The Effectiveness of Current Communication Methods at Engaging Parents [Parental Engagement #4]
Published on 13/03/19
This week we are focusing on the effectiveness of current communication methods used in school at engaging parental audiences. We asked our respondents to rank each method of communication from very poor to very good, depending on effective they felt it was at getting information across to their parental community.
The Effectiveness of Current Communications
Face to Face
With an overwhelming 88% positive response rate, the most effective way of communicating with parents was judged by schools in our survey to be through face to face meetings. This is likely to be due to the instant response and engagement available in real time contact as well as the ability to discuss and resolve any queries and questions as and when they arrive. Speaking face to face also allows both participants to be aware of expression and tone of voice as these nuances can sometimes be lost or misinterpreted through written methods of communication.
Text messaging was the only other communication method aside from face to face to receive no negative responses. This tool came in a positive response of 57% and a neutral response of 26%. 17% of the schools surveyed advised that this was not a method that they currently use so were unable to comment on its effectiveness.
Whilst only a small percentage of schools are using one, the school app was seen as an effective method by primary schools and independent schools but doesn’t appear to have a large take up by secondary schools at the moment.
The opinion on newsletters and general letters seems to be quite divided between schools as to whether it is an effective method of engaging with parents. The primary schools were overwhelmingly confident that newsletters are a positive way forward whereas a lot of the secondary schools in our sample were either undecided or thought it was a poor way of engaging with their audience.
This was also true of general letters home, with primary and independent schools taking the lead on promoting the positive effects whilst secondary schools still tended to be neutral or negative. In contrast to newsletters however (with no positive secondary responses), there was a small percentage of secondary schools flagged general letters to be in the very good category.
School websites came in as the most interesting result as despite being highlighted as one of the most regularly updated communications tools, it also came in top of the negative responses on effectiveness.
17% of schools thought the school website was a poor way to engage with parents, sharply contrasting with the 58% of schools who thought it was a good or very good method of communicating.
In our experience, a wide range of opinions on website effectiveness can sometimes be down to some site-specific factors such as:
- Responsiveness and speed; can the parents get onto the site easily from all devices?
- Navigation; can the parents easily find the information they’re looking for?
- Design; Is the design clean, tidy and consistent throughout?
- Analytics and SEO; is the site working for the school and are they generating traffic to the relevant areas?
Websites which are not working hard for the school and are difficult to use, can often detract users from returning which will then lessen the likelihood of it being an effective communication tool.
Social Media is still a relatively new method of communication for schools, so a high number of respondents chose either a neutral response or indicated this was not applicable for them. Interestingly though, of the schools that do use social media, the responses were overwhelmingly positive - showing that this method is beginning to pick up engagement within the education sector. The reason for this may be due to the speed of response times and the instant updates and feedback provided from channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Improving Current Methods
As part of the survey, we also asked schools to comment on whether there is anything about their current communication and engagement methods which they would like to improve.
The majority of respondents left this open question blank, however the responses we did receive were quite similar relating to improving current communication methods. These comments came from several different schools and all related to concerns around language barriers, consolidation and frequency suggesting that these are common considerations.
Quite a number of primary and secondary schools highlighted that there can be issues for parents to access communications which have been sent home if they have a large number of students and families who have English as an Additional Language. Whereas websites can have translation options added to aid with accessibility and language differences, it can be more difficult to ensure that email/text/ written communications have the same accessible options. A lot of schools are looking for methods to make communication between students, staff and parents easier to understand.
Consolidation and Frequency
Particularly amongst the secondary school respondents, there was a concern around the frequency of communications they were sending out and whether this was oversaturating their audience. These schools highlighted wanting to improve the frequency of publications to be timelier and more targeted as well as consolidating the information into digestible chunks; as a daily or weekly bulletin, as opposed to sporadic multiple emails. The option for consolidating all of the communication tools into one central management system also proved a popular response rather than engaging multiple non- interacting tools.
In next week’s post…
Next week we will be looking specifically at ‘Newsletters and Parents Evening Bookings'.
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