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How to improve communications without increasing your workload

01 July 2020

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 turned our world upside down and like everyone, schools have had to adapt quickly to a new set of norms and challenges to make sure there is open and clear communications with parents and carers. 

With some students being home-schooled, others classroom-based and some pupils learning through a hybrid of the two, nuanced communications that can be easily updated and quickly delivered to parents has been the key to maintaining a cohesive school community. 

But with face-to-face teacher-parent communications significantly depleted due to social distancing and school resources stretched, one of the main questions we regularly encountered was 'how can we improve communications with parents, without increasing our workload?

We've put together 4 ways to improve your school communications: 

1. Choose an integrated school communication solution

Digital communication is the key to success, especially when social distancing makes it harder than ever to see parents in person. 

There are lots of parent school communication tools out there at the moment but choosing a digital communications solution that integrates with your existing MIS (management information system) database will save you time and money in the long term.

An integrated digital communication solution means that your administrative team can upload the information you want to share with parents just once. Then, at the click of a button, they can use the integration features to deliver that content across a range of channels. This gives parents several options for accessing information, in whatever format suits them best, without adding to their (or your!) workload. 

Integrated school communication software will share the same technology and features as your website, so your administrative team will learn how to use it once, then be able to control and share content simultaneously across your school and trust websites, parent app and parent portal from one place, rather than juggling several different systems. 

2. Look for a parent portal

A parent portal allows parents and carers to access a range of important information about their children, from one central location.

This could include data about their child’s performance, behaviour and attendance, text and email communications from the school including details on parents' evening, school trips, outings and clubs. Parents ideally should be able to review and respond to these email notifications directly from the portal as well as book and pay for trips.  Portals are also a quick and easy solution for parents who wish to locate and contact individual teaching staff or school admin regarding their child.

By helping parents access important information about their child quickly and easily, all in one place, communication through a parent portal (or mobile app) should minimise emails and calls to school, creating long-term administrative efficiencies. 

Effective parent portals should be responsive, working across both desktop and mobile, allowing parents to access data about their children in real-time, at the touch of a button. Portals should also be able to pull through specific pages from a school website as well as links to school systems used for homework, sports results via SOCS and many more useful resources for parents. 

3. Get a parent communications app

By choosing a solution that provides a parent school app that allows push notifications, your parents will never miss an update. 

We’re increasingly familiar with accessing information through apps from our tablets and mobile devices. Once a school communication app is installed by a parent, you can reach them quickly and easily in real-time, through enabled push notifications. 

This is particularly useful if you have urgent information to communicate, as parents will be alerted to a new message in the app via their mobile device and will be able to quickly read it. It also allows instant, free communications with parents, as long as they have push notifications turned on. 

Of course, app downloads will need to be actively encouraged when implementing your chosen school communications solution, but a good provider will be able to give you lots of helpful advice on successfully achieving a high number of app downloads. 

4. Seek support and security  

Your communications solution should have an easy to use, intuitive, content management system (CMS) that multiple admin users can get to grips with quickly and easily. The administrators of your new software are unlikely to be your technical IT team, so choosing a simple-to-use solution will save you time and money in the long term, by on-boarding new users seamlessly. 

That said, it’s always good to have help at hand, so you should also look for a solution that’s fully supported with a helpdesk staffed by a team of experts. 

Parents expect to be able to access information on their terms, so check your solution is hosted on a stable server, with guaranteed uptime as close to 100% of the time as possible.

Also, be sure that all aspects of your chosen solution are safe and secure. You will need reassurance from your provider that your school data will not be compromised and held to ransom. A good solution provider will have invested heavily in the security of its systems. Look for double authentication and SSL certificates delivered as standard. 

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