Digital parent engagement in the next normal: Driving connections and connectivity across school communities
We recently surveyed over 400 UK schools and MATs to investigate the impact of lockdown on integral communications and operations. It appears schools across the country have seized the opportunity to progress their digital strategies – and to great success! Every …
We recently surveyed over 400 UK schools and MATs to investigate the impact of lockdown on integral communications and operations.
It appears schools across the country have seized the opportunity to progress their digital strategies – and to great success!
Every school leader understands the importance of parent engagement. Before email, mobile apps and social media, paper newsletters served to bridge the home/school gap. However, most schools acknowledge the difficulties in engaging with every family, every day.
With over eight million students impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown, school life changed overnight – and so did the role of parent engagement. Allowing any family to slip through the net simply wasn’t an option.
“Schools across the country have been dealing with closures in different ways; every leadership team has found their own solutions, sought out ideas and powered on as best they can. It’s all about sharing ideas; every school wants the best for their children and while the future is still a little unclear, we need to pull together to do what we can to support them.” Lorraine Reeves, Administrator, Langstone Junior Academy
Leading to the question: does the pandemic see a change for the better when it comes to home/school partnerships?
In our free insight guide, we explore the future of parent engagement, the impact on school communities and the role of digital in ensuring efficiency and transparency in a post-lockdown world.
“Closures have given us a great understanding as to how the digital strategy could work as the trust grows. Similarly to businesses and organisations in the private sector, I think in my team, at least, we’ve rapidly developed our practices to ensure we don’t need to be based at our desks. Looking forward, this is the level of flexibility we want.” IT Director at Durrington MAT, Alex Robbins
How are school and MAT leaders preparing for post-lockdown school life? Our findings:
- More than half of schools and MATs are preparing for future short-term closures
- Over 90% believe the ability to access student, finance and asset data remotely will be vital from September
- 40% are planning additional teacher training to aid remote working and learning
- Over 85% believe the ability for children to learn remotely will be key for student progression
- Nearly 70% believe paper-free classrooms and offices will be vital in ensuring the health and safety of students and staff
Read our free insight guide to investigate how schools across the country are thriving in the new normal and how your school can get ahead of the game with a fresh approach to digital parent engagement.
Click here to download your free insight guide.
Lockdown has been tough on us all, but none more so than for children. For some, September brings the all-important transition from year six to year seven, a scary step at the best of times. Following months of closures, for …
Lockdown has been tough on us all, but none more so than for children. For some, September brings the all-important transition from year six to year seven, a scary step at the best of times. Following months of closures, for many students, the approaching new school year presents a great many stresses and strains. But, with the right advice and support, schools can help students to look forward to September, rather than fear it.
Here are our top tips for helping students to face the next stage of their education with confidence.
Welcome the transition with positivity
Moving schools pulls children away from a familiar environment, one in which they have grown to know well and understand. Suddenly, they are faced with different classrooms, teachers and rules – no matter what age, it’s an intimidating prospect.
Some children will embrace the change and others will take a little while to adapt. However, it’s all about attitude. Encourage students to think positively about all the exciting things to come; new friends, interesting subjects – a positive attitude will see children look forward to, rather than fear, their new school.
Don’t underestimate the impact of the transition
It isn’t always easy to identify when a student is feeling anxious. Some children may purposely dodge expressing their emotions to avoid attention; some may internalise stress to avoid dealing with their feelings or for fear of being made fun of by their peers.
For this reason, it’s important to encourage all students to talk about the upcoming transition to secondary school. While some quieter students may evade taking part in conversations, it’s still beneficial for them to hear others addressing the same concerns they share. And, chances are, teachers will be able to identify those who are likely to be feeling anxious about change; in these instances, talking with the child alone, 1-2-1, may help them to open up and share.
Engage with parents
Remember, it’s not only children facing a big change in the near future; parents, too, will be experiencing their own concerns about the transition to secondary school. Engaging with families will enable them to help children at home, so informative, reassuring and regular communications are important; it’s all about providing the tools and information parents need now to support children in the future.
For hard-to-reach parents, the final weeks of term are very important for making contact, if only to reassure them your staff team are on hand to offer some guidance and support in advance of summer.
Make a point of it
If you can’t celebrate your students’ successes at the end of primary school, when can you? It’s a big step and one which they’ll remember for the rest of their lives – and so will parents. While closures make it difficult to celebrate in the usual ways, with parties, trips and ceremonies, this is still a vital moment in their education and should be marked as such.
If social-distancing on site is a struggle, or not all students are attending before summer, there are still ways to celebrate. Video calls have proven vital in facilitating home-learning; fun videos, social media or a simple phone call to say ‘good bye’ serve to reassure students and give them the recognition they deserve before moving on to all important year seven. It’s time to get creative!
For nearly 20 years, ParentMail has supported schools and families to stay in touch and support student learning. Recent months have seen our platform bridge the gap between home and school during the most unforeseen circumstances; we’re proud to have enabled parent engagement when it has mattered most.
Now, with the new school year in sight, we’re supporting schools like never before, with online event and meeting management, messaging and cashless payments. Find out how we can support your school. Get in touch to book a free demo or find out more.
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On 18th March 2020, classrooms for up to eight million pupils closed across the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools are now amid a phased return; while classrooms still look the same, school life does not. Closures have caused a great amount of upheaval for communities. However, not …
On 18th March 2020, classrooms for up to eight million pupils closed across the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools are now amid a phased return; while classrooms still look the same, school life does not.
Closures have caused a great amount of upheaval for communities. However, not all change is bad. Software to facilitate remote learning has enabled teams to continue supporting students and families. So, what does the future look like for schools and how are the changes made during closures set to shape education moving forward?
Thousands of schools waved goodbye to the traditional paper and print newsletter long ago in favour of online communications. Now, schools are relying on digital solutions to do far more than circulating weekly updates.
Remote teams have adapted their normal communications to deliver targeted messaging to families. For key workers, many schools have changed their processes to enable two-way communications, providing parents with a convenient way of registering their child’s attendance.
“The government’s free school meals voucher system was announced last month. In this current climate, where more families are potentially struggling, some parents are not even aware that they could be entitled to this benefit. I created a new group on our engagement system and shared the information on how to apply with the Local Authority online application link – information that they may not have otherwise been aware of. As a result, a number of parents have successfully claimed vouchers to support them during this financially difficult period.” Lorraine Reeves, Administrator, Langstone Junior Academy
Online platforms enable schools to monitor message performance, facilitating a proactive approach to parent engagement. With students working from home, a transparent overview of communications is key for enabling staff to action early interventions where required.
“We shared staff email addresses and I include my email address on every communication sent to parents. Staying engaged has never been more important and we encourage parents to stay in touch with us, too.” Lorraine Reeves, Administrator, Langstone Junior Academy
Systems previously utilised to plan school trips or parents’ evenings are now used to book phone calls and video meetings. Social media platforms, previously used for the occasional school update, have also proven helpful during closures, offering an additional platform for engagement and feedback.
“We’re using Parents’ Evening Manager to schedule Zoom calls to parents and we’re setting up new parents with children starting in September so that we can communicate with them. We’re also sending using our ParentMail for key workers to book in their children.” – Elsa Williams, Administrator, Copythorne CE Infant School
Following a return to ‘normal’ school life, the partnerships forged during lockdown will be vital in ensuring students settle back into education. The new habits adopted now see a naturally more proactive approach towards parent engagement long into the future.
For operational teams such as IT, facilities and finance, web-based systems have enabled business as usual during closures. Like paperless parent engagement, it is feasible that the same will now be said of operational and administrative processes; student, finance, staff and asset data is all now increasingly managed online, improving flexibility, hygiene and security.
While some systems are already in place, in many instances, schools and MATS have had little choice but to introduce new platforms to enable business continuity. While unanticipated, dynamic new systems have evidenced the various opportunities of software for growth and flexibility.
“The lockdown has certainly progressed our digital strategy, particularly around remote working and learning. I believe our reliance on digital resources will continue to grow, even when classroom learning is back to normal. 90% of our staff are working remotely four days a week, at the moment, meaning they’re accessing vital data online in order to do their jobs, be that student, administration or finance. And, as our MAT grows, it’s given us a great understanding as to how the digital strategy could work. Similarly to businesses and organisations in the private sector, I think in my team, at least, we’ve rapidly developed our practices to ensure we don’t need to be based at our desks. Looking forward, this is the level of flexibility we want.” Alex Robbins, Director of IT Services, Durrington MAT
Throughout lockdown, digital processes have minimised impact to student learning and placed schools at the heart of their communities; software has enabled staff to work remotely, maintain vital operations and even progress plans for growth.
It comes as no surprise that schools and MATs are realising the importance of flexible software in day-to-day operations. The future remains unclear; short-term closures and a second wave of Covid-19 is entirely possible. Fortunately, technology will enable schools to look forward with confidence, and continue to deliver the best opportunities for their students – and we’re on hand to help them do exactly that!
To find out how ParentMail can support your school operations, get in touch.
Free insight guide – Keep calm and teach on: School life during a national pandemic
With schools reopening their doors for a phased return, we turn our attention to the real impact of closures:
- How did schools fare during closures?
- What are the practicalities around social distancing on school grounds?
- How has parent engagement changed during closures?
- What long-lasting effects have closures had on school communities?
- How, if at all, has the sector benefitted from lockdown?
With insight from schools and families across the country, we investigate what school life looks like during a national pandemic. Download the insight guide.
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Pens, pencils, uniform and backpacks; items that support student learning and strengthen your school brand. All of these items are available to buy from your school shop, but do you sell as much as you would like? With +Pay, you can make all …
Pens, pencils, uniform and backpacks; items that support student learning and strengthen your school brand. All of these items are available to buy from your school shop, but do you sell as much as you would like?
With +Pay, you can make all of your shop items available with a custom online school shop. Parents can browse items at their own convenience, from the comfort of home, and place orders with just a few clicks.
When an order is processed, school teams are automatically alerted, enabling them to fulfil the order at the next opportunity. The handy reporting suite makes managing orders and stock levels quick and easy; fulfilment tracking provides a complete electronic trail for easier record keeping.
The flexible platform enables users to import shop items, assign size and colours options and set stock quantities to limit the number of orders allowed for particular items; no more time-consuming paperwork or clunky cash payments!
In the wake of COVID-19, germ-ridden coins and bank notes are particularly concerning when it comes to hygiene and the safety of staff and students. +Pay supports schools to go completely cashless, in all areas, from lunch money and event payments, to trips and your school shop.
Our free mobile app and desktop portal facilitate speedy and convenient payments by credit and debit card, PayPal or PayPoint. Free low balance reminders and flexible payment windows (set by your administrative team) are proven to reduce dinner money debt and arrears, whilst improving processes for staff and families.
Introduce your own online school in advance of summer and make it easy for parents to order all the items students need for the school year ahead.
We’re ready to support your school on the journey to a streamlined, cashless culture. Get in touch today to find out more or book a free demonstration.
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Under the government’s ‘conditional plan’, the country is slowly coming out of lockdown. While stringent measures remain in place, the education sector is leading the way with a phased return for select year groups and secondary schools throughout June. Leadership …
Under the government’s ‘conditional plan’, the country is slowly coming out of lockdown. While stringent measures remain in place, the education sector is leading the way with a phased return for select year groups and secondary schools throughout June.
Leadership teams are proactively powering on in the face of adversity to support their students. We caught up with IT Director at Durrington MAT, Alex Robbins, to hear how the trust has dealt with closures and what the team is doing to prepare for the future.
Business as usual
“In these strange and surreal circumstances, as a trust, we are actually close to business as usual for our students. A small number of staff are working onsite on a rota basis to oversee key worker students and students with specific educational requirements. We have a very interactive system in place, with teachers delivering lessons online using Zoom and Google Classroom; we’ve set our usual school-day schedule up so students and teachers are learning and teaching as usual – just remotely!”
“During closures, we’ve had approximately 25 students on site. We moved our primary school provision to a pavilion within the grounds of our high school, freeing up space to support social distancing measures. We have utilised our IT suites across our sites, so we have a small number of students working, positioned two metres apart.”
Digital and operations
“Many aspects of our digital strategy have changed as a result of closures. For example, we currently support an onsite telephone system, so have been working to migrate key pastoral staff over to a cloud system, enabling staff to answer calls off-site.”
“Our IT team has taken advantage of an empty school to get ahead of the game; we’ve brought many projects forward and carried out software updates across sites. In the long term, this means that our systems will be ready to support a greater volume of digital learning when students are phased back.”
“The lockdown has certainly progressed our digital strategy, particularly around remote working and learning. I believe our reliance on digital resources will continue to grow, even when classroom learning is back to normal. The vast majority of our staff are currently working remotely, meaning they’re accessing vital data online in order to do their jobs, be that student, administration or finance.”
Engagement and safeguarding
“Staying in touch with families has been a top priority of ours. We’ve used ParentMail very regularly throughout lockdown. Staff can access the platform from home and send targeted emails to year groups and classes.”
“Our pastoral staff team have been responsible for engaging with families; we phone every single parent once a week, just to check in and make sure they’re okay. For us, communication with students was important; we have a brilliant community and the way we’ve pulled together to ensure business as usual has been fantastic.”
“We know how important a flexible approach to remote learning is to student development. We’re still educating and progressing student outcomes which speaks wonders for our remote digital strategy. Previous barriers to remote learning didn’t enable us to do this, but we’ve adapted our processes and invested where necessary and the students are benefitting as a result.”
“Closures have given us a great understanding as to how the digital strategy could work as the trust grows. Similarly to businesses and organisations in the private sector, I think in my team, at least, we’ve rapidly developed our practices to ensure we don’t need to be based at our desks. Looking forward, this is the level of flexibility we want.”
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What kind of experience are you serving up at lunchtime? The trials and tribulations of cash on school grounds are well known. Cash in the canteen, however, results in a huge number of issues, many of which you may not have considered. The benefits of online payments are being realised by …
What kind of experience are you serving up at lunchtime? The trials and tribulations of cash on school grounds are well known. Cash in the canteen, however, results in a huge number of issues, many of which you may not have considered.
The benefits of online payments are being realised by more schools than ever. When it comes to school meals, eliminating cash promises to improve security, hygiene, efficiency and more. Here’s why…
Allergies and safety in the canteen
Schools can’t afford to put the health and safety of any child at risk. Unfortunately, food allergies are incredibly dangerous; anaphylactic shock is a very real threat for children, one which schools need to be vigilant of at every turn.
It is unrealistic to expect students to be conscientious of every menu option at lunch time; this is particularly true when it comes to young children. However, avoiding allergens is practically impossible for schools, too. While you can’t eliminate the allergies themselves, you can tackle the issue at its’ root, before children even step foot in the canteen.
An online payments system enables schools to share menus with parents in advance; parents read the menu, make selections on behalf of their child and pay upfront. An online system ultimately alleviates students of the responsibility of monitoring every menu option, providing peace of mind for all involved.
Canteen health and hygiene
Cash and germs go hand in hand, in more ways than one. The money we handle is a breeding ground for bacteria; in fact, in a controlled study, London Metropolitan University found 19 strains of bacteria living on a range of British bank notes and coins.
We’ve all heard the rumours of drug contamination on cash and, unfortunately, these rumours have been found to be true. Class A drug residue is present on over three quarters of paper banknotes. Due to the prevalence and risk of drug contamination, over £15 million is destroyed every year to eliminate notes from circulation.
The risk of contamination in your school canteen as a direct result of cash is high. Any opportunity to reduce cash on school grounds is preferable; in the canteen, it is vital for the safety of students.
No more waiting around
How long do students stand in queues waiting to be served lunch, every day? With many schools opting to shorten breaks in order to extend lessons, students need to be served and seated quickly to ensure they benefit from a much-needed break.
Handling cash at the till can be time-consuming. Not only do online payments speed up the exchange, but most cashless systems (including +Pay!) offer meal selection functionality, too. With menu data collected early, kitchen staff can prepare the right quantities of each dish, reducing waste and ensuring every student receives their preferred option.
Collecting, counting and banking cash is an inconvenient task which many time-strapped teams can ill-afford. Online payments streamline reconciliation and finance processes, improving efficiencies whilst vastly reducing security issues or chance of human error.
Parent arrears, debt and payments
The expectation for every parent to send their child to school with lunch money is about as practical as hoping for a paper newsletter to make its way to parent hands; that is to say, very impractical indeed.
Dinner money debt is an increasing issue for many schools; it’s also one which is unlikely to improve while schools fail to take action. Providing a quick and easy way to top up lunch money is the only way to meet the issue head on. Unless your processes meet the needs of modern families, your school will continue to shoulder the financial burden of parent arrears.
Safety and security in the canteen
Sadly, for many children, lunch times are a huge source of anxiety. The stigma around free school meals remains prevalent today. In fact, many students claiming FSM admit that they’d rather go hungry than be seen to be claiming a free meal.
Creating a supportive environment in which all students feel safe to enjoy their lunch is the responsibility of your school. Online payments provide every student with the same experience at the till; no money is exchanged, making the process discreet for those claiming free school meals.
Food for thought
We’re on a mission to showcase the benefits of online payments to UK schools. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the end to closures, school life will be different; now is the time to investigate practical steps towards ensuring the health and safety of your school community. Going cashless in your canteen is a step in the right direction.
+Pay provides a contactless, convenient way for parents to top up lunch money. Our free mobile app and desktop portal offers flexible payment options to suit all parents. Free low balance reminders, advance bookings functionality and integration with cashless catering providers make +Pay a favourite with schools and parents. We’re ready to support you on the road to a cashless environment; get in touch to find out more.
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While ‘Clap for our carers’ provides an opportunity to show our appreciation for those working on the front line, we’re keen to shine a light on the widely unsung heroes supporting young people every day; here’s to the school staff continuing to keep things ‘normal’ in these most unusual times! While there has …
While ‘Clap for our carers’ provides an opportunity to show our appreciation for those working on the front line, we’re keen to shine a light on the widely unsung heroes supporting young people every day; here’s to the school staff continuing to keep things ‘normal’ in these most unusual times!
While there has been much discussion in the media around the subject of schools ‘reopening’, it’s important to remember that most schools remain open for those who need them most. Every day, we are inspired by news of staff going above and beyond to support keyworkers and their children. Whether delivering lessons via video call, remaining open during half terms or supporting parents with news, information and general communications, school teams are pulling together to do amazing things for their communities.
Powering through the pandemic
We recently spoke with James Singleterry, headteacher at Stukeley Meadows Primary School, to find out how his team is getting on under closures. Keeping things ‘normal’ for students and simple for parents has been a top priority for the school. With over 420 pupils and many parents relying on them for childcare, staff have quickly adapted to deliver lessons online and safely in classrooms.
“It’s certainly an anxious time for the children at our school, their parents and of course our staff, many of whom are still coming into school as normal,” says Mr Stukeley. “It’s very hard to try and keep things ‘normal’ for *keyworkers’* children and also for those at home, but we think it’s important that we try, and so we’ve been working incredibly hard to support those parents with how they can structure their day… We’re very aware that many of our parents are trying to work from home and look after their children, so our job at the moment is to try and help with that.”
Stukeley Meadows Primary School is a shining example of the important role of schools in supporting local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many great ideas up their sleeves, Mr Singleterry is taking his expertise online to share his schools’ experiences with a free webinar.
Join Mr Singleterry for an hour of top tips, advice and more
On Wednesday 29th April at 2pm, ParentMail is partnering up with Mr Singleterry to deliver a free webinar tackling the complications of managing education under the new ‘normal’. Mr Singleterry will share best practice on parent engagement, tried and tested techniques on facilitating home-learning and advice on how to support schools and parents. Register your place now!
Share and share alike
Now is the time to pull together and share first-hand experiences for educating under lockdown; we’re keen to enable schools to feedback and support each other in any way we can. Visit our social media channels (@ParentMail) to message us or use the hashtag #EdTips4Teachers to share your advice on anything from parent engagement to home-learning techniques.
Supporting you 🌈
Notice anything different about our logo? To show our support for school staff across the country, a rainbow now accompanies our name. Alongside the students and young people boosting morale with their brightly coloured works of art, we’re keen to do all we can to help schools keep calm and carry on.
If your school is seeking a platform to simplify and empower your parent engagement strategy, get in touch. We’ve streamlined our onboarding process to keep things quick and simple, meaning you could be up and running in a matter of days. We’re waiting to support you – let’s get started.
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We’re in the midst of an unprecedented health pandemic. There’s no denying, it’s all a little bit stressful. The UK is entering the second phase of a national lockdown and schools are set to be closed for the foreseeable future. Just as the scarce British sunshine starts to …
We’re in the midst of an unprecedented health pandemic. There’s no denying, it’s all a little bit stressful. The UK is entering the second phase of a national lockdown and schools are set to be closed for the foreseeable future.
Just as the scarce British sunshine starts to show its face, we find ourselves stuck indoors. While we focus on the physical impact of our days under lockdown, it’s important not to neglect the mental effects of our new ‘normal’, and to take the time to check-in on those around us.
With increasing pressure on both parents and teachers to minimise impact on student education, it’s important to consider how we can help each other adapt to life under lockdown.
Be kind to your parents
The role of ‘parent’ has suddenly expanded to ‘parent and educator’. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and many parents are rising to the challenge to deliver lessons and oversee learning from kitchen tables, home offices and living rooms.
Balancing remote working, potential financial issues, family-related stress and more, parents are understandably feeling the strain. So, what can you do?
In a recent survey, we asked parents what they want from their schools during closures. The resounding response was communication. Alongside lesson plans and learning resources, parents appreciate detail around expectations (how long to spend on each activity, expected learning outcomes and whether tasks are compulsory, for example).
Parents also need reassurance that they’re doing a good job. The expectation to teach children will leave many feeling anxious about their own abilities to understand work and provide support. Take the opportunity to strengthen your home/school partnerships and reach out to parents who may be feeling particularly vulnerable or stressed. Ensure parents understand your team are still there for them. Remember – a little goes a long way.
Be kind to your students
Depending on their age group, young people will be experiencing a lot of confusion about their new home-learning environment and COVID-19. Children likely have a lot of questions about what the pandemic means for their future: When will they be able to go back to school? Why can’t they see their friends or family? Are they safe?
With children spending more time online during lockdown, many are likely to stumble across inaccurate news and information about coronavirus. Offering parents government recommended resources and advice may go some way in helping to put young children at ease, as well as ensuring older children have access to the right information.
For those students who are now supposed to be sitting end of year exams, the future may feel very uncertain. Many will appreciate some reassurance that their academic futures won’t be impacted negatively by closures. Ensure students have the correct and relevant information from the Department for Education and UCAS, where appropriate.
While home-learning is important, students should also be encouraged to take this opportunity to explore new hobbies, activities and interests. Outside of the classroom, learning can be far more flexible. With extra-curricular activities and clubs now closed, many children may be feeling lonely and isolated. Where you can, explore video calls to bridge the home/school gap. Above all, remember to have fun with learning!
Be kind to your staff
Adapting and facilitating education for students is a big ask for teachers. Many will also be managing their own stresses and strains at home. Remind your colleagues that it’s okay to switch off at the end of the day. For those adapting to working from home, remind them to take breaks and stick to a schedule which provides some time for rest and relaxation, every day.
In the wake of exam and coursework cancellations, schools have also been tasked with determining student grades. While teachers will have the knowledge and expertise to undertake such a huge responsibility, ensure they have the resources, facilities and support they require to do so with confidence.
Many teachers may also feel obliged to be on standby at all hours. While this is admirable, some may need a gentle reminder that they aren’t superheroes and must take care of themselves in order to look after their students.
Last but by no means least, be kind to yourself
While you can’t support every parent, student and colleague, every time, you can take care of yourself. Switch off your mobile, shut down your email inbox and take a moment to check-in with yourself. As the saying goes, look after number one!
ParentMail is here to bring certainty to schools, even during the most uncertain times. Our engagement solutions support thousands of schools to stay in touch with parents and facilitate home-learning, every day. We’re ready to help you – let’s get started.
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Over six thousand schools use ParentMail solutions to stay in touch with their parent communities. That means over three million parents utilise ParentMail to engage in their children’s education, every day. Providing parents with a positive user experience of our platform is vital; otherwise, …
Over six thousand schools use ParentMail solutions to stay in touch with their parent communities. That means over three million parents utilise ParentMail to engage in their children’s education, every day.
Providing parents with a positive user experience of our platform is vital; otherwise, they simply won’t use it! For schools to really benefit from ParentMail, our free mobile app and desktop portal need to be user-friendly, convenient and reliable. So, we recently set out to gather some feedback from our parent community.
Over 27,000 parents took part in our survey and we’re delighted to share some insights with you…
The ‘How?’ of school communications
First and foremost, we wanted to find out whether we’re providing a truly socially inclusive platform. Over 99% of respondents own a smartphone, making our free mobile app (available from the iOS and Google Play Store) particularly convenient for staying on top of busy school life.
Almost 80% of parents prefer to receive school communications digitally, via mobile app, email or desktop portal. However, for the tiny 1% still holding a soft spot for the old-school printed newsletter, ParentMail offers the option to print paper copies, ensuring no parent misses out on school news.
We are particularly pleased to see that over 95% of respondents consider ParentMail either ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’. We continue to develop our platform to deliver an even better experience for parents so that schools receive a great response.
Paying with +Pay
With nearly 95% of respondents using online banking for their day to day finances, it’s clear that modern parents have a preference for cashless payments.
Nearly 75% of the parents who took part in our survey are able to pay for school items online, thanks to their school offering +Pay. From lunch money to shop items, 88% of these parents rely on our mobile app to top up and pay in seconds.
In fact, nearly 50% of parents state they would prefer to use cashless methods (credit or debit card) to pay for school lunches.
Most importantly, over 90% of respondents state they enjoy a seamless experience paying for school items with +Pay, meaning schools receive a great response; no questions, queries or frustrations for +Pay parents!
In their own words
‘Very sufficient way to remain updated especially as a working parent unable to pick up and receive regular face to face info from teachers.’
“Excellent, so convenient to have everything in one place.”
“Great app, very user friendly and a great way to keep on top of things.“
“Parentmail is so good and any up-to-date information you need you can find on there from parents evenings to meetings at the school to clubs and useful information about changes to the school and rewards that your children have been given. All term dates are on this as well for u to be able to check at any time and appointments can be made for parents evenings and stay and plays etc.“
“Wonderful app certainly makes sure we don’t miss anything from the school.”
…and many, many more.
We’re continually innovating our platform to deliver an even better service for parents and schools.
If you’re a school keen to find out more about our free mobile app and parent engagement solutions, please get in touch.
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School closures see us all adapting to change; students are adjusting to their home/school environment, parents are accommodating lesson plans in their new-found role as teachers and staff are adapting to teaching from a distance, sometimes from empty classrooms and often from home. These are strange and surreal times. In all cases, we’re feeling a little uncertain. Parents struggling to balance work and …
School closures see us all adapting to change; students are adjusting to their home/school environment, parents are accommodating lesson plans in their new-found role as teachers and staff are adapting to teaching from a distance, sometimes from empty classrooms and often from home.
These are strange and surreal times. In all cases, we’re feeling a little uncertain. Parents struggling to balance work and full-time child-care need as much help from their school as possible – but what do they want to know and how can you help them?
We set about finding the answer to the one question playing on many schools’ minds today: how can we support parents during closures? Here’s what families want from you…
Keep it simple
Now more than ever, the focus should be on making learning fun and keeping stress-levels low. While parents are grateful for the resources and at-home learning packs your school is providing, they also appreciate clarity.
Set clear expectations as to whether work is optional or mandatory, how long to spend on each activity and what learning outcomes should be. Providing heaps of documents and worksheets is all well and good, but if lesson plans aren’t clearly laid out, parents will struggle – which means pupils will, too.
When it comes to home-learning, less is more. Emphasise to parents that, while education is important, it’s okay for children to explore new hobbies, arts, crafts, music and reading. Make the most of this opportunity to encourage new ways of learning. Above all else, highlight the good things about this new ‘normal’, for everyone involved.
Paper, print and internet access
One overwhelming theme from our parent survey was the expectation to print resources. The costs of printing five+ worksheets a day, per child, can quickly mount up and many families don’t have access to a printer at all.
Try to reduce paper-reliant lessons as far as possible. Online learning platforms are more popular than ever, with many websites expanding their resources as a direct result of school closures.
For those families who don’t have internet access, alternative arrangements must be made to ensure students don’t miss out. Daily phone calls and video chats via mobile phones, where possible, can help to bridge this gap. While it hasn’t been possible for all schools, many have been able to post worksheets to families who need them.
Be adaptable in your methods of communication. If you’re unsure of what to share with parents, ask them; run a survey on Facebook, utilise your Online Forms platform or turn to SurveyMonkey. If you have a parent committee, ask them to do the leg work for you and report back.
Ensure the channels you’re utilising are effective and accessible and, if they’re not working for you, make some changes. Your weekly newsletter may have done the trick prior to closures, but it’s unlikely to suffice on its own now. If you’re a tech-phobe, make the most of the knowledge on your staff team and student and parent communities; now is the time to embrace change! Who knows, you might find something that works for you, even after schools reopen.
Communication – and lots of it
Now more than ever, teamwork makes the dream work. Don’t allow parents and students to feel abandoned during closures. Stay in touch and provide regular updates on what your team are up to. Even if you don’t have much to say, many families will be appreciative of a simple ‘hello’.
Keep smiles on student’s faces by running video webinars and assemblies via Zoom or Skype. Many children will miss seeing their friends (and even teachers, though they may not admit it) during lockdown; it’s vital to keep spirits high and bridge the remote-learning gap.
Social media is the unsung hero of both school and business closures today, so make the most of yours. Reawaken your dormant Twitter account and encourage parents to follow you for updates. Many schools have separate accounts for different year groups and classes. Now’s the time to set up your own – but don’t forget to invite parents to follow!
It’s up to schools to keep channels of communication open with families right now. Parents need all the support they can get, so stay in touch and encourage families to do the same.
What’s worked for your school over these past weeks of closures? We want to hear from you! Send us a message on Twitter (@ParentMail) to share your experiences so far.
ParentMail is here to bring a little uncertainty to schools during these most uncertain times. Whether you’re gathering feedback from parents or sharing learning resources, we can help you. Let’s get started.
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Teaching through crisis: how Stukeley Meadows Primary School are keeping things ‘normal’ during Covid-19
Whatever sector you work in, Covid-19 has brought with it a series of challenges and worries, and for many of us, staying at home is now the safest thing to do. For some, however, going into work is not an …
Whatever sector you work in, Covid-19 has brought with it a series of challenges and worries, and for many of us, staying at home is now the safest thing to do. For some, however, going into work is not an option. For schools remaining open to provide a safe environment for key workers’ children, it’s an incredibly strange time.
We spoke to James Singleterry, head teacher at Stukeley Meadows Primary School, to find out their plans for the next few weeks and how they’re providing support to children both in and out of school.
‘We’re trying to keep things as normal as we can’
“It’s certainly an anxious time for the children at our school, their parents and of course our staff, many of whom are still coming into school as normal. Last week (w/b Monday 23rd March) we opened the school for key workers’ children and we had, on average, 15 children in each day. It’s very hard to try and keep things ‘normal’ for those children and also for those at home, but we think it’s important that we try, and so we’ve been working incredibly hard to support those parents with how they can structure their day.”
“We’re very aware that many of our parents are trying to work from home and look after their children, so our job at the moment is to try and help with that. We’re also very aware that just like us, parents are being struck with hundreds of different bits of software and advice for how they should be home-schooling, which must be incredibly overwhelming for them. We want to make that a bit easier, so we’re using the technology we already have to regularly keep in touch, offer them resources, and ultimately be there for them when they need us. For many of our parents, these are going to be a tough few weeks, so if we can help make that just a bit easier, then we’ve done our job.”
Stukeley Meadows Primary has around 420 students from reception through to Year 6, and each teacher in the school has a dedicated Twitter account to regularly keep in touch with their class and parents. They also have an incredibly active YouTube account where head teacher James is uploading a daily assembly to keep some normality for the children. They also use ParentMail to send home useful documents to support remote learning and to keep in regular contact with parents with any updates on the school.
Making time for learning and for play
“It’s a really confusing time for children at the moment, so we’re trying to ensure there is time for learning but also time for play.”
“We like to do things in sixes at Stukeley, so we’re setting six tasks each day which all the children can access whether they are in school or at home. Children can do as many as they want to (or are told to be their families!) That consists of reading, writing, maths, attending assembly (done over video), completing a challenge and then some subject work (geography, history, music and so on.) If you take a look at our Twitter pages, you’ll see how engaged the students are – and their parents! For us, having an almost empty school feels very odd… logging on and talking to our students through technology is the next best thing.”
“Week one is done and yes it was a bit strange having less children in, but our job is about overcoming whatever is thrown our way; we’re here to do the unthinkable whatever that may be and we’ll keep going for as long as we can. It was a great first week; staff who are able to come in are up for it, smiles all round and making sure the children are having fun and learning.”
“Our long-term plan is to be able to offer remote learning for as long as we can. We’re here to offer whole-school solidarity and community support in a time when people need it most.”
Top tips for schools from head teacher Mr Singleterry
- Try and keep some normality for your students at home, whether that’s sending home materials they can work from, videoing a daily assembly or even just sending home a letter/tweet from their teachers when you can.
- Use technology – social media, YouTube, communication software has been vital during this time, we can reach parents instantly through their mobile app and will continue to do so. We can also send documents through ParentMail, so activity sheets or daily updates can be received every morning by parents.
- Stay positive, keep smiling, remember the children in your school are having to come in whilst their friends are at home and their parents are at work. Let them forget, if you can, what’s going on in the world for just a few hours of the day.
Hear it from the man himself!
On Wednesday 29th April at 2PM, Mr Singleterry is delivering a free webinar tackling the complications of managing education under the new ‘normal’. Mr Singleterry will share best practice on parent engagement, tried and tested techniques on facilitating home-learning and advice on how to support schools and parents. Register your place now!
If you’d like to discuss parental engagement software and how we can help, simply click here and we’ll give you a call.
And finally, a huge thank you to all the incredible teaching staff across the country who are continuing to work through these uncertain times – you are hugely appreciated.
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In light of the UK’s escalating response to COVID-19, organisations across the country are putting plans in place to keep business operating as usual. In the face of closures, however, shutting up shop to work from home isn’t straight forward …
In light of the UK’s escalating response to COVID-19, organisations across the country are putting plans in place to keep business operating as usual.
In the face of closures, however, shutting up shop to work from home isn’t straight forward for schools. There’s a lot to think about, plan and prepare for in the face of current uncertainty.
From remaining compliant and working efficiently to staying in touch with staff and parents, we’re ready to support your school to keep calm and carry on over the coming days, weeks and months.
Do you have up to date contact details for parents? How about information around contingency plans for those who rely on alternative childcare arrangements?
Having the correct contact and care data, as well as relevant student health and safety information, ensures you’re ready to take action as and when required. With the right information at hand, your communication strategy is clear and straightforward, saving unnecessary headaches for staff and parents.
Our Online Form platform makes collecting and reporting on contact details, health and safety data and survey responses quick and easy. Our engagement solutions integrate with school MIS, making it easy to circulate surveys and forms to individuals, classes and year groups. This is a super simple and cost-effective solution to all your data collection needs!
Staying in touch with parents
If and when it comes to closing down schools, informing parents will be at the top of your to-do list. For circulating urgent messages en masse, text messaging remains the method of choice for most schools. Topping up text credits with ParentMail is quick and easy, with a choice of bundles to suit schools of all sizes.
Throughout closures, staying in touch with parents is key. Thanks to our handy mobile app and desktop portal, you can rest easy knowing your parents are up to date with the latest information and news from your school.
Unlike many other parent engagement solutions on the market, our reporting suite provides a handy insight into message performance, too, so you can see who has and hasn’t opened your communications.
The risks around germs and cash are well known; coins and notes harbour bacteria and, considering how quickly cash is circulated, you’ll likely want to keep the sanitizer to hand when handling money. Cashless payments are a wise choice in the current climate, allowing parents to pay for items from the comfort of home, reducing cash and footfall on school grounds.
+Pay plugs into ParentMail and PS Connect engagement platforms, providing a seamless payment process for all kinds of school items. Parents can pay via our free mobile app and desktop portal, ensuring schools stay on top of finances during closures.
At home learning
Teachers are busy preparing at-home learning and lesson plans to support students in the instance of extended closures. With uncertainty around what the future may bring, it’s difficult to tell how long you may be closed for – so facilitating at-home learning is important.
Sharing resources and at-home learning packs is secure and easy with ParentMail. Remember, our platform integrates seamlessly with school MIS, enabling you to circulate attachments and content by individual, class or year group, quickly and easily.
So, your parent engagement is in hand – how about staff? Working from home requires reliable and secure messaging to keep all staff engaged and up to date with the latest news and information. Secure messaging via mobile or desktop, as well as online forms, meeting and event planning solutions all support strategic staff communications.
ParentMail can be accessed by admin users whenever and wherever you may be – meaning you have total flexibility to manage communications, payment windows and reporting from home, if required!
We’re ready to support your school – let’s get started.
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To truly feel all the benefits of top-notch parent engagement, first, you need to have all your parents registered – a task easier said than done, in some cases. If you’re struggling to get more than 90% of parents registered …
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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It’s Veganuary, the annual vegan-awareness month growing ever more popular with each passing year. For a rising number of young people, opting for a plant-based diet is an eco-friendly lifestyle choice, comparable to choosing a reusable coffee cup or water bottle. In fact, according to a recent study, over 50% of young people in the UK have tried veganism.
Like never before, we’re avoiding single-use plastic, recycling with a vengeance and exploring new and novel ways of reducing our carbon footprints. Organisations across the country are introducing green initiatives to reduce emissions and instil eco-friendly habits in their employees. In the general election, environmental matters loomed over every debate and discussion. As a country, we’re tackling climate change head on – but what is your school doing to drive change for the next generation?
With young people demanding action, schools are well placed to garner support from their student communities in implementing clean, green habits. It’s a new year, a new decade and time for a new green approach for schools – but where to begin?
It’s been an ethos at the heart of ParentMail for nearly 20 years, but the mantra around reducing paper no longer solely concerns saving money.
Studies show that the average secondary school produces 22kg of waste every year, with primary schools coming in even higher at 45kg per pupil. Much of this waste is paper and card. But why, if paper is recyclable, does this matter?
The environmental impact of paper is far bigger than you might think. From forest to folder to bin, the lifecycle of paper relies on a huge amount of energy and natural resources. 30 million acres of forest are cut annually, with 40% of the worlds commercially-cut timber used for paper production.
While paper in the classroom may be tricky to avoid, habits in the office are easier to change. It’s time to say goodbye to the traditional newsletter and look at the benefits of alternative paper-free solutions, such as instant messaging, digital forms, online payments and more.
Online engagement reduces print and paper-related costs, improves security and strengthens home/school relationships. We no longer rely on snail-mail to stay in touch with friends and family; today, parents expect convenience and reliability when it comes to school communications, too.
Eco-kitchens and canteen waste
How much food are you throwing away, every day, in your canteen? Let us tell you, it’s probably more than you think.
According to recent studies, schools produce over 10% of all non-domestic food waste in England; approximately 123,000 tonnes a year. In terms of your school finances, that’s literally money in the bin.
The environmental impact of food waste is tremendous. Food waste inevitably heads straight to landfill and, as it biodegrades, produces huge amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Planning lunchtimes efficiently is kind on both the school budget and the earth!
Gathering menu choices from parents provides kitchen staff with all the information they need to efficiently manage suppliers and prepare food. With an online payment platform, parents can choose lunch options for their child and make payments ahead of time. Say goodbye to dinner money debt and hello to a less wasteful kitchen culture.
What’s on the menu?
With vegetarian and vegan diets growing in popularity, offering meat-free options is also likely to encourage more uptake in your school canteen. In fact, did you know that a huge 70% of British children want more veggie and vegan options in school?
Plant-based diets have a significantly lower impact on the environment, with livestock and meat production estimated to be responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Many schools have found meat-free meals to be kinder on the purse strings, too!
Survey and share
You have a whole team of supporters and advocates in your parent community – why not use them?
Encouraging parents to take your new green approach home is a great way of increasing impact. From sharing the school run to encouraging reusable water bottles, there is lots to be done at home to tackle the climate emergency.
Parents, too, are likely to have suggestions to grow your positive impact. Utilise your paper-free parent engagement platform to garner support and share surveys to gather parent responses. A green effort is a team effort, so give parents the opportunity to be involved.
A green revolution is in sight! Every effort, no matter how small, can have a huge impact. Together, schools across the UK can fight the war against climate change and enjoy all the benefits today, whilst building a better future for young people. It’s time to make a start – for information on how ParentMail can support you to go paper-free and reduce waste, get in touch today.
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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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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 at ParentMail are really excited to be taking part in IRIS World 2020! Set to take place on 11th February 2020 at the ICC Birmingham, IRIS World has fast become known as a fantastic opportunity for leaders across the sector to gather under …
We at ParentMail are really excited to be taking part in IRIS World 2020! Set to take place on 11th February 2020 at the ICC Birmingham, IRIS World has fast become known as a fantastic opportunity for leaders across the sector to gather under one roof for a day of news, networking and knowledge-sharing.
As a key part of the IRIS Education software portfolio, ParentMail has been working closely with IRIS to make the conference a must-attend event for everyone in the education sector.
With a jam-packed agenda in the making, we’re excited to share three reasons why you should attend IRIS World…
Industry experts, school leaders and ParentMail gurus are hosting a variety of talks throughout the day, sharing valuable insight into the latest changes in the education sector.
The general election, staff retention and increasing pressures to improve efficiency; the current climate sees an unpredictable future for schools. However, against all the odds, school leaders continue to achieve outstanding things for their school communities.
With input from education experts, we’ll investigate best practice and confront the issues impacting both the classroom and the management of schools today.
What’s an event without a spot of networking? Grab a coffee and get to know fellow school leaders and users of IRIS Education software. Our team of experts will be on hand throughout the day to share their expertise and answer any questions you might have about your software.
We’ll also be showcasing the latest innovations to your platforms, including ParentMail, PS Financials, PS Connect, BioStore and Contact Group. Join us to find out how IRIS Education is developing to continue meeting your needs, enabling you to look forward with confidence.
Demands to continually create new efficiencies places great pressure on the shoulders of school leaders; any opportunity to save time and protect the school budget must be taken advantage of.
IRIS World is the perfect environment to discover ways to achieve these goals, by hearing about the latest innovations in EdTech within the context of tensions facing the sector today. Learn how IRIS is investing in our technology to meet the needs of schools, from parent engagement to asset and people management.
And don’t forget the IRIS Awards
And these aren’t the only reasons to take a look at IRIS World. On the evening of February 11th, we’re hosting the IRIS Customer Awards 2020, celebrating the outstanding performance of our customers with a black-tie dinner and awards-giving.
With five awards up for grabs, this is a great chance to showcase all the amazing things your team achieves for students, staff and parents, every day. Whether your school has improved parent engagement with digital communications or supported staff with powerful EdTech, we want to hear from you.
This is the first year IRIS World is opening its doors to the education sector and, as such, we’re excited to make it a day of thought-provoking news and networking for every one of our guests. Join us on February 11th at the ICC Birmingham; reserve your seat today.
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We asked schools to share their top tips, best practice and advice for using the ParentMail platform to its full potential. Now, we’re excited to share your feedback with the ParentMail community! Here are our top five favourite suggestions for making the most of ParentMail to save time …
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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+Pay is a terrific tool for the festive season! Here are some of our top tips for making the most of +Pay for the busy period ahead: Creating a performance/event To create a Performance, navigate to Payments > Create New …
+Pay is a terrific tool for the festive season! Here are some of our top tips for making the most of +Pay for the busy period ahead:
Creating a performance/event
- To create a Performance, navigate to Payments > Create New Item > Create New and use the following options:
- Alert Users on Creation – Alert parents by email when a payment item is ready to purchase
- Allow Donation – Give parents the option to add a donation
- Create Ticket Numbers – Generates a ticket number upon purchasing; ticket numbers can be viewed in Reports > Payment Reports > Download a list of ticket numbers for a product
- Stock Quantity – Add a stock quantity if there is a certain number of tickets available; provides the option to add or remove stock after the payment item goes live
- Event Date – Add a date/time so parents have all the information they require for the event
- Due Date – Include a due date if payment is due before the show; this setting also allows reminders to be sent in advance of the due date
- Purchase Window – Allows you to create the item in advance of the item being available to purchase; add an End time to take the item off sale on a specific date
- Options – Handy for multiple performances/events and enables you to choose a number of tickets available for each – remember to select one as a default! The Options setting can also be used for Sibling Discounts or for shows at different prices
- Limit Quantity Per Child – Limit how many items can be purchased per child
No cost events
- Planning an event with no cost? No problem! Simply navigate to Payments > Create New Item > Create and add a price of £0.00; use the same settings as above (other than Due Date)
- Remember, if you don’t use the Select Specific Users setting, the payment item will be available to all users/parents
Menu items with registers
Did you know that you can create a day template to insert into your menu, on a day of your choice? Simply follow the instructions below…
- Navigate to Registers > Create Template > type in a name > Choose Menu; Format should be Day; create the menu as normal
- When saved, add it to your existing menu; navigate to Registers > click on the Dinner Register > Action > Schedule > locate the right day > Add Day to choose your new template
- If your option states ‘Edit Day’, click this followed by the red Remove button. Follow the same steps to add in your new template. Make sure to click the “Publish” button so parents can make their selections
Creating menus – One-off payments
- If you would like to use a Payment Item to collect a one-off payment for Christmas Meals, navigate to Payments > Create New Item > Create New; now fill in the details and select the following settings:
- Alert Users On Creation – Alert parents by email when a payment item is ready to purchase
- Purchase Window – Allows you to create the item in advance of the item being available to purchase; add an End time to take the item off sale on a specific date
- Why not use our Online Forms module to allow parents (and staff) to select their festive meal options quickly and easily online? This will reduce time spent on creating, printing and chasing paper forms; parents can quickly and easily make selections through the ParentMail app, with all responses collected in real-time for you to manage efficiently in the office
- *Top tip* – We recommend using the ‘Selection’ widget for each course, ensuring parents only select one starter, one main and one dessert (depending on what you offer!)
- Always use the ‘Save As Template’ button when creating a form, so you easily use it again next year
- You can also use Online Forms to circulate invitations to take part in gift-giving fun, such as Secret Santa. It can be difficult for staff to decline taking part in person; using Online Forms ensures staff don’t feel pressured to join in and can opt-out if they would prefer to do so, with a simple “Yes” or “No” selection. Responses are collated within Forms > Responses > Action > Reports > All responses submitted for this form and you will be able to see who would like to participate!
- Utilize the Events calendar for all of your festive activities, providing parents with all the information they need for the busy weeks ahead. Parents simply need to click on Events in the App to see what’s coming up
- Creating shows, plays and trips is easy with the Events module. Simply click on Events > Create > and type in the event name, start time, end time and add your attendees, location details and any additional handy notes. You also have the option for parents to confirm their attendance and can even repeat the event for another day. Additional options include automatic reminders to send in advance of the event.
Streamline your busy end-of-term period with ParentMail. If you need a hand, remember – our Support Team are available via Live Chat to provide any advice or guidance you might need. Happy holidays from ParentMail!
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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We’ve seen the trends of parent communications change over the years. From the death of the paper newsletter (good riddance!) to the dawn of text messages and email, schools have taken advantage of every opportunity to avoid the frustrations of …
We’ve seen the trends of parent communications change over the years. From the death of the paper newsletter (good riddance!) to the dawn of text messages and email, schools have taken advantage of every opportunity to avoid the frustrations of pupil post.
While text messaging has proven handy over recent years, SMS is struggling to keep up with cheaper, more convenient solutions; email, in-app messaging and even WhatsApp have proven better for circulating messages to the parent community.
Habits can be hard to break, particularly when reviewing processes which have been in place for years. However, chances are, if you’re still sending text messages to parents en masse, there are huge time and money savings to be achieved. Here’s why…
Taking over text messages
Before the era of smartphones, text messaging enabled schools to send important messages directly into the hands of parents, for the first time. Suddenly, parents were no longer discovering out of date letters at the bottom of school bags. Convenient but clunky, SMS presented schools with a quick and easy way of keeping parents up to date.
However, for sharing anything other than short and sweet messages, SMS can cause headaches. Character limits don’t leave much room for personality or a professional touch; they also don’t allow for attachments. For parents, sifting through their personal inbox to find a single school message, sent days before, can be frustrating.
In addition, the cost of sending texts in bulk quickly adds up. So, while you may have enjoyed some cost savings upon ridding your office of print and paper, the price of potentially thousands of texts sent over a school year can still push the budget.
What do parents want?
Staying on top of homework, afterschool clubs, trips and events is enough to make the most organised parent sweat. What they really want from school communications is simplicity; the relevant information sent to the right place, at the right time.
Cluttered email inboxes make it easy to miss important information, while WhatsApp groups raise concerns around security and accuracy; with 30+ parents in a single group, notifications can quickly spiral out of control.
Custom communication channels
“It’s a really nice touch that we’re sending our information home to parents through our very own app, it makes our communications unique to us!”
When collecting data or sharing school news, security is a priority. Parents need to be able to trust that the information they receive from their school is accurate and applicable to their child.
At ParentMail, we believe that technology should empower communications, rather than setting limits. Software should bridge the home/school divide with efficient, effective parent engagement.
A dedicated platform for messaging is within reach for all schools and parents today. From local primaries to large MATs, many schools are making the most of technology to implement strategic communications to strengthen relationships with their parent community.
“The majority of parents use our mobile app, which means messages are sent home as free in-app notifications, popping up to alert parents of important school communications. As a result, we have saved on text credits as we are no longer sending any SMS and instead send all our communications through email which arrive in one single, school branded feed rather than a busy email inbox, improving our parental engagement as a result!”
ParentMail’s Messaging solution provides total flexibility; schools can manage mailing lists to send messages by class, year group or individual. Handy reporting enables staff to monitor communication performance, providing an overview of messages received and unopened; no more chasing students for responses, no more character limitations or text credits.
Our free mobile app is a favourite with parents. Handy notifications and reminders ensure they receive important information instantly, with all school messages stored neatly in one place.
An effective solution proven to save time and improve parent engagement, Messaging is a powerful stand-alone solution. When utilised alongside ParentMail’s other engagement solutions, the system does so much more for schools, professionalising communications and reducing costs in the long term.
With cold weather settling across the country this winter and a busy festive period approaching, it’s time to plan ahead for home/school communications. Get in touch to find out more about our Messaging solution.
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Efficiency, security, reliability… just a few of the wonderful things online payments promise to deliver. However, many schools are being short-changed by their provider. Establishing a cashless culture that works for everyone (from staff in the school office to busy …
Efficiency, security, reliability… just a few of the wonderful things online payments promise to deliver.
However, many schools are being short-changed by their provider. Establishing a cashless culture that works for everyone (from staff in the school office to busy parents paying at home) is easier said than done. It takes time and patience to seek out a system that benefits everyone.
Whether you’re switching suppliers or considering online payments for the first time, start out on the right foot with our checklist of the top ten areas to consider to guarantee a stress-free cashless culture…
A system which leaves you high and dry during the busiest periods will only lead to frustrated parents and more work for your team. Challenge new suppliers to provide evidence of system accessibility for schools. It’s also worth carrying out some research on social media, too, to investigate parent experiences with payment providers.
2. Payment methods
Check which payment methods a system offers for parents; for example, can parents pay with PayPal, credit, debit card or PayPoint? Your system needs to be socially inclusive to support all parents, as well as able to cater for cash payments when necessary.
3. Flexible reporting
Ask your chosen supplier about reporting tools. Is it easy to look up accounts, balances and payments so you can keep arrears in check? Are reports flexible and easy to access? Your system should offer a helpful insight to support school teams; for example, data on popular dinner choices could help to reduce waste and manage suppliers.
Most parents are rarely far from their smartphones, so ensuring your payment system is mobile friendly is essential. A convenient, reliable and secure school payment app is guaranteed to support speedy payments.
5. Cashless catering
Choose a payment system that integrates with your cashless catering system, ensuring it offers low balance reminders and payment-due alerts to keep parents up to date on payments due. Extra benefits such as the ability to view their child’s dinner choices or the option to pay for particular items in advance are also sure to impress parents and improve uptake.
6. Payment options
Support parents to budget for more expensive items, such as trips or events, with payment instalments, providing information in advance so both your school team and parents can plan ahead.
Investigate the system functionality for setting up year groups, classes and other pupil groups. This way, you will be well placed to communicate with groups about specific payments, making it easier for parents to see what they need to buy.
Increase order accuracy by choosing a system which offers multiple options against payment items (for example, sizes of PE kit or school uniform items).
For administrative purposes, ensure the system integrates with your school’s MIS. This will enable you to easily upload new pupils onto the system at the start of the school year.
And last, but by no means least, ensure your new solution can be easily migrated from old systems with ease, allowing you to transfer balances and re-create ongoing payment items.
Our free Online Payments Guide explores in detail the potential issues and vital considerations for schools adopting a stress-free cashless culture. We share first-hand experiences and best-practice advice from schools utilising online payments providers today.
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Today, a huge 85% of schools run breakfast clubs, setting students up for a day of learning and offering a lifeline for busy parents. Beyond the well-known benefits of a good breakfast, research suggests that these clubs have a much deeper positive …
Today, a huge 85% of schools run breakfast clubs, setting students up for a day of learning and offering a lifeline for busy parents.
Beyond the well-known benefits of a good breakfast, research suggests that these clubs have a much deeper positive impact on children’s learning. A 2014 audit of school breakfast provisions found that 45% of schools saw attendance improve as a direct result of breakfast clubs and nearly 50% noticed an increase in student concentration.
With the rising popularity of breakfast clubs, the school day no longer starts at 8:30am. Thousands of primary schools are opening their doors as early as 7am to sleepy students and panicked parents in a rush to get to work on time. For some children, breakfast club may be their only opportunity to enjoy a good meal before a day of learning.
When it comes to putting plans in place for this all-important provision, there are lots of things for school teams to consider that go far beyond choosing whether to serve toast or cereal!
Picking your team
Organising staff cover depends on the number of students that will be attending each day. Some mornings may be busier than others, so knowing this number in advance is important. Many schools rely on the support of teaching assistants but, if resources are running low or your school has a reliable PTA or Friends Association, consider asking parent volunteers to lend a hand on a rota basis.
For schools in the early stages of setting up a breakfast club, it has also proven beneficial to involve a senior leader or headteacher in the planning process. They will be well-placed to connect the initiative with other school efforts, such as strategies to improve attendance and punctuality, enabling staff teams to share resources and achieve a shared goal.
What’s the point?
Schools run breakfast clubs for a variety of reasons. For those operating in deprived areas, the priority is to provide healthy food options and improve attendance; for other schools, breakfast clubs offer reliable and affordable childcare for busy parents.
Depending on your school’s priorities, you may wish to open breakfast clubs to all students or encourage a particular demographic to attend – those receiving Free School Meals, for example.
Talking to parents is a great way of making decisions around the practicalities of your club, from what time to open the doors, to what food to include on the menu. Ask questions and act on feedback from those who will use the club (and possibly even keep it running) to start on the road to success.
Funding and payments
The cost of running breakfast clubs often relies heavily on the school budget so deciding a pricing structure is important. Many primary schools charge a nominal fee for attendance, be it an hourly price, an itemised list of menu items or a wraparound care ‘package’. For FSM students, some schools charge a very small amount so food isn’t perceived as a hand-out.
Collecting club fees and payments can be the source of a great many financial frustrations. Thousands of schools have seen the benefit of opting for cashless payments for fees; online payments help schools reduce dinner money debt and parent arrears, too. Choosing a platform which works for both parents and schools is key for protecting the budget. Fortunately, we have the perfect solution for you…
So, you know who’s involved, what’s on the menu and determined a payment structure. Now it’s time to serve up success!
Ensuring your club doesn’t become an additional admin headache is vital. We’ve heard from many schools about the issues associated with wraparound care. Saving time and streamlining processes for schools is what we’re all about, so we set out to develop a solution to ensure the smooth running of breakfast clubs this year.
New to +Pay, Advance Bookings functionality enables schools to request menu choices and club bookings early; parents select menu options, make bookings and pay, all in one easy process. This means schools can plan resources well in advance for upcoming breakfast clubs, from staff cover and volunteers to the food on offer, reducing kitchen waste and unnecessary stress – because who wants stress first thing in the morning?
The flexible platform also allows for clubs to be split into separate sessions. For parents who wish for their child to attend only the latter part of a breakfast club, for example, the system allows this and updates available spaces in real-time; this is particularly helpful for clubs with a limited number of spaces, leaving the remaining half of the session free for others to book.
Advance Bookings supports schools in saving time and protecting budgets whilst improving communication with parents. With our handy mobile app, club bookings and payments are easy for parents, so schools receive a great response. With payments made upfront and in advance, arrears remain low and budgets balanced, enabling schools to plan for a sustainable and financially-healthy future.
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If I had a pound for every time I asked my children how their day was, and they replied, “Fine”, I’d be a very rich woman! It got me thinking about better ways to get kids to open up. Some …
If I had a pound for every time I asked my children how their day was, and they replied, “Fine”, I’d be a very rich woman! It got me thinking about better ways to get kids to open up.
Some children love talking about school. With others, encouraging them to share even a few details can feel like fighting a losing battle, especially if things are going wrong at school, such as bullying, friendship fall-outs or exam stress.
If your child is on the quieter side or particularly private, there are still ways to ask questions that will open up a conversation rather than shutting them down in an instant.
I’ve noticed that, often, when parents hear “fine,” they react in one of two ways. Some parents will go on to ask lots more questions, in an effort to get the conversation going. However, studies have shown that asking too many questions can feel invasive, especially to teenagers, causing them to clam up and withdraw – the very opposite of what you’re trying to do.
Other parents, tired of hearing the usual response, may stop asking altogether. However, research has shown that children who share limited communication with their parents when growing up report more mental and behavioural health difficulties.
So, it’s a fine line between asking and demanding. It’s important to consider your tone of voice, body language and intentions. The best way is to relax and ask genuinely interested open-ended questions; you have two ears and one mouth for a reason – to listen more than you speak! Often children prefer it if you are doing something else at the same time, such as driving, walking the dog or peeling the potatoes.
Active and enthusiastic parental involvement can positively influence your child’s engagement at school, their academic success and help them to achieve long-term educational goals. Simple and positive communication, every day, strengthens your child’s self-esteem and confidence and develops long-term happy childhood memories.
Communication at different ages
With young children, school day conversations usually revolve around school subjects, new friendships or concrete experiences. For example, a young child might share with you:
“I played on the slide at lunch time today with Emily!”
Start by asking an open-ended question that opens up and expands the conversation rather than closing the conversation down. Steer away from a response that requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer:
‘Oh, that sounds fun, what did you play after that?’
At around 7-9 years old, friendships become increasingly important to your child. They may be more interested in talking about their friendships than about their schoolwork, so show an interest by asking about their friends, such as:
“Tell me about Joe. What does he like to play at breaktime?”
Children between 9-11 might begin to see your questions as nosy, which can lead to less information sharing. So, change your questioning style to be less intensive. Instead, approach questions by asking about your child’s friends to kick start a conversation:
“What do your friends think about the new P.E teacher?”
Talking with teens
Children are turning into young adults during teenage years and, as such, you have to change your style of relating to them to remain connected but not intrusive. Find simple things you can do together – walking the dog, eating together regularly, watching sport or pursuing an activity such as baking or arts and crafts, so conversations naturally flow from there. Stay involved in your children’s lives and show interest, but steer clear from seeming overtly inquisitive. Create opportunities for conversations and don’t get caught up in only nagging!
Most importantly, maintain the long-term, bigger picture of your relationship in mind and keep conversations positive. Focus on asking your child about their opinions and thoughts, instead of just telling them yours, and try getting them involved in some family decision making.
Remember, it’s normal for your teenager to seek out more privacy and share less information with you. They are growing up and transitioning into a young adult. So be flexible and respect your teens privacy when they need it.
If you find yourself exasperated, frustrated and completely at a loss to get your kids chatting, here are a few starters:
- What was the favourite part of your day?
- What made you laugh today?
- Who were you kind to today?
- What new fact did you learn today?
- When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
- What rule was the hardest to follow today?
- What games did you play at break time today?
- Was there anything that happened today that made you feel bad?
- What did you do in school today that you really enjoyed?
- Who inspired you today?
As you’d expect, children often feel quite tired at the end of the school day. If they aren’t up to talking straight away, hold back on your questions until they have had time to relax and unwind. Once refuelled, they may be up for sharing.
Parental engagement apps are a great way of keeping on top of what’s going on in your child’s school day. By keeping in touch with the latest school news, you’ll be better placed to have a conversation about lessons, homework, trips and activities.
So, if your school uses an online engagement platform to stay in touch with parents, it’s super important to make the most of it.
Regardless of your child’s age, keep in mind that it’s the quality of frequent but small positive conversations that you have over time that will make the biggest difference – so keep trying and don’t give up!
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Parent teacher evenings are a wonderful opportunity for parents to get involved with their child’s education. Usually held twice a year, autumn term meetings serve as a good opportunity to build strong and productive relationships with teachers, with spring meetings …
Parent teacher evenings are a wonderful opportunity for parents to get involved with their child’s education.
Usually held twice a year, autumn term meetings serve as a good opportunity to build strong and productive relationships with teachers, with spring meetings ideal for picking up areas requiring attention before the end of the school year.
In secondary school, the format changes. Rather than just one meeting with their child’s class teacher, parents sit with individual subject teachers, attending multiple short sessions throughout the evening. For new parents, meetings may feel a little rushed, occasionally bordering on hectic. However, secondary school parents’ evenings remain a great opportunity for teachers and parents to catch up and, for this reason, it’s important to prepare in advance and make the most of the short window of time you get.
School staff spend many hours collating data and information in preparation for parents’ evenings. Unfortunately, sometimes the parents’ perspective can be overlooked when planning for these important events.
Time is always at a premium during parents’ evenings. Busy teachers can have over 30 sessions per evening depending on their class or year group. However, in my experience as a deputy head and class teacher for 25 years, as well as working with parents and families as a parent coach, it’s a good idea to ensure parents don’t feel rushed.
For the evening to be a productive experience for everyone involved, parents need to feel listened to, as well as spoken to. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a teacher is clock watching. A parent who leaves feeling as though their appointment was both meaningful and beneficial will feel positively engaged with their child’s education.
It is almost inevitable that meetings will overrun, so try to allow time between appointments. While extending the time of all appointments is impractical for most schools, providing the opportunity for parents to book another time to continue the conversation always works well, be it a phonecall, face to face or Skype meeting. A brief follow-up email has also proven successful for many schools, improving relationships whilst solving any time-related issues.
Flexibility, mobility and convenience
Whether balancing work commitments, child-care or family life, parents often struggle to book appointments to suit their busy schedules. This sometimes results in families opting out of parents’ evening completely; this is also a consideration for divorced parents attempting to navigate the choppy waters of joint meetings.
Making the booking process quick, simple and convenient can vastly improve turnout on the evening; this is something that ParentMail has taken into account when building their free mobile app and Parents’ Evening Manager platform. For parents, selecting appointments is speedy and secure. Schools can send multiple invitations to various family members, facilitating the needs of split families to ensure both parents have the opportunity to attend this all-important event.
There’s more to raising a happy, confident child than their data
Of course, communicating grades and information is important for a child’s progression, particularly for those studying for GCSEs and A-Levels. However, many parents still appreciate hearing less about data and more about their child as an individual. Data means only so much to a parent, with many preferring a holistic view of their child; their friendships, mental wellbeing and happiness, behaviour in class and attitude towards learning, for example. For parents, this information is just as important as their child’s academic performance.
Don’t play things down
While most parents will argue they want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on parents’ evening, it is vital for teachers consider the way in which they deliver such truths!
Sharing difficult information with parents is tricky, no doubt about it. However, there are ways to do so without causing offence or hostility. From personal experience, I find maintaining a positive and enthusiastic attitude very helpful while delivering difficult information. Be prepared with an anecdote of the child’s personal strength. The ‘sandwich technique’ bookends constructive feedback with praise; in other words, feedback ‘sandwiched’ between two layers of positivity.
While it may feel daunting to feedback negativity about a child, most parents understand how important it is for a teacher to communicate honestly about their child’s behaviour and academic performance. Building bridges between home and school has been shown in many studies to aid the wellbeing, success and academic achievement of children.
Most schools are aware of catering for divorced, separated and step-families. Building an environment in which all members of the family feel welcomed and comfortable goes an awfully long way in supporting students, with mindful communications between parents and schools helping to ease tension or awkward encounters. Home/school communication plays a very important role in the run-up to parents evening.
It’s important to make sure that every parent or care giver has the opportunity to be involved in their child’s education by knowing the dates and times of parents’ evening. So, by simply checking and updating contact details, schools can make the difference between a positive or negative experience for parents. This level of attention to detail and proactive thought will be greatly appreciated by parents.
Parents’ evenings play a vital role when it comes to supporting children with special educational needs. It’s important for parents of children with additional needs to feel that their child is being nurtured and prepared well through their Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) – parents’ evening may be one of the few opportunities for parents to understand how the school is supporting their child.
An essential part of becoming an informed partner is knowing the right questions to ask on both sides and to work in partnership towards the best outcomes for the child. It’s also beneficial for parents and teachers to book in a regular review meeting so they can work together to monitor how the child is progressing. More frequent communication, such as requesting a quick telephone catch up or a weekly after school meeting can also be a good idea, especially if a new programme of support has recently started.
Re-defining parents’ evenings
Back in 1997, the government’s white paper ‘Excellence in Schools’ suggested that providing parents with information is a key element in building successful home-school partnerships.
The good news is, schools are increasingly utilising technology to improve the quality of contact they have with parents. It is equally important for parents to stay up to date with the methods and channels schools use to engage and share news with them. If there is an app, for example, parents need to download it.
Parents’ evening is a fantastic opportunity to join forces and work together as a cohesive team for the benefit of children – so make the most of it!
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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.
While school staff spend hours collecting data and information in preparation for parents’ evenings, we don’t often take the time to ask parents for their feelings on this important event. Gathering feedback may prove an impossible task for your busy …
While school staff spend hours collecting data and information in preparation for parents’ evenings, we don’t often take the time to ask parents for their feelings on this important event.
Gathering feedback may prove an impossible task for your busy team, so we set out to discover what parents think of parents’ evening with a good old fashioned survey – and the results might surprise you!
Time after time
Multiple parents referred to feeling rushed during meetings, with many stating they need more time with teachers to make the appointments feel truly beneficial. While extending appointments is impractical for many schools, providing the opportunity for parents to book in a telephone or Skype meeting with teachers at a later date is a good way of solving any time-related issues.
Communication between parents and your school in advance of the evening iis a great way to enable teachers to plan for appointments. Enable parents to raise questions or topics they’d like to discuss so teachers are ready to make the most of their short time together.
“That they actually run on time! I went to my daughter’s evening and we had 8 appointments, 10 minute slots for each with a 10 minute buffer in-between. We were there for 4 hours.”
Flexible and functional
Busy parents often struggle to book convenient appointments, with many opting out of the evening completely due to their inability to either book meetings at all or schedule appointments to suit their busy lives.
Paperless parents’ evenings have proven a huge success for thousands of schools across the country, with parents able to book appointments, in seconds, online or on an App. For schools, managing online timetables simplifies processes and saves hours of time – it’s a win, win! However, there will always be parents who prefer the traditional method; so if you’re a paperless school with a focus on all things digital, it is vital that you still have the flexibility to accommodate manual bookings.
“It always feels rushed. The teachers do the best they can but we’re all tired from a long day! Also as a working parent I find it hard to get the appointments I need because they are put up outside the classroom and I don’t drop off or pick up!”
Emma Jane Paterson
More than just grades
Communicating grades and performance data is important for a student’s progression, particularly for those studying for GCSEs and A-Levels. However, many parents shared that they would appreciate hearing less about progress and attainment and more about their child as an individual; their behaviour in class, their friendships, attitude, manners and more. For parents, this information is just as important as their child’s academic performance.
“Honesty. And more of an all-round view of the child. I was told my daughter was fab at everything blah blah. She asked, ‘Do you have any questions?’ I said yes, is she supportive of others, does she have friends, is she a good kid or badly behaved in class? She laughed and said all was well on all fronts. I’d rather parent a decent all-rounder than a lonely genius.”
Don’t sugarcoat it
While it might be intimidating to express the ‘real truth’ about a student, many parents expressed how important it is for a teacher to communicate honestly about their child’s behaviour and academic performance.
Whether it’s about behaviour and attitude, missing homework or general academic achievement, it’s vital to share the truth. A team effort between home and school is proven to support students in the classroom, and only by knowing the whole picture can a parent take an active role in their child’s education.
“Honest appraisal with some stats and benchmarks if possible and less fluff.”
“Honesty rather than just general waffle. I want to know more about my child and if they are where they should be with milestones and general behaviour etc.”
“Honesty, good or bad.”
Numbers of blended families and parent separations are on the rise, so ensuring school communications reach all of the appropriate people in the run-up to parents’ evening is important. Make sure every parent has the opportunity to be involved in their child’s education by checking contact details are up to date and lines of communication between your school and families are open, to ensure your plans and appointments include all types of family structures.
“We never get to go to my step sons parents’ evening as the school only inform his mother. We get homework to do on a weekend but no communication to say how it is received. In this modern time I think more effort is needed to include all parents.”
Particularly for parents of children with Special Educational Needs, sharing specific information about their child’s development plan and progress is key. Ensure teachers are prepared with the appropriate information for each appointment and take the opportunity to open up lines of communication so parents feel supported and encouraged to engage with your school in the future.
“To know what my children are really like rather than if they are hitting Government targets … both mine have high functioning autism and are without an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) because apparently they don’t need one … so give me the truth of what they are capable of and what you’re going to do about it.”
If it’s broke, fix it – tackle parents’ evening headaches head on this term, and impress parents in the process. Your school spends a long time putting plans in place for this all-important event – make sure your efforts aren’t wasted!
Parents Evening Manager provides all the flexibility your team needs to make your next evening a success:
- Impress parents with ParentMail’s free mobile App. Busy parents can book appointments on-the-go in seconds, ensuring schools receive a great response.
- Take the paper out of planning with schedules, appointments and reports stored securely online, reducing reliance on pesky paper slips and print-outs.
- Parents’ Evening Manager syncs with SIMS and other MIS, for easy class and student selection, ensuring all parents receive information when it matters most.
- The flexible, functional platform allows staff to preset appointment durations in advance; parents can even leave comments and questions when booking, enabling teachers to plan ahead.
A time-saving tool that won’t break the bank, Parents’ Evening Manager is available from as little as £169. Take the step now to make your next parent’s evening a breeze. Get in touch to find out more or book a free demo.
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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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How long does it take your team to plan parents’ evening? If you’re setting aside hours to manage bookings and relying on pupil post for appointments, it’s time to plan now for a stress-free parents’ evening – and we have …
How long does it take your team to plan parents’ evening? If you’re setting aside hours to manage bookings and relying on pupil post for appointments, it’s time to plan now for a stress-free parents’ evening – and we have the solution for you.
Parents’ Evening Manager syncs with SIMS and other MIS to make planning one of the busiest events in the school calendar straight-forward and easy. Eliminating pupil post with the free ParentMail app and handy push notifications enables busy parents to respond to invitations on-the-go, ensuring schools receive a great response.
Why is this the year to choose Parents’ Evening Manager?
Communicate directly with parents
Improve responses and ensure a great turnout by sending invitations and information directly into parents’ hands. With the ParentMail App, parents receive a notification when it’s time to book, and can select convenient appointments to suit their busy schedules in seconds. Online communications take the paper out of parents’ meetings, with event details stored securely online – no more lost booking slips or side-stepped appointments!
Online communications and in-app bookings do far more for your team than simply reducing print costs. The flexible system makes planning the night quick and easy; pre-set appointment durations, determine booking windows and arrange reminders for parents yet to respond. Gain an overview of the event with the handy reporting suite and provide parents with all the information they need in advance (meeting locations, where to go upon arrival etc.) to ensure the evening runs smoothly.
While appointments may be brief, it’s important that everyone leaves feeling they got the most out of their time. Enable teachers to plan ahead for their meetings by providing parents with the opportunity to leave notes when booking appointments. Sharing timetables and notes with the staff team in advance ensures teachers are well placed to plan for individual meetings, with the relevant information for each student at hand – a sure fire way to impress parents!
Parents’ Evening Manager utilises ParentMail’s market-leading communications platform to make managing this busy event simple and seamless. Parents’ Evening Manager is just one solution designed by ParentMail to save time and money for schools. Highly effective as a stand-alone product or as part of ParentMail’s wider parental engagement platform, thousands of primary schools turn to Parents’ Evening Manager to support their busy teams every year.
From as little as £169 a year, Parents’ Evening Manager is a cost-effective solution to take the stress (and paper) out of parents’ meetings. Depending on the size of your school, Parents’ Evening Manager costs are entirely flexible. Get parents’ evening ready before the big day – you’ll never look back!
In a nutshell
- Impress parents with ParentMail’s free mobile App. Busy parents can book appointments on-the-go in seconds, ensuring schools receive a great response.
- Take the paper out of planning with schedules, appointments and reports stored securely online, reducing reliance on pesky paper slips and print-outs.
- ParentMail’s flexible, user-friendly platform makes arranging the event and managing responses quick and easy for busy staff.
- A time-saving tool that won’t break the bank, Parents’ Evening Manager is available from as little as £169.
Adding Parents’ Evening Manager to your existing ParentMail suite is quick and easy. Introducing the platform as a stand-alone solution is a simple and cost-effective way of improving parent engagement in the run-up to one of the years’ most important events. Get in touch today to find out more and to book a free demo.
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Another school year is over. As tired-out teachers make the most of some well-deserved down-time, there’s another group of hard-working individuals, dedicated to the successful running of their school, also in need of some rest and relaxation. That’s right, we’re …
Another school year is over. As tired-out teachers make the most of some well-deserved down-time, there’s another group of hard-working individuals, dedicated to the successful running of their school, also in need of some rest and relaxation. That’s right, we’re looking at you, parent volunteers!
Many schools closed out the summer term with fairs, trips and sports days. For those lucky schools with a dedicated PTA or Friends association, these events were likely planned with unrivalled skill, vision and attention to detail. The event went off without a hitch, students had a wonderful time and the school coffers enjoyed a healthy hit at the hand of fundraisers, bake sales and donations.
As a result of the hard work of parent volunteers, the attention of clock-watching teachers remained on the ever-expanding list of tasks requiring attention before the school closed for summer.
All year round, small armies of volunteers join forces to arrange trips, discos and fundraisers. They band together to plan seasonal events, throw themselves into classroom activities and dedicate their talents for the benefit of students.
When it comes to the 6pm disco, teachers still in the midst of a mountain of marking, parents arrive at the school gates armed with supplies, food, juice and balloons; the show will go on.
These unpaid, passionate few represent the beating heart of the school. The hard work and dedication they commit towards supporting not only students but staff, too, speaks wonders for the importance of community. It takes a village to raise a child, the phrase goes; we expect at the heart of that village is a highly organised team of parent volunteers.
And while the annual fundraiser, which enables the school to purchase new tablet computers for the IT room, is an undeniably fabulous feat, let it not be said that the small things don’t go just as far.
For those who attend school trips, who pop by at reading time to lend a hand, who brave the art room and leave covered in paint, we take our hats off to you. Because, for many busy schools today, a little goes an awfully long way.
Your determination to make your school a great place for staff and students is a wonderful thing. So, to all the parent volunteers and teams out there, we say thank you – and we can’t wait to see you what you have hidden up your rolled-up sleeves next year!
Breakfast is still widely considered to be the most important meal of the day, setting children up for a day of learning and fun. Today, a rising number of health-conscious schools and parents are keen to ensure children receive a …
Breakfast is still widely considered to be the most important meal of the day, setting children up for a day of learning and fun. Today, a rising number of health-conscious schools and parents are keen to ensure children receive a healthy meal at lunchtime, too, with fresh choices available to all students.
Often, when the bell rings for lunchtime, hungry students are eager to eat quickly before heading outside for some much-needed playtime. The choice of what they eat is often in the hands of mums and dads. Whether it’s a packed lunch or hot meal from the school canteen, parents want to stay on top of their child’s diet.
School food matters
Only 8% of secondary school-aged children in the UK are getting their five-a-day. Almost one in five children are overweight or obese when they start primary school, with the number rising to one in three when they start secondary school. In fact, by 2020, it’s estimated that half of all children in the UK will be overweight or obese. The health risks relating to obesity are well known, resulting in not only significant physical health risks but mental health issues, too.
The Department for Education’s School Food Plan lays out guidance for providing nutritious meals and options throughout the school day. There’s an increasing emphasis on creating a positive environment in which children can eat and relax with friends, enjoy appetising meals and learn about cooking nutritious food. We’re seeing a cultural change taking place at lunchtime, both in and outside of the kitchen.
Stronger together – schools and parents
While healthy options are a huge step in the right direction, the importance of parental engagement when it comes to children’s diet also can’t be underestimated. In years past, parents were often unaware of what children were eating at dinner time; today, more schools than ever are offering parents an insight into their child’s meals.
When it comes to healthy eating, parents are a child’s main role-model. Parents have a large influence over what children eat at home, and the environment in which meals are prepared and eaten. While they may not prepare their child’s lunch boxes every day, it is still very important that they know what their child is eating in the school canteen.
Placing the responsibility of dinner selections into parents’ hands is a great way of assuring them that their child has eaten a healthy lunch. Parents are able to plan meals to complement school dinners and make selections according to dietary requirements. When schools and parents work together, it’s easier to develop a culture and ethos around nutritious choices in which children benefit both mentally and physically.
Good habits start in the (school) kitchen
Instilling the importance of making good food choices from a young age is a sure-fire way of starting children off on a road to good health. A nutritious, balanced diet also means children are more likely to feel energised and motivated to learn. In the classroom, a room of well-fed attentive children provides a much happier, serene learning environment in which all students can thrive.
Engaging with parents regularly and emphasising the importance of selecting their children’s dinner choices encourages good habits at home, too. For some households, access to a wide range of fresh and healthy food isn’t always available. Unfortunately, for some children, a nutritious school lunch may be the only proper meal they receive each day.
The stigma around free school meals (FSM) can make lunchtime an anxious experience for students. Some parents claiming FSM for their children may also feel uncomfortable when dealing with their school, building barriers rather than bridges around an important period of a student’s school day. Creating a supportive, discreet environment in which students claiming FSM can collect their dinner and eat happily is very important; maintaining positive and regular communications with hard-to-reach parents is equally as important. When parents feel supported by schools, students feel the benefits of strong home/school partnerships.
Practical steps to dinner time
Collecting dinner choices and managing parent payments is an unavoidable and time-consuming task. Fighting spiralling dinner money debt is an ongoing battle for schools across the UK. Add missing menu choices and managing suppliers into the mix, and schools are often left with unnecessary waste in the kitchen.
It’s clear that schools need a reliable, cost-efficient system which simplifies lunchtimes in the kitchen while supporting busy parents at home. Our new advance bookings functionality does just that.
Advance bookings from +Pay enable parents to make selections and pay for dinner items immediately or in advance, via a balance. Schools can set payment deadlines and request bookings and payments early, enabling kitchen staff to manage suppliers and reduce waste.
Our new functionality relieves stress in the office by streamlining what was once an on-going tricky task. With simple online bookings and payments, staff are no longer left chasing money and dinner choices from parents; instead, they simply set up menu items (or use saved menus for recurring options), send out to parents and collect online responses, quickly and easily. Automated reminders notify parents who are yet to make their selections, without the need for staff to manually contact parents. For parents not online, manual payments can be added to the system, ensuring all parents and students benefit from organised payments and meal choices.
For parents, selecting menu options and topping up balances is quick and easy. With our free mobile app, parents can manage school communications on-the-go with just a few clicks. Our online payments system offers a range of payment methods to suit everyone, including PayPal, debit and credit card and PayPoint. Parents can see an overview of how much they have paid, for which items and over what time period. They can also view how much is owed and where money has been spent, providing a transparent view of their child’s dinner choices.
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There are just a few weeks left before schools break up for summer (pause for cheers and applause). As classrooms wind down in anticipation of a well-deserved break, teachers seek out activities to do with classes which feel that little …
There are just a few weeks left before schools break up for summer (pause for cheers and applause). As classrooms wind down in anticipation of a well-deserved break, teachers seek out activities to do with classes which feel that little bit – well, easier!
We’ve gathered a few fun ideas to serve as inspiration for tired-out teachers everywhere – enjoy!
Plan a picnic
Make the most of Britain’s fleeting summer and get outside with your class to enjoy a picnic. Children can bring along their own packed lunches, or you could even prepare some food together in advance. And, to give it that all-important educational spin, a picnic serves as a great opportunity to learn about healthy eating and seasonal ingredients.
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned quiz? Set students the task of creating questions and pick your favourites to add a competitive edge to your classroom. For a music quiz, this could involve putting together a summer playlist and challenging children to listen to different music genres. Run a vote for favourite team names and award prizes for category winners!
Chances are, your sports day is fast approaching, so hit the sports field to get in some last-minute practice!
It’s the end of term and we’re all feeling a little tired. Even if they don’t seem it, students will likely appreciate a little downtime with a good book. If the sun is kind enough to show its’ face, head outdoors with some good books and enjoy a quiet hour in the shade.
Do something creative
Whether it’s unstructured arts and crafts, creative writing, music or cooking, let their imaginations run wild. Encourage your class to write a summer-themed poem, short story or even to build a sandy beach or miniature garden. Maybe get your hands dirty and plant some sunflower seeds together, a great way to learn about photosynthesis and the life-cycle of plants.
Allow younger students to bring along their favourite game or toy for a whole day of show-and-tell fun! Avoid lost property box havoc by recommending children bring just one thing each.
From the whole team at ParentMail, we hope you enjoy your last few weeks of term and wish you all a super chilled summer break!
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The team at Langstone Junior School are self-confessed ParentMail ambassadors, having saved over £9,000 this academic year! Langstone Juniors are a busy school with an even busier office team, with more than 330 students. Thanks to the help of ParentMail’s …
The team at Langstone Junior School are self-confessed ParentMail ambassadors, having saved over £9,000 this academic year!
Langstone Juniors are a busy school with an even busier office team, with more than 330 students. Thanks to the help of ParentMail’s Messaging and Parents’ Evening Manager solutions, the school are excelling at all things parental engagement and reaping the rewards as a result.
“As a team, we wanted to make the most of ParentMail and everything it had to offer. I started from the beginning with the platform and learned everything there is to know to make it work for our school. Today, we wouldn’t be without it!” says Lorraine Reeves, Administrator.
“The results speak for themselves. This academic year alone, after staff time, paper and print, we’ve saved over £9,000. Before ParentMail we relied on photocopying and paper for our parent communications which was very expensive and inefficient. Schools can’t rely on children to pass along school newsletters and forms, and we can’t always rely on busy mums and dads to respond. ParentMail has made a huge difference to our parental engagement.”
“100% of parents are signed up to ParentMail which means that we can be confident that every single parent is receiving the important news and information they need. What’s more, nearly 90% of parents are using the free mobile App. We encourage parents to use the App at every opportunity. It makes staying in touch with the school so convenient for them – whether they’re at home or work, no one is without their mobile phone these days!”
“The reporting system is incredibly helpful. On occasion, parents may claim not to have been told about certain things. When this happens, we can simply check our report to see whether they received a particular message and even whether they opened it. When it comes to sending out parents’ evening invites, we have easy access to data which tells us how many parents have booked appointments and who is yet to respond to the invitation. I can then send out reminder messages to prompt parents into booking.”
“Parents’ Evening Manager is a huge time saver. The amount of time we’ve saved and the support we’re able to give to teachers now is fantastic; it’s no longer their responsibility to chase students and parents to book appointments. Instead, it’s down to parents to book. We send out a message in advance to let them know when appointments will be available and then watch bookings come in – it’s so easy!”
“There are so many ways to save time with ParentMail. The templates are very helpful. ParentMail has a selection of default templates ready to go but we’ve also built our own, and everything can be branded with our school letterhead. We run a variety of after-school clubs and arrange lots of trips and events; we have groups set up for all of these things, enabling us to share the appropriate information with the right parents – all of these handy tools save our team time, every day.”
“We don’t often need help with ParentMail but on the rare occasions that we do, we can rely on Live Chat. The Support team are very professional and friendly and any issues are resolved very quickly. Phone support is also really helpful. I’m always very impressed with the Support team when I contact them.”
“We’ve just signed up for four more years with ParentMail. Their flexible subscriptions are too good to miss and I wouldn’t be without the system today. Any schools looking into ParentMail as a solution to save time, engage with parents and save money, I would say yes, without a doubt – ParentMail is for you!”
If saving time and money are at the top of your agenda from September, get in touch now to book a free demo with ParentMail.
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Ah, the school run. No matter how early it starts or how well it’s planned, somehow, it ends with a mad rush out the door. After school, the clock is still against us. The average nine-to-five day and long hours …
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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With the subject of off-rolling raising concerns across the country, Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, recently called on school leaders to reduce exclusions. While protocol states that exclusion should only ever be a last resort, the number of permanent and fixed …
With the subject of off-rolling raising concerns across the country, Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, recently called on school leaders to reduce exclusions.
While protocol states that exclusion should only ever be a last resort, the number of permanent and fixed term exclusions continues to rise. The Timpson Review found that 78% of expelled pupils either had special educational needs (SEN), were eligible for free school meals (FSM) or were “in need”. In addition, more than 80% of parents of permanently excluded children said they received inadequate support in finding an alternative place for their child.
The reasons behind exclusions are numerous, with the most common including persistent disruptive behaviour, aggression against staff and students, verbal abuse and bullying. In such cases, schools often have little choice but to remove a student. However, studies have explored alternative preventative action to intercept poor behaviour before exclusion is reached.
A 2008 Ofsted study on Good Practice in Re-Engaging Disaffected and Reluctant Students in Secondary Schools investigated the ways in which 29 secondary schools (a total of 32,987 students) managed the behaviour of disengaged students – approximately 13% of the student population. Disaffection was defined as displaying one or more of the following: regular non-compliance, regular disruption leading to recurrent entries in school’s incident logs, recurring fixed term exclusions as well as absence of 20% or more of the school year.
Schools were successful in re-engaging 78% of disaffected students. Schools trialled a number of methods in supporting pupils, including sharing their commitment to helping students succeed with students and their families; communication with parents was considered a highly effective method in re-engaging distant pupils.
Communicating school news and information with parents is important in developing productive relationships. When it comes to managing behavioural issues and academic concerns, however, working closely with parents is also vitally important; once excluded, research finds that only 1% of excluded children go onto achieve five GCSEs. The risks of exclusion are well known. As such, it falls on schools and parents to work together in seeking the appropriate solution.
Research proves that disaffected students often benefit from robust monitoring of academic, personal and social progress. Working closely with parents to share observations ensures a consistent approach in supporting the student both at home and in school. When parents are included in their child’s education, teachers often feel supported in the classroom and are better placed to work with students in areas requiring further attention. For students, an extra level of support between parents and school staff can make a huge difference.
Busy parents and rising student populations can make crossing the home/school divide difficult for staff and teachers. The benefits of a socially inclusive platform in bridging the gap are proven. With a mobile App, parents can access school information and messages from home, work and at a time convenient for them. Flexible communications allow schools to manage communications on a student by student basis, as well as for whole classes and year groups.
At ParentMail, we know the numerous benefits of socially inclusive EdTech designed to meet the challenges of today’s education sector. Bridging the gap between home and school for the benefit of students has been at the heart of our technology since day one! If you’re a school looking to improve parent communications, get in touch today to find out how we can help.
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As the summer term comes to a close, school staff are busy saying goodbye to their 2019 leavers and preparing for new starters. Summer events, exam season and the usual end-of-year wrap up makes the last few weeks in the …
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 been more than three years since we began our partnership with world-wide payments provider, PayPal. To this day, it remains a match made in heaven!
Since launch, we’re proud to have enabled millions of parents to pay for school dinners and other school items in a matter of seconds. Cashless payments remain the method of choice for schools across the country and we’re proud to be the first school payments provider on the market to lead the way by offering PayPal.
At home, online payments are fast becoming the consumer’s preferred payments method. Purchasing everyday items on the web or via apps is quick and easy, and is often far cheaper than withdrawing cash.
Understandably, parents now expect the same level of security and convenience when it comes to paying for school items. Since our integration with PayPal in 2015, thousands of schools have recognised the importance of providing parents with a flexible method of purchasing school items. Through online payments, many schools have seen an improvement in school dinner debt and parent arrears.
Over 20 million consumers use PayPal every year. It comes as no surprise, than, that PayPal remains the method of choice for millions of parents when it comes to purchasing school items through our free mobile app. The numbers speak for themselves; during the first 12 months of PayPal’s integration with +Pay in 2015, nearly 30,000 transactions were made through PayPal. This number has soared in the years since; during the past 12 months alone, more than 1,640,000 PayPal transactions were processed for school items.
We endeavour to bridge the gap between everyday technology and school life with safe, secure and trusted online school payments.
With our free mobile App, handy low-balance reminders and push notifications help parents stay on top of school payments from the comfort of home or whilst on the go. Flexible payment options, including PayPal, mean busy mums and dads can top up in seconds; with over 99.6% scheduled up time in 2018, +Pay is a platform both parents and schools can rely on. Convenience, ease-of-use and social inclusivity remains at the heart of our technology, just as it did at the start of our +Pay journey.
When parents are given the right tools for the job, schools are better placed to manage budgets, reduce waste and make dinner-money debt history. Switching is easy – find out how +Pay could support huge cost savings for your school, get in touch today.
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Until recently, whiteboards were blank canvases written on in dry-wipe marker. Now, they have several thousand times more computing power than the Apollo mission that first put man on the moon. This shift in consumer and education technology has happened …
Until recently, whiteboards were blank canvases written on in dry-wipe marker. Now, they have several thousand times more computing power than the Apollo mission that first put man on the moon.
This shift in consumer and education technology has happened in just over half a century; tech changes at such a rapid pace that if you don’t make a concerted effort, you may struggle to keep pace. Every day, new tools are developed for an ever-evolving education landscape.
While EdTech isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of education, it’s undeniable that technology is driving the UK education scene, and the DfE are adopting a tech-led strategy. School processes and even teaching best practice must adapt with it if they want to keep up.
Simply put, EdTech changes the way your back office works and can help your parental engagement to take off – but only if you know how to get the most out of it.
Technology isn’t magic
If we aren’t preparing school staff how best to use these new tech approaches, we are setting them up to fail. Office staff have a host of responsibilities that can be streamlined with a software-led approach, but only if everybody adopts them with a unified approach.
Technology offers fantastic tools, but these are only as effective as their use allows; they aren’t magic! Users need to be guided in the use of these new technologies to ensure they’re cost-effective; unused software sitting neglected in the back of your intranet is a sunk cost that isn’t providing any value.
Learning to spacewalk
The staff operating these new software packages are undertaking the EdTech equivalent of the first spacewalk. School administrative technologies are a relatively new innovation, and office staff members are efficiency cosmonauts.
Imagine if a teacher couldn’t use an interactive whiteboard pen. How would they teach a class? In the same way, your office staff need to understand modern computing and software applications to get the most out of them.
EdTech training is a necessity to avoid any ‘Houston, we have a problem’ moments.
Training tackles the growing pains of innovation
EdTech paves the way for exciting new innovations – like the interactive whiteboard, which revolutionised the way teachers approach whole-class learning and discussion. However, bringing this technology into the everyday classroom was not without its difficulties.
Training helps staff avoid the worst of the growing pains of these new technologies. Changes are inevitable, but costly mistakes (like writing today’s maths sums in semi-permanent marker on an interactive board) can be avoided with the appropriate training.
EdTech exists beyond teacher training
EdTech training even goes one step further than teacher training. It not only enables teachers to teach better: it also hands schools the tools they need to save schools money. In the current funding crisis, this is needed more now than ever. For example, when used effectively, ParentMail’s home-school messaging feature saves schools thousands of pounds every year.
Modern teaching staff can also shoulder heavy administrative burdens that they could do without. EdTech automation and solutions can offer overworked teachers and back-office staff some sorely needed respite.
EdTech training can drive efficiencies at every level of your school, from the frontlines to the office, and the time and cost savings are more than worth it.
Nowadays, training must be flexible and on-site to fit around busy work schedules. That’s why we design our ParentMail training courses to match the exact needs of each school, helping schools drive parental engagement, save time and money, and avoid growing pains. If you’d like to talk to us about ParentMail training for your school, register your interest here.
Stop by a cash point today and you’re likely to be confronted with a message informing you, ‘this machine charges for cash withdrawals’. The accompanying price tag can range from a minimum of 95p to an eye-watering £5; today’s high …
Stop by a cash point today and you’re likely to be confronted with a message informing you, ‘this machine charges for cash withdrawals’. The accompanying price tag can range from a minimum of 95p to an eye-watering £5; today’s high fee to access your own cash.
Pricey cash withdrawals are on the rise. According to consumer group Which?, nearly 1,700 charge machines were launched between January and March 2019. And, as free cash machines disappear from our high streets, so too, do bank branches; the UK has lost nearly two-thirds of its bank and building society branches over the past 30 years. However, in light of closures and a decline in free cash, consumers and businesses aren’t grinding to a halt. Instead, we’re welcoming a new cashless era with open arms, smartphones in hand.
The online bank
Today, 22 million people across the UK are using mobile banking apps to manage their accounts, and, by 2023, this number is expected to rise to 35 million – a huge 60% of all current account holders.
With the likes of contemporary online-only banks as Monzo entering the market, banks are placing greater emphasis on user-friendly, reliable apps and a convenient mobile banking experience. In fact, even online banking trends are changing to reflect our preference to smartphone tech; this year, mobile banking is expected to surpass internet banking as the most popular digital channel.
The bank of mum and dad
Most tech-savvy millennial parents keep a close eye on the digital purse-strings. Stopping by cash points and finding loose change for dinner money isn’t on the to-do list for the busy school drop-off.
Mobile apps provide a new level of convenience for busy mums and dads, enabling them to easily check finances while out and about. When it comes to security, too, mobile banking offers privacy settings and fingerprint logins. The dangers of ATM fraud are well known, and even inputting our pin in public can prove risky.
Today, we don’t think twice before paying for every day and extravagant items via mobile apps – holidays, travel fares, clothing and the weekly shop. As a result, parents are fast coming to expect the same level of ease and reliability for school payments and dinner money.
The solution for secondary schools
Convenience, reliability, security – these same cash-related issues spread as far as the school office. Every year, secondary schools process thousands of pounds for dinners, uniforms, clubs, trips and more, and the associated problems can be a real headache for staff; busy teams spend hours chasing, processing and banking money. Cash kept on-site results in security risks, and cash-related costs are high, particularly for schools relying on paper communications to contact parents. Lunch money debt is a regular hot topic in the media, with schools shouldering the burden of over-due dinner payments.
Fortunately, online payments are bridging the gap between home and school when it comes to finances. +Pay utilises a user-friendly platform and free mobile app to meet the needs of both schools and parents with innovative, convenient, cashless technology.
With Advance Booking functionality on its way, parents will soon be able to make selections and pay for items in advance, enabling schools to efficiently manage suppliers, reducing waste and debt. Multiple registers functionality collects payments for dinner, afterschool and breakfast clubs, with payments landing straight in the school bank account. Low-balance reminders and push notifications alert parents to payments that are due, allowing them to pay in seconds using a variety of flexible methods, including PayPal, debit/credit card and PayPoint.
+Pay delivers informative payment reports and integrates seamlessly with your school’s MIS. Our dedicated +Pay Support Team is on hand to offer help, if and when you need it. Whether you’re introducing online payments for the first time or switching provider, launching +Pay is easy; the online, automated process means no printed letters and codes.
We’ve designed the +Pay platform with secondary schools in mind; no stress, no complicated implementation process and no unhappy parents. The era of cash payments is quickly coming to a close, and for schools, the benefits are huge. Get in touch to find out more about +Pay and or book a free demo here.
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In today’s tech-savvy world, many of us rarely go a day without relying on handy Apps to chat with friends and family, post on social media, check our bank balance or transfer money, book a taxi and carry out all …
In today’s tech-savvy world, many of us rarely go a day without relying on handy Apps to chat with friends and family, post on social media, check our bank balance or transfer money, book a taxi and carry out all sorts of other routine tasks. It’s easy to forget the teams behind these Apps, working hard to develop new and innovative ways to enhance the user experience.
The ParentMail App is used by millions of busy parents to manage school life every day and we often hear from people that it makes receiving school communications so much easier! We want to shine a light on the brains behind our brilliant free parent App and learn a little more about the thought and work that goes into developing one of the education sector’s most popular parental engagement solutions.
Introducing ParentMail’s Front-End Developer, Richard Shergold!
How long have you worked at ParentMail and what does a front-end developer do?
I have worked at ParentMail as a Front-End Developer for nearly two years.
We have recently built a new version of the application to give us greater flexibility in delivering updates and improvements across all these platforms. This new version has been developed using the Ionic and Angular web frameworks.
What does a normal day look like for you?
I work remotely from home in West Sussex so I’m lucky that my day never begins with a commute – other than a very short walk to my office at the back of my garden! I usually try to start work at half past seven in the morning, which is also the time that most of my colleagues in the Development team arrive into the office; we are all early birds!
What I do on an average day depends on the current project we’re working on and what phase of that project we’re in. Most of the time, I am writing and testing code, but I also regularly have meetings with the Development team and other business colleagues at the ParentMail Head Office to discuss new requirements for the application.
If the initial phase of the project has finished and requirements have been signed off then I will be busy making the required changes to the App, sometimes working with other members of the Development team. After the testing process, the changes are released to our testing team. The ParentMail application needs to work across multiple platforms – all the major desktop and mobile browsers, as well as the range of iOS and Android devices – so both the development and testing processes can be quite challenging!
How does the development roadmap for the App take form?
We listen very carefully to feedback from parents and schools and also keep an eye on the market to see what innovations and developments are taking place. All feedback, whether positive or negative, is very useful to us. To ensure quality, we prioritise certain areas of development at a time. For example, currently, we are working on delivering Advanced Bookings functionality into the App which will allow parents to book and pay for their children’s dinners and club attendances in advance. This development will include a number of system enhancements to support schools and parents, and the release is fast approaching, so keep an eye out for it!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Everything changes so fast in Information Technology, particularly the skills and technologies required for App development. As developers, we have to keep learning, otherwise, the industry speeds ahead and it’s so easy to fall behind. I love this aspect of the job, the fact that I am probably learning more now than I have ever learned in my life! Every day is a school day (which is quite appropriate for a ParentMail employee)!
This results in the other part of the job I love, the challenge of developing and enhancing the ParentMail App to be even more useful for parents and schools.
Can you tell us an example of a challenge you’ll (regularly) encounter as ParentMail’s Front-End Developer?
The biggest challenge for me is making sure that the code I write is going to work across all of the platforms that we support. As I say, that’s several desktop browsers and a large number of mobile devices. It’s very frustrating when something will work for 99% of users but could prove problematic for the remaining 1%!
What does the future look like for the App?
The challenge over the last year has been to get the new version of the application built so that we are in a position to better deliver regular updates. We have achieved this now and I am looking forward to our team being able to deliver some fantastic enhancements and updates to the application for all our parents to enjoy!
ParentMail is bridging the home/school gap with industry-leading technology! If you’re a school looking to improve parental engagement, we’re sure to have the solution for you – get in touch to find out more.
A new study published in the European Economic Review (volume 111) has revealed the real impact of parent-teacher meetings. Asad Islam reported on a randomised experiment in rural Bangladeshi schools, communities which usually see little engagement between parents and educators. …
A new study published in the European Economic Review (volume 111) has revealed the real impact of parent-teacher meetings.
Asad Islam reported on a randomised experiment in rural Bangladeshi schools, communities which usually see little engagement between parents and educators. With the introduction of regular parent-teacher meetings, student attainment dramatically increased, suggesting the very real benefits of parental engagement. During the two-year intervention, children in years 4 and 5 learned roughly double across all subjects, including English, Maths and Science.
The experiment also changed teaching methods, with teachers utilising visual aids and real-world examples to teach concepts, rather than sticking to textbook learning. At home, parents and siblings became more involved in the homework process and students were more likely to receive private tutoring in areas requiring a little more attention. Students were motivated to spend increased time studying – confidence around exams grew and so, too, did their ambitions.
Breaking home/school barriers
While parent-teacher meetings are a long-term tradition in the UK, rising student populations and teacher-workload can make planning and preparing for evenings difficult. For this reason (and many others) monthly or very regular meetings are impractical for UK schools and parents. Both teachers and office staff are balancing their own heavy workloads, making it difficult to squeeze in time to plan appropriately, and today’s busy parents find it hard to fit appointments into their already booked-up calendars. In fact, even encouraging some mums and dads to commit to occasional appointments and respond to invitations can prove difficult! As in Islam’s investigation, a lack of confidence in approaching schools is often prevalent in ‘unengaged’ parents. Unfortunately, often this can be misinterpreted by schools as disinterest on the parents’ part. However, as proven in the study, once a parent is involved in their child’s education, their confidence around the school environment grows – so, too, does home/school engagement and students benefit as a result.
On the rare occasions in which parents and teachers do get the chance to discuss student progress, it’s important that both parties get the most out of the meeting and parents feel encouraged to come back next term. Parent-teacher conferences are a great opportunity to break down barriers and improve relationships with the parent community. For this reason, it is very important to make the experience a positive one. This means preparing staff and parents with all the information they need to ensure the evening is beneficial. For some parents, even finding their way to the right classroom can be a daunting experience. The devil is in the detail and utilising all the tools at your disposal can support your team in preparing a successful evening from start to finish.
Building parent/teacher partnerships
Parents’ Evening Manager makes booking appointments easy for parents, resulting in a great response for schools. Cutting out pupil post with the free ParentMail app and push notifications enables busy parents to respond to invitations on-the-go and at a time convenient for them. The flexible platform gives schools the option to allow parents to include notes when booking, enabling teachers to plan in advance. Schools can also provide parents with extra detail and information, such as instructions on where to go upon arrival and guidance on what to expect on the night. As such, parents feel prepared and confident to meet with teachers and appointments run smoothly.
In the office, staff are organised and able to report on timetables with ease. The platform syncs with SIMS and other MIS, enabling easy class and subject selection; appointments can be easily amended and deleted, and reminders can be re-sent to parents yet to respond.
Parents’ Evening Manager is supporting thousands of primary and secondary schools to plan smooth and seamless parents’ meetings. Get in touch to find out more and to book a free demo!
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Parents are invested in their children’s education, and they’re going to ask teachers questions. That’s something that can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. However, when teachers are flooded by emails and messages from enthusiastic parents, this can lead to unhealthy out-of-work …
Parents are invested in their children’s education, and they’re going to ask teachers questions. That’s something that can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. However, when teachers are flooded by emails and messages from enthusiastic parents, this can lead to unhealthy out-of-work practices and a poor work-life balance.
Prior to outlining his new EdTech strategy at the Schools and Academies show, Education Secretary Damian Hinds argued for the need to ditch email culture to cut school workload. Educators need a solution to the issue of email overload, and the DfE is aware of this, but the problem isn’t always easy to diagnose. Technology isn’t the cause of the problem — the problem is that teachers’ email inbox is a white bear.
Your Email Inbox is a White Bear
Modern technology is capable of fantastic things, but it also forces you to be connected at all times. Switching off your phone or email inbox is a big no-no — besides, the second your phone buzzes or your computer pings, you just have to check it. In fact, just by trying to tune out an overenthusiastic parent, teachers cause themselves to think about them more often.
So why can’t teachers switch off and escape from school once they leave the classroom?
Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.
This is known as the white bear problem, or “ironic rebound”. The more you try to suppress a thought, the harder your subconscious works to make you think of it. If you try not to think of a white bear, for instance, it’s impossible not to.
This can give your email inbox an irresistible lure, and it’s a major cause of stress and anxiety. You don’t know if that message that just pinged into your inbox is important, and it’s gnawing away at your mind, much like the white bear that you shouldn’t have been thinking of. The more you try to resist thinking about it, the more present and threatening it becomes.
Solutions to Always-On Availability
Teachers already have enough stressors in their life, but email anxiety doesn’t have to be one of them. Rather than bringing their work home with them overnight, teachers should leave it at the school gate (marking excluded).
So how do we scare away the white bears?
The Usual “Solution”
Rather than replying to incoming emails as soon as they arrive, teachers can instead drop them into one of several different inbox folders. If emails are marked as urgent, they can be replied to as soon as possible — but not necessarily straight away.
This is a great way to stay on top of the flood of emails, but it doesn’t solve the white bear problem — it just delays it.
Your social media accounts are a great point of contact for parents. Not only can you answer their questions directly, but you may find that the school community and other parents will help each other. This makes it optional for staff to join in the conversation, and their inboxes remain clean — not a white bear in sight.
A healthy school community has trickle-down benefits through every level of the school. It’s proven that strong home-school links and parental engagement have a direct positive influence on student attainment.
However, despite its benefits, you can’t rely on social media messaging to contact parents. What happens if they don’t see an important post in time?
If you provide parents with all the information they need when they need it using anti-white-bear technology, parents won’t have as many queries for your teachers.
ParentMail is a white bear killer. It’s a one-way home-school communication app designed to prevent teachers from being bombarded with messages from parents. It makes it easy to provide parents with all the information they need, so there shouldn’t be a need to contact teachers for information.
Rather than sending home letters en masse, staff can send personalised messages to individual parents, so the information is fully relevant to them and instantly delivered where they need it most — their mobile phones and devices. Your school can even save money by sending push notifications instead of text messages, and you can cut down on the stacks of letters that would ordinarily need to be printed.
When teachers need instant responses from parents, they can gather information using ParentMail forms — again, without sacrificing anybody’s inbox. Capture exactly the information you need without having to read through endless emails, saving everybody time.
The forms module works within ParentMail, so all the important information you need is kept in a single easily accessible location.
You can even avoid the inevitable avalanche of parents’ evening questions with ParentMail’s Parents’ Evening Manager. Parents’ evening appointments are short-lived, and it’s important that both parent and teacher discuss everything that needs to be said in this time. By leaving questions for teachers ahead of time directly on the app, parents will get all the information they need from the meeting and will be much less likely to contact the school further down the line.
Schools have found great timesaving and organisational benefits to Parents’ Evening Manager, as it removes the student from the process — parents are contacted directly to book a slot.
If you’re interested in saving your teaching staff from email overload and improving your home-school communication, you can visit our website to find out more about ParentMail’s anti-white-bear technology:
We recently conducted a survey to investigate current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. Over 450 school leaders from primary, secondary schools and academies across the country took part to share their thoughts and feedback …
We recently conducted a survey to investigate current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. Over 450 school leaders from primary, secondary schools and academies across the country took part to share their thoughts and feedback on EdTech solutions (not just ParentMail!), making the results particularly interesting.
With schools of all shapes and sizes facing their own challenges, from increasing student populations to tightening budgets and rising workloads, it is clear that parental engagement is more important today than ever before. We’re excited to see how schools are utilising EdTech to help tackle daily tasks and support staff, students and parents. Read part one and part two of the results and download our handy infographic to find out how your school compares.
To find out more about our innovative EdTech solutions, from parent communications to cashless payments, get in touch.
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If your school is seeking a faster, more reliable method of collecting payments, a commitment to cashless is the solution for you. Still unsure? Here are the top five reasons why thousands of UK schools are choosing online platforms for …
If your school is seeking a faster, more reliable method of collecting payments, a commitment to cashless is the solution for you. Still unsure? Here are the top five reasons why thousands of UK schools are choosing online platforms for efficient, parent-friendly school payments.
- School budget
With dinner money debt and parent arrears raising concerns in schools across the country, a cashless catering and payment system is increasingly becoming a ‘need to have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’ to protect school budgets.
Whether it’s dinner money top ups, payments for school trips, uniform, after-school clubs or more, online payments keep things super convenient for parents – and when payments are simple for parents, schools feel the benefit! +Pay provides automatic low-balance and payment-due reminders, helping to keep parent arrears in check. The platform also offers multiple registers for after-school and breakfast clubs, and weekly settlement reports make managing budgets and reconciliation easy.
With some of the lowest transaction and subscription costs on the market, +Pay helps schools of all sizes achieve substantial savings.
- Supporting the millennial parent
From managing finances with personal banking to ordering the weekly shop from the comfort of home, the modern-day parent is making the most of modern technology to save time on daily admin tasks and chores – and who can blame them? Between balancing childcare, work and errands, parents are eager to take advantage of handy shortcuts to keep life simple. As a result of busy routines, relying on parents for cash payments is impractical. A recent survey by Merchant Machine evidences the dramatic rise of card payments over cash; to guarantee an improved response to payments, it’s up to your school to give parents the right tools for the job!
With +Pay, parents can manage payments with the free ParentMail App while out and about and on the go. For extra convenience, +Pay saves payment details, enabling easy payments in seconds. Again, push notifications serve as handy reminders to pay during their busy day.It’s clear why cashless payments are a favourite with parents; in fact, market research suggests that the vast majority of parents prefer to pay for school items via a secure online platform, with a huge 89% stating they prefer cashless systems!
- Social inclusivity
Unfortunately, the stigma associated with free school meals and other costly school items can prove difficult for some students. However, taking the cash out of payments can support a reduction in bullying and extortion on school grounds.
+Pay provides parents with a variety of payment options, including credit and debit cards, Amex, cash via PayPoint and PayPal; in fact, +Pay are the only online payments provider to offer PayPal as an option – a proven favourite with parents! Advancements in technology mean that children can now pay for their school dinners with ID Cards, fobs and even their fingerprint, so the need to bring cash in to school is completely abolished, and parents can be confident money is being spent on the right items.
With +Pay, parents can manage payments for all their children, across different schools, through their ParentMail account. Plus, the ability to access their account on the App, a tablet or web browser helps ParentMail fit into the lives of parents
With rising student populations and increasing pressure to evidence efficiency, administrative tasks can take up vital time for office teams. Collecting, managing and banking cash payments can take hours, not to mention the tricky and time-consuming tasks of tracking parent arrears and chasing overdue money.
Technology is supporting schools like never before, automating administrative tasks, improving security and reducing room for human error. +Pay was designed with the needs of schools in mind; the system syncs seamlessly with SIMS and other MIS, allowing you the flexibility to manage registers with ease.
- Secure and reliable
This last one is simple; reducing cash on school grounds is the safest way to operate and an online system stores student and parent data far more securely than paper records. It also cannot be denied that students often aren’t the most reliable carriers of cash!
2018 saw over 99% uptime for +Pay, providing parents with a reliable service, whenever they needed it. And, should you ever need us, our dedicated and friendly +Pay Support Team are on hand to provide any help you might need!
Hundreds of schools made the change to +Pay last year and haven’t looked back, with many switching from the market leader in search of reliable and professional service. It’s time to join the cashless revolution! Get in touch to find out more
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Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, took to the stage at the London Schools and Academies Show earlier this month to reveal details of a new strategy for education technology. The Department’s continued focus on the vital role of technology in schools …
Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, took to the stage at the London Schools and Academies Show earlier this month to reveal details of a new strategy for education technology.
The Department’s continued focus on the vital role of technology in schools demonstrates their recognition of the pressures increasing across the sector. Speaking of the variety of educational institutions across our country, Damian Hinds acknowledged such versatility as one of the education system’s ‘greatest strengths’. From local authority-maintained schools to faith schools and grammars, “all make an invaluable contribution to their communities and to young people.”
However, today, UK schools of all shapes and sizes face a range of unique challenges. While the Secretary spoke of the power of the MAT model (directly referencing the recent successes of a few, evidenced by improvements in Ofsted results) all schools continue to struggle under the weight of increasing student populations, budget cuts and poor staff retention. As such, the Education Secretary’s speech quickly progressed from praising school leaders for their successes, to discussing how the government intend to support these same leaders in tackling challenges on the front-line.
As other sectors continue to embrace the benefits of technology, schools often struggle in making the most of EdTech to truly support their staff and student populations. In fact, as stated by the Secretary, some school leaders refer to instances in which technology served only to cause more complications than the product promised to confront. Rather than be deterred, Mr Hinds spoke of the importance of not being ‘left behind’, stating, “(..) we owe it to all our young people to grasp the technology nettle.”
While technology plays a truly impressive role in the classroom, transforming learning experiences and inspiring young minds, EdTech is seeping beyond the classroom walls with tailor-made solutions for the office team. There are a number of areas of improvement for which technology can play a vital role in school administration. In his speech, the Secretary discussed behaviour management, referring to the number of valuable hours invested in tricky, manual processes, from information collection, data input to parent communications.
Fortunately, technology is streamlining processes and supporting staff like never before. For example, while workload remains a primary reason for the revolving door of teachers abandoning the profession at an unprecedented rate, online tools seek to lift the burden of parent communications from teacher’s shoulders. At ParentMail, our technology is designed and developed with the unique needs of schools in mind. And, as schools consider the challenges awaiting them in the future, we look for ways to support you in meeting these head-on.
Administration, parental engagement, workforce flexibility – just a few of the areas acknowledged by Damian Hinds in which our technology is serving to support thousands of schools across the country. Digital communications platforms such as our Online Forms, Messaging and Parents’ Evening Manager modules are bridging the home/school gap and supporting school staff with huge time and cost savings.
It is hard to believe that, only a few years ago, we still relied on pupil post to keep parents up to date with the latest school news. Our online platform and free parent App not only encourage parents to actively engage with their child’s education but serves to improve efficiency in the school office, reduce paper, print and postage costs, as well as improving data security. With thousands of schools realising the benefits of paperless and cashless processes, our online payments platform, +Pay, is paving the way for simple, parent-friendly payments for dinner money, school trips, club fees and more.
We realise the importance of unified, consolidated systems, enabling office staff to manage everything from day-to-day communications to school trips to payments from just one platform, reducing supplier costs and improving security. Social inclusivity remains at the heart of our technology, enabling schools to engage with hard to reach, busy parents at a time, and in a way, that suits them. When systems are simplified in school, so, too, are processes easier for parents. Our mobile App enables mums and dads to manage communications for multiple children, across different schools, from just one account, improving responses when it matters most.
Rather than ‘grasping the technology nettle’, we support schools to embrace pain-free and powerful EdTech to support staff, students and parents. To find out how ParentMail can help your school to streamline processes and protect the school budget whilst improving parental engagement, get in touch today.
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We recently posted part one of our findings from our survey, which investigated current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. Below we continue to share our findings with you so that you can see how …
We recently posted part one of our findings from our survey, which investigated current trends, attitudes and behaviours in school communications technology and parental engagement. Below we continue to share our findings with you so that you can see how your school compares!
We asked respondents to tell us about all the software they use, from all suppliers, so the results aren’t only about ParentMail, providing valuable insight into all parental engagement platforms and ed-tech in general.
Implementing new systems
What is key to the success of the implementation of a new software system? According to your responses, there are a number of equally important factors when it comes to a successful launch! The four most important things were: strong and positive parent adoptions; good preparation; a detailed launch plan and clear and easy to follow training, as chosen by 78% of respondents. Service provider support and staff engagement followed closely behind these.
What do you look for in a new parental engagement system?
This is a very important question for the ParentMail team; we want to know what is important to your school when it comes to introducing a new system. Coming top were good customer service, at 84%, and low price, at 78%. Understandably, company reputation was also important to our respondents, with 45% stating reputation is important and 44% agreeing that other schools using the service is key.
What does this mean?
Following the October 2018 budget announcement, there has been much criticism from school leaders regarding the government’s promise to provide an additional £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 per secondary school, to “buy the little extras they need.”
Primary schools, secondary schools and academies across the country are struggling with understaffing, rising student populations and increased workload, and we recognise that the pressure on schools cannot be underestimated.
Responses to our survey speak overwhelmingly of the role of technology in supporting schools in a number of areas. Not only does technology in the school office serve to encourage parental engagement for the benefit of staff and students, but it is also key in enabling schools to go cashless and paperless, improving security, protecting school reputation and supporting staff in the school office.
ParentMail solutions are supporting thousands of primary, secondary schools, academies and Multi-Academy Trusts to engage with parents, reliably and professionally, every day. From collecting payments and permissions to circulating the school newsletter and managing parents’ evening, our modular system meets individual challenges head-on, all from a single user-friendly platform. Whilst strong parental engagement remains a top priority in the development of our solutions, school staff also benefit from streamlined, simplified processes, as well as huge time and cost savings. Our technology is designed with both schools and parents in mind – we make things easy for parents so that schools receive a great response.
If you are already using ParentMail and would like to find out more about the other services which could benefit your school, or if you’re looking to implement a brand-new parental engagement system, get in touch with the ParentMail team and start to improve efficiency, reduce costs and work smarter within your school. Call 01733 595959 to speak to our specialist team or email email@example.com
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In this day and age, a reliable, compatible mobile App is fast becoming a ‘need to have’ rather than just a ‘nice to have’ for primary and secondary schools! With technology reducing our reliance on paper and pupil post, thousands of …
In this day and age, a reliable, compatible mobile App is fast becoming a ‘need to have’ rather than just a ‘nice to have’ for primary and secondary schools!
With technology reducing our reliance on paper and pupil post, thousands of schools are making the most of free mobile Apps to stay in touch with busy parents. Whether it’s invitations to events and parents’ meetings, handy reminders for upcoming payments or circulating the school newsletter, sharing information on student education has never been easier and parents have never been more engaged!
In our latest video, Sue Atkins discusses how simple but innovative technology is paving the way for stress-free paperless communications for schools and parents.
Are you ready to take the leap to next-level online communications? Contact us today to find out more about ParentMail and our free mobile App for parents!
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So, you’re planning the next school trip. Teachers have confirmed the destination and now it’s up to your capable and highly organised office team to manage all the details, from staff to students to parents. When done right, school trips …
So, you’re planning the next school trip. Teachers have confirmed the destination and now it’s up to your capable and highly organised office team to manage all the details, from staff to students to parents. When done right, school trips run (fairly!) smoothly, especially once all of the tricky planning is out of the way. However, that part is easier said than done – fortunately, we have the tools to take the stress out of school trips!
Tripping over paper?
Usually, the first priority is to confirm the number of students attending. Once you know this, you can move onto planning other aspects of the trip, such as costs, food and transport. Finalising this number can be tricky, especially when relying on pupil post to communicate with parents.
Enter school trip solution number one! Our Online Forms platform is a speedy and convenient way of gathering parent consent and permissions. This should be your first port of call for an initial communication with parents. Setting up forms is super quick and easy, allowing you to share all the details of the trip (date, time, location etc.) whilst providing parents with a convenient way of responding within deadline. Once the form is set up, click ‘send’ and watch your parent permissions roll in!
The versatile system enables you to request more than just trip consents; in advance of longer trips or holidays abroad, many schools utilise digital forms to confirm parent contact details, dietary and medical information. Push notifications encourage parents to respond quickly and, for those who don’t, you can send a helpful nudge to prompt them when needed. With no more paper floating around between home, the classroom and school office, student data is safe, secure and easily analysed at a moment’s notice. A real benefit here is that parents receive the form through our free mobile App, which means it’s delivered straight to their hand, allowing them to read and respond in minutes.
“We usually see 50% of parents responding to a form within the first hour and this goes up to 100% within 24 hours – probably because it’s delivered to them instantly and they can complete it in just a few taps!” Brookside Primary School
Fielding parent payments
Now you know who’s coming, it’s time to request and collect payments. It’s no secret – cash payments are clunky, inconvenient and time-consuming. Encouraging parents to get money into school on time can be difficult, and once cash is on school grounds, it doesn’t necessarily reach the office. But, there’s a solution to keep things simple for parents, students and your office team; enter field trip solution number two; you’re already paperless, so keep it cashless, too, with online payments!
+Pay is the fastest-growing online payments system in the UK. Thousands of primary and secondary schools are collecting online payments for school dinners, after school clubs, uniform and other school items every day, making it the perfect solution for managing money for your next school trip. +Pay is designed with parents in mind, making it easy for them to pay on the go with PayPal, credit and debit card, Amex and PayPoint. They can pay in instalments, spread out over time (ideal for more expensive trips abroad), and receive reminders when payments are due. The flexible system integrates seamlessly with year, form and teaching groups for easy pupil selection, making admin and trip management stress-free and easy. What’s more, with all finances collected in one system, maintaining your school budget is straightforward and accurate!
“Parents receive an alert when the money is due and payments come through quickly as a result, meaning we don’t have to chase students for overdue payments.” Casterton College
Information shared with parents – check!
Payments, permissions and data collected – check!
Staff feeling cool, calm and collected – check!
With ParentMail, planning school trips doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, complicated task. Feel the freedom of paperless, cashless solutions for your next venture out of the classroom! Get in touch to find out more and book a demo.
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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.
When parents and schools have a strong relationship, teachers experience the positive effects in the classroom and are empowered to support their students.
Schools across the country are feeling the strain of the teacher retention crisis. In London, more than four out of ten teachers are quitting the profession within five years of qualifying. This is a major concern for secondary schools, with pupil numbers set to increase by a huge 540,000 (19%) by 2025, as the swell of primary school students since 2010 make their way up to secondary education. Secondary schools now have a shortfall of 30,000 classroom teachers, and 20% of teacher training vacancies remain unfilled.
Educators are entering and leaving the teaching profession at a fast rate, enforcing a ‘just passing through’ culture. According to the DfE, there are three spikes in every academic year in which teachers leave schools; during the spring term in March, the end of the school year in August and, just passed us, the close of the Autumn term in December. With the pressure of budget cuts, rating tables and demands for efficiency, teacher retention is an additional unwelcome issue for schools already feeling the strain.
Many teachers make no secret of their reasons for leaving the profession behind, voicing major issues concerning work/life balance. However, it is also clear that a positive and supportive working culture can play an important role in a school’s retention. In fact, many teachers refer to a lack of support from school leaders as a primary reason for their seeking teaching roles else-where. Most teachers, when asked why they entered the profession in the first place, are likely to refer to educating and supporting young people – this doesn’t mean they don’t need the support of their peers, too!
There is a clear link between school reputation and staff retention; when a school is supported by their community and parents, staff feel encouraged and supported in their roles as a result. We know that parental engagement goes a long way in a students’ education, and parents can support teachers every day by staying up to date with the latest school news, attending parents’ evening, events or responding to forms. When parents and schools have a strong relationship, teachers experience the positive effects in the classroom and are empowered to support their students.
Experience tells us that most parents want to be involved in their child’s education; it’s up to the school to provide the tools they need to do so!
A strong parent communication system goes a long way in building that important link between school and home. If you are already using ParentMail and would like to find out more about the other services which could benefit your school, or if you’re looking to implement a brand-new parental engagement system, get in touch with the ParentMail team and start to improve efficiency, reduce costs and work smarter within your school. Call 01733 595959 to speak to our specialist team or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A hot topic amongst parents and teachers is homework. It can often be a divisive issue, especially if there is a lot coming home but little communication about it sent to parents. Across social media, many parents often complain about the …
A hot topic amongst parents and teachers is homework. It can often be a divisive issue, especially if there is a lot coming home but little communication about it sent to parents. Across social media, many parents often complain about the amount of homework coming home, with many suggesting they think it’s unnecessary.
Successful schools recognise that it’s important to keep a dialogue open so that everyone understands that homework is part of the larger picture – of an independent lifelong learner. For this reason, communicating with parents is vital to ensure they are on side and checking work is completed.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind around communicating with parents about homework:
- Set expectations early. As much as possible, keep parents in the loop about how much homework their children can generally expect, per week. Obviously, this is going to vary from child to child – not to mention throughout the year – but even rough guidelines can be helpful to reduce misunderstandings and supports busy parents to plan their weekly schedules.
- Explain why homework is necessary. It is helpful for parents to understand how much homework is expected of their children and why. As educators, schools understand that sometimes the learning process has to extend beyond the school day. This isn’t always as clear to students or parents, so it is worth taking the time to point this aspect out to caregivers.
- Help parents help with homework. Some parents look back on their school days with dread and unhappy experiences. Many experience daily battles with their children to ‘get homework done.’ So, it is helpful to explain that children need a quiet, dedicated space at home to get on with their work, with good lighting, and minimal distractions (from younger brothers and sisters, mobiles phones etc), and that leaving everything until the last minute is often a recipe for disaster. It’s important that parents try their hardest to provide the right environment for homework to get done.
- Tell parents (politely) to not get overinvolved. We’ve all seen parents get too involved in homework, sometimes to the extent of doing entire projects all by themselves! This is often a rather keen parent whose good intentions have gone overboard. It’s helpful to clearly explain to parents the difference between facilitating their child’s homework which is a good thing, and doing it for them!
- Use technology to help parents keep track of homework. Sending details of homework to parents digitally means they can keep track of what’s being worked on and allows them to refer back to it, should they need to.
Using school communication software is perfect for keeping parents up to date with homework as it makes it simple, quick and easy to keep them in the loop and reaches parents instantly. What’s more, with a mobile app, it means parents can store all their important school information in one place, helping them keep on top of everything!
Whether it’s a message in the weekly newsletter or a specific message dedicated to homework, many schools are using ParentMail to keep in regular contact with parents about the work coming home and the importance of it. If you’d like to discuss how your school or academy could use ParentMail to keep in touch with parents, contact us today by emailing email@example.com or give us a call on 01733 595959.
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Snowed under with the daily tasks of keeping a busy school running, you know better than we do how hard it can be squeezing in plans for Parents’ Evening. But where some teams are chasing down appointment slips, printing out …
Snowed under with the daily tasks of keeping a busy school running, you know better than we do how hard it can be squeezing in plans for Parents’ Evening. But where some teams are chasing down appointment slips, printing out letters and updating schedules, others simply click a button and watch the appointments fly in – this could be you!
If the mention of your next Parents’ Evening fills you with dread, set aside the spreadsheets and print outs and dare to dream of completely paperless parents’ meetings…
Your office isn’t buried under piles of appointment slips and printed letters. The team behind these vital plans aren’t rushed off their feet making last minute plans or squeezing in extra appointments. Instead, thanks to Parents’ Evening Manager, invitations were circulated to parents via the free ParentMail App weeks ago. You’ve avoided the frustrations of double-booked appointments, cancellations and confusion by pre-setting appointment durations using the flexible scheduling system. Parents are free to book meetings that fit their busy schedules, quickly and efficiently. With just a few clicks, your team can view an up-to-date report of meetings for every teacher – and appointments are coming in fast!
Planning the evening was easy and stress-free and, thanks to your attention to detail, the night itself is sure to run smoothly, too. Parents arrive on the night prepared with the information they need to find teachers and classrooms, and they could even include notes when booking appointments. As a result, teachers are equipped with the detail they need to discuss important subjects and answer questions for every student.
Following one of the most successful Parents’ Evenings your school has enjoyed in a long time, feedback from both staff and parents is positive. In the past, despite your best efforts and communications, parents often failed to book appointments and teachers missed the opportunity to discuss student’s progress. This time, attendance was at an all-time high!
Parents’ Evening is by far one of the most important, busiest events in the school calendar, and some may say you made it look easy; the truth is, thanks to your fantastic organisation skills and the decision to make the most of Parents’ Evening Manager, it was!
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Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, has challenged school leaders to take advantage of modern technology in and outside of the classroom to reduce teacher’s responsibilities. Acknowledging workload as a common reason for teachers leaving the profession, Mr Hinds stated that innovative …
Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, has challenged school leaders to take advantage of modern technology in and outside of the classroom to reduce teacher’s responsibilities.
Acknowledging workload as a common reason for teachers leaving the profession, Mr Hinds stated that innovative technology in the classroom has resulted in both challenges and opportunities: “Education is one of the few sectors where technology has been associated with an increase in workload rather than the reverse.”
On the one hand, technology is making it easier for parents and schools to stay in touch, which is great news! However, common tech-platforms such as email, text and direct messaging Apps are resulting in more pressure on teachers who find themselves spending hours replying to parent responses, questions and queries; time that could be better spent on what they do best – teaching!
At ParentMail, we believe that rather than interfering with routine, parent communications should support schools. With nearly 20 years’ experience, our technology is developed to save schools time and money, whilst improving parental engagement for the benefit of students, staff and parents.
Our system is designed specifically for the school office, providing tailor-made solutions to deliver communications for every occasion. From straight-forward messaging to digital forms, office staff are completely in control of parent communications, managing responses from one platform and alleviating pressure and supporting teachers in the classroom.
The free ParentMail App supports parents to stay up-to-date with all the latest school news, without labouring your school with hundreds of responses and questions in return. For trip consents, dinner selections or any communications requiring a reply, our flexible Online Forms solution allows staff to build forms to enable easy management of responses.
Streamlining communications in the school office means staff can work efficiently, cutting out paper (and paper related costs!) while saving hours of time on admin tasks. Organised parent communications support teachers, too, particularly when it comes to Parents’ Evening. Rather than giving the responsibility of appointment booking to students, who are liable to either lose or purposely avoid certain meetings, Parents’ Evening Manager puts the power into parent’s hands, allowing them to book convenient appointments to fit their busy schedule, saving hours of time and confusion in the school office. The flexible platform also allows parents to include notes, enabling teachers to plan for each meeting accordingly.
Don’t let technology be a hindrance for your school. Make the most of tailor-made software specifically designed for the education sector and take control of your parent communications. Whatever your needs, ParentMail offers a solution for you, whether that’s simple messaging, cashless payments, data and consent collection or event planning. Get in touch to arrange a free demonstration today.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01733 595959.
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When it comes to planning Parents’ Evening, staff at St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary School were used to all the usual stresses and strains; piles of paper cluttering the school office, lost or missing appointment slips, chasing up parent …
When it comes to planning Parents’ Evening, staff at St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary School were used to all the usual stresses and strains; piles of paper cluttering the school office, lost or missing appointment slips, chasing up parent responses – the list goes on!
With 250 students, the school office would typically send home two letters per student in the run-up to parents’ evening – that’s 500 sheets of paper for one event! In their mission to go paperless this year, the school turned to Parents’ Evening Manager to take the paper out of parents’ evening.
“Like all schools, we’d try and give parents plenty of time to book appointments,” says Admin Support, Bethany Schofield. “We’d send out a form asking parents to pick an hour that that would suit them for their appointments, before trying to put together a schedule that suited everyone. There was a lot of back and forth between parents, staff and teachers. We’re a busy school and our parents are busy people; we wanted a system that would save us all time, whilst reducing our reliance on paper.”
A teacher at the school recently used Parents’ Evening Manager to book an appointment for their own child and realised the huge potential for St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School.
“When I looked into the system, I realised it offered all the flexibility we needed and would make the process easier for everyone involved – so we decided to give it a go! Setting up the evening was really easy. We prefer to keep the slots short and were able to pre-set the appointment lengths and block out times for particular teachers if needed. We particularly like how quick and easy it is to print out lists of appointments so that we can see at a glance how the evening is looking.”
“Parents love being able to book slots to fit around their busy schedules. We haven’t had any negative feedback and bookings came in really quickly! Recently, I was talking to a parent on the phone and she asked me to stay on the line while she booked her appointment, expecting it to be a tricky process – but she booked a slot in seconds, without any help from me!”
“In the office, we’re trying to go digital as much as possible; we know that online processes make things easier, faster and cheaper. We’re no longer sending home paper letters and use a cashless dinner payments system. The response from parents has been very positive. I would definitely recommend Parents’ Evening Manager to other schools. It’s a simple, smooth, time-saving process for staff and parents. We’re looking forward to using it for our next Parents’ Evening already!”
Get in touch today to find out more about Parents’ Evening Manager or to book a free online demo.
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We’re excited to announce the launch of our new School Help Site, now live and ready to answer any questions you may have about using ParentMail! The new site includes lots of improvements which make finding guidance and instructions easier …
We’re excited to announce the launch of our new School Help Site, now live and ready to answer any questions you may have about using ParentMail! The new site includes lots of improvements which make finding guidance and instructions easier than ever before.
Finding answers has never been easier
Powered by Google, the new search function instantly finds the answer to your question! You can search for an answer by typing in a keyword or question to quickly find the information you need to complete the task at hand.
In addition to step-by-step instructions, our new range of videos provide easy-to-follow guidance for completing a variety of tasks, from registering parents and creating invoices to downloading reports and editing user permissions.
Keep an eye out for system updates
We include news and details of our latest system updates on the school help site so that you can make the most of new enhancements and functionality. Notes on our latest update (our biggest release yet!) are available on the help site now, including details on updates to Online Forms, improved payment functionality and lots of handy fixes! We always take feedback and requests from schools into account when updating the ParentMail system and our latest release includes many updates that you specifically asked for – take a look at the notes to find out more!
What do you think?
We want to hear what you think of our new help site. Click the ‘We need your feedback’ button at the bottom of the homepage to let us know of any additional improvements we can make or FAQs you’d like us to add.
As we welcome in the New Year, we’re taking the opportunity to look back over the year just gone, our biggest and best year yet! 2018 saw us welcome hundreds of new primary, secondary schools, nurseries and Academies to the …
As we welcome in the New Year, we’re taking the opportunity to look back over the year just gone, our biggest and best year yet!
2018 saw us welcome hundreds of new primary, secondary schools, nurseries and Academies to the ParentMail fold; we sent more messages, emails and online forms than ever before, supporting schools across the country to improve parental engagement and save time and money.
During 2018, we supported schools to send over:
- 18 million texts
- 285 million emails
- 5 million Online Forms
- We also processed over 4 million orders for trips, events and other School Shop items!
2018 saw us celebrate 2.5 million App downloads; that’s 2.5 million parents using the free ParentMail App to stay up to date with school news, book appointments, respond to forms and make payments, all from one account!
As we continue to support schools to go paperless with the very best in EdTech, we know how important it is to stay ahead with the latest innovations in software and technology, which is why we’re working hard on new functionality to help make life easier for schools and parents. Last year saw us update the free ParentMail App for both Android and iOS, making lots of handy improvements to make it even easier for parents to keep on top of school communications. We also released our biggest system update yet, which was jam-packed with improvements, new functionality and handy fixes, many of which were specifically requested by our schools.
Following our biggest and best year yet, our New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is the same as always – to continue supporting schools to improve parental engagement with innovative software and exciting new developments. What’s yours?
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Tighter budgets see a call for efficiency and an ‘all hands-on-deck’ approach to searching out cost-cutting opportunities. In the hunt for financial savings, however, it’s important to remember that, often, it’s the small changes that deliver big results. It is …
Tighter budgets see a call for efficiency and an ‘all hands-on-deck’ approach to searching out cost-cutting opportunities. In the hunt for financial savings, however, it’s important to remember that, often, it’s the small changes that deliver big results.
It is estimated that the average secondary school pupil produces 22kg of waste a year, with primary school pupils more than doubling that at 45kg. Much of this waste is paper and card; today, one million sheets of paper are being used per school, per year; on average, schools can spend up to £60,000 on photocopying annually! With pupils still relying on books and pens in the classroom, school leaders are questioning: what are the true costs and implications of paper in schools?
Taking a step back from paper can be tricky! A wide-spread movement towards modern technology in the classroom appears far off. Children still complete exams on paper and handwriting remains an important step in every child’s education. While it may be difficult to reduce reliance on traditional methods in the classroom, a move towards paperless-office environments may be easier (and more beneficial!) than you think.
An online system such as ParentMail supports your team to take the easy step towards a paperless environment – and it’s a step well worth taking! A commitment to going paperless results in both time and financial savings; your school could save up to £65,000 a year on print alone, not to mention the additional paper and postage costs.
Without paper letters, forms and registers to manage, manual admin tasks are replaced by efficient, reliable and simple online processes. Paperless-school staff don’t need to invest valuable time in chasing trip and dinner payments; instead, parents can make timely, cashless payments through our mobile App, reducing dinner debt and eliminating any need for cash on school grounds. From the same online account, parents receive notifications about parents’ evening, school trips and clubs, and can complete and return school forms at a time convenient for them. Paperless schools also enjoy the benefits of having important information at their fingertips, with access to customisable reports and data to support student learning.
By removing paper-based obstacles from daily tasks, your school can streamline processes, protect important data and achieve amazing cost savings. Equally, empower parents to engage with your school with a convenient, socially inclusive platform and watch home/school partnerships go from strength to strength!
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In this video, Sue Atkins – parenting expert and ex-Headteacher – gives her views on how parental engagement software can keep communication between school and parent clear, whilst keeping all data safe.
Instant messaging service, WhatsApp, has become an integral part of staying in touch with friends and family for adults across the UK. Many parents also use WhatsApp groups to share information about their child’s school with other parents.
Earlier this year, we wrote an article on our blog, What’s up with WhatsApp? after a Mumsnet thread hit the headlines when a post referring to the different types of mum found in ‘every’ school WhatsApp group struck a chord with parents across the country.
Parents were quick to state that the WhatsApp group created at the beginning of the school year is a handy way of staying up to date with the latest classroom news. However, the sheer quantity of messages sent by the 20+ parents all part of the same group can be quite overwhelming and ‘fear of missing out’ often warrants us incapable of turning notifications to silent.
Sometimes WhatsApp groups for parents may not share accurate information, and details about children may be shared with little thought for privacy. In this video, Sue Atkins – parenting expert and ex- deputy head – gives her views on how parental engagement software can keep communication between school and parent clear, whilst keeping all data safe.
If you want to find our more about ParentMail’s communication applications, and what else it can do to help your office staff save time and money, get in touch on email@example.com or give the team a call on 01733 595959.
Last month, Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi announced that thousands more children across the country were receiving a healthy and nutritious breakfast at school breakfast clubs. In part, this is thanks to a government-funded programme worth nearly £26 million. …
Last month, Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi announced that thousands more children across the country were receiving a healthy and nutritious breakfast at school breakfast clubs. In part, this is thanks to a government-funded programme worth nearly £26 million.
Here are some of our favourite ways breakfast clubs can benefit children, parents and schools.
Breakfast clubs improve school performance
Research shows that a good breakfast can help improve children’s reading, writing and maths performance. KidsHealth.org reports that breakfasts high in protein and fibre, and low in sugar, helps to boost children’s attention span, concentration and memory, essential for good performance at school.
Affordable and safe pre-school childcare
Parents are increasingly busy juggling childcare with working, often having to opt for pre- and post-school care. Breakfast clubs offer them some respite, both financially, and from the chaos of the morning school run. On average, breakfast clubs in England cost just £1.68 per day to attend. Moreover, about a quarter of breakfast clubs are completely free for all children to attend!
Time to socialise, or get active
Many schools use their breakfast club to get children moving. The Daily Mile is a relatively new initiative to get children running or jogging one mile every day. Who knows, the next Mo Farah might be hidden amongst your breakfast club! For other schools, children can play board games, draw or colour, or use computers to research and complete their homework.
Better attendance and behaviour
By reducing the stress of the morning routine for families and children, breakfast clubs can help improve behaviour and attendance. Children have up to an hour before school starts so they can relax, play, eat, exercise and socialise, all without the rush of getting to school. In this article from the Guardian, Sam Bailey, Headteacher of the Forest Academy in Barnsley, said “Pupil behaviour has improved dramatically and attitudes to learning are the best they have ever been.”
ParentMail helps schools successfully run breakfast clubs
Thanks to our brand-new multiple registers feature, schools with our +Pay (online payments) package can now easily set up additional registers. This lets them track registrations and payments for breakfast clubs, alongside other registers, such as school dinners and after-school clubs. Therefore, administrative work is reduced, too. The feature also allows for multiple running balances, which helps reduce arrears with low-balance reminders for parents.
This is one of our most-requested improvements!
For existing online payments users, you can add new registers from the Registers tab in ParentMail. If you’re not a ParentMail user, but want to know more about Multiple Registers and other applications that can help improve parental engagement and online payments management, give the team a call on 01733 595959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
School is now in full swing, and so the next big milestone is Parents’ Evening and organising it successfully is no mean feat!
With school now in full swing, routines are established, children are settled in their new classes – and so the next big milestone is Parents’ Evening and organising it successfully is no mean feat!
Parents’ Evenings are an extremely important event in the school calendar, as they provide the opportunity for parents to speak with teachers to get an insight into how their child/children are progressing, whilst for the teachers it is an opportunity to strengthen the parental relationship with the school and to develop their support in a child’s learning.
For the school staff, it is a huge task to ensure that all the parents are informed of the date(s), which provides them with the opportunity for booking a convenient slot with their child’s teacher. We all live in a busy, hectic world so juggling diaries can be complicated and stressful.
Then there are the logistics to consider; is it best for the meetings to take place in the child’s classroom or in a larger space such as the school hall or gym? All of this can be further complicated when parents have more than one child at the school, as appointments will need to be coordinated; further complications can arise when the parents are separated, and both parents want separate appointments.
Further support is needed from the office staff in supporting the teachers in collating reports, records and other documentation that they need for each meeting.
With regular communications with parents, they should all be aware of the date, and hopefully, have organised their personal diaries to attend. However, inevitably there will always be a case where this information has been overlooked by the parents, they have prior commitments or may have just forgotten! This then falls to the school staff to assist with organising alternative dates/times for the important meeting.
Traditionally, letters inviting parents to make appointments were sent home with the pupils which were then (hopefully) returned to the school via the same channel with the parent’s availability to attend to be processed and an appointment allocated. In some schools this is still the case, but as school communications evolve, online methods and booking systems are being introduced to ease the burden.
Whichever method your school uses, there is no doubt that the organisation and logistics still mainly fall under the School Administrators to ensure that everything is in order, all the small details are considered and that the event runs smoothly.
Are you making plans for Parents’ Evening? Parents’ Evening Manager could save your school hours of time, as well as ensuring a smooth and organised event! Email email@example.com or call us on 01733 595959 to find out more.
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It’s the start of a new school year, meaning there’s a lot of information to send out and share with parents. How you decide you will be communicating with the pupil’s families is a matter of preference. Traditionally, letters were …
It’s the start of a new school year, meaning there’s a lot of information to send out and share with parents. How you decide you will be communicating with the pupil’s families is a matter of preference. Traditionally, letters were sent home with the pupil with the expectation that these would be passed on by the pupil to the parent. However, this method has been seen as a weak link and often leads to many parents discovering out of date letters shoved at the bottom of school bags.
With the development of technology, we have seen the introduction of social media groups such as closed Facebook groups, WhatsApp chat groups etc, for information to be shared between schools and parents. This method is fine for general information, but not ideal for specific information regarding a child or for a parent to communicate any questions or concerns about their child.
So what is the solution?
Here are a few of my top hints and tips for managing school communications, sure to support your staff team, parents and students in the long run!
- Starting out from the beginning: Establish with the parent how they would like to receive information about their child, school events, news and updates. Not all parents are ‘tech-savvy’ so you may still have to resort to posting out direct mailers to some of them.
- Explain what you will be sending: Be clear on the types of communications parents can expect and the frequency – i.e. if there is a parent’s evening coming up, how they can book an appointment with their child’s teacher/teachers to discuss their progress.
- Gathering information: You are required to hold an increasing amount of information on a child aside from their academic progress – i.e. medical information, details of home life that may affect their performance in school, who are the regular carers and if communications need to be sent separately in the case of divorced parents. Ensure that you clearly explain that this information is required to support the child and who it will be shared with, that parents have the right to view what is being held in their child’s records and how they can apply to see this and the process.
- Provide information: Ensure that you provide details of how the parents can contact the school, who they can speak to, the times that this person is available and how they can make appointments with the various staff who look after their child etc.
- Child’s schoolwork: Are you able to provide regular updates to parents on their children’s studies? For example, what are the subjects their children are studying, how parents can help and become involved in supporting these? Evidence supports that children are more engaged and successful in their studies with strong parental partnerships between the school and home.
- Progress reports: Can you provide regular progress reports – i.e. homework handed in or outstanding, spelling test results, feedback from the child’s key teacher/worker so that parents are fully informed of their child’s progress and can celebrate successes or address areas of concern rather than wait for a Parents’ Evening to be provided with this information.
- School events: Send out timely information on school events, term dates, inset days and regular reminders so that the parents are fully aware of everything that is happening in school.
- Celebrating success: Does your school have a scheme where children are given awards for good work, behaviour or attendance? It could be an idea to include these ‘Rolls of Excellence’ report in any communications, but if sending photographs, please ensure that you have consent from the parent if their child is featured.
Parenting expert, author and TV presenter, Sue Atkins, has 22 years experience in the teaching profession making her an expert on all things parental engagement! We are thrilled to join forces with Sue to share best practice on school/parent communications.
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We talk about the importance of parental engagement a lot. The term has become a ‘buzzword’ in our offices and in schools across the country. When ParentMail first came into being over 15 years ago, parental engagement was the priority, …
We talk about the importance of parental engagement a lot. The term has become a ‘buzzword’ in our offices and in schools across the country. When ParentMail first came into being over 15 years ago, parental engagement was the priority, sitting at the heart of our technology and ambitions. To this day, the subject remains the driving force behind our brand and a hot topic of discussion in the education sector.
Just a few weeks ago, Education Secretary Damien Hinds called for an “educational revolution” , in part to reduce the burden of, and time spent on, ‘non-teaching’ tasks. Those daily tasks carried out in the school office, from data collection and management to parent payment processing, take up hours of time every day as well as having a direct impact on the school budget.
Pressure on schools, be it primary, secondary or Multi-Academy Trust, increases every year. Under scrutiny to evidence and improve efficiencies, maintain a good reputation and Ofsted rating, as well as staying ahead in the league tables with student academic success takes time, planning and prioritisation. These key aspects of every educational organisation often rely heavily on resource in terms of time, people and budget. Pressure in the education sector shows no sign of slowing; forecasts indicate that by the year 2027, secondary school pupil numbers are expected to rise by almost 15% . That means there will be over 400,000 more pupils in England’s state schools than today. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers states the figures present a challenge, stating that schools are being asked to do so much more now than they were a decade ago. As pupil numbers increase, so too does the daily pressure on school management.
With such pressure we can become distracted from the topic of parental engagement. Attention strays to other issues; the upcoming Ofsted inspection, the ever-busier school calendar, GDPR, staffing and recruitment, suppliers and upcoming exams, to name a few. Every school holds their student’s academic achievement as their highest priority and school staff invest their days in supporting pupils to succeed; parental engagement, then, needs to remain a persistent topic of discussion. Rather than a time-consuming hindrance, engaging parents in their child’s schooling should be considered a beacon of support for teachers, staff and students
All parents as partners
A 2011 government review  investigated best practice in parental engagement. Research evidenced that not only do children perform better when parents are involved in their schooling, but also placed emphasis on the fact that schools that ‘improve and sustain improvement engage the community and build strong links with parents. Where schools build positive relationships with parents (…) evidence of sustained school improvement can be found.’ The benefits go beyond GCSE and A Level grades.
When it comes to parental engagement, the subject of social inclusivity is never far behind. Even for those schools with an effective and successful communications plan in place, there will be a segment of the parent community who it is almost impossible to engage with. Whether their responses to letters and forms are scarce or they fail to make an appearance on parents’ evening, engaging with these parents is an ongoing and difficult task. However, they cannot be allowed to fall by the wayside; evidence from Ofsted suggests that a critical element of learning and teaching is the relationship between the teacher, parent and student. Every parent deserves the right to be involved in their child’s learning, regardless of boundaries, be it availability, language barriers or more. As such, schools are tasked with thinking outside the box to identify the best methods of engaging with all parents.
Communications methods should be scrutinised to ensure they don’t contribute to the difficulty in building parent/school relationships. Traditional methods of school communications need to be reconsidered. Whether it’s print, paper and postage costs, missing pupil-post, data protection or environmental concerns, the number of schools fast realising the countless problems associated with paper communications is on the rise. In its place, where do we turn?
The tech revolution
According to the ‘Review of best practice in parental engagement’, ‘Information and communication technology ICT can contribute to improved parental engagement by providing a convenient means for parents to access up-to-date information about their child’s learning.’ The paper school newsletter which occasionally finds its way into the hands of parents can be out of date within days. Technology offers a reliable, timely alternative and supports a more flexible arrangement for busy staff and modern parents.
Becta 2008  identified a number of ways in which ICT can improve parental engagement by enabling new channels of communication between parents and schools. Benefits included allowing parents to be more involved, better methods of capturing information and supporting flexible working methods for staff. However, at the time of this study, the Office of National Statistics reported that only 73% of households in the UK had internet access. Back to the subject of social inclusivity, almost 10 years ago ICT and technology in the school raised as many questions at it answered.
Fast forward to 2018 and the numbers speak for themselves. According to the Office of National Statistics statistical bulletin on Internet Access: 2018 , 9 out of 10 households now have internet access. Daily internet use in adults has increased from 25% in 2006 to 86% today. Mobile phones and smartphones remain the most popular device to access the internet with 97% of adults aged between 24 to 34 accessing the internet ‘on the go’. With parents performing most tasks from the device in their hands (internet banking, booking train tickets, arranging grocery deliveries etc) why would they expect any different when it comes to school communications?
Evidence tells us that adults want to use familiar technology (i.e. their smartphones) to perform daily tasks; it is convenient, easy and reliable. Our years of experience tells us that when parents are provided with a user-friendly and convenient method of managing school communications, schools receive a better response; before you know it, parental engagement is on the up, parent responses increase and student academic success is improving as a result.
These technology-driven successes aren’t only restricted to the classroom. With GDPR now in place, schools have a greater responsibility for protecting data. Loose-leaf filing systems and paper forms propose risk, as well as headaches when trying to keep information updated. A digital system from which multiple staff can manage data collection, consent forms, school dinner money and payments reduces the time spent on manual tasks and implements consistency – not to mention the comfort of knowing data is safe and secure.
The start of a new school year is the perfect opportunity to reflect on your school communications, parental engagement and objectives for the year ahead. With pressure on the education sector increasing, technology should no longer be considered an unnecessary or inconvenient expense. Instead, consider the opportunities tech in the office offers and the successes it can bring for your staff, parents and students.
Our modular range of applications is being utilised by thousands of schools across the country who are enjoying the benefits of improved parental engagement alongside welcome time and cost savings. We are proud leaders in the EdTech community and the provider of the UK’s favourite parental engagement system. We want to support more schools to make the most of modern technology – find out how we can help you.
To find out more about how ParentMail can support parental engagement at your school, enquire on our website, call us on 01733 595959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
 – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/07/uk-schools-silicon-valley-tech-industry-urged-foster-education-revolution
 – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/182508/DFE-RR156.pdf
 – https://bit.ly/2nw9rcy
Last month a Mumsnet thread hit the headlines when a post referring to the different types of mum found in ‘every’ school WhatsApp group struck a chord with parents across the country. Ranging from ‘the wind-up merchant’ to ‘the informer’ …
Last month a Mumsnet thread hit the headlines when a post referring to the different types of mum found in ‘every’ school WhatsApp group struck a chord with parents across the country.
Ranging from ‘the wind-up merchant’ to ‘the informer’ to ‘the school can do no wrong brigade’, the mum invited others to add their own characters that she may have missed; and other mums were quick to follow up with their own suggestions!
It seems the school WhatsApp group is a source of information and frustration in equal measure for many parents. Parents are quick to state that the WhatsApp group created at the beginning of the school year is a handy way of staying up to date with the latest classroom news. However, the sheer quantity of messages sent by the 20+ parents all part of the same group can be quite overwhelming and ‘fear of missing out’ often warrants us incapable of turning notifications to silent.
For schools, the parent WhatsApp group can result in inaccurate information circulated quickly to a large number of parents. Classroom politics leak through the school gates and into the digital world where staff have little to no control over the content shared. For those teachers who use WhatsApp to communicate with parents, there can be serious privacy issues (i.e. messages intended for one parent mistakenly sent to another or to a group).
Of course, WhatsApp groups are a particularly handy source of news and information for those parents unable to socialise with fellow mums and dads in the school playground. However, it is easy to forget those parents without access to new technology. These are the parents who miss out on the news and information that many parents take for granted.
Social inclusivity has been at the heart of ParentMail’s technology since we started up over 17 years ago. We recognise the benefits of modern technology for schools, however, we ensure those parents who prefer a traditional method of communication have the same access to school news and information as those parents using our free App. No parent is forgotten or left out because we believe every parent deserves to be kept up to date with their child’s education.
With ParentMail, schools can send news and information without fear of privacy breaches, knowing their data is up to date and protected. Digital communications warrant loose pieces of paper and hardcopy consent forms redundant; online forms and responses are easily received, analysed, managed and stored.
And, of course, schools have total control over the information circulated. No fear of Chinese whispers interfering or editing important school-related messages. Whether it’s term dates, school closures, after-school-club cancellations or trip payments, the information is wholly in the hands of school staff, ensuring parents receive only accurate information and can respond appropriately.
When it comes to parental engagement, ParentMail ensures quality, consistent and reliable school communications that both schools and parents can rely on. Let’s keep WhatsApp groups for birthday parties and leave school communications to the experts!
To find out more about how ParentMail can improve parental engagement at your school, call us on 01733 595959 or email email@example.com for more information.
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Last month Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, challenged the tech industry to launch an edtech revolution for schools, colleges and uni