'Easy way to keep parents in touch'
IT's only a cliché because it's true that while most children trot off into their reception classes without a backward glance, their mums and dads shed a tear or two. But for some parents in Bristol this month, the pain of parting was eased by being able to see what their precious infants were up to in the classroom via photographs posted on Twitter.
Christchurch Primary in Hanham and Blackhorse Primary in Mangotsfield were among the schools that shared pictures of first moments in the sandpit and the home corner.
Blackhorse and Headley Park Primary in south Bristol both used the social network to show the families what their Year 6 children and teachers were getting up to at camp. Both these schools are early and enthusiastic adopters of Twitter as a means of communicating with parents in real time.
Blackhorse head teacher Simon Botten said it was an excellent way of sharing the softer side of school life.
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"It is a nice way of casual communication with parents. It gives them a window on the school and is less formal than the website, where we post notices about events, or the cold factual information we send out by text."
Live reports of sporting fixtures, appeals for volunteers and pictures of excellent work are among the other ways Blackhorse has made use of the network. The school, which now has more than 230 followers, has changed its internet safety policy to incorporate the use of Twitter and ensures that teachers, children and parents are up to date with e-safety. Already Blackhorse has been contacted by a school in Australia via the social network and is following schools in America.
Some schools have found texting reminders on the day about activities in school has led to much higher parental involvement, especially from fathers. And some secondaries have realised using Twitter to communicate with parents also provides a chance to market their school to the wider community.
Dean Blake, director of communications for the Cabot Learning Federation, said social networking could be used as part of a broader marketing and public relations strategy to ensure messages reached the widest possible audience.
"Parents can easily be updated on the latest school news and developments without having to visit the school website every day."
Andrew Lewis-Barned, director of marketing at the independent Clifton boys' school QEH, said the school was looking at using Twitter and Facebook and was developing a digital marketing strategy. It is also creating the school's first iPhone app. But its biggest foray into social media so far has been the LinkedIn network, which has seen more than 300 old boys sign up to a QEH Alumni group, which has obvious potential for supporting the school.
There are undoubtedly risks with increasing your school's profile online, and these lead many to continue to steer clear.
But some simple rules can help ensure to reputations are protected.
For example, pupils can follow teachers on Twitter but as long as teachers do not follow the children back all conversations will be public, as the student will not be able to send a direct message to the member of staff.
Schools should also consider a clause in their home-school agreement in which students undertake not to publish images or video footage of staff, students or the school on any internet site without prior written consent from the principal or from staff involved.