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 the 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 7 pm 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.
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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 Hargrave 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.