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How four schools Facebooked it through the floods

Some Lancashire primary schools affected by the disastrous floods in 2015 dipped into Facebook and threw their parents a line.  It was a horrendous time with highly stressed families, children (mainstream & specialist schools) and last but not least everyone employed at the schools themselves.

To add a little extra stress into the mix, as sub-stations became swamped, power cuts had far reaching effects such as knocking out phone network transmitters.  Broadband was no exception going down for many people for many hours.

Take away the ability to heat anything, dry anything, at night time to ‘see’ anything, drink fresh water or flush toilets and add the fact that many families were kitted out for Christmas and you’re only part way there.

With Nativities rehearsed, costumes made, lines learned, relatives invited, tickets part-sold and in already scarce supply due to school fire regulations (which winds people up every year) you could say it was a perfect storm.

Communication is critical in this kind of situation and at times over the last week there were no options open to schools at all.  It was grim.

However, in amongst the pockets of communication blackouts the messages that squeezed out from each school’s Facebook presence were amplified and carried along by parents to reach those who needed to know what was or wasn’t happening.

The Bay Radio

A special mention went out to a local radio station called ‘The Bay’ who by all accounts did a pretty amazing job at getting people home, bypassing destroyed routes with timely and accurate information updates.

Heads knew that if they asked parents to share updates that originated from the school on Facebook that these updates would carry more authority and hopefully more clarity and this does seem to have been the case.  Interestingly, when the school updated that it needed help, to gain clarity on the current status across the area, it was effectively counting on the wisdom of the crowds.   Some might have said that Heads should have closed down their schools’ presence on Facebook for fear of virtual looting and vandalism but wisely in my view they chose not to.

Together we have learned that the vast majority of parents live up to the bar set for them set by the school.  As a model of good practice for how to use social media effectively and reasonably, parents could not be linked to anything better than the school.  Less savvy parents most definitely got some fantastic guidance too from their peers – it wasn’t all about the school.

…understanding leadership from a distributed perspective means seeing leadership activities as a situated and social process at the intersection of leaders, followers, and the situation.

(Source: Wikipedia ironically enough!)

Monitoring data for that wet month, aggregated across the four schools on Facebook, puts forward a simple view based on experience and evidence and it’s something like this (though the words aren’t right just yet it must be said).

Parent/school social networks can be complementary and highly effective during difficult times thanks to distributed leadership, trust, respect and an increased sense of transparency in the relationships.

The following report extracts show data for the month leading up to and including the last 36 hours and as such show an interesting contrast to ‘normal’ business.

How did page impressions change?

How did the amount of page posts change?

number of posts

How did the population of the communities fluctuate?

Did the community see an increase in virtual onlookers?

When in the week did people engage?

days of the week

What times of the day did people engage

Number of shares by the community

Gender of people commenting in the communities

Is your school positioned to apply for the Social School Award?

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