming

Our #LiveSkills resource can help you teach about the risks associated with livestreaming.


You may cover the signs of grooming behaviour,  how to speak to a trusted adult, and how and where to report grooming. If you work with primary-aged children, our animations Jessie & Friends and Play Like Share can help you explore these areas in a developmentally-appropriate way.

How content can be used or shared

You may cover what a digital footprint is and make sure that young people understand what is illegal online e.g. youth produced sexual imagery (nude selfies). You can use First To A Million, our video for secondary-aged young people, to explore the concept of  ‘digital tattoos’ – or the footprint that young people leave.

4. Refer to Education for a Connected World to develop your understanding of age-appropriate skills and knowledge

Education for a Connected World, published by the UK Council for Internet Safety, is referred to throughout the guidance.

This framework describes the knowledge and skills that children and young people should have the opportunity to develop at different ages and stages of their lives, as well as helping you to develop effective strategies for understanding and handling risks.

5. Embed online safety education within a whole-school approach

The DfE recommends that online safety should be embedded within all aspects of school life as this is likely to make teaching more effective.

This includes:

  • Reflecting the principles within your school’s policies and procedures where appropriate, and communicating these to staff, pupils and parents. For example, refer to them in your child protection/safeguarding policy and behaviour and bullying policies.
  • Proactively engaging staff, pupils, and parents in the activities that promote your online safety principles.
  • Reviewing and maintaining online safety principles. For example, make sure staff have access to up-to-date and appropriate CPD and resources, and refer to the latest guidance and research to help you review your practice.
  • Embedding online safety principles when teaching all curriculum subjects and reinforcing what is taught in lessons by taking appropriate and consistent action when responding to reports of online safety concerns from pupils.