Primary Schools and Facebook Pages

Should primary schools have Facebook pages? This was the question of the week on the various fora that I subscribe to. I thought I’d write a few quick thoughts on my own experience of having a Facebook page for my school and point out a few things that you need to know.

In my opinion, I think a school should have a Facebook page. We have had one for about 3 years and, although we weren’t the first Irish primary school to have one, (I think that accolade goes to another Educate Together school), we have been there for enough time to understand the benefits and pitfalls.

Let’s start with the benefits.

I think Facebook is an ideal tool for families to stay in contact with the school. For example, a parent can send messages to the school if they wish. A school can put a call out to families on Facebook and by commenting back, a school can get volunteers for a project or an event. Even something as small as a parent liking a particular post gives a small connection to the school.

I also like the way parents can share information with each other and the school. This year, a number of parents are recommending links to web sites for a variety of things, for example, parenting courses and lunch ideas. A few years ago during the winter, we asked families to send in photos of their snow-filled back gardens and we got quite a few responses, which we put up on the school web site. We also put some optional homework up on our Facebook page while the school had to be closed.

However, the biggest benefit for me is that we know most of our families use Facebook daily and it’s an almost guaranteed way to send out information. For example, every time we update our school web site, it automatically goes up on Facebook. We have an electronic noticeboard in our school. That also goes up on Facebook for families who can’t come in to see it. This year all our newsletters are going online and there will be a link to our Facebook page for them too. The feedback we receive from this posts is fantastic and it helps us know what our families like.

As with any social media, there are some risks involved.

Having a Facebook page means that a school is going to lose some control. This might seem a scary prospect to some schools so if you’re a school that needs to control the content that goes up on your page, there is no point having a Facebook page. Here are the things that anyone in the world can do if they like your Facebook page.

[label style=”info”]They can comment on a post.[/label]

While 99.9% of the time, comments will be lovely, there is a risk of someone having a rant or slagging off the school.

[label style=”info”]They can post up anything to your wall.[/label]

Again, this has the same risks as commenting. However, some people can be tempted to use your wall as a free advertising board.

[label style=”info”]Messages are public and sometimes a but awkward.[/label]

Sometimes people who post things up on the wall or my message don’t realise that everyone can see it.

[label style=”info”]Photos can be tagged.[/label]

This has obvious child protection concerns.

If you have a Facebook page, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop these services. If your school can’t cope with these, then there is no point having a Facebook page.

I have thought a lot about these pitfalls and have come up with a very simple solution that works for our school. It can be summed up in a simple mantra.

We trust you until you break our trust, then you are never trusted again.

We then list the ways you can break out trust. There aren’t many, thankfully.

  1. You post something negative about the school or anyone in the school.
  2. You post up an advertisement on our wall without permission.
  3. You tag a photograph of a child in the school.

So what happens if you break one of these rules? The simple answer is you are banned for life and you never ever get back no matter what. Whatever little high someone might get by posting something inappropriate, they are penalised by never having access to the page again. In our three years, we have only received one negative comment and it was no big deal in the end. That person is still banned.

One other concern is the students liking the page. Almost all primary school pupils are under 13 and it is illegal for children under 13 to have a Facebook account. In the last year, we have noticed some pupils liking our page. This year we have decided that we can’t allow this so we are giving our pupils until the Halloween Break to unlike the school’s Facebook page until they turn 13. If they don’t, we feel obliged to report them to Facebook. While this may seem harsh, we feel we should model the rules of Facebook while they exist in the way that they do.

Overall, I find our Facebook page is one of the best things we ever did. It’s a great way to keep in contact with families and it gives people a chance to be part of our community even if they can’t get into the school. Has anyone considered opening a Facebook page for their school? What’s stopping you? Has anyone had a bad experience of a school Facebook page? I’d love to hear the story and what you did to overcome it.

Last Update: August 9, 2017  

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