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Technology-sowy PTAs orefindingTwitter, Focebook ondothersociolmedioo

greotwoyto keepmoreporents in theloop.

generally eschewprofessionalcourses. As a freelancescribbler it is hard to justi$z an unpaid day away from my desk and I am also of the view that most work skills are best learnt on the iob. However,the other week I ,., -.d. on exception and attendeda workshop socialmediafor journalists.For some months, I have been reluctantly creeping towards the grim realisationthat my lotech journaLismis nearing its sell-by dare. I d9n't blog, I don't nveet and I am yer to upload my mug shot on the Facebook account which my friend's daughterset up for me rvvo yearsago. Not so long ago,I was almost proud of

22 ffi

Spring

my Luddism, taking the view that people who spent hours posting on virtual walls were people with a lot of time on their hands.But countlessqueriesabout my non-existent blog from fellow journos and countlessmore Linkedln invitations from people I have worked with over the years,have taken their toll. However much I may wish it were otherwise, online communication is clearlvnot iust for my friend's daughterand her t..rirg. mates. Itts for everyone who wants to stayin touch - and in work. PTAs acrossthe country have come to this realisationfar more quicklv than me and are communicaringwith parentsin

reports ways that would have been unimaqinable even five yearsago.

Thke Bollin Primary School in Cheshire. Google the school'sname and its pTA websitepops up complete with information on how to also connect with the PTA via Facebook,Linkedln and Twitter. "'W'estarted looking at how we could better communicareirith parentsabout rvvoyearsago," saysJulieSaunders, responsiblefor communication at the PTA. "People didn't alwaysnotice playground postersadvertising events.So

www.parentandteacher.com


we sent out a questionnaireasking parents how they wanted to receive infor"mation about the PTA's activities."

Email got a near universal thumbs_uo from the school'sparenrsand so the bTA set up its own email account and started sendingregulare-updates.parentmail,rhe school-to-home email serviceusedby Bolin and 4000 other primaries and secondaries,also receivesthe updates,but Julie saysrhe PTA felt it important to haveits own distinct emai_liccount. "lt's certainly easierto have an email conversationwith the classrep than to grab five minutes with her in-the playground." There was lessinitial enthusiasmat the primary for Facebook andTwitter. but one parricularlytechnologicalmember of the PTA ream pressedaheadand the pTA now has25 Facebookersand 14Twitter followers. "I have a Twitter relationship with some parentswhom I haven't actually met in the flesh," notes Tulie. Linkedln has proved successfuitoo. especiallywith fathers and parentswho work full-time. "We now. for example.set dadssayingthey'll supply rhe barbecue" tablesand gazebofor the sununer fair and offering to put them up too.We finallv havea direct line to thim. Before thev would get messages second-handfrom their wives." And if they were separatedfrom those wives, Bollin's dadswere even lesslikelv to, know whar was going on ar the school,commentsJulie:"If you don't live with your you aren'rchecking their ^child, book bag for slipson a daily basis." That said.when it was planning its technologicalrevolution,it. pfA Dut rhe childrens book bagsto good use."'Every step.of the r1'aywe popped in slips explaining the new developments.It *as very important thar people didn't feel excludedor think ttrat s^ocial media was y'ddenly going to replace traditional torms ot communication like all hard copiesof the newsletter.Wepaced ourselvesreally carefully.Using online platforms is about reaching thi school's wider demographic,not making the less computer-literate feel left out.'i Lucy Athey, PTA secretaryof Slade _ Primary in Tonbridge.agrees."Social medrars very usefulfor duplicating information - ir's an additional wa! of contactlngparentsthat should be usedin conjunction with other methods.'r Of which there are many at Slade

JulieSounders, BollinprimorySchoolpTACheshire PTA usesaWiki, a free and entirely collaborative site, updated by all members on an equal basis."'We didn't want an open social site," sayspSA chair Lizzie Bloom. "It felt almost too exposed and you can't use a social site for planning. "And withWiki the whole-pro..rii, completely democratic.I uploid all of the PTA's Excel and Word documentsso thar anyone who wants to knows what's Interestingly,social media is slowly coming up can do so.And everyone can winning out. "A quarrerof the 250 post comments. Equally,when an event is familiesat the schbol are now members over, it goes into the archive section for of the Facebookgroup we serup possiblefuture reference.It means that elghteen,months ago and many of them when I step down I won't have to forward are people who, in the past,have not been hundreds of emails to the new chair." especiallyinvolved in tlie pTA." savs Working without emails,notes Lizzie. Lucy. "Peoplewho ignore a note in a alsomeansthat there are no bruisedesos bookbag will often rispond to the when people aren't sent one. .When frunedlacy ot a text or emai]." Highgate primary's pSA first And the missivesaren'tjust one_way: turned its mind to social media a year "Parentsoften drop me a line after an ago,one of the team suggestedTwitter. It event to say how much they've enjoyed went down about as well as my Seventies rt, or text with ideasfor future projects," school dinners."We aren'tan especiallv she says. afiluent or hi-tech communiry and. to'be At Highgate Primary School in north frank. a lot of people weren't surewhat London, two-way communication has Twitter was," recallsLizzie. reacheddizzy new heiqhts.Insteadof Not especiallyafluent or hi-tech _ ves. FacebookorTwitter .rr.n email,the I know how rhat feels. ",id

www.parentandteacher,com -

Primary. "'We have a Facebook group, use a Twitter feed, send emails,,rr. tlh. ^ school'stext messagingserviceand regularlyupdate our page of the school's website.But we alsocontact parentsvia the traditional newslerter,a n^odceboard, postbox and notes popped into 9ur fTA the children'sbags."

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Meet & tweet  

How PTA's are using facebook and twitter to enage parents

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