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!

Building positive relationships with parents

Building positive relationships with parents

At Piota, we believe that building positive relationships with parents is the key to pupil success. Getting parents on-side and helping them to feel valued by the school will get them invested in their child’s success and this will have a positive impact on pupil outcomes.

Improving communication with parents drives attendance and punctuality, homework completion and even exam results.  So how can you harness this powerful tool?

Invite parents to school (and not just for parents evenings)

There are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to create a stronger community ethos in your school. Why not invite parents to help mark an awareness or fundraising day? Children in Need and Red Nose Day are just two options.

If parents are used to coming into school for positive experiences, they are far more likely to attend academic review days and parents evenings.

Ask the parents what they want

Before you organise any event aimed at parents, it might be a good idea to find out what they want!

If parents have been involved in the planning, they are far more likely to attend. Many parents will have had negative experiences at school themselves, and so they may feel vulnerable when it comes to communicating with you.

Build a positive relationship by asking parents for input on a regular basis. A simple parent survey is a highly effective way to do this (and can easily be achieved using a school app).

Building positive relationships with parents by sharing good news

We all know that pupils respond well to positive feedback. Parents do too!  Encourage your teaching staff to share pupils’ successes with parents on a regular basis, no matter how big or small.

If parents are used to being contacted by your school, they will engage more with what you have to say, even when it isn’t what they want to hear. Get into a habit of sharing good news with parents on a regular basis so that they are more receptive when you need to have difficult conversations with them.

Building positive relationships with parents will help to grow a supportive school community where staff and parents work together to bring about the best outcomes for the pupils.

How are you building a positive school community? We would love to hear more on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Kingsdown School Parental Involvement

Kingsdown School – 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 come 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.

Treetops School App

Treetops School App – Powered by Piota

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!”

What 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. 

Improving teacher to parent communication

The Importance of Improving Parent-Teacher Communication

At Piota, we truly believe in the power of communication in education. Whether your school already has good parental engagement, or you find parents hard to reach, there are always ways communication can be improved between the two parties. A child’s future is enormously influenced by those who invest their time and efforts. With parents and teachers communicating effectively, a number of huge improvements can be made to the crucial time that children spend at school.

Understanding the importance of education

The lives of teachers and parents are both hectic in equal measures, which can make effective communication a challenge at the best of times. However, research has shown that parents who are communicating and engaging with the school are more likely to understand the importance of education. Many parents find it difficult to define their role in the educational career of their child, which is why it is vital for every school to improve parent – teacher communication. Understanding information given from teachers about academic processes and the progress of their child will give parents the tools to appreciate and emphasise the importance of education in the home environment.

Download our free Parental Engagement Calendar

Pupil progression

Teachers who can effectively communicate with parents are able to set at home tasks and make learning suggestions in order to help aid pupil progress and development at home. The lAnd vice versa, parents can supply teachers with important information about the pupil that can help transform the way they learn in the classroom. Both parties can transmit valuable insight helping pupil progression when communication is open.

Problem solving

Children will face many learning challenges throughout their educational career; many may be huge obstacles to tackle. Such problems cannot be resolved without communication between both parents and school, as these problems do not exist only in the education environment or the home environment. Making teachers and parents aware of problems, whether they be personal, social or educational, creates a secure and productive atmosphere in which improvements can be made.

At home learning

As a parent, understanding the expectations of the school your child attends and the homework they are given is incredibly important. Education is a learning process for the parent as well as the child, which includes understanding the incentives of a teacher, the topics at hand and the progress of the child in order to support at home learning. Teachers who keep parents well informed about work that needs to be done at home see faster progression. Everyone benefits from engaged support of parents.

School improvement

Every school has a vision and it is imperative that parents can rally behind the school as an institution. The best schools have parents who (?) act as active partners throughout the time their child spends at school. Good communication between the two means that parents know they have a respected voice in the school community, not only on matters affecting the progress of their own child, but also on broader school goals. It is in the interest of schools to make parents feel that there is a safe and trusted space where they can feel confident to make contributions, as well as being able to see visible changes as a result of the communication.

If you are a school that is interested in improving communications with parents by using a school app get in touch with Piota!