Headteacher Magazine, guide to services and products for UK Schools
Geoff Jones, parent communications expert at ParentMail, identifies some improvements schools could make when keeping in touch with parents…
Thankfully, home-school communications have evolved out of all recognition since the days of the crumpled letter at the bottom of the book bag. But although schools are working hard to improve the way they reach out to parents, their messages don’t always hit home.
So where could you be going wrong with your school communications?
1. Irrelevant messages
If you have a child in Year 3, you are unlikely to be interested in the Year 5 maths test next Wednesday. Similarly, next term’s fixture list is of little consequence if your child isn’t in the football team.
Naturally, parents can filter out messages that don’t apply to them, but the risk is that parents will think all school messages are junk and stop reading them altogether. Perhaps you could consider ways to sift through school messages to ensure they are only sent to the people who are going to be interested in the content. Then parents will know that if they see a message from school, it will be relevant to them. Technology can help support your school admin staff to do this efficiently, with functionality available for you to create year and class groups or even just reach individual parents, allowing you to contact the parents you want to.
2. Too many channels
The demise of the crumpled letter is certainly a step in the right direction, but what are schools replacing it with? Email, text, apps or all of these and more? In a recent article, one frustrated mum says she receives information from her children’s school in no fewer than nine different ways.
This can leave parents unsure where their first port of call should be, and concerned that they might miss something important. Pare back to the most effective communications channels for your school, and let parents know of the primary communications channel for important information.. It will help to eliminate uncertainty for parents and save time for schools.
3. Social overload
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are perfect for newsflashes about the latest school production or the chess club victory, but social media is too blunt an instrument for detailed, informative messages and messages can be easily missed!
Consider the security factor too. Do you really want the wider public to see posts about the whereabouts of your pupils, for instance? Keep social channels for interesting school stories, and send important messages via your other communications systems.
4. Unread newsletters
The newsletter can be a powerful engagement tool for the whole school community, but while some parents read it from cover to cover, others will skim through it at best.
With newsletters, timing is everything. Is Friday after school the best time for parents to receive a newsletter? They could be busy tying up the loose ends of a working week. It might be better to automatically schedule the newsletter to go out on Sunday evening, for example. A quick poll would tell you when parents prefer to digest school news.
Rather than one big monthly newsletter, little and often can be a good approach to keeping parents in the loop with school life. Some parental engagement tools enable you to send out a daily bulletin for instance, with short, punchy stories, just a couple of paragraphs long, containing the latest school news.
5. No measure of success
How do you know if your messages are being read by the right people at the right time? To make sure you are creating a useful and engaging dialogue with parents rather than just broadcasting to them, you need to evaluate the impact of your parent communications.
Measure your success by asking questions of your system. Can parents easily update their contact details? Do they know how to book parents’ evening appointments? And how many families have responded to your Christmas fair appeal?
Parental engagement is too important to leave to chance. A focused approach to reaching parents, with the technology to keep it simple, can help schools take the hit and miss out of their parental communications.
Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.