On 25th February 2019 the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, responded to a Ministerial statement on Government proposals for draft regulations and guidance for relationships education, relationships and sex education, and health education. The Bishop welcomed aspects of the draft guidelines and asked about the provisions to teach about online safety:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the repetition of the Statement and for the guidelines. The Church of England’s chief education officer has in particular welcomed the stronger impetus on teaching faith perspectives relevant to people of all faiths and none, irrespective of the kind of school that they attend, which is key to combating religious prejudice. I underline the concerns raised by noble Lords about resourcing.
The Minister will be even more aware than I am—as Bishop of a diocese where there are some 283 church schools—of the pressure on budgets for head teachers and the stress that creates. I am very encouraged by the Minister’s comments that this will continue to be scrutinised. I particularly welcome the emphasis in the document on mental health and on good education for an online world.
Would the Minister like to comment on the interface between these very good guidelines on ensuring good teaching on this in primary and secondary education and the forthcoming online harms White Paper?
Clearly, there needs to be dovetailing between good policy on education and good regulation to ensure that the environment in which our children and young people are growing up is adequately regulated and supervised.
Lord Agnew of Oulton: The right reverend Prelate is absolutely correct to mention the whole issue of online safety and the regulation that I hope will curb some of the excesses we have seen over the last 10 years. One of the things we amended in the period between laying the original guidance and the consultation was to put more emphasis on encouraging children to have much more self-discipline and self-restraint in their use of the online world.
It is a matter of great concern to me that teenagers are spending four or more hours a day in this medium, which cannot be healthy. All these things will need to be brought together. My friend, Minister Zahawi, recently established an online safety working group, made up of online safety and education experts, to help advise the department on future iterations of Keeping Children Safe in Education. Indeed, that could be strengthened to support schools if needed.