Reduce teacher workload

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 School governors’ 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.

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.

Why an app is the best gift for schools this Christmas

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.

Piota app parental engagement christmasWith 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.

Clarify Important Dates and Times

Christmas is the usual end point for a school’s Autumn term. However, the specific date can vary from school to school.

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.

Five reasons to get a customised school app

If you could change one thing about the way you communicate with parents, then what would it be? Perhaps you would want to get through to more parents? Save money? Save time? Minimise missed communication? If any of these are on your wish-list, read on!

Reach more parents

Customised school app - improving parental communicationOver 95% of parents now own a smartphone and regularly use apps. With a customised school app you can communicate with parents in a familiar and friendly format, on the devices they have with them all the time.

“Being able to send unlimited messages and reminders directly to mobile phones as push notifications without worrying about the cost means there is hardly any missed communication.” Headteacher, Essex

Save money

With a customised school app, you can instantly send notifications and important messages home at the touch of a button. No more money spent on sending letters home. No more wasted letters, crumpled at the bottom of rucksacks. No more charges for sending text messages. Just instant, reliable and affordable communication.

Save time

How much time does your admin team spend on writing and sending letters home? How much time do your teaching staff spend chasing reply slips? These tasks can be completed using a Piota school app. Send instant messages and important information, manage reply slips and even conduct parent surveys.

Share important information

Since September 2016, it has been an Ofsted requirement to share certain key information on your school’s website. Why not go one step further and put it on the app? With a customised school app, teachers can upload information about what pupils are learning, including links to homework tasks, resources and support materials.  Putting this information where it can be accessed by the people who need it when they need it makes it so much more meaningful.

Improve relationships with parents

A customised school app allows you to send unlimited notifications to parents at no additional cost.  That means you can get into the habit of sharing the good news with parents on a regular basis in order to build positive relationships with them.  If parents are used to receiving regular communication from you and have had a positive experience, this will make them more receptive to all communication.

How could you save money with a custom built school app?

Printing vs Custom built school app

Here’s a tough question for you. How financially efficient is your school? Put another way, what proportion of your school’s spend per pupil goes directly to teaching and learning? Whatever your number is, the chances are you’ll want it to be higher. One area where schools can overspend is administration and printing costs. Despite the world of technology at our fingertips, schools are still spending more on printing than they do on IT, with the average school spending £60,000 a year on printing.

Some schools get through as much paper as 1,000 sheets per student per year. Some of this printing is necessary. But so much still gets wasted. Letters home crumpled and forgotten in school bags. Lost handouts that need re-issuing. If you’re looking for an alternative, then a custom built school app from Piota could be the solution!

Our custom built school apps are designed to help schools cut costs and improve communication between staff, pupils and parents.  Here’s how schools are saving money with Piota.

Book a demonstration

Instant notifications to parents – free of charge

Push notifications are a cost effective and more powerful alternative to SMS text messages. Nayland Primary School has found that their Piota school app lets them get urgent messages to pupils’ parents:

“In the past we have used a text message system for urgent notes to parents. That system charges the school per text. Now we can use the Piota app for free.

“We have also reduced the amount of paper we send out – all our notes and letters go on the app..” – Deputy Headteacher, Nayland Primary School

Saving on administration costs while improving efficiency

Normally, cutting costs results in more work. Westfield Primary Academy has found that their Piota school app allows them to save money while having an even better school communication system.

“The app has saved the school money in administration costs and has enabled us to send out information to parents in a quick and efficient way.” – Headteacher, Westfield Primary Academy SWAT

Send more whole-school letters while spending less

How much does your school spend on whole-school newsletters? When Baysgarth Secondary School did the maths, they realised that it was far cheaper to invest in a custom built school app.

“We are a paperless school and use electronic communication to contact parents. The app has elevated this and enables us to reinforce the email messages we send out by sending instant push notifications to parents.

This has significantly reduced the cost of postage and text messages. The annual cost of the mobile app is very low; it actually costs us more to send out two whole school letters! It saves us money on postage, paper, printing and labour for enveloping and stamping the mail.” – PA to Headteacher, Baysgarth Secondary School

No photocopying costs to communicate with parents

One of the biggest drains on a school budget? Photocopying.

Lexden Springs Primary School found that their custom built school app allowed them to send information straight to parents without having to photocopy anything.

The 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.” – Office Manager, Lexden Springs Primary School

Save money with your custom built school app

We know that a Piota school app could save you money. In fact, we are so confident that we are happy to offer you a free trial of your school’s custom communication app. If you’re interested, then just click here to arrange a no-obligation consultation and demonstration.

Mission Grove's school app

How to successfully launch a customised school app

There are so many benefits to having a customised app for your school. The ability to instantly share information with parents means that there is hardly any missed communication, your staff will no longer need to chase up on letters home and you will make huge savings on administration costs.

Most importantly, parents will feel more informed and more engaged in the school community.

In order to reap these benefits, you will need to successfully launch your school app to ensure that parents, staff and pupils are completely on-board.

Customised app for parental engagement

School app training

In January, Mission Grove Primary School in Walthamstow launched their customised app. Parents were invited to the launch, where they received a full demonstration of the Mission Grove school app and how to use it. Parents were shown how to download the app and, by the end of the session, it had been downloaded over 1,000 times.

Whilst the presentation to parents was underway, pupils were busy taking photos from around the school to add to the app to capture a ‘day in the life’ at Mission Grove. Teachers and support staff were also given training on how to use the web-based management system to publish updates to the app.

The benefits of launching your customised app

Engaging the entire school community in this way will have ensured maximum success with the app.

“As a primary school teacher, it is wonderful to experience those moments within a school when the pupils, staff and community are excitedly working on a project together.”

Martin Burrett, UKEd Magazine


“The app is cool!”  

Jemima and Asha, Mission Grove pupils

The Mission Grove app is available to download free for Android here and iOS here.

If you would like more information on how a customised school app could improve parental engagement, please click here.

Printers vs School Apps

Saving time with school apps

Whatever your role is, there are never enough hours in the day when you work in a school. Recent budget cuts and staff shortages have led to an ever-growing strain on teaching and support staff in schools.

There’s always more you could be doing to improve outcomes for pupils, but there’s only so much time to get the job done. You have to prioritise.

But how do you do that? We’ve all heard of Eisenhower’s urgent/important principle. But this doesn’t help when everything on your to-do-list is important or urgent.

It’s widely reported that teachers are over-worked, but support staff are also suffering. In a recent survey by the Education Support Partnership, 80% of school support staff said they felt overworked. Stress brought on by excessive workload is leading to higher staff absences, putting more strain on school budgets.

This leaves school leaders with a choice: recruit additional support staff, or find more efficient ways to get things done.

If you’re looking to reduce workload for your teaching and support staff, then school apps are an excellent option. Our custom built school apps help schools to save time and improve communication between staff, students and parents.

Quick and easy pupil absence reporting

How much time do your admin staff spend on phoning parents and recording pupil absences? Nayland Primary school saved an hour a week by using one of our Piota school apps:

“We use the app for registering if children are absent or updating parents’ contact details. It means that admin staff can choose when to deal with these bits of information rather than continually answering the phone.” Katie Coburn, Deputy Headteacher, Nayland Primary School

Litchard School have found the absence reporting features to be one of the most valuable features of their school app:

“As a response mechanism for parents to report illness alone it is worth its weight in gold.” – Deputy Headteacher, Litchard School

Mission Grove Primary School finds that this saves time for their support team:

“Our attendance officer makes less calls as parents reports absences via the app” – Assistant Headteacher, Mission Grove Primary School.

Conduct parent surveys and analyse results

How often do you conduct parent surveys? How long does it take to prepare the surveys, chase up and collect responses?

The survey feature on Piota school apps enables you to send out quick surveys to parents and get the results instantly. No more chasing up for form tutors. No more manually entering results for the admin team. And no more need for SLT to analyse the results.

One of our happy customers has found that their school app has saved their headteacher several hours of data analysis and reporting:

“At the moment, our parental consultations are going on and we are using the survey section to crunch data based on parental responses. That would usually take the headteacher several hours. It’s all graphed by the app.” – Dale Richards, Deputy Headteacher

The Suffolk Borders Teaching Alliance is particularly pleased with the presentation of our feedback forms:

“Great time saving, especially using feedback forms, plus produces a professional appearance” – Helen Main, Suffolk Borders Teaching Alliance

As with absence reporting, Mission Grove Primary School highlights the time-saving benefits of the survey feature:

“We now spend less time collecting and inputting data from questionnaires as we get it straight from the app.” – Gemma Kent, Mission Grove Primary School

Criftins CE School has found the survey feature so useful that they are expanding it to include appointment-setting:

“Our plan is to go entirely to the app for appointments and surveys which should save a huge amount of time in the long run.” – Mandy Jones, Headteacher, Criftins CE School

Save time and money on printing with school apps

What is the cost of your whole school letters? How much time does it take for you and your support staff? How much re-printing needs to be done when letters or permission slips are lost? How much time could you save if you used Piota school apps?

At Passmores Academy, they are estimating that push notifications save nearly three hours each week:

“The app has saved us admin time by us being able to more quickly send out messages than via other methods. I would estimate two-three hours time a week are saved by this.” – Russell King, Deputy Headteacher, Passmores Academy

Thanks to their Piota school app, replacing lost or forgotten permission slips is a thing of the past for Heath Hayes Reach2 Primary Academy:

“No need for re-printing of letters or chasing permission slips. Time saved on re-communication.” – Rebecca Graham, Headteacher, Heath Hayes Reach2 Primary Academy

Queensbridge Primary has found that they are saving up to four hours each fortnight because their school app has dramatically simplified the process of communicating with parents:

“We’ve saved at least 3-4 hours fortnightly if you factor in creating the newsletter in publisher, printing and distributing.” – Sophie Wood, Queensbridge Primary

Reminding parents and pupils about letters has always been a burden for form tutors and administrative staff. John Ruskin School uses their Piota school app to send push notifications instead:

“We’ve saved time on sending letters out to parents. You can send out reminder notifications much easier than getting teachers to remind parents of events (parents eve for example) in the playground.” – John Verity, Business Manager, John Ruskin School

Piota school apps will save you time and money, as well as improving parental engagement. We are happy to offer you a no-obligation free trial of your school’s custom communication app. Just click here to book a free consultation!

Three ways to involve parents in the summer term

How to involve parents in education - Playground art

As we enter the final term, many teachers will already be thinking ahead to next academic year. As the pressure of SATs and GCSEs subsides, the summer term is a perfect time to reflect on the year and plan ahead for September. But it’s also a great opportunity to get parents engaged with your school, which will pay huge dividends in the autumn term.

Try our three top tips to involve parents in your school community.

1. Make the most of what you’ve got

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Many events during the summer term lend themselves to parental involvement. School calendars across the country will be packed with sports days, awards assemblies and summer shows.

But how much can you involve parents in these events? If you get low attendance, it might be worth considering how you approach parents. How far ahead do you invite them? How do you go about making them feel welcome and included?

Try including something to make parents feel special. If it’s an awards assembly, why not have the pupils present their parents with certificates too? The more positive an experience you make it, the more likely parents are to come back for more.

2. Try something new

If you tend to get low attendance at whole school events, maybe your school community needs something new to get excited about.

There are so many dates throughout the year where you can involve parents in their child’s education. The summer term includes national walking monthnational picnic week and the Festival of Learning (previously adult learners week).

If none of these appeal, then why not plan an event that’s unique to your school? If it’s a success, you could establish your event as an annual tradition.

Think about what makes your school what it is, and what matters to your pupils and parents.

You could celebrate the cultural diversity of your school community with an international festival. Invite parents and pupils to come in traditional dress, or bring a dish that represents their country’s cuisine.

Or perhaps there is something of historical interest that makes your school special? Hold a fête and centre your theme around the decade your school was built in.

3. Ask for help

Whatever sort of event you organise, make sure you use it as an opportunity to build a stronger sense of community. Inviting parents to volunteer will make them feel more valued. Of course, there will be parents who can’t help out, but there will be many who are willing to give their time and resources.

This approach will also help you to get to know them better. Appealing for volunteers might reveal hidden talents and interests you wouldn’t otherwise have known about.

Making sure that you involve parents will help you to build more meaningful relationships with them. Just think about the impact this will have on pupil outcomes in the long-run!

Finally, make sure you have good communication systems in place so that parents are well informed. Don’t let all your good work go to waste because of missed communication!