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 (in so far as possible) 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 Filtering System
The Schools Broadband Network operates the filtering solution provided by Palo Alto Networks which is a hosted services 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 applied for.
Despite having millions of websites categorised it is possible that a website may be uncategorised or may have been categorised incorrectly. Where this is the case it is possible to suggest a category for this website to the filtering system.
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 to view the website on the Schools Broadband Network.
Details on the Categories allowed within each Filtering Level
Use the following link to see what categories are included within each filtering level PAN-DB Filtering Categories
Good Practice and Internet Safety
While the Schools Broadband Network filters inappropriate and harmful web content and materials, each school will have to consider Good Practice especially in relation to Internet Safety including how to manage pupils own Internet enabled personal devices.
Changing Filtering Levels
Schools wishing to change their filtering level can download and return the Content Filtering Level (CFL) Form
Request a 2nd Filtering Level
A school may elect to have a different filtering level applied to a limited number of devices within the school. This is implemented by applying a different filtering level to a range of IP addresses allocated to the school. To use this different filtering level a device is configured to use one of the IP addresses from the range assigned to the 2nd filtering level. Click here for further information on split-level content filtering. Schools wishing to have a 2nd filtering level should download and return the Split Level Content Filtering (SLCF) Form.
Adult Content Filtering
There is an Adult Content Filtering Level which can be switched on for a couple of hours to facilitate adult classes especially those for teachers or parents. Certain content categories will of course still be blocked during these periods e.g. ‘Pornography’ and ‘Malware’. PDST Technology in Education reserves the right to block other content as required. Schools wishing to avail of this filtering level can download and return the Adult Content Filtering Application Form. Completed forms must be returned to the PDST Technology in Education Service Desk (address details are included on the form) a week in advance of the class.