Social media is a relatively new tool for schools to connect with parents. While it has been around for a while in varying forms, (Bebo/Myspace/Facebook etc.) it is now firmly cemented in the mainstream of culture. It is no longer the reserve of the “kids” and geeks.
More parents than not have a Facebook, twitter account or both. Which is why it makes it such an effective tool for communicating with parents. Parents will check these accounts regularly, whereas they may not visit the school website as often.
When we first looked at using social media as a school we had some concerns. This was because our only dealings with his has been over some negative postings. Nevertheless we set up a twitter account and haven’t looked back!
In hindsight we may have been better to go with Facebook but we will come back to that later. We started posting and pushing our Twitter presence to parents. Where it really came to life was when we used it as a platform for sharing information and photos from our residential trip. The parents engaged and loved the fact they could see their children’s smiling faces in near real time. The school account is restricted and we have to approve access for people to follow.
Following on from the success of Twitter, we have now set up a school page on Facebook. This is not a personal profile but a business page. We have about ten staff who are set up to have access to edit and post to it. This has been much more of a success than Twitter because far more parents use it. In terms of followers we have a ratio of about 2:1, Facebook:Twitter, with many following on both.
We use it regularly with some parents using it to contact the school for information. It is evolving from a one way information sharing platform to a two way communication with parents.
Our experiences of it are very positive. Ok, we do get some negative posts but these are dealt with effectively and the parents are invited in to discuss their concerns with the teachers and SLT. If anything parents have used it to praise the school and it has led to quite a few parents rating the school with a full five stars.
Always trying to push the boundaries of what is possible we used it again for our recent residential week. We put on the usual updates and photos at regular intervals. However, this year we went one step further by creating a Facebook live event available to anyone who follows our school page. This allowed the children to smile and wave to their parents and for the parents to see they were happy and safe. This was a HUGE hit with the parents and helped them to feel less nervous about their children being away. We also “live tweeted” our regular talent show while away. This allowed parents to follow the action and send us messages. We were able to share these with the children.
While social media means you need to be on your guard in terms of safeguarding children. All of our posts and activities are completed strictly in line with the school policy. We make it clear to users of the page that there is no sharing of our posts allowed without written permission.
We also lock the page down do people cannot post without approval. This hasn’t been an issue but always better to be safe than sorry.
So if you have not taken the leap into social media as a school, why not. Don’t be put off by the negatives. Sometimes having a presence on Social media can make people think twice about what they post knowing you can potentially see it!