The Prince of Wales School in Dorchester has become the very first school in Dorset to gain the prestigious ‘Social School Award’.

The Social School Award is a certified quality mark to recognise a school for the way it uses social media to connect, promote and engage with parents/carers and the wider whole-school community.

The school has long embraced the use of social media to promote parental engagement and first started using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube services back in 2009.

As early adopters, the school were cautious in their approach initially just using the platform to post links to their Class Blog posts (via an RSS feed). Deputy Headteacher, Miss. Ann Johnson explains, “Back in 2009, we were the only school we were aware of using this type of technology. We didn’t allow parents to comment on our posts and we didn’t make full use of the service.

“Although we only used limited elements of Facebook’s capability at the time, we saw instant benefit. Sharing content in an environment where parents and carers were comfortable increased parental engagement, supported community cohesion and gave our Class Blog posts a bigger audience.”

Headteacher Gary Spracklen joined the school in September 2017 and bought a wealth of experience in using social media in schools. Mr. Spracklen, a former South-West Digital Educator of the Year, could see the potential for learning in increasing the school’s use of social media.

His advice to others school leaders is simple: “When using social media to promote parental engagement and support learning, I would recommend starting small, go where you feel comfortable first. Dip your toe in and don’t be afraid to get things wrong. One short post a day could make all the difference for one family. As you gain in confidence, you will be able to explore new ways to engage, innovate and inspire community-wide learning."

Following the school’s success, Prince of Wales now leads workshop for other schools across the region in the effective use of social media to promote parental engagement, including colleagues from The Dorchester Areas Schools Partnership (DASP) attending a twilight session at The Prince of Wales School.

The school has also presented at the recent Dorset SAFSO Conference for school administrators. Mr. Spracklen said: “It was great to share our example of best practice with colleagues from across Dorset. Critically, we want to encourage schools to move beyond social media being a place they just post job adverts to a tool they can truly maximise to engage with their community for the benefit of learning. At The Prince of Wales School we are proud to be part of such a strong community both in the physical and virtual worlds”.

The sense of community was recognised by the school’s recent Ofsted Report in June 2018 which stated - The Prince of Wales School has a "shared sense of purpose in all members of the school community. This is recognised by staff, parents, governors and pupils."