The majority of school leaders say parents have written negative online comments or abuse about their schools or staff over the past year, a cyberbullying survey has found.
And new data reveals that almost two in 10 (15 per cent) of school leaders across England have also been the direct victim of cyberbullying during their career.
The survey, of more than 1,100 school leaders, found 56 per cent have seen negative or offensive comments on social media from parents.
In the run-up to Anti-Bullying Week, the findings reveal that school leaders are facing their own set of issues on social media – often at the hands of pupils’ parents.
According to the poll by The Key – an organisation providing leadership support to schools – issues were more prevalent at a primary level with more than half (59 per cent) saying they’ve had to deal with parents’ negative posts on social media, compared to 46 per cent of secondary school leaders.
Personal insults, grievances and potentially libellous remarks are among the types of comments that staff reportedly face from parents via social media sites, like Facebook, the organisation reported.
One primary headteacher said: “Social media is a massive concern for schools to deal with. Negative and inaccurate comments that would never be said face-to-face are often posted by parents online, and most of the time the school is unaware of these.”
Similarly, another school leader said: “Most of the posting occurs outside of school, making it difficult to police or control.”
Social media and cyberbullying
Fergal Roche, chief executive of The Key, said: “Social media is becoming a more and more prominent and influential part of everyday life, and schools are having to adapt quickly to the many new challenges, and opportunities, it brings.
“Inaccurate or offensive comments are not only upsetting for those individuals involved, but at a time when schools are increasingly having to market themselves to attract pupils and staff, such public and negative remarks can have a detrimental impact on their reputation.”
Mr Roche added: “Schools take complaints seriously, and have formal processes to ensure that any issues are resolved quickly and with pupils’ interests at the fore.
"Nevertheless, it’s important that schools recognise the potential risks of social media."
It was vital, he added, to build "strong, two-way relationships" with parents and carers, so that grievances could be aired and dealt with constructively.
One headteacher, who has seen the rewards of using social media as a way to engage with parents, added: “Social media has been an overwhelming force for good in our school. We use it to broadcast all the exciting activities that are going on in a moment-to-moment way - meaning parents are able to connect with school activities far more easily than in the past.
“Parents think that it has contributed to a feel-good atmosphere throughout the school and report that they enjoy having something they can ask children about when they get home.”