Apr 11, 2010

Social media case: Headteacher lost job by the power of Facebook

By Tom Kelly and Ryan Kisiel
Last updated at 1:50 AM on 10th April 2010

The head of a girls’ grammar school has quit before she even started in the face of a malicious Facebook campaign by pupils angry at her appointment.
Sally Jarrett, 50, was selected ahead of 11 other candidates by governors of Beaconsfield High, who praised her ‘vision, drive and enthusiasm’.
Pupils were also involved in the selection process, and representatives from the student council interviewed the teachers shortlisted for the appointment which begins in September.
Owain Johns
Teacher Sally Jarrett
Candidates: Owain Johns (left) was the preferred choice of pupils at Beaconsfield High, but Sally Jarrett (right) was offered the role instead
When they failed to secure their preferred choice, acting head Owain Johns, some pupils started a Facebook page calling for him to get the job instead of Mrs Jarrett.
One false claim posted on the social networking site said that Mrs Jarrett planned to name a new building at the Buckinghamshire school after herself.
Many teachers at the school also opposed the decision and the revolt gathered such strength that a fortnight after the appointment governors were forced to defend their choice in a special meeting attended by 30 of the school’s staff.
At the hearing they faced complaints from a staff representative that the views of pupils and teachers were overlooked during the selection of Mrs Jarrett, deputy head of nearby Wycombe High School.
Nearly two weeks later, as the Facebook campaign gathered pace, the school announced that Mrs Jarrett had withdrawn from the position, citing ‘personal and professional reasons’.
Teaching unions have already blamed the Government ‘pupil power’ drive for fuelling a ‘crisis of adult authority’.
In one case highlighted by the Mail this week, children as young as 11 have been issued with iPhones to give instant ratings on their teachers in ‘spy’ email messages to senior staff during lessons.
Beaconsfield High is a selective school for girls aged 11 to 18. It regularly features highly in GCSE and A-level league tables.
Beaconsfield High School for girls
Pupil power: A Facebook page containing false claims about the incoming headteacher was set up by students at the all girls school
One governor described how an online campaign for Mr Johns on Facebook started once Mrs Jarrett was announced as the new head on January 29.
‘A lot of the girls and their parents have got on well with him and were disappointed that he didn’t get the post. There were a lot of comments posted online to that effect.
'Although most of the comments were merely positive about Mr Johns, they started to get negative about Mrs Jarrett. It got nasty and was totally out of order.’
Mr Johns, 35, a design and technology teacher, has been acting head since August. He is popular with pupils and parents, some of whom call him ‘Johnsy’.
Last month he posed in a Dracula costume to promote a charity fun run involving pupils, and took part in the race dressed in a Biggles outfit.
Classroom unions say a growing Government obsession with consulting ‘the student voice’ on all aspects of schooling, including hiring staff, is making their members’ lives increasingly difficult.
Mrs Jarrett, a mother of two, declined to comment. The Facebook page has now been removed. A new head has yet to be appointed but Mr Johns remains in the running for the post.
Buckinghamshire County Council said: ‘Sally Jarrett’s decision not to take the post was taken for professional and personal reasons and is not a matter we can offer further comment on.’