At The Warriner School in Oxfordshire, school-to-home communications were a big issue. Trying to keep parents engaged and informed about what was going on in the school was time-consuming, costly, sporadic and often unreliable. School staff dreamed of a simpler way to keep parents up-to-date with school activities and changes to national education, so that they would feel fully involved in the school community. So, they decided to try and digitise the process. They chose a product that seemed to be intuitive, easy to use and update, and synchronised with the school’s Management Information System (MIS). But the benefits to their way of working – and their budget! – extended far beyond this, as the school business manager, Leigh Barmby, explains.
Upon reflection, we noticed that the everyday, essential tasks such as writing and sending letters to parents of each school year or class group had begun to weigh quite heavily upon our workload. Whenever an issue arose with students, or alterations were made to school activities, dates or timetables, a massive administrative burden was put upon our school staff to ensure all parents were notified in good time, without an efficient method of doing so. Often, we were unable to guarantee that parents had received these communications, as we were relying on either the child to deliver the letter safely to their parents, or for the parents to spot it in the post and take the time to read it. There was no doubt about it, we knew it was time to go digital!
Reaching technology rich, time poor parents
Through the new system we are able to send instant messages via email or text to all parents, parents of individual students, or specific groups which we could easily set up. This not only saves us a tremendous amount of time, but also makes it far easier to send tailored communications to particular groups, such as those whose children have special educational needs, or if their children are partaking in a certain school activity or school trip. It also makes it quicker and easier to notify parents or guardians if their child does not turn up for school so, should this be unknown to the parents, early intervention can be made to ensure the child is found and safely returned home or to school.
As previously mentioned, we wanted all parents to feel fully engaged with the school community. To achieve this, we needed to give them a simple way of communicating with our school staff, so that they could offer feedback, ask questions or express concerns. Using the platform, we’re able to send text or email messages to parents with, for example, a suggested date for a school event, and they can respond letting us know if this works for them or not – meaning we can work together to get the best outcome. We can also inform them of changes to our school policies or practices and ask for their feedback, helping them feel involved in their child’s education and helping us understand any concerns or issues as they arise, so we can address them. It’s brilliant for parents to know that they are an integral part of the school community and that their voices are being heard.
It’s also incredibly useful for communicating with parents for whom English is not a first language. This is because of the ‘translate’ function which enables us to send messages in any language, so that all parents receive the same level of engagement.
As well as positively impacting our parent-teacher relationship, it’s also helped to better facilitate communication with our governors and members of the PTA. For example, we have been able to utilise it to contact members, easily and quickly, with details regarding PTA specific events. Everyone has more involvement, creating much more of a community spirit.
Saving the pennies…and the pounds!
With return on investment (ROI) being one of the key factors for consideration for all schools today, we were over the moon to see that we’d saved 90 per cent of our budget for parental communication within 30 days! Being able to cut down radically on printing and postage costs meant we were able to make considerable savings which will make a massive difference to the school. In just one year, we have saved £12,000 which is fantastic!
With effective and efficient contact facilitated, it has helped to break down any barriers in communication between the school and all of our key stakeholders. It has also further welcomed parents into the school community. And, from an ROI perspective it has saved us significant amounts of time and money; that’s certainly a win-win situation in my book!