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Three UK Councils to provide parents with free E-safety product

Forensic Software : 19 January, 2009  (Application Story)
Forensic Software partners with UK local authorities to provide free home versions of school internet safety products for parents
In a bid to help bridge the e-Safety gap between school and home, three Local Authorities including England's largest, Birmingham City Council, have partnered with Forensic Software, manufacturers of the e-Safety product Policy Central Enterprise (PCE), to offer all parents of school age children within its jurisdiction a free e-safety product for in-home use.

CyberSentinel, an in-home version of PCE, which is currently used in over 1500 UK schools, will be given free to parents by Warwickshire County Council and Telford & Wrekin Council and Birmingham City Council from February in an effort to help protect and enable children to thrive online, at school and in the home. The new software launched yesterday at the 2009 BETT Show provides a proven e-safety product for Local Authorities and schools to either offer or recommend to parents.

PCE targets all internet threats and distractions, enabling staff to proactively respond to inappropriate usage and ensure the school network is used as a learning environment and not a social network. CyberSentinel has been designed and modified for in-home use, providing parents and carers with the most appropriate solution for home e-safety. Rather than just blocking unsuitable websites, CyberSentinel also recognises and monitors keywords that signal danger, providing extra protection for instant messaging, chat rooms, social networks and much more.

The deal reached between Service Birmingham on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Forensic Software Ltd will mean that over 180,000 school aged children in the Birmingham metropolitan area will benefit at home from the same level of online protection as they do in school. Warwickshire County Council's decision to give CyberSentinel free to parents and carers within its jurisdiction will benefit an additional 80,000 school aged children. Collectively, the CyberSentinel software will be given free to thousands of parents, including those of children who are in foster homes, children's homes and future Universal Home Access projects.

John Parmiter, Head of ICT Development Service at Warwickshire County Council, says: "We have two key targets for 2009: one is to raise standards in encouraging internet usage, and the second is to safeguard children online. Following our implementation of PCE in 250 schools, we know that children are protected online in a school environment. Now, by providing parents with CyberSentinel - completely free - we are able to extend this protection into the home, ensuring that the 80,000 school age children in Warwickshire are able to continue exploring, learning and growing online in safety - at home."

Richard Smith, e-Safety Consultant for Telford & Wrekin Council says: "As a Local Authority, we've made e-Safety education a priority for the children, teachers and the senior management team at the schools as well as parents to ensure we all do everything we can to keep our children safe. Children can be safe at school but then go home into an environment where there may be no safeguards at all. The problem is that children have totally adapted to the internet and their understanding of the online world moves on very quickly, typically faster than their parents. Enabling parents and teachers to understand the advantages that e-safety products can bring to the learning environment is a crucial part of enhancing children's learning and development."

CyberSentinel has gained academic support from renowned educationalist Jacqueline Harding MA, CERT Ed and won the support of Professor Tanya Byron PHD, PsychD, Msc, Bsc who presented the government with an independent review of the risks to children from exposure to potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games. Professor Byron has worked to develop a cross-Government action plan setting out how the recommendations of the Byron Review will be implemented.

Professor Bryon confirms: "Many schools are already helping children to remain safe online, and it will be immensely reassuring to parents that they can now benefit at home from software packages such as CyberSentinel that have passed the rigorous standards set by schools. Parents may be tempted to prohibit the internet use of their children, but this is not the answer and may be counter-productive by causing family arguments and underhand behaviour. Using an effective internet safety package like this, combined with open discussions on e-safety will help maximise children's online freedom within safe boundaries."

Ellie Puddle, Director at Forensic Software explains: "Birmingham, Warwickshire and Telford & Wrekin have been bold and proactive in their decisions to provide a free e-safety product to parents and carers. We have been working within education, for over four years, and our Policy Central Enterprise product has proven itself to be highly successful. But it became more and more apparent that there wasn't an appropriate product for in-home use with the same degree of customisation and protection spanning subjects such as cyber bullying to gambling; suicide to self harm and grooming. Parents often ask schools for advice and now they can receive a product that provides the same level of comprehensive protection, providing peace of mind."

Parents and carers outside of the three Local Authorities can also benefit from CyberSentinel as it is available on a 30-day free trial. An annual subscription of 25 GBP including VAT will provide users with a license for up to five computers.

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