Teaching unions in Wales have called for more specific guidance about the dangers of social media, following several high profile disciplinary cases.
According to the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), five out of 21 cases last year involved teachers interacting with pupils on sites like Facebook, the BBC reports. Its code of conduct was last revised in 2010 and states that communication should be ‘appropriate’.
Unions say that guidance needs to be clearer, following disciplinary cases that made the headlines. These included a teacher who was reprimanded after her comments about drinking and partying on Facebook were seen by pupils, and another who was suspended after she sent inappropriate messages to a 17 year-old pupil.
Teaching unions claim the problem is serious, with the NUT estimating that it has received hundreds of calls in the last few years from worried teachers in Wales. The NASUWT argues that the GTCW code condones, and perhaps encourages, communication with pupils on social media.
Stuart Williams from NUT Cymru lectures trainee teachers about the dangers of social media and believes there should be clearer guidance. “We’d really like things to be black and white, not grey,” he said. “If it comes across as grey with professional conduct then I think we need to look at something which tells them exactly what they can and what they can’t do. The guidelines are there, they could be a little more stringent.”
ATL Cymru’s Philip Dixon blamed the explosion of social media for blurring the boundaries between personal and professional life. “Codes of conduct in every profession are struggling to keep up,” he said. “As a rule of thumb we would advise members not to post on Facebook what they would not stick on the staffroom wall. But we need more than a rule of thumb.”
Hayden Llewellyn from the GTCW said his organisation is always open to working with teaching unions to promote high standards of professional conduct. “While we welcome their calls for clearer guidance on the use of social media to be contained within the code, to do so risks contradicting specific guidance or policies in place within individual schools or local authorities.”
Do you feel the guidelines on using social media need to be tightened – and if so, how?