How far we have come! The digital-revolution has brought communications literally into the palm of our hand – the smartphone has become essential and is revolutionising the way we communicate. It’s time schools caught up and said goodbye to crumpled paper notes and hello to tech-led communication
School-home communications are undergoing a digital-revolution. According to Schoolcomms, 91% of 18 to 45-year-olds with a smartphone use it daily. “Schools that have embraced technology – and communicate with parents their way – are seeing improved parental engagement,” Jo Goode, marketing manager, Schoolcomms explains, adding that this usually means improved attainment and better-performing students.
“Good communication is used by parents as a mark of how well a school is being run; poor communication gives parents a reason to complain,” Daniel Clarke, chief strategy officer at Finalsite UK, says. Technology reduces admin hours spent preparing communications or chasing unexplained absences and it reduces costs by negating the need for print, for example, because emails and in-app messaging are generally free, XXX says – plus, such communication can be done in bulk using MIS data.
However, you do need a solid communication plan to ensure that you’re answering parents’ questions before they’re asked, Daniel advises. “A timely message means no more disruptive calls to the office – to find out what time or where to meet for the hockey match – and allows parents to plan for events,” he explains.
One of the key benefits for schools is being able to make contact with those previously hard-to-reach parents who are disengaged from their child’s school-life. “Being able to praise a child’s achievements – so that parents know even before their child arrives home – creates a more engaged and reassured relationship between school and home,” Jo says.
Schools that have embraced technology – and communicate with parents their way – are seeing improved parental engagement
The methods which schools use to communicate are evolving – think email, SMS, apps. Finding a system that allows a school to be fully inclusive when communicating with parents is paramount. “The majority of parents will be happy to use a parent app, for example, and will find it convenient to receive information in real-time,” Jo advises. “However, identifying those parents who have received your message needs to be quick and simple, too. A system that includes a reliable parent app – which uses your MIS to drive the app content and avoids data duplication – is invaluable.”
An easy win for all
The volume of school-home communications can be overwhelming and can cause parents to disengage, Daniel cautions; he suggests that you avoid having too many, ill-defined communication channels open. A parent gateway or portal provides a single place for parents to go for information. “While a school might communicate via multiple channels, it’s vital to have a secure parent portal that collates this information and allows parents to login and find what they’re looking for – regardless of how it was sent,” Daniel says. He further suggests categorising messages for parents using relevant headers, so that they can distinguish between what’s just for reading, what requires a response or action and what’s urgent over what is not time-critical.
What, you ask, is the hallmark of communication excellence? Quite simply, happy parents!