Keeping a clear, reliable and steady stream of communication between your school and your students’ parents is essential. Not only does this significantly contribute towards parents having a positive experience and therefore being more likely to continue sending their children to your school, but anticipating when parents are likely to seek further information from you saves you crucial administrative time that would otherwise be spent replying to numerous communications from parents.
However, making sure you’re speaking to hundreds of parents, at the right time and with the right information is no simple task. So, we developed a series of intuitive tools to help support your teachers and members of staff in managing and coordinating communication with parents.
In the following article, we’re going to share with you our top tips on how best to use your digital tools to ensure your school is speaking to parents as effectively as possible.
- Never underestimate the value of face-to-face meetings
- Be sure to choose the right platform
- Save your teachers time
- Pick your moments
- Clearly prioritise messages
- Appease the ‘Helicopter’ parent
Never underestimate the value of face-to-face meetings
With the technological evolution, it’s increasingly common for you to encounter a machine instead of a human being – including making deposits or withdrawals at the bank, checking in to a Doctor’s office and even shopping online. However, as helpful as digital communications are, it should be noted that people still place a significant value on face-to-face meetings. That’s why events such as parents’ evening are so valuable as for both parents and teachers as a forum to discuss the progress of each student.
In these instances, the role of technology should be to support you in organising these face-to-face meetings in the first place. To ensure parent-teacher conferences, parents’ evenings and other key school events run as smoothly as possible, the pre-meeting communication you send out is vital.
Our iParent App is one way you could choose to speak to parents ahead of seeing them in-person, with push notifications reminding parents to book meetings as well as sharing key details.
Whatever platform you choose, your electronic communications should generate awareness, encourage parental attendance and engagement, share event details and information, schedule individual meetings, and create a forum to stimulate discussions and where parents can ask questions.
Be sure to choose the right platform
When choosing which platform to use for your communications, your main aim should be to reach everyone you need to whenever you need to. In doing this, you need to know and understand your audience: the parents themselves. In our experience, if a school doesn’t offer the right communication platforms then the parent community will create its own.
This could cause potential problems when it comes to having an insight into and controlling the discussions parents are having surrounding your school; for example, they might set up a WhatsApp group outside your school’s control where a school representative is not involved in the conversation.
We’ve found that some of the most successful schools work on the principle that parents want to be informed and, if they aren’t, they’ll go to another parent to get the information they need. So, they offer multiple options for parents to access the right information, depending on their preferences. With iSAMS, this includes Apps, SMS messaging, and a dedicated Parent Portal. This multichannel approach to communication broadens your reach, increasing the chances that the necessary information will reach every parent.
It may also be necessary to choose different channels of communication depending on the type of messages you’re sending. For example, you have to bear in mind that not everyone will have access to a smartphone or mobile data at any one time, so for critical emergency messaging it may be best to use SMS as an alternative, to increase the chances of these types of communications being seen immediately. By contrast, if you’re sharing school reports with parents then it’s going to be very costly and slow to download these over SMS, so you’re probably better off disseminating them via an online Portal or App.
Save your teachers time
Parental access isn’t the only thing you need to consider when choosing the right platform for your school. You also must make sure that your staff members who are going to be sending these messages have a comfortable and intuitive channel through which to do this. An added bonus is if this channel increases the efficiency of your communications, saving valuable time by avoiding the need to duplicate messages across multiple platforms.
That’s one of the reasons we developed our iTeacher App, enabling teachers to do 70% of their daily tasks on the move via their mobile device/s. What’s particularly clever about this powerful App is that the information input here flows directly to the iParent App and Portals. Not only does this mean that you don’t have to waste time writing the same thing again and again to share with parents through different channels, but it also means that important information can be shared in real-time and is accessible almost immediately.
Having multiple platforms will, in this way, cover you for every type of communication you may need to send out and will better support you in reaching every parent when you need to.
Pick your moments
As much as parents want to be kept updated with key school information, particularly when it directly concerns their child/children, you also need to be mindful that you’re not bombarding them all the time.
Choosing when you contact parents is often just as important as the platform you choose to contact them on. When it comes to emergency messaging, you often don’t have a choice as they’re, by nature, time-sensitive. Alternatively, when it comes to marketing campaigns or sharing important event/student information with them, you can plan and schedule your messages to ensure they have the best possible chance of reaching parents. However, this can be a very time-consuming process involving a detailed analysis of the best times to reach parents based on the percentage of communications that are opened and CTRs.
Wouldn’t it just be easier if this information was readily available for parents to access whenever they need it?
This is the mentality with which we designed our iParent App – so, without you having to spend a long time analysing past comms, you can be sure that parents always have access to the information they need. You can also ensure that the most important information you want to relay to parents is featured in an intuitive dashboard, so they’re one of the first things parents see when logging in.
Similarly, our Parent Portal provides a valuable forum through which you can upload everything parents need to have peace of mind regarding their child’s school life, including: timetables, key events, exam information, school reports, and more.
By hosting platforms such as the Portal or App, you’re empowering parents to pick their moment to access the information they need, which is often much better received than constant emailing or similar.
Clearly prioritise messages
In our above four points, we’ve made a clear distinction between emergency broadcasts and other forms of communication, as they should very much be treated as separate entities. This is namely because emergency broadcasts often require immediate action and therefore have a much greater degree of urgency than other situations in which you need to contact parents. Because of this, you want to make sure that your emergency messages don’t get lost in a sea of additional communications by making them clearly identifiable as “urgent”.
There are many ways in which you can do this, but we’d recommend the easiest as using a separate platform to your other communications entirely: SMS messaging.
It may seem “old school” in an age of Apps and smartphones, but there are several advantages to using SMS in these situations. Firstly, not everyone has a smartphone but there are now almost 1 billion more mobile connections than people in the world.
So, the chances are much higher that you’ll instantly reach someone via SMS than through an App or even email.
Getting in touch with people quickly is not only beneficial because it means your message will be actioned straight away; it also avoids a potentially dangerous ‘Chinese whispers’ situation. By ensuring that you, as the school, are the first to get in touch with each parent, you can control the message and tone of the situation to ensure it’s not misconstrued from parent to parent. This will help contain the situation and reassure parents that everything is being managed as expected.
Appease the ‘Helicopter’ parent
We’re all familiar with this particular type of parent; the one who gets in touch regularly with numerous questions and wants to oversee every aspect of their child’s life at school. Sometimes they can be difficult to manage, particularly when they’re contacting you to ask a lot of questions which you then have to refer to the right member of the school community to respond to.
To make sure you appease the helicopter parent by providing them with all the information they want to know, saving your teachers valuable time in the process so they can focus on teaching, we would recommend having this information on a platform that’s accessible 24/7, similar to our Parent Portal or iParent App. On these platforms’ parents can instantly access their child’s timetable and teaching groups, view current and historical school reports, detentions and reward and conduct records along with seeing their child’s exam arrangements, entries, timetables and results. Everything the ‘helicopter’ parent needs to know.
Choosing the right tools to effectively manage communication with parents is crucial, as these provide the basis of which platforms, features and scheduling capabilities you have – so you need to be sure that the functionality you have in place gives you everything you need it to.
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