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April 2019
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Communication is key

Groupcall is a leading provider of communication and data solutions to the education, public and private sectors. Stuart Abrahams, Groupcall business development director, discusses the positive impact regular communication between a school and a parent can have on a child’s education. He explores how a parental communication system, such as Groupcall Messenger, can assist Local Authorities (LAs) and its schools to achieve this.

The UK education system has undergone a major overhaul in a bid to streamline learning and help equip young people with the skills and knowledge required for a positive future. The Government has identified that parental engagement plays a significant role in achieving this and has consequently implemented recommendations for schools to adhere to in order to fully involve parents in their child’s education. An example of this is Manchester City Council, which has recently chosen to install Groupcall Messenger, a parental communication system which is proven to enhance parental engagement and improve attendance, in all of its 167 schools.

The deadline for parental reporting in UK schools is fast approaching. It is becoming increasingly accepted that parents who are actively engaged and involved with their child’s academic life, can have a positive influence on academic performance. The ultimate objective of parental reporting is to encourage parents and teachers to work in conjunction to support a child’s education and learning. If a child feels their parent is interested in their learning and general school life then they are more likely to strive to excel.

One aspect of what schools are required to offer to their parents is online reporting, which is being introduced to increase the level of information parents have access to, therefore boosting parental engagement. Those schools yet to provide online reporting will have an obligation to do so by 2010 and 2012 for secondary and primary schools respectively. A plethora of frequently updated information regarding a learner’s school information, such as attendance, behaviour, assessment, home work assignments and class work schedules is consequently made available. Improving the level of communication and the accessibility of educational information enables the school-parent relationship to become more meaningful.

With the parental engagement targets implemented, LAs should acknowledge these too to ensure that the relevant facilities and services are in place to help support its schools to achieve these.

Utilising parental communication systems

With an automated parental communications system, such as Groupcall Messenger, which is currently used in more than 2,000 schools across the UK and Europe, making contact with parents becomes simpler. Rather than being a time-consuming manual process which requires dedicated staff members and consumes staff resources and time, contact is quick, efficient and cost-effective. Via Messenger schools can inform parents of key information from the ‘Reporting to Parents’ guidelines including attendance, behaviour, progress, attainment and Special Needs. This improves parental engagement and means that schools need not rely on parents logging onto the school’s system to access student information.

For schools whose service procurement is influenced or managed by the LA, the council will want to support its schools in implementing the best solution; helping to ensure cost-effective and far-reaching efficiencies. LAs will be keen to support schools in successfully achieving parental engagement targets as this can positively affect the overall reputation of the council, for example, it is beneficial for councils to be recognised for having high attendance rates and first-rate exam results.

An effective parental communication system is able to directly inform parents quickly about incidents such as a child’s unauthorised absence via text or voice messages, this enables early intervention. Issues surrounding an absence can be identified and addressed in the early stages rather than being allowed to escalate and potentially become a more serious situation.

A solution with many benefits

Councils should bear in mind cost effective ways of sourcing and implementing an efficent parental communication solution in their authority. Manchester City Council has chosen to install its parental communication system due to its ability to enhance parental relationships and improve attendance. By centrally securing a parental communication system on behalf of all of its schools, the authority has benefited from bulk cost savings compared to schools procuring a system individually.

Manchester City Council’s MIS support manager, Vince Slatford, summarised: -As the support manager for school’s ICT, it is always a challenge to find new and intuitive ways of assisting schools in raising their performance levels. One of the many projects we are currently working on is to improve the attendance levels at each school and therefore that of Manchester as a whole. We were aware of a limited number of schools using various applications to text parents/carers in relation to first day calling. This seemed to be a cost effective and time saving method of engaging parents at an early stage to discover the whereabouts of each child.

-Since then we have realised that Messenger can do so much more than just track and improve attendance and it has enabled us now to focus on the Parental Engagement strategy for the 2010/2012 agenda. Schools can send various forms of messages out to parents/carers relating to simple queries such as forgotten PE kits to school closures due to bad weather etc.

-Communication leads to community

Communication is such a simple basic human skill, yet can truly be such a large factor of academic success. As society become increasingly technologically advanced, it is vital that we exploit and embrace the ICT available to us in order to maximise the education provided to learners of tomorrow. Good communication is a two-way process and therefore should include both parents and the school. An effective parental communication system has the power to improve communication and provide huge scope for cost-savings. Manchester can demonstrate to other LAs the scope of what a parental communication system can achieve, and how via procuring a system to be applied on an LA-wide basis; LAs can gain best value, whilst also standardising quality for their schools.

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