Our response to the review

The NSW Department of Education and NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) have a combined response to the recommendations of the independent review into the non-educational use of mobile devices in NSW schools.

Recommendation 1

Implement a mandatory digital licence for all students in NSW.

Response

Not supported.

The Department of Education and NESA support online safety and digital citizenship for all students and consider this is best achieved through learning embedded in the school curriculum rather than a mandatory digital licence for all students in NSW. The NSW curriculum reaches across all NSW school sectors.

Several areas of the curriculum address online behaviour including:

  • PDHPE K-10 Syllabus
  • Science and Technology K-6 Syllabus
  • The current DRAFT 7-10 Integrated Computing Syllabus elective course
  • The Learning Across the Curriculum requirements in the new Geography Elective 7-10 and History Elective 7-10.

In the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) general capability within the Australian Curriculum, students learn to use ICT with confidence, care and consideration, understanding its possibilities, limitations and impact on individuals, groups and communities.

In May 2019, the department established its Digital Citizenship platform. This site hosts resources for students, school staff and families.

The department also publicises the Office of the eSafety Commissioner resources and works closely with the Commissioner on developing new resources to avoid duplication and ensure consistent messaging.

In February 2019, the Australian Government announced that it will commission a review of ‘digital licences' and other tools designed to build and test children's online safety skills. The department and NESA will consider the results of this review.  

Recommendation 2

Provide mandatory cyber safety education for students.

Response

Supported in part.

The Department of Education and NESA support the intent of the recommendation that all students have access to online safety and digital citizenship education and resources, that teachers receive appropriate professional learning and that schools use quality cyber safety resources.

The department and NESA will explore opportunities to enhance professional learning for teachers including an audit of existing registered professional learning programs. This review will be led by NESA.

The department will further consult with the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to explore how training standards and evaluation and certification processes can be strengthened to better support schools to access quality resources.

NESA will consider their contribution to resources through any NSW syllabus revision.

The department also acknowledges there is a need for wider community education programs on online safety and digital citizenship, especially for parents and carers.

The department will continue to review and update resources on its Digital Citizenship website and support further development of the iParent resource delivered by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Recommendation 3

Review the adequacy of existing cyber safety education in the curriculum and ICT general capability.

Response

Supported.

The NESA-led review of the NSW school curriculum has been finalised.

The Department of Education and NESA will work to implement any supported recommendations and actions.

The review is available on the NESA website.

Recommendation 4

Provide better quality and more cyber safety education for teachers, including NESA-registered professional learning.

Response

Supported.

The Department of Education and NESA will explore further opportunities to enhance professional learning for teachers. NESA will start this process by investigating the availability of professional learning via an audit of existing registered professional learning programs.

NESA will promote the e-Safety Commissioner’s resources to Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers, existing school-based endorsed providers, and existing endorsed providers to encourage their integration into the registered courses they develop and offer to teachers within their schools. NESA will also review their uptake.

Additionally, NESA will promote both the e-Safety Commissioner’s process to become a ‘Trusted e-Safety Provider’ to existing NESA endorsed providers and the e-Safety Commissioners NESA registered online safety module to NSW teachers.

Recommendation 5

Restrict the use of smartphones for students in primary school.

Response

Supported in part.

In response to the review’s findings, the NSW Government announced in December 2018 that it was committed to restricting the use of mobile devices in NSW government primary schools.

A new Student Use of Digital Devices and Online Services policy, supporting safe, respectful and responsible behaviour, was released for implementation in NSW public schools from the start of 2020.

The new policy includes the mobile phone restriction for primary schools.

Primary schools will restrict the use of digital devices, including mobile phones, during school hours. Primary-aged students will not be allowed to use digital technology during class time, recess and lunch unless for an educational purpose or where a student needs it for other reasons, such as an adjustment for disability or to support individual learning and wellbeing needs.

Smartphones can support student learning and wellbeing in many ways including:

  • as assistive technology for students with disability, enabling them to communicate in alternative ways
  • enabling students from culturally and linguistic diverse backgrounds to access information
  • forming part of support plans for students with behaviour or wellbeing support needs
  • facilitating access to service providers (such as Kids Helpline) and other sources of support.

The department does not support the other elements of this recommendation that the NSW Government resources facilities to ensure safe storage of student devices in primary schools or that schools be provided with information to disseminate to parents about how to deactivate the camera and internet functions on smartphones.

Advice has been provided to schools on the ways different schools are managing devices, including storage.

Recommendation 6

Provide better guidance for secondary schools, including policies that could be adopted depending on a school’s circumstances.

Response

Supported.

The Department of Education supports this recommendation and released the new Student Use of Digital Devices and Online Services policy for the implementation in NSW public schools from the start of 2020.

Under this policy, secondary school principals, in consultation with their communities, have discretion to make decisions about restricting or permitting student use of digital devices and online services in all school-related settings.

All secondary schools are required to develop and implement, in consultation with their school community, a school specific procedure for student use of digital devices and online services.

The department has developed and released supporting resources for schools including sample school procedures, implementation guidelines, accredited professional learning for teachers, workshops for students, frequently asked questions and communication toolkits.

Further resources are under development and will progressively be made available to schools.

Recommendation 7

Commission world-first, independent, qualitative and quantitative research.

Response

Supported in part.

The Department of Education and NESA recognise the need for better evidence to inform education policy decisions on online safety and support the commissioning of quality research that is focused on the school sector and policy and program priorities.

The department will undertake research into aspects of the use of digital technology and the impact on students’ learning and wellbeing.

The Australian Government committed in September 2019 to establish an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child to examine the digital lives of children from birth to age 8. The results of this research will be monitored and opportunities for further engagement considered.

Recommendation 8

Better utilise agencies with requisite expertise.

Response

Supported.

The Department of Education and NESA support the goal of better alignment with and promotion of the roles and resources of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. The department regularly consults and liaises with this Office.

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