Staff WhatsApp groups in school

Overview

You might have been asked to join a WhatsApp group by other teachers at your school or might already be a member of a departmental group chat. Your school will have a social media and data protection policy which you will have to adhere to.

In this article, we look at advice on whether you should join an internal WhatsApp group, practical implications and social media guidelines.

Should I join my school’s internal WhatsApp group?

9ine are an independent technology and compliance specialist company. It advises teachers not to use WhatsApp as a method for official internal communication within schools as there are child protection and safeguarding issues involved.

There are two overlying issues:

It explains that any school audited for ISO 9001 quality management, would fail. This is because the school has no lawful way to gain access to the data or information stored or processed by WhatsApp should they need to. 

This is important for cases which may need to include HR investigations, legal action, defence against a legal claim, or instances that require the ability to demonstrate to external agencies that the school’s records are kept in a managed structure.

9ine explain that staff members are likely to use WhatsApp on their personal devices for personal communication and of course this is not a problem. 

It becomes a workplace problem when staff members begin to communicate internally with other staff members using their personal WhatsApp accounts, sharing school-related information which could include categories of personal data, such as photographs for example.

The creation of staff WhatsApp groups that include contacts external to the school, however, presents a further risk as the school has no control over the sharing of information outside of their formal structures. 

What practical issues should I be aware of if I still want to use WhatsApp?

If you decide to use WhatsApp to contact other members of staff about school-related issues you will want to avoid the following:

  • Breaching confidential information about the school or any of its pupils, staff or governors. This includes pupils’ personal data, assessment data or sensitive information about members of staff
  • Not having due regard to the potential for defamation of character. Making allegations (even in your own time and in your own home) about other staff, pupils or other individuals connected with the school could result in formal action being taken
  • Sharing of photographs or images of any children or their work
  • Any conduct which would damage the reputation of the school or profession

We have produced another article which outlines guidance on social media guidelines for school staff.

If you are facing disciplinary action for using WhatsApp or other forms of social media at your school please contact us for further advice and support.

We have also published another article which looks at how to manage parental Whatsapp groups.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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