Back to school ready with school app checklist

School App Checklist

Get your school app, back to school ready!

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.

School app checklist: remind parents to update channels

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.

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!

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.

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 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.

paperless school

Becoming a paperless school within REAch2 Academy Trust

Heath Hayes Academy was the first REAch2 school to launch it’s 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

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.

Best wishes

Piota Apps

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 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 7pm 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.

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 Hargave 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

Primary parental engagement: two sides

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.

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 roll out 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.

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 proof read, 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 be 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!

Mission Grove's school app

How to successfully launch a customised 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.

Keeping parental engagement easy


Parental engagement, and making parents feel included in their child’s development, is an important part of school life – headteacher Tina Oliva writes for Education Business.

Tina Oliva, from St John Evangelist Catholic Primary School, discusses the benefits of effective parental engagement and how they used a dedicated school app to bring a new level of efficiency to their communication with parents.

The article outlines how the school moved from traditional methods of parental engagement, including letters home, texts and phone calls, to a school app that allows for instant communication with the whole school community. With so much time needed for administration, and more importantly, teaching, Tina looks at how this process really streamlined the communications process, as well as how it saved the school money.

Also in this article is Daniel Beazer, who discusses how the school’s new form of communication has been received by parents, especially when it comes to sharing updates about events, and publishing photos from the school.

“One of the most popular things we now do is to celebrate the children’s successes. If a school team completes something successfully, or a child has done something noteworthy, we send this out via the app. We’ve found that there is no better way to promote the success of the school community and help parents understand their child’s learning experiences and progress.”

“The school went straight from text and paper based communication to a mobile app, leaving out the email stage. I am glad they did as I am sure those emails would be lost in the sea of spam. And we wouldn’t get to find out about what our children are really up to during the school day.”

You can read the full article on the school’s parental engagement journey and all the details of the app’s benefits on Education Business here: