Are all school web filtering solutions the same?

Author: Laurence Glen  |  Date published: January, 23, 2024, UK  |  Read est: 6 min read

Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group

It is clear to see that digital education is not just a passing trend, and for good reason. While our bright young minds think they know everything there is to know about the digital world, we know there are some things that are better left in the dark about, and for good reason.

As the scope of use for tech is growing leaps and bounds, kids now have access to software such as AI and virtual reality, and to all the new videos, articles and images posted every day. It really is revolutionary having all of this information and potential at the click of a button, but as we all know, it has its downsides. Within school environments, web filtering must too grow leaps and bounds to meet its ever increasing demand. For those entrusted with the duty of care, it is necessary to know why to invest in web filtering services, and how to keep our children far-removed from harmful and unsuitable content.

Why do you need web filtering?

According to the government’s “Keeping Children Safe in Education” (KCSIE) guidelines, schools must meet Prevent Duty legislation, putting it firmly in the rulebooks that this is something to be taken seriously and to ensure that the vital protection is provided for both teachers and pupils. First and foremost, it stops children from accessing websites that might showcase sensitive and unsuitable content, however, looking beyond this, there are reasons beyond the obvious to install web filtering software into schools.


Through funnelling the information available to students, it cuts out a lot of avenues for distraction. As no non-educational materials are able to be accessed, you will find sitting in front of you a far more focused class. Watch concentration and productivity start to improve when using internet filtering, as the kids escape time-wasters such as social media and gaming websites.


Many of the restricted websites host nasty viruses just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting students and staff. With no way of reaching websites known to be harmful, and real-time protection against potentially harmful ones, web filtering software ensures schools are safe from all potential cyber threats.


When web filtering is put into practice, children are also protected from the burdens of cyber-bullying. The monitoring services available nowadays are capable of sending out alerts to school administrators, giving them time to react, intervene, and tackle the issue before it gets out of hand. There are also functions that enable students to anonymously report any instances of bullying, meaning they are more likely to come forward. This would be a transformative measure, improving the culture and atmosphere of any school.

Internet speed

Web filtering is a service that prioritises education above anything. As schools can block network-demanding sites (including streaming services, social media, and file sharing platforms), meaning the bandwidth can run at its full potential. When the network is given space to breathe, teachers can be left to do what they do best, without having to wait for a crashed website to rise from the digital abyss.

Why change your filtering system?

To stay on the front-foot, schools cannot settle for second best when it comes to web filtering software.

There are many reasons that could prompt a refresh of a school's internet filtering systems. For some, their county council’s decision to withdraw internet connectivity and web filtering services means schools must stick it alone, and find alternate sources. For others, the understanding that what they’ve got just isn’t enough can spur on change.

This definitely isn’t the end of the world, as an update to your filtering service will always provide a higher level of protection. To ensure that the step is in fact in the right direction, schools must engage with various suppliers to find what bespoke solution suits their needs.

Web filtering solutions

An entry-level web filtering solution for schools will check sites and content against a list of known unsuitable and unsafe online threats, material and categories, and block anything on this list accordingly. If budgets mean an entry-level solution is all that can be afforded, it is most certainly worth investing in one that can be upgraded or added to in the future if government guidelines demand increased protection.

More sophisticated systems can offer a range of services that would ensure the greatest level of security for your school. These include:

Real-time categorisation of online content

More sophisticated solutions extend the safety beyond the originally set list of untrustworthy websites, and offer built-in artificial intelligence to categorise websites in real-time. This ensures that every website is safe to use. These URL filtering solutions can map patterns and regularly visited websites to identify safeguarding areas of concern, like radicalisation, or even flagging student or teacher mental health concerns.

Protection for students when they are off site

Whilst a school’s content web filtering policy can be enforced inside the school, there are also methods to extend the protection to outside the school walls. This may come in many forms, such as when a pupil takes a laptop home. Another way to ensure this is by increasing parental involvement through hosting extensive talks and with pupils and parents, to inform both on the threats and the solutions to this growing problem.

Filtering multiple languages

It’s not enough to just filter websites in English as many students in UK schools do not consider English their first language. Effective solutions include keyword filtering, multilingual categorisation and specific AI data analysis, and offer the means to block harmful and unsafe content written in other languages too.

Accurate reporting

All of the information this supplies means very little if there is a lag in the time it takes to feed it all back. Therefore, the reporting process needs to be easily available and accurate so that safeguarding officers can gather a quick indication of the most immediate online threats and they can take evasive action.

Cloud Based Filtering

Cloud-based filtering has also become increasingly popular. It does not rely on in-house hardware or software but can operate via cloud infrastructure, making it an obvious choice for flexible learning. More reasons for this gain in interest is that this web filtering system offers scalability, fast-paced updates, and for schools to centralise the management.

Which web and content filtering solution is right for my school?

Schools need to assess the risk vs the cost to ensure that they are getting the right product to suit all of their independent needs. The first thing to take into consideration is of course the age of the pupils in question, as it will clearly have an impact on this assessment, as will their access to devices.

Younger age pupils using PCs in dedicated IT suites will be far easier to manage than teenage students using their own devices. The decision of what solution to deploy must be made by the school’s senior leadership team and/or governors and clearly the more detailed the solution, the higher the cost, and the higher the level of protection.

How we can help your school

Focus Group have adopted new products to meet school needs, including web and content filtering solutions which we often deliver alongside internet connectivity, cyber security, and backup solutions, so you only have to deal with a single supplier for your IT infrastructure needs.

It can all feel like a lot to navigate on your own, so please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your school’s needs.

Laurence Glen photo

Laurence Glen
IT Director

Our IT world, together with the ongoing development of this business-critical portfolio of services, is in very capable hands with Laurence at the helm. IBM-trained and with a 22-year track record of proven success in the IT sector ensures Laurence is perfectly placed to lead the overall IT strategy for Focus Group, ensuring we’re at the forefront of product development and service innovations in order to deliver the best possible IT technologies for our customers.

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