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Teachers to be wary of befriending pupils on Facebook

A web safety consultant has said that social networking through Twitter and Facebook could be a useful tool in the classroom but that teachers should keep their private profile separate.

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A web safety consultant has said that social networking through Twitter and Facebook could be a useful tool in the classroom but that teachers should keep their private profile separate.

An analysis of school disciplinary cases has found that more than 1 in 10 school teachers accused of misconduct last year had used social networking sites and email to forge inappropriate relationships with their pupils.

Facebook, Twitter, online chatrooms and emails were used to befriend children in 43 of the cases brought to the GTC in 2011. 18 teachers were given prohibition orders and struck off, while 14 were suspended. In all, the GTC heard 336 cases of "unacceptable professional conduct" last year.

Transcripts of Facebook messages and internet chatlogs were used as evidence in many of the cases and it was discovered that many of the teachers involved had told pupils to keep quiet about the communication. Seven of the 43 cases in which the internet was a feature involved emails alone, rather than social media. In three cases, although the teachers were disciplined, the particular allegation about social networking was not proved.

Web safety consultants advise schools to take a look at their policies on social networking and discuss them with their staff, currently they vary widely from school to school with some banning teachers from having accounts entirely, while at others staff can be Facebook "friends" with pupils.

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