Engagement with parents
There has always been a need for the school to keep the parent informed: for example on the child’s progress, on practical matters like uniform, term dates, open evenings, school outings, how to apply for the next key stage school or curriculum options etc. There has always been a need of the parent to inform the school if a child is absent, why they are late, why they may want to leave early.
Some schools have newsletters to keep parents informed on a regular basis to communicate with home and all schools have a website to keep parents and the wider community informed.
With the website comes email to make it easier for schools and parents to correspond. Some school websites have electronic payment portals to make it easier for parents and for school to manage payments.
There are applications (Apps) that can be used by pupils to see what homework the Teacher has set, some of these Apps can be used to notify parents that their child has homework and when it is due.
And there is an abundance of curriculum materials on the internet.
This feature is titled Improving digital engagement with parents - how and why
The key part of this title is why?
Why ? to improve on what is already being done. Consider the wider context of digital transformation, a topical term applied to a radical change to our lives and certainly applicable with the invention of something that didn’t exist before, like the smart phone. The term is also applied to a technology enabled change that makes what we are already doing more efficient. Are schools being more efficient or are they being radically different in the way they communicate with Parents?
Consider some examples of what transformation is in school:
• The internet: opened up access for teachers and pupils to resources in teaching and school administration management, less paper post - email for faster communication
• Databases enable teachers to analyse progress data, data drops and data analysis
• Electronic banking removes cash and opens up the use of electronic payment
I would suggest that for many school’s engagement with parents is mainly doing what has always been done but digitally and faster.
Transformation is happening: for the pupils and teachers the data being collected and analysed about how the individual pupil learns is starting to provide far better insights to individual learning. This can be shared with parents and can create opportunities for sharing insights probably in the context of the pupils ‘school report’.
For school business managers and school leaders the question to ask is not how can I improve digital engagement but more of why do I want or need to
Practical check list
1. What is it that the school wants/needs to share
2. What is it that the parents are asking for
3. What are the inefficient or costly areas of administration related to school/parent interaction that can be improved
4. Are there GDPR implications (for example having permission to use contact details to send things out)
5. What is the total cost of using an App (not just the cost of the App itself)
What is everyone else doing ?
For this feature I have not researched the market but given the 32,000 schools in the UK and the published sales numbers of the leading Apps the indication is that beyond the website and email the uptake is not that high. There is a big difference between sharing something because it’s easy to do so and sharing something that is important and the parents wants to know about it.
So, focus on the needs, innovate and then expect to see an improvement.
Royden Gothelf Bsc, MBCS CITP - Strategic IT planning, reducing costs at Rightict. www.rightict.com
Independent Advisor to schools, Academy trusts and Local authorities
Previously Business mentor for EDUCATE at the Institute of Education, UCL