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'Influencer teachers': Minister says it's generally not appropriate for commercial videos to be shot in schools

There have been calls for schools to clamp down on such influencer activity taking place.

EDUCATION MINISTER NORMA Foley has said it is her department’s view that “it would not generally be appropriate for commercial content to be shot on school property”.

“However, such decisions are a matter for the board of management/ETB concerned,” she said, while pointing to potential issues around data protection and the Teaching Council’s code of conduct for teachers.

Her comments come after it was highlighted that several teachers with social media followings – which they have gained from sharing content about their teaching experiences – have been posting videos showing them using Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) materials in the classroom, with children visible in the background. 

The materials came from HRI’s ‘The Road to Racing Primary School Programme’. 

In a response to Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the minister said the board of management of each school have a responsibility to ensure the quality of education and to manage staff in the school.

The minister also pointed out that under the Teacher Council of Ireland code of professional conduct, teachers should “avoid conflict between their professional work and private interests which could reasonably be deemed to impact negatively on pupils/students”.

The code of conduct is in place so the education community and public can be informed about the “expectations” that are placed on them, with the code also used as a “reference point” in exercising any investigative or disciplinary functions. 

In the response, it was also explained that teachers must comply with GDPR regulations, which includes the assurance that videos are processed in compliance with data protection legislation.

Schools should also have in place an “acceptable use policy” to address all rights, privileges, responsibilities and sanctions associated with the use of the internet and digital technologies within the school, said Foley, who added that this policy applies to staff as well as pupils. 

Education lecturer Cara Reilly flagged the practice this week on social media.

One of the teacher influencers who filmed social media posts in her classroom and then posted them online, spoke in the video about how she has been using HRI’s “new, free, primary school programme which is all about horse racing”. 

The account has 16,000 followers on Instagram. 

She said that through materials provided by HRI, she has been taking the children in her class “along the journey of jockey Danny Mullins”. 

She said that her students, using materials provided by HRI “decided to write about a day in the life of jockey Danny Mullins”, and she showed clips of the exercises written out by children. 

Other similar videos have been posted on TikTok by various Irish teacher influencer accounts. 

HRI is the governing body for horse racing in Ireland. 

It receives public funding through the Government – to the tune of €72.8 million this year.

It has asked for more funding to cover the costs arising from increasing insurance costs, the difficulties posed by Brexit, and the need for investment in veterinary care. 

It also generates a substantial amount of money into the country’s economy. 

Following the response from the minister, Ó Ríordáin said it is time for school boards of management to “clamp down” on such influencer activity in schools, calling for the department to issue a circular to all schools. 

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