Graham Cooper on the app revolution and the benefits for schools

The mobile ‘phone could be the solution to addressing the home-school divide once and for all says Graham Cooper, head of product strategy at Capita SIMS

We know that parents quite often struggle to find the right time to speak to teachers about any concerns they may have about their child – but are schools missing an obvious trick?

Research recently conducted by Capita SIMS discovered that over half of parents (54%) want their primary school to send information about their child through an app or mobile-enabled web portal and yet, less than a third of schools (32%) offered parents a mobile app or mobile-enabled website.

The average person checks their ‘phone between 50 and 150 times a day

The power of the mobile ‘phone

All the evidence suggests that parents want to be able to access information about their child through a mobile ‘phone. Statistics published by StatCounter in November 2016 revealed that, globally, mobiles and tablets now account for 51.3% of web browsing and, astonishingly, the average person checks their ‘phone between 50 and 150 times a day.

Take Amazon. It’s a great example of how our browsing habits have changed – and why schools should consider following suit. Until recently, we would happily order a book by logging into our PC, finding the title in question and paying for it using a stored card. Today, we can place an order from our phone in just a few taps of its app.

[Parents] are more likely to open a notification on their ‘phone about the cost of a school theatre trip, for example, and quickly pop online to pay for it

Bridging the home-school divide

I strongly believe that school business managers in search of solutions to bridging the home-school divide need to consider the power of the mobile ‘phone for allowing parents to freely access information about their child at the time and location of their choice – without the need to power up a laptop or re-enter their password.

What’s more, parents want and respond to a more consumer-led, engaged experience as offered by the likes of Amazon. They’re more likely to open a notification on their ‘phone about the cost of a school theatre trip, for example, and quickly pop online to pay for it. Email can be used for less urgent communication such as sending parents revised timetables and summer exam schedules; it gives them the freedom to access the information from their ‘phone on their way to work or once they return home.

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Think about how you update student records. Instead of relying on parents to tell you if they’ve moved house, changed jobs or have a new mobile ‘phone number; technology now allows parents to do that for you, sending a notification that something has changed via the app to the school office.

It’s a powerful means of engaging parents and/or further enhancing their involvement in their child’s education

Then there’s the perennial problem of, ‘What did you do today?’ and, ‘What have you got for homework?’. By allowing parents to access information online they can find out that, today, Johnny received an ‘A’ for his English essay or that Elena has accumulated 50 achievement points this term. It’s a powerful means of engaging parents and/or further enhancing their involvement in their child’s education.

Student engagement

But what I find really exciting is that technology can also shake up the student experience which, in turn, can have a tangible impact on the home-school relationship. If you have parents who aren’t as engaged in their child’s education as you would hope maybe more informed students could help nudge them in the right direction. If a student receives a notification on their mobile of 100% attendance this term, or that they did well in a test, they are likely to show the message to their mum or dad; parents can then become more engaged without really realising it.

Bridging the home-school divide has long been an issue schools have sought to address. By using IT to push information into the hands of a school’s most important stakeholders – students and parents – the opportunity for engagement increases massively.

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