Filtering and Monitoring in Education: A Guide to the DfE Standards

The internet is a valuable resource for learning, but it can also be a dangerous place. That’s why it’s important for schools to have effective filtering and monitoring systems in place to protect pupils from harmful and inappropriate content.

In March 2023, the Department for Education (DfE) published Filtering and Monitoring Standards for Schools and Colleges, and more recently, Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023, both of which have set out requirements for the effective use of these systems. But most importantly, these standards are designed to ensure that all pupils are safe online.

Filtering and Monitoring: A Summary

To help you meet these expectations and save you some time, we’ve provided a summary of what schools, colleges and trusts are expected to deliver in terms of appropriate filtering and monitoring, and meeting the outlined standards:

Schools, colleges and trusts should identify and assign roles and responsibilities to manage filtering and monitoring systems.

There is also an increased emphasis on Governors and School Leadership to ensure that filtering and monitoring systems are effective. Responsibility for filtering and monitoring is not exclusive to your IT service provider and should be managed collaboratively by elected members of your SLT, Governors and DSLs alongside your IT support for effective delivery.


Schools must have a filtering system in place that blocks harmful and inappropriate content without impacting teaching and learning.

When choosing a filtering system, it’s important to consider the needs of your school and pupils. For example, the risk profile of your pupils, including their age range, pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND), pupils with English as an additional language (EAL).


The filtering system must be regularly reviewed and updated to keep up with changing threats.

The system should be able to block a wide range of harmful content, including pornography, violence, and hate speech. It should also be made clear, what your filtering system currently blocks or allows and why. Reviews should also identify what checks are currently taking place and how resulting actions are handled.

The review should be done as a minimum annually, or when:

  • a safeguarding risk is identified
  • there is a change in working practice, like remote access or BYOD
  • new technology is introduced

There are templates and advice in the ‘reviewing online safety’ section of Keeping children safe in education


Schools must have a monitoring system in place to track pupils’ online activity.

Unlike filtering, monitoring does not stop users from accessing material through internet searches or software.

Monitoring allows you to review user activity on school and college devices, and to be effective, it must pick up incidents urgently, usually through alerts or observations, allowing you to take prompt action and record the outcome.


The monitoring system must be used to identify and respond to any risks to pupils.

All staff need to be aware of reporting mechanisms for safeguarding and technical concerns. They should report if:

  • they witness or suspect unsuitable material has been accessed
  • they can access unsuitable material
  • they are teaching topics which could create unusual activity on the filtering logs
  • there is a failure in the software or abuse of the system
  • there are perceived unreasonable restrictions that affect teaching and learning or administrative tasks
  • they notice abbreviations or misspellings that allow access to restricted material


Schools must have clear policies and procedures in place for dealing with online safety incidents.

Governing bodies and proprietors should support the senior leadership team to review the effectiveness of your monitoring strategies and reporting process. Making sure that incidents are urgently picked up, acted on and outcomes are recorded. Incidents could be of a malicious, technical, or safeguarding nature. It should be clear to all staff how to deal with these incidents and who should lead on any actions.


Schools must regularly train staff on online safety issues.

The management of technical filtering and monitoring systems requires the specialist knowledge of both safeguarding and IT staff to be effective. Training should be provided to make sure their knowledge is current. You may need to ask your solution provider for system-specific training and support.


📢 Free Webinar – Wednesday 28 September 2023,  11:00am

To help schools get a firmer grip on filtering and monitoring, we have partnered with our colleagues at Smoothwall to provide an in-depth overview of the new guidance, as it is now imperative for Senior Leadership to familiarise themselves with the filtering and monitoring systems, and processes implemented in their school, college or MAT.

In this session, Smoothwall experts will discuss the key distinctions between filtering and monitoring, and what you need to be aware of to ensure you meet the new guidance.

You’ll learn:

  • KCSIE 2023 changes to DSLs’ filtering and monitoring responsibilities
  • How web filtering works and the different types available
  • How digital monitoring works and the impact of human moderation
  • The key distinctions between filtering and monitoring and why you need both
  • How you can be best placed to meet KCSIE and DfE’s filtering and monitoring standards
  • Plus ask any questions you have

 To join the free webinar, please register here.


We’re here to help!

We understand how overwhelming these requirements can be and are here to help with any support you need.

Whether it’s finding the right filtering and monitoring system or developing policies and procedures for whole-school compliance, whatever you need, we’re here to help!

All you have to do is get in touch using the form below.





Additional Resources:

Department for Education – Filtering and Monitoring Standards for Schools and Colleges:

UK Safer Internet Centre – Appropriate Filtering and Monitoring:

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