Among teachers, collaboration has never been more important. With more awareness of the need to engage young people in an evolving curriculum and to mix delivery styles up, primary schools are increasingly looking to the same communication tools that secondaries use to provide a collaboration structure.

 

It’s about time too. Pre-academies movement, a local authority ICT person may have set a primary school email system up something like this:

Traditional primary school email setup

 

Teachers use email for school work. It’s extremely common in most schools. So when a school doesn’t have email provision for teachers, what’s a teacher to do? They do the logical thing – “I’ll just use my Gmail account”.

 

Gmail is one of the most popular email providers for a reason. It’s awesome. In fact, using the Google for Classroom version of Gmail with your school’s domain (e.g. insertschoolnamehere.sch.uk) is definitely one of the routes that many schools go down to provide email. And rightly so.

 

But personal email address ending in domains that include: googlemail.com, gmail.com, hotmail.com, yahoo.com or icloud.com should not be used for school business. And here’s why.

 

You have a greater chance of breaking the law

When throwing into the mix Ofsted’s 2015 school inspection handbook, which is the document inspectors work to when undertaking a section 5, things get even worse.

 

Ofsted’s guidance for those out assessing schools is very clear. A school will be judged inadequate if either:

  • Safeguarding is ineffective
  • Statutory welfare requirements aren’t met

If statutory welfare requirements aren’t being met, such as the Data Protection Act 1998, as a result of inadequate policies, premises and equipment then the school would be judged inadequate by Ofsted.

 

You’ll probably end up with more viruses and scams

Research from Verizon in 2015 showed us that there are a staggering 1 million new malware attacks every day. The Symantec Internet Safety Report 2016 shows that phishing attacks, targeting employees specifically, rose by 55% compared to the previous year. In a school environment, attacks could be acutely targeted and the impact on safeguarding of pupils catastrophic. When teachers use email outside of the school’s control then there may be an increased risk of viruses or phishing scams. Personal email providers and the domain name they operate on (e.g. Gmail) are automatically targeted using unscrupulous spammers. Specific security threats in an educational context can be identified and dealt with far more easily when you have a whole school email system.

 

You end up with a domino effect

There’s a knock-on effect of teachers using their own personal email address. That email account is then often used to sign up for other tools or services. A teacher may sign up for curriculum software or assessment tools with their personal account, which would then give them access to sensitive personal information about pupils even if they had left the school.

 

Tracking this back and regaining control for the school would be a nigh-on impossible task. In any case, tracking back means you know about it in the first instance. Awareness would only likely come with a request from the police or ICO – by which time it’s too late.

 

Primary school email system – how it should be done

Proposed primary school email setup

 

Without overcomplicating things – creating an email system gives your teachers a school email address to use.

 

Bearing in mind the discussion above, you’ll obviously want to make sure anything you do:

  • Has filtering/antivirus software
  • Enables anytime, anywhere access at school, home and on the move
  • Has information stored either in EU or in line with EU data protection regulations if its outside the EU
  • Is controlled and managed easily by the school or a trusted partner – rather than the teacher
  • Puts in place a proper support mechanism – don’t forget about the policies and definitely don’t forget fully training teachers on how to adopt the policy in practice!