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SCHOOL

Swedish teacher rapped for ‘Facebook favourites’

A Swedish teacher has irked parents after befriending certain students on Facebook and Instagram - but not others. Officials are now revising the school's social media policy.

Swedish teacher rapped for 'Facebook favourites'
Being Facebook friends with students can be a problem. File photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The teacher in Helsingborg, southern Sweden, was "friends" with certain students on Facebook and Instagram, and would send heart emoticons and comments to them from her personal account. Other students were left wondering why the teacher hadn't accepted their friend requests.

What started as frivolous Facebook fun took a wrong turn when parents heard of bullying in the class, and the perpetrators were the teacher's pets. 

"As it turned out, the teacher had a special relationship to the students who were behind the bullying," one parent told local paper Helsingborgs Dagbladet

"Of course it's not okay to subject students in this way, as this teacher allegedly has done," Edward Jesinger, head of development on Helsingborg's school board, said.

"Our children felt cruelly abandoned," another parent explained.  "Everyone knew, everyone could see who was on the teacher's friend list."

Although parents doubted that the teacher realized the seriousness of her actions, they decided to take matters into their own hands. When the principal wouldn't listen, they went to the city.

The city's guidelines for how the faculty should handle social media are from 2010 – but Jensinger  said it's time for an update.

"This has been an ongoing discussion in schools since Facebook started," he said. "We noticed last autumn that the guidelines were out of date."

The teacher in question was also friends with several of the children's parents, and Jensinger said that the situation may be complicated if a friend's child inadvertently ended up in a class.

However, he recommended that teachers "pause" friendships in that case, or create a teaching account separate from his or her personal account.

The city's new regulations for social media will be released this autumn to avoid future incidents, Jensinger said.

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EDUCATION

Distance learning remains a ‘possibility’ for Swedish schools: Education minister

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said on Wednesday.

Distance learning remains a 'possibility' for Swedish schools: Education minister
Education Minister Anna Ekström (L) and general director of the Schools Inspectorate, Helén Ängmo. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Minister Anna Ekström made the comments during a press conference in which she outlined the rules ahead of back-to-school season but did not make any new announcements.

She urged schools to be “flexible”, outlining some of the measures which have been recommended by the National Board of Education since an early stage in the pandemic.

This include changing furniture arrangements to promote distancing, staggering lesson and break times to prevent students mixing in large groups, and increasing cleaning. Many parent-teacher meetings are likely to be cancelled, she said.

Schools for under-16s have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Ekström said this decision was based on research showing children were affected by the virus to a lesser extent. “The younger the child, the more mild the symptoms,” she said.

In Sweden, only one of the almost 6,000 people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus was aged under 10, and none of the victims have been in the 10-19 age group.

Ekström added that no occupational group linked to schools had been over-represented in Sweden's coronavirus statistics.

In addition to taking this kind of measures, heads of schools have also been given additional decision-making powers.

These include the ability to switch to remote learning, or make other changes such as adapting the timetable (including moving lessons to weekends) if necessary due to the infection situation. 

“If the situation gets worse, teaching can be moved partially or entirely to distance learning. This could happen in the whole country, individual schools, or in municipalities or regions where schools may need to close as a measure to prevent spread of infection,” Ekström said.

“The government is prepared to take measures, but we don't want to close schools.”

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