Teachers at the Annual Conference of NASUWT Cymru-The Teachers’ Union, have deplored the way comments about teachers can be made on social media platforms, often without any repercussions.
In a recent survey of members nearly one in five (19%) teachers reported having had adverse comments posted about them on social media sites by pupils and parents. These included comments about their competence as a teacher, comments about their appearance, and threatening behaviour.
While the vast majority of teachers (70%) did report the abuse to their employer, the police or the social network, effective response to this abuse remains unacceptably low.
For those reporting to their employer, half (50%) of teachers said no action was taken against the pupil or parent, and 23% said while the pupil was disciplined or the parent was approached, they felt unsupported as it did not match the seriousness of the incident.
69% of those reporting to police said no action was taken, and three-quarters (75%) said the same of the social network.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:
“Online abuse is no longer the preserve of pupils but increasingly parents who don’t even bother to contact the schools with complaints, but post them directly online, subjecting teachers to ‘trials by trolls’.
“The impact on teachers is misery, humiliation, ill health, loss of confidence and blighted careers.
“The NASUWT has campaigned tirelessly for many years to highlight the need to protect teachers from the abuse on social media.
“The education establishment across Wales must take this issue seriously and require schools not only to have a zero-tolerance policy, but to use all the sanctions available to them to address the abuse of staff.”
Meredic Hallett, from the Conwy Association, who proposed the motion, said:
“Teachers are in the public eye. People are often keen to share their expectations and opinions of us, without any consideration of who we really are, or our feelings.
“Inevitably is it the ill-considered, negative comments that have the loudest voice.
“Peer-to-peer communication is fine, and if we face honest criticism we can hopefully respond to that.
“But targeted abuse and hate mail in its various forms is another thing altogether.
“We should robustly challenge and hold to account those who hurt people.”