The SLT meeting starts, and first up for item one is a new system aimed at helping parents track their children’s homework. It’ll involve a three-year contract, albeit one that doesn’t cost much, and you’re told some other schools use it as well. You agree to buy it, and parents are emailed details of how to log in and change their passwords.
Two weeks later, colleagues are arguing that the school should purchase a further web-based tracking and assessment system that will allow parents to see ‘live’ data regarding their child’s outcomes. Doing so won’t break the bank, so it’s nodded through and you sign up. Parents are again emailed details of how to log in.
Soon after that, your catering provider announces that they’re introducing a new online payment system. Parents can now pay for their children’s school lunches via the web. Once they have a login and password.
Two weeks pass. Your literacy leader asks SLT if the school can adopt an online reading support programme. Your school development plan states that ‘literacy is a focus area’, as is ‘use of technology’. Beyond that, the SDP doesn’t go into specifics (which is why it was difficult to cost when being drawn up), but everyone at the meeting nonetheless enthusiastically agrees to the new reading solution. Parents are emailed yet again with details of this wonderful new online tool and a guide showing them how to log in.
(Oh, and don’t forget that all this comes on top of multiple maths apps, MFL apps and homework websites the school already uses, all requiring their own user accounts).
Time passes. You find yourself one day chatting to someone at the local secondary that most of your Y6 will transfer to. You mention in passing the online resources you’ve started using, and discover they use similar resources themselves – but that none of them share the same platforms as yours. You start to wonder what a parent with one child in Y4 and another in Y7 must be experiencing. Exasperation, probably.
We mustn’t forget that parents are often busy people, and that trying to stay on top of multiple ‘support’ systems can actually make it harder for them to be actively engaged in their child’s education.
So before you buy that new online system for tracking your school’s payments, grades, reading comprehension, SATs resources or whatever else, please spare a thought for the parents. They might be designed to ‘help’, but they’re not always the solution you think they are in practice.
The Bad SBM is a pseudonymous school business manager who tweets as @Bad_SBM