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NFER March 2020
NFER March 2020

Three steps to choosing parental engagement technology

March 11, 2020, 12:32 GMT+1
Read in 4 minutes
  • What should schools think about when selecting a parental communications tool? And how can they avoid falling prey to common mistakes? Winston Poyton shares his top tips...
Three steps to choosing parental engagement technology

Technology should make it easier for schools to keep in touch with parents. But if you have one system to announce details of the school summer fayre, another system for school dinner payments, and yet another for managing parents’ evening appointments, could your communications be taking up more time than they should?

And what happens when you want to message a group of parents about the after-school art club or the football team? You’re back to keying in names and contact details all over again. If this sounds familiar, it could be time to streamline your parental communications.

Having one system for all your communication needs can save time and avoid duplication of effort. But if you decide to take the route of choosing a single supplier, what’s the best way to guarantee a smooth journey?

1 | Find the right fit

Investing in parental engagement technology is a key business decision so you need a system that ties into your school’s wider strategy.

Draw up a road map for your school’s communications and decide your priorities. Do you need to get information out to parents more quickly, encourage greater interaction with families or communicate with parents about their payments?

It’s important to think about the long term too. Multi-academy trusts (MATs) taking on new schools will need to ensure they have a system which will scale up with them as they grow.

Parents increasingly prefer to receive school news via social media, messaging apps or text. But will your system allow you to do this? It’s important to adopt a system with the flexibility to future-proof your school’s communications.

2 | Avoid the hidden extras

It’s all too easy to be attracted by the headline price of a piece of technology, without considering whether there are additional costs to factor in.

Ask your prospective suppliers if you will need to pay extra for any of the features you need, and work closely with them to ensure you come away with a package which gives you the right tools for the right price.

In choosing a fully integrated communications system, some schools find themselves sacrificing educational functionality. It’s all very well being able to send out bulk emails to parents, but does it enable you to you get a quick message out to remind a parent about a school trip instalment?

Make sure your system can handle all the nuances of home/school interactions without needing to buy in additional tools.

3 | Select a supportive partner

Signing up for a new system is only the start. To get the most from any technology, schools need their supplier to become a trusted partner.

With a strong supplier partnership, you will have the support you need to move to a new communications solution without disrupting your school’s daily routine. It can sometimes be difficult to persuade parents to switch to a new system and make full use of it. Your provider should encourage parents to engage with it as quickly as possible.

As your school or MAT evolves, you may want to add new functionality to your system. Talk to your supplier about the possibility of switching on new features, and what would be involved in rolling these out to parents. And make sure you receive full product training for your staff and regular health checks of your system.

By consolidating your parental engagement activity into a system which evolves with your school, you will have the time, tools and expertise to develop stronger and more effective home-school connections.

Winston Poyton is education, charities and commercial product director at IRIS Software Group. Find out how your school or academy can look forward with certainty at iris.co.uk/sector/education-software.

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