b'PRWHISPERING CAMPAIGNSA new type of media campaign is forcing schools to respond to (sometimes historical) allegations about staff and pupil behaviour. How should you respond? Tim Toulmin and Anthony Longden reportEveryones Invited is a powerful example of a new breedbroadened into discussion of how the problems of campaign, where various social media platforms aredescribed were based on numerous factors: technology, harnessed and co-ordinated to garner a hard-hitting masssocial media, societal trends, policyall have come response, easily outstripping previously tried-and-testedtogether to influence this environment.response mechanisms of schools and colleges.One early potential pitfall was schools overstating their The harrowing testimonies featured on the Everyonesrole, when the individual stories highlighted by EI were Invited (EI) website have had a seismic impact acrossalways indicative of a much broader issue, a fact that the education sector. Those reverberations are stillshould help frame a proportionate response.being felt, most recently with the publication of Ofsteds safeguarding report, and EIs own decision to publish theA quick assessment needs to be made about the quality name of every school its contributors have referred to of the information. Does it have the ring of truth about it? more than 2,900 of them.Is there proof? How many and varied are the allegations? Is a big response required?Its method and impact have much in common with another recent phenomenon, the Black Lives Matter (BLM)The answers to these questions lead naturally to movement, which brought with it a wave of allegationsthe type of response which is most appropriate. of institutional racism. Tragic and brutal murdersSchools facing many allegations will have to apply a energised both of these existing movementsthose ofhands-up approachtaking ownership of the issue, Sarah Everard and George Floyd respectively. EI and BLMreleasing public statements and being proactive with have been propelled by social media, vocal and skilledcommunications.campaigners and the agenda of the mainstream media. Crucially, though, that does not mean everyone should Political and regulatory responses will ensure the mattersdo the same. are kept in the spotlight for some time to come. The campaigners, particularly those behind EI, are committedTry to keep a sense of perspectiveand clearly in it for the long haul. A flurry of allegations online can be overwhelming, but remember that journalists follow various research How best to respond? routines and will be wary of falling foul of defamation, Perhaps the first step is to acknowledge that this is aprivacy rights and their professional codes of practice. real issue. There are far too many examples for it to be otherwise. It doesnt serve much purpose to ask if it isSome schools will have felt ambushed, thrust suddenly novel behaviour, either. What has fundamentally changedinto the news and confronted with waves of allegations is the environment around it. without any chance to get on top of them. When EI surged into the public consciousness theThose bearing the initial brunt of EI had no choice but position of individual schools varied greatly, as did theto issue public statements, commission investigations, extent of their responses. promptly engage with their alumni and parents, and create detailed action plans for understanding and For EI and BLM, there are three key points to bear in mind: improving the schools culture.When it comes to response, one size does not fit all. Just because one school is making public statementsIn many cases they were compelled to do this before doesnt mean to say you have to do the same.facts were properly established. It was the volume and Dont insert yourselves unnecessarily into a story, or besimilarity of the concerns that cut through, helped by afraid to be assertive. some extremely canny campaigning.Above all, find a response that is proportionate to the issue facing your school. But just because that is a necessary strategic response for one set of schools, doesnt mean that all should follow The context is important: the first phase of the EIsuit. Others had no or few allegations, with perhaps only testimonies singled out several schools, but this rapidlyoccasional mentions on EI or other campaign sites.www.independentinsight.netIwww.iexcellence.co.ukIwww.i25awards.co.uk 15'