Thursday, 22 January 2015

Sharing a Message with our Parents

In common with most schools, we need to think about how we convey information with the parents of our children.  There is always a debate about whether the tried and trusted methods of communication are most effective.  Whilst generating vast amounts of paper-work does make you feel that you have given out the necessary information, how sure are we that it reaches its destination and, even if it makes it out of a pupil's bag intact, do parents read it? 

Should we be developing a hybrid approach to engaging parents?  Are texts effective?  Is Twitter suitable for all communications?  Do people still use Facebook and if they do, would they resent school-life and social media mixing? 

In an attempt to tackle this, we have started to develop our Internet provision for parents and students. 

Mrs Southern and Mr Szura (Heads of Years 12 and 13) use Twitter to get important information to students .  This has proved to be effective if we have to get a quick message to students - especially when they are studying on multiple sites.  They currently have over a hundred followers (a higher number than our current Sixth Form), but not all of these are current students.  This suggests that we are not getting a message directly to all of our students via Twitter.  What is happening is a sort of Chinese Whisper campaign.  One person sees a message and then they text it or put the information onto Facebook etc.  This can sometimes skew the message and doesn't guarantee that everybody has received the information.  At the moment, this form of communication hasn't been extended beyond the KS5 pupils (although technically younger students could access it).  Should we roll out this provision to all students?  Are the younger students sufficiently tuned in enough to Twitter for it to be an effective method of communication?

Lewis Girls' School was recently closed for the day with little forward notice.  This type of unavoidable emergency causes major problems for some families.  In this particular case, the situation was made more complicated because there were external exams taking place on the day of closure.  We had to make sure that a message reached the majority of staff, pupils and parents and the obligatory text messages were sent out.  It would be foolish to think that all pupils, parents and even staff received the message.  Mobile phone numbers change and, unfortunately, admin records aren't always current.  This results in a 'majority did, but some didn't receive the message' situation.  Some blank messages were generated and there were a number of hurried phone calls from members of staff checking if they needed to get out of bed or not.

The messaging system has proved really effective as a prompt - alerting parents to future events, such as parents' evenings - but is too costly and laborious to use as a method of individual communication.  It doesn't lend itself to providing a parent with detailed information about an individual situation.  It is better used as an initial point of contact that leads to a face-to-face meeting, asks a parent to contact the school or alerts them to something that has been put onto the web site that gives them more information.

How do you think we should effectively get the message out there?         

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