Former Tesco chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, is backing a fast-growing Liverpool business that is revolutionising how schools communicate with parents.
Sir Terry is investing in Speke-based Parentapps, a venture that is aiming to make the “forgotten crumpled letter at the bottom of the school bag” a thing of the past by signing up schools to its app-based communications model.
And Sir Terry, who turned Tesco into one of the biggest retailers in the world and grew its UK market share from 20% to more than 30%, is confident Parentapps can transform the way schools work and save the education sector billions of pounds.
He said: “Parentapps operates in a really big area, which is schools and parents, and so it touches upon everybody. That is a big idea and if you can make a useful contribution to the day to day lives of nearly everybody then that is something that matters.”
Bill Currie, another experienced and successful business investor is joining Sir Terry in backing the firm. He is a former award-winning retail analyst for Barclays and Charterhouse, whose successful previous investments include Caffe Nero and The Perfume Shop.
Letters in bags
Parentapps was founded in 2015 by Kevin Clayton, chief executive of the business, along with his wife Hailey Clayton, who is the firm’s sales director. The couple have two young daughters and were well aware of the haphazard nature by which schools communicate with parents.
It currently has around 350 schools signed up and aims to push that figure beyond the 500 mark over the next 12 months. It employs 15 people at its south Liverpool base.
“The traditional form of communication is giving children letters to take home to their parents,” said Kevin. “Those letters contain all kinds of important information about school trips, changes in policy, consent forms, events and so many more things.
“Such important communications are often put in the hands of very young children who would often stuff them at the bottom of their school bags and forget about them – it is a serious weakness in the chain. With the new laws around data protection, and the safeguarding of young children, sending out information via a paper letter poses a number of risks.
“Our app, which can be individualised for each primary and secondary school, and nurseries, does away with that process in an instant saving the school time and money and reducing its carbon footprint.
“Schools can send text messages but this too can costs thousands of pounds a year. Our app allows the school to message parents and other family members for free which is more cost-effective and reliable.”
“We have just secured our first international school in Portugal and are looking at marketing our products and services to British International Schools across the world.”
Parentapps produces a bespoke app for each client school and then also allows parents to communicate with the school directly on matters such as sickness or absence from school.
Sir Terry added: “I think the education sector is an untapped market. Digital technology is revolutionising the way we live our lives. But if you look at a schools today, they are quite conservative around IT. They haven’t been able to fully embrace all the potentials of digital technology.
“The cost of letters and newsletters, and phone calls and texts is enormous for schools – and it is very time-intensive and unreliable. Parentapps have developed a product that takes away all of that cost, makes it much easier and reliable and really improves the way schools communicate with parents.”
Mr Currie has direct experience of how much money is wasted in schools on unreliable communications. He is the owner of the private Belvedere School in Liverpool. He added: “I introduced Kevin Clayton to my headteacher and she is not easy to sell to. But he did manage to sell it to her, so it occurred to me that he could get it out there to other schools.
“I felt that the education sector was a little behind the times and so people perhaps don’t look at the cutting edge of technology. So I realised there was a real benefit in Parentapps and what Kevin had to sell and I think it has great potential.”