Is your school considering the use of Facebook to support engagement with parents and the wider community?
Kinneil Primary school in Falkirk Council won the 11th Worldwide Edublogs Awards for the ‘Best Educational Use of a Social Network Site 2014.’ in which over 5000 entries (from all categories) were processed from around the world. Kinneil Primary School very effectively combine the use of their school website with the use of Twitter and Facebook to share the achievements of the school community to keep parents up to date with school information and activities, to promote events and meetings, and to encourage parents to become more involved in the school.
Why would an establishments consider using a Facebook page?
Of social media tools currently available the demographic of Facebook users is closely aligned with that of the age of parents/carers with children of school age. So where parents/carers use any social media, Facebook is one of the most likely to be used. Having a Facebook page has been found to be a quicker way of updating and sharing information about activities of the establishment than their website.
An establishment Facebook page does not replace the establishment website but complements it – the website is still the place to share newsletters, documents, calendar of events, etc. Unlike a personal Facebook account or profile, a Facebook page is public so it can be viewed just like any website without requiring a visitor to have a Facebook account of their own. Embedded on the establishment website, the Facebook page content is then also visible to those parents/carers without a Facebook account. Those who do have a Facebook account, and who choose to “like” the establishment Facebook page, will then get immediate updates in their Facebook news stream.
Facebook complements an establishment’s use of Twitter, where this is used, and provides opportunities for longer messages. As with Twitter, the ease of updating of Facebook makes it ideal for the quick reporting of learning on a day to day basis. The combination of use of Facebook and Twitter by an establishment is more likely to reach the widest group of parents/carers, some of whom will use only Facebook, some only Twitter.
Provided it is well managed Facebook can be a powerful tool for building the profile of education establishments in the local community
The facility to get feedback on the Facebook page is what provides more two way interaction than the establishment website. That facility is also why the establishment must consider how they are going to manage this powerful feature of social media.
It needs to be recognised that, in order to be successful, there is a management overhead to Facebook which each establishment would need to bear in mind if considering Facebook as a tool they wish to explore to support parental and community engagement.
So how are schools using a Facebook page?
before setting up a Facebook page for an establishment it would first be recommended to look at examples of other establishments similar to your own. Here are some you may wish to view:
Facebook use by Educational Establishments in Falkirk Council
Bonnybridge Primary School – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bonnybridge-Primary-School/628734563866565
Kinneil Primary School – https://www.facebook.com/kinneilprimary
St Mungo’s RC High School – Media Team – https://www.facebook.com/SMFM.Radio
Facebook use by Educational Establishments elsewhere
First Steps in Creating a School Facebook Page
Although you need a Facebook account to manage a Facebook page do not use an existing personal Facebook account. Instead create a Facebook page using a Facebook account using the generic establishment email address. It would be recommended that you have multiple administrators to avoid issues when a member of staff moves on from the establishment. Likewise setting up with a generic establishment email address means that there will always be access to administering the Facebook page in the event of staff moving on from any establishment.
Additional administrators for the establishment Facebook page should each set up a Facebook account using their work email account specifically for the purpose of administering the establishment Facebook page, and not use an existing personal Facebook account.
When you have a number of likes you can get the Facebook page to be a shorter web address rather than a very long website address which is created by Facebook by default for new Facebook pages – something like https://www.facebook.com/kinneilprimary – which is what you want to put in newsletters or share elsewhere, as the initially-created default address is not pretty, as it contains a large number of random characters.
It is recommended that you embed your establishment Facebook page feed (as is recommended to do for an establishment Twitter feed) onto your establishment website. That way anything you post on Facebook on the establishment Facebook page will automatically appear on the website. The website is where parents and the wider community will initially visit for information about your establishment. They should be able to see the Twitter and Facebook content there too. This means that those parents/carers who do not have a Facebook account of their own will nonetheless be able to find the latest information posted via the establishment Facebook page via the establishment website. To add Facebook feed to your website adapt the settings here: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like-box/
Photographs of pupils would only be included where permission has been given by parents/carers. Where photographs of children are included they would normally only be of groups, and individuals would not be identified with anything other than their first name.
It is recommended to disable the facility to tag photographs to individuals in Facebook. This can be done in the administrator panel. It would be recommended to have a note on the “About” page on the school Facebook page explaining that in order to safeguard pupils that the establishment will disable tagging on photographs and will not name individual children in photographs unless parental permission has been given, and will not use full name. Also this note should request that parents/carers and others should also not identify children in the comments. This would also be a useful note to occasionally repeat as a message on the Facebook page that the establishment welcomes comments but would ask those who add comments to please not identify individual children.
A feature of Facebook (as for any social media tool) is the facility to receive comments from others. Comments should be welcomed – however if an issues arises then dialogue should be encouraged by contacting the school by telephone, email or by a visit so that individual issues can be more appropriately addressed. It would be recommended to let parents know (through newsletter or by having a note on the website or in the “about” section of the Facebook page) that the establishment’s Facebook page should not be used to discuss issues specific to individuals nor to raise or discuss any matter of concern. Contact should always be made directly with the school by telephone, by visiting the school or by email.
Comments can be hidden, rather than immediately deleted, so that only administrators see them – if any comments raise concerns then taking a screenshot of the comment may be advisable to have a record should action be required.
Useful Resources for Establishments Using Facebook
Here is a case study on the use of Facebook
Here is a guide to schools on setting up a Facebook page
Here is a guide to issues schools may encounter in using Facebook and suggestions for how to resolve them
Shamblesguru page about schools using Facebook
Shamblesguru resources for schools using Facebook