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 …
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.
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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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 potential closures, however, shutting up shop to work from home isn’t straight …
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 potential 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 …
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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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 …
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 …
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 …
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 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 …
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 …
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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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. …
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.
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 …
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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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 …
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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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 …
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 …
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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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 …
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 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 …
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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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 …
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.
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. …
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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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 …
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 conducted a survey to investigate current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. We received a great response, with over 450 schools taking part and telling us about their school communications. As leaders in …
We recently conducted a survey to investigate current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement.
We received a great response, with over 450 schools taking part and telling us about their school communications. As leaders in the ed-tech industry, it’s important that we stay up to date on the latest trends in technology and parental engagement, and we wanted to share our findings so that you can see how your school compares to others!
Of the 457 school leaders who responded, 57% worked in primary schools, 20% for an academy trust and 15% in secondary schools. We also heard from staff working for nurseries and clubs.
We asked respondents to tell us about all the software they use, from different suppliers, so the results aren’t only about ParentMail. This provides a valuable insight into all parental engagement platforms and ed-tech in general.
Technology in the school office
It is evident that email and text platforms are a priority for most schools, with 82% of respondents utilising an email and text system to communicate with parents every day. Also on the up are online payments systems, with 60% using a cashless platform to collect parent payments for school dinners and other school items.
Almost 90% of respondents stated they are satisfied with their communications system and almost 80% were satisfied with their online payments system, which means these systems are meeting the needs of both schools and parents.
Schools are clearly prioritising parental engagement, which is great news! Experience tells us that when schools prioritise a strong school/parent relationship, students benefit in the long run, and communication is key!
How does technology support schools?
We know the priority for most schools utilising an online communications system is to improve parental engagement, and almost 90% of respondents stated they use online systems to improve communications with parents; 67% referred to getting more parents engaged. Modern technology supports social inclusivity, with online platforms enabling schools to keep in touch with hard-to-reach parents like never before.
However, with increasing demands on schools to demonstrate efficiency and savings, we recognise the important role of technology in streamlining processes and saving time in the office. Technology is clearly supporting schools to be more efficient, with 69% of schools benefiting from reduced workload as a result of parental engagement systems, and 75% utilising software to improve efficiency in school. 60% of respondents stated they look to online systems to save money.
What technology are schools using?
Technology can play lots of different roles in schools, whether that’s collecting payments, sending important news straight to parent’s hands, gathering online forms and permissions or arranging parents’ meetings. With so many different systems, we asked you how many suppliers you use to perform different tasks; 56% of respondents use just one system, 27% use two and 18% use three systems or more.
With multiple suppliers providing different systems in the school, parents are using the same number of systems to stay on top of school information at home. 62% of respondents believe using multiple systems would reduce the effectiveness of school communications. Experience also tells us that streamlining processes in the school office can protect the school budget, too.
Over 70% of respondents stated they regularly look into new methods of communication for their parents. 40% of schools who don’t invest time into looking at alternative systems refer to a lack of resource in implementing new methods.
Interesting stuff – thank you to everyone who took the time to take part! If you’d like to discuss how your school could use technology to improve your parental engagement, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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It’s strange to think that, only 10 years ago, we still relied on the occasional paper newsletter to communicate with parents. Today, there are numerous methods of sharing important news and information with mums and dads; for schools, new technology …
It’s strange to think that, only 10 years ago, we still relied on the occasional paper newsletter to communicate with parents. Today, there are numerous methods of sharing important news and information with mums and dads; for schools, new technology is bridging the gap between school and home like never before!
Over the years, ParentMail has observed the world of EdTech expand and evolve; we’ve seen habits change both at home and in the school office. One particular platform which has seen a dramatic transition is SMS. In 2012, over 160 billion text messages were sent in the UK; year on year, this number has steadily declined, with almost half the number sent in 2017, at just over 80 billion. In the wake of the SMS decline, in-App notifications are fast taking the place of the humble text message, and it’s easy to see why.
How many text messages are too many? When it comes to school messages, we think there should be a limit. Push notifications offer flexibility unrivalled by the outdated SMS. Text messages can be intrusive, causing parents to feel the need to respond instantly. On the other hand, smartphone users are accustomed to push-notifications appearing on their screen; in App notifications don’t require an immediate reaction, serving as a handy reminder to new information, instead.
For most school communications, not all messages are considered critical or require an instant response. Often, messages are alerting parents to news, payments due, bookings to be made etc. Whilst these messages are important, they are rarely categorised as urgent and, for this reason, push notifications are ideal, helping to build a reliable and constructive relationship between parents and school. For those messages that are considered urgent, parents are still notified and can react accordingly.
Apps allow the user to amend notifications to suit their own preferences. Text message notifications are either switched on or off, which simply isn’t practical. With an App custom-built for school communications, parents can make the most of flexible notifications and set them as appropriate.
Reached your limit?
With an average 160-character limit (including spaces!), SMS rarely offers the flexibility to share truly informative messages with parents. Text messaging is also a poor platform for sending additional media, such as pictures, forms or invitations. As a result, school messages are often short and impersonal and can fail to build a sense of confidence in parents. Add to this the huge cost of sending hundreds, if not thousands, of text messages every term, schools simply aren’t getting enough for their money.
School communications should be professional, helpful and, importantly, represent your school’s brand and values. When parents use just one App to manage all school communications, they immediately associate those notifications with your school and know they can trust the information they receive. This means parents are more likely to pick up messages quickly and respond as required. Without character limitations, schools can provide parents with all the necessary information for the subject at hand, from sharing photos from recent school trips, requesting consent, permissions and feedback with forms, or supporting parents to make online payments, quickly and easily. This level of flexibility builds a stronger relationship between home and school, ensuring parents feel informed about important news and information regarding their child.
School communications shouldn’t put your school budget on the back foot. ParentMail is designed with school’s needs in mind! Our flexible subscriptions allow you to plan your finances accordingly, with no unwelcome surprises in the form of extra costs. Make the most of the latest technology to improve parental engagement and impress your parents – you’ll never look back! Find out more and book a free demo today.
Professional and passionate staff, happy children and fantastic facilities – your front of house is under control, but how about those time-consuming finances? When it comes to managing nursery finance, there’s a lot to take into account. Chances are, your …
Professional and passionate staff, happy children and fantastic facilities – your front of house is under control, but how about those time-consuming finances?
When it comes to managing nursery finance, there’s a lot to take into account. Chances are, your nursery collects a wide variety of payments, from attendance fees, breakfast and lunch costs, additional money for trips and even late payment fees. For busy parents, remembering to withdraw cash for ad-hoc payments can be tricky, leading to arrears and potentially debts for your nursery, too.
On average, a nursery could collect hundreds of pounds in cash from parents every week. Keeping large amounts of money on site isn’t ideal, not only due to the security risks. It can take hours to collect, count, process and bank cash and cheques, time that could be better spent doing what you do best – looking after children!
Thousands of nurseries are making the most of paperless communications to engage with parents every day. Digital communication platforms are a fantastic way of saving time and money for your business, and parents love being kept up to date with the latest news from their nursery with a convenient mobile App. With technology proving to be an invaluable parental engagement tool for nursery communications, why should payments be any different?
+Pay provides a sustainable and reliable finance solution for small, large and multi-site nurseries. With online payments, parents no longer need to remember to withdraw cash. Instead, thanks to handy notifications and reminders, they simply log in and pay through the free ParentMail App – the same App they use to manage your nursery communications! Completely socially inclusive, parents can pay via PayPal, credit and debit card, AMEX and PayPoint. More than one parent can access the same account for one child, as well as managing multiple children from one account.
Setting up payment items in the office is quick and simple. With so many different payments to collect, the versatile, user-friendly platform offers daily, weekly and monthly settlement reports, making it easy to manage accounts and keep parent arrears in check. Childcare vouchers can be manually added into the system, effectively managing subscriptions and ensuring accounts are consistent and in balance. +Pay puts the tools into parent’s hands to stay on top of their payments, reducing arrears and debt and cash on nursery grounds – it’s a winner for everyone!
Our flexible platform comes with flexible pricing, too! ParentMail offer subscriptions to suit your nursery’s needs, whether you’re running a small set-up or operating across multiple sites. Our +Pay team will work with you to understand your needs and offer a solution to suit you. Set-up is quick, easy and won’t interfere with the day-to-day running of your nursery and our expert Support Team are on hand to offer help when you need it most.
More nurseries than ever are making the most of ParentMail to share news, request data, collect payments and more, every day. Providing parents with a convenient, free mobile App to stay on top of payments adds that extra special touch to your business to make you stand out against the crowd. Take control of your payments with ParentMail! Get in touch today!
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The free ParentMail mobile App is used by over 2.5 million parents to stay in touch with schools every day, from the comfort of home, at work or while out and about! Over the years, it’s been through some major …
The free ParentMail mobile App is used by over 2.5 million parents to stay in touch with schools every day, from the comfort of home, at work or while out and about!
Over the years, it’s been through some major changes, as our Development team have stayed ahead of the latest EdTech innovations in order to bridge the home/school gap.
We caught up with Richard Shergold, Front-End Developer at ParentMail, to talk about the latest App developments.
“Our recent update is really important as it allows us to deliver fixes and make improvements to the mobile App more regularly. The team are always looking at feedback from users and have recently made several improvements to the App to make it even easier to use.”
“For example, one of the latest updates is the ability to mark items, such as messages, in bulk, rather than one at a time. We’ve also updated the way the App handles attachments and made a few handy changes to the App appearance, making it easier to navigate and manage school communications.”
“Our roadmap for 2019 holds even more exciting new developments, including Amex card payments and several other handy updates.”
Are you making the most of the ParentMail App?
Our free mobile App is by far the most convenient way to stay in touch with your school, supporting parents to make cashless payments, book appointments, respond to forms and more:
- Dependable dinner money – Online cashless payments make topping up dinner money quick and easy, with just a few taps, thanks to handy low-balance reminders
- Online Forms – Paper letters and forms are easily lost or forgotten at the bottom of school bags; digital forms are super convenient, making it easy to respond instantly
- Online Payments – Trips, uniforms, clubs and more – pay for them all via the handy App, via credit/debit card, PayPal, PayPoint, PayCash or Amex (via desktop)
- Parents’ Evening Manager – Booking convenient meetings to fit around busy schedules is quick and easy via the App
Feedback from parents is really valuable to us! Here are a few reviews that made our day…
“I think its brilliant how we can stay in touch with school so regularly and know what’s happening straight away instead of having to wait for school letters at the end of the day or week.” – Becky Hawkins – 5 stars
“The app is really easy to access and up to date, good layout and easy to navigate through the app.” – Ranj K – 5 stars
“Straightforward way to keep up with school communication and respond to forms without the hassle of them being misplaced. I enjoy using this app.” – Parent – 4 stars
“I love ParentMail! Makes school life much easier! Our school is new to it and it’s already much more useful!” – Parent – 5 stars
“It is great for keeping up with what is happening at my daughter’s school, when I am out & about & not by the laptop.” – Sarah Young – 5 stars
Share your feedback about the ParentMail App, – we’d love to hear from you!
If you’re a school looking to streamline communications and improve parental engagement, get in touch to find out how ParentMail can support you!
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A number of schools have recently hit the headlines as outraged parents complain their children have gone without a hot meal due to a lack of credit on their cashless dinner accounts. In Wales, school councils have argued in defence, …
A number of schools have recently hit the headlines as outraged parents complain their children have gone without a hot meal due to a lack of credit on their cashless dinner accounts. In Wales, school councils have argued in defence, stating they have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards dinner money debt in order to protect school budgets when parents fail to pay.
For many busy parents, topping up dinner money is just one small task, easily forgotten, on a long to-do list. However, when it’s schools hitting the press for turning children away without lunch, it falls on school leaders to seek out a solution. Low-balance reminders give parents a handy nudge to top up dinner accounts before lunch time, ensuring their child enjoys a hot meal and schools avoid unnecessary dinner debt.
More and more schools are choosing online payments systems in a bid to go cashless, for good reason! No money on school grounds results in less time spent handling and banking cash. However, finding the right platform for your school is important, so before you make any decisions or renew your contract, read on to find out more about the fastest growing cashless payment system in the UK…
+Pay, by ParentMail, offers some of the lowest transaction costs on the market, proven to save primary and secondary schools thousands of pounds every year. Our flexible platform manages not only dinner accounts but offers multiple registers for breakfast and after-school clubs, too!
For parents, +Pay is convenient, easy to use and reliable; parents can access and top up their accounts when they need to most, even at the busiest times. The socially-inclusive platform allows parents to top-up with credit/debit card, PayPal, PayPoint and AMEX, offering a solution for everybody.
Alternative cashless payment systems lack the flexibility offered by +Pay. Our top-up reminders are free for parents, informing them instantly when their balance goes below a pre-set amount. Parents can simply log in to the handy mobile app and top-up – they can even manage accounts for more than one child and view what has been purchased. Schools can also send out handy reminders to parents yet to top-up, protecting the school budget and ensuring accounts are ready for lunchtime!
It’s not just the +Pay platform that offers flexibility; ParentMail offers subscription costs to suit any school’s needs and budget, from primary and secondary schools to multi-academy trusts and colleges. Set-up is quick, easy and won’t interfere with the day-to-day running of your school. The system integrates with all major cashless catering systems and our team of +Pay experts are on hand to offer support when you need it most.
Last year, more than 700 schools chose +Pay as their online payments platform; of these, more than 300 left the market-leading provider in search of more features and a parent-friendly service – make the move to +Pay and never look back! Get in touch to have a chat about your cashless catering needs on 01733 595961.
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For many families, the prospect of crossing the school threshold is a terrifying one. Though many schools may spend a lot of time and energy on events or activities for parents, the reality is that every school has those “hard …
For many families, the prospect of crossing the school threshold is a terrifying one. Though many schools may spend a lot of time and energy on events or activities for parents, the reality is that every school has those “hard to reach” parents and there are many barriers in the way that stop parents feeling connected with what is going on in school.
One key area that I feel can begin the process of breaking down barriers and building bridges to communication and community, is through the school office, as it can be instrumental in fostering a positive connection among families and educators. It can be a consistent source of engagement providing current, reliable, and useful information.
Many school offices across the country now use technology to communicate home various things to parents, realising that the more they engage parents with what’s going on, the better the outcome for students. Online communication has really helped bridge this relationship and many schools now send home messages, online forms, allow parents to book parents’ evening appointments and even request payments – allowing parents to pay with ease on their mobile phone or computer.
Previously, having to come into the school office to make payments, for example, would add stress to parents and administrative staff’s already busy day, so the beauty of using technology is that parents no longer have to cope with scrambling around looking for cash or cheques, or worry about coming into the school office to make payments for lunch, uniforms or trips, as an online system helps parents and admin staff communicate quickly, easily & more efficiently.
A system like ParentMail helps parents build a better relationship with the school office, without having to worry about physically coming into the building. For those parents who don’t feel comfortable coming into the office, or don’t have the time to do so, which is often the case, technology has broken down the barriers and allowed regular communication, helping these parents feel more connected with what is going on in school.
Watch Sue discuss this further in the video below…
To find out more about ParentMail and the range of applications that can help you improve parental engagement, simply visit the website, email email@example.com or call 01733 595959.
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You know better than we do that running a nursery is a busy and time-consuming business! Whilst chatting to parents during the morning drop-off might seem the most convenient way of sharing the latest nursery news, it isn’t the most …
You know better than we do that running a nursery is a busy and time-consuming business! Whilst chatting to parents during the morning drop-off might seem the most convenient way of sharing the latest nursery news, it isn’t the most efficient or organised method of parental engagement.
For many reasons, a strong partnership between your nursery and parents is vital. We all know nursery is a key stage in a child’s development and, understandably, parents expect to be kept up to date on the time their child spends in your care. Whether that’s what they ate for lunch, what time they took their nap or the activities they enjoyed that day, it is up to you to keep parents updated on this all-important information – and there’s a lot of it to share!
Word of mouth and reputation go a long way when it comes to parents choosing their child’s nursery. Strong communications could be key to impressing new parents – in fact, a focus on parental engagement could be your greatest asset! Fantastic facilities and staff paired with regular, reliable and helpful communications are sure to make you stand out against your competitors.
Take your nursery online
The thought of adding newsletters, updates and parents’ meetings onto your already long to-do list may be enough to make you give up before you’ve even started, but don’t worry! In today’s technology-driven world, placing more emphasis on communication doesn’t necessarily mean more hard work or extra cost.
Ask most parents and they are likely to choose digital communications over piles of paper letters, and when it comes to data security, digital documents are the safer choice. You collect such a huge amount of data, from health and safety information, contact details, dinner selections and parent feedback that storing this information in a secure online database will greatly improve the way you use information – from making accessing and updating information easy for staff to reducing your reliance on paper in the office.
Alongside communications, how much time do you spend managing payments? Cash and cheques take up a lot of time to collect, bank and process. Online payments reduce the amount of cash on nursery grounds, improving security where it’s needed most. Cashless payments are also far more convenient for parents, ensuring your nursery receives payments on time, every time. For nurseries operating over multiple sites, a central system from which all payments and data is collected, and all news, forms and emails are sent can save time, improve efficiency and ensure consistency.
Happy parents, happy nursery, happy children!
More nurseries than ever are making the most of ParentMail to share news, request data, collect payments, plan meetings and more, every day. Providing parents with a convenient, free mobile App to stay in touch with their child’s nursery adds that extra special touch to your business to make you stand out against the crowd.
Take control of your parent communications with ParentMail! Get in touch today to arrange a free demo to see how our flexible, modular system can meet your needs today.