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Schoolbox 

Using social media to research schoolsChoosing a school is an important decision and there are a range of ways you can research a school's suitability for your child. School visits, websites and guides are all invaluable tools to use. Now you can also add social media to your list of methods. It is becoming increasingly common to research through social media now that schools have more of a presence in the digital space. There are pros and cons to using this approach, so read on for five tips on how best to research schools with social media.

Use it to find the right social and cultural fit

Using a platform like Facebook to research schools makes it easy to see what other families are saying. You can view what the school community is like socially, and ascertain if it will be a good fit for your child. Some schools will list open events on their social media pages that you can attend. Group pages and hashtags are an opportunity to see what the parent and student body are like and whether it will be the right social and cultural fit for your child.

Witness how a school handles criticism

These days, how a school handles criticism is more apparent to the public thanks to social platforms. If a school’s page has a negative review or comment, it is a good opportunity to witness how they and other members of the school community respond. The social nature of these platforms can mean that users often write in the heat of the moment. Witnessing a school handle a comment calmly and respectfully is reassuring for its current and prospective parents.

Cut through the noise

At times, negative reviews are an inaccurate reflection of a school. Harassment has become a real issue online in recent years. So, how do you sort the naysayers from legitimate complaints? It can be difficult to do, but it helps to stick to the school’s official pages and look at other comments to see what the general opinion of the school is. If a complaint concerns you, it is better to communicate directly with the school rather than getting caught up in social threads.

Watch out for false pages

It is not uncommon for schools to be contending with multiple false pages. When using this method to research a school, it is crucial to check that you are looking at an official page. If a school has verified their Facebook page, it will have a white tick in a blue circle icon at the top of the page. Some schools also have social pages for their co-curricular and academic groups. These pages may be parent or student run; as a result you may only be seeing a subset of the school culture. As great as it can be to use these pages in your research, it is worth weighing up whether this is a valuable way to use your time. You may be better off simply booking a school tour at this point, to experience the full gamut of the school’s culture.

Remember - it is not the whole story

Social media should not be the only research tool used when investigating a particular school. Although it is great for getting to know a school’s culture and personality, it does not have the capacity to go into depth on the school’s academic offerings. It is also worth considering that some schools don’t have the capacity to regularly maintain their online presence. As a result, events and imagery can sometimes be out of date. It is always best to refer to their official website or call them to ensure you get accurate information.

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