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Abuse of social media rife in schools

Teachers are being increasingly adversely affected by the abuse of social media, a survey by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, has found.

In its second annual survey of teachers, more than a fifth (21%) of respondents reported having had adverse comments posted about them on social media sites and of those, 64% were from pupils, 27% were from parents and 9% by both pupils and parents.

Abusive and highly offensive language is common, accompanied by remarks about teachers’ appearance, competence or sexuality.

The overwhelming majority of comments were posted by secondary pupils, mainly on Facebook.

Of those teachers receiving comments by pupils, 47% received insulting comments and 50% had a comment made about their performance as a teacher. More than a quarter (26%) saw videos/photos posted which had been taken of them without consent.

Of those teachers receiving abuse from parents, 57% received insulting comments and 63% had a comment made about their performance as a teacher.

The majority (58%) of teachers did not report abuse from pupils to their employer or police. Nearly two thirds (64%) said that this was because they didn’t think anything could be done, 21% did not think it would be taken seriously, 9% were too embarrassed and 6% had previously reported incidents which had not been dealt with.

Where teachers did report abuse to their headteacher, 40% said that no action was taken against pupils and 55% said no action was taken against parents.

Where abuse was reported to the police, over three quarters (77%) said no action was taken against pupils and 76% said no action was taken against parents.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“Technology has transformed the working and social lives of many teachers and enhanced the learning experiences of pupils.

“However, it is clear that steps need to be taken to protect teachers from the abuse of social media by pupils and parents.

"Teachers are often devastated by the vile nature of the abuse they are suffering.

“Teachers are often traumatised by the attacks made on them through social media.

“Some have lost their confidence to teach once they see foul and personal remarks made by pupils in their classes and have left the profession.

“Others have been so disturbed by the comments that their health has been affected.

“Great strides had been made by the previous government, working in partnership with the NASUWT and other teacher unions and social media providers, in seeking to address this problem. Comprehensive guidance had been produced about social media and internet safety which promoted good practice for schools on how to protect staff, and indeed pupils, from abuse.

“One of the Coalition Government’s first acts was to remove the guidance on the grounds that it was unnecessary bureaucracy.

“Schools need policies which prevent abuse and identify sanctions which will be taken against parents and pupils who abuse staff in this way. Schools should also be supporting staff in securing the removal of the offensive material from social media sites and encouraging the staff concerned to go to the police.”

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