There are a plethora of text/email/voice broadcast tools on the market these days- that's one of the things that hit me at BETT this year, and there are big variations in cost and functionaility. Notre Dame chose the Keep Kids Safe 'Secondary Contact Tool' who helpfully give schools a 2 month free trial, here is a case study I prepared to evaluate the initial impact after this free trial, we went on to take out a contract.
Case Study of Secondary Contact from ‘Keep Kids Safe Project’
A Parental text, email and voice broadcast tool at Notre Dame High School, Sheffield
Paul Haigh, Senior Assistant Headteacher firstname.lastname@example.org
Notre Dame High School, Sheffield, is a high performing Catholic city comprehensive school. The school has a national reputation for innovation with ICT, most notably shown by the school winning the Becta Excellence Award for Best Whole School 2009 in the Yorkshire and Humber Region.
The school is at the forefront of Parental Engagement through New Technology having hosted Online Reporting to parents since 2007 and is a leading light in the Online Reporting Advocate Schools Group and delivers support the guidance to other schools on the Parental Engagement agenda as all secondary schools aim to have online reporting set up for September 2010 and primary schools by 2012.
Notre Dame did not take on the Keep Kids Safe tool to tackle attendance as many early adopters of the technology did, fortunately attendance is so good automated communication systems were not needed. The main reason was to further engage parents.
Notre Dame was very aware that whilst online reporting gives parents access to a huge amount of relevant and personal information about their children there were two main issues:
1. Online reporting relies on parents remembering to log in to check the system, if reminders and back up reports have to go home on paper the online system is pointless
2. Online reporting presents so much information to parents there needs to be easy ways for the parent, at the computer screen viewing the information, to then contact the school to respond to what they have seen- electronic communication must be 2-way if it really is to develop parental partnership.
It was this two way dialogue that attracted Notre Dame to the Keep Kids Safe tool. Whilst other tools could send out text messages and emails to parents, which in our case could alert parents to new information on the online reporting system and trigger large numbers of parents to log in the Keep Kids Safe tool allowed parents to reply.
Common replies include
· “Thank you for the reminder of the new online reports, I have lost my password can you send me a new one?”
· “I see my child’s attendance record has some authorised absence, can I authorise that my child was sick on the following dates...”
· “I see my child’s level in science has dropped, what can I do at home to support my child with his learning in science?”
It is through handling these replies that school enhances it relationship with parents and empowers them to support their children which has an impact on achievement.
Notre Dame also sees the Keep Kids Safe tool as a way to cut costs and tackle the green agenda. As a Green Flag Eco-School the school has set up paper recycling but the school realises the need to reduce the use of paper in the first place. Mass and personal communications are being moved across to the Keep Kids Safe system where families are happy to opt out of paper. The system also allows the school to increase the amount of communication. In the past the school could not commit the resources to write home over every little issue, naturally priorities that mean ‘squeaking wheels get oiled first’ meant there was perhaps an lack of balance between the positive qualities of most students and the amount of negative feedback the school was sending out. Electronic communication can make it easy to for example send home messages like these on exactly the day when they are most relevant:
· Congratulations on your child’s 100% attendance this term
· Congratulations on your child hitting your attainment targets this year in....
· Congratulations on your child achieving top grade 1 for effort in 5 or more subjects this term.
· The school was very proud to have you child represent the school last night in the football match/ school production/ netball tournament etc
This positive feedback not only reward students and families who may in the past have received very little communication from the school despite supporting the school in every possible way but it creates a culture of positive reward that students who have in the past not met the school’s expectations but improve not only stop getting negative feedback they get more regular positive feedback instead.
Notre Dame High School http://www.notredame-high.co.uk/
Keep Kids Safe http://www.keepkidssafe.co.uk/