August 2018


  • And breathe...
    Geoff Barton reflects on what has been another extremely busy year for school and college leaders, and says the summer will hopefully, for many, be a time to unwind with family and friends. More
  • Stress less
    As we continuously strive to improve and support the wellbeing of our pupils, we mustn't forget to ensure the health and welfare of our staff too, says Trust Director Julie Yarwood. More
  • Social media: Enjoy, engage or avoid?
    Whether you're developing a social media strategy for your school or college, reviewing existing policies, or managing your own online presence, Online Editor Sally Jack provides advice to help you navigate the social media maelstrom. More
  • Make the news
    By telling their story and knowing how to respond to bad news, schools and colleges can build a successful relationship with the media which can be a huge benefit to them, says ASCL's Head of Public Relations Richard Bettsworth. More
  • Free for all?
    New research from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the Sutton Trust has found that pupils at secondary free schools perform slightly better than pupils at other types of schools, but is that the only thing we should judge them on? Karen Wespieser looks at the data. More
  • Pioneer programme
    The NPQEL programme offers multi-academy trust leaders a roadmap for leadership in this challenging new territory. Julie Nightingale reports. More
Bookmark and Share

Whether you’re developing a social media strategy for your school or college, reviewing existing policies, or managing your own online presence, Online Editor Sally Jack provides advice to help you navigate the social media maelstrom.

Social media: Enjoy, engage or avoid?

Social media makes the headlines almost daily, be it concerns over users’ mental health, or personal data breaches. As school and college leaders, you’ll also be aware of the devastating effects of cyberbullying. Is it any wonder, therefore, that many avoid opening the ‘Pandora’s box’ of social media too far?

While it is wise to be aware of its pitfalls, social media can also be a positive force, providing an effective way to connect not just with parents and students, but with local businesses, charities and other groups. You have control over how you present your organisation to the wider world and share pupils’ achievements. Using social media responsibly as an organisation and as professionals, also provides a positive example to students of acceptable online behaviour.

In terms of risk assessment, it is good practice to implement and regularly review a social media strategy for your organisation, even if you don’t make regular posts or comments. Such is the fast pace of life online, it is reassuring and can save valuable time to have a plan (as far as possible) of what to do, should your school, college, a student or staff member become embroiled in a social media ‘situation’, often with little warning. Your social media strategy should be an integral part of your existing online and safeguarding policies, and be easily accessible by colleagues.

Developing a social media strategy

Whether you’re starting from scratch or reviewing the platform(s) your organisation currently uses, conducting some due diligence is worthwhile:

  • Decide why you are using social media: how does the platform you choose fit in with your organisation’s overall mission and values, and who is your target audience? Visit the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s (NSPCC’s) Net Aware site (, which provides information on the many different social media platforms currently in use.
  • Involve as many colleagues as possible in discussions: gauge and tap into existing knowledge and skills.
  • Look at other schools’ or colleges’ social media profiles and posts: how do they present themselves? What might work for your organisation?
  • Who will administer and monitor the accounts, during and outside school hours? To minimise risk, keep account access to as few individuals as is workable.
  • Consider using scheduling platforms such as Tweetdeck (Twitter only), Hootsuite or Buffer to assist managing time and resources: posts can also be scheduled to appear outside school hours.

Tips for top online posts

Acknowledge that it takes time to build followers and establish your organisation’s online presence. Some ideas will work, some won’t, however, whichever platform you use, a clear, consistent and professional voice is always a good idea.

  • Keep the ‘social’ in social media: follow other schools and organisations and like or retweet their posts as appropriate. Share information relevant and useful to your followers, such as term dates, newsletters and fundraising updates.
  • Establish your online ‘voice’, ensuring it aligns with your organisation’s overall vision and values.
  • To maximise engagement, keep posts succinct and engaging: where possible, include an image, a link to further information and include hashtags as appropriate.
  • Consider consent and copyright: check permissions if downloading images from common usage sites. Also, do your own images comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements?
  • There’s no magic formula as to how often or when to post online, however, up-to-date and relevant content keeps followers engaged and helps the organic growth of your online profile.

When social media becomes anti-social

Unfortunately, this can happen with little warning and may be upsetting for those involved. It can also feel like there is little you can do to manage the situation, however, there are steps you can take to minimise risk and PR damage, and regain some control.

  • View each situation according to its individual circumstances: discuss with other colleagues and consider the implications of different possible courses of action.
  • Not responding is a valid option: replying to negative comments may only serve to add fuel to an already inflammatory situation.
  • If a comment does require a response, keep it polite and professional at all times, and try to take the conversation offline if possible.
  • If a post or comment is abusive or libellous, politely request the individual deletes their post. Offensive comments can also be reported to the social media platform itself, although it is at the provider’s discretion as to whether they will remove it.
  • Advice may also be sought from your organisation’s legal advisers. If the online activity is offensive or constitutes harassment, this should be reported to the police.
  • If social media activity goes viral and generates interest from other media (such as local or national press), make sure your social media policy has guidance on how and who can deal with any enquiries directed at the school, college, students and staff.

Protect your professional reputation

Regularly check your own online profile; advice on how to manage this is covered in ASCL’s guidance Social Networking, Social Media and Email: Protecting your online reputation (, as well as our article Click, Connect … Take Care ( Leader issue 97).

However, some key points for maintaining good online practices are as follows:

  • Regularly review your online profile: type your name into Google and other search engines and assess the results.
  • Remove any unwanted information either via the platform’s account settings, or by contacting the site administrator and requesting its removal.
  • Information that Google will remove, and how to request this, is available here Other search engines should also provide this information in their support sections.
  • Regularly amend your passwords and review security settings on your social media platforms.

Sense before sending

  • Think twice, post once. Re-read your comment – could it be misinterpreted?
  • Never post in anger (including emails): if you wouldn’t be happy if your comment made it to the front page of the local paper, don’t post it.
  • Keep within professional boundaries: avoid online interaction with students or their parents, preferably speaking to them in person at school or college.
  • School and college related conversations and photos should stick to teaching and learning.
  • Is this your content to post? Remember copyright considerations.

Useful resources


Come and join us and meet Sally at one of our Social Media Strategies for Schools course – book your place at

Sally Jack
ASCL Online Editor