Social networking tool Yammer reactivated for school staff despite concerns over pupil information

© DC ThomsonEducation Secretary John Swinney.
Education Secretary John Swinney.

A maligned social networking tool has been reintroduced to Scottish schools despite ongoing concerns over access to pupil information.

Educators were given the green light to log back in to Yammer when they returned from the Summer break last week and are still able to view the profiles of pupils outside their school and local authority, despite warnings from child safety experts.

Access was pulled for all Scottish school users after an investigation by The Courier revealed how ineffective safeguarding on Yammer led to instances of pornographic imagery and inappropriate content being placed on it.

A group of educators who claimed they had previously been threatened with disciplinary action for raising security fears said they were “dismayed” to hear Yammer had been reactivated for staff with many of the same issues.

One teacher said: “I logged back in and was able to access a group which contains pupil information. These kids are not in my local authority, never mind school.

“Our authority hadn’t actually publicised the fact that Yammer was available again. None of our department, including our principal teacher, were aware. There was some dismay when I told them.”

The system, which is hosted on the national digital learning platform Glow, allows staff and pupils, including primary-aged children, to communicate and share private messages with anyone who has access to the network.

Pupil profiles are currently restricted to username only following a service-wide reset of log-in credentials in June but previously included information such as school, year, email address and interest groups.

Users signing in to the system for the first time since the lockdown are now presented with a “use policy” for Yammer, which includes instructions not to share credentials or “content that is inappropriate or likely to cause harm or offence”.

They are also warned that other users on the closed network “may not be who they seem” and that individuals should not meet in person “unless accompanied by a parent, carer or other known and trusted adult”.

Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Ian Gray called on Education Secretary John Swinney and Education Scotland to explain why Yammer had been reactivated “despite it retaining obvious flaws”.

He said: “Education Scotland ignored initial warnings about the app before going ahead with it, and it has also emerged Mr Swinney failed to pull the plug on it when he knew children were likely being confronted with illicit material.

“Now we learn the app is going back online even although we know that the search for a ‘safeguarding product’ has only just begun. That is unacceptable.”

Mr Swinney has pledged the service will not be reactivated for school pupils until he is satisfied that it is safe.

An Education Scotland spokesperson said: “We had a number of approaches from teachers requesting that their access be restored as it is used as an effective peer collaboration tool.

“If teachers have any concerns with Glow, it is important that they raise these with either their local authority or us here, at Education Scotland, so that any issues can be addressed.”