Harnessing the power of social media

Posted by Martin Johnson on 30 October
Harnessing the power of social media

As well as making fantastic use of their learning platform, Sacred Heart R.C. Primary School in Bolton have developed a fanastic Facebook page to communicate with parents and help their community better understand the school's vision and purpose.

Headteacher, Martin Johnson, shares the school's journey.

Why did Sacred Heart decide to use Facebook?

Three of us went on a course in Blackburn - and one of the sessions was on the use of social media. We went away, thought about it, and Governors then commissioned us to develop a page. I know many schools have accessed the services of John Bidder but we decided to go it alone. The page really helps us in our mission to shine as we come, talk, work, walk & pray together…

What were you trying to achieve?

The main reason we wanted to use it was to promote parental engagement in learning. Many of our parents work, or struggle to find enough time to talk to their children about their school day (and of course if they do the standard response is often 'I can't remember'!). We believe that the spoken word and communication is at the heart of all learning, so talk at home really helps. This way, parents who are always accessing their facebook newsfeed, can unwittingly find out things, and instead of asking, 'What did you do in school today?', they talk about what they have seen with their children.

We also wanted to showcase our school - and what is important to us - to our community. Then of course there is the time benefit – we wanted to spend less time creating our magazine newsletter - by publishing news instantly. Using Facebook also means that parents can comment on what we post and we can respond to their comments.


What concerns did you have at the start?

The fact that the page is public (so that all parents can access posts, even if they don’t want to have their own Facebook account) was a concern raised by some parents. At first we only used 'quirky' pictures, about one a day, and ensured they were not showing faces. Then we gradually built this up as parents were more comfortable with it.

E-safety was a concern – there can be a general feeling that social networks are bad! We have tried hard to break this myth and show the responsible side of social networking through our use of the page.

That parents would say bad stuff about the school! Actually we have only barred two people over the two years we have been running - for inappropriate use. We only allow comments as replies to post, so parents cannot just add a comment, although they can use the inbox. Our code of appropriate use is clear. Notifications are sent to staff phones when comments are made, and I receive emails of all comments.

harnessing the power of social media - find out all about the journey of one school to create a successful Facebook presence.


Do you have many parents who are not happy to have their children’s pictures on Facebook?

We only have a handful of children, out of the 386 on roll, who do not have Facebook permission. We roll it out to parents at the new intake meeting as part of their general internet permissions.


How many people are involved in running the site and what are their responsibilities?

Initially, only Leadership team and ICT team had the login. (In reality this meant that I led and uploaded every day - with occasional posts by others or 'forced' ones when I was out of school.) After 18 months we widened this to all staff. We have the Pages manager app on our phones and have no qualms about our enhanced DBS checked staff taking images on their phone to upload to the school page.

harnessing the power of social media - find out all about the journey of one school to create a successful Facebook presence.


What have you found works particularly well?

~ We never post without an image.
~ Posts can be scheduled to appear in the future which means – for example – we can upload all staff birthday photos in one batch and they’ll appear on the right day.
~ Posting on a daily basis keeps people’s interest – they are actually logging in to Facebook to see our page.
~ We locked the settings down as much as possible at first.


Anything you’ve tried but didn't really work?

We do link the page to our Twitter account so that all Facebook posts are also tweeted. I'm not sure that this is a good idea, as now that Facebook accepts posts containing multiple images, these are all tweeted separately and have no tag so don’t work so well. I think Twitter has a slightly different use as a social media - if only we could delete all our tweets and re-start with the same name but using it in a different way! We may soon remove the link between the accounts.

harnessing the power of social media - find out all about the journey of one school to create a successful Facebook presence.


Do you integrate Facebook with any other online channels?

Yes - we do cross reference. There is a link from our cLc homepage, and from Life. Often our video uploads may be linked from Life, our Mediacore video platform or our YouTube channel.


What do parents and the community think about it?

Most of them like it. A very small minority get agitated that there are too many posts about a particular aspect of school life – e.g. outdoor learning or another project. However, they just need to get used to having some posts that they want to see whereas there are others that a different group of parents want to see. Generally everyone likes the fact that they get to see and find out things that previously they wouldn’t have known about.

harnessing the power of social media - find out all about the journey of one school to create a successful Facebook presence.

We thank Martin for his time and hope that Sacred Heart's journey has inspired you to consider whether Facebook could help you engage your parents and promote your school to the wider community. Make sure you visit The Journey Matters Facebook page to see it in action!

Tags: communication parental engagement

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