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.
Digital parent engagement in the next normal: Driving connections and connectivity across school communities
We recently surveyed over 400 UK schools and MATs to investigate the impact of lockdown on integral communications and operations. It appears schools across the country have seized the opportunity to progress their digital strategies – and to great success! Every …
Digital parent engagement in the next normal: Driving connections and connectivity across school communities
We recently surveyed over 400 UK schools and MATs to investigate the impact of lockdown on integral communications and operations.
It appears schools across the country have seized the opportunity to progress their digital strategies – and to great success!
Every school leader understands the importance of parent engagement. Before email, mobile apps and social media, paper newsletters served to bridge the home/school gap. However, most schools acknowledge the difficulties in engaging with every family, every day.
With over eight million students impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown, school life changed overnight – and so did the role of parent engagement. Allowing any family to slip through the net simply wasn’t an option.
“Schools across the country have been dealing with closures in different ways; every leadership team has found their own solutions, sought out ideas and powered on as best they can. It’s all about sharing ideas; every school wants the best for their children and while the future is still a little unclear, we need to pull together to do what we can to support them.” Lorraine Reeves, Administrator, Langstone Junior Academy
Leading to the question: does the pandemic see a change for the better when it comes to home/school partnerships?
In our free insight guide, we explore the future of parent engagement, the impact on school communities and the role of digital in ensuring efficiency and transparency in a post-lockdown world.
“Closures have given us a great understanding as to how the digital strategy could work as the trust grows. Similarly to businesses and organisations in the private sector, I think in my team, at least, we’ve rapidly developed our practices to ensure we don’t need to be based at our desks. Looking forward, this is the level of flexibility we want.” IT Director at Durrington MAT, Alex Robbins
How are school and MAT leaders preparing for post-lockdown school life? Our findings:
- More than half of schools and MATs are preparing for future short-term closures
- Over 90% believe the ability to access student, finance and asset data remotely will be vital from September
- 40% are planning additional teacher training to aid remote working and learning
- Over 85% believe the ability for children to learn remotely will be key for student progression
- Nearly 70% believe paper-free classrooms and offices will be vital in ensuring the health and safety of students and staff
Read our free insight guide to investigate how schools across the country are thriving in the new normal and how your school can get ahead of the game with a fresh approach to digital parent engagement.
Click here to download your free insight guide.
Lockdown has been tough on us all, but none more so than for children. For some, September brings the all-important transition from year six to year seven, a scary step at the best of times. Following months of closures, for …
The transition from primary to secondary school: Our top tips for schools
Lockdown has been tough on us all, but none more so than for children. For some, September brings the all-important transition from year six to year seven, a scary step at the best of times. Following months of closures, for many students, the approaching new school year presents a great many stresses and strains. But, with the right advice and support, schools can help students to look forward to September, rather than fear it.
Here are our top tips for helping students to face the next stage of their education with confidence.
Welcome the transition with positivity
Moving schools pulls children away from a familiar environment, one in which they have grown to know well and understand. Suddenly, they are faced with different classrooms, teachers and rules – no matter what age, it’s an intimidating prospect.
Some children will embrace the change and others will take a little while to adapt. However, it’s all about attitude. Encourage students to think positively about all the exciting things to come; new friends, interesting subjects – a positive attitude will see children look forward to, rather than fear, their new school.
Don’t underestimate the impact of the transition
It isn’t always easy to identify when a student is feeling anxious. Some children may purposely dodge expressing their emotions to avoid attention; some may internalise stress to avoid dealing with their feelings or for fear of being made fun of by their peers.
For this reason, it’s important to encourage all students to talk about the upcoming transition to secondary school. While some quieter students may evade taking part in conversations, it’s still beneficial for them to hear others addressing the same concerns they share. And, chances are, teachers will be able to identify those who are likely to be feeling anxious about change; in these instances, talking with the child alone, 1-2-1, may help them to open up and share.
Engage with parents
Remember, it’s not only children facing a big change in the near future; parents, too, will be experiencing their own concerns about the transition to secondary school. Engaging with families will enable them to help children at home, so informative, reassuring and regular communications are important; it’s all about providing the tools and information parents need now to support children in the future.
For hard-to-reach parents, the final weeks of term are very important for making contact, if only to reassure them your staff team are on hand to offer some guidance and support in advance of summer.
Make a point of it
If you can’t celebrate your students’ successes at the end of primary school, when can you? It’s a big step and one which they’ll remember for the rest of their lives – and so will parents. While closures make it difficult to celebrate in the usual ways, with parties, trips and ceremonies, this is still a vital moment in their education and should be marked as such.
If social-distancing on site is a struggle, or not all students are attending before summer, there are still ways to celebrate. Video calls have proven vital in facilitating home-learning; fun videos, social media or a simple phone call to say ‘good bye’ serve to reassure students and give them the recognition they deserve before moving on to all important year seven. It’s time to get creative!
For nearly 20 years, ParentMail has supported schools and families to stay in touch and support student learning. Recent months have seen our platform bridge the gap between home and school during the most unforeseen circumstances; we’re proud to have enabled parent engagement when it has mattered most.
Now, with the new school year in sight, we’re supporting schools like never before, with online event and meeting management, messaging and cashless payments. Find out how we can support your school. Get in touch to book a free demo or find out more.
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On 18th March 2020, classrooms for up to eight million pupils closed across the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools are now amid a phased return; while classrooms still look the same, school life does not. Closures have caused a great amount of upheaval for communities. However, not …
The future is digital: Education after lockdown
On 18th March 2020, classrooms for up to eight million pupils closed across the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools are now amid a phased return; while classrooms still look the same, school life does not.
Closures have caused a great amount of upheaval for communities. However, not all change is bad. Software to facilitate remote learning has enabled teams to continue supporting students and families. So, what does the future look like for schools and how are the changes made during closures set to shape education moving forward?
Thousands of schools waved goodbye to the traditional paper and print newsletter long ago in favour of online communications. Now, schools are relying on digital solutions to do far more than circulating weekly updates.
Remote teams have adapted their normal communications to deliver targeted messaging to families. For key workers, many schools have changed their processes to enable two-way communications, providing parents with a convenient way of registering their child’s attendance.
“The government’s free school meals voucher system was announced last month. In this current climate, where more families are potentially struggling, some parents are not even aware that they could be entitled to this benefit. I created a new group on our engagement system and shared the information on how to apply with the Local Authority online application link – information that they may not have otherwise been aware of. As a result, a number of parents have successfully claimed vouchers to support them during this financially difficult period.” Lorraine Reeves, Administrator, Langstone Junior Academy
Online platforms enable schools to monitor message performance, facilitating a proactive approach to parent engagement. With students working from home, a transparent overview of communications is key for enabling staff to action early interventions where required.
“We shared staff email addresses and I include my email address on every communication sent to parents. Staying engaged has never been more important and we encourage parents to stay in touch with us, too.” Lorraine Reeves, Administrator, Langstone Junior Academy
Systems previously utilised to plan school trips or parents’ evenings are now used to book phone calls and video meetings. Social media platforms, previously used for the occasional school update, have also proven helpful during closures, offering an additional platform for engagement and feedback.
“We’re using Parents’ Evening Manager to schedule Zoom calls to parents and we’re setting up new parents with children starting in September so that we can communicate with them. We’re also sending using our ParentMail for key workers to book in their children.” – Elsa Williams, Administrator, Copythorne CE Infant School
Following a return to ‘normal’ school life, the partnerships forged during lockdown will be vital in ensuring students settle back into education. The new habits adopted now see a naturally more proactive approach towards parent engagement long into the future.
For operational teams such as IT, facilities and finance, web-based systems have enabled business as usual during closures. Like paperless parent engagement, it is feasible that the same will now be said of operational and administrative processes; student, finance, staff and asset data is all now increasingly managed online, improving flexibility, hygiene and security.
While some systems are already in place, in many instances, schools and MATS have had little choice but to introduce new platforms to enable business continuity. While unanticipated, dynamic new systems have evidenced the various opportunities of software for growth and flexibility.
“The lockdown has certainly progressed our digital strategy, particularly around remote working and learning. I believe our reliance on digital resources will continue to grow, even when classroom learning is back to normal. 90% of our staff are working remotely four days a week, at the moment, meaning they’re accessing vital data online in order to do their jobs, be that student, administration or finance. And, as our MAT grows, it’s given us a great understanding as to how the digital strategy could work. Similarly to businesses and organisations in the private sector, I think in my team, at least, we’ve rapidly developed our practices to ensure we don’t need to be based at our desks. Looking forward, this is the level of flexibility we want.” Alex Robbins, Director of IT Services, Durrington MAT
Throughout lockdown, digital processes have minimised impact to student learning and placed schools at the heart of their communities; software has enabled staff to work remotely, maintain vital operations and even progress plans for growth.
It comes as no surprise that schools and MATs are realising the importance of flexible software in day-to-day operations. The future remains unclear; short-term closures and a second wave of Covid-19 is entirely possible. Fortunately, technology will enable schools to look forward with confidence, and continue to deliver the best opportunities for their students – and we’re on hand to help them do exactly that!
To find out how ParentMail can support your school operations, get in touch.
Free insight guide – Keep calm and teach on: School life during a national pandemic
With schools reopening their doors for a phased return, we turn our attention to the real impact of closures:
- How did schools fare during closures?
- What are the practicalities around social distancing on school grounds?
- How has parent engagement changed during closures?
- What long-lasting effects have closures had on school communities?
- How, if at all, has the sector benefitted from lockdown?
With insight from schools and families across the country, we investigate what school life looks like during a national pandemic. Download the insight guide.
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If your school is seeking a versatile, streamlined and cost-efficient way of managing parent payments, +Pay is the solution for you. Still unsure? Here are the top three reasons schools across the country are talking about +Pay. Every payment, every day Lunch money, school trips, …
Our top three reasons to go cashless with +Pay
If your school is seeking a versatile, streamlined and cost-efficient way of managing parent payments, +Pay is the solution for you. Still unsure? Here are the top three reasons schools across the country are talking about +Pay.
Every payment, every day
Lunch money, school trips, uniform, events – the list of payments you need to collect from parents goes on. Your payments platform needs to be as versatile as the items you’re collecting payments for.
Designed with the needs of schools in mind, +Pay includes functionality to simplify payment administration. So, for your wraparound care, lunch money and menus, our Advance Bookings system collects bookings, meal choices and payments in one simple process; for school shop items, such as uniform, P.E. kits, books and stationery, our school shop system enables schools to set colours and size options. For trips and events, schools can set purchase limits for parents, payment deadlines, windows and more; the list goes on!
Unrivalled functionality makes +Pay the most flexible payments platform around. While you might suspect a platform with so many options to be complicated, +Pay is developed to be anything but. Setting up payment items (or duplicating old ones, in the instance of recurring items) and managing payment admin is quick, easy and convenient.
Supporting modern parents
From managing finances with personal banking to ordering the weekly shop online, the modern-day parent is making the most of technology – and who can blame them? Parents expect the same level of simplicity and convenience from school administration as they do from their own personal banking.
And it’s proven; when processes are simple for parents, schools receive a great response.
Parents love paying via our free mobile app and online portal. For extra convenience, +Pay saves payment details (including debit and credit card, PayPoint and PayPal) enabling easy payments in seconds. Push notifications and low balance reminders alert them to payments due, and parents can manage payments for more than one child, across different schools, from one account.
+Pay also facilitates free school meals, pupil premium, cash and cheque payments, ensuring total inclusivity and uptake across your community.
Schools love +Pay because it manages every aspect of the payment process. Inbuilt accounting codes, multiple registers and a flexible reporting suite reduce time-consuming administration. The system integrates seamlessly with SIMS and other MIS (enabling payment management against your registers), as well as leading cashless catering providers.
With some of the lowest transaction and subscription costs on the market, +Pay also helps schools of all sizes achieve substantial savings.
For +Pay customers seeking to make more of their platform, our friendly support team are on hand to share their wisdom. Contact us via Live Chat to book in some training.
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Pens, pencils, uniform and backpacks; items that support student learning and strengthen your school brand. All of these items are available to buy from your school shop, but do you sell as much as you would like? With +Pay, you can make all …
Sell more, do less with an online school shop and +Pay
Pens, pencils, uniform and backpacks; items that support student learning and strengthen your school brand. All of these items are available to buy from your school shop, but do you sell as much as you would like?
With +Pay, you can make all of your shop items available with a custom online school shop. Parents can browse items at their own convenience, from the comfort of home, and place orders with just a few clicks.
When an order is processed, school teams are automatically alerted, enabling them to fulfil the order at the next opportunity. The handy reporting suite makes managing orders and stock levels quick and easy; fulfilment tracking provides a complete electronic trail for easier record keeping.
The flexible platform enables users to import shop items, assign size and colours options and set stock quantities to limit the number of orders allowed for particular items; no more time-consuming paperwork or clunky cash payments!
In the wake of COVID-19, germ-ridden coins and bank notes are particularly concerning when it comes to hygiene and the safety of staff and students. +Pay supports schools to go completely cashless, in all areas, from lunch money and event payments, to trips and your school shop.
Our free mobile app and desktop portal facilitate speedy and convenient payments by credit and debit card, PayPal or PayPoint. Free low balance reminders and flexible payment windows (set by your administrative team) are proven to reduce dinner money debt and arrears, whilst improving processes for staff and families.
Introduce your own online school in advance of summer and make it easy for parents to order all the items students need for the school year ahead.
We’re ready to support your school on the journey to a streamlined, cashless culture. Get in touch today to find out more or book a free demonstration.
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Under the government’s ‘conditional plan’, the country is slowly coming out of lockdown. While stringent measures remain in place, the education sector is leading the way with a phased return for select year groups and secondary schools throughout June. Leadership …
Durrington MAT utilise tech to support teaching and learning during closures
Under the government’s ‘conditional plan’, the country is slowly coming out of lockdown. While stringent measures remain in place, the education sector is leading the way with a phased return for select year groups and secondary schools throughout June.
Leadership teams are proactively powering on in the face of adversity to support their students. We caught up with IT Director at Durrington MAT, Alex Robbins, to hear how the trust has dealt with closures and what the team is doing to prepare for the future.
Business as usual
“In these strange and surreal circumstances, as a trust, we are actually close to business as usual for our students. A small number of staff are working onsite on a rota basis to oversee key worker students and students with specific educational requirements. We have a very interactive system in place, with teachers delivering lessons online using Zoom and Google Classroom; we’ve set our usual school-day schedule up so students and teachers are learning and teaching as usual – just remotely!”
“During closures, we’ve had approximately 25 students on site. We moved our primary school provision to a pavilion within the grounds of our high school, freeing up space to support social distancing measures. We have utilised our IT suites across our sites, so we have a small number of students working, positioned two metres apart.”
Digital and operations
“Many aspects of our digital strategy have changed as a result of closures. For example, we currently support an onsite telephone system, so have been working to migrate key pastoral staff over to a cloud system, enabling staff to answer calls off-site.”
“Our IT team has taken advantage of an empty school to get ahead of the game; we’ve brought many projects forward and carried out software updates across sites. In the long term, this means that our systems will be ready to support a greater volume of digital learning when students are phased back.”
“The lockdown has certainly progressed our digital strategy, particularly around remote working and learning. I believe our reliance on digital resources will continue to grow, even when classroom learning is back to normal. The vast majority of our staff are currently working remotely, meaning they’re accessing vital data online in order to do their jobs, be that student, administration or finance.”
Engagement and safeguarding
“Staying in touch with families has been a top priority of ours. We’ve used ParentMail very regularly throughout lockdown. Staff can access the platform from home and send targeted emails to year groups and classes.”
“Our pastoral staff team have been responsible for engaging with families; we phone every single parent once a week, just to check in and make sure they’re okay. For us, communication with students was important; we have a brilliant community and the way we’ve pulled together to ensure business as usual has been fantastic.”
“We know how important a flexible approach to remote learning is to student development. We’re still educating and progressing student outcomes which speaks wonders for our remote digital strategy. Previous barriers to remote learning didn’t enable us to do this, but we’ve adapted our processes and invested where necessary and the students are benefitting as a result.”
“Closures have given us a great understanding as to how the digital strategy could work as the trust grows. Similarly to businesses and organisations in the private sector, I think in my team, at least, we’ve rapidly developed our practices to ensure we don’t need to be based at our desks. Looking forward, this is the level of flexibility we want.”
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Nearly two months into lockdown and the UK remains uncertain of what the future will bring. In schools, staff continue to support children of keyworkers and families at large. Now, many school leaders are planning ahead to ease the transition into our …
Life and learning under lockdown at Langstone Junior Academy
Nearly two months into lockdown and the UK remains uncertain of what the future will bring. In schools, staff continue to support children of keyworkers and families at large. Now, many school leaders are planning ahead to ease the transition into our new ‘normal’ when the government allows.
Langstone Junior Academy in Portsmouth is one such primary school going above and beyond for their community. We caught up with Administrator, Lorraine Reeves, to find out how their team has been getting on in the face of closures.
Plan of action
“It’s been challenging. We’re a tightknit community and not seeing the children is difficult. We’ve had, on average, 15 children of keyworkers in school over the past few weeks and next week we expect this to increase. We’re also facilitating home-learning. ParentMail has been vital every step of the way throughout lockdown; we wouldn’t be without it.”
“I request the attendance requirements from our keyworkers for their children on a three-weekly basis, compiling the school registers for each day, including bank holidays. We are, of course, still required to follow safeguarding procedures and ParentMail has supported us with this. The email scheduling assistant enables me to plan communications ahead which is also very helpful.”
“We had a week’s notice that we were going into lockdown, at which point we immediately launched our action plan. I set up every year group leader as a user on ParentMail, enabling them to stay in touch with their relevant families, along with sending out learning resources every Monday for the week ahead. We know how difficult life must be for parents at the moment and we want to provide as much support as we can.”
“We also shared staff email addresses and I include my email address on every communication sent through ParentMail. Staying engaged has never been more important and we encourage parents to stay in touch with us, too.”
“There’s no pressure on any of our parents or children; we emphasise that we are there for them and that learning is there to be actioned, if our parents can engage their child. We’re living in challenging times and we do not want the wellbeing of our children to be impacted by unnecessary pressure.”
“We also use Facebook to bridge the gap with our parent community. On Facebook, we share photos and messages; it’s another channel of communication and we hope that it acts as an extra reminder that we’re still here for them.”
“Some parents do not use Facebook, but we don’t let them slip through the net. I have a group on ParentMail dedicated to non-users of this social media platform. Now more than ever, it’s important that no parent misses out.”
“100% of our parents are signed up to ParentMail and this has proven incredibly beneficial during closures. Before the start of a new school year, we get all our new parents registered. For those who may be a little wary of technology, we provide hands-on help; I invite parents into the school office and get them set up with their accounts and the ParentMail app. It may be a little hard work at the time, but in the long run, it pays off. Every single parent is receiving the information they need from us through ParentMail at the moment, from general communications and news to learning resources.”
“Recently, we ran a survey to gather feedback on how parents feel we’re doing under lockdown. ParentMail is fantastic for surveys; it’s easy for parents to respond online and the results are easily reported on.”
Going above and beyond
“These are unprecedented times but ParentMail has proven to be an intrinsic tool for our school community. The government’s free school meals voucher system was announced last month. I identified those parents who have never applied for free school meals. In this current climate, where more families are potentially struggling, some parents are not even aware that they could be entitled to this benefit. I created a new group on the system and shared the information on how to apply with the Local Authority online application link – information that they may not have otherwise been aware of. As a result, a number of parents have successfully claimed vouchers to support them during this financially difficult period. For targeted communications to share time-sensitive information, ParentMail has been invaluable.”
“This year to date, thanks to ParentMail, we have saved nearly £9,000 in staff time, paper and print related costs. However, throughout the pandemic, the benefits of a reliable, flexible parent engagement system have gone far beyond the financial savings. There is absolutely no way we could have provided all this information to our parents in paper form.”
“Schools across the country have been dealing with closures in different ways; every leadership team has found their own solutions, sought out ideas and powered on as best they can. It’s all about sharing ideas; every school wants the best for their children and while the future is still a little unclear, we need to pull together to do what we can to support them. I’ve spoken to staff at other schools and extolled the virtues of ParentMail. We wouldn’t be without it.”
If your school is looking to strengthen your parent engagement both during lockdown and beyond, we can help. Get in touch for a free no obligation demo.
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What kind of experience are you serving up at lunchtime? The trials and tribulations of cash on school grounds are well known. Cash in the canteen, however, results in a huge number of issues, many of which you may not have considered. The benefits of online payments are being realised by …
Cashless canteens: What’s on the menu for schools?
What kind of experience are you serving up at lunchtime? The trials and tribulations of cash on school grounds are well known. Cash in the canteen, however, results in a huge number of issues, many of which you may not have considered.
The benefits of online payments are being realised by more schools than ever. When it comes to school meals, eliminating cash promises to improve security, hygiene, efficiency and more. Here’s why…
Allergies and safety in the canteen
Schools can’t afford to put the health and safety of any child at risk. Unfortunately, food allergies are incredibly dangerous; anaphylactic shock is a very real threat for children, one which schools need to be vigilant of at every turn.
It is unrealistic to expect students to be conscientious of every menu option at lunch time; this is particularly true when it comes to young children. However, avoiding allergens is practically impossible for schools, too. While you can’t eliminate the allergies themselves, you can tackle the issue at its’ root, before children even step foot in the canteen.
An online payments system enables schools to share menus with parents in advance; parents read the menu, make selections on behalf of their child and pay upfront. An online system ultimately alleviates students of the responsibility of monitoring every menu option, providing peace of mind for all involved.
Canteen health and hygiene
Cash and germs go hand in hand, in more ways than one. The money we handle is a breeding ground for bacteria; in fact, in a controlled study, London Metropolitan University found 19 strains of bacteria living on a range of British bank notes and coins.
We’ve all heard the rumours of drug contamination on cash and, unfortunately, these rumours have been found to be true. Class A drug residue is present on over three quarters of paper banknotes. Due to the prevalence and risk of drug contamination, over £15 million is destroyed every year to eliminate notes from circulation.
The risk of contamination in your school canteen as a direct result of cash is high. Any opportunity to reduce cash on school grounds is preferable; in the canteen, it is vital for the safety of students.
No more waiting around
How long do students stand in queues waiting to be served lunch, every day? With many schools opting to shorten breaks in order to extend lessons, students need to be served and seated quickly to ensure they benefit from a much-needed break.
Handling cash at the till can be time-consuming. Not only do online payments speed up the exchange, but most cashless systems (including +Pay!) offer meal selection functionality, too. With menu data collected early, kitchen staff can prepare the right quantities of each dish, reducing waste and ensuring every student receives their preferred option.
Collecting, counting and banking cash is an inconvenient task which many time-strapped teams can ill-afford. Online payments streamline reconciliation and finance processes, improving efficiencies whilst vastly reducing security issues or chance of human error.
Parent arrears, debt and payments
The expectation for every parent to send their child to school with lunch money is about as practical as hoping for a paper newsletter to make its way to parent hands; that is to say, very impractical indeed.
Dinner money debt is an increasing issue for many schools; it’s also one which is unlikely to improve while schools fail to take action. Providing a quick and easy way to top up lunch money is the only way to meet the issue head on. Unless your processes meet the needs of modern families, your school will continue to shoulder the financial burden of parent arrears.
Safety and security in the canteen
Sadly, for many children, lunch times are a huge source of anxiety. The stigma around free school meals remains prevalent today. In fact, many students claiming FSM admit that they’d rather go hungry than be seen to be claiming a free meal.
Creating a supportive environment in which all students feel safe to enjoy their lunch is the responsibility of your school. Online payments provide every student with the same experience at the till; no money is exchanged, making the process discreet for those claiming free school meals.
Food for thought
We’re on a mission to showcase the benefits of online payments to UK schools. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the end to closures, school life will be different; now is the time to investigate practical steps towards ensuring the health and safety of your school community. Going cashless in your canteen is a step in the right direction.
+Pay provides a contactless, convenient way for parents to top up lunch money. Our free mobile app and desktop portal offers flexible payment options to suit all parents. Free low balance reminders, advance bookings functionality and integration with cashless catering providers make +Pay a favourite with schools and parents. We’re ready to support you on the road to a cashless environment; get in touch to find out more.
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While ‘Clap for our carers’ provides an opportunity to show our appreciation for those working on the front line, we’re keen to shine a light on the widely unsung heroes supporting young people every day; here’s to the school staff continuing to keep things ‘normal’ in these most unusual times! While there has …
Thank you, schools! 🌈
While ‘Clap for our carers’ provides an opportunity to show our appreciation for those working on the front line, we’re keen to shine a light on the widely unsung heroes supporting young people every day; here’s to the school staff continuing to keep things ‘normal’ in these most unusual times!
While there has been much discussion in the media around the subject of schools ‘reopening’, it’s important to remember that most schools remain open for those who need them most. Every day, we are inspired by news of staff going above and beyond to support keyworkers and their children. Whether delivering lessons via video call, remaining open during half terms or supporting parents with news, information and general communications, school teams are pulling together to do amazing things for their communities.
Powering through the pandemic
We recently spoke with James Singleterry, headteacher at Stukeley Meadows Primary School, to find out how his team is getting on under closures. Keeping things ‘normal’ for students and simple for parents has been a top priority for the school. With over 420 pupils and many parents relying on them for childcare, staff have quickly adapted to deliver lessons online and safely in classrooms.
“It’s certainly an anxious time for the children at our school, their parents and of course our staff, many of whom are still coming into school as normal,” says Mr Stukeley. “It’s very hard to try and keep things ‘normal’ for *keyworkers’* children and also for those at home, but we think it’s important that we try, and so we’ve been working incredibly hard to support those parents with how they can structure their day… We’re very aware that many of our parents are trying to work from home and look after their children, so our job at the moment is to try and help with that.”
Stukeley Meadows Primary School is a shining example of the important role of schools in supporting local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many great ideas up their sleeves, Mr Singleterry is taking his expertise online to share his schools’ experiences with a free webinar.
Join Mr Singleterry for an hour of top tips, advice and more
On Wednesday 29th April at 2pm, ParentMail is partnering up with Mr Singleterry to deliver a free webinar tackling the complications of managing education under the new ‘normal’. Mr Singleterry will share best practice on parent engagement, tried and tested techniques on facilitating home-learning and advice on how to support schools and parents. Register your place now!
Share and share alike
Now is the time to pull together and share first-hand experiences for educating under lockdown; we’re keen to enable schools to feedback and support each other in any way we can. Visit our social media channels (@ParentMail) to message us or use the hashtag #EdTips4Teachers to share your advice on anything from parent engagement to home-learning techniques.
Supporting you 🌈
Notice anything different about our logo? To show our support for school staff across the country, a rainbow now accompanies our name. Alongside the students and young people boosting morale with their brightly coloured works of art, we’re keen to do all we can to help schools keep calm and carry on.
If your school is seeking a platform to simplify and empower your parent engagement strategy, get in touch. We’ve streamlined our onboarding process to keep things quick and simple, meaning you could be up and running in a matter of days. We’re waiting to support you – let’s get started.
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Managing stress during COVID-19: Mental wellness for students, parents and school staff
We’re in the midst of an unprecedented health pandemic. There’s no denying, it’s all a little bit stressful. The UK is entering the second phase of a national lockdown and schools are set to be closed for the foreseeable future.
Just as the scarce British sunshine starts to show its face, we find ourselves stuck indoors. While we focus on the physical impact of our days under lockdown, it’s important not to neglect the mental effects of our new ‘normal’, and to take the time to check-in on those around us.
With increasing pressure on both parents and teachers to minimise impact on student education, it’s important to consider how we can help each other adapt to life under lockdown.
Be kind to your parents
The role of ‘parent’ has suddenly expanded to ‘parent and educator’. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and many parents are rising to the challenge to deliver lessons and oversee learning from kitchen tables, home offices and living rooms.
Balancing remote working, potential financial issues, family-related stress and more, parents are understandably feeling the strain. So, what can you do?
In a recent survey, we asked parents what they want from their schools during closures. The resounding response was communication. Alongside lesson plans and learning resources, parents appreciate detail around expectations (how long to spend on each activity, expected learning outcomes and whether tasks are compulsory, for example).
Parents also need reassurance that they’re doing a good job. The expectation to teach children will leave many feeling anxious about their own abilities to understand work and provide support. Take the opportunity to strengthen your home/school partnerships and reach out to parents who may be feeling particularly vulnerable or stressed. Ensure parents understand your team are still there for them. Remember – a little goes a long way.
Be kind to your students
Depending on their age group, young people will be experiencing a lot of confusion about their new home-learning environment and COVID-19. Children likely have a lot of questions about what the pandemic means for their future: When will they be able to go back to school? Why can’t they see their friends or family? Are they safe?
With children spending more time online during lockdown, many are likely to stumble across inaccurate news and information about coronavirus. Offering parents government recommended resources and advice may go some way in helping to put young children at ease, as well as ensuring older children have access to the right information.
For those students who are now supposed to be sitting end of year exams, the future may feel very uncertain. Many will appreciate some reassurance that their academic futures won’t be impacted negatively by closures. Ensure students have the correct and relevant information from the Department for Education and UCAS, where appropriate.
While home-learning is important, students should also be encouraged to take this opportunity to explore new hobbies, activities and interests. Outside of the classroom, learning can be far more flexible. With extra-curricular activities and clubs now closed, many children may be feeling lonely and isolated. Where you can, explore video calls to bridge the home/school gap. Above all, remember to have fun with learning!
Be kind to your staff
Adapting and facilitating education for students is a big ask for teachers. Many will also be managing their own stresses and strains at home. Remind your colleagues that it’s okay to switch off at the end of the day. For those adapting to working from home, remind them to take breaks and stick to a schedule which provides some time for rest and relaxation, every day.
In the wake of exam and coursework cancellations, schools have also been tasked with determining student grades. While teachers will have the knowledge and expertise to undertake such a huge responsibility, ensure they have the resources, facilities and support they require to do so with confidence.
Many teachers may also feel obliged to be on standby at all hours. While this is admirable, some may need a gentle reminder that they aren’t superheroes and must take care of themselves in order to look after their students.
Last but by no means least, be kind to yourself
While you can’t support every parent, student and colleague, every time, you can take care of yourself. Switch off your mobile, shut down your email inbox and take a moment to check-in with yourself. As the saying goes, look after number one!
ParentMail is here to bring certainty to schools, even during the most uncertain times. Our engagement solutions support thousands of schools to stay in touch with parents and facilitate home-learning, every day. We’re ready to help you – let’s get started.
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Over six thousand schools use ParentMail solutions to stay in touch with their parent communities. That means over three million parents utilise ParentMail to engage in their children’s education, every day. Providing parents with a positive user experience of our platform is vital; otherwise, …
What do parents really think of ParentMail?
Over six thousand schools use ParentMail solutions to stay in touch with their parent communities. That means over three million parents utilise ParentMail to engage in their children’s education, every day.
Providing parents with a positive user experience of our platform is vital; otherwise, they simply won’t use it! For schools to really benefit from ParentMail, our free mobile app and desktop portal need to be user-friendly, convenient and reliable. So, we recently set out to gather some feedback from our parent community.
Over 27,000 parents took part in our survey and we’re delighted to share some insights with you…
The ‘How?’ of school communications
First and foremost, we wanted to find out whether we’re providing a truly socially inclusive platform. Over 99% of respondents own a smartphone, making our free mobile app (available from the iOS and Google Play Store) particularly convenient for staying on top of busy school life.
Almost 80% of parents prefer to receive school communications digitally, via mobile app, email or desktop portal. However, for the tiny 1% still holding a soft spot for the old-school printed newsletter, ParentMail offers the option to print paper copies, ensuring no parent misses out on school news.
We are particularly pleased to see that over 95% of respondents consider ParentMail either ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’. We continue to develop our platform to deliver an even better experience for parents so that schools receive a great response.
Paying with +Pay
With nearly 95% of respondents using online banking for their day to day finances, it’s clear that modern parents have a preference for cashless payments.
Nearly 75% of the parents who took part in our survey are able to pay for school items online, thanks to their school offering +Pay. From lunch money to shop items, 88% of these parents rely on our mobile app to top up and pay in seconds.
In fact, nearly 50% of parents state they would prefer to use cashless methods (credit or debit card) to pay for school lunches.
Most importantly, over 90% of respondents state they enjoy a seamless experience paying for school items with +Pay, meaning schools receive a great response; no questions, queries or frustrations for +Pay parents!
In their own words
‘Very sufficient way to remain updated especially as a working parent unable to pick up and receive regular face to face info from teachers.’
“Excellent, so convenient to have everything in one place.”
“Great app, very user friendly and a great way to keep on top of things.“
“Parentmail is so good and any up-to-date information you need you can find on there from parents evenings to meetings at the school to clubs and useful information about changes to the school and rewards that your children have been given. All term dates are on this as well for u to be able to check at any time and appointments can be made for parents evenings and stay and plays etc.“
“Wonderful app certainly makes sure we don’t miss anything from the school.”
…and many, many more.
We’re continually innovating our platform to deliver an even better service for parents and schools.
If you’re a school keen to find out more about our free mobile app and parent engagement solutions, please get in touch.
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School closures see us all adapting to change; students are adjusting to their home/school environment, parents are accommodating lesson plans in their new-found role as teachers and staff are adapting to teaching from a distance, sometimes from empty classrooms and often from home. These are strange and surreal times. In all cases, we’re feeling a little uncertain. Parents struggling to balance work and …
What parents want from schools during closures
School closures see us all adapting to change; students are adjusting to their home/school environment, parents are accommodating lesson plans in their new-found role as teachers and staff are adapting to teaching from a distance, sometimes from empty classrooms and often from home.
These are strange and surreal times. In all cases, we’re feeling a little uncertain. Parents struggling to balance work and full-time child-care need as much help from their school as possible – but what do they want to know and how can you help them?
We set about finding the answer to the one question playing on many schools’ minds today: how can we support parents during closures? Here’s what families want from you…
Keep it simple
Now more than ever, the focus should be on making learning fun and keeping stress-levels low. While parents are grateful for the resources and at-home learning packs your school is providing, they also appreciate clarity.
Set clear expectations as to whether work is optional or mandatory, how long to spend on each activity and what learning outcomes should be. Providing heaps of documents and worksheets is all well and good, but if lesson plans aren’t clearly laid out, parents will struggle – which means pupils will, too.
When it comes to home-learning, less is more. Emphasise to parents that, while education is important, it’s okay for children to explore new hobbies, arts, crafts, music and reading. Make the most of this opportunity to encourage new ways of learning. Above all else, highlight the good things about this new ‘normal’, for everyone involved.
Paper, print and internet access
One overwhelming theme from our parent survey was the expectation to print resources. The costs of printing five+ worksheets a day, per child, can quickly mount up and many families don’t have access to a printer at all.
Try to reduce paper-reliant lessons as far as possible. Online learning platforms are more popular than ever, with many websites expanding their resources as a direct result of school closures.
For those families who don’t have internet access, alternative arrangements must be made to ensure students don’t miss out. Daily phone calls and video chats via mobile phones, where possible, can help to bridge this gap. While it hasn’t been possible for all schools, many have been able to post worksheets to families who need them.
Be adaptable in your methods of communication. If you’re unsure of what to share with parents, ask them; run a survey on Facebook, utilise your Online Forms platform or turn to SurveyMonkey. If you have a parent committee, ask them to do the leg work for you and report back.
Ensure the channels you’re utilising are effective and accessible and, if they’re not working for you, make some changes. Your weekly newsletter may have done the trick prior to closures, but it’s unlikely to suffice on its own now. If you’re a tech-phobe, make the most of the knowledge on your staff team and student and parent communities; now is the time to embrace change! Who knows, you might find something that works for you, even after schools reopen.
Communication – and lots of it
Now more than ever, teamwork makes the dream work. Don’t allow parents and students to feel abandoned during closures. Stay in touch and provide regular updates on what your team are up to. Even if you don’t have much to say, many families will be appreciative of a simple ‘hello’.
Keep smiles on student’s faces by running video webinars and assemblies via Zoom or Skype. Many children will miss seeing their friends (and even teachers, though they may not admit it) during lockdown; it’s vital to keep spirits high and bridge the remote-learning gap.
Social media is the unsung hero of both school and business closures today, so make the most of yours. Reawaken your dormant Twitter account and encourage parents to follow you for updates. Many schools have separate accounts for different year groups and classes. Now’s the time to set up your own – but don’t forget to invite parents to follow!
It’s up to schools to keep channels of communication open with families right now. Parents need all the support they can get, so stay in touch and encourage families to do the same.
What’s worked for your school over these past weeks of closures? We want to hear from you! Send us a message on Twitter (@ParentMail) to share your experiences so far.
ParentMail is here to bring a little uncertainty to schools during these most uncertain times. Whether you’re gathering feedback from parents or sharing learning resources, we can help you. Let’s get started.
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Teaching through crisis: how Stukeley Meadows Primary School are keeping things ‘normal’ during Covid-19
Whatever sector you work in, Covid-19 has brought with it a series of challenges and worries, and for many of us, staying at home is now the safest thing to do. For some, however, going into work is not an …
Teaching through crisis: how Stukeley Meadows Primary School are keeping things ‘normal’ during Covid-19
Whatever sector you work in, Covid-19 has brought with it a series of challenges and worries, and for many of us, staying at home is now the safest thing to do. For some, however, going into work is not an option. For schools remaining open to provide a safe environment for key workers’ children, it’s an incredibly strange time.
We spoke to James Singleterry, head teacher at Stukeley Meadows Primary School, to find out their plans for the next few weeks and how they’re providing support to children both in and out of school.
‘We’re trying to keep things as normal as we can’
“It’s certainly an anxious time for the children at our school, their parents and of course our staff, many of whom are still coming into school as normal. Last week (w/b Monday 23rd March) we opened the school for key workers’ children and we had, on average, 15 children in each day. It’s very hard to try and keep things ‘normal’ for those children and also for those at home, but we think it’s important that we try, and so we’ve been working incredibly hard to support those parents with how they can structure their day.”
“We’re very aware that many of our parents are trying to work from home and look after their children, so our job at the moment is to try and help with that. We’re also very aware that just like us, parents are being struck with hundreds of different bits of software and advice for how they should be home-schooling, which must be incredibly overwhelming for them. We want to make that a bit easier, so we’re using the technology we already have to regularly keep in touch, offer them resources, and ultimately be there for them when they need us. For many of our parents, these are going to be a tough few weeks, so if we can help make that just a bit easier, then we’ve done our job.”
Stukeley Meadows Primary has around 420 students from reception through to Year 6, and each teacher in the school has a dedicated Twitter account to regularly keep in touch with their class and parents. They also have an incredibly active YouTube account where head teacher James is uploading a daily assembly to keep some normality for the children. They also use ParentMail to send home useful documents to support remote learning and to keep in regular contact with parents with any updates on the school.
Making time for learning and for play
“It’s a really confusing time for children at the moment, so we’re trying to ensure there is time for learning but also time for play.”
“We like to do things in sixes at Stukeley, so we’re setting six tasks each day which all the children can access whether they are in school or at home. Children can do as many as they want to (or are told to be their families!) That consists of reading, writing, maths, attending assembly (done over video), completing a challenge and then some subject work (geography, history, music and so on.) If you take a look at our Twitter pages, you’ll see how engaged the students are – and their parents! For us, having an almost empty school feels very odd… logging on and talking to our students through technology is the next best thing.”
“Week one is done and yes it was a bit strange having less children in, but our job is about overcoming whatever is thrown our way; we’re here to do the unthinkable whatever that may be and we’ll keep going for as long as we can. It was a great first week; staff who are able to come in are up for it, smiles all round and making sure the children are having fun and learning.”
“Our long-term plan is to be able to offer remote learning for as long as we can. We’re here to offer whole-school solidarity and community support in a time when people need it most.”
Top tips for schools from head teacher Mr Singleterry
- Try and keep some normality for your students at home, whether that’s sending home materials they can work from, videoing a daily assembly or even just sending home a letter/tweet from their teachers when you can.
- Use technology – social media, YouTube, communication software has been vital during this time, we can reach parents instantly through their mobile app and will continue to do so. We can also send documents through ParentMail, so activity sheets or daily updates can be received every morning by parents.
- Stay positive, keep smiling, remember the children in your school are having to come in whilst their friends are at home and their parents are at work. Let them forget, if you can, what’s going on in the world for just a few hours of the day.
Hear it from the man himself!
On Wednesday 29th April at 2PM, Mr Singleterry is delivering a free webinar tackling the complications of managing education under the new ‘normal’. Mr Singleterry will share best practice on parent engagement, tried and tested techniques on facilitating home-learning and advice on how to support schools and parents. Register your place now!
If you’d like to discuss parental engagement software and how we can help, simply click here and we’ll give you a call.
And finally, a huge thank you to all the incredible teaching staff across the country who are continuing to work through these uncertain times – you are hugely appreciated.
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Keep calm and carry on: communications, closures and COVID-19
In light of the UK’s escalating response to COVID-19, organisations across the country are putting plans in place to keep business operating as usual.
In the face of closures, however, shutting up shop to work from home isn’t straight forward for schools. There’s a lot to think about, plan and prepare for in the face of current uncertainty.
From remaining compliant and working efficiently to staying in touch with staff and parents, we’re ready to support your school to keep calm and carry on over the coming days, weeks and months.
Do you have up to date contact details for parents? How about information around contingency plans for those who rely on alternative childcare arrangements?
Having the correct contact and care data, as well as relevant student health and safety information, ensures you’re ready to take action as and when required. With the right information at hand, your communication strategy is clear and straightforward, saving unnecessary headaches for staff and parents.
Our Online Form platform makes collecting and reporting on contact details, health and safety data and survey responses quick and easy. Our engagement solutions integrate with school MIS, making it easy to circulate surveys and forms to individuals, classes and year groups. This is a super simple and cost-effective solution to all your data collection needs!
Staying in touch with parents
If and when it comes to closing down schools, informing parents will be at the top of your to-do list. For circulating urgent messages en masse, text messaging remains the method of choice for most schools. Topping up text credits with ParentMail is quick and easy, with a choice of bundles to suit schools of all sizes.
Throughout closures, staying in touch with parents is key. Thanks to our handy mobile app and desktop portal, you can rest easy knowing your parents are up to date with the latest information and news from your school.
Unlike many other parent engagement solutions on the market, our reporting suite provides a handy insight into message performance, too, so you can see who has and hasn’t opened your communications.
The risks around germs and cash are well known; coins and notes harbour bacteria and, considering how quickly cash is circulated, you’ll likely want to keep the sanitizer to hand when handling money. Cashless payments are a wise choice in the current climate, allowing parents to pay for items from the comfort of home, reducing cash and footfall on school grounds.
+Pay plugs into ParentMail and PS Connect engagement platforms, providing a seamless payment process for all kinds of school items. Parents can pay via our free mobile app and desktop portal, ensuring schools stay on top of finances during closures.
At home learning
Teachers are busy preparing at-home learning and lesson plans to support students in the instance of extended closures. With uncertainty around what the future may bring, it’s difficult to tell how long you may be closed for – so facilitating at-home learning is important.
Sharing resources and at-home learning packs is secure and easy with ParentMail. Remember, our platform integrates seamlessly with school MIS, enabling you to circulate attachments and content by individual, class or year group, quickly and easily.
So, your parent engagement is in hand – how about staff? Working from home requires reliable and secure messaging to keep all staff engaged and up to date with the latest news and information. Secure messaging via mobile or desktop, as well as online forms, meeting and event planning solutions all support strategic staff communications.
ParentMail can be accessed by admin users whenever and wherever you may be – meaning you have total flexibility to manage communications, payment windows and reporting from home, if required!
We’re ready to support your school – let’s get started.
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To truly feel all the benefits of top-notch parent engagement, first, you need to have all your parents registered – a task easier said than done, in some cases. If you’re struggling to get more than 90% of parents registered …
Top tips for improving parent registration
To truly feel all the benefits of top-notch parent engagement, first, you need to have all your parents registered – a task easier said than done, in some cases.
If you’re struggling to get more than 90% of parents registered to ParentMail, we’re here to help. Here are a few tried and tested methods for increasing parent uptake!
Who is missing out?
First things first; identify those parents who are yet to sign up. To do this, run the Parent Connection Status Report within Reports > General. Column J lists the statuses of your parents. Identify those with the status ‘not connected’; these are the parents who require your attention.
Resend the registration link
Parents receive a registration link by email or text upon joining your school. However, it’s likely that message is buried somewhere in their inbox by now.
We recommend resending registration links every few weeks to those parents yet to sign up. To do this, go to Settings > General > Resend Email Verification.
Ensure that all staff members are registered. This not only means they’ll be able to pay online but will also be well placed to lend a hand and answer parent questions and queries.
Some schools have found success from providing the relevant classroom teachers with names of parents yet to register. Teachers may have the opportunity to speak to parents at drop off or collection time.
Digital and social inclusivity
Don’t worry if some parents don’t have internet access or a smart phone; ParentMail can be accessed by desktop and the system facilitates paper copies of all communications, as well as cash and cheque payments.
There are also a number of inclusive payment methods available through +Pay. PayPoint and PayCash are barcode systems for individuals who can’t pay online. +Pay also offers PayPal, a sure-fire win for parents – so ensure they know of all the benefits they can enjoy if they sign up!
Face to face
Identify any parents who may benefit from 1-2-1 support. Lots of schools have enjoyed sign-up success from walking parents through the registration process in person.
Remember, once you’ve helped a parent to register once, you don’t need to do it again; invest a few minutes in showing them the platform now and save hours in the long run.
You’ve got homework
Lots of schools have experienced great success by setting ParentMail homework – and we have it all in hand!
There is a dedicated section on our School Help Site for onboarding parents. There, you will find website banners, posters and graphics for your newsletters. This kind of activity emphasises the importance of signing up to ParentMail, as well as the benefits parents will enjoy as a result.
Make it evident to parents that non-registration isn’t an option; if they wish to be included in home/school communications, they need to sign up.
Many parents may feel wary of a new system, particularly if they’re a fan of old-school pupil post. However, once parents realise how convenient and reliable ParentMail is, parents hit the ground running – they just need a push in the right direction!
Remember to encourage parents to download the free mobile app from the Google Play or Apple App store; simply search ‘ParentMail’ and tap to download. The app can be used on mobile phones and tablets and is the most convenient way to stay on top of school communications.
Our School Support team are on hand to help you solve any parent queries you might have. Do also familiarise yourself with our ‘Helping parents’ page on the school help site!
Alternatively, invite a member of the ParentMail team to visit your school for some on-site training. We tailor every session to suit your needs. So, whether you’d appreciate a hands-on approach to increasing your parent uptake or need to train up staff to support parents, we’ll make sure you get everything you need out of your time with us. Book today!
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Eco and green or wasteful and mean: a lesson in environmental matters for schools
It’s Veganuary, the annual vegan-awareness month growing ever more popular with each passing year. For a rising number of young people, opting for a plant-based diet is an eco-friendly lifestyle choice, comparable to choosing a reusable coffee cup or water bottle. In fact, according to a recent study, over 50% of young people in the UK have tried veganism.
Like never before, we’re avoiding single-use plastic, recycling with a vengeance and exploring new and novel ways of reducing our carbon footprints. Organisations across the country are introducing green initiatives to reduce emissions and instil eco-friendly habits in their employees. In the general election, environmental matters loomed over every debate and discussion. As a country, we’re tackling climate change head on – but what is your school doing to drive change for the next generation?
With young people demanding action, schools are well placed to garner support from their student communities in implementing clean, green habits. It’s a new year, a new decade and time for a new green approach for schools – but where to begin?
It’s been an ethos at the heart of ParentMail for nearly 20 years, but the mantra around reducing paper no longer solely concerns saving money.
Studies show that the average secondary school produces 22kg of waste every year, with primary schools coming in even higher at 45kg per pupil. Much of this waste is paper and card. But why, if paper is recyclable, does this matter?
The environmental impact of paper is far bigger than you might think. From forest to folder to bin, the lifecycle of paper relies on a huge amount of energy and natural resources. 30 million acres of forest are cut annually, with 40% of the worlds commercially-cut timber used for paper production.
While paper in the classroom may be tricky to avoid, habits in the office are easier to change. It’s time to say goodbye to the traditional newsletter and look at the benefits of alternative paper-free solutions, such as instant messaging, digital forms, online payments and more.
Online engagement reduces print and paper-related costs, improves security and strengthens home/school relationships. We no longer rely on snail-mail to stay in touch with friends and family; today, parents expect convenience and reliability when it comes to school communications, too.
Eco-kitchens and canteen waste
How much food are you throwing away, every day, in your canteen? Let us tell you, it’s probably more than you think.
According to recent studies, schools produce over 10% of all non-domestic food waste in England; approximately 123,000 tonnes a year. In terms of your school finances, that’s literally money in the bin.
The environmental impact of food waste is tremendous. Food waste inevitably heads straight to landfill and, as it biodegrades, produces huge amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Planning lunchtimes efficiently is kind on both the school budget and the earth!
Gathering menu choices from parents provides kitchen staff with all the information they need to efficiently manage suppliers and prepare food. With an online payment platform, parents can choose lunch options for their child and make payments ahead of time. Say goodbye to dinner money debt and hello to a less wasteful kitchen culture.
What’s on the menu?
With vegetarian and vegan diets growing in popularity, offering meat-free options is also likely to encourage more uptake in your school canteen. In fact, did you know that a huge 70% of British children want more veggie and vegan options in school?
Plant-based diets have a significantly lower impact on the environment, with livestock and meat production estimated to be responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Many schools have found meat-free meals to be kinder on the purse strings, too!
Survey and share
You have a whole team of supporters and advocates in your parent community – why not use them?
Encouraging parents to take your new green approach home is a great way of increasing impact. From sharing the school run to encouraging reusable water bottles, there is lots to be done at home to tackle the climate emergency.
Parents, too, are likely to have suggestions to grow your positive impact. Utilise your paper-free parent engagement platform to garner support and share surveys to gather parent responses. A green effort is a team effort, so give parents the opportunity to be involved.
A green revolution is in sight! Every effort, no matter how small, can have a huge impact. Together, schools across the UK can fight the war against climate change and enjoy all the benefits today, whilst building a better future for young people. It’s time to make a start – for information on how ParentMail can support you to go paper-free and reduce waste, get in touch today.
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To send or not to send – SMS vs in-app messaging
Do you know your in-app notifications from your text alerts?
Engaging with parents is getting easier; running a survey or collecting permissions? Use Online Forms. Planning parents’ evening and gathering appointments? Turn to your event management platform. Sharing the school newsletter? Look no further than email.
But with all this choice, sometimes it can be tricky making the right decision about the information at hand.
When it comes to sending short and sweet messages to parents, how do you decide between a simple SMS or an in-app message or email?
First, what’s the difference?
Unlike text messages (where messages are received to the user’s mobile inbox) in-app messages are received, accessed and managed in an application installed on the device.
Both in-app messaging and SMS are a reliable and cost-effective form of home/school communication. However, when it comes to circulating particularly urgent or time-sensitive messages, SMS takes the lead.
When should I be sending texts?
Here are a just a few instances in which you should consider typing out a text before hitting send on an email:
- School closures
- Trip return updates and collection details
- Health warnings (headlice, measles, chickenpox etc)
- Club, event or fixture cancellations
- First aid notification
- Low dinner money balances
- Club and trip confirmation
- Meeting reminders
- Absence alerts
- Weather guidance for children (e.g ‘Remember sunscreen!’)
- Important event reminders (sports day, non-uniform day, show and tell etc)
On occasions where time is of the essence, text prevails – and here’s why.
Mobile applications allow users to update their notification preferences – i.e. turn off notifications in order to take control of when they check their applications. With the average person having up to 80 applications on their device, notification-overload is fast becoming a modern-day headache.
However, with such flexibility comes the risk of parents missing out on important school messages.
If a parent is without WiFi or data, there is also a risk of missing important information until they are able to connect to the internet again.
On the other hand, texts, more than likely, will reach parents whenever and where they are, alerting them immediately to important information about their child. Parents understand that a text from their school needs to be read immediately – an in-app notification may be missed or pushed to the side until they have time to check on it later.
If you’re exploring cost-effective texting solutions to support timely parent engagement when it matters most, look no further than ParentMail. Get in touch to find out more.
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Award-winning nursery, Oakfield Nursery School in Altrincham, place great emphasis on staying in touch with their parent community. With a focus on streamlining communications and simplifying payments, the team decided to go cashless and paperless with online parent engagement and have taken back hours of …
Oakfield Nursery School prioritise cashless payments and paper-free parent engagement
Award-winning nursery, Oakfield Nursery School in Altrincham, place great emphasis on staying in touch with their parent community. With a focus on streamlining communications and simplifying payments, the team decided to go cashless and paperless with online parent engagement and have taken back hours of precious time with a little help from ParentMail.
Now collecting parent payments online with +Pay, the team are saving lots of time every week on time-consuming admin tasks. Items such as deposits, extra days, trips and other ad hoc items are now purchased online with +Pay. With a dedicated mobile app, parents pay quickly and easily with debit, credit card or PayPal; as a result, nursery staff have noticed a much speedier response from parents!
“We no longer have to spend hours matching receipts up to invoices or make trips to the bank,” says Oakfield Nursery School Bursar, Roz Swarbrick. “+Pay also generates all invoices for us, which used to be another time-consuming manual process. Overdue invoices are made clear in the system and +Pay makes it quick and easy to forward them onto the relevant parents as a friendly reminder of payments due.”
Oakfield Nursery School is also making the most of +Pay’s online shop facility to sell uniforms. With orders placed through the app, there’s no need for paper forms or cash. Parents simply place an order, pay online in moments and collect items during the morning drop-off.
“For us, online payments offer security in more ways than one.” Says Roz. “Payments are received in advance, straight into our chosen bank account, which means there’s no need to chase parents for overdue payments. We also have no cash on-site, or trips to the bank. All in all, online payments have improved security for us in lots of ways.”
Like many busy nurseries, the team at Oakfield often have plenty of news and information to share with parents. As well as going completely cashless, the nursery has also made the move to paperless communications with Online Forms and Messaging.
“Parents use the same mobile app to manage payments and stay up to date with communications from our team.” Says Oakfield Nursery School Director, Roisin Moriarty. “We use the platform to share guidance and instructions on applying for Early Years Funding; it’s a very efficient way for us to support parents. We used to print paper letters to send this information home. For parents, online communications are far more convenient.”
“We also use the Online Forms platform to securely collect and manage parent data. By going paperless and taking our parent engagement online, we’re not only saving precious hours but also saving money on staff time and resource, too.”
For Oakfield Nursery School, payments and parent engagement are effort-free and painless. If your nursery could use a hand to reduce time-consuming admin and take the cash out of payments, get in touch; we’d love to show you around!
2020 is here, marking the close of another decade. For ParentMail, it promises to be an exciting year – we are fast approaching our 20th birthday! But, before we plough ahead with the coming 12 months, there is much to look back on and celebrate from …
Looking back – a review of 2019
2020 is here, marking the close of another decade. For ParentMail, it promises to be an exciting year – we are fast approaching our 20th birthday! But, before we plough ahead with the coming 12 months, there is much to look back on and celebrate from the year just gone. Here’s our review of 2019!
2019 was a busy year for our schools and we have the stats to prove it. Over the past 12 months:
- You sent nearly two million emails, keeping parents up to date with the latest school news and information
- Over 11 thousand parents’ evenings were arranged using our paperless parents’ evening platform, with more than 2.5 million parents booking appointments online
- You sent over 125 thousand online forms, gathering over 2.5 million paperless responses.
You’re busier than ever and we’ve been working away behind the scenes to support you; here’s what we got up to during 2019.
Product updates and new functionality
Without our customers, we wouldn’t be where we are today. With your help and feedback, we continue to enhance and develop our platforms to meet the ever-changing needs of schools.
In summer 2019, we set out to upgrade +Pay to make online payment management even easier for parents and schools.
New advance bookings functionality streamlines wraparound care, breakfast clubs and school dinners, keeping things simple for schools. Parents can book club places and pay in one simple process; for school lunches, parents choose menu items and top up lunch money with a few clicks.
Want to know more? Read the blog.
We became part of something bigger
Two years after being bought by IRIS Software Group, today ParentMail is one part of IRIS Education, a family of leading software providers including PS Financials, BioStore, FasTrak and Contact Group.
We’re busy exploring opportunities to integrate our platforms, with the objective of delivering an even better experience for schools.
Looking ahead, we’re also excited for IRIS World, set to take place on 11th February at the ICC Birmingham. School leaders from across the country are gathering under one roof for a day of knowledge-sharing, networking and sector news.
What better way to explore ParentMail than with our new webinar series? Schools across the country took the opportunity to see our platform in action last year, setting aside less than an hour of their day to see what else ParentMail could do for them.
For those too busy to join us, don’t worry – you can find our webinars here, available to watch at your own convenience.
Psst! With parents’ evening season just around the corner, now is the perfect opportunity to check out the Parents’ Evening Manager webinar. Paperless event planning is just a few clicks away!
We continue to develop our free mobile parent app to make managing school life even easier. This year saw a number of updates to improve the user experience and all our hard work must be paying off, with many users leaving us some fantastic feedback over the year!
“At last a parent friendly parent app!”
“Safe and reliable.”
“Easy to use. Keeps me up to date.”
We wouldn’t be where we are without our schools and we would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of our valuable customers for choosing ParentMail to upgrade their parent engagement.
We’re excited for everything 2020 holds and wish you all a productive and successful new year!
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We at ParentMail are really excited to be taking part in IRIS World 2020! Set to take place on 11th February 2020 at the ICC Birmingham, IRIS World has fast become known as a fantastic opportunity for leaders across the sector to gather under …
Three reasons for ParentMail customers to attend IRIS World 2020
We at ParentMail are really excited to be taking part in IRIS World 2020! Set to take place on 11th February 2020 at the ICC Birmingham, IRIS World has fast become known as a fantastic opportunity for leaders across the sector to gather under one roof for a day of news, networking and knowledge-sharing.
As a key part of the IRIS Education software portfolio, ParentMail has been working closely with IRIS to make the conference a must-attend event for everyone in the education sector.
With a jam-packed agenda in the making, we’re excited to share three reasons why you should attend IRIS World…
Industry experts, school leaders and ParentMail gurus are hosting a variety of talks throughout the day, sharing valuable insight into the latest changes in the education sector.
The general election, staff retention and increasing pressures to improve efficiency; the current climate sees an unpredictable future for schools. However, against all the odds, school leaders continue to achieve outstanding things for their school communities.
With input from education experts, we’ll investigate best practice and confront the issues impacting both the classroom and the management of schools today.
What’s an event without a spot of networking? Grab a coffee and get to know fellow school leaders and users of IRIS Education software. Our team of experts will be on hand throughout the day to share their expertise and answer any questions you might have about your software.
We’ll also be showcasing the latest innovations to your platforms, including ParentMail, PS Financials, PS Connect, BioStore and Contact Group. Join us to find out how IRIS Education is developing to continue meeting your needs, enabling you to look forward with confidence.
Demands to continually create new efficiencies places great pressure on the shoulders of school leaders; any opportunity to save time and protect the school budget must be taken advantage of.
IRIS World is the perfect environment to discover ways to achieve these goals, by hearing about the latest innovations in EdTech within the context of tensions facing the sector today. Learn how IRIS is investing in our technology to meet the needs of schools, from parent engagement to asset and people management.
And don’t forget the IRIS Awards
And these aren’t the only reasons to take a look at IRIS World. On the evening of February 11th, we’re hosting the IRIS Customer Awards 2020, celebrating the outstanding performance of our customers with a black-tie dinner and awards-giving.
With five awards up for grabs, this is a great chance to showcase all the amazing things your team achieves for students, staff and parents, every day. Whether your school has improved parent engagement with digital communications or supported staff with powerful EdTech, we want to hear from you.
This is the first year IRIS World is opening its doors to the education sector and, as such, we’re excited to make it a day of thought-provoking news and networking for every one of our guests. Join us on February 11th at the ICC Birmingham; reserve your seat today.
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We asked schools to share their top tips, best practice and advice for using the ParentMail platform to its full potential. Now, we’re excited to share your feedback with the ParentMail community! Here are our top five favourite suggestions for making the most of ParentMail to save time …
Top tips from ParentMail super users
We asked schools to share their top tips, best practice and advice for using the ParentMail platform to its full potential. Now, we’re excited to share your feedback with the ParentMail community!
Here are our top five favourite suggestions for making the most of ParentMail to save time and streamline admin, every day:
Save time with templates
“Make your templates – these are then handy and easy to use – SMS, email, forms… We use them daily for just some of the following: child not collected, no lunch booked, bumped head, football Friday. Also, get parents signed up by app by offering incentives.”
“Search for an old template, i.e. last years’ letter and change the dates rather than re-write the whole thing! Anything with a green dot has new, ‘undealt-with’ info on it!”
Test your communications
“Create a fictious parent and child to test out new applications/forms etc. I have Betty and Billy Anyone linked to my personal email address and it’s great to be able to see ParentMail from a ‘parent’ perspective.”
“Don’t give parents a choice regarding registering. Be a cashless school and refuse to take cash.”
“Work through the reject report, it’s not that daunting once you get used to it. We now have 100% of email contacts. If you don’t have contact details phone the parent!”
Thank you to everyone who shared their top tips with us!
Did you find these tips to be helpful? ParentMail should be supporting you to save time, reduce workloads and save money. If you aren’t not feeling the true benefits of your platform, you might benefit from a hands-on refresher with a ParentMail trainer.
Our on-site training is ideal for teaching new staff, training up teams and keeping your ParentMail knowledge up to date. We’ll visit your school for either half or full day and tailor training to suit your needs, ensuring you get the most of out of your session. Get in touch to find out more.
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Our School Support Team are masters of all things ParentMail, offering up expertise and knowledge to support schools every day. While they’re always on hand via Live Chat when schools run into trouble, did you know, you can also arrange for a ParentMail professional …
Back to the classroom with ParentMail training
Our School Support Team are masters of all things ParentMail, offering up expertise and knowledge to support schools every day.
While they’re always on hand via Live Chat when schools run into trouble, did you know, you can also arrange for a ParentMail professional to stop by your school to deliver training on-site?
Depending on your needs, we’ll tailor your session to support your team. Whether you’re in need of a general refresher or want to train up new colleagues, our on-site sessions are the perfect way to soak up wisdom and hit the ground running with your platform.
Training for ParentMail newbies
Face-to-face training is the perfect way to start your ParentMail journey. Our trainer will support with the ‘go live’ process and provide a hands-on tour of your new platform. It’s also a great opportunity to get to know us!
Training new team members
Time is precious, so rather than spending hours guiding a new colleague around the platform, arrange a half or full-day training session and we’ll do it for you – so you can get on with the day job!
While we’re there, we’ll support your wider team to brush up on ParentMail best practice and answer any burning questions you might have. We’ll train up new staff using your existing account, too, ensuring the session is applicable and relevant to your school.
Learning about new solutions
Adding a new solution onto your ParentMail platform is super easy, especially with the helping hand of our experts. We’ll show you around your new solution and help you to develop any relevant content required for your school.
Refresher sessions on your platform
Whether it’s the start of a new term or you’ve recently become responsible for managing parent communications, we’ll tailor training to suit your strengths and weaknesses, targeting specific areas requiring attention. We’ll explore areas of the system less familiar to you and even investigate and resolve any data related issues.
On-site training is a great way to consolidate your team knowledge and iron out any areas raising problems, empowering you to truly make the most of ParentMail and all the benefits it has to offer.
Every session provides an ideal opportunity to check in on your existing ParentMail solutions, ask questions and find out about the latest updates and product enhancements. It’s also a great chance for you to share your feedback and suggestions for what you’d like to see from the future of ParentMail.
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We’ve seen the trends of parent communications change over the years. From the death of the paper newsletter (good riddance!) to the dawn of text messages and email, schools have taken advantage of every opportunity to avoid the frustrations of …
Tackling text messages – are you still sending them?
We’ve seen the trends of parent communications change over the years. From the death of the paper newsletter (good riddance!) to the dawn of text messages and email, schools have taken advantage of every opportunity to avoid the frustrations of pupil post.
While text messaging has proven handy over recent years, SMS is struggling to keep up with cheaper, more convenient solutions; email, in-app messaging and even WhatsApp have proven better for circulating messages to the parent community.
Habits can be hard to break, particularly when reviewing processes which have been in place for years. However, chances are, if you’re still sending text messages to parents en masse, there are huge time and money savings to be achieved. Here’s why…
Taking over text messages
Before the era of smartphones, text messaging enabled schools to send important messages directly into the hands of parents, for the first time. Suddenly, parents were no longer discovering out of date letters at the bottom of school bags. Convenient but clunky, SMS presented schools with a quick and easy way of keeping parents up to date.
However, for sharing anything other than short and sweet messages, SMS can cause headaches. Character limits don’t leave much room for personality or a professional touch; they also don’t allow for attachments. For parents, sifting through their personal inbox to find a single school message, sent days before, can be frustrating.
In addition, the cost of sending texts in bulk quickly adds up. So, while you may have enjoyed some cost savings upon ridding your office of print and paper, the price of potentially thousands of texts sent over a school year can still push the budget.
What do parents want?
Staying on top of homework, afterschool clubs, trips and events is enough to make the most organised parent sweat. What they really want from school communications is simplicity; the relevant information sent to the right place, at the right time.
Cluttered email inboxes make it easy to miss important information, while WhatsApp groups raise concerns around security and accuracy; with 30+ parents in a single group, notifications can quickly spiral out of control.
Custom communication channels
“It’s a really nice touch that we’re sending our information home to parents through our very own app, it makes our communications unique to us!”
When collecting data or sharing school news, security is a priority. Parents need to be able to trust that the information they receive from their school is accurate and applicable to their child.
At ParentMail, we believe that technology should empower communications, rather than setting limits. Software should bridge the home/school divide with efficient, effective parent engagement.
A dedicated platform for messaging is within reach for all schools and parents today. From local primaries to large MATs, many schools are making the most of technology to implement strategic communications to strengthen relationships with their parent community.
“The majority of parents use our mobile app, which means messages are sent home as free in-app notifications, popping up to alert parents of important school communications. As a result, we have saved on text credits as we are no longer sending any SMS and instead send all our communications through email which arrive in one single, school branded feed rather than a busy email inbox, improving our parental engagement as a result!”
ParentMail’s Messaging solution provides total flexibility; schools can manage mailing lists to send messages by class, year group or individual. Handy reporting enables staff to monitor communication performance, providing an overview of messages received and unopened; no more chasing students for responses, no more character limitations or text credits.
Our free mobile app is a favourite with parents. Handy notifications and reminders ensure they receive important information instantly, with all school messages stored neatly in one place.
An effective solution proven to save time and improve parent engagement, Messaging is a powerful stand-alone solution. When utilised alongside ParentMail’s other engagement solutions, the system does so much more for schools, professionalising communications and reducing costs in the long term.
With cold weather settling across the country this winter and a busy festive period approaching, it’s time to plan ahead for home/school communications. Get in touch to find out more about our Messaging solution.
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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 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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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 …
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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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 …
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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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 …
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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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 …
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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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 …
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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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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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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‘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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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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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,