Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, initially issued a request for 250,000 volunteers to donate their time to help the 1.5 million vulnerable people who will be self isolated for the next three months. Overnight, more than 500,000 people had signed up to help out. This was an overwhelming response and very representative of the nation’s willingness to stand together in this uncertain time. The NHS volunteers have been assigned their roles and will start their duties this week.
At Piota, our mission is to improve communications and engagement. We’re supporting NHS department communications by creating easy to use and quick to market app solutions for our healthcare clients to reach their patients and colleagues effectively and instantly.
What’s our role?
In response to the coronavirus crisis we’ve been working on the following app solutions:
COVID-19 Care Home – to provide care home staff with the latest training, protocols and procedures.
Retired and Returning – to provide retired and returning healthcare workers with links to relevant training and local procedures/protocols.
Maternity – to provide expecting parents with important information regarding their pregnancy and what to do in today’s environment.
Paediatric Diabetes – to provide valuable and timely information to patients and their families who are unable to attend clinics.
Why use an app?
NHS departments are increasingly looking for digital solutions to reach their patients as the number of people using the NHS 111 service has shot up. An app is a modern solution for communicating with your audience, especially while we are relying more heavily on technology. It provides a centralised communication hub and helps to build a community of information, which is a timely resource for Covid-19 updates. The app can also be used as a “quick, handy resource for signposting” social prescribing tools, allowing this information to be accessible to those who are not currently engaged with you.
With our new registration tool, you can use your app for both external and internal communications. Your audience can subscribe to their chosen channels and will only receive relevant messages, ensuring that important messages will always be seen and understood.
What are our clients saying?
“Our app has come into its own for keeping patients up to date with latest Covid-19 advice! Thanks.”
Consultant Paediatrician at Paediatric Diabetes, Tayside Children’s Hospital
The team at Piota were able to produce our COVID-19 Communication App within hours of our initial request. The app has provided us with a quick and easy platform ensuring our Care Home managers and staff are kept up-to date with current local policy and procedural updates, an absolute must in this fast moving, transient world we now find ourselves in. Thanks again Piota for your ongoing support – it has been absolutely fantastic, the responsiveness has been second to none.”
Yvonne Higgins – Deputy Chief Nurse at Wolverhampton CCG
Take a look at our school app checklist to ensure your school app is ready for the new academic year.
1. Raise school app awareness
Make sure new parents are aware of your school app, who to ask for support in setting up, and welcome them with a message in the relevant channel.
Remind existing parents too of the benefits and features of your school app as the more parents who use the school app, the more administration time you're likely to save.
2. Remind parents to update their chosen channels
Ensure parents don't miss important information by reminding them to update their notification channel on the school app to their child's new school year group. The best way of doing this would be to send an alert to all users on the Urgent channel.
3. Content Refresh
Your school app is only as good as the information and content on it. So make sure you check that the information below is still relevant, correct and up to date:
Staff contact details
Lunch and dinner menus
Events calendar and club timetable
Online payment link
Other school news
This would also be a good time to remind parents to ensure their details are still up-to-date too. If you haven't already, put a Parent Contact Details form on the app, and send a message to all parents asking them to complete if and when any contact details change.
4. Registration check
If you have registration enabled (the requirement for parents to register and log in before accessing your school app), please check the registration page of your CMS to make sure the new years' information is in place.
Registration can be activated for greater security on all our apps, so if you are interested in this additional functionality, contact our support team for more information.
5. New staff training
If you have new members of staff joining the team this academic year, take advantage of our free and unlimited support and book training for new staff members today. We know how busy everyone within the teaching profession is, and our aim is to reduce your workload not add to it. Therefore, all our training takes place over the phone, we find normally 30 minutes is sufficient to get you up and running. If you have more detailed questions on the functionality of your school app, we can always extend the training session or have further calls later on.
If you would prefer to have face to face training on-site at your school, then we're also more than happy to arrange a convenient time to visit.
Our support team are always here to help so don't hesitate to get in touch.
We hope you've found this school app checklist useful, please forward to friends and colleagues too.
We're always looking for ways to improve our service to you, so if there's any feedback, or support you'd like to see, get in touch with our support team.
“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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 👋!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Cost: £3.99 (plus in app purchases e.g. The Immune System 99p)
For ages: The App Store recommends this one for ages 4+.
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!
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.
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.
Christmas is a magical time of year, but it’s also one of the most stress-inducing. Schools experience the latter of these feelings more than most, as a mix of bad weather, full-on festivities and rises in unauthorised absences can be challenging to manage.
With Christmas being so busy, clear communication between schools and parents is crucial. With so many events often taking place circumstances can often change at the last minute, so keeping parents in the know is key to avoiding a frosty relationship during the season of goodwill.
That’s why introducing a customised school app from Piota can be the best gift you can get your school this year. Presenting an instantly accessible information hub, these apps help keep parents aware and engaged about everything affecting their child leading up to the holidays.
Here are four areas where our parental engagement app helps schools enjoy a Merry Christmas.
Boost the Participation in Festive Activities
Christmas brings with it an avalanche of events that students can get involved in. Schools are encouraged to embrace the festivities and host a wide range of activities during December, including special Christmas dinners, the school nativity or even a carol concert.
A wide range of events means a wide range of letters and permission slips for parents to inform them of what’s taking place. This can cost a fair chunk of time and money, and it’s all too easy for these to get lost in students’ bags, meaning they miss out on the festive fun.
Our apps can reduce expense and increase engagement. App features like push notifications inform parents about any upcoming activities pupils can participate in directly to their phone, and consent forms can be filled in directly via the app, providing instant communication between the school and parents. This means no important information gets misplaced, and parents are always aware of when and where events take place.
Feedback forms included within the app also allow parents to make any of their own suggestions for inventive Christmas events, or they can offer to volunteer.
Through our communication app, schools can keep a calendar of their term dates for parents to check throughout the year and send reminders as the last day approaches, preventing the opportunity for physical newsletters to be misplaced. Parents can also be directly informed if the finishing time is earlier in the day or year than usual.
It’s also important to consider that January is an important month for exams in secondary schools. Schools can send parents and students the dates and times for any assessments with the app, as well as any essential information and revision materials.
Prevent Getting Snowed Under by Calls About Adverse Weather
One of the biggest headaches for schools and parents around Christmas is the winter weather. The increased likelihood of rain, wind, snow and ice can make areas of the school grounds dangerous, and sometimes cause schools to close outright.
This occurred in December 2017, with thousands of schools across the UK forced to shut due to the weather, with many teachers and students unable to travel. Snow days always add additional complexity for working parents, who may need to make last-minute arrangements to look after their children.
Our app helps ensure tensions don’t escalate by directly informing parents that schools are closed at the earliest convenience – no need for the school to field hundreds of calls or parents to continually check the school website, instead, instant alerts are sent out as updates happen. Plus, when school is open but bad weather has caused hazards on the grounds, parents and students can be warned to avoid these areas and take any necessary precautions.
Alongside this, teachers can send work/resources through to parents for their children to complete while school is closed to make sure they don’t miss anything important.
We have recently upgraded our servers to handle the surge in traffic snow days can cause, ensuring schools maintain clear communication with parents during these potentially hectic events.
Keep on Top of Unauthorised Absences
A final area our app can help is with managing and curtailing unauthorised absences. The winter months can be a big cause of dropped attendance, whether it’s due to sickness, truancy or unpermitted holiday time.
This app helps you get to the bottom of the absences more efficiently and directly. Instead of having to spend valuable time individually phoning parents or writing letters, a standardised message can be sent to parents to check the whereabouts of their children, allowing them to provide a response and quickly solve any mystery.
This efficiency works both ways, as parents can complete a short absence form on the app about their child being unable to attend school, reducing the burden placed on admin staff to handle multiple phone calls at once, particularly during the winter cold and flu seasons.
An App That’s Not Just for Christmas
Keeping control during the hectic build-up to Christmas is a challenge for any school. But, by maintaining a strong link to parents during this period through our app, schools can increase efficiency of communication and enter the holiday period on a high.
However, our app is not just for Christmas – it improves engagement between schools and parents at all times of year. Piota’s trusted school apps streamline how you communicate with parents and other users, creating a one-stop-shop of essential information, increasing efficiency and reducing costs with competitive pricing.
If you’d like to learn how our dynamic mobile apps can help strengthen ties between your school and its community, contact us today for a quote, or get your free trial.