Friday, 31 October 2014

e-Safety for Teachers - Why teachers need to protect themselves on Social Media and some tips on how to do it.

Beware: Parents Troll Teachers
Last year, a parent, who was upset that her daughter had not been selected for a school sports team, took it upon herself to go onto the Facebook pages of the teacher concerned looking for some angle in order to get back at her. The mother contacted me complaining that the teacher was a "disgrace and shouldn't be working with children". She reported that there inappropriate pictures of the teacher at a party. Subsequent investigation revealed nothing more than a picture of the staff member at a party holding a cocktail obviously having a good time. I was shocked that a vengeful parent should 'troll' a teacher in this way. My response was to take no action in relation to the teacher and to run an INSET on e-Safety for the teaching staff. With full a Governor support, as a senior team, we also drafted a policy and procedure to deal with any future malicious or vengeful acts by parents: a formal warning would be given and any repetition would lead to the 'required removal' of the child because of a break down of trust between the school and the parent. The episode was a timely reminder of the vulnerable position that we find ourselves as teachers and of the importance of teachers doing all that they can to protect themselves. We spend a lot of time in schools exhorting and training pupils to take measures to be safe online, but many of the same principles equally apply to the staff room. 
Because teachers work in positions of influence with children and young people, society dictates that they conduct themselves as role models. There are expectations of higher standards of teachers' behaviour in their private lives that do not apply to other professions. Young bankers or solicitors whose wild Friday night out is documented in graphic detail on Facebook are not likely to have a problem at work so long as what they were doing was not illegal. Furthermore, child protection legislation and procedures dictate that there are circumstances when a teacher is treated as 'guilty until proven innocent'. A teacher who is subject to a malicious online anonymous accusation potentially could face suspension, pending a full investigation - with all the personal reputational damage that that entails. In this context, it is all the more important that teachers do all they can to take steps to prevent themselves from being open to accusation by ensuring that their personal life on social media remains private. 
Protecting your Digital Tattoo Teachers would be well advised to take the time to protect their online presence. Most obviously this entails a good understanding of the privacy settings on individual social media sites. However, teachers should bear in mind that, whilst, it is possible to prevent members of the public (including parents and pupils) from having access to personal pictures and posts, it is perhaps safest to assume that, in practice, everything that is posted online is in the public domain. Once it is out there, rather like a tattoo, it is very difficult to get it removed. The rule of thumb is 'don't post anything online that you wouldn't want to see in the Daily Mail.'
However, we are not totally responsible for our digital tattoo for others can post pictures and write things about us online. This is more difficult to monitor and control. Two useful steps are to Google yourself and to see what is out there about you; and to set up a Google Alerts which will inform you when your name appears on a website.
One of the greatest areas of concern for teachers comes in the form of the RateMyTeacher website. The site purports to provide "user generated feedback on teachers' and professors' teaching methods and their respective courses." In practice it provides an unaccountable platform for malicious comments, unbalanced judgements and the cyber-bullying of teachers. Because comments are posted anonymously and the site is now hosted in the US, there is in practice no legal redress for any slanderous accusations posted on the site (because US law protects the site from prosecution, and it is almost impossible to trace any individual who made the original post). The consequence is that teachers are vulnerable to potentially career damaging false accusations. 
Taking steps to have unwanted posts on the Internet is quite difficult - it is a combination of 'blocking' people and 'reporting abuse' to websites - but this doesn't always work. The most effective way to have a positive Digital Tattoo is be active on the web by blogging, tweeting and being referenced in good articles.
Keeping Professional Distance.  It is universally accepted within schools that there needs to be a 'professional distance' between teachers and pupils. This is necessary in the classroom, but it is all the more important in teachers' private lives. Part of this 'distance' is that teachers don't socialise with pupils: a young teacher who goes clubbing with the sixth form crosses a line which, at best, lays himself open not only to the charge of unprofessionalism, and, at worst, could lead to allegations of serious misconduct. In the same vein, teachers are well advised to ensure that all lines of communication with pupils are through official channels. It is generally accepted that teachers should not be emailing pupils from their personal accounts, or texting or phoning pupils from their personal mobile phones. Indeed, almost all schools provide an official school email for this purpose and some schools, recognising the necessity and ubiquity of mobile communication, provide teachers in pastoral roles with mobile phones which are paid for by the school on the understanding the communication may be monitored.

Teachers, Pupils and Social Media.  
The traditionally clear distinction between the professional and the personal is blurred by social media
Facebook 'friends' range from close family to passing acquaintances: it is a melting-pot of all whom we know and meet. One of the problematic features of Facebook is that it forces us to interact with all our 'friends' in the same way, which is not how we interact in the real world. The language we use when speaking to our oldest friends is often markedly different to the language we use in the workplace. How we talk to our mates when out on a Saturday night is far from the language and tone that we employ when teaching Year 12.
So should teachers be 'friends' with pupils on Facebook?  Some may argue that the privacy settings enable teachers to separate professional and personal relationships on Facebook. To some extent this is true - it is possible for teachers to prevent pupils from having access to personal posts and photographs. However, my greatest concern about social media is that they open up a private channel of communication between teachers and pupils, which can put teachers unwittingly into a situation where they are open to accusations of misconduct. How would a teacher who was a 'friend' with a Year 13 girl defend a claim that s/he had been conducting an online relationship? We can also turn the question around, can there ever be a good reason for teacher to be 'friends' with a pupil on Facebook? 
Facebook Friends with parents. The example above illustrates the dangers of being friends with parents on Facebook, but maintaining this distance is not always as easy as it may seem. Separating the personal and the professional is particularly difficult for those who have children in the school in which they work - for they are both teacher and parent at the same time. The prevalence of Form Facebook groups can put colleagues into a difficult position, particularly when the group gets up a head of steam on a particular issue. Teachers are best advised in these circumstances to maintain a discrete silence, lest their unique position be (mis)quoted to give extra weight to the argument. 
Twitter.  The way in which many people use Twitter confuses the professional and the personal: one minute the teacher is sharing a teaching idea picked up at an excellent INSET, the next s/he is posting pictures of the family reunion. My advice here is simple: if you want to post about professional and personal matters, run two twitter accounts; and if pupils are following you on Twitter, use the 'mute' function (from the settings menu) to disable their ability to tweet on your timeline or to message you directly.
LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a professional networking site - linking up is the social media equivalent of exchanging a business card. As such, LinkedIn is a useful vehicle for connecting with colleagues, parents and former pupils as 'professional distance' is built it. Users have full control of their own profile and it is not possible for others to post pictures or comments on the site that are publicly visible. Teachers would be well advised not to link with current pupils because LinkedIn does have a messaging feature and thus opens up the possibility of a private communication channel.  
Conclusion: There is little doubt that many teachers need to take much greater care when navigating the world of social media. Forewarned is forearmed.

Related Posts

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

e-Safety for Teachers - "Don’t leave yourself open to abuse, teachers told"

My interview with Nicola Woolcock of The Times published on Monday 20th October:


Don’t leave yourself open to abuse, teachers told
Teachers should keep their distance from parents as much as pupils on social media sites for fear of being “trolled” in revenge for classroom punishments, a head teacher has advised. Mark Steed, principal of Berkhamsted School and chairman of the information and communications technology (ICT) strategy committee for the Independent Schools Council (ISC), told The Times that parents could “troll” teachers following punishments or oversights involving their children.
“Social media colours what was a very simple relationship,” he said. “There needs to be a very clear separation between pupils and teachers’ private lives. This can be confused by friendship on Facebook, which can lay a teacher open to accusations that are hard to defend, because of private messaging.” Mr Steed said his senior staff had school mobile phones and could use these to text pupils about school matters, but that he had drawn up guidance for teachers on using social media.
He added: “Another concern is of parents trolling teachers, and about members of the profession being vulnerable on websites such as Rate My Teachers, which is a totally unaccountable platform.
We did have a very difficult situation where a parent was upset that a child didn’t make it onto a sports team. “In vengeance, the parent went online and sent me a picture of the teacher at a party from the teacher’s Facebook site. It hadn’t been protected by privacy settings. We have now taken steps against parents doing that.”
Mr Steed recommended that teachers set up two separate Twitter feeds for their personal and professional lives. “Don’t ‘follow’ pupils. This removes a potential private communication channel. You can control who follows and block who replies,” he said. Of Facebook, Mr Steed added: “There is a private communication channel which opens teachers to charges of unprofessionalism. Don’t ‘friend’ current pupils and be very wary of ‘friending’ former pupils.”
Berkhamsted is hosting the ISC’s annual strategy conference this week for heads of ICT at schools.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Role of the HoD within Whole-School Planning

Presentation that forms part of the Strategic Planning module Independent Schools Qualification in Academic Management (ISQAM) Level Two course run by HMCPD and GSAPD in partnership with the IoE. 


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Advantages of Single Sex Teaching from 11-16

My interview with Nicola Woolcock of The Times published on Monday 7th October 2014:


Boys ‘easier to control in single-sex classes’ 
Teachers can impose tougher discipline on boys who are in segregated classrooms, an independent school head teacher has said in defence of single-sex education. Many experts extol the benefits for girls, but Mark Steed, principal of Berkhamsted School, said that boys thrived in a single-sex environment because teachers could be more “black and white” about discipline.
His views contradict Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, who said last week that children were best taught in mixed classes. Mr Steed runs a “diamond” school, with girls and boys taught together until 11, separated on different sites during adolescence, and brought together for sixth form. “Boys manage without girls because the key to their academic success is discipline; it’s that simple,” he said. “It’s much easier in an all-boys environment to say, ‘That’s where the line is’. Whereas girls don’t like black and white, boys just need it. “It’s easier to manage boys’ performance between 14 and 16 by just saying ‘That’s how it is, son. That’s where the line is. Don’t cross it’. The massive strides [made at the school] in boys’ performance has been down to strong discipline and clear expectations.”
Girls benefited because they go through puberty earlier than boys, Mr Steed said. “For girls in years 8 to 9 (aged 12 to 14), it’s a very difficult period to have boys on the scene as well. “The other thing about single-sex schools is you can keep them younger for longer. They can just be themselves and grow up at their own rate. They’re less giggly, more focused on their work and slightly more competitive because of it. “We have roughly the same A-level take-up for sciences between the sexes, although slightly more girls do combined science and more boys choose physics.”
Mr Steed also said that achieving a top grade at GCSE was easy if you just “followed the instructions”, adding: “Girls are very good at taking stuff in and reproducing it and GCSE in its current form commends itself to that. Girls are more likely to follow the instructions than boys, but that doesn’t work at A level.” He said that he expected girls to become more stressed with the introduction of linear GCSEs this term, which are examined after two years and have no coursework.
When reunited at A level, boys and girls learn from each other’s styles of working, he said, with boys having to adapt to a less “nannying” approach than they were used to.
The school takes children from 5 months to 18. It also runs a separate prep school and sponsors an academy.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

e-Safety for Teachers


A presentation on e-Safety for Teachers given to the Berkhamsted School teaching staff on 24/09/2014.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A personal tribute to a Wartime Headmaster and those Berkhamstedianswho died in WW1

Any Headteacher who has been in a school at the time of the death of a pupil or of a recent leaver will know the sense of loss and helplessness that grips a community.  Every headteacher dreads the time when they have to stand up and announce to the school that a pupil or former pupil has died. Death is an alien concept to young people, who on the whole still think that they are immortal. The young are not equipped to cope with death - and rightly so. It is different for the Common Room - death in a community hits them hard.  Teachers, with the distance that comes both the age and role, know how to mourn and grieve, but grapple with the 'why?'s and 'what might have been's more than most.  Schools are no place for the dead.
So when I reflect on the impact of World War One on Berkhamsted School, my mind turns to what it must have been like for Charles Greene, who was Headmaster at that time . . .
Charles Greene (Headmaster 1911-27) had the unenviable task of reading out to the school in chapel the names of those former pupils who had died throughout the course of the war - and indeed beyond. Some 232 Old Berkhamstedians died in those years. He almost certainly knew personally the majority of the boys who died, as had been at Berkhamsted since 1889 as a teacher, Housemaster of St John’s Boarding House and Deputy Head, prior to becoming Headmaster. 
Charles Greene annotated the Prefects’ Book, which each prefect signed on taking office, in red ink recording the military career and when each boy fell. No one can read those words without feeling his pain and that of the community that he led.  
Those of us who have had on occasion to lead a school through the death of a pupil can only imagine the pain that Charles Greene felt as week after week he walked to the lectern to deliver more tragic news. Furthermore, there is little doubt that this will have had a significant impact on Charles Greene's home life and thus on the formative years of his youngest son, Graham (b. 1910), Berkhamsted's most famous Old Boy, growing up as he did in the Headmaster's accommodation in School House.
It is perhaps no surprise that Greene's is the darkest gloomiest portrait that hangs in Old Hall.  The shadow of WW1 falls over 
This week I started a personal tribute to the Old Berkhamstedians who died in WW1. A hundred years on, like Charles Greene before me, I shall be announcing the deaths of OBs in the assembly following the day they fell. 
We have set up a Berkhamsted School WW1 Twitter feed @BerkhamstedWW1 to commemorate individually those who fell on the anniversary of their death in the instances where the details are known.
And so "we shall remember them."

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age - Book Review

The Alliance is a remarkably concise management book that  has some simple concepts and well-thought-out advice about managing talent in a competitive economy. At its heart is an argument for a new relationship between employers and employees. The traditional model of lifetime employment that was fostered in the relatively stable economy of the 1950s and 1960s was replaced in the 1970s and 1980s by a view that increasingly saw employees and jobs as a short-term commodity.  The consequence of 'increased shareholder value' was a breakdown trust between employers and employees, The consequence of firms shedding labour at the first sign of trouble is that employee loyalty is at an all-time low. The present state of affairs is not good for employers because employees leave mid-project; or for employees because there is no longer job security. [The only winners are the head-hunters]. The new model advocated in The Alliance is a 'middle way' between the two previous approaches:

The Alliance believes that there needs to be greater transparency and openness between what employers and employees about what they want from their working relationship:
"The business work needs a new employee framework that facilitates mutual trust, mutual investment and mutual benefit."  (p.7)  "In an alliance, the manager can speak openly and honestly about the investment the company is willing to make in the employee and what it expects in return. The employee can speak openly and honestly about the type of growth he seeks (skills, experiences, and the like) and what he will invest in the company in return by way of effort and commitment. Both sides set clear expectations." (p.9)
The authors use the analogy of a military 'tour of duty'.  Employers need employees who sign up for a 'tour of duty' whereby firms have a flexible workforce but with workers who are committed to seeing the latest project through to its end; and employees have experiences which will develop them professionally. At the end of a 'tour' there is scope for employers and employees to commit to another tour, or to part company knowing that it had been profitable for both sides.
A second dimension of this new relationship between employers and employees relates to the importance of developing and leveraging personal networks. Networks have always had an important part to play in business, but in the connected social media age, these have become one of the greatest assets both collectively of firms and of individuals. Both firms and employees through their relationship develop the brand: firms develop the company brand and employees   their own 'personal brand'. The authors argue for a symbiotic relationship, whereby the firm encourages the individual to develop their personal professional network, which in turn can help the organisation develop and flourish. This may be through bringing in business, opening up new markets, by providing the firm with 'non-public' sector/ market information, or by helping with offering solutions to challenges.  
The final aspect of the new relationship is the importance of a professional alumni network whereby the firm keeps in touch with former employees after they have move on to a new post. Lifelong employment might be a thing of the past but a lifelong relationship might be a reasonable expectation for those who complete a successful tour of duty. This alumni group can provide useful support for the firm in a number of ways, including a source of recruitment, making recommendations to others who are thinking of joining the firm and acting as critical friends.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Squaring the Circle - The Greatest Educational Challenge

"One of the greatest challenges facing leading schools in this country is how best to prepare you, young people, for what is an increasingly competitive market place for top jobs. To some extent it was ever thus, but the difference between your generation and that of those of us who are parents is that you are competing in a truly global marketplace. You are not just competing with the best in the UK – you are competing with the best in the world. There are more A* and outstanding pupils in China than there are pupils in Britain, so if you are going to be the movers and shakers of the next generation then you will need to raise your game.
It is not so much “Berko’s Got talent” or even “Britain’s Got talent” – but it’s “The World’s Got Talent”. How will you compete? And how will your education here at Berkhamsted prepare you for that world? Britain has long since abandoned any pretence of having an economy based on making things. As Richard Sykes of Imperial College, formerly Chief Executive of Glaxo-Wellcome puts it:
 'We can’t compete against the manpower of India and China: we have to use our brains.' 
"Independent Schools like Berkhamsted have a long and distinguished history in producing world-class leaders in their various fields and they have an important role to play if UK PLC is going to remain competitive on the international stage. In the global employment market, you have a number of advantages – you are native speakers of the new global language and you have relatively cheap and easy access to some of the best universities in the world, but this is not enough – you need more – you need world-class schooling.

"The problem that we face in schools is that there is a growing dislocation between the standard school curriculum and the world of work. I believe that the exam system is the greatest obstruction to preparing young people for the world of work because it is completely out of kilter with what people actually do in the workplace. At no point in any job do people ever work alone, in silence, without technology or collaboration; and no one ever writes a handwritten essay. 
"Changes in working patterns and the increasing use of technology in business combined with subtle shift in our A-level system are making this dislocation even greater. In the past somebody who had a bit of flair could write an essay and be given an ‘A’ for it even if it was not the approach the examiner expected, because they had written it in an interesting way. But in recent years exam boards have tried to automate their marking processes and that approach has been drummed out of the system because examiners do onscreen marking with a checklist of all the key words which need to be there. The consequence is that we are coming up with a generation of people who are very accurate and don't make mistakes, but who also don't take risks. 
"So, at a forward-looking school like Berkhamsted we have to try to square the circle: we need to teach young people to pass examinations so that they can get the grades to gain places at top universities to have the start that we want them all to have in life; but we also need to nurture young people who can think for themselves, who are creative, who can solve problems, who can think out of the box, who can be an effective part of a team, who have passions and interests, who make connections, who are articulate, who are good with people, who have a sense of community and of service; and who, above all, develop the values that will enable them to make a difference in the world.

"Education is about so much more than passing examinations. It is not about cribs and shortcuts. It is about broadening the mind. It is about making connections. It is about abandoning the motorway and taking the scenic route. It is about making discoveries. It is about a deeper understanding that comes from really knowing something well. It is about kicking around ideas with like-minded people. It is about taking yourself out of your comfort zone. It is about taking risks. It is about taking time. I am not arguing this out of a romantic view of how education was in the past. I believe that these things are important for individuals and for us as a nation. Britain’s traditions in the creative arts, in science and innovation have been fed by an education system has led the world. Schools like these and our top universities have led the world by teaching young people to “think”. If all that teachers do is to teach to the exam, and if all pupils do is to learn what they need to know to pass the exam, then we are failing to educate. If we fail to educate, we will lose the Nation’s greatest asset. That is how we square the circle – that is the Berkhamsted vision for Education."

Part of my address at the Berkhamsted School Speech Day on Thursday 3rd July, 2014