Cyber Security Policy

Cyber Security Policy – Updated May 2020
(Policy in continual development) 


Living Classrooms & Virtual Nature School

Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs), are an invaluable tool in today’s world, bringing great benefits to both teaching and learning. The virtual Nature School will be encouraging students to use ICT: to communicate to staff and other students using the Academy platform, to take part in online discussions through Zoom, and to submit work electronically. 


As in all parts of our lives, however, risks exist, and the cyber world is no different. As parents and teachers we have an obligation to maximise the benefits of the technologies and yet keep the young people in our care safe through educating, modelling, and negotiating.  


We need to provide the guidance and teach the protective strategies that we would in any other circumstance. Young people may have the technological expertise, but they need adult help to assist them in making smart choices about who and what they find on the Internet, personal safety, privacy, how to enjoy positive experiences using ICTs, and how to use their time wisely. 


Cyber bullying, that is, bullying or harassment using electronic media, has become an increasing concern in our community, partly because of the speed and distance that information can travel and the anonymity behind much that happens online.  


Forms of cyber-bullying include: 


  • Flaming– sending angry, rude, or obscene messages directed at a person or persons privately or to an online group.  


  • Harassment– repeatedly sending a person offensive messages.  


  • Cyber stalking– harassment that includes threats of harm or is highly intimidating.  


  • Denigration– sending or posting harmful, untrue statements about a person to other people.  


  • Impersonation– pretending to be someone else and sending or posting material that makes that person look bad or places that person in potential danger.  


  • Outing and trickery– sending or posting material about a person that contains sensitive, private or embarrassing information, including forwarding private messages or images; engaging in tricks to solicit embarrassing information that is made public.  
  • Exclusion– actions that specifically and intentionally exclude a person from an online group. A cyber bully can be someone whom the victim knows or doesn’t know. Sometimes the victim gives cyber bullies (who they think are friends) sensitive personal information. 


VNS has always had a strong Secure School Environment Policy that is reinforced through the School’s philosophy of Respect for Self, Others and the Environment. Cyber bullying needs to be seen in this light. Bullying is bullying – whether cyber or not – and is unacceptable.  


The first step in keeping young people safe is to have an understanding of today’s cyber world, to foster good communication and to put in place measures that will minimise the risks for young people. 


The school regularly reviews Internet Safety advice from relevant organisations and attends professional briefings in the area. 


Legal Obligations 


In view of the ever increasing use of ICTs in our school and personal lives it is important to recognize that a breach of this policy will in some cases have legal consequences. For example, using ICTs to denigrate or harass others may lead to legal action against VNS and the perpetrator for defamation or stalking and may also attract penalties under the anti discrimination laws. Likewise, unauthorized downloading of material from the internet may lead to legal action being taken against the person who downloaded the material for breach of copyright. In fact many of the responsibilities set out in this policy will carry legal consequences and for this reason all users of the School’s ICTs must ensure that this policy is adhered to. 


Set up and risk assessment of the Virtual Nature School

 The aim is to create a peer to peer platform managed by teachers to maintain inquiry-based learning through the context of the natural world. It is hoped that this offers

  1. A social support network for children through the pandemic
  2. Learning opportunities that are about active inquiry in the home, garden and in settings working with the children of frontline staff (keyworkers).



The virtual Nature School has been created on a password protected learning management system through the Living Classrooms. This offers a secure space for children to interact, out with social media platforms.


The Classroom is hosted by Zoom software, which is the world leader in video conferencing. Our paid Zoom package is called Zoom Education and provides enhanced security features that are missing from the “free” version and is trusted by hundreds of universities and education establishments worldwide.


There have been some negative news stories about Zoom in the news which were a result of Zoom's structure and how end-users were set up. However, Zoom has since made some significant improvements in its product (especially end-to-end encryption) in response to the challenges that security experts and independent privacy protection organisations such as the Citizen Lab have endorsed.


Furthermore, the way Virtual Nature School uses Zoom puts safety at the heart of everything we do. We have taken the following measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable virtual environment for both children and practitioners:


-   Zoom for Education - our paid version of Zoom provides enhanced security features that are missing from the “free” version and is trusted by hundreds of universities and educational establishments locally and worldwide

-   Invite-only sessions - the only way to access any of our sessions is through an invitation email that contains a single line use link that is unique to each user. There is no publicly accessible link that will provide access to the session

-   Chain of trust - Attendees to all our sessions have been invited to participate by practitioners who know them in real life, which means invitations are sent to a small group of people who are known to each other
-   View-only mode for large meetings - for group presentations, we use the Zoom Webinar feature - which means participants can only see the presenters and cannot interfere with the session or interact with others
-   Private chatting disabled - Users are not able to communicate on a one-on-one basis with anyone else
-   Small groups of known people - Participation and interaction of families will mostly be conducted in small groups made up of people who know each other. That is, the practitioner is in a small group with the families they ordinarily work with
-   Adult supervision - Every child who participates in the session will be accompanied by a parent or carer, therefore they are able to exercise their parental responsibility over the safety of their own children
-   Practitioner oversight - All sessions will include active practitioners who facilitate interaction and participation of the children in their care
-   Trained, verified facilitators - All sessions are initiated and controlled directly by Dr Claire Warden and her team, who ensure a safe environment for all
-   Cameras on policy - all participants that are interacting during the sessions which allows for full transparency.


Virtual Nature School has created an internal procedure and checklist for our teachers, that is mandatory to follow and use, the procedure describes the detailed security settings and safe usage of the Zoom. The checklist is validated by the teacher before each session’s start, to ensure the proper protocol was followed.


Facebook is used to facilitate file sharing and community among families and practitioners through private & hidden groups with strict moderation and access control.


Adult engagement- the main ‘hall’ and each smaller virtual ‘classroom’ has Police checked facilitators/ educators/ teachers. Their role is to monitor the classroom and support children to feel welcome, valued and listened to.



Protocols for Students 




  • Use ICTs in a safe way and make personal safety a priority
  • Never share your logon name and password with anyone and change your password on a regular basis. Ensure your passwords are not obvious or easy to guess.
  • Not publish or distribute any harmful, obscene, threatening or unlawful material.
  • Not download images, games, music moviesetc, while at school unless with express permission from a teacher. 
  • Not use ICTs to upset, offend, harass, threaten, or harm another person even if it is meant as a joke.
  • Not include the School’s name in a disrespectful way in any ICT use. You are strongly advised not to use the School’s name at all for your own protection recognizing that using the School’s name makes it easier for someone to trace you.
  • Not use other students’ names without specific permission in any ICT use.
  • Not use staff names in any ICT use.
  • Not use any ICT device to denigrate (‘put down’) another person.
  • Always ask permission before taking photographs of another person.
  • Not distribute photographs, or alter images, of other people without specific permission and never when that distribution or alteration could be hurtful.
  • Not try to interfere with protective strategies that the School has in place for the good of the community. 
  • Tell a staff member, parent or an adult, if you encounter anything online that makes you feel uncomfortable.


Suggestions for Parents 


The virtual Nature School works in partnership with parents in the best interests of the young people in its care. Useful resources can be found on the academy website for the use of learning Journals and upload features. 


We recommend that parents: 


  • Put access to the Internet in a public space in the home, including when using a wireless connection – not in bedrooms.
  • Get to know the VNS. Discuss and encourage critical thinking skills. Help your children by encouraging them to question whoever / whatever they encounter and to think carefully before responding.
  • Be aware of the capabilities of internet enabled devices (such as mobile phones but also devices such asIpods, music players, PSP or other game hardware that can often access the internet through wireless networks). Many of these devices can have unrestricted access to the internet. Discuss appropriate usage with your children. 
  • Be aware of unrestricted or non-password protected wireless networks near your home. These can provide unrestricted access to the internet often within your home.
  • Teach your children to never give out personal information whilst on the Internet. Discuss with them what personal information actually is. It is likely that what you think is personal, they may not. Encourage them to never share pictures of themselves or the family with anyone they meet online.
  • Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use and discuss these with your children. Monitor the amount of time your children spend online. Real life interactions need to balance online interactions.
  • Set reasonable rules and guidelines for mobile communication devices (such as phones). Set ‘switch off’ times (perhaps 10pm – 7am) so that young people are able to have at least 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Be prepared to monitor mobile phone behaviour and the material downloaded to these devices.  Guidelines should be age appropriate.
  • Use a separate log on for each member of the family.
  • Talk to the parents of your children’s friends about their rules for 
  • Teach your children protective behaviours and safety procedures related to the cyber world as you would for other parts of their lives. They need to feel comfortable coming to you with concerns and questions.
  • Avoid punitive responses such as banning things to do with ICT use. This is likely to lead to resentment and secrecy.
  • Try to get to know your child’s ‘online friends’ – just as you would try to get to know his or her other friends.
  • Report suspicious or illegal activities and sites to the proper authorities.
  • Get to know the Internet Safety sites and check them regularly for safety advice. For example,
  • Use appropriate filtering software, and keep your computer secure. Regularly update anti-virus, anti-spyware, spam filters and firewalls. Research shows that 90% of criminal activity is now focused on the home sector.
  • Regularly check where your children have visited on the Internet.
  • Talk to your children about their online explorations and share your own with them. Learning from you children is a great way to improve your understanding and to keep communication open.
  • Teach your child cyber ethics. For example, hacking into someone’s computer is just as wrong as breaking into a house.


Protocols for Staff 




  • Model appropriate and interesting use of ICTs.
  • Review the School’s Digital Communications Policy
  • Reinforce ‘cyber ethics’ / safe use as part of tasks set which make use of ICTs.
  • Will not encourage students to illegally download material and will always insist on a student acknowledging a digital source as part of their work.
  • Will to the best of their ability, thoroughly investigate sites and links prior to recommending them for student use.
  • Will maintain a reasonable level of supervision over ICT during the virtual sessions.
  • Will keep up to date with Internet safety sites and advice.
  • Will not publish anything externally that is connected to the virtual nature school, without authorization from the academy
  • Will not give permission for their name to be used on student social networking sites.
  • Regularly change their password.
  • Will not leave their school provided computer logged on for more than 10 minutes without use.
  • Will not be drawn into socializing with our students through these technologies.
  • Will not engage in inappropriate activities such as pornography, fraud, defamation, breach of copyright, unlawful discrimination or vilification, sexual harassment, stalking, illegal activity or privacy violations.
  • Will model appropriate social courtesies in any ICT use, particularly email, which encourages a more abrupt interchange between colleagues. (The use of emoticons can assist in communicating the ‘tone’ of such interactions).



Issues to be Alert to in Relation to ICT Use 


Stranger Danger – connection to the whole world; reality of predators; includes risky sexual behaviour and posting of suggestive or explicit pictures or videos. 


Addictions – to the exclusion of the IRL (in real life) 


Dangerous material – not simply pornography; includes violent games with excessive violence and sexually or biased based victims, suicide and self-harm communities to encourage such actions; hate group recruitment and gangs 


Bullying – values of respect underpin all our approaches.  

  • Flaming
  • Harassment
  • Cyber stalking
  • Denegation
  • Impersonation
  • Outing and trickery
  • Exclusion


Self exposure – by recording too much information, making identity open to theft (phishing), expose self to embarrassment forever (images exist forever, and can cause grief in later life), and open self to predators. 


Hacking – often will result in criminal activity. 


Breaking copyright – by downloading music and video copyrighted material 


Cyber threat – threat or distressing material suggesting harm to self or others 



Managing ICT Related Issues 


The school has the right to: 


  • Monitor, access and review all use. This includes personal emails sent and received on the school’s computer/s or network facilities at all times.
  • Audit at anytime any material on equipment that is owned or leased by the school. The school may also request permission to audit privately owned ICT devices/equipment used on the school site or at any school related activity.
  • Address issues relating to confidentiality, such as sighting student or staff information, reasons for collecting data and the secure storage of personal details and information (including images). These will be subject to the provisions of the GDPR regulations.
  • Ensure that the safety of children is of paramount concern. Any apparent breach of cyber safety will be taken seriously. The response to individual incidents will follow the processes developed as part of the school’s Secure School Environment Policy. In serious incidents, advice will be sought from an appropriate source, such asNetAlert, and/or a lawyer with specialist knowledge in this area. There will be special attention paid to the need for specific procedures regarding the gathering of evidence in potentially serious cases. If illegal material or activities are suspected, the matter may need to be reported to the relevant law enforcement agency.  


The School has the obligation to: 


  • Make sure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities and the problems that can occur using ICTs and that they are to give clear and consistent messages about what is not appropriate.
  • Ensure that staff and students are aware of the safe ways to use ICTS – protocols.
  • Ensure that staff in positions of responsibility act to address breaches of responsibility and report to senior staff.
  • Ensure that staff are encouraging high quality educational use of ICTs
  • Work in partnership with parents to protect the young people in their care.
  • Have Policies and processes in place to deal with online offences.