What’s in a Whatsapp group?

School Whatsapp groups often exclude dads. There’s still a lot to do to counter assumptions that women are the main care givers.


Last week our workingdads.co.uk editor James Millar wrote an article in the Telegraph about the exclusion of dads from school Whatsapp groups. It hit a nerve.

At only son’s primary school there is a class Whatsapp group for parents. It’s called ‘[school name] Mums’. It is the source of lots of stuff, eg this week’s spellings, odd sock day, random costume days, homework info, inset day reminders, traffic problems around the school and how to contribute to the teacher xmas present.

I’m not aware of a ‘xx Dads’ group. I didn’t set the group up. I was added in, as are the mums of all newcomers. I’m not entirely sure who is in charge of it and who to approach to change it. I confess that, after four children, I am not big on school politics now and generally rush in at the last minute to pick up then have another pick up to do straight after.

But clearly the Whatsapp group assumes that dads generally are not that involved in the everyday lives of their kids. Most of the messages are reminders of stuff most people already know. Also there is a lot of other stuff I am sure I am excluded from because I am out on the fringe and I don’t go to a lot of non-school-related meet-ups etc. Plus only son is a bit of a loner. I’ve never been on a Whatsapp group before with the other kids and I didn’t forget stuff then,  but it is a good way to ensure mums feel in some way connected and if, for instance, you are not sure if football is cancelled this week you can ask on the group and someone will know.

In addition to Whatsapp information, there is what you get sent from the school. There are so many means of communication with schools and they keep changing on a yearly basis that it is hard to keep up. It’s the same with conference calls for work. Every time you master one of them, another one comes on the scene.

Currently, I get Dojo, Ping and the mums’ Whatsapp group from primary school. Daughters two and three are at different secondary schools. Each has their own online payment system and every Friday afternoon there are newsletters. Every week I look forward to daughter three’s school’s word of the week. Last week it was ‘fragile’. I have no idea on what basis the words are chosen, but I have told daughter three that my week is not truly over until I know what this week’s word is.

My partner gets all the secondary school stuff, but I have just asked him if he gets Dojo and Ping and he looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language.

There are no Whatsapp groups for secondary school. The main information you get is gossip about teachers and inter-group politics from the kids, which may or may not be accurate, information about sports fixtures and a list of teachers who are leaving this term. Nothing at all about traffic around the school, for instance. They’d rather you didn’t come anywhere near the school.

Over the next couple of weeks the primary school group will be fairly quiet. There will be the odd happy new year message and then, the day before school starts, a rush of questions about what day they go back on and whether there was a xmas homework project. It really is that exciting, but being excluded sends a clear message about who is considered the primary carer.

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