paperless school

Becoming a paperless school within REAch2 Academy Trust

Heath Hayes Academy was the first REAch2 school to launch its Piota school app in January 2017. Since becoming a paperless school and switching to the app for all their parent communication, download numbers have peaked at over 800. The school take full advantage of all the app’s features, including social media feed integration, a rich information section and make fantastic use of forms and surveys.

“We love Piota…and use it for all our parent communication, including direct message notifications. Thanks to the app we are a paperless school. We love the fact we can get parent consent through the app – it’s never been easier.” Lisa Bate, SBM

Heath Hayes Academy App

Since it’s success, a further 6 schools have joined the Piota community. Parent feedback is very positive and focuses on the convenience of having all the information you need in one easily accessible place on your phone. Highlights include the ability to complete absence or consent forms online, add events directly from the school calendar to your phone calendar, and even find out what’s on the lunch menu tomorrow! The app is now a key part of school life for both teachers and parents.

“It saves us time and money! We load the app full of everything parents need and use it to send instant messages. Parents have been blown away. We would be lost without our app. Our school couldn’t operate without it.” Karen Dixson, SBM

If you’d like to contact us for more information or discuss how a Piota school app could help your school become paperless, our team would love to hear from you.

school communications

A customised app within a day

Hollygirt School is an independent school in Nottingham founded in 1877 with 200+ boys and girls aged between 3 and 16. It provides an outstanding education in a nurturing and inspirational environment and has won very high ratings from parents and ISI alike. Read how Hollygirt School has used its app to improve their school communications.

Quick and easy to use

Marketing manager Roberta Hutley met Piota at the AMCIS conference in May 2018. Piota delivered her a customised app the following day to try free for a month. The school found the administration portal very easy to use and quickly filled the app with key information. Piota assisted by uploading Hollygirt’s website news, social media feeds and calendar. These automatically stream into the app so no duplication of work is required. It saves the school time and ensures parents do not miss out on important school news and events.

See how you could improve parental engagement – Get a free trial of your own school app!

“We found the set up process exceptionally quick and easy. Any queries we’ve had since the launch of our app have been dealt with quickly and effectively by the Piota team” said Roberta.

Consistently positive feedback

A trial with a small group of staff and parents followed before launch to all parents at the start of the 2018/19 academic year. Feedback has been consistently positive in the weeks since launch to date, from both the school and from parents.

“We’ve had lots of hugely positive comments from parents stating how convenient it is to have everything in one place and immediately accessible on their phones. It is clear that the push notifications on the app have helped to ensure fewer letters and events are being missed than used to happen when school communications were sent by email, paper letters and website.”

To find out how a Piota school app could help your school communications, get in touch today with a member of our team who will be happy to help.

Parental communication school app

An innovative approach to parental communication

Oasis Academy Warndon is an inclusive academy for children aged between 2 and 11 located on the periphery of Worcester City. As a school, they are committed to two things:

1. Delivering first-class education for all of their students
2. Playing an active role in the local community of Warndon and the surrounding area. 

It is this ethos of aspiring to provide a truly holistic education and to build an interconnected community that led the school to adopt an innovative approach to parental communication: a customised school app.

Tech-savvy parents and environmental benefits

Shortly before the Christmas holiday period, Emily Hobson, the Principal, became aware of just how much an app could do for a school like theirs. So many parents now have smartphones, and have them on continually, so switching to a tech solution was a huge draw.

It also gave them the perfect opportunity to make gains in their environmental goals. Prior to the app, they had been sending out hundreds of leaflets and letters every week. Now, they are on track to be totally paperless by Easter!

See how you could improve parental engagement – Get a free trial of your own school app!

Faster communication

The benefits of this app are completely evident – the platform allows you to see how many parents have registered their devices. You can see that parents are picking up messages a lot quicker than before when staff were calling and leaving voice messages. As Amey, head of media at Warndon Academy says:

“Now, if they don’t get the message one way, they can see it on the app as well.”

This change has saved Amey an unfathomable amount of time in printing leaflets and calling to chase up parents.

The school still use a number of channels for parental communication, including social media and their website. However, the app gives them the unique capability of sending secure direct messages to individual parents at the push of a button. This security feature is one of many that Piota is able to provide to schools. See which other features are available on our apps.

Good technical support

About their experience with Piota, Amey said:

“Overall the app has worked really well. Any problems that we’ve had, we’ve contacted Claire (our designated contact), she’s fab. She’s been in regular contact with me to tell me of any changes and I’ve done the same letting them know about any problems and they’ve been resolved really quickly.”

To find out how a Piota school app could revolutionise your parental communication, get in touch with a member of our friendly team today.

Hargrave Park Primary tailored school app on display

How our tailored school app improved parental engagement

Hargrave Park Primary School in Archway, North London has 340 pupils from Nursery to Year 6. The FSM rate is the highest in Islington local authority but children’s progress is well above the national average and the school was graded “Good with outstanding features” in its last Ofsted.

Cheryl Headon joined as Business Manager two years ago and has focused on using their tailored school app to streamline administration, driving down costs and time. The app is very popular with parents – it’s been downloaded over 1,000 times so far – with benefits seen in better parental engagement and higher income for the school.

“The app pays for itself even before you think about the reduction in printing and paper costs,” said Cheryl.  After School Club (ASC) bookings are a great example of this. Previously, the school would distribute a booking form and clubs timetable to parents and would get back 150 pieces of paper with the parents’ choices which needed to be manually processed one by one.  Now the school opens ASC booking windows on the app at set times in the week, often 7 pm in the evening. The app automatically collects all the choices in a spreadsheet which is downloaded the following morning and used to allocate places on a first-come-first-served system. “That’s been an enormous time-saver,” says Cheryl, “and parents feel it’s fairer than before because it’s transparent”. The easier system means ASC bookings have risen by over 25% compared to the pre-app days, boosting income by a handy £1,000-2,000.

See how you could improve parental engagement – Get a free trial of your own school app!

Using the tailored school app has paid dividends in less obvious cases too. You might not think that putting ‘Permission to Administer Medication’ forms on the app would achieve much, but it has. In the past, parents would hand over medicines at drop off time and have to then fill out a 12-question paper form, clogging up the foyer and absorbing staff time and attention.  Now parents fill out the form on the app at home and simply drop off their child plus medicine at school: less stressful all round.

Unexpectedly, putting absence forms on the app has helped boost engagement among the less engaged parents.  Cheryl explains: “Families not comfortable phoning in absence or coming into school would often prove very difficult to contact by phone.  But if their child had not arrived of course we needed to get hold of them.  The app has really opened up the communication channels with them; they feel comfortable filling out the app absence form. They are communicating with us more now”.

Lots of Hargrave Park’s families don’t use email so the school used to distribute printed newsletters, a labour-intensive and costly business, manning the photocopier and putting a newsletter into each child’s bag. Now it goes on the app alongside news from the school website and the school’s Twitter account (both automatically fed into the app) so it is simultaneously more engaging for parents and less time-consuming for the school. “We can demonstrate better engagement through the tailored school app, it’s really made a difference,” says Cheryl.

primary parental engagement

The two sides to primary parental engagement

Chris Burton, assistant headteacher and ICT development teacher at St John’s Church of England primary school in Bradford explains how they have improved their primary parental engagement.

Finding a way of engaging with parents was particularly important to us. Feedback suggested that parents didn’t read emails or texts but, interestingly they admitted to looking at apps. We knew that this was where we needed to work on our parental engagement. While primary parental engagement is generally associated with updating families with administrative issues such as the dates of parents’ evening, inviting their children on school trips, or requesting dinner money, we also wanted something that would encourage parents to get involved in their child’s development.

See how you could improve parental engagement – Get a free trial of your own school app!

If we could keep parents updated daily about each class topic, such as the books they were reading or any new area of focus in maths, parents could help to consolidate this learning at home. The benefits of our school app included full customisation and an easy-to-use interface. Another advantage is the fact that it links directly with the school calendar, so we don’t have to duplicate information.

We started the rollout to just Years 2 and 3 at first. This went really well, and the only complaints we received were from the other parents, who also wanted access! So, we rolled it out across the school. On the first Friday of having the app, we sent out letters to encourage people to download it and saw 30 downloads that night. Slowly we stopped updating news on our website and only posted this on the app. The app development team even set it up so that news posted in the app also appeared on the website, so that teachers could add regular news.

Like most school communication systems, we use it for numerous administrative tasks: collecting club applications, consent for trips, reminders about parents’ evening or outlining the kit needed for PE the next day.

Bringing parents into their child’s development

We also wanted to get our parents involved in their children’s learning. Each teacher now has a page where they can share information with parents on what the class has done each day. This encourages parents to discuss this with their child in the evening or even, ideally to consolidate this learning with fun activities at the weekend. We send out extension work activity ideas to parents via the app that they can complete with their children to broaden their understanding of a particular topic.

Teachers can post information on class topics, recommended books, and of course the weekly spelling list. Today, we have a strong majority of parents, guardians and extended family members using the app but of course, like all things, some want to continue receiving paper-based communication. Despite the Piota app being available on both Apple and Android app stores, a few parents say they don’t have a mobile phone that is compatible. Other objections are simply from parents who are not comfortable with any technology; some just simply prefer letters, information sheets and calling up our office to find out what they want to know.

See how you could improve parental engagement – Get a free trial of your own school app!

Out of 500 students, we had just 45 returned requesting that information continues to be sent via hard copy letters. So, like many schools, we have improved our communication with parents considerably. Whether it’s an administrative message or about bringing parents into their child’s education, the app lets us send out quick efficient messages that teachers have time to write and parents have time to read. Rather than having to send out 500 letters that take ages to write and proofread, we can send simple, to the point messages.

We are certainly achieving a higher level of parental engagement, saving money and of course, saving time. While we haven’t yet calculated the cost savings you only have to consider the cost of our office staff’s time printing off 500 letters, let alone the cost of toner cartridge and paper; the savings are considerable.

When children have been on a trip, we send a survey out to parents finding out what they enjoyed and what could be improved; it’s all about having a conversation with our parents.

Saving money

In real terms, our chosen app wasn’t the cheapest but I believe it certainly delivers the greatest return on investment. Getting a system that means teachers can quickly post out information and requests and that parents have time to engage with is the winning part of our system. Inviting them into their child’s learning and giving them the tools to support their development is something that is hard to measure but is certainly is welcomed by everyone.

This story originally appeared in the Telegraph and Argus. You can read this piece here. 

If you’re looking at improving your primary parental engagement, then contact us today to create an app for your school!

Kingsdown School Parental Involvement

Improving parental engagement with a school app

At Piota, we believe that school apps are the future of parental engagement so we were delighted to work with Kingsdown School to develop their app.

Kingsdown is a Community Special School in Southend for children aged 3-14 who have severe learning difficulties, profound and multiple learning difficulties, physical disabilities and associated learning difficulties. The majority of pupils find communication difficult, so new ways of nurturing & improving relationships with the parents and carers is a constant focus for the school.

We spoke to Kingsdown’s headteacher, Margaret Rimmer, to find out her views on the app and how it had benefited her school.

Why did you consider getting the school app?

“To improve relationships between parents and teachers. SLT comes into contact with the parents a lot but we felt more could be done to improve other relationships. Our school has a family feel and Piota reflects that. We hoped this would translate with the app and it did!”.

What have been the benefits of using your school app?

“Parents know what is going on in the classroom and it has improved relationships with the teachers and parents who use it. In fact, there has been a ripple effect and it’s gone from parental engagement to family engagement, which is fantastic”.

“We don’t even need to use the text messaging service anymore! We don’t feel a need for Twitter or Facebook because we can engage more effectively and safely with parents using the app”.

What has been the parent’s reaction to your school app?

“It has completely taken off. They love it”.

“The school app is about their child. They love seeing pictures of their child and what they do during the day. Parents who had previously not wanted photographs taken of their child now happily give permission because it means they get to share in their school day”.

Do you believe that your school app can improve attainment?

“Yes, it can! Our children need consistency, they need the vocabulary, so if they have done something during the day they can relive it at night because the parents can get the app up and see what they’ve done”.

“Then they can talk about it, and talk about it, and talk about it! The child will then not only increase their vocabulary but also progress”.

Any final thoughts on your school app?

“It is so good. It is showing parents, whose child, when at home, may pull the place apart or be unable to say very much, actually engaging. This is something parents may not have seen before. For them to see this is just so powerful”.

Kingsdown School illustrates that by putting the parent at the centre of their child’s day, by sharing pictures and news of what they’ve been up to, parental engagement becomes the core of school life and not just a bolt-on. Without doubt, this makes it more effective and productive and enhances not just the parent’s understanding of school life but also the opportunities available to the child.

St John Evangelist Primary School App

Improving parental engagement at St John Evangelist RC Primary School

St John Evangelist is an Islington primary school with 301 pupils from Nursery to Year 6. The proportions of minority ethnic students, EAL and FSM are all well above average and the school was rated “Good” in all categories by Ofsted in October 2014 with comments praising its strong leadership, effective promotion of British values and good pupil behaviour.

After a meeting with headteacher Tina Oliva, Piota built an initial app, provided training in how to use it and published the St John Evangelist app for parental engagement in the Apple and Android app stores on 4 June. The school launched it on 7 June and sent out a survey via the app on 12 June asking parents for their initial views on how useful they found it.  They received 20 responses within a few days, all positive and including overall impression comments such as “Brilliant“, “Thank you for making life easier” and “I think it’s really great!“.

Based on this the school decided to go ahead with the app, messaging parents “Thank you for the overwhelming ‘thumbs up’ for the App and its usefulness“. The process above was effectively risk-free for the school as its month’s free trial ran from 4 June to 4 July.

See how you could improve parental engagement – Get a free trial of your own school app!

By the end of term on July 15th, there had been 312 downloads of the app, over 5,000 page views and the school has already extended use of the messaging facility beyond simple reminders about events. It posts trip reports crammed with photos of the children enjoying themselves, highlights class assemblies to which parents are invited, reports in real-time on the school’s EU referendum vote, and passes on selected information about local council or diocesan services on offer.

Mrs Oliva commented about some aspects of the school’s experience as below:

Q: Why did you consider getting a school app?

A: Parental engagement was already good but there are always some parents who don’t pick up things. No matter how much you send out they still miss things. Messages on the app seem less intrusive than texts and the ability to format messages on the app more flexibly and include pictures makes them a more friendly way to communicate.

Q: How tech-savvy were you?

A: Not greatly. I like playing with things but lose patience if they don’t work immediately.

Q: What benefits did you hope to achieve using an app?

A: Parents would be better informed about dates and school information due to easier access to information

Q: How easy or difficult did you find the app to administer?

A: Really, really easy. We thought it would be complicated and time-consuming but it has been a really effective easy way to communicate with parents.  It’s also simpler than writing the newsletter.

See how you could improve parental engagement – Get a free trial of your own school app! 

Q: How did you find Piota’s service level in the training/ pre-launch period?

A: Quick and flexible.

Q: Did you research other apps?

A: Yes. Piota’s app seemed less busy than the other ones we looked at.

Q: How do you think about or calculate a return on investment for the app?

A: I think of it in terms of “social capital”. Parents now feel more engaged.

Q: Describe the parental reaction to the app

A: Very good. No one has said they didn’t like it which is rare for any initiative.  It has made people’s lives easier.

Q: Describe the staff reaction to the app.

A: They like being able to send pictures to parents easily.

Q: What features really make a difference to the day to day communication of your school?

A: News and pictures. In our parent survey, they said they wanted more pictures.

Q: What is the next feature you would like to see added to the app?

A: Nothing.  I like that it is simple and clear.

Q: Do you believe the app could help raise children’s outcomes and/or close the attainment gap?

A: It is a good way to communicate achievements especially in enrichment activities such as singing. It raises the profile of these to all parents and gives them a more significant status. Parents can also see how their children get involved in the community – it’s a really good way of celebrating community involvement.

Q: A summary comment?

A: The whole school community likes it. All feedback has been that it has been really easy to use and positive. Everything has been positive about it.

Treetops School

An app for Treetops school

Treetops is a Specialist School & College based in Grays, Essex. The school educates young people between the ages of 3 and 19 who experience moderate learning disabilities. With fast and effective communication being a major priority for the school, Treetops was keen to find new ways to engage and enhance the way it messaged and shared content with parents. In 2015, Treetops decided to invest in a custom school app. We spoke to Assistant Head Teacher, Ryan Jones, about the school app they launched last July.

What was it that motivated you to explore the possibility of owning a school app?

Improving communication between the school and parents. Just like any other school our communication requirements are demanding. Paper newsletters, texts and emails are unreliable; we needed a platform to help improve and modernise the way we communicate with our audience. A personalised school app was the obvious choice for a focused channel of engagement.

Get a free trial of your own school app!

Was being able to customise your app with the school logo an important factor for you?

Yes, parents need to buy into the technology; using our own logo is essential for that localised patriotism. Taking ownership of our own communication platform and using the Treetops branding gives parents an exclusive and trusted source of information. It means we can project our image and ethos through the app. The use of outside company or commercial labelling is just another engagement barrier.

Before you invested in your own, what knowledge did you have of communication app technology?

I had been introduced to app technology whilst working at a different school. It was great to join Treetops and drive that initiative here.

What effect has owning an app had on your time and budget?

Originally, we were concerned that owning an app would mean a lot of work. In reality, the app takes up a very small amount of our time and updating the content takes only a matter of minutes. Having shared administrators means that everyone can contribute to content, which has actually reduced admin pressure on the office team.

When considering the amount Treetops were spending on admin, paper, ink and texts in order to achieve just the minimum amount of communication, the app is well worth the investment. The app has given us a richer engagement experience and saved us money overall.

How have you used your app to boost parental engagement?

Engaging the parents has become a much easier task since we implemented a school app. We can now give the parents more opportunities than ever before to get involved with their child’s education. We regularly send YouTube videos and a variety of news and information relating to lesson content. We even send out homework tasks and regular reports to help parents track their child’s progress. Together these features help us to connect with the parents in a meaningful and valuable way.

How has the Treetops community responded to the launch of your school app?

The numbers speak for themselves. We have 290 students at Treetops, and our app currently has 511 downloads, which is a fantastic result. We asked our parents in a recent survey how they felt about the effectiveness of the app and the responses were extremely positive. Hearing the positive feedback from our school community has also been fantastic. It’s very satisfying to know we made the right decision.

Get a free trial of your own school app!

Here is a quote from our recent parent survey.

“As we don’t often take or collect our son from school it helps keep us up to date with what’s going on and to remind us what’s upcoming. Brilliant idea!”

Which features did you feel would really make a difference to the day-to-day communication of your school?

Being able to send unlimited messages and reminders directly to mobile phones as push notifications without worrying about the cost. It means there is hardly any missed communication. The forms and surveys section has revolutionised response rates, and being able to export the data provides fantastic evidence to show Ofsted about school to parent communication.

Signposting to the school website, information about associated local events, hyperlinks, PDFs, and photographs, are just a few of the excellent additional features that have benefited the school and our parents.

What have the teachers found useful so far?

The teachers love sending photographs showing examples of student work from a variety of subjects, trips and events. It’s also perfect for sending instant messages.

Do you believe your school app is helping bridge the attainment gap?

This is certainly a long-term goal for Treetops. The fact that the school can communicate with parents in a modern and direct way certainly gives us a huge advantage and brings us a step closer to bridging attainment gap.

What do you hope your app will help your school achieve?

Greater exposure for our students. We are already seeing grassroots inclusion benefits from being able to communicate more effectively with our community.

Here at Piota we take great pride in creating school apps that can really revolutionise the way schools communicate, whilst simultaneously saving them money and time. Interested in our apps? Explore our site to find out what an app could do for your school.