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MP: Children must be taught IT security

Schools minister Jim Knight has said children must learn about the dangers of technology use, and schools must have robust security policies
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Written by Tom Espiner on

The UK government has said that young people need to be educated about IT security.

Minister of state for schools and learners Jim Knight told ZDNet.co.uk on Wednesday that, as there is increasing online interaction between schools and parents, young people need to know about the possible dangers of IT security being compromised.

While Knight claimed to be confident in the security of current schools systems, he said that parents and schools should make children aware of risky IT behaviour.

"We have to educate children to use technology safely, as well as making the technology safe," said Knight. "I have to be confident what [is in place] is sufficiently safe for young people."

Knight said that, just as children growing up by a busy road have to be educated about the associated dangers, so young people today have to be made aware of dangers associated with technology use, such as data compromise.

Schools are already beginning to offer online pupil information. By December 2010 all secondary schools are expected to offer real-time access to information such as pupil attendance and achievement, said Knight, who added that "schools not making the most of technology can learn from those that are".

"Parents need a good two-way flow of information, rather than a yearly report or a letter home," said Knight.

Becta, the organisation that implements government educational technology policy, is also satisfied that current procurement practices offer an adequate level of security, as bidders have to demonstrate they conform to government-set IT security standards.

Tony Richardson, Becta's executive director of strategy and policy, said: "It's important that systems are secure. There are technical solutions out there that are robust and have standard security built in."

Schools also need to have robust IT security policies and practices, said Becta. The potential problems raised by teachers taking pupils' data home on laptops or USB drives need to be addressed, according to Paul Shoesmith, Becta's director of technical strategy.

"Data being taken home is one aspect of security for schools," said Shoesmith. "Encryption is one solution and not physically taking data home is another, with [teaching staff instead] accessing data over a secure connection. If staff are taking data away to a standalone machine, [the data is] always out of sync."

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