West Cumbrian headteacher hits back after claims children told to "play on phones" because of teacher shortage
A west Cumbrian school has hit back at angry claims made on social media about the lack of teaching staff and children being told to play on mobile phones during lessons.
Workington Academy was targeted by anonymous users on the Facebook page Workington Rants - News And Views, with 10 posts generating a total of over 200 comments.
Users claiming to be students and parents of pupils said the school had too many supply teachers and that children were told to play on mobile phones during lessons.
Headteacher Colette Macklin admitted there was an issue with staffing, but she rejected claims children were told to play on phones.
However Mrs Macklin said the feedback she received had given her "food for thought" and the school will now review the way it gathers comments from students and parents, as a result of the widespread criticism received.
She said: "We've had some sickness absence and the situation with staffing will be remedied by September.
"Even with all the good will in the world, supply teachers aren't the children's teachers and it's not the same. We do our best to make sure the children have the best quality of education.
"But I've found no evidence about children being told to play on phones."
She added that there was an issue nationally around the recruitment of science and maths teachers but the school was successful in recruit for these roles and new staff will start in September.
Mrs Macklin said: "The days of filling a form are long gone, as teachers we need to talk to children in a way that suits them.
"It's important for children to have a voice and for parents to have a voice, we have to keep up with how people communicate today, parents can't always turn up to meetings. It's given me food for thought.
"There is a bit of a bandwagon being jumped on because the children tagged each other on the posts but it's really important to acknowledge where there are legitimate concerns and find a better way to come and tell me.
"We have Facebook and Twitter pages and some parents turn up and talk to me."
She added that the school had done a lot of work around cyber bullying and the system used to report concerns anonymously about this issue could also be used by students for general concerns.
But Mrs Macklin said children should think about the way they present themselves online.
She said: "Some of comments were legitimate and some were a little bit inappropriate. What we always say to children is if they wouldn't say something in front of their parents, they shouldn't put it on social media."
She added: "The biggest learning for me is that children want to comment and have a say and they don't want it to be too laborious or formal. Ultimately we have to listen to the children and their families, as well as our staff."