The Schools Broadband Programme provides an integrated set of services to schools which includes high quality broadband connectivity, content filtering, and security services including a centralised firewall, which helps protect school users, their data and infrastructure from inappropriate content and cyberattack.
The vast majority of school broadband connections (approx 97%) are provided by the Department of Education Schools Broadband Programme. Schools that use broadband from other broadband providers are at an increased risk of accessing inappropriate content, as well as from cyberattacks.
As ‘Content Filtering’ is such an important aspect of the overall service, we’ve provided a significant amount of detail below to help schools better understand the service.
The Broadband ‘Service Desk’ is the single point of contact for schools in relation to all aspects of the Schools Broadband Programme.
The Schools Broadband Programme is managed by the Schools Broadband Team which includes Oide Technology in Education working closely with the Department of Education and HEAnet.
Schools Broadband and Content Filtering
Broadband Service Desk
The Broadband Service Desk is the central point of contact providing schools with information, advice and technical support in relation to all aspects of the Schools Broadband Programme.
To contact the Broadband Service Desk call 1800 33 44 66 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Content Filtering Overview
Content filtering is an essential and integrated element of the broadband service that is provided to schools by the Schools Broadband Programme. The purpose of content filtering is to ensure that inappropriate websites and content are not accessible from within schools. Within the content filtering service provided, schools are given a choice of six different levels of content filtering so that they can choose a level that best meets their particular situation, age group of students etc. Schools can choose from these six levels, and the chosen level of content filtering is implemented by the Schools Broadband team for the school. If schools subsequently want to change the level that is applied, they can do so by a formal written communication from the school to the Schools Broadband Service Desk, which is the single point of contact for all schools in relation to schools broadband. Content filtering systems classify websites into different ‘categories’, and these categories are used to control which category of website is allowed for schools on the different filtering levels. Level one is the most restrictive (as outlined below), while level six is the ‘widest’ level available as it allows access to websites such as youtube, personal blogging and social networking. The six levels are summarised below, all six levels block access to inappropriate material in categories such as pornography, violence etc.,
This content filtering level allows access to a specific list of educational and related websites and other websites commonly used by schools. Level 1 is used by a very small number of schools, as it is generally perceived as being a little too restrictive by most schools.
This level allows access to a wide range (i.e. millions) of educational and other websites but it blocks websites belonging to the ‘games’ category.
This level is currently used by a majority of schools. It allows access to millions of websites including games but blocks ‘YouTube’, and blocks access to websites belonging to the ‘personal websites’ category and websites such as Facebook belonging to the ‘Social Networking’ category.
This level allows access to the same websites as Level 3, but allows access to ‘YouTube’, which has become widely used in schools for teaching and learning in the last few years.
This level allows access to the same websites as Level 4, but allows access to ‘personal websites category’, and other similar types of websites, such as blogs.
This is the widest level of content filtering available. This level allows access to the same websites as Level 5, but allows access to Social Networking sites, such as ‘facebook’, and other similar social networking web sites.
The Content Filtering System
The Schools Broadband Network includes the filtering solution provided by Palo Alto Networks which is a service designed to provide Web URL filtering for schools, libraries, government agencies and enterprise businesses of all sizes.
Websites are put into categories, which in turn are divided across the filtering levels. Access to a website depends upon on its category, and the filtering level that a school has selected.
Despite having millions of categorised websites it is possible that a new website may be uncategorised or a website may have been categorised incorrectly. If a school finds such a scenario, we recommend that they contact the Service Desk, who will resolve the issue.
Checking the category of a website
Use the following link to check the category of a website Palo Alto Networks Category Lookup. The system is automated and usually responds within 24 hours. Once the website is categorised, and assuming it does not come under the blocked categories, it should be possible for a school to access the website on the Schools Broadband Network.
Website categories allowed/blocked within each filtering level
The following link provides details of the categories of websites / URLs that are ‘allowed’ or ‘blocked’ for each of the 6 levels of Content Filtering 2023 PAN DB Categories
How to change your school filtering level
Schools wishing to change their filtering level can download and return the Select Filtering Level V3
Adding a 2nd filtering level (ie two filtering levels in a school)
A school may decide to have two different content filtering levels available in the school, such as one level for staff devices and the other for students/pupils devices. This 2nd filtering level needs to be requested by contacting the Service Desk, who will explain how it works and how it can be implemented. There are two main steps. Firstly the school needs to complete a form (see below) to apply for the service. Then after the Service Desk makes the necessary ‘central’ changes, and provides the school with this updated information, the school IT support provider then needs to make the necessary changes to the local school network. This usually requires a school visit by the school IT provider and associated costs to implement the changes.
As stated above schools wishing to add a 2nd filtering level should firstly download, complete and return the SplitLevel Content Filtering Form.
Adult Content Filtering
The ‘Adult Content Filtering Level’ is a setting that can be enabled, typically for a couple of hours to facilitate teacher training events in a school. Certain content categories e.g. ‘Pornography’ and ‘Malware’ will still be blocked during these periods. Schools wishing to avail of this filtering level need to download, complete and return the Content Filtering (Adult) CFA form v6 to the Broadband Service Desk one week in advance of when the service is required.