School comms transformed at Pick Me Academy

After a period of fast growth, Pick Me Academy in Bucharest, Romania, needed to adapt their school-to-parent communications (school comms). They launched their Piota international school app in November 2018.

Pick Me Academy Background

Pick Me Academy was founded in 2014 as a kindergarten teaching the British curriculum in an English speaking environment in Bucharest, Romania. In just five years since then, owner Denis Popescu has successfully expanded it to nearly 200 pupils on three sites, adding a primary school section, gaining Cobis accreditation and preparing to start teaching for the Cambridge International Examinations.

School comms

Coping with such fast growth has required adapting practice and procedures in many areas, one of which was school comms. In the early days, parents would contact Denis directly about all matters. As the school grew, this became too time-consuming to be practical. Pick Me met Piota in mid-2018 and saw the potential for a secure school app to both deliver a better service to parents and streamline communications internally.

School app launch

Pick Me launched it's school app in November 2018 and advised parents it would become the primary school communication tool. The school would stop using email, texts, paper and phone calls wherever possible - instead all school comms would be on the app. By Christmas 2018 the app had been downloaded 375 times (April 2019 update: 530) and has been used at least once by over 300 people every month since. The school now sends out only one routine email per month (parent invoices) and time spent on the phone with parents has dropped by at least 60%.

School app feedback

The app is “one point of contact for all kinds of messages, both sent and received” explains school director Tudor Popescu, and “it has had a big impact in freeing up management team time”.

Parents quickly learned to check the app instead of calling about everyday matters such as the lunch menu or their child’s daily schedule. When they do have a personal question, the app channels them straight to the appropriate school contact. Complaints have dropped because parents can no longer claim they did not receive an email about a trip for instance, when the evidence is on the app that they did. Parents submit optional activities choices on the app, making processing easier.

Feedback is also easier to collate. The school asked parents for feedback on the app about a Christmas present policy, it received over 200 responses in a week, automatically uploaded and summarised in a spreadsheet on the app console.

In summary, the app “helps parents to organise themselves, being easy to use” and instantly accessible on their phones.

“We can’t think what we would do without it now” says Tudor, “It really helps us a lot everyday”.

Denis now plans to extend use of the school comms app by providing more detailed information class by class. Equipping parents with even more information will enable them to meet the school’s vision of empowering children to reach their full potential.

For more information about Piota international school apps, please contact Arron Cleverdon, either by e-mail or +44 (0)7368 422479

Reduce teacher workload

Challenge: Improve parental engagement whilst reducing teacher workload

Piota Apps, as a technology supplier within the UK education industry, has been set a challenge! Improve parental engagement whilst ensuring we reduce teacher workload by up to 5 hours per term.

On 3 April 2019, the Department for Education published a policy paper “Realising the potential of technology in education”. It’s purpose is to educate and influence both the education sector and technology providers to improve the use of technology.

“We aim to support and enable the education sector in England to help develop and embed technology in a way that cuts workload, fosters efficiencies, removes barriers to education and ultimately drives improvements in educational outcomes.”

The policy paper sets a number of challenges, requiring the education sector and technology businesses to work together to innovate effectively.

Reducing teacher workload

It’s no surprise that challenge 1 in the DfE list relates to reducing teacher workload. In a survey carried out by the NEU teaching union, 40% of teachers say they will no longer be working in education in 5 years time. The main reason for leaving teaching? Workload was the main reason for leaving for 62% of respondents.

So with our teachers, school leaders and support staff exhausted, what can we do to help reduce their workload?

This is where Challenge 1 in the policy paper comes in.

Challenge 1: “Improve parental engagement and communication, whilst cutting related teacher workload by up to five hours per term. Department for Education

 

Keeping parents engaged - improving pupil outcomes

A high level of parental engagement can be incredibly important for a child’s education and attainment. The primary reason that our school app was founded was to provide better communication between schools and parents. What has become increasingly important, is ensuring that the technology schools use to improve parental engagement, impacts positively on teacher workload.

Our school app has very positive feedback and we’re confident that it can meet the challenge!

“The app has saved us admin time as we are able to send out messages quicker than via other methods. I would estimate two-three hours of time per week are saved by this.” Russell King, Deputy Headteacher

And remember, it’s not only time that can be saved but also money with a mass reduction in the use of photocopying!

“[Our] school app has saved us money. It is so quick to get the information out to parents. No photocopying newsletters – just straight out to the target audience.”

After Easter, we will be gaining feedback from all our schools regarding the app and reducing workload. If you’d like to send us some feedback, or enquire about how an app could help reduce your teacher workload, contact us today.

We will be reporting back with our survey results and next round of innovation shortly!

The Barn Nursery School – A nursery app to keep parents in the loop

Have you ever wondered whether getting a nursery or school app would be “worth it”?

If so, take a look at the article below, written by Sal McKeown for Practical Pre-School, which describes the experience of The Barn Nursery School and the decision to invest in a nursery app.

Supporting families

Sharon Cooper, co-owner of The Barn Nursery School wanted a “go-to resource” where parents could find out what was going on at the nursery,

“For us, it’s about making the sharing of information as convenient as possible for everyone.”

The nursery school downloaded several other nursery app’s before deciding to go with a Piota app, as it looked attractive and easy to use. This doesn’t mean a compromise on features though. When we speak to customers, the key things they want the app to be able to do are:

  • provide a central source of easily accessible information for parents and carers
  • integrate existing communication channels (twitter / facebook / website)
  • display text, photos, PDF menus, and videos
  • send messages to parent and carer’s, with the flexibility to send to one, many or everyone depending on the content.

Our apps do all this and more, check out our features page for more information.

So, the apps are great for parents and carers, but what about from the nursery perspective?

We build the app’s in a way which makes them accessible to all users. Reducing workload and administration time is usually one of the reasons you’ve decided upon an app, so we make them simple to use so you can start saving time and money straight away.

There’s definitely no need to be a technical expert in order to manage and upload content on to your app. Nevertheless, we do give full training during your trial, and have a friendly support team to provide on-going assistance / trouble shooting should you need it.

According to Sharon at The Barn Nursery School, you probably won’t!

“The app is simple to use and I think it’s very good value.” 

If you are interested in trialling your own nursery or school app, please get in contact with a member of the team today.

Talking Digital - The Barn Nursery School App

 

School governors and their role in parental engagement

This month, the Department for Education (DfE) has released a new version of the Governance Handbook, which is a guide to the roles and functions of school governors in the UK.

One of the key changes compared to the previous edition was in section 2. Strategic Leadership, which now  includes a stronger emphasis on parental engagement.

Parental engagement

Here at Piota, many of us are school governors. We have long championed the idea that improving parental engagement is key to improving both school performance, student attainment and well being. So we are delighted to see the increased priority on this topic.

We’ve included an extract from the Governance Handbook below:

2.4 Parental engagement and community leadership

14. As the strategic leaders of their organisations it is vital that boards are connected with, and answerable to, the communities they serve, particularly parents/carers.
15. Parental engagement can have a large and positive impact on children’s learning. It should not be confused with parental representation on a board and neither should it be seen as a one-off exercise for organisations. Boards should ensure that their organisation is regularly communicating with parents and carers and that parental engagement is used by the board to inform their strategic decision-making. Communications with parents and carers should be clear in supporting them to understand the structure of the school, how it operates, and how they can support their child’s education.

How can a school app improve parental engagement?

Taking key points from the Governance Handbook, we identify how a school app can help governors fulfil these duties.

Boards should ensure that their organisation is regularly communicating with parents and carers

A school app offers an affordable, easy to administer, environmentally friendly method of communicating with parents on a 24-7 basis. With smartphone ownership so high, the vast majority of parents and carers will always have access to their phones. Sending newsletters, chasing absences, obtaining permissions and sending reminders and alerts has never been so easy.

Communications with parents and carers should be clear in supporting them to understand the structure of the school, how it operates, and how they can support their child’s education.

 Your school app is a central source of school information. Key contacts and event dates, absence policies and forms, links to parent-child activity and homework suggestions and parent evening reminders. All of which help parents and carers feel closer and more involved in their child’s education.

Parents and carers should be able to use these mechanisms to put forward their views at key points in their child’s education.

Within the feedback forms and surveys section of your school app, parents are able to give regular feedback. You no longer need to wait for parents evening to obtain their views. What’s more, you can collate and analyse written feedback much more easily than traditional feedback methods. This allows your school to respond quickly and purposefully.

 

Are you a school governor or part of a school community? 

Are you are a school governor or associated with a school who could benefit from a school app? Visit the schools page of our website to learn more about the features and functionality of our school apps or get in touch with a member of the team who can give you a demo. We can build your school app within hours and offer a free 30 day trial. So what are you waiting for…contact us today!

Piota school app used for community engagement

We were delighted to see Ibrox Primary School using their school app to promote wider engagement through a Community Coffee Morning. It was a great initiative to get their Junior Leadership Team involved and teaching them how to use the app too.

For any one interested in a school app and wondering if it would be easy enough to use, look no further, this Junior Leadership Team have it sorted! If you’re wondering about investing in a school app, contact us today for a free, no obligation demonstration and quote.

Naidex logo

Come see us at the Naidex Show, Birmingham NEC, 26 – 27th March

On the 26th and 27th of March 2019, Birmingham’s NEC will host the 45th edition of  Naidex, the disability and independent living event. We’ll be on stand N6070 so make sure to come see us 👋! 

About Naidex

At Naidex 2019 you’ll find 250 world-class CPD accredited seminars; interactive panel sessions and 350 astounding exhibitors. You will also see the return of the Live Sports Arena, and Mobility Test Track; as well as the Moving & Handling Lab and Home, Design & Build Summit.

With all this lined up, Naidex will once again become the hub of the disability sector and reaffirm its reputation as Europe’s most established event dedicated to the care, rehabilitation and lifestyle of people with a disability.

Get your FREE tickets here and come meet us at the show!

Transform your communication and engagement with an app from Piota

We are proud to be exhibiting at Naidex 2019 and look forward to demonstrating how an app from Piota could help streamline your communication, improve support and care for people with a disability, and build a deeper level of engagement between families and carers.

Read our case study on St Elizabeth’s adult care and how their supported living apps have helped to transform communication and engagement with their residents and families.

Providing families with real-time photos of trampolining or horse rides on an adventure is something they might never normally see. It’s not someone telling them over the phone, it’s seeing the evidence, which is priceless!”

Please contact us for a free, no obligation demonstration of the app, or to discuss your requirements.

School app drumming up support for Emma & Milli in Crufts’ Friends for Life 2019 vote!

We are very pleased to see one of our school apps being used to drum up support for a student, Milli, and her hero assistance dog, Emma, in the Crufts’ Friends for Life award 2019.

School app support for Crufts' Emma & Milli

Golden Retriever, Emma and ‘little diamond’ Milli (eight) have today been confirmed as one of five finalists in this year’s prestigious Kennel Club Friends for Life competition – the winner will be announced in the main arena at Crufts on Sunday, March 10th. Emma and Milli made it through as the judges’ favourite for the hotly-contested ‘Hero Assistance Dog’ category.

 

Milli was born with Down’s syndrome and also suffers with a very serious heart condition. Having already undergone had two open heart surgeries – the first at just four months old – it’s no surprise that her dad, Steve, calls her his ‘little diamond’.

 

Milli’s range of conditions means that she suffers with low muscle tone, anxiety and breathlessness and her mum and dad decided to see what help was available for children with disabilities. They came across charity, Dogs for Good – the first UK assistance dog organisation to provide assistance dogs for children with disabilities – and last year Millie was matched with gorgeous goldie, Emma.

 

Continue reading on the Dogs for Good website

 

We’ve voted and will be keeping an eye out for the results of the public vote announced on Sunday 10th March at 17:20 in the Crufts main arena!

Vote for Emma & Milli here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/T7Z2VJW

 

 

Did you know that Piota is one of the UK’s leading communication app providers? We create customised, high quality and affordable mobile apps to enable schools, healthcare organisations, sports clubs and more, to communicative more effectively with their community. Visit our homepage and apps sections to discover more.

Contact us today to discuss your requirements!

BC Comms App

Bristol City Academy Football Club app – transforming communication with a football club app from Piota

In summer 2018, Piota welcomed new customer Bristol City Academy football club. We developed a football club app , available on Apple and Android, with the aim of reducing staff time spent on admin whilst also improving parent experience. Football club app for Bristol City FC Academy

Bristol City Academy background

Bristol City FC Academy has 120 players from U9s to U18s. Communication with families and carers was absorbing a great deal of academy staff time and yet was not working smoothly. Fixture lists, team sheet information, contacts details and more were all e-mailed out to parents. Parents then tended to email or text questions directly to coaches and admin staff members. Each message required an individual reply and often needed to be forwarded internally too. The workload kept escalating.

A football club app to save time and improve communication 

With experience of creating school apps for several years, Piota knew the improvements that the Academy wanted were possible. A mobile app from Piota would create a readily accessible central information store and communication tool.  After an initial development period, the Academy tested the football club app at the start of the season and launched fully in October. By the start of December, there were 350 downloads of the app and time saving and parent experience objectives had been met.

“The app has transformed everything we do. We hardly get any emails now. By 10:30am on a Friday (team sheet day) I used to have 30 emails already. Asking which team my child is in, what’s the fixture postcode, when is the squad being emailed and so on; now I have less than 5. We have told the parents we will put the squads and match details on the app by 12 noon on a Friday. Even if they miss the notification when it goes out, now they can immediately check the answer without having to ask us.” Emma Jolliffe, Operations Manager

Data capture and analysis much easier

The app also brought another unexpected benefit for the Academy – data collection and analysis. The academy knew that in the two months since launch, there had been 139 absences from training reported via the app. They also had greater insight into absence reasons, which hadn’t previously been able to be recorded.

“The absence form is the best thing for me. We now have much better data about why players are absent. We can use that positively whether it’s a welfare matter or by adjusting our bus routes to help those players with transport difficulties.  Before when a parent text their coach about an absence the coach might forget to relay that to the bus driver.  He would then wait 20 minutes for the player to not turn up! Now we simply email the spreadsheet of absences straight from the app to the drivers so they know the exact situation.” Operations Assistant, Niamh Brown

The football club app gets a big thumbs up from staff, but what about the reaction from parents?

Parent feedback has also been very positive and centres around how it makes their lives easier

“This App is awesome. It simplifies things”

“Loving the new way of uploading squads… so much easier to see.”

Parents already had access to PMA and Hudl for match videos and analysis but the football club app from Piota fills in the everyday communications gap. It makes all the training and fixture schedules, team sheets, change-of-plan updates and safeguarding information instantly accessible on their phones. Upload articles and send reminders or alerts using push notifications targeted to each squad or even to individuals.

Bristol City FC Academy app

 

Piota Apps – solving parent communication issues and saving time

We are always really pleased to hear positive feedback from our customers. At Bristol FC Academy, we’ve helped to solve a problem, improve internal efficiency and provide a better experience for parents and coaches alike.

“It has a professional look, is simple to use and the app is secure and GDPR compliant. The service from Piota has been quick and efficient.  They have visited us twice, updated the design of the app when requested without extra charges and provide clear detailed email replies to questions. We may extend the app to internal staff communications as well next year. But the reason we got it was to solve parents communications and save our time and it absolutely does that!” Emma Jolliffe, Operations Manager

Contact us

If you would like to discuss how a Piota app could help your sports club streamline communication and become more efficient, please do get in touch. Use our online form or contact James Dickson directly on 07726 224 060.

NHS digital transformation

Here at Piota, we expanded into Healthcare apps in 2017. The aim was to provide a solution for effective communication between healthcare professionals, patients, families and carers. We were therefore very interested to see the BBC article NHS plan: what it means for you and the need for a digital revolution within the NHS.

The article writes

“Just as digital technologies have revolutionised everything from the way we shop to how we watch television, the plan envisages an overhaul in the way we interact with the health service.” 

Reading the NHS Long Term Plan, it is clear that there is a determination to bring the NHS into the 21st century to ensure a digital transformation which helps clinicians to focus on key priorities, reduce bureaucracy across the NHS and allow more patients to access digital support to manage their health.

The reference to the outdated use of fax machines announced by the Secretary of State was particularly positive.

“NHS organisations will from 2020 no longer use fax machines to communicate with other NHS organisations or patients. All providers, across acute, community and mental health settings, will be expected to advance to a core level of digitisation by 2024.

Our healthcare app can support NHS digital transformation

A healthcare app from Piota acts as a central source of information for care and support NHS digital transformation - Healthcare Apps(hospital information, contacts, clinic timings) and enables effective communication with patients. NHS organisations can send push notifications and updates either to everyone on the app, or to targeted channels. Plus, patients can communicate through feedback forms or health surveys.

Customers can tailor their app to work for your department and priorities. Whether that’s delaying the onset of a long term condition, discharging patients earlier from primary care or simply providing a better service to patients and families. All whilst saving internal time and cost. Visit our healthcare pages for more information on the functionality of the app and how it could be used in your healthcare environment.

One of our earliest clients, was the paediatric diabetes department at NHS Ayrshire & Arran, who joined Piota in 2017. They have found it to be a very useful tool for communicating with their community

“The best way we have found so far of sending out mass mailings to cover our clinic population.  It is easy to change and update information and the web dashboard makes it very easy to edit. Excellent feedback”    Dr Scott Williamson, Consultant Paediatrician (Diabetes)

Contact us

If you would like to understand how a Healthcare app from Piota could help your communication and digital transformation, please do contact us and one of our team will be happy to help.

 

 

 

Best Educational Apps for Kids

What are the best educational apps for kids? – Our pick of the top apps to feed their curiosity

At Piota, we’ve been building digital tools to support education for over 4 years, and we pride ourselves on knowing a thing or two about creating a good app. Piota apps allow for tight communication between schools and parents, but we believe that education shouldn’t be limited to the classroom. 

So, we’ve done our research and created a list of the best educational apps for kids available today.

Kids & computers – a balancing act

Parents are acutely aware that the digital world will play a huge role in their kids’ lives. Many are taking the approach that it’s better to prepare them for that future than to try to shield them from this central aspect of modern life.

As parents, we limit, we monitor, we explain. And we try to expose our kids to the positive aspects that the internet has to offer. A learning app can provide an engaging way to educate and stimulate a child’s mind, on a platform that they’re going to become increasingly familiar with as they grow older.

Like it or loathe it, education apps are taking the place of exercise books in many learning scenarios. These apps offer novel and engaging ways for kids to discover new concepts, practice key skills and learn from almost limitless resources of information.

Subtle changes, keeping the fun element

A simple shift of emphasis – devoting less of their allotted screen time to catapulting bad-tempered birds at green piggies and more time devoted to apps designed around language and numeracy for example – can support your child’s development and help them make the most of the digital revolution. We’ve picked a selection of kids learning apps that will keep your kids safe, occupied – and hopefully teach them something useful!

Our favourite learning apps for kids

Scratch Jr.

As app-developers, we fully support introducing a new generation of coders to the world. The Department of Education seems to agree, with coding now part of the National Curriculum in the UK. Scratch Jr. is a learning app for kids at the younger end of our spectrum that sets them up with the logical and lateral thinking skills that will prepare them for more advanced computer programming projects down the line.

Available: App Store, Google Play

Cost: Free

For ages: 5+

 

LEGO® Education WeDo 2.0 Core Set

When your coding cadets graduate from Scratch Jr, they may want to move on to WeDo, LEGO® Education’s offering in the arena of code learning apps for kids. With the caveat that this app requires Bluetooth functionality, and works with the physical LEGO® modelling set, this introduces kids to programming, as they design and teach vehicles and robots to complete movements and tasks.

With a curriculum pack included that features 40 hours of instructional content, this app goes beyond programming to help kids with collaboration, presentation and problem solving to improve learning either at home or at school.

Available on: PC, Mac, Android (requires Bluetooth)

Cost: Around £130 includes substantial physical LEGO® set

For ages: 4+

 

Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip & Kipper 

If the names Biff, Chip and Kipper are currently a big part of your life, you probably have kids aged 4 to 9. This learning app from publishers Oxford University Press in conjunction with Nintendo features this familiar cast of characters, complements the phonics your kids learn in school and comes with a downloadable parent guide.

Available on: Nintendo 3DS & 2DS

Cost: £19.99

For ages: 4+

 

Sky View®

Sky View® is fast becoming a modern classic among education apps. The concept is simple – point your device towards the heavens, and it tells you which celestial objects are in view. You can even point it downwards if you want to see what’s going on in the regions of space only visible from the opposing hemisphere.

This app allows you to identify constellations in the night sky, put names to the stars and find the planets within our Solar System. Plus, for reasonably priced in-app purchases, you can remove ads or access packages of additional content that let you zoom in and learn more about various heavenly bodies and space hardware.

Available on: Android and iPhone

Cost: FREE (with in app purchases – £4.99 gets you all augmented functions in one bundle)

For ages: Sky View® carries a PEGI 3 rating, so recommended for the whole family. The beauty of this one is that it’s universally appealing to kids and adults alike.

 

Animate It! LITE

This delightfully neat little app is brought to you by Aardman Animation, the people that breathe life into Wallace & Gromit. This LITE version is a completely free educational app that allows young cartoonists to create, edit and watch their own animations. They can even share them online – under your supervision and with the usual safeguarding caveats applied, of course.

Available on: Android and iPhone

Cost: FREE

For ages: Animate It Lite is recommended for ages 4+ on Apple’s App Store

 

Woodland Trust Tree ID App

For the budding little Ray Mears in your life, this fantastic free educational app from the Woodland Trust allows them to identify trees by their bark, twigs, buds, leaves, flowers or fruit. The app works by allowing you – or your child – to compare your observations with a database of images so that you can identify the tree and learn more about it.

Available on: Android and iPhone

Cost: FREE

For ages: Animate It Lite carries a PEGI 3 rating, so recommended for the whole family, though it is recommended for ages 4+ on Apple’s App Store.

 

Jungle Time

This is a charming, straightforward educational app for kids with one simple aim: to teach them how to tell the time on a traditional clock. It’s bright and cheerful, has a variety of animals to choose from, and your chosen animal smiles or roars in response to your progress ­– what’s not to like?

Available on: iOS

Cost: £1.99

For ages: The App Store recommends this one for ages 4+.

 

The Human Body

Fantastically interactive, boundlessly comprehensive and utterly compelling, Tinybop’s The Human Body app has something to teach kids and adults alike. Artist and designer Kelli Anderson drew over 200 illustrations in order to populate this kids’ education app with attractive and informative diagrams that are animated and annotated to clearly demonstrate the functions of our bodies. Be aware that some in-app purchases are required to access information on all systems of the body.

Available on: iOS

Cost: £3.99 (plus in app purchases e.g. The Immune System 99p)

For ages: The App Store recommends this one for ages 4+.

 

DragonBox Apps

We couldn’t narrow it down to just one DragonBox app, so we’ve picked three: DragonBox Numbers, DragonBox Elements and DragonBox Algebra are children’s educational games that are great fun to play. Taking their visual cues from a certain range of Japanese Pocket Monsters, this range of maths-based apps bring a genuinely engaging and enjoyable gameplay element that will make even the most learning-averse child forget that they’re gaining important maths skills!

Available on: App Store, Google Play, Amazon

Cost: From £3.99

For ages: The App Store recommends these apps for ages 4+.

 

Mr Thorne Apps

Mr Thorne is a teacher turned YouTuber, app designer and general online educational personality whose website www.mrthornenetwork.com hosts over a dozen of the best learning apps for kids around at the moment. Whether it’s times tables, phonics, algebra or grammar, Mr Thorne’s got it covered.

Available on: iOS

Cost: From £1.99

For ages: Various apps available for Primary School key stages 1 & 2

 

And many more…

There are of course plenty more where those came from. As with any online content, make sure that any children’s learning app downloads are coming from a reputable source, have been favourably reviewed and that there are no known security issues.

The line between education and technology is becoming increasingly blurred and educational apps can be a fun, interactive way to support your child’s learning and growth. As parents, we have concerns about screen-time and online influences, but we can’t hold back the march of technology and the role significant role it will play in our children’s lives.

We can embrace technology and regulate our children’s exposure to it at the same time. We can guide and accompany our children on the journey, making sure their tech experience is not a solitary one. And we can take an active role at home by helping them to choose content that aids their development, like the ones covered here.

About Piota’s parental engagement app for Primary schools

We understand that being actively involved in your child’s learning can work wonders both in terms of the development that happens at home, and in supporting the learning that takes place in the classroom. For parents to stay up-to-date and fully-informed about what goes on at school, we believe communication between schools and parents is crucial.

Discover how Piota tailor apps for the specific communications requirements of primary schools.