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Audit reinforces the need for cybersafety

17 September 2004

Audit reinforces the need for cybersafety in schools

A Ministry of Education audit of 25 schools has found that they have been largely successful in keeping objectionable images off their computer screens.

The small sample audit found that from approximately 22 million visible and recovered images reviewed, less than 0.02 % was found to be inappropriate.

“The audit results, although not alarming, reinforce the message that schools and the Ministry can’t be complacent about the need to protect students,” said Ministry of Education Operational Policy Manager Jim Matheson.

The Ministry’s National Administration Guidelines require schools to maintain a safe physical and emotional learning environment.

“Schools need to take this requirement seriously and make sure their computer systems are secure and safe,” said Mr Matheson.

“The audit report does not consistently identify the origins of the material, whether it was sourced accidentally or deliberately or whether it was downloaded by students or school staff. Many of the images identified by the auditor were not in a form or place that was easily accessible.

“The auditor commented that the number of inappropriate images discovered on the school computers was significantly lower than similar forensic audit tasks he has conducted outside the school sector.”

Director of the Internet Safety Group (ISG), the Ministry’s provider of cybersafety education for New Zealand schools, Liz Butterfield said: “The results clearly indicate that most students and most staff are using their schools’ technology responsibly. Those that don’t, once detected, can be responded to as recommended in both the ISG’s NetSafe Kit and the NetSafe Training Modules.”

“These resources and the approach to internet safety in New Zealand schools are regarded by other countries as models of best practice.” The Ministry of Education, the Post Primary Teachers’ Association, the New Zealand Education Institute and the New Zealand School Trustees Association are united in their stance on cybersafety.

All parties agree that it is totally unacceptable for any inappropriate images to be located on either school, or teacher computers, laptops or other communication technologies used in the school environment.

“It is vital that schools have appropriate policies and procedures in place to deal with this issue and that they seek help from the Ministry and the ISG if they need it,” they said.

“The Ministry of Education takes a dual approach to help New Zealand schools provide cybersafe learning environments. This involves funding the ISG to support a range of activities including the NetSafe Kit, which addresses the safety challenges presented by all information and communication technologies,” said Mr Matheson.

“At the same time the Ministry’s Managed Internet Services Project provides a range of technical solutions to give schools the greatest and most appropriate support for safety and security.

“The Ministry has also recently had government approval for $960,000 to be spent on buying new services for schools from the ISG, extending the availability of the NetSafe Training Modules and subsidising school computer audits and hard drive cleaning for the period 2004-05 to 2006-07. In total $9.5million has been allocated to fund the Managed Internet Services project from 2003-04 to 2006-07.”

Schools that took part in the audit have been given a written report detailing the general results of the computers audited in their schools.

As required by law, any material considered to be objectionable under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act will be referred by the auditor to the Department of Internal Affairs and Police for review under this classification.

“Boards are being given support and advice on how to respond appropriately to their audit results. In some cases, boards may need to consider disciplinary proceedings. This may include concerns relating to the misuse of the schools’ computers,” said Mr Matheson.

The Ministry of Education commissioned the audit to help gauge the nature and extent of inappropriate, age restricted or objectionable material on school computers. It involved a representative sample of computers in about 1% of schools.


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