“We know that the more engaged the parent, the better the student performs. In this smartphone generation the easiest way to reach parents instantly is via an app – but how do you know which one will deliver the best results for your school?” — Schoolcomms
Most schools are looking for an app to help them engage with parents more effectively as studies have shown the more engaged the parent, the better the student performs. From the safeguarding perspective, getting messages through to parents can be costly if you’re dependent on text messages and unreliable if you’re using social media – so when someone says, “there’s an app for that,” it sounds like the perfect solution in this smartphone generation.
There are now so many apps to choose from it has quickly become a minefield to negotiate. School budgets are already constrictive, so making an informed decision is key to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money and not making a costly mistake.
Streamlining the back-office
Using technology to communicate with parents is not a new thing. As technology has evolved schools have embraced the benefits it can bring, but equally the speed of this technology growth has resulted in schools contracting with many different providers. The lack of integration between the different systems a school may be using, forces parents to numerous websites to receive and respond to information about their child(ren).
The more complicated it is for parents, the less they’ll engage.
However, there are now some very good, reliable systems such as Schoolcomms, who recognise this and work closely with schools to understand the ever-changing needs they have. Schoolcomms is the market leading one-system solution that brings all parent interactions into one place. A simple, but sophisticated system that integrates fully with SIMS and the pièce de résistance is that they also provide a parent app – for free.
It’s wise to review the systems your school is already using to communicate with parents. The technology progression has seen providers like Schoolcomms really come into their own, leaving the specialist one-type providers trailing behind, particularly in terms of functionality.
The thought of moving text, email, online payments, absence chasing, reporting etc from your current system to another probably fills you with dread – well, it shouldn’t. A good one-system provider can make the transition and implementation easy for you. Having a single contract, invoice and renewal date, alongside one place for staff and parents just screams efficiency and cost saving at the top of its voice.
Consolidating your back-office systems is a giant step towards placing yourself in a strong position to have an app that actually works for you – keeping those efficiencies going beyond the school boundaries.
Beware design over functionality
Many apps on the market focus on the style of the app and even offer you the option to brand with your school logo. However, scratch the surface and you will generally discover that there is no substance to these and you may as well just use your website as this probably gives you more functionality!
It’s better not to be swayed by looks and go for an industry recognised app (would you trust a banking app if it wasn’t?) and when it comes to information about their children, parents are looking for the same level of integrity. School Gateway by Schoolcomms is a great example of a nationally recognisable and most importantly, trustworthy app.
Value beyond the hype
What gives an app value? The synergy between Schoolcomms and School Gateway is the best example of integrated functionality, making it the UK’s best parent app.
- Seamless integration with SIMS, which is a nifty feature meaning you only record your data once and it does the rest for you
- It identifies parents who have the app and automatically converts a text message to a free app message to keep those text costs down
- It cuts time, every day, chasing unauthorised absences. Schoolcomms not only reads attendance information from SIMS, but allows parents to respond via School Gateway and these responses can be written back into SIMS
- Achievement and behaviour can be set to automatically alert parents with a notification to let them know there is new information to view
- Parents only see what is relevant to their child(ren)
- Schoolcomms gives control over what you want to share, so you can customise it in line with your own policies. Sharing reports and timetables direct from SIMS and being able to instantly publish to the app is another nice feature, completely eradicating printing costs
- Plus, there’s a host of functionality around breakfast and after-school club booking, payment collection for dinners, parents evening and more
No two apps are the same, so outlining how hard you want your app to work for you is a good place to start. Some blue sky thinking to cover the ‘must have’s’ and the ‘nice to have’s’ will give you a good framework to be able to compare app against app.
All suppliers of these systems should be able to offer you a live demonstration using your own school data before you commit. So, don’t be afraid to ask them and do probe into the detail.
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