As schools begin to re-open amid the COVID-19 outbreak, maintaining a strong line of communication between your staff, students and parents is imperative to ensure the school community stays strong throughout these challenging circumstances.
We understand that, as a teacher, this can present quite a challenge. Just a few days ago, students would be dropped off in the morning, picked up at the end of the school day and you’d have very little contact with their parents in-between.
Now, your inbox is flooded with emails from anxious parents who are keen to know what the situation is going to be in the coming weeks and how you’re going to continue supporting their child’s education.
So, how to you manage this new influx of emails, WhatsApps and SMS messages, and reassure parents without this becoming your new full-time job?
When should you get in touch with parents?
Most parents will have a full-time job, with many continuing to do so working from home, so you’d think that important communications that are sent during working hours probably won’t receive the highest levels of engagement. However, recent research reveals that there are four optimum times to engage with people throughout the working day:
- Around 6am, when people first wake up
- 9-11am in the morning, when they’re settling into the working day
- 2-3pm, just after lunch
- 7-10pm in the evening
Needless to say, trying to get in touch with parents over the weekend is nigh on impossible as it’s likely they’ll be busy with other things. So, approaching them within one of the aforementioned times on a weekday will likely be your best chance to get hold of them.
What should you communicate with parents about?
There’s a fine balance to be struck between making sure parents have enough information that they can be confident in your school’s approach and communicating with them too much or too little.
This being the case, we’d recommend approaching parents only when you have key updates that have been verified by your Head of Department or the Senior Leadership Team. By doing this, you’re ensuring that they continue to be updated with important information, which is conveyed clearly and doesn’t get lost in a wave of communication. It also means that you don’t get caught up spending all your time speaking to parents when you have a variety of other teaching tasks that need doing.
For parents who demand updates more regularly, never underestimate the power of the “holding” email. Often, parents will just want to know that you’re considering their query or looking into something on their behalf. So, even if you don’t have the answer yet, just firing off a quick email explaining that you’re looking into it should help appease the situation.
We’d also suggest making sure that you’re only answering queries regarding things that you’re directly responsible for. If parents require information regarding things outside of your control, then don’t be afraid to redirect them to the relevant member of staff at your school. With helpful communication tools inbuilt into your MIS, it should be easier to keep in touch with other members of staff during any school closures; so make sure they’re kept in the loop with any potential parental queries that could be heading their way.
Which platforms should you use?
There are a variety of different platforms you can use to make sure you’re reaching parents with the right information at the right time. In doing so, it’s also a good idea to use a platform which can track messages, integrating this information with your school’s administrative system, so you can keep a clear paper trail of all communications sent to and received by parents and students.
Based on this, the four we’d recommend are as follows…
Over 3 billion people around the world currently own a smartphone and will therefore have access to a variety of Apps. Not only do these provide an easy platform for parents to access key information on their own terms and at a time that best suits them, but you can also use features like push notifications to make sure that essential updates aren’t missed. With Apps being web-based, they also make it easier to keep in touch with parents around the world without potential additional costs. Find out more about using our fully integrated iParent and iTeacher Apps here.
It’s worth bearing in mind that, whilst the vast majority of people have smartphones, this doesn’t cover everyone. An alternative way of ensuring that you reach as many people as possible is to send SMS Messages. Another advantage of doing this is that you have a clear history of what communications have been sent and when, as well as tracking insights into posted, errored and sent messages. This platform also enables you to send emergency broadcast messages to all staff, students and parents, so they can be kept informed of major updates quickly and efficiently.
Find out more about how SMS Messaging can transform your school’s communications here.
A Dedicated Parent Portal
Similar to using an App, having a Parent Portal ensures that parents have a dedicated forum they can use whenever they need to, to pick up insights into their child’s school life. From your perspective, this is a great tool for you to be able to streamline communications with them – now you can post updates as soon as you have them, direct any parental queries to the Portal for more information and empower parents to keep updated with any changes to school life. You can also monitor how many updates are read and how many visitors the site has had with additional analytics.
A recent favourite in the virtual school environment, Microsoft Teams enables you to create collaborative classrooms and communicate with school staff en masse. A big concern of parents at the moment is the ability for their child to continue learning despite school closures. So, being able to facilitate the continuation of school life for your students through this software will help alleviate a lot of their concerns.
We hope you’ve found this useful and if you have any additional recommendations surrounding how you manage communications with parents, we’d love to hear them – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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