I have always had a healthy cynicism regarding Facebook. As a head teacher, I was particularly concerned with the way it could be used to vent frustrations (or worse) about a school and its staff. I saw it as a scary, seemingly lawless place to reside professionally.
But while looking for a messaging platform for our school, I suddenly realised that a Facebook page might be the best – and cheapest - way to reach our community of parents and carers.
Facebook is now firmly part of our school life. There are so many warnings and fears about social media but, for me, it has been the most effective and beneficial way of engaging with parents and improving a school that I’ve used in my career.
Here are my top tips for using Facebook:
- Tell parents exactly why you are doing it
Explain that you have control of your page and, in many respects, it is no different from your school website.
- Ensure that your governors are also fully on board
Explain clearly that even though a page may be personal to you, it still represents the school.
- Put new posts up regularly
Post several times a day, so that parents really feel as though they know what is going on and that it is not another version of your website that largely remains static. Parents now wait for photos to appear when their children are out of school, and likes start coming in within seconds of posting.
- Use it proactively to target parents who find face-to-face contact difficult
Parents message us regularly: sometimes they have a query about their child but can’t make it into school; sometimes they want to complain; some of our more vulnerable parents simply want to reach out for help in a way that they don’t find threatening.
- Allow all your staff to contribute and share the workload
All our teaching staff have iPads and, with the Facebook app, it takes seconds to post something new. Children like to contribute, too. Staff can answer messages themselves, or refer any that require delicate handling to me.
- Take time to read the newsfeed daily
This allows you to find out more about the families of your pupils (it is amazing what people put in status updates). The more you know about children’s lives, the better you can support and educate them.
- Be prepared for endearments
Lastly (and I say this with a broad smile), be prepared to be called "hun", "babe", "love", and to get lots of messages with kisses at the end.
Christina Zanelli Tyler is headteacher of West Cliff Primary School in Whitby
This is an edited version of a feature in the 23 September issue of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. The magazine is also available in all good newsagents.