School apps are becoming increasingly popular from early years through to secondary as a way of encouraging parents to invest their time into their child’s school life when it is most convenient for them.
The humble mobile app has transformed numerous aspects of our daily lives. From booking a flight to transferring money, booking an Uber, to the freedom to chat with people from all over the world in seconds, to gaming apps that keep us entertained ‘on the go’ on trains, tubes and in waiting rooms.
We live in a busy world that never sleeps, switches off or stops, and habits and expectations have changed drastically in the last 5-10 years, so to harness this phone-friendly lifestyle, schools need to adapt to be able to harness the way in which we all communicate.
By embracing these changes towards the ‘24/7 always-connected’ and ‘on-the-go’ world in which we now live, schools can connect with parents in ways they could only have dreamed about 20 years ago.
Technology has already impacted education and learning in remarkable ways. Children have the world literally at their fingertips. Not only is endless information available to download, stream or interact with at the click of a button, but the ways in which children and young people are able to learn is changing all the time. From games that teach kids how to touch-type, to videos that teach phonics, the internet and advances in computer software, they’ve all enabled a new generation to embrace and explore interactive learning.
The next step for schools is to embrace mobile apps as a way to engage parents in the way that they like to be engaged with. Mobile school apps provide schools with simple streamlined ways to communicate with parents via interactive tools that they are comfortable & familiar with – and it’s a cheaper option than traditional paper methods and restrictive SMS!
The need to juggle the commitments of so many different aspects of family life is an ongoing struggle for parents and with often a lack of time for conversations at the school gate, and a host of forgotten or missed events throughout the school term, schools need to engage with parents in a way that works. By shrinking all of these aspects down into an easy-to-use school mobile app, not only is the communication process with parents simplified, but it can actually improve parent/student engagement with the school and build community and trust. Schools can even have the app set up so it reflects the school’s branding and ethos making everyone feel part of a team..
School apps are becoming increasingly popular from early years through to primary and secondary schools as a way of encouraging parents to invest their time into their child’s school life when it is most convenient for them. It feels like a more personalised, intimate and individual connection and better communication with parents means better support for the child and better outcomes.
School mobile apps can bring together weekly calendar updates, new school uniform lists, important school news and current school policies to the latest Ofsted Report, for example, in a fast and simple single place, which is useful for busy parents.
In the past, admin staff have spent considerable time checking and updating parent email addresses and mobile numbers, but when parents use the school app, if mobile numbers or email addresses are changed, the app keeps parents connected making life easier for everyone. What’s more, it’s very easy for parents to update their own details within their account.
So, whether it’s last minute panic about the dates of the upcoming Teddy Bear’s Picnic, or an early morning worry about whether parents’ evening starts at 6.30 or 7pm, it means children will stop getting told off for forgetting important messages from school, less clutter on the fridge and a more relaxed atmosphere all round.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01733 595959.
For many families, the prospect of crossing the school threshold is a terrifying one. Though many schools may spend a lot of time and energy on events or activities for parents, the reality is that every school has those “hard …
For many families, the prospect of crossing the school threshold is a terrifying one. Though many schools may spend a lot of time and energy on events or activities for parents, the reality is that every school has those “hard to reach” parents and there are many barriers in the way that stop parents feeling connected with what is going on in school.
One key area that I feel can begin the process of breaking down barriers and building bridges to communication and community, is through the school office, as it can be instrumental in fostering a positive connection among families and educators. It can be a consistent source of engagement providing current, reliable, and useful information.
Many school offices across the country now use technology to communicate home various things to parents, realising that the more they engage parents with what’s going on, the better the outcome for students. Online communication has really helped bridge this relationship and many schools now send home messages, online forms, allow parents to book parents’ evening appointments and even request payments – allowing parents to pay with ease on their mobile phone or computer.
Previously, having to come into the school office to make payments, for example, would add stress to parents and administrative staff’s already busy day, so the beauty of using technology is that parents no longer have to cope with scrambling around looking for cash or cheques, or worry about coming into the school office to make payments for lunch, uniforms or trips, as an online system helps parents and admin staff communicate quickly, easily & more efficiently.
A system like ParentMail helps parents build a better relationship with the school office, without having to worry about physically coming into the building. For those parents who don’t feel comfortable coming into the office, or don’t have the time to do so, which is often the case, technology has broken down the barriers and allowed regular communication, helping these parents feel more connected with what is going on in school.
Watch Sue discuss this further in the video below…
To find out more about ParentMail and the range of applications that can help you improve parental engagement, simply visit the website, email email@example.com or call 01733 595959.
The time has come for schools to reach out to parents using the technology they live with every day. Sue Atkins investigates…
As we have previously touched on, the 1997 White Paper ‘Excellence in Schools’ highlighted the importance of parent / school relationships and acknowledged that – “Parents play a crucial role in helping their children learn. Family learning is a powerful tool for reaching some of the most disadvantaged in our society, helping build strong local communities and widening participation in learning.”
In January 2010, BECTA published a report which stated “The support and involvement of families can make a crucial difference to learners’ success. Technology offers practical, effective ways to engage families, keeping them in touch with a learner’s progress and encouraging learning beyond the classroom.!
It touched on some key facts and figures relating to social grades and access to internet at home, but the key findings we will look at today relate to the section ‘Communicate better with online reporting.’
‘Every school in England is now expected to offer online access to information for parents to support their children’s progress: all secondary schools by September 2010, and primary schools by 2012.’
Here are some key facts and figures from this report:
- 80% of parents say they see the benefit of regular parent-school contact
- 60% of teachers think that parents believe their job stops at the school gate
- 58% of school leaders believe ICT has improved the school’s ability to involve parents in their children’s attendance.
- 48% of teaching staff say ‘invisible’ parents lack the confidence to approach them to discuss their child
- 67% of parents would like schools to use technologies such as text messaging and the internet to communicate with them more often
- 8% of parents surveyed in 2008 were kept informed through online reporting
So, 22 years on, how has parent / school communications evolved?
There is a wide range of school communication software on the market, and there is no doubt that it can support school-home engagements with the wide range of features they offer. Access to software can be via a website or in some cases, via a mobile App, providing more flexibility for the parent to stay in touch.
We know that parental engagement is a powerful factor in driving pupil progress right from early years education through to post-16 study. However, research shows that the nature of engagement changes over the course of a child’s school journey, which is why schools need a clearly defined strategy to determine how parental engagement will be led and carried out.
ParentMail bringing schools and parents closer together
Many schools encounter barriers to parental engagement, so by using a system that puts information directly into the hands of parents and tailoring their communications to meet the needs of their communities, schools are finding ways to break down these barriers and help parents support their child.
There will always be parents who are harder to reach, and technology has a part to play in engaging this group. Some schools are focusing on sending out positive messages about pupils to their parents which helps to counter negativity and builds fruitful dialogues – building bridges not walls between home and school.
Today, schools are embracing technology to communicate with parents, and email, text messages and mobile apps are all part of the toolkit. Schools need to ensure they get the most from these tools so that messages can be sent out quickly without adding to staff workload.
Parental engagement has moved on from the days when the annual report and parents’ evening were the only point of reference. The time has come for schools to reach out to parents using the technology they live with every day, so they can build up a positive working relationship to support pupils through the school years.
ParentMail provides schools with the technology they need to communicate with parents, all through one platform. If you’d like to discuss further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by reaching us on 01733 595959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Watch our video to see why parenting expert Sue Atkins recommends using technology in school to help make life just a little bit easier for parents around Christmas!
Christmas can be a very busy time for parents, particularly with all the extra events going on in school! The run up to the school nativity or end of year performance can include lots of rehearsals, not to mention booking and paying for tickets, choosing seats and making sure they know the correct dates and times for everything that is going on!
Technology can help make life just that bit easier!
With the ParentMail mobile app, for example, parents can receive messages instantly straight to their phone, including last minute changes or reminders. What’s more, they can manage events, make online payments and even complete forms all from one account, making a hectic time of year easier for parents to manage.
Watch our video below to see why parenting expert Sue Atkins recommends using technology in school to help make life just a little bit easier for parents.
Parents’ evening is a very important part of the relationship that parents develop with the school and their child’s teacher, whether it is their first experience, or they have attended before.
Parents’ evening is a very important part of the relationship that parents develop with the school and their child’s teacher, whether it is their first experience, or they have attended before.
Here are a few pointers to how parents may be feeling and how you can ensure that the meeting is productive, for the child, for parents and also for the school.
- Children can be rather uncommunicative about their life at school, which can be frustrating for parents, so for them, this is a great chance to get to know their child’s teacher and learn more about how their time is spent in class, what they are studying, how they are progressing and if they need any extra support at home.
- There can be a lot that parents want to cover in their ten-minute slot and some will come prepared with all of the questions that they want to ask, whereas others will wait to be led by the teacher, but there is no doubt that they are expecting a ‘full picture’ of the progress their child is making and also any challenges they are facing.
- Remember also that parents want to be reassured that their child is important and is being cared for and engaged with during lessons. There is nothing worse than being a parent sitting with a teacher and wondering if this teacher has spent time in getting to know your child. A good pointer is to have some of the child’s work to hand for the parents to review and some prepared notes on what they have achieved – i.e. a celebration, and then where needed, to discuss the focus on where their child needs more support and how they can help.
- Parents generally want to be involved in their child’s education, to ensure that they have the best chances and to be ‘part of the process’ and to develop a positive relationship with their child’s teacher or teachers.
- Depending on the parent’s own experience with school, they may feel intimidated and it is the teacher’s role to put them at ease and start to build on the foundations of the relationship between school and home. They will be looking for guidance and how they can support their child, so although time is limited, a top tip is to have a prepared plan that they can take away, highlighting the areas of focus where they can support; not only will this help them to become involved in their child’s schooling but will also provide a point of reference for the next meeting, so progress can be charted and further plans can be developed.
- It is also essential to remember that this is a two-way conversation and that parents may have their own concerns about the child’s school life that they want to share with you, whether this is related to the actual school work or other aspects, such as their relationships with other children and staff, this is important to them, so ensure that facts are established if they have concerns and actions are agreed and followed up.
Parents’ Evening Manager allows school to manage parents’ evening with ease, and even has the functionality to allow parents to leave notes in advance of their appointment. With this, teachers can run off their appointments the day before and quickly see what each parent would like to discuss, ensuring both parties feel organised ahead of the appointment.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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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! In this blog, Sue discusses the importance of starting the year off right in terms of …
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! In this blog, Sue discusses the importance of starting the year off right in terms of school communications and building a relationship between the school and parents from day one of the new school term…
Well that’s it – the long hot Summer holidays are officially over and September has seen thousands of young children stepping through the school gates, many for the first time, in their pristine shiny new shoes, slightly oversized new school uniforms and clutching their brand-new pencil cases.
It is an exciting day for some children, looking forward to seeing their old friends after a long summer and starting the new academic year with all it’s exciting new possibilities and experiences.
For parents, it can be a time of mixed emotions and concerns; these cover a wide range, for example, wondering how their child will cope in their new environment if they are starting a new school, will their child make friends, how they will get on with the school work, who are their new teachers, how will they find out how their child is progressing etc. Establishing an open and informative line of communication between the school and home is essential at this stage and it will be the foundation of a strong relationship for the rest of the year.
Evidence supports that the more involved parents are in their child’s education, the better the pupil performs at school. Parents are the first teachers and role models that a child has and there have been many papers written by academics about the way a child’s classroom performance and academic achievements are significantly influenced by the extent to which parents become involved in school life and the interest they take in their child’s education.
So right from the start of the academic year, it is the role of the office staff to establish a regular and reliable stream of communication and sharing of information. It is a busy time in the office, as all of the personal data of the pupils, their families and also staff must be collated accurately to form the confidential records that will support the essential and varied administrative tasks throughout the year. With the introduction of GDPR in May 2018, there is also the added pressures that the collection and storing of this data is compliant and only available to those who need access in order to carry out their role.
Strategies and Policies
The Government first set out a strategy for securing parental engagement in a White Paper, ‘Excellence in Schools’ which was published in 1997. This paper suggested that there are three key aspects to improving a school-home relationship:
- Providing parents with information
- Giving parents a voice
- Encouraging parental partnerships with schools
The publication of the annual Ofsted Report in 2016 saw a great deal of importance placed on effective communication between the school and home, with examples of poor and good communication, and while the following excerpt may not relate to the age group in your school, the keyword is partnerships – it is a clear implication that the best schools communicate regularly with parents…
“Highly effective partnerships with parents mean that the parents are clear about their child’s strengths, next steps and progress towards being ready for school.”
There have been a number of strategies and policies devised over the years since the publishing of ‘Excellence in Schools’ to bridge the gap between schools and pupil’s families to create an inclusive community to share information, but there is no doubt that the real success of any relationship is down to regular communications and updates.
What type of communication?
It would be easy to fall into the trap of sending out information on school initiatives, up and coming dates and events, but in order to engage with families, it is essential that clear and concise information is provided in relation to how and who to communicate with in regard to the individual child; parents want to know that their child is important to the school and they are therefore more interested in news relating to specific individuals, accompanied by the more general notices.
Start of the school year
At the start of the school year, it is essential that the first communications layout in detail how the school will be communicating with the parent throughout the year – i.e. how often this will be, what form it will take and stressing that information and questions from the parents to the school will be valued.
Many parents, especially as a child moves into secondary education, have real concerns that they will not be aware of what is happening in the school and what their child is encountering; according to a recent claim by Scottish Tory Leader, Ruth Davidson that only seven per cent of schools provide parents with the required information and parents are being left ‘in the dark’ about what happens inside their children’s schools
If you can get it right from the start, plan your communications to the parents and the form that they will take, then you are on the right road to building the essential bridge and supporting the teachers, staff, pupils and families within your school.