A startling revelation indicates that the UK government has substantially amplified its surveillance of the social media activity of educators. Ranging from leading education experts to teaching assistants and librarians earning modest salaries, the magnifying glass of surveillance closely monitors posts criticising education policies.
This revelation highlights the burning issues of free speech and censorship, causing widespread disquiet among the educational community. The surveillance of educators’ online activity portrays a scenario where dissent or criticism of government policy is not only monitored but also catalogued, potentially affecting the educators’ professional careers.
Educators across the UK have demonstrated a wave of shock and anger in response to the discovery. Many have submitted Subject Access Requests (“SARs”), a Right to Access provision within the General Data Protection Regulation, requiring the Department of Education to disclose the information it holds under their names. These educators found file lengths spanning up to 60 pages, documenting their tweets and comments opposing the government’s policies and criticising schools’ inspectorate, Ofsted.
Nikki Cleveland, a higher-level teaching assistant and primary school librarian, was astounded to find that even her tweets concerning issues such as inadequate funding for school libraries and criticisms of Ofsted had been flagged and stored by the Department. Her discovery has only raised her cynicism towards the government and the Department of Education, questioning their apathy towards the challenges schools face daily.
This disturbing surveillance operation extends to more than just educators. Jon Biddle, a primary school teacher and English lead, reported that “dozens of other teachers” he knew had also discovered their accounts were under scrutiny. The scope and depth of this surveillance have led to growing scepticism about the Department’s priorities and resource allocation.
Cases have also surfaced of the Department attempting to silence voices critical of government policy. Early years specialists Ruth Swailes and Aaron Bradbury have previously faced attempts from the Department to cancel their conference due to their earlier criticisms. Similarly, Dr. Mine Conkbayir, a renowned early childhood author, was allegedly threatened with funding withdrawal for a conference she was scheduled to keynote, due to her criticisms. As she recounts, the Department also attempted to curtail her talk duration and verify her speech contents, pulling the strings of academic dialogue.
In response to these revelations, the Department has chosen to remain largely opaque, stating that it would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases.