Every school in Ireland connected to the School Broadband Programme accesses internet content through a central content filter.
Schools are free to choose the level of content filtering that is most suitable to their needs and ethos.
How does School Web Filtering work?
The filtering system is split into six different levels, with one being the most restricted and six allowing a more open level of access.
Each school can choose its own level, depending on its own needs and situation.
Under the plan, a website is placed into a category depending on its content.
Many categories of websites are banned outright
For example, Facebook is a social networking website, and is in the social networking category. This classification is only accessible on level six. Therefore, schools which apply for all other levels have no access to Facebook.
Another example is the website for Tesco, the supermarket chain. This site comes under the category of shopping. All classifications except for level one, the most restrictive, allow access to shopping websites.
Here’s how the system works:
Level one: The most restricted, it only allows access to the Whitelist and website categories such as Education and Government.
Level two: Similar to level three, but also blocks websites categorised as gaming sites.
Level three: The most common setting, this level gives access to millions of websites including games. However, sites like YouTube, Facebook and Flickr are blocked.
Level four: Essentially the same as level three apart from allowing access to YouTube. Social Networking sites and ‘personal storage websites’ like Flickr, however, are not accessible at this level.
Level five: Blogs and personal storage site are accessible under this classification, as well as all content from every other level.
Level six: This level allows students access to social networking websites and is the most open classification available.
Remember, there are some subjects banned across the system. These include websites relating to pornography, dating, gambling, hacking and weapons.
However, despite having millions of websites categorised, it is possible that some may remain uncategorised or assigned their category incorrectly.
For more, click here for the National Centre for Technology in Education’s web page which explains filtering. It also contains relevant forms and details on how to change your school’s filtering level.