Parent WhatsApp groups
There have been various news reports of the impact that WhatsApp groups set up by parents can have on teachers and school staff. Issues can range from playground politics, misinformation, to false allegations about teaching staff. Your school has a duty of care towards you and defamatory or malicious comments should be dealt with appropriately.
Parent WhatsApp groups have been shown to be managed effectively if your school outlines its expectations and has policies and procedures in place to escalate any issues.
In this article, we look at how different schools use parent WhatsApp groups and what you should do if you have a concern you are being discussed negatively.
Different approaches by schools
Online activity which is inappropriate
Carterton Primary School in Oxfordshire has a code of conduct for parents and carers.
It explains that parents should not use social media as a tool to air any concerns or grievances about the school. It explains online activity which the school considers inappropriate includes:
- Identifying or posting images/videos of pupils
- Abusive or personal comments about staff, pupils or other parents
- Bringing the school into disrepute
- Posting defamatory or libellous comments
- Emails circulated or sent directly with abusive or personal comments about staff or pupils
- Using social media to publicly challenge school policies or discuss issues about individual children
- Threatening behaviour, such as verbally intimidating staff, or using bad language
The school explains it takes safeguarding responsibilities seriously and will deal with any reported incidents appropriately.
Self-moderated group by parents
Christ the Saviour Church of England Primary School in the London Borough of Ealing has a communications and social media guide for parents.
It explains that unfortunately sometimes message threads get out of hand, and people can become misinformed.
Class WhatsApp groups are primarily for sharing information about PTA events, collections for teacher gifts and class parent socials. Your class WhatsApp group is not an appropriate place to share comments, messages and view from other groups. Think about how your post could come across, and about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end.
The school explains:
- Please be assured that we will not tolerate inappropriate emails, posts or messages
- If someone makes an inappropriate comment please contact your class rep or senior staff member
- PTA moderators will refer inappropriate posts to senior staff and can bar someone from a group
- You can request that any photo or comment in which you are mentioned is removed
It adds that staff should be asked for their permission before uploading photos of them on social media.
Epping Primary School in Essex has a digital parent/carer forum (DPCF). It is an online group to help improve communication between the school and parents/carers. Each year group has a WhatsApp group and carers are encouraged to join.
It explains that this official group is a communication tool through which messages will be sent to parents from school and from parents to school. Messages will not be personal so will not include any personal information about anyone so will be GDPR compliant. The school suggests that parents do not sign their message as this then contains their name.
We have published another article which explains what you need to know about GDPR as a member of school staff.
Social media training for parents
Thatto Heath Community Primary School in St Helens delivered a training session for parents on the use of social media. It explained that a number of WhatsApp groups had been set up by different classes which resulted in inappropriate comments being made.
What should I do if I am concerned about parents’ behaviour?
If your school has a set policy our code of conduct for parents you will want to follow the process included. You will want to raise your concern with a senior member of staff or the headteacher.
You should not reply online to the parent or post in the group. Potentially your school could take legal action against the parent in extreme cases taking into consideration the Defamation Act 2013 or Malicious Communications Act 1998.
Practically, however, your school should try and seek resolution with the parent to cease or delete any offending messages before escalation to this stage.
You should contact us if parental communication in online groups is having an adverse impact on your teaching and well-being.
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