We took to social media and asked parents to let us know what they thought of ParentMail’s mobile App…
More schools are saving money and more parents are getting instant information than ever before!
Is this approach counter-productive to improving parental engagement?
Over the last few years, the way we pay for things has changed dramatically, from cash and cheques, to debit and credit card and most recently to cashless, mobile and contactless payments.
Efficiency, security, reliability… just a few of the wonderful things online payments promise to deliver. However, many schools are being short-changed by their provider. Establishing a cashless culture that works for everyone (from staff in the school office to busy …
Top tips for introducing reliable online payments
Efficiency, security, reliability… just a few of the wonderful things online payments promise to deliver.
However, many schools are being short-changed by their provider. Establishing a cashless culture that works for everyone (from staff in the school office to busy parents paying at home) is easier said than done. It takes time and patience to seek out a system that benefits everyone.
Whether you’re switching suppliers or considering online payments for the first time, start out on the right foot with our checklist of the top ten areas to consider to guarantee a stress-free cashless culture…
A system which leaves you high and dry during the busiest periods will only lead to frustrated parents and more work for your team. Challenge new suppliers to provide evidence of system accessibility for schools. It’s also worth carrying out some research on social media, too, to investigate parent experiences with payment providers.
2. Payment methods
Check which payment methods a system offers for parents; for example, can parents pay with PayPal, credit, debit card or PayPoint? Your system needs to be socially inclusive to support all parents, as well as able to cater for cash payments when necessary.
3. Flexible reporting
Ask your chosen supplier about reporting tools. Is it easy to look up accounts, balances and payments so you can keep arrears in check? Are reports flexible and easy to access? Your system should offer a helpful insight to support school teams; for example, data on popular dinner choices could help to reduce waste and manage suppliers.
Most parents are rarely far from their smartphones, so ensuring your payment system is mobile friendly is essential. A convenient, reliable and secure school payment app is guaranteed to support speedy payments.
5. Cashless catering
Choose a payment system that integrates with your cashless catering system, ensuring it offers low balance reminders and payment-due alerts to keep parents up to date on payments due. Extra benefits such as the ability to view their child’s dinner choices or the option to pay for particular items in advance are also sure to impress parents and improve uptake.
6. Payment options
Support parents to budget for more expensive items, such as trips or events, with payment instalments, providing information in advance so both your school team and parents can plan ahead.
Investigate the system functionality for setting up year groups, classes and other pupil groups. This way, you will be well placed to communicate with groups about specific payments, making it easier for parents to see what they need to buy.
Increase order accuracy by choosing a system which offers multiple options against payment items (for example, sizes of PE kit or school uniform items).
For administrative purposes, ensure the system integrates with your school’s MIS. This will enable you to easily upload new pupils onto the system at the start of the school year.
And last, but by no means least, ensure your new solution can be easily migrated from old systems with ease, allowing you to transfer balances and re-create ongoing payment items.
Our free Online Payments Guide explores in detail the potential issues and vital considerations for schools adopting a stress-free cashless culture. We share first-hand experiences and best-practice advice from schools utilising online payments providers today.
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Today, a huge 85% of schools run breakfast clubs, setting students up for a day of learning and offering a lifeline for busy parents. Beyond the well-known benefits of a good breakfast, research suggests that these clubs have a much deeper positive …
Food for thought – planning breakfast clubs
Today, a huge 85% of schools run breakfast clubs, setting students up for a day of learning and offering a lifeline for busy parents.
Beyond the well-known benefits of a good breakfast, research suggests that these clubs have a much deeper positive impact on children’s learning. A 2014 audit of school breakfast provisions found that 45% of schools saw attendance improve as a direct result of breakfast clubs and nearly 50% noticed an increase in student concentration.
With the rising popularity of breakfast clubs, the school day no longer starts at 8:30am. Thousands of primary schools are opening their doors as early as 7am to sleepy students and panicked parents in a rush to get to work on time. For some children, breakfast club may be their only opportunity to enjoy a good meal before a day of learning.
When it comes to putting plans in place for this all-important provision, there are lots of things for school teams to consider that go far beyond choosing whether to serve toast or cereal!
Picking your team
Organising staff cover depends on the number of students that will be attending each day. Some mornings may be busier than others, so knowing this number in advance is important. Many schools rely on the support of teaching assistants but, if resources are running low or your school has a reliable PTA or Friends Association, consider asking parent volunteers to lend a hand on a rota basis.
For schools in the early stages of setting up a breakfast club, it has also proven beneficial to involve a senior leader or headteacher in the planning process. They will be well-placed to connect the initiative with other school efforts, such as strategies to improve attendance and punctuality, enabling staff teams to share resources and achieve a shared goal.
What’s the point?
Schools run breakfast clubs for a variety of reasons. For those operating in deprived areas, the priority is to provide healthy food options and improve attendance; for other schools, breakfast clubs offer reliable and affordable childcare for busy parents.
Depending on your school’s priorities, you may wish to open breakfast clubs to all students or encourage a particular demographic to attend – those receiving Free School Meals, for example.
Talking to parents is a great way of making decisions around the practicalities of your club, from what time to open the doors, to what food to include on the menu. Ask questions and act on feedback from those who will use the club (and possibly even keep it running) to start on the road to success.
Funding and payments
The cost of running breakfast clubs often relies heavily on the school budget so deciding a pricing structure is important. Many primary schools charge a nominal fee for attendance, be it an hourly price, an itemised list of menu items or a wraparound care ‘package’. For FSM students, some schools charge a very small amount so food isn’t perceived as a hand-out.
Collecting club fees and payments can be the source of a great many financial frustrations. Thousands of schools have seen the benefit of opting for cashless payments for fees; online payments help schools reduce dinner money debt and parent arrears, too. Choosing a platform which works for both parents and schools is key for protecting the budget. Fortunately, we have the perfect solution for you…
So, you know who’s involved, what’s on the menu and determined a payment structure. Now it’s time to serve up success!
Ensuring your club doesn’t become an additional admin headache is vital. We’ve heard from many schools about the issues associated with wraparound care. Saving time and streamlining processes for schools is what we’re all about, so we set out to develop a solution to ensure the smooth running of breakfast clubs this year.
New to +Pay, Advance Bookings functionality enables schools to request menu choices and club bookings early; parents select menu options, make bookings and pay, all in one easy process. This means schools can plan resources well in advance for upcoming breakfast clubs, from staff cover and volunteers to the food on offer, reducing kitchen waste and unnecessary stress – because who wants stress first thing in the morning?
The flexible platform also allows for clubs to be split into separate sessions. For parents who wish for their child to attend only the latter part of a breakfast club, for example, the system allows this and updates available spaces in real-time; this is particularly helpful for clubs with a limited number of spaces, leaving the remaining half of the session free for others to book.
Advance Bookings supports schools in saving time and protecting budgets whilst improving communication with parents. With our handy mobile app, club bookings and payments are easy for parents, so schools receive a great response. With payments made upfront and in advance, arrears remain low and budgets balanced, enabling schools to plan for a sustainable and financially-healthy future.
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If I had a pound for every time I asked my children how their day was, and they replied, “Fine”, I’d be a very rich woman! It got me thinking about better ways to get kids to open up. Some …
“How was your day?” Encouraging after-school chat
If I had a pound for every time I asked my children how their day was, and they replied, “Fine”, I’d be a very rich woman! It got me thinking about better ways to get kids to open up.
Some children love talking about school. With others, encouraging them to share even a few details can feel like fighting a losing battle, especially if things are going wrong at school, such as bullying, friendship fall-outs or exam stress.
If your child is on the quieter side or particularly private, there are still ways to ask questions that will open up a conversation rather than shutting them down in an instant.
I’ve noticed that, often, when parents hear “fine,” they react in one of two ways. Some parents will go on to ask lots more questions, in an effort to get the conversation going. However, studies have shown that asking too many questions can feel invasive, especially to teenagers, causing them to clam up and withdraw – the very opposite of what you’re trying to do.
Other parents, tired of hearing the usual response, may stop asking altogether. However, research has shown that children who share limited communication with their parents when growing up report more mental and behavioural health difficulties.
So, it’s a fine line between asking and demanding. It’s important to consider your tone of voice, body language and intentions. The best way is to relax and ask genuinely interested open-ended questions; you have two ears and one mouth for a reason – to listen more than you speak! Often children prefer it if you are doing something else at the same time, such as driving, walking the dog or peeling the potatoes.
Active and enthusiastic parental involvement can positively influence your child’s engagement at school, their academic success and help them to achieve long-term educational goals. Simple and positive communication, every day, strengthens your child’s self-esteem and confidence and develops long-term happy childhood memories.
Communication at different ages
With young children, school day conversations usually revolve around school subjects, new friendships or concrete experiences. For example, a young child might share with you:
“I played on the slide at lunch time today with Emily!”
Start by asking an open-ended question that opens up and expands the conversation rather than closing the conversation down. Steer away from a response that requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer:
‘Oh, that sounds fun, what did you play after that?’
At around 7-9 years old, friendships become increasingly important to your child. They may be more interested in talking about their friendships than about their schoolwork, so show an interest by asking about their friends, such as:
“Tell me about Joe. What does he like to play at breaktime?”
Children between 9-11 might begin to see your questions as nosy, which can lead to less information sharing. So, change your questioning style to be less intensive. Instead, approach questions by asking about your child’s friends to kick start a conversation:
“What do your friends think about the new P.E teacher?”
Talking with teens
Children are turning into young adults during teenage years and, as such, you have to change your style of relating to them to remain connected but not intrusive. Find simple things you can do together – walking the dog, eating together regularly, watching sport or pursuing an activity such as baking or arts and crafts, so conversations naturally flow from there. Stay involved in your children’s lives and show interest, but steer clear from seeming overtly inquisitive. Create opportunities for conversations and don’t get caught up in only nagging!
Most importantly, maintain the long-term, bigger picture of your relationship in mind and keep conversations positive. Focus on asking your child about their opinions and thoughts, instead of just telling them yours, and try getting them involved in some family decision making.
Remember, it’s normal for your teenager to seek out more privacy and share less information with you. They are growing up and transitioning into a young adult. So be flexible and respect your teens privacy when they need it.
If you find yourself exasperated, frustrated and completely at a loss to get your kids chatting, here are a few starters:
- What was the favourite part of your day?
- What made you laugh today?
- Who were you kind to today?
- What new fact did you learn today?
- When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
- What rule was the hardest to follow today?
- What games did you play at break time today?
- Was there anything that happened today that made you feel bad?
- What did you do in school today that you really enjoyed?
- Who inspired you today?
As you’d expect, children often feel quite tired at the end of the school day. If they aren’t up to talking straight away, hold back on your questions until they have had time to relax and unwind. Once refuelled, they may be up for sharing.
Parental engagement apps are a great way of keeping on top of what’s going on in your child’s school day. By keeping in touch with the latest school news, you’ll be better placed to have a conversation about lessons, homework, trips and activities.
So, if your school uses an online engagement platform to stay in touch with parents, it’s super important to make the most of it.
Regardless of your child’s age, keep in mind that it’s the quality of frequent but small positive conversations that you have over time that will make the biggest difference – so keep trying and don’t give up!
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With a busy September behind us, we caught up with Langstone Junior Academy to find out how they’ve got on enrolling new parents and welcoming back returning ones this year. Back in July, we spoke with Administrator, Lorraine Reeves, who reported the …
Langstone Junior Academy save over £2000 in six weeks with ParentMail
With a busy September behind us, we caught up with Langstone Junior Academy to find out how they’ve got on enrolling new parents and welcoming back returning ones this year.
Back in July, we spoke with Administrator, Lorraine Reeves, who reported the school had saved a huge £9000 during academic year 2018/19, with a helping hand from ParentMail.
“We’ve found that if you make time at the start of term to support parents with ParentMail, it pays dividends in the future,” says Lorraine. “In fact, we’re in the habit now of speaking with all new parents in advance of September to encourage them to register before their child actually starts at school. That way, we hit the ground running at the beginning of term, with all parents receiving important information immediately.”
A little over a month into the new academic year and the school already has 100% of parents registered and nearly 90% using the ParentMail app to stay on top of important school news.
“The vast majority of parents are more than happy to use ParentMail to engage with us. Modern-day, busy parents see the benefits of receiving school information via an app; they love how user-friendly and reliable it is, and they’re never without their mobile phones.”
“But, for the few who are a little more tech-adverse, we don’t let them slip through the net! Some parents need a helping hand or persuasion to give it a go. I invite those parents into the office, where I explain the benefits of ParentMail face to face, run through how to use the app and get them signed up there and then. Sometimes, I’ll download the app and do the registration process for them. By the time they leave, they know how to navigate the app and how to read messages – which is great for them, but also handy for us in the office, too.”
With parents’ evening just around the corner, Lorraine has another trick up her sleeve for persuading the last lingering few into using the ParentMail app.
“I explain, we use Parents’ Evening Manager when it comes to managing parents’ meetings and appointments, and they’ll find it far easier to book a meeting of their choice if they use the app. So, install it now before we send out invitations, and you’ll benefit in just a few short weeks!”
“The reports provided on the platform are very useful; we monitor open rates and can clearly see those who haven’t clicked on school messages.”
“While we use ParentMail regularly in the office, teachers also really benefit from the system in the classroom. We’re proud to be a completely paperless school and, at this time of the year, when there’s so much to share with parents, an online system is far superior to print and paper. Teachers don’t need to waste valuable time chasing parents for responses or handing out endless paper letters at the end of the school day.”
Langstone Junior Academy receives a gold star for their parent uptake efforts this year and are enjoying all the benefits as a result, with the financial savings quickly adding up. Now, with parents’ evening approaching, the team are looking forward to a smooth and organised event.
“Parents’ evening is simple with Parents’ Evening Manager. We have no worries when it comes to making plans for the night. It’s so easy to set up. Teachers are organised, parents are prepared – it’s easy!”
Find out how ParentMail can support your school with huge time and cost savings this year. Get in touch to speak to the team!
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Parent teacher evenings are a wonderful opportunity for parents to get involved with their child’s education. Usually held twice a year, autumn term meetings serve as a good opportunity to build strong and productive relationships with teachers, with spring meetings …
Making the most of parents’ evenings
Parent teacher evenings are a wonderful opportunity for parents to get involved with their child’s education.
Usually held twice a year, autumn term meetings serve as a good opportunity to build strong and productive relationships with teachers, with spring meetings ideal for picking up areas requiring attention before the end of the school year.
In secondary school, the format changes. Rather than just one meeting with their child’s class teacher, parents sit with individual subject teachers, attending multiple short sessions throughout the evening. For new parents, meetings may feel a little rushed, occasionally bordering on hectic. However, secondary school parents’ evenings remain a great opportunity for teachers and parents to catch up and, for this reason, it’s important to prepare in advance and make the most of the short window of time you get.
School staff spend many hours collating data and information in preparation for parents’ evenings. Unfortunately, sometimes the parents’ perspective can be overlooked when planning for these important events.
Time is always at a premium during parents’ evenings. Busy teachers can have over 30 sessions per evening depending on their class or year group. However, in my experience as a deputy head and class teacher for 25 years, as well as working with parents and families as a parent coach, it’s a good idea to ensure parents don’t feel rushed.
For the evening to be a productive experience for everyone involved, parents need to feel listened to, as well as spoken to. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a teacher is clock watching. A parent who leaves feeling as though their appointment was both meaningful and beneficial will feel positively engaged with their child’s education.
It is almost inevitable that meetings will overrun, so try to allow time between appointments. While extending the time of all appointments is impractical for most schools, providing the opportunity for parents to book another time to continue the conversation always works well, be it a phonecall, face to face or Skype meeting. A brief follow-up email has also proven successful for many schools, improving relationships whilst solving any time-related issues.
Flexibility, mobility and convenience
Whether balancing work commitments, child-care or family life, parents often struggle to book appointments to suit their busy schedules. This sometimes results in families opting out of parents’ evening completely; this is also a consideration for divorced parents attempting to navigate the choppy waters of joint meetings.
Making the booking process quick, simple and convenient can vastly improve turnout on the evening; this is something that ParentMail has taken into account when building their free mobile app and Parents’ Evening Manager platform. For parents, selecting appointments is speedy and secure. Schools can send multiple invitations to various family members, facilitating the needs of split families to ensure both parents have the opportunity to attend this all-important event.
There’s more to raising a happy, confident child than their data
Of course, communicating grades and information is important for a child’s progression, particularly for those studying for GCSEs and A-Levels. However, many parents still appreciate hearing less about data and more about their child as an individual. Data means only so much to a parent, with many preferring a holistic view of their child; their friendships, mental wellbeing and happiness, behaviour in class and attitude towards learning, for example. For parents, this information is just as important as their child’s academic performance.
Don’t play things down
While most parents will argue they want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on parents’ evening, it is vital for teachers consider the way in which they deliver such truths!
Sharing difficult information with parents is tricky, no doubt about it. However, there are ways to do so without causing offence or hostility. From personal experience, I find maintaining a positive and enthusiastic attitude very helpful while delivering difficult information. Be prepared with an anecdote of the child’s personal strength. The ‘sandwich technique’ bookends constructive feedback with praise; in other words, feedback ‘sandwiched’ between two layers of positivity.
While it may feel daunting to feedback negativity about a child, most parents understand how important it is for a teacher to communicate honestly about their child’s behaviour and academic performance. Building bridges between home and school has been shown in many studies to aid the wellbeing, success and academic achievement of children.
Most schools are aware of catering for divorced, separated and step-families. Building an environment in which all members of the family feel welcomed and comfortable goes an awfully long way in supporting students, with mindful communications between parents and schools helping to ease tension or awkward encounters. Home/school communication plays a very important role in the run-up to parents evening.
It’s important to make sure that every parent or care giver has the opportunity to be involved in their child’s education by knowing the dates and times of parents’ evening. So, by simply checking and updating contact details, schools can make the difference between a positive or negative experience for parents. This level of attention to detail and proactive thought will be greatly appreciated by parents.
Parents’ evenings play a vital role when it comes to supporting children with special educational needs. It’s important for parents of children with additional needs to feel that their child is being nurtured and prepared well through their Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) – parents’ evening may be one of the few opportunities for parents to understand how the school is supporting their child.
An essential part of becoming an informed partner is knowing the right questions to ask on both sides and to work in partnership towards the best outcomes for the child. It’s also beneficial for parents and teachers to book in a regular review meeting so they can work together to monitor how the child is progressing. More frequent communication, such as requesting a quick telephone catch up or a weekly after school meeting can also be a good idea, especially if a new programme of support has recently started.
Re-defining parents’ evenings
Back in 1997, the government’s white paper ‘Excellence in Schools’ suggested that providing parents with information is a key element in building successful home-school partnerships.
The good news is, schools are increasingly utilising technology to improve the quality of contact they have with parents. It is equally important for parents to stay up to date with the methods and channels schools use to engage and share news with them. If there is an app, for example, parents need to download it.
Parents’ evening is a fantastic opportunity to join forces and work together as a cohesive team for the benefit of children – so make the most of it!
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Right the way through Year 6, and into year 7 and beyond, you’ll have to make lots of decisions that will shape your child’s life. The things you worry about as a parent of a child in primary school become …
The transition from primary to secondary school – supporting children
Right the way through Year 6, and into year 7 and beyond, you’ll have to make lots of decisions that will shape your child’s life. The things you worry about as a parent of a child in primary school become quite different once your child goes to secondary. Their friends, behaviour, academic results and more depend upon what you both do this year, so it can be a stressful time for them, but also for you, as their parent. Working together with your child’s school to communicate well and become actively involved in your child’s school life will give confidence to the whole family.
Some children settle in to secondary school easily whilst others find it difficult.
Handling change, no matter how old you are, is often difficult as it takes you out of your comfort zone. It takes your children away from familiar places, teachers, friends, buildings, school runs and routines. So, it can be scary but also exciting!
I remember recording my MP3 download, ‘Making The Big Leap To Secondary School’, exactly because my daughter Molly was going through a transition from primary to secondary school. I remember she was feeling excited but also a little apprehensive about all the changes that she was going to experience.
Children naturally have mixed feelings about moving schools but handling change, no matter how old you are, is all about attitude. If you think it will be awful, it will be; on the other hand, if you think it will be exciting and fine, it will be!
What is transition?
Managing transition means helping children to make the difficult process less painful and disruptive.
Transition is the inner process through which children come to terms with a change, as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way things are now.
‘Change is a wall and transition is a gate. It’s there for your children to go through’ ~ Sue Atkins
To adults, childhood can seem like a carefree time. But children still experience stress. Changing school creates pressure that can feel overwhelming for your child. As a parent, you can’t totally protect your child from stress — but you can help them develop healthy ways to cope with and solve everyday problems.
Children deal with stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. And while they may not initiate a conversation about what’s bothering them, they do want you to reach out and help them cope with their worries.
But it’s not always easy for parents to know what to do for a child who’s feeling stressed, or to know why they’re feeling that way. Schools, of course, can be part of the process in supporting children through the transition period, but working together with home and school is the best possible way to help children cope with the big changes.
Tips to handle your child’s stress
1. Avoid overscheduling
One of the biggest stressors for children during this period of transition is being overscheduled. There will be plenty of time to join in extracurricular activities, but to reduce the stress that a new routine creates, allow your kids to come home, finish their homework, eat a healthy meal with you and then get a good night’s sleep. Let them have some downtime with activities that they enjoyed in primary school to ease them in.
2. Notice out loud
Talk to your child when you notice that something’s bothering them. If you can, name the feeling you think your child is experiencing: “It looks like you’re still a bit anxious about the bus journey to school.” This shouldn’t sound like an accusation, but a casual observation that you’re interested in hearing more about your child’s concern. Be sympathetic and show you care and want to understand and help.
3. Listen to your child
Ask your child to tell you what’s wrong. Listen attentively and calmly, without interrupting or trying to fix it immediately and with interest, patience and caring. Avoid any urge to judge, blame, lecture or saying what you think your child should have done instead. The idea is to let your child’s concerns and feelings be heard. Try to get the whole story by asking questions like “And then what happened?” and remember to take your time – let your child take his or her time, too.
4. Put a label on it
Some children may find it hard to find the words for their feelings. If your child seems angry or frustrated, use those words to help them to learn to identify the emotions by name. Putting feelings into words helps children communicate and develop emotional awareness. Children who can express themselves confidently are less likely to reach the behavioural boiling point where strong emotions come out through the wrong sort of behaviours. Take time to help them express themselves through words.
5. Help your child think of their own solutions
If there’s a specific problem that’s causing stress, talk together about what to do. Encourage your child to think of a couple of ideas. You can start the brainstorming if necessary, but don’t do all the work. Your child’s active participation will build their confidence. Support good ideas and add to them as needed. Ask, “How do you think this will work?”
6. Be patient
As a parent, it hurts to see your child unhappy, worried, anxious or stressed, but try to resist the urge to fix every problem. Instead, focus on helping your child, slowly but surely, grow into a good problem-solver — a child who knows how to adapt to ups and downs and put words to their feelings can calm down when needed. Learning how to bounce back and try again is teaches children the very important life skill of resilience!
You can’t solve every problem your child will go through in life. But by teaching them healthy coping strategies, you’ll prepare your kids to manage the stresses that come in the future.
As a parent, the difference from primary to secondary can be quite significant, and you may feel less connected and involved in their school day. That’s why parent engagement software is so important during these years, helping you keep in touch with day to day activities, keep on top of homework and monitor absence with ease.
With PS Connect, parents can see a host of important information about their child, such as timetables, attendance, reports, and even achievements and behaviour. Get in touch today to find out how we can help or click here for more information.
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It is estimated that schools produce over 10% of all non-domestic food waste in England, throwing away approximately 123,000 tonnes a year. According to a study by waste management experts, Wrap, over 75% of the waste produced by both primary …
Parent payments that don’t cost the earth
It is estimated that schools produce over 10% of all non-domestic food waste in England, throwing away approximately 123,000 tonnes a year. According to a study by waste management experts, Wrap, over 75% of the waste produced by both primary and secondary schools is food waste. For every slice of pizza, portion of cottage pie and sandwich that ends up in the bin, the associated impact on the school budget is huge and often unnecessary.
Green schools, not mean schools
In an increasingly environmentally-conscious society, schools are seeking out creative ways to eliminate waste in the kitchen. Many schools have involved both parents and students in environmental initiatives. With the bulk of food waste heading straight to landfill, ‘generation green’ are keen to fight for a cleaner, greener environment.
While green-initiatives and community-awareness remain hugely positive for both schools and society as a whole, a reduction in waste at lunchtime will inevitably see great financial savings, too. It is estimated that waste costs schools and colleges approximately £250 million a year; that amounts to the cost of over 208,000 interactive white-boards or the annual cost of nearly 8,500 secondary school teachers. Being a green school definitely pays, in more ways than one.
Eliminating food waste could cut 22p off an average school meal – great news for both schools and parents. School teams across the country are experimenting with a variety of projects and strategies to reduce waste in the kitchen; monitoring popular meals and eradicating menu options which don’t appeal to the masses has proven successful for many. Others have opted for fresher ingredients, smaller portions and different cooking techniques.
You are what you eat
As the population becomes more environmentally conscious, it appears our diets are changing, too. According to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled from 2012 to 2017. Over 20% of us are eating less meat and 19% of us are consuming fewer dairy products. Health initiatives such as ‘Meat-free Mondays’ and ‘Veganuary’ are becoming ever-more popular. It’s no surprise that parents are paying closer attention to what their children eat at dinner times.
According to a recent survey, four in ten parents worry about the food their child is eating when they’re not with them, with 43% often finding evidence of illicit sweets and fast food wrappers in school bags and bedrooms. Therefore, it’s easy to see why many parents would prefer to choose their child’s lunchtime meals themselves.
Waste not, want not
For schools, putting the power in parents’ hands to choose their child’s dinner options is beneficial for a number of reasons. For one, the responsibility to meet dietary requirements sits with the parent, rather than the school or student; secondly, in many cases, a parent is far more likely to make a healthy choice than a child; and last – but by no means least – with the right platform, schools have all the information they need to manage the kitchen efficiently, resulting in significantly less waste.
With dinner money debt on the rise and food waste causing finances to spiral, we set out to develop a solution which supports all schools.
Reliable, convenient and flexible, +Pay remains a favourite with both parents and schools when it comes to paying for school dinners. The platform utilises low-balance reminders to notify parents when it’s time to top-up and, with our free mobile app, paying for school dinners is sorted in a matter of seconds.
To support schools in the fight against food waste, we’ve developed new Advance Bookings functionality within +Pay to enable schools to plan ahead in the kitchen and manage payments. Now, schools can send out weekly menus in advance, allowing parents to select options and pay, all in one simple and speedy process.
With meal options gathered and counted, kitchens are well placed to manage suppliers and prepare portions as needed. And, with payments collected in full in advance, office teams can balance the budget and plan ahead for a healthy financial future.
It’s time to stop throwing money in the bin. Give parents the tools they need to support your school in the fight against unnecessary waste and save thousands of pounds, every year, with +Pay. Get in touch to find out more or to book a free demo.
IRIS Software Group is today launching IRIS World and IRIS Customer Awards 2020. Set to take place on Tuesday 11th February at The ICC Birmingham, school leaders will hear about the latest advances in EdTech from industry-leading teams, including experts from ParentMail. …
ParentMail set to help organisations look forward with certainty at IRIS World
IRIS Software Group is today launching IRIS World and IRIS Customer Awards 2020. Set to take place on Tuesday 11th February at The ICC Birmingham, school leaders will hear about the latest advances in EdTech from industry-leading teams, including experts from ParentMail.
For the first time, IRIS World will bring together esteemed customers from education, as well as accountancy, HR and payroll. Teams from ParentMail will be on hand to discuss the latest releases in financial management and parent engagement systems to revolutionise school operations.
The IRIS Customer Awards will recognise leaders, individuals and managers, as well as schools and education organisations, who deliver excellent services and results for their communities. The deadline for entries is 29th November.
Challenges continue to impact every sector. Whether political, economic, social or technological, business and public sector organisations are striving to make efficiencies, increase productivity and improve engagement to achieve their business goals.
The event will provide school leaders with the opportunity to explore software designed to strengthen home/school relationships, protect budgets and improve efficiencies for the benefit of staff and students. Attendees will have the chance to discuss and debate key issues with peers, education experts and teams from IRIS Education, to find out how their schools can make the most of the latest innovations in integrated back-office management systems to achieve outstanding results.
Click here to register for IRIS World 2020.
To enter the IRIS Customer Awards, click here.
Whether you’re running a nursery, infants or primary school, first impressions are important. Never is this more true than with a parents’ perception of school during the first few weeks of term. Building strong, long-lasting relationships with parents begins early. …
Engaging with families in early education
Whether you’re running a nursery, infants or primary school, first impressions are important. Never is this more true than with a parents’ perception of school during the first few weeks of term. Building strong, long-lasting relationships with parents begins early. So, during these first trepid weeks of term, don’t forget the most important influence in a child’s educational journey; the parents!
Parental engagement is proven to play a vital role in supporting young children in early education. The relationship between the two environments – home and the classroom – is very important.
There are a few ways to engage with parents to ensure your relationship gets off to a great start this year. Here are a few of our tried-and-tested recommendations.
They can never start homework too early – and we’re talking about parents! Now is the time to communicate with parents about the importance of their involvement in their child’s education at home. Encouraging mums and dads with practical instructions and advice is a great way of starting them off on the road to success.
Providing hands-on resources to support learning is a great way of supporting learning at home; reading diaries, PDFs, toys and activities… Sharing guidance and information about a child’s personal progression offers parents practical insight into their child’s education, ensuring they’re well placed to continue teacher’s efforts at home.
An informal meet-and-greet provides a great opportunity to meet parents in a casual setting. It’s also likely to be the first time that families get to mix and meet with each other, so the pressure isn’t entirely on teachers to play host. Parents will appreciate the opportunity to meet staff, chat with fellow parents and see their child’s classroom environment for the first time.
For nervous or hard-to-reach parents, a relaxed meet-up can be particularly beneficial. An event like this, when arranged early in the first term, helps to build an approachable and communicative setting in which they feel comfortable and welcomed.
Before dozens of eager parents flood the school gates on their first parents’ evening, make sure they have all the information they need to keep the event running to plan. For some, this may be their first time meeting teachers and visiting the school, making it all the more important that they feel welcomed by your professional and organised team.
Share plenty of information in advance with parents’ evening first-timers; where to go upon arrival, instructions for signing in as well as any information to keep the evening running on time and to schedule (i.e how early to arrive and where to wait for appointments).
Realistically, paper newsletters, invitations and forms are unlikely to receive a speedy response from busy parents – pupil post has proven unreliable for years! We expect a certain level of convenience and security when it comes to sharing information today and school communications are no different. For busy, millennial parents, paper communications are unlikely to impress, resulting in lost letters and misplaced meeting slips.
With a single user-friendly platform, busy school teams can send out the school newsletter whilst planning the next school trip. As your reliance on print and paper falls, so do the corresponding costs. Thousands of schools have taken back hours in both planning and distributing home/school communications and managing multiple suppliers, for various administrative functions – such as cashless payments and dinner money.
With ParentMail, you really can do it all with one system, and so can parents. Our free mobile app is designed to support parents so schools receive a great response. For parents new to busy school-life, a handy, user-friendly app is an ideal tool for engaging with and sharing important information straight to parents’ hands!
Get in touch today to find out how ParentMail can help your school achieve top marks in home/school communications this year.
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While school staff spend hours collecting data and information in preparation for parents’ evenings, we don’t often take the time to ask parents for their feelings on this important event. Gathering feedback may prove an impossible task for your busy …
What do parents think of parents’ evening?
While school staff spend hours collecting data and information in preparation for parents’ evenings, we don’t often take the time to ask parents for their feelings on this important event.
Gathering feedback may prove an impossible task for your busy team, so we set out to discover what parents think of parents’ evening with a good old fashioned survey – and the results might surprise you!
Time after time
Multiple parents referred to feeling rushed during meetings, with many stating they need more time with teachers to make the appointments feel truly beneficial. While extending appointments is impractical for many schools, providing the opportunity for parents to book in a telephone or Skype meeting with teachers at a later date is a good way of solving any time-related issues.
Communication between parents and your school in advance of the evening iis a great way to enable teachers to plan for appointments. Enable parents to raise questions or topics they’d like to discuss so teachers are ready to make the most of their short time together.
“That they actually run on time! I went to my daughter’s evening and we had 8 appointments, 10 minute slots for each with a 10 minute buffer in-between. We were there for 4 hours.”
Flexible and functional
Busy parents often struggle to book convenient appointments, with many opting out of the evening completely due to their inability to either book meetings at all or schedule appointments to suit their busy lives.
Paperless parents’ evenings have proven a huge success for thousands of schools across the country, with parents able to book appointments, in seconds, online or on an App. For schools, managing online timetables simplifies processes and saves hours of time – it’s a win, win! However, there will always be parents who prefer the traditional method; so if you’re a paperless school with a focus on all things digital, it is vital that you still have the flexibility to accommodate manual bookings.
“It always feels rushed. The teachers do the best they can but we’re all tired from a long day! Also as a working parent I find it hard to get the appointments I need because they are put up outside the classroom and I don’t drop off or pick up!”
Emma Jane Paterson
More than just grades
Communicating grades and performance data is important for a student’s progression, particularly for those studying for GCSEs and A-Levels. However, many parents shared that they would appreciate hearing less about progress and attainment and more about their child as an individual; their behaviour in class, their friendships, attitude, manners and more. For parents, this information is just as important as their child’s academic performance.
“Honesty. And more of an all-round view of the child. I was told my daughter was fab at everything blah blah. She asked, ‘Do you have any questions?’ I said yes, is she supportive of others, does she have friends, is she a good kid or badly behaved in class? She laughed and said all was well on all fronts. I’d rather parent a decent all-rounder than a lonely genius.”
Don’t sugarcoat it
While it might be intimidating to express the ‘real truth’ about a student, many parents expressed how important it is for a teacher to communicate honestly about their child’s behaviour and academic performance.
Whether it’s about behaviour and attitude, missing homework or general academic achievement, it’s vital to share the truth. A team effort between home and school is proven to support students in the classroom, and only by knowing the whole picture can a parent take an active role in their child’s education.
“Honest appraisal with some stats and benchmarks if possible and less fluff.”
“Honesty rather than just general waffle. I want to know more about my child and if they are where they should be with milestones and general behaviour etc.”
“Honesty, good or bad.”
Numbers of blended families and parent separations are on the rise, so ensuring school communications reach all of the appropriate people in the run-up to parents’ evening is important. Make sure every parent has the opportunity to be involved in their child’s education by checking contact details are up to date and lines of communication between your school and families are open, to ensure your plans and appointments include all types of family structures.
“We never get to go to my step sons parents’ evening as the school only inform his mother. We get homework to do on a weekend but no communication to say how it is received. In this modern time I think more effort is needed to include all parents.”
Particularly for parents of children with Special Educational Needs, sharing specific information about their child’s development plan and progress is key. Ensure teachers are prepared with the appropriate information for each appointment and take the opportunity to open up lines of communication so parents feel supported and encouraged to engage with your school in the future.
“To know what my children are really like rather than if they are hitting Government targets … both mine have high functioning autism and are without an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) because apparently they don’t need one … so give me the truth of what they are capable of and what you’re going to do about it.”
If it’s broke, fix it – tackle parents’ evening headaches head on this term, and impress parents in the process. Your school spends a long time putting plans in place for this all-important event – make sure your efforts aren’t wasted!
Parents Evening Manager provides all the flexibility your team needs to make your next evening a success:
- Impress parents with ParentMail’s free mobile App. Busy parents can book appointments on-the-go in seconds, ensuring schools receive a great response.
- Take the paper out of planning with schedules, appointments and reports stored securely online, reducing reliance on pesky paper slips and print-outs.
- Parents’ Evening Manager syncs with SIMS and other MIS, for easy class and student selection, ensuring all parents receive information when it matters most.
- The flexible, functional platform allows staff to preset appointment durations in advance; parents can even leave comments and questions when booking, enabling teachers to plan ahead.
A time-saving tool that won’t break the bank, Parents’ Evening Manager is available from as little as £169. Take the step now to make your next parent’s evening a breeze. Get in touch to find out more or book a free demo.
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Streamlined payments and fantastic training leads to hours saved at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School
St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School have used ParentMail for several years and rely on it as an all-in-one communication tool. Recently, they also added +Pay, our integrated payments solution and have saved hours each week as a result! They initially …
Streamlined payments and fantastic training leads to hours saved at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School
St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School have used ParentMail for several years and rely on it as an all-in-one communication tool. Recently, they also added +Pay, our integrated payments solution and have saved hours each week as a result!
They initially chose to use ParentMail to improve their school-home communication and reduce their paper use, but now see the extra benefits of time-saving and better processes for parents.
Staff at St Patrick’s School took part in +Pay training during their initial setup, with a member of the ParentMail team coming into school to talk them through the system and how they could get the most from it. We spoke to Sarah Taylor, Office Manager about her experience.
“We had on-site training for three office staff. This really helped us hit the ground running with +Pay. Moving to an online payments system has noticeably saved us the time spent doing manual jobs! Our trainer, Leon Warner-Bradshaw, made sure we were really confident setting up payment items and running off reports. He also helped us get more out of the ParentMail system.”
“ +Pay training, in particular, has reduced the time counting, collating and banking. Managing the money for trips and events can be very time-consuming, but ParentMail has streamlined everything!”
Thanks to their on-site training, office staff at St Patrick’s have maximised the value they get out of +Pay. This has had a knock-on effect, giving them more time to focus on the pressing issues that really matter to them.
What do parents say about +Pay?
St Patrick’s have been using the system for over a month now, and so far have had a lot of positive feedback.
“Parents have found it very useful. Some have initially been nervous about paying online, but for those now using it, they say it’s a far easier system than cash and paper copies. ParentMail makes everybody’s lives easier.”
Would you recommend ParentMail training to another school?
“Absolutely – I would recommend ParentMail training without hesitation. Everything flows better in the office because it saves us time and parents have an easier way to receive important school messages and make payments!”
Our on-site trainers offer a half or full-day session packed full of ParentMail tips, tricks and insight, and can help you get the most value out of your software.
If you’re looking to free up office time by streamlining your processes, or if you’d like to know more about booking training for your school, get in touch today by calling us on 01733 595959 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
From the brains of two parents waiting at the school gates, to the offices of thousands of schools and multi-academy trusts across the country – ParentMail has been on a long journey over the past 20 years. When we first …
What’s in a brand?
From the brains of two parents waiting at the school gates, to the offices of thousands of schools and multi-academy trusts across the country – ParentMail has been on a long journey over the past 20 years.
When we first entered the EdTech sphere, pupil post and paper newsletters were plentiful. While home/school relationships remained a priority, managing parent communications was costly and time-consuming. Printed forms requiring signatures, newsletters and envelopes containing cash, cheques and loose change remained buried at the bottom of book bags for weeks, if not months; progress reports and appointment slips were often neglected, causing school staff to set aside hours every week to chase responses.
All the while, schools were losing thousands of pounds in print and paper-related costs and parents were losing track of various important notes and newsletters.
Our objective remains the same today as it did in 2001: to improve home/school relationships with innovative technology designed to support both schools and parents.
Today, we’re proud to be a household name, with millions of parents using our free mobile app to manage busy school life. In fact, we’re proud to accompany many parents throughout their child’s education, from nursery to primary school, secondary school and beyond. Whether booking parents’ evening appointments or granting permissions with online forms, parents rely on ParentMail to engage with and support their children’s education every day.
We’ve worked hard to develop a platform that benefits both busy school staff and parents. The services and business we choose to partner with, then, are equally as important to us.
We joined forces with PayPal over three years ago and, during these few short years, we’ve enabled millions of parents to pay for school dinners and other school items with just a few clicks.
In our digital age, the millennial parent expects a certain level of convenience when it comes to paying for school items, not to mention a trustworthy service. Over 20 million consumers choose PayPal to pay for everyday items today. For topping up dinner money, paying for school trips and purchasing uniform, it comes as no surprise that PayPal remains the method of choice for busy parents. Using a reliable and recognisable brand like PayPal also offers peace of mind for parents still getting to know ParentMail, too.
When it comes to developing our technology, we know how important it is to first understand the challenges schools are facing. Offering a variety of socially inclusive payment options is vital for schools collecting regular payments today. Our new Advance Bookings platform (a function of +Pay) makes choosing school dinners and booking club places quick and easy. With just a few clicks on our free mobile app, parents can arrange wraparound care places and enjoy all the benefits offered by PayPal, too. In the office, payment administration has never been easier.
For schools managing parent arrears and dinner money debt today, the opportunity to offer a reliable method of payment is a need-to-have, rather than simply a nice-to-have.
This year, if your focus remains on saving time, cutting costs and improving parental engagement, look no further than +Pay. Thousands of schools are leaving the market leader and making the switch to ParentMail in search of flexible, parent-friendly and reliable service – is it time you made the change? Get in touch to book a free demo and to find out more.
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How long does it take your team to plan parents’ evening? If you’re setting aside hours to manage bookings and relying on pupil post for appointments, it’s time to plan now for a stress-free parents’ evening – and we have …
5 reasons to try Parents’ Evening Manager
How long does it take your team to plan parents’ evening? If you’re setting aside hours to manage bookings and relying on pupil post for appointments, it’s time to plan now for a stress-free parents’ evening – and we have the solution for you.
Parents’ Evening Manager syncs with SIMS and other MIS to make planning one of the busiest events in the school calendar straight-forward and easy. Eliminating pupil post with the free ParentMail app and handy push notifications enables busy parents to respond to invitations on-the-go, ensuring schools receive a great response.
Why is this the year to choose Parents’ Evening Manager?
Communicate directly with parents
Improve responses and ensure a great turnout by sending invitations and information directly into parents’ hands. With the ParentMail App, parents receive a notification when it’s time to book, and can select convenient appointments to suit their busy schedules in seconds. Online communications take the paper out of parents’ meetings, with event details stored securely online – no more lost booking slips or side-stepped appointments!
Online communications and in-app bookings do far more for your team than simply reducing print costs. The flexible system makes planning the night quick and easy; pre-set appointment durations, determine booking windows and arrange reminders for parents yet to respond. Gain an overview of the event with the handy reporting suite and provide parents with all the information they need in advance (meeting locations, where to go upon arrival etc.) to ensure the evening runs smoothly.
While appointments may be brief, it’s important that everyone leaves feeling they got the most out of their time. Enable teachers to plan ahead for their meetings by providing parents with the opportunity to leave notes when booking appointments. Sharing timetables and notes with the staff team in advance ensures teachers are well placed to plan for individual meetings, with the relevant information for each student at hand – a sure fire way to impress parents!
Parents’ Evening Manager utilises ParentMail’s market-leading communications platform to make managing this busy event simple and seamless. Parents’ Evening Manager is just one solution designed by ParentMail to save time and money for schools. Highly effective as a stand-alone product or as part of ParentMail’s wider parental engagement platform, thousands of primary schools turn to Parents’ Evening Manager to support their busy teams every year.
From as little as £169 a year, Parents’ Evening Manager is a cost-effective solution to take the stress (and paper) out of parents’ meetings. Depending on the size of your school, Parents’ Evening Manager costs are entirely flexible. Get parents’ evening ready before the big day – you’ll never look back!
In a nutshell
- Impress parents with ParentMail’s free mobile App. Busy parents can book appointments on-the-go in seconds, ensuring schools receive a great response.
- Take the paper out of planning with schedules, appointments and reports stored securely online, reducing reliance on pesky paper slips and print-outs.
- ParentMail’s flexible, user-friendly platform makes arranging the event and managing responses quick and easy for busy staff.
- A time-saving tool that won’t break the bank, Parents’ Evening Manager is available from as little as £169.
Adding Parents’ Evening Manager to your existing ParentMail suite is quick and easy. Introducing the platform as a stand-alone solution is a simple and cost-effective way of improving parent engagement in the run-up to one of the years’ most important events. Get in touch today to find out more and to book a free demo.
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That’s it – another summer gone and a new year before us. For both staff and students, the start of a new school year presents a great opportunity to break old habits and set the tone for the road ahead. …
Start as you mean to go on this September
That’s it – another summer gone and a new year before us. For both staff and students, the start of a new school year presents a great opportunity to break old habits and set the tone for the road ahead.
With September upon us, now is the time to consider the changes your school can make to reduce pressure in the office, save time in the classroom and support staff and students to achieve great things this year – and we’re on hand to help.
Over recent years, we’ve seen thousands of schools dispose of traditional paper letters in favour of online methods and enjoy huge improvements in parent engagement, as well as fantastic time and cost savings.
For gathering parent permissions, health data and contact details at the start of the year, our Online Forms solution is a great way of saving time and managing information securely. Setting up forms with our online platform is quick, easy and flexible. Alternatively, simply choose a template from our existing database or reuse an old form (super handy for those recurring events or trips).
Before the wonders of online communications, newsletters, forms and invitations were beyond your control the second they left the school gates. With ParentMail, the ability to monitor message performance, report on data and manage parent responses is all at your fingertips, empowering your communications to do far more for your school.
“This academic year alone, after staff time, paper and print, we’ve saved over £9,000. Before ParentMail we relied on photocopying and paper for our parent communications which was very expensive and inefficient. Schools can’t rely on children to pass along school newsletters and forms, and we can’t always rely on busy mums and dads to respond. ParentMail has made a huge difference to our parental engagement.” – Langstone Junior School
ParentMail syncs with SIMS and other MIS, making it easy to send communications to particular year groups, classes and individuals. With our free mobile app, parents receive communications instantly, ensuring you receive a great response when it matters most.
It’s just around the corner! For many parents, this will be their first time visiting your school, so it’s important that the evening goes off without a hitch.
For schools relying on paper appointment slips, clunky spreadsheets and pupil post, parents’ evening presents a whole host of potential problems; side-stepped appointments, unresponsive parents, tricky timetables etc… This year, get ahead of the game with an online solution designed to streamline one of the busiest evenings in the school calendar.
Every year, Parents’ Evening Manager supports thousands of schools to plan millions of stress-free parents’ meetings. Utilise the flexible scheduling assistant to set up the evening, preset appointment durations and amend slots with ease. Once your evening is arranged, send invitations directly into parents’ hands to ensure a great response.
Managing bookings is easy for your team. In the run-up to the evening, keep track of appointments and manage timetables to support teachers with the information they need to plan for meetings. For parents yet to respond, arrange handy reminders or book telephone appointments if needed.
“When you add up all the hours we’d usually spend arranging timetables and managing parent responses, we’ve easily saved a day’s work planning parents’ evening. Previously, we planned the event with paper appointment slips. As and when slips were returned to the office, we’d have to set aside hours to manage appointments. With ParentMail, the whole process is paperless.” – St Ambrose Barlow Catholic Primary School
For today’s busy parent, wraparound care offers a safe, reliable and affordable space for their children. As such, a rising number of schools are running breakfast clubs to provide a healthy start to the day, as well as a variety of after-school activities and clubs for students to complete homework, play sports and pursue new interests and hobbies.
This year, don’t stress over parent bookings and payments. Our online payments platform, +Pay, makes paying easy for parents and eradicates any cash-related concerns. Our recent upgrade introduces new Advance Bookings to the system, allowing parents to book club spaces, choose dinner selections and make payments all at the same time, helping your school to reduce parent debt, manage suppliers and reduce waste.
“We can already see how ParentMail will support us over the next year. Almost all the parents are paying for school dinners with +Pay. Setting up payment items is user-friendly and fast; parents receive an alert when a payment is due and payments come through quickly as a result, meaning we don’t have to chase students for overdue payments.” – Casterton College
Cashless parent payments
As dinner money debt continues to cause issues for thousands of schools, staff are left searching for a solution which not only protects the school budget but supports parents, too.
With +Pay, parents can pay for school trips, uniform, events and dinner money in moments. Handy low balance reminders let parents know when dinner money needs topping up, enabling them to pay at a moments notice. +Pay offers a variety of payment options including debit and credit card, PayPal and PayPoint.
For different payment items, schools can assign multiple bank accounts, saving administration time and keeping finances in check. With over 99% scheduled uptime in 2018, thousands of schools are making the move to +Pay from the market leader in search of reliable and seamless service. For cashless payments that impress parents and improve payments, choose +Pay this year.
“With students preselecting their dinner choices, the kitchen can plan ahead, reducing waste and related costs. We don’t spend hours every day processing, counting or chasing parents for cash. It has hugely improved our productivity in the office. For parents, low balance reminders are really helpful. They can top up in the ParentMail App on the go and at a moment’s notice.” Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School
What are your priorities for the year ahead? Whatever they may be, we have a whole range of online solutions designed to streamline processes, strengthen parental engagement and save money. Get in touch to find out how we can support your team with top-notch tech today.
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Do you remember your favourite teacher? Most of us were lucky enough to have one who we idolised throughout our school days, a teacher that no other could possibly live up to. Whoever they were, primary or secondary school teacher, …
Turning the tables for teachers
Do you remember your favourite teacher? Most of us were lucky enough to have one who we idolised throughout our school days, a teacher that no other could possibly live up to.
Whoever they were, primary or secondary school teacher, sixth form tutor or supervisor of your favourite after-school club, their teachings stayed with us long after we walked out the school gates for the last time.
For those starting their own training in preparation for a career in the classroom, the thought of being that special teacher to at least one student drives them each and every day. The dream of being awarded a ‘World’s best teacher’ mug, placed proudly atop their desk, something they mull over during their days on work experience.
Not so happy teachers
Recently, frequent media coverage has removed the rose-tinted spectacles from the teaching profession; headlines sharing statistical downturns in graduates, complaints of workload and mental illness share a grim picture of those teaching young people today. A poll by the National Education Union (NEU) recently found that more than a quarter (26%) of those with less than five years’ teaching experience plan to quit by 2024.
Research shows that the majority of teachers refer to excessive workloads bordering on the unmanageable. Daily responsibilities that go above and beyond teaching (lesson planning, marking, reporting etc) often result in teachers working up to 70 hours a week, double the national average.
Alongside the pressures of maintaining a hefty workload, there is also the time-consuming task of responding to ‘incessant’ parent emails. It seems today’s parents have high expectations when it comes to email admin. Many teachers, keen to avoid parents airing their frustrations over social media, find themselves responding to emails late into the night.
What can we do to ease pressure on teachers from September? From experience, we know there are a few ways to lend a helping hand both in and outside of the classroom, allowing teachers to focus on what they do best – teaching!
Here’s our action plan for supporting stressed-out teachers this year:
Evading email bombardment
Understandably, parents on occasion want to discuss their child’s progress, the latest school report or talk through the internal politics of their child’s friendship group. However, with the average class now made up of 30+ students, a teacher’s inbox can quickly turn into a black hole of no return – at least, no return for a few hours each day.
Parental engagement is important but must be managed efficiently to be truly beneficial. September is the perfect opportunity to introduce a communications policy which steers parents away from regular and direct contact with teachers. While parent feedback should be encouraged, it should be managed in a controlled and professional manner.
An online communications platform such as ParentMail offers a coherent, organised and professional opportunity for schools and parents to share news, information and queries. Face-to-face meetings and telephone conversations, where possible, are far more productive than the back-and-forth of emails.
Feedback, appointments, permissions and more; rarely a day goes by when schools aren’t requesting some form of information from parents. Prompting teachers to distribute forms and subsequently chase up non-responsive parents is likely to result in more time-consuming admin (and a lot of wasted ink and paper).
Save time in the office by removing the middle-man and managing communications online. Our Online Forms collection platform offers the flexibility to build and send forms for all your school’s needs. And, with Parents’ Evening Manager, parents can book appointments online, eradicating paper-slips and side-stepped appointments.
ParentMail utilises handy deadlines and automated reminders to chase missing responses. Parents’ Evening Manager provides handy timetables in advance, allowing teachers to plan ahead for the night.
Cash on school grounds brings about a whole host of issues; lost dinner money, parent arrears, extortion and bullying, to name a few. Eliminate cash-related upset in the classroom with online payments.
A cashless platform to collect parent payments online for club fees, school trips and dinner money is the safest and most convenient method for everyone, cutting out any need for teachers to handle cash payments in the classroom.
Our new advance bookings feature with +Pay delivers on all of your wraparound care and lunchtime needs. Reduce admin-related hassle in the classroom by enabling parents to book club-places, make dinner selections and pay with our free mobile App.
Parental engagement goes a long way in supporting a student’s learning. Being involved in their child’s education is a great way for parents to continue a teacher’s great work at home.
With one in four teachers experiencing violence in the classroom every week, behaviour is another contributing factor to many leaving the profession. Developing a supportive environment in which not only the student, but families, too, feel comfortable to work through behavioural issues is important.
Internally, working as a team to develop and share behavioural policies, schedule meetings and maintain regular communications is a great way of supporting teachers, with the entire student population benefitting in the long-term.
As we welcome in a new September, it’s time to turn the tables for teachers. Whether during the busiest periods of the year or in small ways every day, seeking out opportunities to support staff is key to the successful running of any busy school.
To find out how ParentMail can support you with affordable yet powerful technology, get in touch.
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Let’s hear it for the parent volunteers
Another school year is over. As tired-out teachers make the most of some well-deserved down-time, there’s another group of hard-working individuals, dedicated to the successful running of their school, also in need of some rest and relaxation. That’s right, we’re looking at you, parent volunteers!
Many schools closed out the summer term with fairs, trips and sports days. For those lucky schools with a dedicated PTA or Friends association, these events were likely planned with unrivalled skill, vision and attention to detail. The event went off without a hitch, students had a wonderful time and the school coffers enjoyed a healthy hit at the hand of fundraisers, bake sales and donations.
As a result of the hard work of parent volunteers, the attention of clock-watching teachers remained on the ever-expanding list of tasks requiring attention before the school closed for summer.
All year round, small armies of volunteers join forces to arrange trips, discos and fundraisers. They band together to plan seasonal events, throw themselves into classroom activities and dedicate their talents for the benefit of students.
When it comes to the 6pm disco, teachers still in the midst of a mountain of marking, parents arrive at the school gates armed with supplies, food, juice and balloons; the show will go on.
These unpaid, passionate few represent the beating heart of the school. The hard work and dedication they commit towards supporting not only students but staff, too, speaks wonders for the importance of community. It takes a village to raise a child, the phrase goes; we expect at the heart of that village is a highly organised team of parent volunteers.
And while the annual fundraiser, which enables the school to purchase new tablet computers for the IT room, is an undeniably fabulous feat, let it not be said that the small things don’t go just as far.
For those who attend school trips, who pop by at reading time to lend a hand, who brave the art room and leave covered in paint, we take our hats off to you. Because, for many busy schools today, a little goes an awfully long way.
Your determination to make your school a great place for staff and students is a wonderful thing. So, to all the parent volunteers and teams out there, we say thank you – and we can’t wait to see you what you have hidden up your rolled-up sleeves next year!
Going into secondary school is a major milestone, not just for the child who is moving school but for the whole family. It’s not just pupils but parents too who can feel a little out of their comfort zone when …
The transition from primary to secondary – making communication count
Going into secondary school is a major milestone, not just for the child who is moving school but for the whole family. It’s not just pupils but parents too who can feel a little out of their comfort zone when making the transition between primary and secondary. It’s a major change for everyone.
Not knowing how it all works can make for an anxious time, as the familiar routines are replaced by a new set of rules and procedures.
New classrooms, teachers, friends, homework requirements, ways of travelling to school and the move from the familiar to the unknown can make for an exciting, yet challenging time. In fact, a report by the World Bank identifies the transition to secondary school as one of five important life stage transitions for young people.
Quite rightly, the focus for most schools during the transition period is helping parents prepare their children so they can adjust to their new environment, by giving them as much information as possible.
But flooding parents with too much information can risk overwhelming them, so they switch off from your updates. Too little, and you risk them feeling uncertain and unconnected. It’s crucial at this important time to strike the right balance and put in place the right communication processes from the outset that will help establish the important bridge between home and school, making the whole process less stressful.
So, what information do parents need to help support their children make a seamless transition?
Messaging that matters
It’s widely accepted that involving parents in their children’s education is a powerful motivator of pupil performance. Pupils do better when their families are informed and engaged as they are much better equipped to support them throughout their education journey. Ensuring your messages hit home will play a crucial part in keeping parents connected and onboard.
Using targeted, specific messages will ensure parents know when they receive an email from the school, it will be relevant and needs opening, not forwarding on to the junk folder. Simply pressing ‘Send’ won’t necessarily mean your message will effectively land with parents or carers and get the parental action you might be seeking.
The rule to remember here to get it right is the three Rs – target the right parents, with the right information, at the right time.
Parents new to the school need information that will help guide them through new systems and procedures. They need to know how to contact form tutors or how to book slots at parents’ evening, for example.
Simplify your systems
As the saying goes, ‘less is more.’ This certainly can be applied to multiple school communication systems – having too many could reduce engagement, rather than encourage it. Parents can be confused if the school operates too many systems, as they might not know where to find the information they need.
According to a recent survey carried out by ParentMail, 62% of schools believe using two or more systems to communicate with parents can lead to reduced communication effectiveness. Despite this, 45% admitted to operating more than one parental communication system.
Think about investing in a system that enables you to manage all school information in one place – emails, forms, collecting payments and booking appointments for parents’ evenings. Reducing your communication channels will not only help reduce the workload for staff; it can also save money.
A true test
Not sure if you have the balance right or have chosen the best means of communicating with parents? Ask for feedback! Why not consider sending out a short survey to parents to find out their preferences for things like the timing of newsletters and if they are feeling in the loop or not.
Good communication speaks volumes
Making the transition from primary to secondary is a milestone for both pupils and parents and is the perfect time to harness and capture the enthusiasm of this engaged audience, securing their support for years to come.
As nervous pupils pose for the obligatory first-day photo with hesitant smiles and oversized blazers, now is the time to let parents know how and when you will be contacting them throughout the year. Implementing the right communication processes from day one will establish an important bridge between home and school helping parents to feel reassured knowing there are clear lines of communication in place.
If you’d like to invest in a communications system you can trust, with multiple applications on one platform and a free mobile app, ensuring you reach parents instantly, get in touch with the ParentMail team today.
Breakfast is still widely considered to be the most important meal of the day, setting children up for a day of learning and fun. Today, a rising number of health-conscious schools and parents are keen to ensure children receive a …
Drama-free dinner times
Breakfast is still widely considered to be the most important meal of the day, setting children up for a day of learning and fun. Today, a rising number of health-conscious schools and parents are keen to ensure children receive a healthy meal at lunchtime, too, with fresh choices available to all students.
Often, when the bell rings for lunchtime, hungry students are eager to eat quickly before heading outside for some much-needed playtime. The choice of what they eat is often in the hands of mums and dads. Whether it’s a packed lunch or hot meal from the school canteen, parents want to stay on top of their child’s diet.
School food matters
Only 8% of secondary school-aged children in the UK are getting their five-a-day. Almost one in five children are overweight or obese when they start primary school, with the number rising to one in three when they start secondary school. In fact, by 2020, it’s estimated that half of all children in the UK will be overweight or obese. The health risks relating to obesity are well known, resulting in not only significant physical health risks but mental health issues, too.
The Department for Education’s School Food Plan lays out guidance for providing nutritious meals and options throughout the school day. There’s an increasing emphasis on creating a positive environment in which children can eat and relax with friends, enjoy appetising meals and learn about cooking nutritious food. We’re seeing a cultural change taking place at lunchtime, both in and outside of the kitchen.
Stronger together – schools and parents
While healthy options are a huge step in the right direction, the importance of parental engagement when it comes to children’s diet also can’t be underestimated. In years past, parents were often unaware of what children were eating at dinner time; today, more schools than ever are offering parents an insight into their child’s meals.
When it comes to healthy eating, parents are a child’s main role-model. Parents have a large influence over what children eat at home, and the environment in which meals are prepared and eaten. While they may not prepare their child’s lunch boxes every day, it is still very important that they know what their child is eating in the school canteen.
Placing the responsibility of dinner selections into parents’ hands is a great way of assuring them that their child has eaten a healthy lunch. Parents are able to plan meals to complement school dinners and make selections according to dietary requirements. When schools and parents work together, it’s easier to develop a culture and ethos around nutritious choices in which children benefit both mentally and physically.
Good habits start in the (school) kitchen
Instilling the importance of making good food choices from a young age is a sure-fire way of starting children off on a road to good health. A nutritious, balanced diet also means children are more likely to feel energised and motivated to learn. In the classroom, a room of well-fed attentive children provides a much happier, serene learning environment in which all students can thrive.
Engaging with parents regularly and emphasising the importance of selecting their children’s dinner choices encourages good habits at home, too. For some households, access to a wide range of fresh and healthy food isn’t always available. Unfortunately, for some children, a nutritious school lunch may be the only proper meal they receive each day.
The stigma around free school meals (FSM) can make lunchtime an anxious experience for students. Some parents claiming FSM for their children may also feel uncomfortable when dealing with their school, building barriers rather than bridges around an important period of a student’s school day. Creating a supportive, discreet environment in which students claiming FSM can collect their dinner and eat happily is very important; maintaining positive and regular communications with hard-to-reach parents is equally as important. When parents feel supported by schools, students feel the benefits of strong home/school partnerships.
Practical steps to dinner time
Collecting dinner choices and managing parent payments is an unavoidable and time-consuming task. Fighting spiralling dinner money debt is an ongoing battle for schools across the UK. Add missing menu choices and managing suppliers into the mix, and schools are often left with unnecessary waste in the kitchen.
It’s clear that schools need a reliable, cost-efficient system which simplifies lunchtimes in the kitchen while supporting busy parents at home. Our new advance bookings functionality does just that.
Advance bookings from +Pay enable parents to make selections and pay for dinner items immediately or in advance, via a balance. Schools can set payment deadlines and request bookings and payments early, enabling kitchen staff to manage suppliers and reduce waste.
Our new functionality relieves stress in the office by streamlining what was once an on-going tricky task. With simple online bookings and payments, staff are no longer left chasing money and dinner choices from parents; instead, they simply set up menu items (or use saved menus for recurring options), send out to parents and collect online responses, quickly and easily. Automated reminders notify parents who are yet to make their selections, without the need for staff to manually contact parents. For parents not online, manual payments can be added to the system, ensuring all parents and students benefit from organised payments and meal choices.
For parents, selecting menu options and topping up balances is quick and easy. With our free mobile app, parents can manage school communications on-the-go with just a few clicks. Our online payments system offers a range of payment methods to suit everyone, including PayPal, debit and credit card and PayPoint. Parents can see an overview of how much they have paid, for which items and over what time period. They can also view how much is owed and where money has been spent, providing a transparent view of their child’s dinner choices.
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There are just a few weeks left before schools break up for summer (pause for cheers and applause). As classrooms wind down in anticipation of a well-deserved break, teachers seek out activities to do with classes which feel that little …
School’s (almost) out for summer
There are just a few weeks left before schools break up for summer (pause for cheers and applause). As classrooms wind down in anticipation of a well-deserved break, teachers seek out activities to do with classes which feel that little bit – well, easier!
We’ve gathered a few fun ideas to serve as inspiration for tired-out teachers everywhere – enjoy!
Plan a picnic
Make the most of Britain’s fleeting summer and get outside with your class to enjoy a picnic. Children can bring along their own packed lunches, or you could even prepare some food together in advance. And, to give it that all-important educational spin, a picnic serves as a great opportunity to learn about healthy eating and seasonal ingredients.
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned quiz? Set students the task of creating questions and pick your favourites to add a competitive edge to your classroom. For a music quiz, this could involve putting together a summer playlist and challenging children to listen to different music genres. Run a vote for favourite team names and award prizes for category winners!
Chances are, your sports day is fast approaching, so hit the sports field to get in some last-minute practice!
It’s the end of term and we’re all feeling a little tired. Even if they don’t seem it, students will likely appreciate a little downtime with a good book. If the sun is kind enough to show its’ face, head outdoors with some good books and enjoy a quiet hour in the shade.
Do something creative
Whether it’s unstructured arts and crafts, creative writing, music or cooking, let their imaginations run wild. Encourage your class to write a summer-themed poem, short story or even to build a sandy beach or miniature garden. Maybe get your hands dirty and plant some sunflower seeds together, a great way to learn about photosynthesis and the life-cycle of plants.
Allow younger students to bring along their favourite game or toy for a whole day of show-and-tell fun! Avoid lost property box havoc by recommending children bring just one thing each.
From the whole team at ParentMail, we hope you enjoy your last few weeks of term and wish you all a super chilled summer break!
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According to a recent survey, when it comes to academic achievement, choosing a nursery could be more important than a choice of secondary school. Researchers recently found that the contribution of a school to variation in pupil attainment is ‘relatively …
Early Years education – the building blocks to success
According to a recent survey, when it comes to academic achievement, choosing a nursery could be more important than a choice of secondary school.
Researchers recently found that the contribution of a school to variation in pupil attainment is ‘relatively small’; the impact of what parents may consider to be a ‘good’ secondary school (based on GCSE results and Ofsted results, for example) adds only a small amount of extra value over a ‘bad’ secondary school. Between 2003 and 2016, researchers looked at data from approximately 3,000 secondary schools and found the difference in attainment linked to schools is below 10% of the total variance between children.
In fact, the survey found that while there is some impact on children’s academic achievement through some school initiatives, there is ‘most scope’ to do this outside of school, through parental engagement and good quality early years education.
David Wilkinson, a principal research associate at UCL and one of the report’s authors, stated: “Overall, while some school-led initiatives may have a part to play in attainment levels, it is likely that parental investments in children’s education and early years interventions could have significantly more influence on pupil attainment.”
Early childhood education has a lasting impact on children’s long-term academic success, according to research. Early years learning builds the foundation for later education, all the way through to the end of secondary school. For parents, it is easy to see why choosing their child’s nursery is such a big decision!
Sue Atkins explored the impact of parental engagement during a child’s time in nursery in a recent blog. Research found that parental involvement had a significant impact on children’s home learning environments and, in most cases, improved their academic progress.
With parents on the hunt for their perfect nursery, a focus on parental engagement is a sure fire way to stand out against competitors. Strong communications (be it newsletters, regular updates, messages or event invitations) assure mums and dads that they will be kept up to date with their child’s time in your care. Parents also continue your team’s great work at home; sharing information about what their child did that day or particularly enjoyed is a fantastic way of supporting a child’s progress before school.
A free mobile App adds extra value to your nursery setting. With ParentMail, mums and dads can go about their day with confidence, knowing that your nursery can reach them at any time. Nursery-branded messages and emails reach parents instantly, giving your nursery an extra special and professional touch.
While parent communications may have been a burden on your busy team until now, our communications platform takes the weight off your shoulders with flexible scheduling. Prepare your news and messages in advance to automatically send at a pre-set time and date – it’s that easy! You can also sort children into groups (classes, age groups, events etc) allowing you to send communications out to the appropriate parents with ease.
Choose a communications platform that supports not only your children but your business, too, with ParentMail. Get in touch to arrange a free demo to take a look around today.
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Langstone Junior School save over £9000 with ParentMail
The team at Langstone Junior School are self-confessed ParentMail ambassadors, having saved over £9,000 this academic year!
Langstone Juniors are a busy school with an even busier office team, with more than 330 students. Thanks to the help of ParentMail’s Messaging and Parents’ Evening Manager solutions, the school are excelling at all things parental engagement and reaping the rewards as a result.
“As a team, we wanted to make the most of ParentMail and everything it had to offer. I started from the beginning with the platform and learned everything there is to know to make it work for our school. Today, we wouldn’t be without it!” says Lorraine Reeves, Administrator.
“The results speak for themselves. This academic year alone, after staff time, paper and print, we’ve saved over £9,000. Before ParentMail we relied on photocopying and paper for our parent communications which was very expensive and inefficient. Schools can’t rely on children to pass along school newsletters and forms, and we can’t always rely on busy mums and dads to respond. ParentMail has made a huge difference to our parental engagement.”
“100% of parents are signed up to ParentMail which means that we can be confident that every single parent is receiving the important news and information they need. What’s more, nearly 90% of parents are using the free mobile App. We encourage parents to use the App at every opportunity. It makes staying in touch with the school so convenient for them – whether they’re at home or work, no one is without their mobile phone these days!”
“The reporting system is incredibly helpful. On occasion, parents may claim not to have been told about certain things. When this happens, we can simply check our report to see whether they received a particular message and even whether they opened it. When it comes to sending out parents’ evening invites, we have easy access to data which tells us how many parents have booked appointments and who is yet to respond to the invitation. I can then send out reminder messages to prompt parents into booking.”
“Parents’ Evening Manager is a huge time saver. The amount of time we’ve saved and the support we’re able to give to teachers now is fantastic; it’s no longer their responsibility to chase students and parents to book appointments. Instead, it’s down to parents to book. We send out a message in advance to let them know when appointments will be available and then watch bookings come in – it’s so easy!”
“There are so many ways to save time with ParentMail. The templates are very helpful. ParentMail has a selection of default templates ready to go but we’ve also built our own, and everything can be branded with our school letterhead. We run a variety of after-school clubs and arrange lots of trips and events; we have groups set up for all of these things, enabling us to share the appropriate information with the right parents – all of these handy tools save our team time, every day.”
“We don’t often need help with ParentMail but on the rare occasions that we do, we can rely on Live Chat. The Support team are very professional and friendly and any issues are resolved very quickly. Phone support is also really helpful. I’m always very impressed with the Support team when I contact them.”
“We’ve just signed up for four more years with ParentMail. Their flexible subscriptions are too good to miss and I wouldn’t be without the system today. Any schools looking into ParentMail as a solution to save time, engage with parents and save money, I would say yes, without a doubt – ParentMail is for you!”
If saving time and money are at the top of your agenda from September, get in touch now to book a free demo with ParentMail.
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Wraparound care – the saviour for modern-day parents?
Ah, the school run. No matter how early it starts or how well it’s planned, somehow, it ends with a mad rush out the door. After school, the clock is still against us. The average nine-to-five day and long hours often conflict with school pick-ups, leaving many parents seeking additional childcare support.
It’s no surprise that school runs and collections leave many parents feeling stressed. The number of mothers to children of toddler age returning to full-time work is on the rise, having increased by over 10% from 1997 to 2017. Furthermore, the employment rate of fathers with children aged three or four is over 93%. Modern family life is busier than ever. Mums and dads are juggling the school run, childcare and long working hours on a daily basis.
While the benefits of a healthy breakfast are well known, for some busy families, squeezing in time to eat and drink in the morning is difficult. Equally, after-school clubs offer a cost-efficient, safe and reliable service to parents unable to collect children at pick-up time. Wraparound care is fast becoming a need-to-have, rather than just a nice-to-have, for reasons beyond simply providing healthy breakfasts for children.
Research shows that children who attend extra-curricular classes benefit in a number of areas. From improved social skills to new-found confidence, after-school clubs offer more than just a safe place to stay after school.
Children who frequently take part in after school activities are more likely to show higher levels of attention and participation in class. They are also less likely to develop behavioural problems.
Extra-curricular clubs and classes provide children with the opportunity to engage in new interests and take part in activities otherwise unavailable to them. The opportunity to pursue new skills in music, sport or art, over video games, television or social media can only be a good thing for young people. Who knows, they might even get homework done on time!
In today’s busy world, work often interrupts family life. For parents, breakfast clubs and after-school activities offer a safe, reliable, and affordable childcare alternative, enabling parents to pursue careers and get to work on time.
When it comes to after-school clubs, many parents would prefer to know their child is happily involved in some kind of extracurricular activity than in another form of childcare.
In the UK, childminders cost approximately £5 an hour and babysitters can cost upwards of £9 an hour, on average. Two hours a day, five days a week; after-school care soon adds up, making after-school clubs preferable to many parents. For children, too, spending time with schoolmates and taking part in sports and activities makes for a far more enjoyable afternoon!
In the classroom, research found that children who eat breakfast are twice as likely to perform well in tests and assessments than those who start learning on an empty stomach. Children who attend after-school clubs develop better attention spans and confidence, making them more likely to take part in class, and behaviour in students who regularly participate in extracurricular activities is thought to improve, too.
Homework clubs provide children with a quiet environment in which to complete work, providing access to computers, Wi-Fi and additional support – important educational tools, which may be unavailable to some children at home.
Relationships between home and school are more likely to strengthen when parents feel supported by wraparound care services. And, when parents and schools work together, students benefit in the long-run.
For schools, managing wraparound care can apply extra pressure to busy school teams. The planning and organisation required goes above and beyond that of day-to-day school operations. We have received regular feedback from schools suggesting that a new level of functionality for wraparound care management would help them better plan for breakfast and after school clubs. For this reason, we’re very pleased to announce the release of our new advance bookings functionality.
Advance bookings is our new feature designed to support schools to better plan and cater for pupil lunch choices, breakfast and after-school club bookings. The new functionality within +Pay allows parents to make selections, book places and pay upfront or in advance, via a balance.
The flexible functionality enables schools to set payment deadlines and request bookings and payments early, helping not only busy staff in the office but kitchen teams to manage suppliers and reduce waste.
When parents book attendance and pay for selected items, the system updates automatically, particularly helpful for planning clubs with limited spaces. For parents who need to book their child’s attendance onto part of a session only, the system ensures spaces remain available for the corresponding part of the club.
ParentMail’s free mobile app makes staying on top of busy school life super convenient for parents. Menus and payment details are clear and concise, providing parents with a handy payment breakdown over a period of time. Parents can see how much is owed and where money has been spent, reducing debt and arrears for schools in the long-run.
Automated reminders notify parents who are yet to make their selections, without the school office having to manually send alerts. For parents who are not online, manual payments can be added to the system.
We’ve built our new advance bookings functionality in response to the changing needs of schools and the challenges facing the education sector today. We’re dedicated to growing with schools and have supported their transition into the digital world since 2001. To find out more about new advance bookings, book a free demo and get in touch.
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Toddle In Private Day Nursery save time and money with ParentMail
The team at Toddle In Private Day Nursery have enjoyed a huge improvement in their parental engagement with the help of ParentMail.
With over 100 children in their care and as many busy parents, Toddle In’s communications were floundering.
“Before ParentMail, our monthly newsletter was a real chore.” Says Karli Booth, Nursery Manager. “Often, we’d have a load of copies left over which hadn’t been collected and, for those parents who did take them home, we knew they weren’t reading it; parents would complain that they’d missed information or hadn’t been told about things. It was clear that a paper newsletter wasn’t the right way of sharing information. It took hours to write and print and the print costs were also high. In the end, we stopped using them altogether.”
Busy mums and dads are rarely without their mobile phones. When it came to sharing important information and news, online messaging was the clear choice.
“It’s been just a few months since we launched ParentMail. We already have more than 90% of parents signed up and over 60% are using the free mobile App. The reporting system even tells us who has read messages and who hasn’t. We have a very small number of parents for whom English is a second language; these parents prefer a paper copy and ParentMail makes it really easy to print out paper versions. Nobody misses out on news and information anymore.”
“We used to use text messaging for urgent information, but we always struggled with the character limit. With ParentMail, we can share as much information as we need to. As Nursery Manager, I also receive a lot of information for external services. For example, as summer approaches, I recently received an email regarding school readiness. In the past, I would print the attachments out and stick them up on the notice board, but they’d often be forgotten or ignored. Now, I can forward the relevant information to parents with PDF attachments.”
“I also love the scheduling assistant. I include details of upcoming events in the monthly newsletter, but it’s helpful to remind parents a few days before. For graduation and photograph day, I recently scheduled a couple of text message reminders in the run up to the event. I don’t have to remember to text parents in time any more, which used to be really tricky when I was busy with so many other things. Instead, I can get all my communications prepared well in advance and get on with the day job, knowing everything is sorted.”
“For staff, we don’t have to spend time chasing parents or tracking down responses to forms. In the past, if we ever needed parents to complete a form or provide feedback, for example, we’d print out over 100 forms and hand write names on all of them. It was time-consuming and expensive. Now we can attach the form to an email and track the responses as they’re returned. Parents have the option to print it out and return by hand, if that’s what they prefer.”
“The platform itself is easy to navigate and straight-forward. My Deputy-Manager also uses the basics and we both find it helpful and user-friendly. There have been no complaints from parents, either. In fact, our parental engagement has really improved, which is important for the children in our care, so we’re very happy.”
“We’re always busy and ParentMail is supporting us to save time every day. I’d recommend ParentMail to any nursery looking to save time, reduce print and paper costs and stay in touch with parents!”
Are you looking to upgrade your nursery communications? Then get in touch! Our flexible system offers a range of cost-effective solutions guaranteed to save your busy team time and money.
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St Ambrose Barlow Catholic Primary School are proving the benefits of fantastic parental engagement with the help of ParentMail’s full suite of applications! “We use it all day, every day.” Says PA to Headteacher, Elaine Warren. “We decided as a …
ParentMail “all day, every day!” for St Ambrose Barlow Catholic Primary School
St Ambrose Barlow Catholic Primary School are proving the benefits of fantastic parental engagement with the help of ParentMail’s full suite of applications!
“We use it all day, every day.” Says PA to Headteacher, Elaine Warren. “We decided as a team that if we were going to introduce ParentMail in the school office, we were going to utilise all of the solutions available to support our parent communications. We’re definitely feeling the benefits now!”
Easy parents’ evening management!
For their busy team, Parents’ Evening Manager stands out as a favourite. “When you add up all the hours we’d usually spend arranging timetables and managing parent responses, we’ve easily saved a day’s work planning parents’ evening. Previously, we planned the event with paper appointment slips. As and when slips were returned to the office, we’d have to set aside hours to manage appointments. With ParentMail, the whole process is paperless. We also used to spend a lot of time chasing missing forms, so the reminders are very helpful for prompting parents yet to respond.”
Keeping in touch with parents
For day to day parent communications, the school are saving money by utilising messaging and email over text; “We save text messages for the few parents we know who prefer that method, so we know our communications reach all parents and no one is missed out. With ParentMail messaging, we aren’t limited to the number of characters we can use and parents receive messages instantly.”
“Most of our parents are using the free parent App to manage school communications. Parents are never far away from their phones, so the App is great for ensuring parents receive important information quickly and reliably. With summer just around the corner, we’re encouraging new parents to register their accounts and install the App before children start in September.”
“We have groups set up to manage communications by class and year group, and we send a variety of information to parents; newsletters, fliers for the PTA, surveys and questionnaires… We recently used it as a voting system to elect new parent governors – it’s a great way of improving parent communication.”
Easy form collection
“When it comes to forms, I love that we don’t have to produce our own reports; ParentMail does it all for us. We save templates for communications we’ll use again in the future, and can make any amends we need to. We run a variety of after-school clubs, trips and extra-curricular activities. Collecting parent permissions is very convenient with ParentMail. I can see the responses coming in and can send reminders if I need to. It’s a great time saver.”
“We’re really pleased with +Pay. We’re practically cashless as almost all parents pay for school items with +Pay. Our bursar is really pleased with the payment reports; they clearly tell us everything we need to know, making it easy to stay on top of finances.”
“Live Chat is helpful and the training was great. We’ve learned everything else as we go along! Even the staff members who were a little wary of taking on an online system have been won over by ParentMail. We’d recommend the platform to any school considering it – it’s such a flexible system and can do so much for schools.”
Join St Ambrose Barlow Catholic Primary School in upgrading your parent communications strategy with ParentMail’s premium suite.
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Parental engagement as a force for good – tackling school exclusions
With the subject of off-rolling raising concerns across the country, Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, recently called on school leaders to reduce exclusions.
While protocol states that exclusion should only ever be a last resort, the number of permanent and fixed term exclusions continues to rise. The Timpson Review found that 78% of expelled pupils either had special educational needs (SEN), were eligible for free school meals (FSM) or were “in need”. In addition, more than 80% of parents of permanently excluded children said they received inadequate support in finding an alternative place for their child.
The reasons behind exclusions are numerous, with the most common including persistent disruptive behaviour, aggression against staff and students, verbal abuse and bullying. In such cases, schools often have little choice but to remove a student. However, studies have explored alternative preventative action to intercept poor behaviour before exclusion is reached.
A 2008 Ofsted study on Good Practice in Re-Engaging Disaffected and Reluctant Students in Secondary Schools investigated the ways in which 29 secondary schools (a total of 32,987 students) managed the behaviour of disengaged students – approximately 13% of the student population. Disaffection was defined as displaying one or more of the following: regular non-compliance, regular disruption leading to recurrent entries in school’s incident logs, recurring fixed term exclusions as well as absence of 20% or more of the school year.
Schools were successful in re-engaging 78% of disaffected students. Schools trialled a number of methods in supporting pupils, including sharing their commitment to helping students succeed with students and their families; communication with parents was considered a highly effective method in re-engaging distant pupils.
Communicating school news and information with parents is important in developing productive relationships. When it comes to managing behavioural issues and academic concerns, however, working closely with parents is also vitally important; once excluded, research finds that only 1% of excluded children go onto achieve five GCSEs. The risks of exclusion are well known. As such, it falls on schools and parents to work together in seeking the appropriate solution.
Research proves that disaffected students often benefit from robust monitoring of academic, personal and social progress. Working closely with parents to share observations ensures a consistent approach in supporting the student both at home and in school. When parents are included in their child’s education, teachers often feel supported in the classroom and are better placed to work with students in areas requiring further attention. For students, an extra level of support between parents and school staff can make a huge difference.
Busy parents and rising student populations can make crossing the home/school divide difficult for staff and teachers. The benefits of a socially inclusive platform in bridging the gap are proven. With a mobile App, parents can access school information and messages from home, work and at a time convenient for them. Flexible communications allow schools to manage communications on a student by student basis, as well as for whole classes and year groups.
At ParentMail, we know the numerous benefits of socially inclusive EdTech designed to meet the challenges of today’s education sector. Bridging the gap between home and school for the benefit of students has been at the heart of our technology since day one! If you’re a school looking to improve parent communications, get in touch today to find out how we can help.
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As the summer term comes to a close, school staff are busy saying goodbye to their 2019 leavers and preparing for new starters. Summer events, exam season and the usual end-of-year wrap up makes the last few weeks in the …
Summer roll-up made easy
As the summer term comes to a close, school staff are busy saying goodbye to their 2019 leavers and preparing for new starters. Summer events, exam season and the usual end-of-year wrap up makes the last few weeks in the run-up to the summer holiday a busy time for office teams. That’s why our summer roll-up process is designed to be anything but complicated!
For those moments where you could use a helping hand, our Support team are never far away. No matter how big or small your question or query, there’s a convenient way to get in touch with us; here’s how we can help your school this summer!
Chat to us
Our knowledgeable and friendly Support team are available via Live Chat to provide the help you need in moments. In fact, even during our busiest times of the year, on average, our team will respond to customer queries in no longer than 90 seconds – they’re so speedy, we think they should wear capes!
Simply share your question with a friendly advisor and they’ll be happy to guide you through the roll-up process or lend a hand if you encounter any difficulties, freeing you up to get on with your day.
Check out our Help Site
We’re regularly updating and improving our school help site for your benefit. Finding advice and instructions is easy with the handy search function powered by Google; simply type in a question or keyword and an answer is at your fingertips in seconds!
Our helpful videos demonstrate easy-to-follow guidance on many processes. The Help Site also offers a range of step-by-step instructions for carrying out your roll-up, from start to finish, for a variety of MIS. You can access the help site within your ParentMail account – simply click ‘Help’.
Our on-site training is handy at any time of the year, but particularly for your summer roll up! Book a half or full day on-site session and a ParentMail expert will stop by to deliver training tailored to your needs. We can walk you through your summer roll-up, train up new staff and provide a refresher in any areas or processes that would be helpful for you – simply let us know what you need, and we’ll design a session to meet your needs.
We’ll call you
For those moments where you’d rather pick up the phone, simply arrange for a member of the team to call you back. To keep things clear and simple, we can remotely access your ParentMail platform during the call, guiding you through the roll-up process and answering any questions you might have as we go along.
During one of the busiest times of the year, we’re here to help. Email us at email@example.com to arrange a phone call with a support advisor or for support with any questions or queries you might have, or register your interest for on-site training. We’re waiting to hear from you!
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It’s been more than three years since we began our partnership with world-wide payments provider, PayPal. To this day, it remains a match made in heaven! Since launch, we’re proud to have enabled millions of parents to pay for school …
Parent payments made easy with PayPal
It’s been more than three years since we began our partnership with world-wide payments provider, PayPal. To this day, it remains a match made in heaven!
Since launch, we’re proud to have enabled millions of parents to pay for school dinners and other school items in a matter of seconds. Cashless payments remain the method of choice for schools across the country and we’re proud to be the first school payments provider on the market to lead the way by offering PayPal.
At home, online payments are fast becoming the consumer’s preferred payments method. Purchasing everyday items on the web or via apps is quick and easy, and is often far cheaper than withdrawing cash.
Understandably, parents now expect the same level of security and convenience when it comes to paying for school items. Since our integration with PayPal in 2015, thousands of schools have recognised the importance of providing parents with a flexible method of purchasing school items. Through online payments, many schools have seen an improvement in school dinner debt and parent arrears.
Over 20 million consumers use PayPal every year. It comes as no surprise, than, that PayPal remains the method of choice for millions of parents when it comes to purchasing school items through our free mobile app. The numbers speak for themselves; during the first 12 months of PayPal’s integration with +Pay in 2015, nearly 30,000 transactions were made through PayPal. This number has soared in the years since; during the past 12 months alone, more than 1,640,000 PayPal transactions were processed for school items.
We endeavour to bridge the gap between everyday technology and school life with safe, secure and trusted online school payments.
With our free mobile App, handy low-balance reminders and push notifications help parents stay on top of school payments from the comfort of home or whilst on the go. Flexible payment options, including PayPal, mean busy mums and dads can top up in seconds; with over 99.6% scheduled up time in 2018, +Pay is a platform both parents and schools can rely on. Convenience, ease-of-use and social inclusivity remains at the heart of our technology, just as it did at the start of our +Pay journey.
When parents are given the right tools for the job, schools are better placed to manage budgets, reduce waste and make dinner-money debt history. Switching is easy – find out how +Pay could support huge cost savings for your school, get in touch today.
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Exam season is a time of worry and stress for all involved – students, parents and teachers. It’s crucial that schools communicate and support families during this time so that there can be a strong network for children. In the …
Top tips for tackling exam season
Exam season is a time of worry and stress for all involved – students, parents and teachers. It’s crucial that schools communicate and support families during this time so that there can be a strong network for children.
In the video below, Sue Atkins looks at some top tips for ensuring a stress-free revision period! These include allowing yourself to fail occasionally, ensuring you get lots of rest in-between revision, structuring the information you need to retain and practicing answering exam questions, getting outside in the fresh air and much, much more!
A system like ParentMail allows schools to send regular communications to parents, ensuring they are kept in the loop on upcoming exams and sharing revision tips. For students who need specific help, the system allows schools to contact individual or groups of parents with ease. Attachments can also be sent home, and can be delivered straight into the hands of parents with our free handy mobile App!
Get in touch to find out how ParentMail can help your school with stress-free parent communications to support students.
The IRIS Education Summer Roadshow is almost here! Starting from the 26th of June and taking place at three locations across the UK, this is your opportunity to learn how the IRIS family of products can help your school or …
IRIS Education Summer Roadshow details and agenda
The IRIS Education Summer Roadshow is almost here! Starting from the 26th of June and taking place at three locations across the UK, this is your opportunity to learn how the IRIS family of products can help your school or MAT and to meet the team behind PS Financials, ParentMail, Truancy Call, BioStore and PS Assets.
The schedule is jam-packed with new product launches, software updates, and the opportunity to speak to our team about the challenges your schools are facing.
At our last event, 100% of attendees said they would recommend it to their colleagues!
If you’re interested in joining us, register your interest now to reserve a spot.
9.00 – Registration & refreshments
9.20 – Introduction
Welcome and IRIS Education update.
9.45 – Why are parents so hard to engage?
Join us as we explore what good home-school communication looks like and how schools can create strong relationships with parents while reclaiming their precious time.
10.30 – ‘Teacher shortage’ or ‘short-sightedness’?
Learn how to leverage present-day technology to identify, attract and keep the best of a shrinking teacher resource, and look towards the future of education staff management.
11.00 – Refreshment Break
11.15 – Product Update for PS Financials
The latest PS Financials product updates and an overview of connectivity and collaboration in FY20 – session also includes how to make the most of your assets with PS Assets.
12.00 – ‘Large intake in September? More students doesn’t have to mean more work.’
The number of secondary school students continues to climb, stretching school resources. Learn how to take the pressure off by empowering teachers and students to manage their own school lives.
12.45 – ‘Card, cheque, or… Cashless?’
Cheques and cash are outdated, as today’s parents migrate to digital payment options. Join Jonny Ross as he outlines the benefits of cashless technology and how to hit the ground running.
13.30 – Lunch & Networking
14.30 – Event close
It’s time to remind parents about sunhats and sunscreen, which can mean only one thing – summer is here and your nursery calendar is jam-packed with exciting events. Teddy bear picnics, parent meetings, graduations – there’s a lot to think …
Summer in your nursery
It’s time to remind parents about sunhats and sunscreen, which can mean only one thing – summer is here and your nursery calendar is jam-packed with exciting events. Teddy bear picnics, parent meetings, graduations – there’s a lot to think about, plenty to plan for and so much to enjoy! With beaming parents keen to make the most of every second of their children’s fun-filled events, parental engagement is a top priority.
Busy nurseries need a cost-effective platform to take the pressure off parent communications. However, it’s not just about sharing newsletters and updates; your parental engagement strategy could do so much more to support you and your busy business. Here’s how…
With reliable, accurate data at your fingertips, staying in touch with parents becomes far easier; but where do you keep it? Unless you’re a formula wizard, spreadsheets can prove inflexible and tricky to navigate; paper files are even harder to manage, not to mention a big security risk. When it comes to data protection, mobile address books raise concerns, too, and sending text messages en masse is impersonal and expensive. Organised data empowers your nursery communications to reach 100% of the right parents, 100% of the time.
Storing parent contact information with ParentMail provides total peace of mind that your data is secure, accessible and organised. ParentMail syncs seamlessly with your MIS and ensures parent data is up to date and correct. You can sort children by class and age group, amend contact information with ease and add additional carer details as required (i.e. for grandparents or other family members). With data organised appropriately, your communications can be tailored for particular classes and contact lists; assigning mailing lists for your messages is simple, giving you the freedom to select primary or secondary contacts, classes, year groups or even individual parents. ParentMail provides a fail-safe, flexible platform which makes managing data easy.
Staying in touch
Morning, noon and night, your hands (and head) are busy with events, activities and errands, making planning parent communications hard work – where do you find the time? While we can’t write your newsletters for you, we do understand the challenges and practicalities of producing timely, proactive communications. Imagine knowing that your parent communications are prepared for the next week, month or term – ParentMail makes that possible so that you can get on with the day job.
When you find a free hour to sit down with your laptop, ParentMail supports you with a super user-friendly platform to manage an end-to-end parental engagement strategy. With handy time-saving templates, Online Form building and solutions to plan events with ease, your communications become proactive, professional and reliable. When it comes to sending communications, simply choose the appropriate mailing list (maybe the Butterfly class have outdoor play scheduled, or it’s a friendly reminder about the graduation ceremony) and schedule the message for the appropriate time and date. You can even attach photographs for those super special moments, an extra feature which parents love.
Mums and dads receive all news and updates with our free parent App. That means busy on-the-go parents receive important communications instantly and can check in with the latest nursery goings-on at a time convenient for them. For those who prefer a traditional method, ParentMail make it easy to supply paper copies of all communications, ensuring every parent is reached and no one is left out. Built with both parents and nurseries in mind, our App makes managing nursery life easy for mums and dads so that you receive a great response.
How is it going?
With communications under control and parent data at its best, it’s important to track how well your news and messages are performing. Maybe parents didn’t respond well to your reminder for fees or failed to show up for the teddy bear picnic; our platform has it covered with simple reporting to detail which emails have reached recipients and which have been, or are yet to be, opened. This is particularly helpful for items which are time specific. For parents yet to respond, simply send a reminder or prompt parents to check their inbox and contact details in the App.
Strong relationships between your nursery and parents are vitally important, not only for the children in your care. Word of mouth goes a long way when it comes to managing your reputation and a focus on communications could set your brand apart from the rest. Most importantly, our reliable, easy-to-use platform supports you every day to save time and protect budgets. ParentMail communications solutions are super cost-effective, delivering a five-star service at an affordable price. We’d love to show you around and share solutions to your parental engagement problems, so get in touch – we’re waiting from you!
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You asked, and we listened! We’re very excited to share with you that our new Advance Bookings functionality is soon to be released. The update includes a number of helpful benefits to drive efficiency, protect school budgets and make life …
Coming soon… Advance Bookings
You asked, and we listened! We’re very excited to share with you that our new Advance Bookings functionality is soon to be released. The update includes a number of helpful benefits to drive efficiency, protect school budgets and make life easier for parents.
What to expect
We’ve listened to your feedback to understand the challenges schools face when it comes to dinner and club selections, parent responses and payments. From this summer, parents will be able to select and pay for items in advance. This means you can better plan and cater for school dinner choices, breakfast and after-school clubs, vastly reducing unnecessary waste and parent debt.
Support suppliers and diminish debt
Advance Bookings help both schools and parents to plan ahead and manage payments in plenty of time. New payment and menu items are entirely flexible, so schools can determine specific options, including date ranges, meal choices and item prices. The new functionality enables schools to set deadlines and request payments and selections in advance to manage supplier costs and budgets.
Grab and go menus and prompting parents
Custom templates can be saved for later use, cutting out the need to build recurring menus. Customised notifications can be configured to notify parents of new items, ensuring schools receive selections and payments quickly and efficiently – all online!
Schools also have the choice to make particular options mandatory; no more missing options, paper dinner registers or clunky spreadsheets to manually update and check.
Multiple payment options
To help schools manage parent debt, schools can choose to offer a pre-pay option or a pay-as-you-go option.
For pre-pay, the parent ‘pre-loads’ their account balance. They can then select their menu or club bookings, and the school uses the pre-loaded account balance as payment for their selection. This option allows for a debt threshold to be applied to accounts, and administrators can configure and manage the debt amounts on an account-by-account basis.
The pay-as-you-go option also lets parents select meals or book clubs in advance; as the selections are made, the system totals the amount due, and payment is made immediately in the +Pay checkout.
For busy parents, the free ParentMail app makes managing their child’s accounts quick and convenient.
Menus and payments are concise and clear, so parents can see exactly how much they have paid, for what items and over what period of time. Parents can see what they owe, and where their money has been spent, without fear of their account balance running out or accidentally falling into debt.
Automated reminders notify parents who still need to make their selections, without schools needing to manually send alerts. For parents who are not online, manual payments can be added to the system in the school office to keep all money in the appropriate account and all children using the same system.
Responsive, flexible functionality
This innovative new functionality enables flexible club and event management, too. For clubs with limited spaces, for example, the system updates automatically when parents book their child’s attendance and pay for their selected items. This ensures no awkward overbookings. However, for parents who want their child to attend just part of a session, the system takes this into account and ensures spaces remain available for the corresponding part of the club.
Advance Bookings functionality is expected for release this summer – keep an eye out for more information!
Do you want to streamline and improve payments in your school? If it’s a flexible and accessible parental engagement system you’re looking for, we’ve got the answer! Get in touch to arrange a free demo or to register your interest in our Advance Bookings release.
Parental involvement in your nursery helps parents to become interested and understand what’s going on behind all of their child’s activities, empowering them to support their children and continue the good work you do every day.
How important is parental engagement in Early Years?
Why do you need to have engaged parents in your nursery setting? Apart from the crucial role engaged parents play in your Ofsted inspection, the number one reason, of course, is that it’s good for the children!
Parental involvement in your nursery helps parents to become interested and understand what’s going on behind all of their child’s activities, empowering them to support their children and continue the good work you do every day.
And that’s not all; parental engagement is the surest way to gain good feedback on the running of your nursery, as honest and open communication is what drives you to keep improving.
Happy, up-to-date parents better understand the work you do and can see the essential role you play in the differences you make. As a business, it is happy parents who make or break your reputation, and they are the quickest route to more referrals, improved numbers as well as continued revenue.
Research Highlights the Benefits of Parental Involvement in Home Learning
Eighteen schools across Greater Manchester took part in PEN’s Engaging Parents Effectively Project, which prioritised disadvantaged three and four-year-olds and those eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium.
Nursery staff were trained to work closely with parents to support them in helping their children to learn. They found that parental involvement had a significant effect on the children’s home learning environment and, in most cases, it also improved their academic progress.
Under the trial, staff in intervention schools were trained in the Home Learning Project and delivered the ‘intervention’ to families over the course of an academic year. Parents were invited to attend two to four workshops per term and were provided with take-home activities and Play Club bags related to maths, phonics and other aspects of the EYFS.
Parents and teachers measured children’s outcomes before and after the programme.
In terms of the impact on staff, the analysis revealed that 94% of staff reported they had gained more confidence and skills in working with parents through the training and implementing the project.
Most schools thought that the intervention had a positive effect on the children’s progress in the EYFS profile outcomes. According to the evaluation, at one particular school, Claremont Primary School, 70% of the children involved in the project made accelerated progress in teacher-assessed reading, as well as speaking compared with the year group as a whole.
Staff also reported that their relaxed, informal, hands-on workshops helped to build good relationships among parents, as well as between parents and staff, leading to some parents supporting each other to do the activities.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation, said, “We know that the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest pupils begins before they’ve even started school. Tackling this gap early on is critical to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and improving social mobility.”
Does your nursery have a mobile app for parents?
Engaging nursery parents in the real world through informal, fun workshops has been shown to really improve parental engagement and children’s academic progress. Engaging parents with a familiar and convenient platform, such as a mobile App, further strengthens relationships, ensuring powerful communications that add real value to your nursery setting.
Today’s tech-savvy parents are accustomed to accessing all of their information at the press of a button. In fact, many millennials are likely to consult apps and the web for parenting advice even before reaching out to friends or family members! For this reason, innovative, user-friendly technology such as ParentMail is a sure-fire way to deliver important information quickly and reliably, ensuring you reach all parents, all the time! Get in touch today to find out more!
Until recently, whiteboards were blank canvases written on in dry-wipe marker. Now, they have several thousand times more computing power than the Apollo mission that first put man on the moon. This shift in consumer and education technology has happened …
Why back-office EdTech training is as important as teacher training
Until recently, whiteboards were blank canvases written on in dry-wipe marker. Now, they have several thousand times more computing power than the Apollo mission that first put man on the moon.
This shift in consumer and education technology has happened in just over half a century; tech changes at such a rapid pace that if you don’t make a concerted effort, you may struggle to keep pace. Every day, new tools are developed for an ever-evolving education landscape.
While EdTech isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of education, it’s undeniable that technology is driving the UK education scene, and the DfE are adopting a tech-led strategy. School processes and even teaching best practice must adapt with it if they want to keep up.
Simply put, EdTech changes the way your back office works and can help your parental engagement to take off – but only if you know how to get the most out of it.
Technology isn’t magic
If we aren’t preparing school staff how best to use these new tech approaches, we are setting them up to fail. Office staff have a host of responsibilities that can be streamlined with a software-led approach, but only if everybody adopts them with a unified approach.
Technology offers fantastic tools, but these are only as effective as their use allows; they aren’t magic! Users need to be guided in the use of these new technologies to ensure they’re cost-effective; unused software sitting neglected in the back of your intranet is a sunk cost that isn’t providing any value.
Learning to spacewalk
The staff operating these new software packages are undertaking the EdTech equivalent of the first spacewalk. School administrative technologies are a relatively new innovation, and office staff members are efficiency cosmonauts.
Imagine if a teacher couldn’t use an interactive whiteboard pen. How would they teach a class? In the same way, your office staff need to understand modern computing and software applications to get the most out of them.
EdTech training is a necessity to avoid any ‘Houston, we have a problem’ moments.
Training tackles the growing pains of innovation
EdTech paves the way for exciting new innovations – like the interactive whiteboard, which revolutionised the way teachers approach whole-class learning and discussion. However, bringing this technology into the everyday classroom was not without its difficulties.
Training helps staff avoid the worst of the growing pains of these new technologies. Changes are inevitable, but costly mistakes (like writing today’s maths sums in semi-permanent marker on an interactive board) can be avoided with the appropriate training.
EdTech exists beyond teacher training
EdTech training even goes one step further than teacher training. It not only enables teachers to teach better: it also hands schools the tools they need to save schools money. In the current funding crisis, this is needed more now than ever. For example, when used effectively, ParentMail’s home-school messaging feature saves schools thousands of pounds every year.
Modern teaching staff can also shoulder heavy administrative burdens that they could do without. EdTech automation and solutions can offer overworked teachers and back-office staff some sorely needed respite.
EdTech training can drive efficiencies at every level of your school, from the frontlines to the office, and the time and cost savings are more than worth it.
Nowadays, training must be flexible and on-site to fit around busy work schedules. That’s why we design our ParentMail training courses to match the exact needs of each school, helping schools drive parental engagement, save time and money, and avoid growing pains. If you’d like to talk to us about ParentMail training for your school, register your interest here.
Stop by a cash point today and you’re likely to be confronted with a message informing you, ‘this machine charges for cash withdrawals’. The accompanying price tag can range from a minimum of 95p to an eye-watering £5; today’s high …
The future of school payments is NOW
Stop by a cash point today and you’re likely to be confronted with a message informing you, ‘this machine charges for cash withdrawals’. The accompanying price tag can range from a minimum of 95p to an eye-watering £5; today’s high fee to access your own cash.
Pricey cash withdrawals are on the rise. According to consumer group Which?, nearly 1,700 charge machines were launched between January and March 2019. And, as free cash machines disappear from our high streets, so too, do bank branches; the UK has lost nearly two-thirds of its bank and building society branches over the past 30 years. However, in light of closures and a decline in free cash, consumers and businesses aren’t grinding to a halt. Instead, we’re welcoming a new cashless era with open arms, smartphones in hand.
The online bank
Today, 22 million people across the UK are using mobile banking apps to manage their accounts, and, by 2023, this number is expected to rise to 35 million – a huge 60% of all current account holders.
With the likes of contemporary online-only banks as Monzo entering the market, banks are placing greater emphasis on user-friendly, reliable apps and a convenient mobile banking experience. In fact, even online banking trends are changing to reflect our preference to smartphone tech; this year, mobile banking is expected to surpass internet banking as the most popular digital channel.
The bank of mum and dad
Most tech-savvy millennial parents keep a close eye on the digital purse-strings. Stopping by cash points and finding loose change for dinner money isn’t on the to-do list for the busy school drop-off.
Mobile apps provide a new level of convenience for busy mums and dads, enabling them to easily check finances while out and about. When it comes to security, too, mobile banking offers privacy settings and fingerprint logins. The dangers of ATM fraud are well known, and even inputting our pin in public can prove risky.
Today, we don’t think twice before paying for every day and extravagant items via mobile apps – holidays, travel fares, clothing and the weekly shop. As a result, parents are fast coming to expect the same level of ease and reliability for school payments and dinner money.
The solution for secondary schools
Convenience, reliability, security – these same cash-related issues spread as far as the school office. Every year, secondary schools process thousands of pounds for dinners, uniforms, clubs, trips and more, and the associated problems can be a real headache for staff; busy teams spend hours chasing, processing and banking money. Cash kept on-site results in security risks, and cash-related costs are high, particularly for schools relying on paper communications to contact parents. Lunch money debt is a regular hot topic in the media, with schools shouldering the burden of over-due dinner payments.
Fortunately, online payments are bridging the gap between home and school when it comes to finances. +Pay utilises a user-friendly platform and free mobile app to meet the needs of both schools and parents with innovative, convenient, cashless technology.
With Advance Booking functionality on its way, parents will soon be able to make selections and pay for items in advance, enabling schools to efficiently manage suppliers, reducing waste and debt. Multiple registers functionality collects payments for dinner, afterschool and breakfast clubs, with payments landing straight in the school bank account. Low-balance reminders and push notifications alert parents to payments that are due, allowing them to pay in seconds using a variety of flexible methods, including PayPal, debit/credit card and PayPoint.
+Pay delivers informative payment reports and integrates seamlessly with your school’s MIS. Our dedicated +Pay Support Team is on hand to offer help, if and when you need it. Whether you’re introducing online payments for the first time or switching provider, launching +Pay is easy; the online, automated process means no printed letters and codes.
We’ve designed the +Pay platform with secondary schools in mind; no stress, no complicated implementation process and no unhappy parents. The era of cash payments is quickly coming to a close, and for schools, the benefits are huge. Get in touch to find out more about +Pay and or book a free demo here.
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In today’s tech-savvy world, many of us rarely go a day without relying on handy Apps to chat with friends and family, post on social media, check our bank balance or transfer money, book a taxi and carry out all …
Meet the brains behind our school App
In today’s tech-savvy world, many of us rarely go a day without relying on handy Apps to chat with friends and family, post on social media, check our bank balance or transfer money, book a taxi and carry out all sorts of other routine tasks. It’s easy to forget the teams behind these Apps, working hard to develop new and innovative ways to enhance the user experience.
The ParentMail App is used by millions of busy parents to manage school life every day and we often hear from people that it makes receiving school communications so much easier! We want to shine a light on the brains behind our brilliant free parent App and learn a little more about the thought and work that goes into developing one of the education sector’s most popular parental engagement solutions.
Introducing ParentMail’s Front-End Developer, Richard Shergold!
How long have you worked at ParentMail and what does a front-end developer do?
I have worked at ParentMail as a Front-End Developer for nearly two years.
We have recently built a new version of the application to give us greater flexibility in delivering updates and improvements across all these platforms. This new version has been developed using the Ionic and Angular web frameworks.
What does a normal day look like for you?
I work remotely from home in West Sussex so I’m lucky that my day never begins with a commute – other than a very short walk to my office at the back of my garden! I usually try to start work at half past seven in the morning, which is also the time that most of my colleagues in the Development team arrive into the office; we are all early birds!
What I do on an average day depends on the current project we’re working on and what phase of that project we’re in. Most of the time, I am writing and testing code, but I also regularly have meetings with the Development team and other business colleagues at the ParentMail Head Office to discuss new requirements for the application.
If the initial phase of the project has finished and requirements have been signed off then I will be busy making the required changes to the App, sometimes working with other members of the Development team. After the testing process, the changes are released to our testing team. The ParentMail application needs to work across multiple platforms – all the major desktop and mobile browsers, as well as the range of iOS and Android devices – so both the development and testing processes can be quite challenging!
How does the development roadmap for the App take form?
We listen very carefully to feedback from parents and schools and also keep an eye on the market to see what innovations and developments are taking place. All feedback, whether positive or negative, is very useful to us. To ensure quality, we prioritise certain areas of development at a time. For example, currently, we are working on delivering Advanced Bookings functionality into the App which will allow parents to book and pay for their children’s dinners and club attendances in advance. This development will include a number of system enhancements to support schools and parents, and the release is fast approaching, so keep an eye out for it!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Everything changes so fast in Information Technology, particularly the skills and technologies required for App development. As developers, we have to keep learning, otherwise, the industry speeds ahead and it’s so easy to fall behind. I love this aspect of the job, the fact that I am probably learning more now than I have ever learned in my life! Every day is a school day (which is quite appropriate for a ParentMail employee)!
This results in the other part of the job I love, the challenge of developing and enhancing the ParentMail App to be even more useful for parents and schools.
Can you tell us an example of a challenge you’ll (regularly) encounter as ParentMail’s Front-End Developer?
The biggest challenge for me is making sure that the code I write is going to work across all of the platforms that we support. As I say, that’s several desktop browsers and a large number of mobile devices. It’s very frustrating when something will work for 99% of users but could prove problematic for the remaining 1%!
What does the future look like for the App?
The challenge over the last year has been to get the new version of the application built so that we are in a position to better deliver regular updates. We have achieved this now and I am looking forward to our team being able to deliver some fantastic enhancements and updates to the application for all our parents to enjoy!
ParentMail is bridging the home/school gap with industry-leading technology! If you’re a school looking to improve parental engagement, we’re sure to have the solution for you – get in touch to find out more.
A new study published in the European Economic Review (volume 111) has revealed the real impact of parent-teacher meetings. Asad Islam reported on a randomised experiment in rural Bangladeshi schools, communities which usually see little engagement between parents and educators. …
How important is parents’ evening?
A new study published in the European Economic Review (volume 111) has revealed the real impact of parent-teacher meetings.
Asad Islam reported on a randomised experiment in rural Bangladeshi schools, communities which usually see little engagement between parents and educators. With the introduction of regular parent-teacher meetings, student attainment dramatically increased, suggesting the very real benefits of parental engagement. During the two-year intervention, children in years 4 and 5 learned roughly double across all subjects, including English, Maths and Science.
The experiment also changed teaching methods, with teachers utilising visual aids and real-world examples to teach concepts, rather than sticking to textbook learning. At home, parents and siblings became more involved in the homework process and students were more likely to receive private tutoring in areas requiring a little more attention. Students were motivated to spend increased time studying – confidence around exams grew and so, too, did their ambitions.
Breaking home/school barriers
While parent-teacher meetings are a long-term tradition in the UK, rising student populations and teacher-workload can make planning and preparing for evenings difficult. For this reason (and many others) monthly or very regular meetings are impractical for UK schools and parents. Both teachers and office staff are balancing their own heavy workloads, making it difficult to squeeze in time to plan appropriately, and today’s busy parents find it hard to fit appointments into their already booked-up calendars. In fact, even encouraging some mums and dads to commit to occasional appointments and respond to invitations can prove difficult! As in Islam’s investigation, a lack of confidence in approaching schools is often prevalent in ‘unengaged’ parents. Unfortunately, often this can be misinterpreted by schools as disinterest on the parents’ part. However, as proven in the study, once a parent is involved in their child’s education, their confidence around the school environment grows – so, too, does home/school engagement and students benefit as a result.
On the rare occasions in which parents and teachers do get the chance to discuss student progress, it’s important that both parties get the most out of the meeting and parents feel encouraged to come back next term. Parent-teacher conferences are a great opportunity to break down barriers and improve relationships with the parent community. For this reason, it is very important to make the experience a positive one. This means preparing staff and parents with all the information they need to ensure the evening is beneficial. For some parents, even finding their way to the right classroom can be a daunting experience. The devil is in the detail and utilising all the tools at your disposal can support your team in preparing a successful evening from start to finish.
Building parent/teacher partnerships
Parents’ Evening Manager makes booking appointments easy for parents, resulting in a great response for schools. Cutting out pupil post with the free ParentMail app and push notifications enables busy parents to respond to invitations on-the-go and at a time convenient for them. The flexible platform gives schools the option to allow parents to include notes when booking, enabling teachers to plan in advance. Schools can also provide parents with extra detail and information, such as instructions on where to go upon arrival and guidance on what to expect on the night. As such, parents feel prepared and confident to meet with teachers and appointments run smoothly.
In the office, staff are organised and able to report on timetables with ease. The platform syncs with SIMS and other MIS, enabling easy class and subject selection; appointments can be easily amended and deleted, and reminders can be re-sent to parents yet to respond.
Parents’ Evening Manager is supporting thousands of primary and secondary schools to plan smooth and seamless parents’ meetings. Get in touch to find out more and to book a free demo!
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Parents are invested in their children’s education, and they’re going to ask teachers questions. That’s something that can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. However, when teachers are flooded by emails and messages from enthusiastic parents, this can lead to unhealthy out-of-work …
Saving your teachers from endless email onslaught and white bears
Parents are invested in their children’s education, and they’re going to ask teachers questions. That’s something that can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. However, when teachers are flooded by emails and messages from enthusiastic parents, this can lead to unhealthy out-of-work practices and a poor work-life balance.
Prior to outlining his new EdTech strategy at the Schools and Academies show, Education Secretary Damian Hinds argued for the need to ditch email culture to cut school workload. Educators need a solution to the issue of email overload, and the DfE is aware of this, but the problem isn’t always easy to diagnose. Technology isn’t the cause of the problem — the problem is that teachers’ email inbox is a white bear.
Your Email Inbox is a White Bear
Modern technology is capable of fantastic things, but it also forces you to be connected at all times. Switching off your phone or email inbox is a big no-no — besides, the second your phone buzzes or your computer pings, you just have to check it. In fact, just by trying to tune out an overenthusiastic parent, teachers cause themselves to think about them more often.
So why can’t teachers switch off and escape from school once they leave the classroom?
Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.
This is known as the white bear problem, or “ironic rebound”. The more you try to suppress a thought, the harder your subconscious works to make you think of it. If you try not to think of a white bear, for instance, it’s impossible not to.
This can give your email inbox an irresistible lure, and it’s a major cause of stress and anxiety. You don’t know if that message that just pinged into your inbox is important, and it’s gnawing away at your mind, much like the white bear that you shouldn’t have been thinking of. The more you try to resist thinking about it, the more present and threatening it becomes.
Solutions to Always-On Availability
Teachers already have enough stressors in their life, but email anxiety doesn’t have to be one of them. Rather than bringing their work home with them overnight, teachers should leave it at the school gate (marking excluded).
So how do we scare away the white bears?
The Usual “Solution”
Rather than replying to incoming emails as soon as they arrive, teachers can instead drop them into one of several different inbox folders. If emails are marked as urgent, they can be replied to as soon as possible — but not necessarily straight away.
This is a great way to stay on top of the flood of emails, but it doesn’t solve the white bear problem — it just delays it.
Your social media accounts are a great point of contact for parents. Not only can you answer their questions directly, but you may find that the school community and other parents will help each other. This makes it optional for staff to join in the conversation, and their inboxes remain clean — not a white bear in sight.
A healthy school community has trickle-down benefits through every level of the school. It’s proven that strong home-school links and parental engagement have a direct positive influence on student attainment.
However, despite its benefits, you can’t rely on social media messaging to contact parents. What happens if they don’t see an important post in time?
If you provide parents with all the information they need when they need it using anti-white-bear technology, parents won’t have as many queries for your teachers.
ParentMail is a white bear killer. It’s a one-way home-school communication app designed to prevent teachers from being bombarded with messages from parents. It makes it easy to provide parents with all the information they need, so there shouldn’t be a need to contact teachers for information.
Rather than sending home letters en masse, staff can send personalised messages to individual parents, so the information is fully relevant to them and instantly delivered where they need it most — their mobile phones and devices. Your school can even save money by sending push notifications instead of text messages, and you can cut down on the stacks of letters that would ordinarily need to be printed.
When teachers need instant responses from parents, they can gather information using ParentMail forms — again, without sacrificing anybody’s inbox. Capture exactly the information you need without having to read through endless emails, saving everybody time.
The forms module works within ParentMail, so all the important information you need is kept in a single easily accessible location.
You can even avoid the inevitable avalanche of parents’ evening questions with ParentMail’s Parents’ Evening Manager. Parents’ evening appointments are short-lived, and it’s important that both parent and teacher discuss everything that needs to be said in this time. By leaving questions for teachers ahead of time directly on the app, parents will get all the information they need from the meeting and will be much less likely to contact the school further down the line.
Schools have found great timesaving and organisational benefits to Parents’ Evening Manager, as it removes the student from the process — parents are contacted directly to book a slot.
If you’re interested in saving your teaching staff from email overload and improving your home-school communication, you can visit our website to find out more about ParentMail’s anti-white-bear technology:
We recently conducted a survey to investigate current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. Over 450 school leaders from primary, secondary schools and academies across the country took part to share their thoughts and feedback …
Picture this! Our EdTech school-leader infographic
We recently conducted a survey to investigate current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. Over 450 school leaders from primary, secondary schools and academies across the country took part to share their thoughts and feedback on EdTech solutions (not just ParentMail!), making the results particularly interesting.
With schools of all shapes and sizes facing their own challenges, from increasing student populations to tightening budgets and rising workloads, it is clear that parental engagement is more important today than ever before. We’re excited to see how schools are utilising EdTech to help tackle daily tasks and support staff, students and parents. Read part one and part two of the results and download our handy infographic to find out how your school compares.
To find out more about our innovative EdTech solutions, from parent communications to cashless payments, get in touch.
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It’s no surprise that engaged parents who feel well informed and involved are likely to develop a stronger bond with their childcare provider. For example, private nurseries with excellent communication will benefit from enthusiastic testimonials and word of mouth referrals. …
‘Parents as Partners’ for nurseries
It’s no surprise that engaged parents who feel well informed and involved are likely to develop a stronger bond with their childcare provider. For example, private nurseries with excellent communication will benefit from enthusiastic testimonials and word of mouth referrals. This, in turn, will help influence the reputation that nurseries can develop locally. This is known as ‘Parents as Partners’.
Satisfied, happy parents are more likely to raise issues sooner and come directly into the setting rather than tell others, which means nurseries have the opportunity to put things right as soon as possible. Professional, effective communication between parents and the setting can play a significant role in the overall performance of the setting and a child’s development.
Opportunities to enhance communication with parents
There are many ways that a setting can engage and involve parents through communication. It is important to remember that some parents are less well represented than others in early years settings.
These include fathers, parents who live apart from their children, and working parents. This may mean that different strategies are needed for involving them and that consultation is necessary to find out what works best. So, it is important that information should be provided in ways that are accessible to parents with basic skills, specific needs or for those where English is an additional language, for example.
Face-to-face communication is always a good way to interact, particularly with parents of young children, as this builds rapport and reassurance through simple meetings – this may include talking and sharing worries, news and day to day titbits with their child’s key person. Real 1-2-1 meetings and low key ‘keeping in touch events’ will always be important to the communication process for parents of young children.
This personal touch will go a long way in easing transitions and smoothing the process. Parents of young children may not be used to ‘letting them go’ and this may be a major milestone for them, so they will really want to get to know, on a personal level, the people responsible for their children’s wellbeing and learning; it builds trust. Communication builds bridges, not walls, between home and their child’s setting, and should never be underestimated.
Running informal coffee mornings, meet and greet drop-ins and having informal workshops in child development all help to build rapport and parental engagement in a relaxed and convivial way.
Written communication such as letters home and newsletters have always been popular and the standard way of communicating between home to help to keep parents informed and involved. However, letters consistently get lost in bags or discarded very easily by young children and so embracing a digital platform to engage, in real-time, during and after school hours is a great way of keeping parents engaged and informed.
In recent years, nursery websites have become the ‘go to’ place for reliable information. Embracing alternative electronic forms of communication is a really easy and flexible way of keeping in contact with parents, as this allows more frequent and flexible interaction and communication. This level of communication can only strengthen the relationship between parents and staff.
The new generation of Apps and technology enables information to be captured and monitored quickly and closely, allowing parents to access information about their children’s progress and development when and where they want, either online or via their mobile.
This not only cuts down on time and administration for everyone involved but allows contact to be much more frequent, relevant, current and instant.
Streamlining communication has become easier and more mobile. Creating digital communities, working together for the benefit of each child, elevates Early Years settings to a new level of communication previously unobtainable, enhancing the learning and experience for parents, teachers and children.
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If your school is seeking a faster, more reliable method of collecting payments, a commitment to cashless is the solution for you. Still unsure? Here are the top five reasons why thousands of UK schools are choosing online platforms for …
Five reasons to go cashless
If your school is seeking a faster, more reliable method of collecting payments, a commitment to cashless is the solution for you. Still unsure? Here are the top five reasons why thousands of UK schools are choosing online platforms for efficient, parent-friendly school payments.
- School budget
With dinner money debt and parent arrears raising concerns in schools across the country, a cashless catering and payment system is increasingly becoming a ‘need to have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’ to protect school budgets.
Whether it’s dinner money top ups, payments for school trips, uniform, after-school clubs or more, online payments keep things super convenient for parents – and when payments are simple for parents, schools feel the benefit! +Pay provides automatic low-balance and payment-due reminders, helping to keep parent arrears in check. The platform also offers multiple registers for after-school and breakfast clubs, and weekly settlement reports make managing budgets and reconciliation easy.
With some of the lowest transaction and subscription costs on the market, +Pay helps schools of all sizes achieve substantial savings.
- Supporting the millennial parent
From managing finances with personal banking to ordering the weekly shop from the comfort of home, the modern-day parent is making the most of modern technology to save time on daily admin tasks and chores – and who can blame them? Between balancing childcare, work and errands, parents are eager to take advantage of handy shortcuts to keep life simple. As a result of busy routines, relying on parents for cash payments is impractical. A recent survey by Merchant Machine evidences the dramatic rise of card payments over cash; to guarantee an improved response to payments, it’s up to your school to give parents the right tools for the job!
With +Pay, parents can manage payments with the free ParentMail App while out and about and on the go. For extra convenience, +Pay saves payment details, enabling easy payments in seconds. Again, push notifications serve as handy reminders to pay during their busy day.It’s clear why cashless payments are a favourite with parents; in fact, market research suggests that the vast majority of parents prefer to pay for school items via a secure online platform, with a huge 89% stating they prefer cashless systems!
- Social inclusivity
Unfortunately, the stigma associated with free school meals and other costly school items can prove difficult for some students. However, taking the cash out of payments can support a reduction in bullying and extortion on school grounds.
+Pay provides parents with a variety of payment options, including credit and debit cards, Amex, cash via PayPoint and PayPal; in fact, +Pay are the only online payments provider to offer PayPal as an option – a proven favourite with parents! Advancements in technology mean that children can now pay for their school dinners with ID Cards, fobs and even their fingerprint, so the need to bring cash in to school is completely abolished, and parents can be confident money is being spent on the right items.
With +Pay, parents can manage payments for all their children, across different schools, through their ParentMail account. Plus, the ability to access their account on the App, a tablet or web browser helps ParentMail fit into the lives of parents
With rising student populations and increasing pressure to evidence efficiency, administrative tasks can take up vital time for office teams. Collecting, managing and banking cash payments can take hours, not to mention the tricky and time-consuming tasks of tracking parent arrears and chasing overdue money.
Technology is supporting schools like never before, automating administrative tasks, improving security and reducing room for human error. +Pay was designed with the needs of schools in mind; the system syncs seamlessly with SIMS and other MIS, allowing you the flexibility to manage registers with ease.
- Secure and reliable
This last one is simple; reducing cash on school grounds is the safest way to operate and an online system stores student and parent data far more securely than paper records. It also cannot be denied that students often aren’t the most reliable carriers of cash!
2018 saw over 99% uptime for +Pay, providing parents with a reliable service, whenever they needed it. And, should you ever need us, our dedicated and friendly +Pay Support Team are on hand to provide any help you might need!
Hundreds of schools made the change to +Pay last year and haven’t looked back, with many switching from the market leader in search of reliable and professional service. It’s time to join the cashless revolution! Get in touch to find out more
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Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, took to the stage at the London Schools and Academies Show earlier this month to reveal details of a new strategy for education technology. The Department’s continued focus on the vital role of technology in schools …
Technology beyond the classroom: ParentMail and the DfE EdTech strategy
Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, took to the stage at the London Schools and Academies Show earlier this month to reveal details of a new strategy for education technology.
The Department’s continued focus on the vital role of technology in schools demonstrates their recognition of the pressures increasing across the sector. Speaking of the variety of educational institutions across our country, Damian Hinds acknowledged such versatility as one of the education system’s ‘greatest strengths’. From local authority-maintained schools to faith schools and grammars, “all make an invaluable contribution to their communities and to young people.”
However, today, UK schools of all shapes and sizes face a range of unique challenges. While the Secretary spoke of the power of the MAT model (directly referencing the recent successes of a few, evidenced by improvements in Ofsted results) all schools continue to struggle under the weight of increasing student populations, budget cuts and poor staff retention. As such, the Education Secretary’s speech quickly progressed from praising school leaders for their successes, to discussing how the government intend to support these same leaders in tackling challenges on the front-line.
As other sectors continue to embrace the benefits of technology, schools often struggle in making the most of EdTech to truly support their staff and student populations. In fact, as stated by the Secretary, some school leaders refer to instances in which technology served only to cause more complications than the product promised to confront. Rather than be deterred, Mr Hinds spoke of the importance of not being ‘left behind’, stating, “(..) we owe it to all our young people to grasp the technology nettle.”
While technology plays a truly impressive role in the classroom, transforming learning experiences and inspiring young minds, EdTech is seeping beyond the classroom walls with tailor-made solutions for the office team. There are a number of areas of improvement for which technology can play a vital role in school administration. In his speech, the Secretary discussed behaviour management, referring to the number of valuable hours invested in tricky, manual processes, from information collection, data input to parent communications.
Fortunately, technology is streamlining processes and supporting staff like never before. For example, while workload remains a primary reason for the revolving door of teachers abandoning the profession at an unprecedented rate, online tools seek to lift the burden of parent communications from teacher’s shoulders. At ParentMail, our technology is designed and developed with the unique needs of schools in mind. And, as schools consider the challenges awaiting them in the future, we look for ways to support you in meeting these head-on.
Administration, parental engagement, workforce flexibility – just a few of the areas acknowledged by Damian Hinds in which our technology is serving to support thousands of schools across the country. Digital communications platforms such as our Online Forms, Messaging and Parents’ Evening Manager modules are bridging the home/school gap and supporting school staff with huge time and cost savings.
It is hard to believe that, only a few years ago, we still relied on pupil post to keep parents up to date with the latest school news. Our online platform and free parent App not only encourage parents to actively engage with their child’s education but serves to improve efficiency in the school office, reduce paper, print and postage costs, as well as improving data security. With thousands of schools realising the benefits of paperless and cashless processes, our online payments platform, +Pay, is paving the way for simple, parent-friendly payments for dinner money, school trips, club fees and more.
We realise the importance of unified, consolidated systems, enabling office staff to manage everything from day-to-day communications to school trips to payments from just one platform, reducing supplier costs and improving security. Social inclusivity remains at the heart of our technology, enabling schools to engage with hard to reach, busy parents at a time, and in a way, that suits them. When systems are simplified in school, so, too, are processes easier for parents. Our mobile App enables mums and dads to manage communications for multiple children, across different schools, from just one account, improving responses when it matters most.
Rather than ‘grasping the technology nettle’, we support schools to embrace pain-free and powerful EdTech to support staff, students and parents. To find out how ParentMail can help your school to streamline processes and protect the school budget whilst improving parental engagement, get in touch today.
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Excellent communication with parents in Early Years is key to the success of any nursery business and there have never been more ways to keep parents in the loop. The importance of communication with parents in the EYFS strives to …
Early Years – communicating with parents is the key to success
Excellent communication with parents in Early Years is key to the success of any nursery business and there have never been more ways to keep parents in the loop.
The importance of communication with parents in the EYFS strives to provide a good working ‘partnership’ between practitioners and parents. It states that key workers should build ‘relationships’ with parents, keep them up-to-date with their child’s progress, respond to observations that they share, involve them in assessments and support them to guide their child’s development at home.
Children attending nursery used to be commonly associated with parents being able to go to work. In more recent years it has become more about children developing social skills, preparing for school and growing and flourishing in a nurturing environment. This has meant that communication with parents is not only necessary, but essential.
Effective, regular, transparent communication is at the heart of any personal or professional relationship. In fact, it will make all the difference to a parent of a child in an Early Years setting. It will reassure, inform and build long term parental engagement.
Considering your communications strategy
Parents need to be made aware of general policies, quality standards, general updates, news and announcements and the philosophy that underpins the setting. As well as the bigger picture of policies, procedures and child protection, however, parents also need to know the day to day organisation of their child’s day and what happens if there is an accident or if their child becomes ill.
Being transparent, open, specific, clear and quick to respond pre-empts misunderstandings, dissatisfaction and complaints from parents. It’s also important to consider that one size doesn’t always fit all and this needs to be factored into a setting’s communication strategy, as working parents have very busy different schedules and commitments.
It’s also about being sensitive and recognising and working to overcome potential barriers to communication such as language differences, low literacy levels or lack of parental confidence, and becoming familiar with the needs of each individual family.
Early Year’s parental engagement
During these vital early years, it is crucial that nurseries are able to break down any boundaries between parents early on – the relationship benefits children in many ways:
- Parents know their child best
- Parents can be encouraged to discuss issues, talk about any concerns and get advice from Key Workers/Support Staff that have a broad & deep knowledge of child development as well as professional experience.
- Parents can be engaged in the learning process. Evidence suggests that joint working benefits children, who learn and develop better, by having the support of both their child care provider as well as their carer or parent.
- Effective communication makes transitions throughout the setting smoother.
- It paves the way for open feedback where parents feel comfortable raising concerns with their childcare provider, knowing it will be heard and addressed in a comfortable & safe environment.
- It can help keep children safe. Open communication helps with safeguarding and child protection as parents and carers feel safe enough to talk about any problems they may have especially at home.
As more nurseries recognise the importance of parental engagement, many are turning to technology to help them keep in regular contact with parents at a low cost, reaching working parents in a way that suits them, improving their relationships and reputation as a result. If you work in an Early Years setting and would like to know how a system like ParentMail could help, get in touch today or call us on 01733 595959.
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We recently posted part one of our findings from our survey, which investigated current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. Below we continue to share our findings with you so that you can see how …
School leaders talk school communications! Part 2
We recently posted part one of our findings from our survey, which investigated current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. Below we continue to share our findings with you so that you can see how your school compares!
We asked respondents to tell us about all the software they use, from all suppliers, so the results aren’t only about ParentMail, providing valuable insight into all parental engagement platforms and ed-tech in general.
Implementing new systems
What is key to the success of the implementation of a new software system? According to your responses, there are a number of equally important factors when it comes to a successful launch! The four most important things were: strong and positive parent adoptions; good preparation; a detailed launch plan and clear and easy to follow training, as chosen by 78% of respondents. Service provider support and staff engagement followed closely behind these.
What do you look for in a new parental engagement system?
This is a very important question for the ParentMail team; we want to know what is important to your school when it comes to introducing a new system. Coming top were good customer service, at 84%, and low price, at 78%. Understandably, company reputation was also important to our respondents, with 45% stating reputation is important and 44% agreeing that other schools using the service is key.
What does this mean?
Following the October 2018 budget announcement, there has been much criticism from school leaders regarding the government’s promise to provide an additional £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 per secondary school, to “buy the little extras they need.”
Primary schools, secondary schools and academies across the country are struggling with understaffing, rising student populations and increased workload, and we recognise that the pressure on schools cannot be underestimated.
Responses to our survey speak overwhelmingly of the role of technology in supporting schools in a number of areas. Not only does technology in the school office serve to encourage parental engagement for the benefit of staff and students, but it is also key in enabling schools to go cashless and paperless, improving security, protecting school reputation and supporting staff in the school office.
ParentMail solutions are supporting thousands of primary, secondary schools, academies and Multi-Academy Trusts to engage with parents, reliably and professionally, every day. From collecting payments and permissions to circulating the school newsletter and managing parents’ evening, our modular system meets individual challenges head-on, all from a single user-friendly platform. Whilst strong parental engagement remains a top priority in the development of our solutions, school staff also benefit from streamlined, simplified processes, as well as huge time and cost savings. Our technology is designed with both schools and parents in mind – we make things easy for parents so that schools receive a great response.
If you are already using ParentMail and would like to find out more about the other services which could benefit your school, or if you’re looking to implement a brand-new parental engagement system, get in touch with the ParentMail team and start to improve efficiency, reduce costs and work smarter within your school. Call 01733 595959 to speak to our specialist team or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Communications at the click of a button
In this day and age, a reliable, compatible mobile App is fast becoming a ‘need to have’ rather than just a ‘nice to have’ for primary and secondary schools!
With technology reducing our reliance on paper and pupil post, thousands of schools are making the most of free mobile Apps to stay in touch with busy parents. Whether it’s invitations to events and parents’ meetings, handy reminders for upcoming payments or circulating the school newsletter, sharing information on student education has never been easier and parents have never been more engaged!
In our latest video, Sue Atkins discusses how simple but innovative technology is paving the way for stress-free paperless communications for schools and parents.
Are you ready to take the leap to next-level online communications? Contact us today to find out more about ParentMail and our free mobile App for parents!
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So, you’re planning the next school trip. Teachers have confirmed the destination and now it’s up to your capable and highly organised office team to manage all the details, from staff to students to parents. When done right, school trips …
A journey to school trip success
So, you’re planning the next school trip. Teachers have confirmed the destination and now it’s up to your capable and highly organised office team to manage all the details, from staff to students to parents. When done right, school trips run (fairly!) smoothly, especially once all of the tricky planning is out of the way. However, that part is easier said than done – fortunately, we have the tools to take the stress out of school trips!
Tripping over paper?
Usually, the first priority is to confirm the number of students attending. Once you know this, you can move onto planning other aspects of the trip, such as costs, food and transport. Finalising this number can be tricky, especially when relying on pupil post to communicate with parents.
Enter school trip solution number one! Our Online Forms platform is a speedy and convenient way of gathering parent consent and permissions. This should be your first port of call for an initial communication with parents. Setting up forms is super quick and easy, allowing you to share all the details of the trip (date, time, location etc.) whilst providing parents with a convenient way of responding within deadline. Once the form is set up, click ‘send’ and watch your parent permissions roll in!
The versatile system enables you to request more than just trip consents; in advance of longer trips or holidays abroad, many schools utilise digital forms to confirm parent contact details, dietary and medical information. Push notifications encourage parents to respond quickly and, for those who don’t, you can send a helpful nudge to prompt them when needed. With no more paper floating around between home, the classroom and school office, student data is safe, secure and easily analysed at a moment’s notice. A real benefit here is that parents receive the form through our free mobile App, which means it’s delivered straight to their hand, allowing them to read and respond in minutes.
“We usually see 50% of parents responding to a form within the first hour and this goes up to 100% within 24 hours – probably because it’s delivered to them instantly and they can complete it in just a few taps!” Brookside Primary School
Fielding parent payments
Now you know who’s coming, it’s time to request and collect payments. It’s no secret – cash payments are clunky, inconvenient and time-consuming. Encouraging parents to get money into school on time can be difficult, and once cash is on school grounds, it doesn’t necessarily reach the office. But, there’s a solution to keep things simple for parents, students and your office team; enter field trip solution number two; you’re already paperless, so keep it cashless, too, with online payments!
+Pay is the fastest-growing online payments system in the UK. Thousands of primary and secondary schools are collecting online payments for school dinners, after school clubs, uniform and other school items every day, making it the perfect solution for managing money for your next school trip. +Pay is designed with parents in mind, making it easy for them to pay on the go with PayPal, credit and debit card, Amex and PayPoint. They can pay in instalments, spread out over time (ideal for more expensive trips abroad), and receive reminders when payments are due. The flexible system integrates seamlessly with year, form and teaching groups for easy pupil selection, making admin and trip management stress-free and easy. What’s more, with all finances collected in one system, maintaining your school budget is straightforward and accurate!
“Parents receive an alert when the money is due and payments come through quickly as a result, meaning we don’t have to chase students for overdue payments.” Casterton College
Information shared with parents – check!
Payments, permissions and data collected – check!
Staff feeling cool, calm and collected – check!
With ParentMail, planning school trips doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, complicated task. Feel the freedom of paperless, cashless solutions for your next venture out of the classroom! Get in touch to find out more and book a demo.
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The eight-school Multi Academy Company set out on a mission to go cashless to reduce school debt and support parents with easy online payments!
Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School lead the way with +Pay!
It’s not just staff at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Coventry who are feeling the benefits of +Pay; parents are thrilled to be making easy, cashless payments, too! Part of Romero Catholic Academy, the eight-school Multi Academy Company set out on a mission to go cashless to reduce school debt and support parents with easy online payments and are thrilled with the results.
“Before +Pay, we struggled with dinner money debt,” says Lisa Harding, Office Manager at Sacred Heart. “When they were in arrears, we would remind parents to send children with a packed lunch, but pupils would still turn up without and we would always provide a meal for them.”
“The school is responsible for dinner money debt, at the end of the day, and it was only increasing. We had a lot of foot-fall in the school office, too, with parents queuing out the door waiting to pay, particularly at the end of term. Dealing with cash payments and parents could take up hours of staff time every day, time that we could ill-afford! Admin tasks were stressful and time-consuming. Numbers were often wrong in the kitchen, resulting in waste – cashless really was the only way forward!”
Working with parents
“We were already using ParentMail for home/school communications, so we were excited to try +Pay,” says Marie Taggart, School Administrator. “With parents already using the ParentMail App to manage Parents’ Evening, messaging and Online Forms, most parents were pleased to be able to manage payments through the App, too.”
School staff worked very hard to support parents during the introduction of +Pay: “We communicated with parents, providing information, answers and guidance early on; we focused on sharing the benefits of the system with them and the uptake was great! We had an iPad set up to provide support in the school office. A small number were understandably wary of a new payments platform and some had concerns around security. However, the system is so flexible, we could work with these parents and provide barcodes, so all payments still went through ParentMail.”
Reaping the rewards
“Now the system is fully embedded in school, the benefits have been numerous.” Says Lisa. “With students preselecting their dinner choices, the kitchen can plan ahead, reducing waste and related costs. We don’t spend hours every day processing, counting or chasing parents for cash. It has hugely improved our productivity in the office. For parents, low balance reminders are really helpful. They can top up in the ParentMail App on the go and at a moment’s notice.”
“We were really pleased with the training and onboarding process. The ParentMail Support Team are always happy to help and our Account Manager has supported us every step of the way. It’s been great being able to support and rely on other schools in our Academy too. When we need help from ParentMail, Live Chat is very helpful – practically any queries are solved very quickly.
“We measure the success of +Pay by parent uptake and feedback, which has been fantastic. What’s more, when we log into the system every day, we can see how much money we are saving. We delivered the support parents needed at the beginning and are reaping the rewards now!”
“+Pay is a lot safer than banking lots of cash and we now have very few cash collections across all of our schools. The platform is reliable and secure and the implementation has been plain sailing – we would never go back. Would we recommend +Pay to other schools? Absolutely! It may seem like a big change and appear be a huge challenge initially, but don’t be put off; going cashless with ParentMail is absolutely worth it and parents love it, too!”
Join Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School and thousands of schools across the country enjoying the endless benefits of +Pay! Get in touch to find out more and to book a free a demo
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In our latest video, Sue Atkins discusses why cashless payments are so much easier for busy parents on the go!
What’s more convenient than cashless?
Very few of us have cash to hand these days; whether we’re paying for our morning coffee or costly train tickets, contactless debit and credit cards make things so much easier! These days, most of us now expect to be able to pay for things without having to dig through our purse and find loose change!
That’s why schools who are going cashless, and allowing parents to pay for school items such as school dinners, trips and uniform on a mobile app, are seeing the benefits!
Making quick, cashless payments through your phone makes life so much easier for all involved. Parents can make payments instantly and receive automatic reminders when their dinner money balance is running low.
Parenting expert, Sue Atkins, knows all about the frustrations of scratching around for loose change and cash on busy school mornings. In her latest video (see below!) Sue discusses why cashless payments are so much easier for busy parents on the go.
For parents, +Pay is convenient, easy to use and reliable; parents can access and top up their accounts when they need to most, even at the busiest times. Our socially-inclusive platform allows parents to top-up with credit/debit card, PayPal, PayPoint and AMEX, offering a solution for everybody.
Are you ready to go cashless? Contact us today to find out more about +Pay and our free mobile app for parents!
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We recently conducted a survey to investigate current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. We received a great response, with over 450 schools taking part and telling us about their school communications. As leaders in …
What role does technology play in the school office? Part 1
We recently conducted a survey to investigate current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement.
We received a great response, with over 450 schools taking part and telling us about their school communications. As leaders in the ed-tech industry, it’s important that we stay up to date on the latest trends in technology and parental engagement, and we wanted to share our findings so that you can see how your school compares to others!
Of the 457 school leaders who responded, 57% worked in primary schools, 20% for an academy trust and 15% in secondary schools. We also heard from staff working for nurseries and clubs.
We asked respondents to tell us about all the software they use, from different suppliers, so the results aren’t only about ParentMail. This provides a valuable insight into all parental engagement platforms and ed-tech in general.
Technology in the school office
It is evident that email and text platforms are a priority for most schools, with 82% of respondents utilising an email and text system to communicate with parents every day. Also on the up are online payments systems, with 60% using a cashless platform to collect parent payments for school dinners and other school items.
Almost 90% of respondents stated they are satisfied with their communications system and almost 80% were satisfied with their online payments system, which means these systems are meeting the needs of both schools and parents.
Schools are clearly prioritising parental engagement, which is great news! Experience tells us that when schools prioritise a strong school/parent relationship, students benefit in the long run, and communication is key!
How does technology support schools?
We know the priority for most schools utilising an online communications system is to improve parental engagement, and almost 90% of respondents stated they use online systems to improve communications with parents; 67% referred to getting more parents engaged. Modern technology supports social inclusivity, with online platforms enabling schools to keep in touch with hard-to-reach parents like never before.
However, with increasing demands on schools to demonstrate efficiency and savings, we recognise the important role of technology in streamlining processes and saving time in the office. Technology is clearly supporting schools to be more efficient, with 69% of schools benefiting from reduced workload as a result of parental engagement systems, and 75% utilising software to improve efficiency in school. 60% of respondents stated they look to online systems to save money.
What technology are schools using?
Technology can play lots of different roles in schools, whether that’s collecting payments, sending important news straight to parent’s hands, gathering online forms and permissions or arranging parents’ meetings. With so many different systems, we asked you how many suppliers you use to perform different tasks; 56% of respondents use just one system, 27% use two and 18% use three systems or more.
With multiple suppliers providing different systems in the school, parents are using the same number of systems to stay on top of school information at home. 62% of respondents believe using multiple systems would reduce the effectiveness of school communications. Experience also tells us that streamlining processes in the school office can protect the school budget, too.
Over 70% of respondents stated they regularly look into new methods of communication for their parents. 40% of schools who don’t invest time into looking at alternative systems refer to a lack of resource in implementing new methods.
Interesting stuff – thank you to everyone who took the time to take part! If you’d like to discuss how your school could use technology to improve your parental engagement, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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School apps are becoming increasingly popular from early years through to secondary as a way of encouraging parents to invest their time into their child’s school life when it is most convenient for them.
Are mobile apps the future of school communications?
The humble mobile app has transformed numerous aspects of our daily lives. From booking a flight to transferring money, booking an Uber, to the freedom to chat with people from all over the world in seconds, to gaming apps that keep us entertained ‘on the go’ on trains, tubes and in waiting rooms.
We live in a busy world that never sleeps, switches off or stops, and habits and expectations have changed drastically in the last 5-10 years, so to harness this phone-friendly lifestyle, schools need to adapt to be able to harness the way in which we all communicate.
By embracing these changes towards the ‘24/7 always-connected’ and ‘on-the-go’ world in which we now live, schools can connect with parents in ways they could only have dreamed about 20 years ago.
Technology has already impacted education and learning in remarkable ways. Children have the world literally at their fingertips. Not only is endless information available to download, stream or interact with at the click of a button, but the ways in which children and young people are able to learn is changing all the time. From games that teach kids how to touch-type, to videos that teach phonics, the internet and advances in computer software, they’ve all enabled a new generation to embrace and explore interactive learning.
The next step for schools is to embrace mobile apps as a way to engage parents in the way that they like to be engaged with. Mobile school apps provide schools with simple streamlined ways to communicate with parents via interactive tools that they are comfortable & familiar with – and it’s a cheaper option than traditional paper methods and restrictive SMS!
The need to juggle the commitments of so many different aspects of family life is an ongoing struggle for parents and with often a lack of time for conversations at the school gate, and a host of forgotten or missed events throughout the school term, schools need to engage with parents in a way that works. By shrinking all of these aspects down into an easy-to-use school mobile app, not only is the communication process with parents simplified, but it can actually improve parent/student engagement with the school and build community and trust. Schools can even have the app set up so it reflects the school’s branding and ethos making everyone feel part of a team..
School apps are becoming increasingly popular from early years through to primary and secondary schools as a way of encouraging parents to invest their time into their child’s school life when it is most convenient for them. It feels like a more personalised, intimate and individual connection and better communication with parents means better support for the child and better outcomes.
School mobile apps can bring together weekly calendar updates, new school uniform lists, important school news and current school policies to the latest Ofsted Report, for example, in a fast and simple single place, which is useful for busy parents.
In the past, admin staff have spent considerable time checking and updating parent email addresses and mobile numbers, but when parents use the school app, if mobile numbers or email addresses are changed, the app keeps parents connected making life easier for everyone. What’s more, it’s very easy for parents to update their own details within their account.
So, whether it’s last minute panic about the dates of the upcoming Teddy Bear’s Picnic, or an early morning worry about whether parents’ evening starts at 6.30 or 7pm, it means children will stop getting told off for forgetting important messages from school, less clutter on the fridge and a more relaxed atmosphere all round.
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It’s strange to think that, only 10 years ago, we still relied on the occasional paper newsletter to communicate with parents. Today, there are numerous methods of sharing important news and information with mums and dads; for schools, new technology …
Are we becoming tired of the text?
It’s strange to think that, only 10 years ago, we still relied on the occasional paper newsletter to communicate with parents. Today, there are numerous methods of sharing important news and information with mums and dads; for schools, new technology is bridging the gap between school and home like never before!
Over the years, ParentMail has observed the world of EdTech expand and evolve; we’ve seen habits change both at home and in the school office. One particular platform which has seen a dramatic transition is SMS. In 2012, over 160 billion text messages were sent in the UK; year on year, this number has steadily declined, with almost half the number sent in 2017, at just over 80 billion. In the wake of the SMS decline, in-App notifications are fast taking the place of the humble text message, and it’s easy to see why.
How many text messages are too many? When it comes to school messages, we think there should be a limit. Push notifications offer flexibility unrivalled by the outdated SMS. Text messages can be intrusive, causing parents to feel the need to respond instantly. On the other hand, smartphone users are accustomed to push-notifications appearing on their screen; in App notifications don’t require an immediate reaction, serving as a handy reminder to new information, instead.
For most school communications, not all messages are considered critical or require an instant response. Often, messages are alerting parents to news, payments due, bookings to be made etc. Whilst these messages are important, they are rarely categorised as urgent and, for this reason, push notifications are ideal, helping to build a reliable and constructive relationship between parents and school. For those messages that are considered urgent, parents are still notified and can react accordingly.
Apps allow the user to amend notifications to suit their own preferences. Text message notifications are either switched on or off, which simply isn’t practical. With an App custom-built for school communications, parents can make the most of flexible notifications and set them as appropriate.
Reached your limit?
With an average 160-character limit (including spaces!), SMS rarely offers the flexibility to share truly informative messages with parents. Text messaging is also a poor platform for sending additional media, such as pictures, forms or invitations. As a result, school messages are often short and impersonal and can fail to build a sense of confidence in parents. Add to this the huge cost of sending hundreds, if not thousands, of text messages every term, schools simply aren’t getting enough for their money.
School communications should be professional, helpful and, importantly, represent your school’s brand and values. When parents use just one App to manage all school communications, they immediately associate those notifications with your school and know they can trust the information they receive. This means parents are more likely to pick up messages quickly and respond as required. Without character limitations, schools can provide parents with all the necessary information for the subject at hand, from sharing photos from recent school trips, requesting consent, permissions and feedback with forms, or supporting parents to make online payments, quickly and easily. This level of flexibility builds a stronger relationship between home and school, ensuring parents feel informed about important news and information regarding their child.
School communications shouldn’t put your school budget on the back foot. ParentMail is designed with school’s needs in mind! Our flexible subscriptions allow you to plan your finances accordingly, with no unwelcome surprises in the form of extra costs. Make the most of the latest technology to improve parental engagement and impress your parents – you’ll never look back! Find out more and book a free demo today.
When parents and schools have a strong relationship, teachers experience the positive effects in the classroom and are empowered to support their students.
Staff retention and school reputation
Schools across the country are feeling the strain of the teacher retention crisis. In London, more than four out of ten teachers are quitting the profession within five years of qualifying. This is a major concern for secondary schools, with pupil numbers set to increase by a huge 540,000 (19%) by 2025, as the swell of primary school students since 2010 make their way up to secondary education. Secondary schools now have a shortfall of 30,000 classroom teachers, and 20% of teacher training vacancies remain unfilled.
Educators are entering and leaving the teaching profession at a fast rate, enforcing a ‘just passing through’ culture. According to the DfE, there are three spikes in every academic year in which teachers leave schools; during the spring term in March, the end of the school year in August and, just passed us, the close of the Autumn term in December. With the pressure of budget cuts, rating tables and demands for efficiency, teacher retention is an additional unwelcome issue for schools already feeling the strain.
Many teachers make no secret of their reasons for leaving the profession behind, voicing major issues concerning work/life balance. However, it is also clear that a positive and supportive working culture can play an important role in a school’s retention. In fact, many teachers refer to a lack of support from school leaders as a primary reason for their seeking teaching roles else-where. Most teachers, when asked why they entered the profession in the first place, are likely to refer to educating and supporting young people – this doesn’t mean they don’t need the support of their peers, too!
There is a clear link between school reputation and staff retention; when a school is supported by their community and parents, staff feel encouraged and supported in their roles as a result. We know that parental engagement goes a long way in a students’ education, and parents can support teachers every day by staying up to date with the latest school news, attending parents’ evening, events or responding to forms. When parents and schools have a strong relationship, teachers experience the positive effects in the classroom and are empowered to support their students.
Experience tells us that most parents want to be involved in their child’s education; it’s up to the school to provide the tools they need to do so!
A strong parent communication system goes a long way in building that important link between school and home. If you are already using ParentMail and would like to find out more about the other services which could benefit your school, or if you’re looking to implement a brand-new parental engagement system, get in touch with the ParentMail team and start to improve efficiency, reduce costs and work smarter within your school. Call 01733 595959 to speak to our specialist team or email email@example.com.
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Take control of your nursery finances
Professional and passionate staff, happy children and fantastic facilities – your front of house is under control, but how about those time-consuming finances?
When it comes to managing nursery finance, there’s a lot to take into account. Chances are, your nursery collects a wide variety of payments, from attendance fees, breakfast and lunch costs, additional money for trips and even late payment fees. For busy parents, remembering to withdraw cash for ad-hoc payments can be tricky, leading to arrears and potentially debts for your nursery, too.
On average, a nursery could collect hundreds of pounds in cash from parents every week. Keeping large amounts of money on site isn’t ideal, not only due to the security risks. It can take hours to collect, count, process and bank cash and cheques, time that could be better spent doing what you do best – looking after children!
Thousands of nurseries are making the most of paperless communications to engage with parents every day. Digital communication platforms are a fantastic way of saving time and money for your business, and parents love being kept up to date with the latest news from their nursery with a convenient mobile App. With technology proving to be an invaluable parental engagement tool for nursery communications, why should payments be any different?
+Pay provides a sustainable and reliable finance solution for small, large and multi-site nurseries. With online payments, parents no longer need to remember to withdraw cash. Instead, thanks to handy notifications and reminders, they simply log in and pay through the free ParentMail App – the same App they use to manage your nursery communications! Completely socially inclusive, parents can pay via PayPal, credit and debit card, AMEX and PayPoint. More than one parent can access the same account for one child, as well as managing multiple children from one account.
Setting up payment items in the office is quick and simple. With so many different payments to collect, the versatile, user-friendly platform offers daily, weekly and monthly settlement reports, making it easy to manage accounts and keep parent arrears in check. Childcare vouchers can be manually added into the system, effectively managing subscriptions and ensuring accounts are consistent and in balance. +Pay puts the tools into parent’s hands to stay on top of their payments, reducing arrears and debt and cash on nursery grounds – it’s a winner for everyone!
Our flexible platform comes with flexible pricing, too! ParentMail offer subscriptions to suit your nursery’s needs, whether you’re running a small set-up or operating across multiple sites. Our +Pay team will work with you to understand your needs and offer a solution to suit you. Set-up is quick, easy and won’t interfere with the day-to-day running of your nursery and our expert Support Team are on hand to offer help when you need it most.
More nurseries than ever are making the most of ParentMail to share news, request data, collect payments and more, every day. Providing parents with a convenient, free mobile App to stay on top of payments adds that extra special touch to your business to make you stand out against the crowd. Take control of your payments with ParentMail! Get in touch today!
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A hot topic amongst parents and teachers is homework. It can often be a divisive issue, especially if there is a lot coming home but little communication about it sent to parents. Across social media, many parents often complain about the …
You’ve got homework: Communicating with parents
A hot topic amongst parents and teachers is homework. It can often be a divisive issue, especially if there is a lot coming home but little communication about it sent to parents. Across social media, many parents often complain about the amount of homework coming home, with many suggesting they think it’s unnecessary.
Successful schools recognise that it’s important to keep a dialogue open so that everyone understands that homework is part of the larger picture – of an independent lifelong learner. For this reason, communicating with parents is vital to ensure they are on side and checking work is completed.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind around communicating with parents about homework:
- Set expectations early. As much as possible, keep parents in the loop about how much homework their children can generally expect, per week. Obviously, this is going to vary from child to child – not to mention throughout the year – but even rough guidelines can be helpful to reduce misunderstandings and supports busy parents to plan their weekly schedules.
- Explain why homework is necessary. It is helpful for parents to understand how much homework is expected of their children and why. As educators, schools understand that sometimes the learning process has to extend beyond the school day. This isn’t always as clear to students or parents, so it is worth taking the time to point this aspect out to caregivers.
- Help parents help with homework. Some parents look back on their school days with dread and unhappy experiences. Many experience daily battles with their children to ‘get homework done.’ So, it is helpful to explain that children need a quiet, dedicated space at home to get on with their work, with good lighting, and minimal distractions (from younger brothers and sisters, mobiles phones etc), and that leaving everything until the last minute is often a recipe for disaster. It’s important that parents try their hardest to provide the right environment for homework to get done.
- Tell parents (politely) to not get overinvolved. We’ve all seen parents get too involved in homework, sometimes to the extent of doing entire projects all by themselves! This is often a rather keen parent whose good intentions have gone overboard. It’s helpful to clearly explain to parents the difference between facilitating their child’s homework which is a good thing, and doing it for them!
- Use technology to help parents keep track of homework. Sending details of homework to parents digitally means they can keep track of what’s being worked on and allows them to refer back to it, should they need to.
Using school communication software is perfect for keeping parents up to date with homework as it makes it simple, quick and easy to keep them in the loop and reaches parents instantly. What’s more, with a mobile app, it means parents can store all their important school information in one place, helping them keep on top of everything!
Whether it’s a message in the weekly newsletter or a specific message dedicated to homework, many schools are using ParentMail to keep in regular contact with parents about the work coming home and the importance of it. If you’d like to discuss how your school or academy could use ParentMail to keep in touch with parents, contact us today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01733 595959.
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Parents’ Evening directors, we salute you
Snowed under with the daily tasks of keeping a busy school running, you know better than we do how hard it can be squeezing in plans for Parents’ Evening. But where some teams are chasing down appointment slips, printing out letters and updating schedules, others simply click a button and watch the appointments fly in – this could be you!
If the mention of your next Parents’ Evening fills you with dread, set aside the spreadsheets and print outs and dare to dream of completely paperless parents’ meetings…
Your office isn’t buried under piles of appointment slips and printed letters. The team behind these vital plans aren’t rushed off their feet making last minute plans or squeezing in extra appointments. Instead, thanks to Parents’ Evening Manager, invitations were circulated to parents via the free ParentMail App weeks ago. You’ve avoided the frustrations of double-booked appointments, cancellations and confusion by pre-setting appointment durations using the flexible scheduling system. Parents are free to book meetings that fit their busy schedules, quickly and efficiently. With just a few clicks, your team can view an up-to-date report of meetings for every teacher – and appointments are coming in fast!
Planning the evening was easy and stress-free and, thanks to your attention to detail, the night itself is sure to run smoothly, too. Parents arrive on the night prepared with the information they need to find teachers and classrooms, and they could even include notes when booking appointments. As a result, teachers are equipped with the detail they need to discuss important subjects and answer questions for every student.
Following one of the most successful Parents’ Evenings your school has enjoyed in a long time, feedback from both staff and parents is positive. In the past, despite your best efforts and communications, parents often failed to book appointments and teachers missed the opportunity to discuss student’s progress. This time, attendance was at an all-time high!
Parents’ Evening is by far one of the most important, busiest events in the school calendar, and some may say you made it look easy; the truth is, thanks to your fantastic organisation skills and the decision to make the most of Parents’ Evening Manager, it was!
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Ed-technically superior software
Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, has challenged school leaders to take advantage of modern technology in and outside of the classroom to reduce teacher’s responsibilities.
Acknowledging workload as a common reason for teachers leaving the profession, Mr Hinds stated that innovative technology in the classroom has resulted in both challenges and opportunities: “Education is one of the few sectors where technology has been associated with an increase in workload rather than the reverse.”
On the one hand, technology is making it easier for parents and schools to stay in touch, which is great news! However, common tech-platforms such as email, text and direct messaging Apps are resulting in more pressure on teachers who find themselves spending hours replying to parent responses, questions and queries; time that could be better spent on what they do best – teaching!
At ParentMail, we believe that rather than interfering with routine, parent communications should support schools. With nearly 20 years’ experience, our technology is developed to save schools time and money, whilst improving parental engagement for the benefit of students, staff and parents.
Our system is designed specifically for the school office, providing tailor-made solutions to deliver communications for every occasion. From straight-forward messaging to digital forms, office staff are completely in control of parent communications, managing responses from one platform and alleviating pressure and supporting teachers in the classroom.
The free ParentMail App supports parents to stay up-to-date with all the latest school news, without labouring your school with hundreds of responses and questions in return. For trip consents, dinner selections or any communications requiring a reply, our flexible Online Forms solution allows staff to build forms to enable easy management of responses.
Streamlining communications in the school office means staff can work efficiently, cutting out paper (and paper related costs!) while saving hours of time on admin tasks. Organised parent communications support teachers, too, particularly when it comes to Parents’ Evening. Rather than giving the responsibility of appointment booking to students, who are liable to either lose or purposely avoid certain meetings, Parents’ Evening Manager puts the power into parent’s hands, allowing them to book convenient appointments to fit their busy schedule, saving hours of time and confusion in the school office. The flexible platform also allows parents to include notes, enabling teachers to plan for each meeting accordingly.
Don’t let technology be a hindrance for your school. Make the most of tailor-made software specifically designed for the education sector and take control of your parent communications. Whatever your needs, ParentMail offers a solution for you, whether that’s simple messaging, cashless payments, data and consent collection or event planning. Get in touch to arrange a free demonstration today.
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App-solutely brilliant – our mobile app has been updated!
The free ParentMail mobile App is used by over 2.5 million parents to stay in touch with schools every day, from the comfort of home, at work or while out and about!
Over the years, it’s been through some major changes, as our Development team have stayed ahead of the latest EdTech innovations in order to bridge the home/school gap.
We caught up with Richard Shergold, Front-End Developer at ParentMail, to talk about the latest App developments.
“Our recent update is really important as it allows us to deliver fixes and make improvements to the mobile App more regularly. The team are always looking at feedback from users and have recently made several improvements to the App to make it even easier to use.”
“For example, one of the latest updates is the ability to mark items, such as messages, in bulk, rather than one at a time. We’ve also updated the way the App handles attachments and made a few handy changes to the App appearance, making it easier to navigate and manage school communications.”
“Our roadmap for 2019 holds even more exciting new developments, including Amex card payments and several other handy updates.”
Are you making the most of the ParentMail App?
Our free mobile App is by far the most convenient way to stay in touch with your school, supporting parents to make cashless payments, book appointments, respond to forms and more:
- Dependable dinner money – Online cashless payments make topping up dinner money quick and easy, with just a few taps, thanks to handy low-balance reminders
- Online Forms – Paper letters and forms are easily lost or forgotten at the bottom of school bags; digital forms are super convenient, making it easy to respond instantly
- Online Payments – Trips, uniforms, clubs and more – pay for them all via the handy App, via credit/debit card, PayPal, PayPoint, PayCash or Amex (via desktop)
- Parents’ Evening Manager – Booking convenient meetings to fit around busy schedules is quick and easy via the App
Feedback from parents is really valuable to us! Here are a few reviews that made our day…
“I think its brilliant how we can stay in touch with school so regularly and know what’s happening straight away instead of having to wait for school letters at the end of the day or week.” – Becky Hawkins – 5 stars
“The app is really easy to access and up to date, good layout and easy to navigate through the app.” – Ranj K – 5 stars
“Straightforward way to keep up with school communication and respond to forms without the hassle of them being misplaced. I enjoy using this app.” – Parent – 4 stars
“I love ParentMail! Makes school life much easier! Our school is new to it and it’s already much more useful!” – Parent – 5 stars
“It is great for keeping up with what is happening at my daughter’s school, when I am out & about & not by the laptop.” – Sarah Young – 5 stars
Share your feedback about the ParentMail App, – we’d love to hear from you!
If you’re a school looking to streamline communications and improve parental engagement, get in touch to find out how ParentMail can support you!
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A number of schools have recently hit the headlines as outraged parents complain their children have gone without a hot meal due to a lack of credit on their cashless dinner accounts. In Wales, school councils have argued in defence, stating they have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards dinner money debt in order to protect school budgets when parents fail to pay.
For many busy parents, topping up dinner money is just one small task, easily forgotten, on a long to-do list. However, when it’s schools hitting the press for turning children away without lunch, it falls on school leaders to seek out a solution. Low-balance reminders give parents a handy nudge to top up dinner accounts before lunch time, ensuring their child enjoys a hot meal and schools avoid unnecessary dinner debt.
More and more schools are choosing online payments systems in a bid to go cashless, for good reason! No money on school grounds results in less time spent handling and banking cash. However, finding the right platform for your school is important, so before you make any decisions or renew your contract, read on to find out more about the fastest growing cashless payment system in the UK…
+Pay, by ParentMail, offers some of the lowest transaction costs on the market, proven to save primary and secondary schools thousands of pounds every year. Our flexible platform manages not only dinner accounts but offers multiple registers for breakfast and after-school clubs, too!
For parents, +Pay is convenient, easy to use and reliable; parents can access and top up their accounts when they need to most, even at the busiest times. The socially-inclusive platform allows parents to top-up with credit/debit card, PayPal, PayPoint and AMEX, offering a solution for everybody.
Alternative cashless payment systems lack the flexibility offered by +Pay. Our top-up reminders are free for parents, informing them instantly when their balance goes below a pre-set amount. Parents can simply log in to the handy mobile app and top-up – they can even manage accounts for more than one child and view what has been purchased. Schools can also send out handy reminders to parents yet to top-up, protecting the school budget and ensuring accounts are ready for lunchtime!
It’s not just the +Pay platform that offers flexibility; ParentMail offers subscription costs to suit any school’s needs and budget, from primary and secondary schools to multi-academy trusts and colleges. Set-up is quick, easy and won’t interfere with the day-to-day running of your school. The system integrates with all major cashless catering systems and our team of +Pay experts are on hand to offer support when you need it most.
Last year, more than 700 schools chose +Pay as their online payments platform; of these, more than 300 left the market-leading provider in search of more features and a parent-friendly service – make the move to +Pay and never look back! Get in touch to have a chat about your cashless catering needs on 01733 595961.
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For many families, the prospect of crossing the school threshold is a terrifying one. Though many schools may spend a lot of time and energy on events or activities for parents, the reality is that every school has those “hard …
Breaking down parental engagement barriers with EdTech
For many families, the prospect of crossing the school threshold is a terrifying one. Though many schools may spend a lot of time and energy on events or activities for parents, the reality is that every school has those “hard to reach” parents and there are many barriers in the way that stop parents feeling connected with what is going on in school.
One key area that I feel can begin the process of breaking down barriers and building bridges to communication and community, is through the school office, as it can be instrumental in fostering a positive connection among families and educators. It can be a consistent source of engagement providing current, reliable, and useful information.
Many school offices across the country now use technology to communicate home various things to parents, realising that the more they engage parents with what’s going on, the better the outcome for students. Online communication has really helped bridge this relationship and many schools now send home messages, online forms, allow parents to book parents’ evening appointments and even request payments – allowing parents to pay with ease on their mobile phone or computer.
Previously, having to come into the school office to make payments, for example, would add stress to parents and administrative staff’s already busy day, so the beauty of using technology is that parents no longer have to cope with scrambling around looking for cash or cheques, or worry about coming into the school office to make payments for lunch, uniforms or trips, as an online system helps parents and admin staff communicate quickly, easily & more efficiently.
A system like ParentMail helps parents build a better relationship with the school office, without having to worry about physically coming into the building. For those parents who don’t feel comfortable coming into the office, or don’t have the time to do so, which is often the case, technology has broken down the barriers and allowed regular communication, helping these parents feel more connected with what is going on in school.
Watch Sue discuss this further in the video below…
To find out more about ParentMail and the range of applications that can help you improve parental engagement, simply visit the website, email email@example.com or call 01733 595959.
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Parental engagement solutions make everyday office tasks quick, simple and cost-effective. Thousands of schools across the UK now collect dinner money, permission forms and share information about school events online, saving both time and money and improving relationships with parents …
Five ways to change up your parental engagement usage
Parental engagement solutions make everyday office tasks quick, simple and cost-effective. Thousands of schools across the UK now collect dinner money, permission forms and share information about school events online, saving both time and money and improving relationships with parents as a result.
We regularly receive feedback from schools who use ParentMail in a variety of ways to keep parents engaged with what’s going on in school, to help further enhance pupils’ education journey. Below we’ve shared with you some of the ways primary schools are utilising ParentMail:
Share homework tips with parents
Homework is important in a child’s education and good habits can help throughout their school journey. Parents play a big part in encouraging this in their children, but some see it as more of a “pain” than a useful tool to help further improve their child’s understanding of the subject. Why not use ParentMail to get them on side, sending tips such as setting up a specific homework-friendly space and being available to offer help and support. These tips on the BBC website are great to share with parents.
Organise paper-free parents’ evenings
Lost forms, double-booked appointments and long waiting times lead to a parents’ evening headache for school teachers, office staff and parents. If parents have more than one child at a school, or more than one teacher to see, it can be a challenge to arrange appointment times accordingly. Parents’ Evening Manager puts parents in charge of booking appointments and removes the need for children to be involved in the process.
Use forms to keep pupil information up to date
Keeping data for children’s health requirements, next-of-kin information or anything else the school might need to know is essential for happy pupils and parents. ParentMail can make this easy in 2019, with Online Forms. Rather than chasing paper forms that can get lost between the classroom and home, online forms allow parents to respond quickly and with the ease of doing so from their smartphone! Plus, it won’t cost your school anything in printing costs, so you can request information updates as often as you see fit!
Remind parents about the importance of reading at home
Extensive research supports the claim that children who read regularly at home achieve more than those who don’t. We know that parents are busy, juggling work and family life. However, reminding them of the importance of reading with their child is crucial. Book Trust has some great tips here; why not use ParentMail to share these tips with parents?
Share information about key dates
You may talk to pupils regularly about school open days, open days to secondary schools and school fetes. Now, ParentMail makes it easy to share this information with parents, and subsequently can help their children organise their time and arrange their own diaries, too.
How have you been using ParentMail to stay in touch with parents ? We’d love to hear about them via Twitter!
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When it comes to planning Parents’ Evening, staff at St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary School were used to all the usual stresses and strains; piles of paper cluttering the school office, lost or missing appointment slips, chasing up parent …
St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary School enjoy paperless Parents’ Evening
When it comes to planning Parents’ Evening, staff at St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary School were used to all the usual stresses and strains; piles of paper cluttering the school office, lost or missing appointment slips, chasing up parent responses – the list goes on!
With 250 students, the school office would typically send home two letters per student in the run-up to parents’ evening – that’s 500 sheets of paper for one event! In their mission to go paperless this year, the school turned to Parents’ Evening Manager to take the paper out of parents’ evening.
“Like all schools, we’d try and give parents plenty of time to book appointments,” says Admin Support, Bethany Schofield. “We’d send out a form asking parents to pick an hour that that would suit them for their appointments, before trying to put together a schedule that suited everyone. There was a lot of back and forth between parents, staff and teachers. We’re a busy school and our parents are busy people; we wanted a system that would save us all time, whilst reducing our reliance on paper.”
A teacher at the school recently used Parents’ Evening Manager to book an appointment for their own child and realised the huge potential for St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School.
“When I looked into the system, I realised it offered all the flexibility we needed and would make the process easier for everyone involved – so we decided to give it a go! Setting up the evening was really easy. We prefer to keep the slots short and were able to pre-set the appointment lengths and block out times for particular teachers if needed. We particularly like how quick and easy it is to print out lists of appointments so that we can see at a glance how the evening is looking.”
“Parents love being able to book slots to fit around their busy schedules. We haven’t had any negative feedback and bookings came in really quickly! Recently, I was talking to a parent on the phone and she asked me to stay on the line while she booked her appointment, expecting it to be a tricky process – but she booked a slot in seconds, without any help from me!”
“In the office, we’re trying to go digital as much as possible; we know that online processes make things easier, faster and cheaper. We’re no longer sending home paper letters and use a cashless dinner payments system. The response from parents has been very positive. I would definitely recommend Parents’ Evening Manager to other schools. It’s a simple, smooth, time-saving process for staff and parents. We’re looking forward to using it for our next Parents’ Evening already!”
Get in touch today to find out more about Parents’ Evening Manager or to book a free online demo.
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You know better than we do that running a nursery is a busy and time-consuming business! Whilst chatting to parents during the morning drop-off might seem the most convenient way of sharing the latest nursery news, it isn’t the most …
Strong communication could be your nursery’s greatest asset
You know better than we do that running a nursery is a busy and time-consuming business! Whilst chatting to parents during the morning drop-off might seem the most convenient way of sharing the latest nursery news, it isn’t the most efficient or organised method of parental engagement.
For many reasons, a strong partnership between your nursery and parents is vital. We all know nursery is a key stage in a child’s development and, understandably, parents expect to be kept up to date on the time their child spends in your care. Whether that’s what they ate for lunch, what time they took their nap or the activities they enjoyed that day, it is up to you to keep parents updated on this all-important information – and there’s a lot of it to share!
Word of mouth and reputation go a long way when it comes to parents choosing their child’s nursery. Strong communications could be key to impressing new parents – in fact, a focus on parental engagement could be your greatest asset! Fantastic facilities and staff paired with regular, reliable and helpful communications are sure to make you stand out against your competitors.
Take your nursery online
The thought of adding newsletters, updates and parents’ meetings onto your already long to-do list may be enough to make you give up before you’ve even started, but don’t worry! In today’s technology-driven world, placing more emphasis on communication doesn’t necessarily mean more hard work or extra cost.
Ask most parents and they are likely to choose digital communications over piles of paper letters, and when it comes to data security, digital documents are the safer choice. You collect such a huge amount of data, from health and safety information, contact details, dinner selections and parent feedback that storing this information in a secure online database will greatly improve the way you use information – from making accessing and updating information easy for staff to reducing your reliance on paper in the office.
Alongside communications, how much time do you spend managing payments? Cash and cheques take up a lot of time to collect, bank and process. Online payments reduce the amount of cash on nursery grounds, improving security where it’s needed most. Cashless payments are also far more convenient for parents, ensuring your nursery receives payments on time, every time. For nurseries operating over multiple sites, a central system from which all payments and data is collected, and all news, forms and emails are sent can save time, improve efficiency and ensure consistency.
Happy parents, happy nursery, happy children!
More nurseries than ever are making the most of ParentMail to share news, request data, collect payments, plan meetings and more, every day. Providing parents with a convenient, free mobile App to stay in touch with their child’s nursery adds that extra special touch to your business to make you stand out against the crowd.
Take control of your parent communications with ParentMail! Get in touch today to arrange a free demo to see how our flexible, modular system can meet your needs today.
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The time has come for schools to reach out to parents using the technology they live with every day. Sue Atkins investigates…
Parent / School Communications – 22 Years On
As we have previously touched on, the 1997 White Paper ‘Excellence in Schools’ highlighted the importance of parent / school relationships and acknowledged that – “Parents play a crucial role in helping their children learn. Family learning is a powerful tool for reaching some of the most disadvantaged in our society, helping build strong local communities and widening participation in learning.”
In January 2010, BECTA published a report which stated “The support and involvement of families can make a crucial difference to learners’ success. Technology offers practical, effective ways to engage families, keeping them in touch with a learner’s progress and encouraging learning beyond the classroom.!
It touched on some key facts and figures relating to social grades and access to internet at home, but the key findings we will look at today relate to the section ‘Communicate better with online reporting.’
‘Every school in England is now expected to offer online access to information for parents to support their children’s progress: all secondary schools by September 2010, and primary schools by 2012.’
Here are some key facts and figures from this report:
- 80% of parents say they see the benefit of regular parent-school contact
- 60% of teachers think that parents believe their job stops at the school gate
- 58% of school leaders believe ICT has improved the school’s ability to involve parents in their children’s attendance.
- 48% of teaching staff say ‘invisible’ parents lack the confidence to approach them to discuss their child
- 67% of parents would like schools to use technologies such as text messaging and the internet to communicate with them more often
- 8% of parents surveyed in 2008 were kept informed through online reporting
So, 22 years on, how has parent / school communications evolved?
There is a wide range of school communication software on the market, and there is no doubt that it can support school-home engagements with the wide range of features they offer. Access to software can be via a website or in some cases, via a mobile App, providing more flexibility for the parent to stay in touch.
We know that parental engagement is a powerful factor in driving pupil progress right from early years education through to post-16 study. However, research shows that the nature of engagement changes over the course of a child’s school journey, which is why schools need a clearly defined strategy to determine how parental engagement will be led and carried out.
ParentMail bringing schools and parents closer together
Many schools encounter barriers to parental engagement, so by using a system that puts information directly into the hands of parents and tailoring their communications to meet the needs of their communities, schools are finding ways to break down these barriers and help parents support their child.
There will always be parents who are harder to reach, and technology has a part to play in engaging this group. Some schools are focusing on sending out positive messages about pupils to their parents which helps to counter negativity and builds fruitful dialogues – building bridges not walls between home and school.
Today, schools are embracing technology to communicate with parents, and email, text messages and mobile apps are all part of the toolkit. Schools need to ensure they get the most from these tools so that messages can be sent out quickly without adding to staff workload.
Parental engagement has moved on from the days when the annual report and parents’ evening were the only point of reference. The time has come for schools to reach out to parents using the technology they live with every day, so they can build up a positive working relationship to support pupils through the school years.
ParentMail provides schools with the technology they need to communicate with parents, all through one platform. If you’d like to discuss further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by reaching us on 01733 595959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re excited to announce the launch of our new School Help Site, now live and ready to answer any questions you may have about using ParentMail! The new site includes lots of improvements which make finding guidance and instructions easier …
Introducing our new and improved School Help Site
We’re excited to announce the launch of our new School Help Site, now live and ready to answer any questions you may have about using ParentMail! The new site includes lots of improvements which make finding guidance and instructions easier than ever before.
Finding answers has never been easier
Powered by Google, the new search function instantly finds the answer to your question! You can search for an answer by typing in a keyword or question to quickly find the information you need to complete the task at hand.
In addition to step-by-step instructions, our new range of videos provide easy-to-follow guidance for completing a variety of tasks, from registering parents and creating invoices to downloading reports and editing user permissions.
Keep an eye out for system updates
We include news and details of our latest system updates on the school help site so that you can make the most of new enhancements and functionality. Notes on our latest update (our biggest release yet!) are available on the help site now, including details on updates to Online Forms, improved payment functionality and lots of handy fixes! We always take feedback and requests from schools into account when updating the ParentMail system and our latest release includes many updates that you specifically asked for – take a look at the notes to find out more!
What do you think?
We want to hear what you think of our new help site. Click the ‘We need your feedback’ button at the bottom of the homepage to let us know of any additional improvements we can make or FAQs you’d like us to add.
As we welcome in the New Year, we’re taking the opportunity to look back over the year just gone, our biggest and best year yet! 2018 saw us welcome hundreds of new primary, secondary schools, nurseries and Academies to the …
A look back at the year just gone…
As we welcome in the New Year, we’re taking the opportunity to look back over the year just gone, our biggest and best year yet!
2018 saw us welcome hundreds of new primary, secondary schools, nurseries and Academies to the ParentMail fold; we sent more messages, emails and online forms than ever before, supporting schools across the country to improve parental engagement and save time and money.
During 2018, we supported schools to send over:
- 18 million texts
- 285 million emails
- 5 million Online Forms
- We also processed over 4 million orders for trips, events and other School Shop items!
2018 saw us celebrate 2.5 million App downloads; that’s 2.5 million parents using the free ParentMail App to stay up to date with school news, book appointments, respond to forms and make payments, all from one account!
As we continue to support schools to go paperless with the very best in EdTech, we know how important it is to stay ahead with the latest innovations in software and technology, which is why we’re working hard on new functionality to help make life easier for schools and parents. Last year saw us update the free ParentMail App for both Android and iOS, making lots of handy improvements to make it even easier for parents to keep on top of school communications. We also released our biggest system update yet, which was jam-packed with improvements, new functionality and handy fixes, many of which were specifically requested by our schools.
Following our biggest and best year yet, our New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is the same as always – to continue supporting schools to improve parental engagement with innovative software and exciting new developments. What’s yours?
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IRIS Software Group, the UK’s business critical software provider has announced the acquisition of BioStore LTD
IRIS Software Group acquires BioStore
IRIS Software Group, the UK’s business critical software provider has announced the acquisition of BioStore LTD, a principle provider of identity management and cashless catering solutions to UK schools and businesses.
BioStore’s identity management and cashless catering solutions are used by over 3,000 UK schools and sixth form colleges to improve and streamline access control and how catering services are delivered. The acquisition further extends the IRIS education software portfolio and its ability to deliver a step-change in school efficiency – a prime objective of many Academy and Academy Trusts.
BioStore will sit within the IRIS Education Division which includes PS Financials financial management; Results Squared asset management and communications; ParentMail online payment and parent engagement, and The Contact Group which includes the prominent messaging apps, Looked After Call and Truancy Call.
Over 11,000 education organisations use IRIS solutions, which provide essential software to 60% of UK academies and 82% of large multi-academy Trusts. IRIS also connects schools with over four million parents and guardians and sends over 300 million messages each year from schools to parents and guardians, helping to keep them informed and process payments for dinner money and other school items.
Kevin Dady, CEO of IRIS Software Group says, “BioStore has developed some game-changing technology for the education sector and I’m delighted to welcome the business to IRIS. Our mission is to help all education establishments become more efficient and productive by reducing administration and delivering services that benefit schools, colleges, students and parents. This acquisition is yet another step in helping us achieve this goal.”
Nigel Walker, managing director of BioStore says, “BioStore is a leader in providing innovative identity management and cashless catering solutions to schools and businesses for many years. We’re delighted to be part of IRIS Software Group where we can create even tighter integrations between our respective award-winning portfolios and innovate further. Together with IRIS we can offer schools and businesses an end to end solution, which creates value by making budgets go further.”
Tighter budgets see a call for efficiency and an ‘all hands-on-deck’ approach to searching out cost-cutting opportunities. In the hunt for financial savings, however, it’s important to remember that, often, it’s the small changes that deliver big results. It is …
Less paper, less waste, less expense
Tighter budgets see a call for efficiency and an ‘all hands-on-deck’ approach to searching out cost-cutting opportunities. In the hunt for financial savings, however, it’s important to remember that, often, it’s the small changes that deliver big results.
It is estimated that the average secondary school pupil produces 22kg of waste a year, with primary school pupils more than doubling that at 45kg. Much of this waste is paper and card; today, one million sheets of paper are being used per school, per year; on average, schools can spend up to £60,000 on photocopying annually! With pupils still relying on books and pens in the classroom, school leaders are questioning: what are the true costs and implications of paper in schools?
Taking a step back from paper can be tricky! A wide-spread movement towards modern technology in the classroom appears far off. Children still complete exams on paper and handwriting remains an important step in every child’s education. While it may be difficult to reduce reliance on traditional methods in the classroom, a move towards paperless-office environments may be easier (and more beneficial!) than you think.
An online system such as ParentMail supports your team to take the easy step towards a paperless environment – and it’s a step well worth taking! A commitment to going paperless results in both time and financial savings; your school could save up to £65,000 a year on print alone, not to mention the additional paper and postage costs.
Without paper letters, forms and registers to manage, manual admin tasks are replaced by efficient, reliable and simple online processes. Paperless-school staff don’t need to invest valuable time in chasing trip and dinner payments; instead, parents can make timely, cashless payments through our mobile App, reducing dinner debt and eliminating any need for cash on school grounds. From the same online account, parents receive notifications about parents’ evening, school trips and clubs, and can complete and return school forms at a time convenient for them. Paperless schools also enjoy the benefits of having important information at their fingertips, with access to customisable reports and data to support student learning.
By removing paper-based obstacles from daily tasks, your school can streamline processes, protect important data and achieve amazing cost savings. Equally, empower parents to engage with your school with a convenient, socially inclusive platform and watch home/school partnerships go from strength to strength!
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In this video, Sue Atkins – parenting expert and ex-Headteacher – gives her views on how parental engagement software can keep communication between school and parent clear, whilst keeping all data safe.
WhatsApp – Pros, cons and managing it for your school
Instant messaging service, WhatsApp, has become an integral part of staying in touch with friends and family for adults across the UK. Many parents also use WhatsApp groups to share information about their child’s school with other parents.
Earlier this year, we wrote an article on our blog, What’s up with WhatsApp? after a Mumsnet thread hit the headlines when a post referring to the different types of mum found in ‘every’ school WhatsApp group struck a chord with parents across the country.
Parents were quick to state that the WhatsApp group created at the beginning of the school year is a handy way of staying up to date with the latest classroom news. However, the sheer quantity of messages sent by the 20+ parents all part of the same group can be quite overwhelming and ‘fear of missing out’ often warrants us incapable of turning notifications to silent.
Sometimes WhatsApp groups for parents may not share accurate information, and details about children may be shared with little thought for privacy. In this video, Sue Atkins – parenting expert and ex- deputy head – gives her views on how parental engagement software can keep communication between school and parent clear, whilst keeping all data safe.
If you want to find our more about ParentMail’s communication applications, and what else it can do to help your office staff save time and money, get in touch on email@example.com or give the team a call on 01733 595959.
Watch our video to see why parenting expert Sue Atkins recommends using technology in school to help make life just a little bit easier for parents around Christmas!
Christmas is hectic, but technology can make life easier!
Christmas can be a very busy time for parents, particularly with all the extra events going on in school! The run up to the school nativity or end of year performance can include lots of rehearsals, not to mention booking and paying for tickets, choosing seats and making sure they know the correct dates and times for everything that is going on!
Technology can help make life just that bit easier!
With the ParentMail mobile app, for example, parents can receive messages instantly straight to their phone, including last minute changes or reminders. What’s more, they can manage events, make online payments and even complete forms all from one account, making a hectic time of year easier for parents to manage.
Watch our video below to see why parenting expert Sue Atkins recommends using technology in school to help make life just a little bit easier for parents.
Last month, Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi announced that thousands more children across the country were receiving a healthy and nutritious breakfast at school breakfast clubs. In part, this is thanks to a government-funded programme worth nearly £26 million. …
The benefits of breakfast clubs – ParentMail’s top picks!
Last month, Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi announced that thousands more children across the country were receiving a healthy and nutritious breakfast at school breakfast clubs. In part, this is thanks to a government-funded programme worth nearly £26 million.
Here are some of our favourite ways breakfast clubs can benefit children, parents and schools.
Breakfast clubs improve school performance
Research shows that a good breakfast can help improve children’s reading, writing and maths performance. KidsHealth.org reports that breakfasts high in protein and fibre, and low in sugar, helps to boost children’s attention span, concentration and memory, essential for good performance at school.
Affordable and safe pre-school childcare
Parents are increasingly busy juggling childcare with working, often having to opt for pre- and post-school care. Breakfast clubs offer them some respite, both financially, and from the chaos of the morning school run. On average, breakfast clubs in England cost just £1.68 per day to attend. Moreover, about a quarter of breakfast clubs are completely free for all children to attend!
Time to socialise, or get active
Many schools use their breakfast club to get children moving. The Daily Mile is a relatively new initiative to get children running or jogging one mile every day. Who knows, the next Mo Farah might be hidden amongst your breakfast club! For other schools, children can play board games, draw or colour, or use computers to research and complete their homework.
Better attendance and behaviour
By reducing the stress of the morning routine for families and children, breakfast clubs can help improve behaviour and attendance. Children have up to an hour before school starts so they can relax, play, eat, exercise and socialise, all without the rush of getting to school. In this article from the Guardian, Sam Bailey, Headteacher of the Forest Academy in Barnsley, said “Pupil behaviour has improved dramatically and attitudes to learning are the best they have ever been.”
ParentMail helps schools successfully run breakfast clubs
Thanks to our brand-new multiple registers feature, schools with our +Pay (online payments) package can now easily set up additional registers. This lets them track registrations and payments for breakfast clubs, alongside other registers, such as school dinners and after-school clubs. Therefore, administrative work is reduced, too. The feature also allows for multiple running balances, which helps reduce arrears with low-balance reminders for parents.
This is one of our most-requested improvements!
For existing online payments users, you can add new registers from the Registers tab in ParentMail. If you’re not a ParentMail user, but want to know more about Multiple Registers and other applications that can help improve parental engagement and online payments management, give the team a call on 01733 595959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff at Abbey Catholic Primary School have been on a campaign to register parents to ParentMail and their efforts have received a fantastic response, with 99% of parents using ParentMail to stay up to date on school communications and payments, every day!
Meet Abbey Catholic Primary School’s ‘ParentMail King’!
Since September, Abbey Catholic Primary School have been on a campaign to register parents to ParentMail and their efforts have received a fantastic response!
As ParentMail Co-ordinator, Deputy Headteacher, Joe McTernan, has worked closely with the staff team to make the most of their complete ParentMail package to improve parental engagement.
In a recent survey, 87% of our customers agreed that the key to the success of a new communications system is strong parent uptake. Since the launch of ParentMail a few months ago, Abbey Catholic Primary School saw parent registration increase slowly; following a campaign to get all parents registered, today 99% of parents are signed up and 80% are using the App!
The school is committed to adopting a paperless environment and ParentMail has been key to achieving this. They now send out all newsletters, competition and club communications via ParentMail, making it very important for parents to register. Although ‘playground chatter’ has been key, the team made the most of a recent parents’ evening to help parents make the most of the ParentMail App.
“We had our first parents’ evening since the introduction of ParentMail and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to answer any questions parents had about using their accounts.” Says Deputy Headteacher, Joe. “So, I was coronated with the title of ‘ParentMail King’ for the evening, complete with paper crown! I was on hand to answer questions and have a chat. Most parents who stopped by to ask questions just needed some support to get used to using their account. I mainly dealt with teething problems, but I also sat with two of the three families yet to register with ParentMail and helped them to set up their accounts there and then! It was a great idea and a huge success.”
The primary school also have a great social media presence and tweeted about their ‘ParentMail king’ during the evening to let parents know that support was available if they needed it – another brilliant way of sharing news and improving parental engagement!
“Although we’re at the end of our ParentMail roll-up now, we’ve worked hard to get to this point and made it a priority since September to get parents registered on the system.” Says Joe. “We have played hardball with a few parents who weren’t signing up. For example, we chose not to send paper copies of communications home with students. Instead, we sent a message to parents to let them know that there was a letter in the school office for them to collect. This worked really well, as our office staff took the opportunity to encourage parents to download the App and many families registered with ParentMail as a result. It’s far more convenient for them – sometimes people just need that extra push to give something new a go!”
Parents at Abbey Catholic Primary School can now manage communications with ease and stay up to date with school news, events, competitions and payments, which supports school staff as a result! In particular, organising PE and after-school clubs has been far smoother and easier for everyone involved, with all parents responding to forms and event information quickly and efficiently online. And, should parents ever have a question about using their account, they know help is at hand at the school!
Deputy Headteacher and ‘ParentMail King’, Joe McTernan, ready to answer questions and give advice on parents’ evening!
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Parents’ evening is a very important part of the relationship that parents develop with the school and their child’s teacher, whether it is their first experience, or they have attended before.
Top Tips for productive parents’ evening appointments!
Parents’ evening is a very important part of the relationship that parents develop with the school and their child’s teacher, whether it is their first experience, or they have attended before.
Here are a few pointers to how parents may be feeling and how you can ensure that the meeting is productive, for the child, for parents and also for the school.
- Children can be rather uncommunicative about their life at school, which can be frustrating for parents, so for them, this is a great chance to get to know their child’s teacher and learn more about how their time is spent in class, what they are studying, how they are progressing and if they need any extra support at home.
- There can be a lot that parents want to cover in their ten-minute slot and some will come prepared with all of the questions that they want to ask, whereas others will wait to be led by the teacher, but there is no doubt that they are expecting a ‘full picture’ of the progress their child is making and also any challenges they are facing.
- Remember also that parents want to be reassured that their child is important and is being cared for and engaged with during lessons. There is nothing worse than being a parent sitting with a teacher and wondering if this teacher has spent time in getting to know your child. A good pointer is to have some of the child’s work to hand for the parents to review and some prepared notes on what they have achieved – i.e. a celebration, and then where needed, to discuss the focus on where their child needs more support and how they can help.
- Parents generally want to be involved in their child’s education, to ensure that they have the best chances and to be ‘part of the process’ and to develop a positive relationship with their child’s teacher or teachers.
- Depending on the parent’s own experience with school, they may feel intimidated and it is the teacher’s role to put them at ease and start to build on the foundations of the relationship between school and home. They will be looking for guidance and how they can support their child, so although time is limited, a top tip is to have a prepared plan that they can take away, highlighting the areas of focus where they can support; not only will this help them to become involved in their child’s schooling but will also provide a point of reference for the next meeting, so progress can be charted and further plans can be developed.
- It is also essential to remember that this is a two-way conversation and that parents may have their own concerns about the child’s school life that they want to share with you, whether this is related to the actual school work or other aspects, such as their relationships with other children and staff, this is important to them, so ensure that facts are established if they have concerns and actions are agreed and followed up.
Parents’ Evening Manager allows school to manage parents’ evening with ease, and even has the functionality to allow parents to leave notes in advance of their appointment. With this, teachers can run off their appointments the day before and quickly see what each parent would like to discuss, ensuring both parties feel organised ahead of the appointment.
Thousands of schools are using +Pay every day to collect cashless dinner money payments and are enjoying reduced dinner money debt as a result.
School dinner money debt is on the rise
The BBC recently reported on the astonishing debts accumulated by Welsh schools as a result of unpaid school dinner money. It’s a common problem for thousands of primary and secondary schools across the country, and figures show dinner money related debts are on the rise.
The BBC found that at the end of last year parents in Wales owed more than £400,000* in unpaid school dinner debts; in seven Welsh authorities, the debt has increased by a staggering 90% in just five years.
What do parents say about dinner money debt?
We took to social media to see what parents had to say about increasing school dinner money debts and the feedback was very interesting –
“Often the debt is over £1000 owed and considering the younger years get free school meals I think it’s outrageous.”
“Our school displays the debt in the weekly newsletter/website. It’s low at the minute, about £600, but it is creeping up…”
“It’s not a case of “can’t pay, won’t pay” just an easy mistake of not drawing cash out on Sunday night, how many people actually carry cash these days…”
“Maybe if all schools could accept standing orders or online payments it would make parents lives easier and less stress on school chasing dinner money debt.”
“Ours is done thro