Acceptable use policies (AUPs) are documents that set out how technology can and cannot be used. They also detail what the punishments will be if technology is misused.
Effective AUPs encourage people – including children, staff and parents – to use technology responsibly. They promote appropriate data protection measures and safe internet use at school and home.
AUPs and PIES
AUPs should be part of a wider framework of e-safety measures in a school.
The wider framework is often referred to as the PIES Model:
- P policies and practice
- I infrastructure and technology
- E education and training
- S standards and inspection
The AUP will be part of a much broader e-safety strategy document which outlines the e-safety processes that are in place within your organisation and how they are managed.
This document is created, managed and updated by the e-safety team. It is a reference document so it can be quite long, but most people outside the e-safety team will not need to know and understand all its details. However, everyone should have access to and understand the AUP in full.
Developing an AUP
Before developing an AUP, do some research – find out what policies are already in place as you may be bound by these. Check with your local authority (LA), regional broadband consortium (RBC), or whoever provides your internet connectivity, and local safeguarding children board (LSCB).
Top Tips for AUPs
- Be clear and concise – Aim for an A4 page or two of core rules for general use – extra details can be presented in supplementary documents.
- Be relevant – Consider your users, services and support networks. Bear in mind other policies – such as child protection, anti-bullying and behaviour policies, as your AUP should reflect these and vice versa.
- Encourage input – Involve children and young people, parents and carers and people expected to enforce the AUP in developing and reviewing it. Users are more likely to keep to your AUP if they feel they have ownership of it.
- Write in an appropriate tone and style for users – Do you need different documents for younger and older pupils, staff, parents and carers, or those with particular communication needs? If so, try and consult with each group and meet their needs.
- Promote positive uses of all technologies – Promote the positives in your AUP rather than focusing on the negatives. Remember that technologies are evolving all the time. Reinforce the concept of safe and responsible use of all technologies in your AUP rather than referring to specific devices.
- Outline clearly acceptable and unacceptable behaviours – Users need to understand clearly what they can (and can’t) do online using the technology and services available to them in the learning or care setting. They also need to understand how they can use their own equipment in certain settings. You may choose to ban all personal technology devices, or approve their use in certain situations, or encourage their use to support learning. Whatever you decide, make it clear.
- Outline clearly what network monitoring will take place – Users have a right to know how their network access will be monitored. An open and honest approach can help prevent challenges to authority should e-safety incidents occur.
- Outline clearly the sanctions for unacceptable use – Users need to understand what penalties they face if they break the rules. These may range from temporary suspension of services to disciplinary action or even legal intervention, depending on the seriousness of the incident.
- Review and update regularly – To remain effective, AUPs must be regularly reviewed and updated. In addition to a regular programme of review, AUPs should be reviewed more often if necessary. For example, as a response to emerging issues or serious e-safety incidents.
- Communicate regularly to all stakeholder groups – If you want users to keep to your AUP, they need to be aware of it, and understand it. Consider the best approaches for introducing the AUP. Perhaps through the home–school agreement for pupils and parents or carers, or within induction programmes for staff. Look for opportunities to assess whether the AUP is understood. Reinforce the AUP regularly, monitor its impact and ensure you communicate any changes.
Paul Stevens, Assistant Head for E-Safety, The Minster School
“Our AUP wasn’t accessible to parents and it was not available to students.
“I went about updating the AUP by going on the internet looking at template documents and seeing what the crucial elements were to make a good acceptable use policy. I developed our policy, updating it to include Web 2.0 technologies to make it clear what the sanctions will be if incidents do occur and I made it available via the school website and via our learning platform.
“The number of incidents of misuse of our systems has dramatically decreased. I think that’s because the policy makes it crystal clear what is acceptable and what’s not.”
Example Acceptable Use Policies