Twitter is a new frontier for education – and for headteachers

Many headteachers are enthusiastically embracing Twitter, but this can prove more complicated than they first anticipated.

“People can be entirely oblivious to the impression they’re cultivating on Twitter,” said Hazel Beadle, from the University of Portsmouth, who is researching school leaders’ behaviour on the social-media website.

“It’s about getting the balance between the person they really are and the professional.”

This is something that Geoff Barton, TES columnist and head of King Edward VI School in Suffolk, is constantly aware of. “A rule of thumb is: would I be happy for anything I post on Twitter or Facebook to be on the front page of the Daily Mail?” he said.

For a head, however, policing one’s own online actions is relatively easy. But the public nature of Twitter may mean that they also spend their time policing wayward parents’ tweets, too.

“Is it for a school to police what parents are posting on Twitter about the school?” Ms Beadle said. “Well, no. But the problem is that, in a face-to-face conversation, it’s between the people there. With social media, it’s public.”

But it is not only parents themselves who can potentially damage a school’s reputation by tweeting recklessly. “A teacher cannot function on Twitter like someone who works in a supermarket or an accountancy firm,” Mr Barton said. “You run into problems where people sometimes post things that are inappropriate.”

For more on this story, get the 24 July edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

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