Social media is an ever-expanding area. Many of us use social media and networking websites as a regular part of everyday life. As a result, schools should have a social networking policy for both staff and governors.
The Education Workforce Council has produced a very useful guide about using social media responsibly . It looks at the dangers and pitfalls, as well as privacy and confidentiality issues. – a highly recommended read.
The Governors Cymru Principles of Conduct for School Governors highlights several key points that governors should follow when discharging their functions: Here is the extract relating to social media:With the rise in popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, governors should remember that they are a representative of the governing body and part of a corporate body. It is therefore sensible for governors to maintain a certain level of separation on social networking sites, as this may create a conflict / difficult situation in the future.
Whilst using social media has many benefits and provides a great opportunity to communicate effectively, there is a growing concern in schools and amongst governing about how to control and handle incidents involving social media that can affect and implicate schools and governors.
Much of your school’s policy on using social media will in most cases be more relevant to school staff. Many sections will however be equally relevant to school governors. The bullet points below provide examples of what is considered to be the inappropriate use of social media. Please note this is not an exhaustive list by any means.
Whilst governors would not be subject to staff disciplinary processes, there are still forms of redress should a governor behave in an unacceptable manner e.g suspension.
Examples of inappropriate social media activity – Governors need to be mindful of the following:
- publishing defamatory, discriminatory, illegal, sexual, racist, extremist or other offensive material;
- using social media in a manner that would put governors in breach of the principles of conduct for governors or existing school policies;
- publishing any information which is confidential or could breach copyright or GDPR;
- publishing anything of an abusive or harassing nature;
- discussing information relating to the school, staff, pupils, parents, governing body for which social media is not considered to be an appropriate forum;
- promoting personal campaigns and financial interests;
- providing false or misleading information about the school, its staff, governors or pupils and which would bring the school into disrepute;
- using social media to raise a complaint/grievance – any specific issues should be raised via the correct process e.g., the school’s complaints procedure.
The case study below provides an example of where things have gone wrong and how the situation should be dealt with in the right way.
You are the chair of the local primary school and have seen that Mrs Williams, a parent at the school, has posted a derogatory comment on facebook about the headteacher, Mrs Bowen, regarding their son being bullied at school. Whilst this parent hasn’t raised any concerns at the school to date, you are very concerned as not only are the comments hurtful, Mrs Williams is also a fairly new parent governor at the school. As a governing body, you have adopted Governors Wales’ Principles of Conduct. What do you do?
- Invite Mrs Williams to a meeting to discuss the comments on facebook. Be sensitive to the nature of their concern and that although they were upset at the time, as a parent, Mrs Williams has the right to raise their concerns at school with relevant staff, following the school’s complaints procedure. The concern can be dealt with and resolved, rather than posting comments on social media. Assure Mrs Williams that once they have raised their concern using the proper procedures, it will be duly investigated. The school has a responsibility for the well-being of pupils so this issue must be dealt with.
- You will also need to explain that by posting these comments in a public forum, Mrs Williams may be putting their governorship in disrepute, which could be subject to a suspension from the governing body for a period of up to 6 months.
- You can ask Mrs Williams to delete the comments on facebook.
- As chair you need to be mindful that the headteacher may wish to take this further by raising their own complaint about the actions of Mrs Williams as governor at the school.
Lastly, remember always act responsibly. Creating a policy that sets out the school’s expectations of staff, parents, governors in conjunction with your LA / Regional Consortium is the best way forward. South West
Grid for Learning (SWGfL) has produced a model policy for schools
Before posting anything online, ask yourself?
- Might what I’m posting reflect poorly on me, the school and governing body?
- Is my intention to make the post driven by personal or professional reasons?
- Am I confident that the posting, if accessed by others (governor colleagues, public, parents, staff) would be considered reasonable and appropriate for a governor?
Adapted from the EWC good practice guide
For further information, please refer to your school’s policy and relevant information produced by the LA, RC or diocesan authority. The above information provides a summary of points for consideration as a starting point.
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