Communication App For A Secondary School
Improving Parent Communication For A Secondary School In Birmingham
Jewellery Quarter Academy is a secondary school with around 500 students in Birmingham. They first contacted us on March 10th and moved fast, launching their customised app to parents in just 3 days. Jamie Barton, Deputy Headteacher, told us how they were getting on with their app.
Getting An App Up And Running In Just 3 Days
Jewellery Quarter was looking for an app to improve parental engagement, but when coronavirus accelerated it quickly adapted it into a central online reference point for student learning resources
How did the school envisage using its app and how did this change in response to Covid-19?
Initially, they provided learning resources on the app using PDFs in order to reach their whole audience, as many families did not have access to laptops. In response to the crisis, Jewellery Quarter bought and delivered laptops to families that did not have them so families had at least one device plus their app to access information. Making sure that the lower socio-economic families had access to the learning resources was paramount to facilitating home learning.
Using instant push notification alerts was particularly useful for sharing information about learning resource updates as well as broader information such as free weekly school meal vouchers provided by the government. The forms section improved data capture and rekindled engagement with parents.
When Jewellery Quarter sent a message out to encourage parents to fill in the application for their voucher, “We received over 100 responses to the form within the space of 2 hours”.
How Has The App Changed Their Communication Strategy?
Very few parents were engaging meaningfully with the website, whereas they do with an app.“ Having something that is in the palm of your hand has been a game-changer”. Push notifications are used to launch the week, share learning strategies and to point parents to where further information is housed.
Having its own app has enabled Jewellery Quarter to provide a centralised hub of information that is easily accessible by their whole audience. Parental engagement has increased, it played a vital role in communications during coronavirus and “it’s one of the main success stories of this academic year”.
How easy has their app been to use?
The staff love the app and are constantly suggesting new content for it. Staff, as well as parents and students, have downloaded the app to keep themselves updated and use the alerts to serve as reminders. When form tutors do their weekly check-in with students, they are able to refer to sections of the app and sign-post information.
Both Mr Barton and the Office Manager manage the app and have found it very easy to use, “I feel like the management of it is really easy, it took me only half an hour to train our Office Manager on it”. After an initial training session, they felt well equipped to launch their app to their audience and had it up and running quickly with minimum fuss. The Office Manager handles administrative updates while Mr Barton handles teaching updates.
Managing the app has been easy as he is able to update it without being in front of a computer, “I’ve got the console to do the editing on my phone and laptop, this gives the flexibility of location. If I am given some information to send out in an alert, I can do it then and there”.
Now I feel like we don’t have anybody that is unreachable
— Jamie Barton
Which Other Features Of The App Are They Using And Why?
The app design is versatile and can be changed quickly. Jewellery Quarter created an extra-curricular section in the student area of the app which has Monday Masterclasses, Tuesday Talent, Wednesday Wisdom, Thursday Thoughts and Friday Fun and made each year group responsible for contributing content to them. “We tried to develop the student area with everything they will need to continue their learning and shared some myth busters about the coronavirus crisis”. They also use their forms to collect student suggestions and relay these insights to the student parliament.
Has the app been a hit with parents?
Their app has “become the chief medium of communication between the school and families”. This has provided a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the classroom and the home and the use their app to signpost helpful information and frequently asked questions. “Now I feel like we don’t have anybody that is unreachable”. So far Jewellery Quarter has had 800 downloads, 197 of these by Friday of the first week. In a recent ‘Our new app’ survey, 89% of parents were positive about the impact the use of the app has had: “It’s amazing, I like the hands-on information, it is very informative and easy to use”.