Some Lancashire primary schools affected by the recent disastrous floods are finally getting back to business almost as usual. It’s been 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, at four of the schools we work with as Blippit Social, 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.
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!)
Our data for the last 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.
Blippit Social monitors all the schools it supports and can explore the social data pretty much on demand. 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.