School & College App
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.
Modernising Parent Communications
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.
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.
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.
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.