#TalkTuesday – Instagram as a wellbeing tool for schools

This blog was originally published on Alliance for Learning and has been reposted here with permission.

Kiran Malik, social media manager at Falinge Park High School in Rochdale has recently graduated from SSAT’s Leadership Legacy Project. In this blog piece Kiran and her colleague Fozia Najib, mental health lead, write about the focus of Kiran’s Think Piece on how Instagram is being used as a wellbeing tool at the school.

As a school we are pretty connected in terms of the channels we use to communicate with our community and parent audience via twitter and Facebook. But as we moved into lockdown we wanted to send our students a stay safe message, in addition to asking them how they were feeling. We also wanted to engage with them regularly to encourage good mental health practices, so we floated the idea to trial an Instagram channel for the school. We chose Instagram because of its ability to reach our key audience – the pupils themselves – and because it’s such a versatile platform, enabling us to conduct polls, quizzes and host video challenges.

After presenting a strategy to our Head Teacher, Janice Allen, and assessing the risks working closely with the school’s safeguarding officer, we launched our live #Talk Tuesday session with Fozia, who as mental health lead, often works one-to-one with pupils. This uses the Live feature in Instagram stories, allowing us to stream video to followers and engage with them in real time.

The session takes place on a Tuesday evening at 6pm and lasts an hour, following on from our staff professional learning group discussions where we work on CPD in different discipline groups in the afternoon. We felt this was a good time, as pupils have chance to sit down after the day’s activities with their families. The sessions are inclusive and we welcome parents, our own teaching colleagues and members of the wider community. Our first Live focussed on the general theme of mental health and offered tips on how to stay mentally and physically healthy, addressing concerns individuals may have. We were careful with our message – that we didn’t want to overburden pupils, but that they may find it helpful to keep some sort of routine and to try to stay productive.

It was amazing to see that some of the pupils who had not interacted with us on Google classroom joined the Live and it felt really good to know that they wanted to see us and in some cases chat.

Our second session discussed the sensitive topic of grief and unfortunately some of our pupils have recently been bereaved. One of them joined this live and they told us that it had helped them.

In terms of practicalities we have an Instagram email account to offer a depersonalised email address which is secure and helps ensure pupils can ask anonymous questions or raise themes without having to make themselves known on the platform. It also offers a forum for us to explore themes for upcoming Live sessions.

Initially, we restricted the comments after a limited time period while we trialled the session but in our third session (a cooking demonstration with Fozia) we relaxed them and we were impressed to see that our students respected the rules and were having great fun cooking along with Fozia making her chicken wraps. Before the session we conducted a poll to see what students would like to make and we also posted a list of ingredients in advance. The Live attracted an audience of 400 who watched the session in full.

We now have individuals from Rochdale community groups and organisations who join the session and we have grown from 200 followers to almost 800 in a month. We also have ex-pupils joining.

We do of course follow up with pupils and their family or carer after every session where there is a need to and teaching staff are making regular calls with all of our pupils to stay in touch during the current situation. The positive outcomes and learning experiences from introducing this new way of working are also enabling us as a school to explore this as a platform for other curriculum areas.

We believe that the reason we have had a largely positive response has been due to the fact we have established strong relationships with our pupils. Our school’s values have always been centred around encouraging staff to have strong relationships with the students in our care, and we believe it is for this reason we are fortunate enough to create a dialogue around a topic that can be sensitive and often difficult to approach such as mental health. Our Live allows us to inform and advise but also offer relief and distraction at a time where there is so much uncertainty.

SSAT members can nominate a teacher for the Leadership Legacy Project. Find out more.

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