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Go FAR beyond mere engagement

THE PARENTAL
ENGAGEMENT GUIDE 2022

Parental Engagement Guide 2022

Effective parental engagement is a big challenge for most schools.
How do you know which are the right products and services for your school?
This definitive guide created in partnership between Schudio and ParentHub provides an actionable framework to dramatically improve parental engagement in your school

 

Chapter 1

What is Parental Engagement?

Parental Engagement - Team

 

Parental engagement is everything you do as a school to foster a stronger relationship between home and school.

The parent’s role is anything they are doing to support their children’s learning and helping their children succeed in school.

At it’s best, a transformative parental engagement strategy is built around relationships and ones of equal standing. A relationship built around the best possible outcome for the children and an understanding that both parents and schools are vital for success.

Highly effective parental engagement is hard to achieve. But a strategic approach based on the specific needs of your school and community will reap enormous benefits.

Let’s get started by thinking about why parental engagement is so important.

Chapter 2

Why is Parental Engagement important?

Parental Engagement - Why is it importantIt’s widely accepted that effective parental engagement has a really powerful impact on the achievements of your students. Part of the responsibility of schools is to ensure that parent partnership is working highly effectively. What’s more, a school with a great parental engagement strategy will use online technology to achieve powerful results.

Do a quick search for ‘parental engagement’ on your favourite search engine and you’ll see lots of advice and support. Then there are lots of reports and tools. Every one of these has the specific aim of helping you engage parents more effectively.

That could be through multi-agency working, joined-up working, or good old-fashioned face-to-face communication. Schools with highly effective parental engagement see three things happen.

Firstly, a direct impact on attendance. Secondly, improvements in attainment. And thirdly, satisfaction levels within and around the school community.

Ultimately, parental engagement at it’s best sees stronger relationships.

But, in lots of schools, parental engagement isn’t working as you want it to.

How do we improve parental engagement?

Chapter 3

How can I improve Parental Engagement?

How to improve parental engagement

The idea we all need to start building into our plans is, how do all the solutions we use fit together?

No individual engagement solution can sit central to your parental engagement strategy. It simply doesn’t work. Why? One reason is that no prospective parent will ever look at your app. Nor will an inspector look at your app before they visit your school.

The only engagement tool you have that reaches all your audiences is your school website.

Why is all the very best, live information about what goes on in school published primarily on social media or your parental engagement app? Why do we put all our focus on one aspect of parental engagement when we could achieve so much more with just a little adjustment to our approach? A more cohesive approach.

And so we come to the Parental Engagement FlyWheel.

One of the strategic approaches we take to parental engagement means that we think beyond mere engagement.

We think about how we can delight everyone in our community through the best possible engagement. We aim higher and further than just providing the information they need and aim to foster a collaborative partnership. We aim to delight.

So, how do we approach delighting parents and not just engaging them?

Students and their families sit right at the centre of everything. They’re the reason for the things we do in school and why we celebrate the stories of their achievements and successes online. They’re also the reason that we push that information out via apps, email, text messages, and social media.

Encircling your audience is your school website. It is the heart of the engine that drives moving from engaging to delighting. All the other tools you use sit in the periphery of the Engagement Flywheel and drive users to your website. 

Every tool in the engagement flywheel has its role and every tool needs to be considered carefully as part of a wider strategy, a framework that helps you meet these goals. Continue reading as we explore the DELIVERS Framework.

You’ll find a more detailed study on this approach to parental engagement in The School Website Manager Course, but for now, the main takeaway is that everything else you do from a parental engagement point of view, is all about bringing your audience together to a place where the magic happens, on your school website.

Top Tips for Effective Parental Engagement

Tip #1

Tools and Strategy based around your school community

Does your school have a cupboard of shame? The devices and apps that aren’t being used effectively, if at all? The most common reason for this is that schools buy products that don’t fit what they actually need to engage their specific community. Your starting point is to figure out the best channels to engage your parents. Don’t buy into the lie that the very latest app will work in every setting. Explore options that meet your school community’s needs.

Tip #2

An understanding that the very best strategies are devised by both parties; school and parents

What is your strategy for effective parental engagement? Is there any strategy in place at all? It is vital that you start to think about what your school’s community needs and build that into your plan. The best way to figure out what tools of communication your parents find most helpful? Ask them. Don’t be afraid to survey them as you think through your strategy.

Chapter 4

The DELIVERS Framework

Parent Hub

 

The relationship between school and home has a BIG impact on a young person.

Students thrive when their parents are engaged in their education, and the school plays a huge part in supporting them to engage in learning at home.

So, when it comes to your school’s communication strategy, you need to have the right system for the job – one that gives both you and your parent community the tools you need to communicate effectively with one another.

You need a system that DELIVERS.

DELIVERS is a framework we’ve developed at Parent Hub to help you assess the effectiveness of your current communication system across 8 key areas.

These areas are Data Protection, Ease of Use, Longevity, Integration, Value for Money, Engagement, Reliability and Support.

Here’s an overview of each bit of the framework, along with some questions for you to think about when evaluating your current system.

 

Data Protection

As a school needing to communicate with parents, you’re responsible for deciding which organisations to share their personal data with.

In the world of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), this typically makes you the Data Controller, and your communication provider the Data Processor.

It’s also part of your school’s responsibilities to ensure that the providers (or Processors) you work with comply with GDPR. It may sound daunting, but it needn’t be.

When evaluating your provider, the best place to start is with their Privacy Policy.

The best Processors adopt what’s called ‘data protection by design’. It puts the privacy and protection of users at the heart of decisions around how a system will work, and this should be reflected clearly in their policies.

Specifically, decisions around what personal data will be stored, how and where it will be stored, and how it will be used.

Questions to consider

  • How up to date, transparent, and understandable is your provider’s Privacy Policy?
  • When you and your parents sign up to your current system, are marketing emails turned off by default, with the option to turn on if you want?
  • What happens to old messages in your system? How regularly can they be deleted to help you comply with GDPR?

 

Ease of Use

‘Little and often’ is the mantra for effective parent communication, which means you need the process to be easy.

You’re sending messages multiple times a day, so speed and simplicity are essential to avoid wasting time. Everyday things should be done in seconds, not minutes.

When assessing ease of use, a good starting point is to ask yourself would I ask for the system to be built this way if I was given the choice?

Does everything just flow, or are there workarounds you’ve devised to accommodate things your platform won’t let you do?

Things like shortening messages because of character limits or having to make every contact Priority 1 in your MIS because your platform doesn’t let you message every parent.

Or perhaps there are bigger inefficiencies, like creating payment requests in one system, but messaging parents about it in another because your app doesn’t let you do it all in one place.

Great platforms do the hard work for you, not the other way round.

Questions to consider

  • Could a new member of staff do 90% of daily tasks with absolutely no training or support at all?
  • How often do you delay sending something because you know it will take time?
  • How easy do parents find the sign-up process?

 

Longevity

Longevity is all about whether your platform is capable of supporting you and your parent community over the long term.

For this, you should look at how the platform is evolving over time, and whether engagement from parents is being sustained over many years.

If the system hasn’t really changed for a long time, this is a potential red flag.

In a post-COVID world, you need a lot more from your communication platform, so it’s important to see your provider understands that and is investing in making it better.

When it comes to engagement, you want to avoid the scenario where it seems high to begin with but then dips as the weeks and months go by.

This can happen when a parent gets a new phone and forgets to log back into your school’s app, but it needn’t be the end of things.

The best platforms out there will help you and your parents with this. They’ll help you track Engagement (more on that later), shine a light on parents that have stopped using your platform, and provide you with options to ensure they keep receiving messages.

Questions to consider

  • How easy is it to see which parents have become inactive, or stopped accessing your current platform?
  • How does your current platform ensure that messages are still received by inactive parents, so that engagement isn’t affected?
  • Is the platform getting better and better over time, or is it starting to stagnate a bit?

 

Integration

You should feel confident that you can reach every parent when you need to, and that you’re avoiding spending time and money on messages that don’t get delivered.

For the most part, your ability to manage this comes down to how well your system integrates with your MIS.

A basic requirement is for it to automatically update with new data at least once a day, but the best systems out there allow you to sync with your MIS on-demand, whenever you need to.

The real power, though, lies in how well your system highlights common issues that will stop your communication dead in its tracks – like when a student doesn’t have any contactable parents, or when a mobile number is invalid.

Better platforms proactively help you with this – removing barriers to keep communication flowing.

Questions to consider

  • How much effort does it take to get contact info into our current system?
  • How easy is it for me to spot the following critical issues?
    • Parents with missing mobile numbers
    • Students with no emergency contacts
    • Students with no priority 1 contact
  • If I fix an issue for a parent, can I message them that same day, or do I need to wait 24hrs?

 

Value for Money

There are 3 elements to consider when assessing value for money: impact, time spent and cost.

Imagine a service that’s free to use but has no impact on parent engagement with school or their child’s learning. This isn’t good value, sadly, because it’s wasting your time.

Or maybe you have a system that’s time-saving and effective but uses lots of costly text messages each time you send something out.

It’s not wasting your money, but when budgets are tight it might discourage you from using it very often, which isn’t what your parents want (see the ‘Ease of Use’ section and the mantra of ‘little and often’).

Valuable systems save you time and increase the impact of your communication. And crucially their pricing doesn’t discourage high usage.

Questions to consider

  • Is there a link between how often you use your system and how much it costs you?
  • To what extent do you limit your communication with parents because of cost?
  • How much office time is spent answering questions about things you have already messaged parents about?

 

Engagement

The ultimate aim of your communication with parents is to promote better engagement – both with school life and learning at home.

How well your platform performs across the other elements of the DELIVERS framework goes a long way to determining whether your communication promotes or discourages that engagement.

At it’s most basic, it starts with parent uptake and read rates. Essentially has a parent signed up, and are they reading what we’re sending them?

A good system will enable you to easily track those things and intervene where necessary (see the earlier section on Longevity for more on that).

The real value, though, lies in how well your messages impact on the behaviour of your parent community.

Does your communication result in higher attendance at events (online or in-person)? Or more conversations about learning at home?

The latter can be harder to track, but it’s at the heart of why you’re communicating with parents in the first place.

Questions to consider

  • What proportion of messages sent to parents are focused on what their child is learning, and how they can support this at home?
  • If your parents weren’t engaging with your messages, how would you know?
  • What identifiable impact, positive or negative, does your communication have on parents and their engagement?

 

Reliability

Every other aspect of your communication strategy depends on the reliability of your messaging system.

It may be easy to use and offer great integration, but if it’s unreliable then your Longevity, Engagement and Value for Money will sadly suffer.

Parents want to be reassured that they’ll always receive important messages from you. Reliable systems will do that and increase parents’ trust in you as part of the process.

Unreliable systems do the opposite and erode that trust. There’s nothing more frustrating for a parent than feeling out of the loop because a message wasn’t delivered to them, so it’s an important area to get right.

Questions to consider

  • How reliable was your current system at key points during lockdown?
  • In a typical week, how often do you encounter technical issues such as problems signing in, or sending a message?
  • How often do parents report technical issues, such as missed messages, or problems signing in?

 

Support

When thinking about needing support, most people imagine that something has gone wrong. And whilst that can be true, it’s not the only reason you want good support from your communication provider.

When you encounter an issue, you might prefer to solve it yourself using friendly help guides, or perhaps you like to quickly get someone on the phone to talk it through with you.

Whichever it is, the best platforms offer this kind of ‘resolution’ support in a range of ways, so that you can opt for the approach that’s best for you.

But support is about much more than solving problems. The best platforms also offer advice on what to tell parents about, how often to send messages, and at what times of day.

Done right, it can inform your communication strategy and shine a light on best practice, so that you’re getting the most out of your system.

Questions to consider

  • If you encounter an issue, how easy is it to get it resolved using the options provider by your current system?
  • To what extent does your current provider inform how you use the system, and give you insight into best practice?
  • Does your provider offer help and support directly to your parent community?
Chapter 5

Parental Engagement Solutions Checklist

What does parental engagement look like at it’s best?

At its very best, parental engagement is all about how everything works together seamlessly for the best
outcome for students and parents, fostering the strongest possible relationship.

The rest of this guide is all about how each individual tool fits into your overall strategy.
As you work through each option, think about if and how it fits into your individual setting.

That is vital for your success.

PARENTAL ENGAGEMENT
SOLUTIONS CHECKLIST

Last updated April 2022

Parental Engagement Checklist

ABOUT THIS GUIDE

The parental engagement tools detailed below are the most commonly
used solutions as part of an overall engagement strategy.

It is not intended to be a fully exclusive list as schools will, quite rightly,
always find the best solutions for their individual community.

Use this list and the details enclosed as a starting point to
develop your full parental engagement strategy.

The Parental Engagement Solutions List

The Centre: Your School Website

As we’ve already stated, no individual social media channel, parental engagement app or any other edtech kit can sit central to your parental engagement strategy. It just doesn’t work. It excludes key members of your audience. No prospective parent, inspector or prospective colleague will ever look at your app or your emails or your text messages. 

That privilege is reserved for your school website.

Apps, social media tools, parents evening booking systems, text messaging services, compliance software, and resources etc… all of these feedback and forth to your website if they’re set up in the best possible way. They’re all tools to push your audiences to the place they need to be, where the magic happens, where the rich content is, where life in school is celebrated.

That is on your school website.

Why is all the very best, live information about what goes on in school published primarily on a parental engagement app?

Why do we put all our focus on one aspect of parental engagement when we could achieve so much more with just a little adjustment to our approach?

Over the next sections, we’re going to look at all the products and services used in the periphery of your school website; apps, email, social media etc and discover where they all fit into the engagement space and how you can use them to drive traffic to your website and power engagement through to the delight stage of the engagement flywheel.

While you think about these options, think about what you are using currently and ask if it is being used to its potential.

Is it driving your audience to where you want them?
Are you using existing tools to drive users to your school website?

Your School Website & The Engagement Flywheel
  • Engagement Flywheel Role CENTRE OF THE FLYWHEEL – everything else revolves around your school website
  • Audience All Audiences – Parents, Prospective Parents, Potential Staff, Inspectors
  • Best Uses Your school website is there to celebrate life in school. Yes, it has to meet certain requirements and is a marketing tool BUT, it is primarily there to help you bring together everything you want to shout about that is awesome about your school. Keep it central to everything
  • Drives to Website? Everything else drives users to your website in some way

Free School App

Parental engagement apps are brilliant. They provide a way for schools to keep parents informed day-to-day about what is happening in school and updates on their children. Parental engagement apps have the power to be transformative in supporting the parent-teacher partnership.

They have the power to message individual parents or groups of parents. They can be used to bring together important information and tools for easy access. Furthermore, they can be a true asset in keeping engagement firing along nicely and help parents feel part of the school community.

But, they are often not used to their maximum potential. Nor are they always used in the best way to ensure your parental engagement strategy is at it’s best.

At their best, parental engagement apps are effective in providing short, snapshots of information. They are perfect for the quick hits that parents need to know day-to-day. They are great for accessing your contact information and your social channels. And, they are fantastic at giving you a way to share all the best things that go on in your school every day.

Their primary focus is NOT to engage anyone who is not already within your school community.

Think about that for a moment. If your chess club (I went to school in the 90s, I’ve no idea if anyone still plays chess!), wins a tournament and you publish that wonderful news on your app, but nowhere else, who will see it?

Your parents will. Nobody else.

Not your prospective parents who want to know about all the ‘extra’ things you do in school. Not inspectors who are looking for a broad and balanced curriculum and want to know what else goes on. And certainly not the geeky new history teacher who happens to be a closet chess master. None of these people will see this information.

This is where parental engagement apps don’t excel. For all their incredible strengths, engaging potential parents, inspectors and potential staff isn’t part of the picture. 

So, how do we resolve this? How do you make sure that your parental engagement app, that you’ve spent good money on, is being used to its potential?

The main question to remember here is “what is the purpose of this app?”

All too often publishing content to your app or sending a push notification is where it ends. You need to approach everything you publish via your app in a different way.

Think about who this content could benefit. If it is information that is useful, helpful, even inspirational and news-worthy … always think website first.

That again … WEBSITE FIRST.

Publish the article on your website as News or Event or Blog post. Whatever is the best format for the content.

Then, share the information via the app with just the title, image and a short intro to the article. When you do, make sure you link back to your website where the parent can read the full article.

By doing that, you have driven your parents to the website, where they know they will find all the information they need. And, you have made some fantastic news available to all your audiences in a format they can all use.

This approach is true of everything you do when you’re trying to improve parental engagement.

To this end, the partnership Schudio and ParentHub have created make this function a breeze. Publish direct from within your Schudio website to your ParentHub App in seconds.

 

Free School App and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Engagement Flywheel Role Engage & Delight
  • Audience Parents Only
  • Best Uses Your school website is there to celebrate life in school. Your app is there to inform what is going on in school, provide fast easy access to key info and drive people deeper into your content.
  • Drives to Website? Yes! Your app can contain key information but the aim is always to push your users to where to really deep content lives.

For more information about the Schudio School App, which is completely free, click here.

Parental Engagement App Options

There are so many providers of app solutions for schools, our feeling is that this is one of the most confusing aspects of parental engagement. It is certainly where we see more schools struggling to find the perfect product than in any other area.

So, in this part of the parental engagement guide, we are going to look at a few options to help you see the woods from the trees. Or the wheat from the chaff.

Free App Solutions

In the section above, we talked about how a free app can be a great solution for many schools. The Parent Hub App is one such tool that works very well in a number of settings. But, there are limitations to choosing a free service that you should always be well aware of. For example, if you are looking for integrated payments, unlimited email sending, scheduling, attendance alerting and lots more you need to be looking at a more enhanced solution.

But where do you start and what is right for your school?

Paid App Solutions

There are a number of options available. As a starting point, we’re going to include the likes of Class Charts and Class Dojo because they do offer a brilliant way to reach parents. The problem? Well, it’s that age-old problem of who sees what you send out.

If you have bought into the idea that your website sits central to your engagement strategy and should be where all the rich information about life in your school lives, then using a classroom-based app for your wider engagement will not work. When a teacher messages the class about what’s happened in school today that is worth celebrating, who will see it? Only parents. In it’s place, that’s a brilliant thing to do.

And, as we touched on in the previous section, you are likely to want to do LOTS more with your app.

Again, we strongly advise that when writing messages that you send out via app, you put the meat of the information on your website and push users to it.

Every school website specialist should offer you some sort of platform for enhanced, MIS-integrated app solution to make this as easy as possible for you.

Integrated vs Standalone

Some website providers will offer a solution that is integrated into the website platform. This is a great option. It saves separate logins and means that you only need to use one platform. But, there is very often a downside with this approach.

Take Schudio as an example of a school website provider. We would consider ourselves specialists in school website provision. Our aim is to make everything as easy as possible.

But our partners at Parent Hub are specialists in these types of services. While we are focused on delivering the very best possible website system and service, with unbeatable support for our website clients, they are committed to doing the same for their engagement clients. This is where a strong partnership really comes into its own and you, as a school, can benefit from integrated services but provided by the very best EdTech companies, working in partnership to support you to the very highest standards.

The best approach to take?

As always, think about your specific use case and decide which product fits your scenario best.

 

What about text messages?

Indeed! Where do text messages fit into this. For us, this is why we choose to partner with external, market-leading providers to meet the needs of our clients for messaging services. Smart systems offer you the option to reach parents on their preferred channel. Let’s dig into it …

Parental Engagement App Options and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Engagement Flywheel Role Engage & Delight
  • Audience Parents Only
  • Best Uses For the highest standards of engagement communication, the best paid engagement apps will provide easy to use 1-2-1 communication for your school
  • Drives to Website? Yes! All communications have the ability to drive users to your website to view the deep content you keep up to date

Text Message Services

Text message services are still incredibly popular in schools. But, the picture is changing. More schools are looking for smarter options than relying on having to pay for text messages all year round, whether on a pay-as-you-go model, or an unlimited model. Whichever way you choose to go, it’s clear that text messages are here to stay in some form.

In the previous section on parental engagement apps, we looked at the ability to send messages via an app and direct your parents to your website for the deeper information you need to share.

The same principle applies to text messaging.

In order to keep messages brief, the best practice is to send a short message with a link to your full message, on your website.

But, what is the smartest way to use text messaging services alongside an app?

We recommend using Parent Hub’s solution. We love it because we can start to see a picture of how all these critical elements of your engagement strategy can be managed together, through both partnership and wise choices around the systems you use.

This product has some smart technology, all tied to your MIS, that enables you to send message to parents via the app if they have it installed. If they don’t the system will automatically send an email or a text message. The benefits? Messages are much more likely to reach their desired destination and in a format that is best suited to the end-user.

So, if you want to send a message to all your Y6 parents Messenger will pull the data from your MIS and send the same message to all users but to the channel that the user has available. Nice!

Text Message Services & The Engagement Flywheel
  • Where does this sit on the flywheel? Engage & Delight
  • Audience Parents Only
  • Best Uses Broadcast messages to all parents or groups of parents, but limited character counts mean you must link to your website for longer messages
  • Drive to Website? Yes! This is a must – always link to richer content on your website and use a URL shortener

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters & Parental Engagement

Lots of schools use email to reach parents and, if you’re a parent of school-age children, you’ll likely have been on the receiving end of an email that you can’t read.

If you’re like me you won’t read any further. Then I’ll feel guilty because it’s my kid’s school and the information must be important. So, I might have another try. Invariably I will get frustrated and give up.

I most certainly will not interact with the email I just received. I won’t click on anything (often because there’s nothing to click on) and I won’t engage in any way. The problem lies with the options that are available to schools. If you’re used to creating a printed newsletter to send home, we often see this used as a shortcut to sending information home via email. But, printed newsletters and emails are completely different media.

People engage with email very differently from a printed newsletter. Throwing your printed newsletter in an email or an App isn’t the best way to go. If you’re going to make the shift so that you can save money on printing, send beautiful emails that work on any device and have the power to report on how emails are engaged with, you need to know where to move to.

Schools need an option to quickly and easily create and send emails so parents receive the content they need in a format they want.

The first thing we need to do is ditch emails with attachments. File sizes, file types and firewalls all contribute to making email sent with attachments to significant numbers a complete minefield. It makes them hard to access and decimates the number of emails successfully delivered.

Then you need to make the emails you send reflect your school brand, identity and ethos. They must work perfectly on any device and lastly, they need to be sent with a clear purpose in mind. So, if you’re sending a weekly newsletter to parents, what’s the purpose of it?

If you want to drive visitors to your website then use short titles, a nice image, a teaser sentence to entice users to click to read more and a clear ‘read more’ button. (We call it a CTA or call to action).

Don’t include too many news articles or readers will feel like they don’t know where to start. If you’re sending a letter from the Headteacher to parents then the approach is slightly different. All the content should be in the email. Every bit of information you want the reader to digest should be right there. If you do need to link to other info, perhaps the latest Term Dates, make it clear and simple to read and use.

School Newsletters & Headteacher’s Letters to Parents via Email

The emails you send need to be structured so that your readers will interact with the content. 

If you’re using email to send important messages from the Headteacher then it’s vital that you get straight to the point. The content needs to be in the body of the email.In terms of creating the email, you should be able to simply take the content provided and drop it into an existing email template and send it out. It should literally take minutes to go through the phases of Build, Test, Send.

Here’s how that email should look for maximum engagement.

Get Started with School Newsletters via Email

You should be able to make some changes to how you send emails home straight away through your current provision. Whatever you change, make sure you track how your emails are being engaged. Then you know what’s working and what isn’t.

Or, look at mainstream options such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor.

Schudio also offers an email product that solves all these problems. We make it easy to create and send emails that look stunning on any device. Through a powerful system, you can choose from a range of pre-built templates. Then add your own look and feel and quickly add in your content, ready for sending.

Get in touch if you’d like to chat that through with a member of the Schudio team.

Email Newsletters and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Engagement Flywheel Role Attract, Engage & Delight
  • Audience Prospective Parents and Parents
  • Best Uses Email is incredibly powerful if you use it well and you know how to obtain data in an audience-appropriate way. Imagine keeping the interest of prospective parents by sharing timely updates on key information in school, as well as being able to put the very best news in front of parents in an easy to read way very quickly.
  • Drives to Website? Yes! Email is one of the best ways or driving your audiences back to your website reliably

For more information about Email Newsletter products and services from Schudio click here.

Social Media & Your School

Social Media & Parental Engagement

Why is Social Media Beneficial in Schools?

Using social media gives you the chance to communicate and engage with your community. It’s one of the biggest benefits of social media in school. You want to make sure your school stands out, showing what makes your school special and why parents should send their children to your school. As a school, you know the competition is high, as parents are looking for more than academic performance and extracurricular activities when choosing a school for their little one.

Everyone nowadays lives on social media. One of the first things people do these days when searching for something new like a school is they will whip their mobiles out and look to see if they have any social profile. Why? Because they are looking to see what everyday life would be like for their child, the authenticity of the content which is active with real people posting about what it is like to go to this school. This is why it’s also important to have a {responsive school website}. Being on Social Media can build authentic relationships and get people engaging with your content. It can promote a good rapport with parents and you can become a reputable school.

It also builds your online presence. This means the more platforms you’re on the wider the audience you have to market to which will be a great asset to your school’s long-term communication strategy. Maintaining effective communication strengthens your schools’ identity and portraying the culture of the school to your audience.

How do you really start to use social media effectively in your school, right now?

Your starting point is to communicate with your existing audience to encourage parents to follow you on Social Media accounts. You can either do this via email with the attachment of social icons or have the social account names printed on flyers at the bottom of the page.

There is lots more we could talk about here but we’re going to point you to some great resources to help you understand the power of social media for your school.

Social Media and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Engagement Flywheel Role Attract, Engage & Delight
  • Audience All Audiences – Parents, Prospective Parents, Potential Staff, Inspectors
  • Best Uses Social media has the power to reach far and wide, beyond the normal limits of apps or email because the content is fully available and unrestricted. Embrace that side of social media and share your stories socially as much as you’re able. Also great for sharing key info with current parents
  • Drives to Website? Yes! Always, always look for what the next step will be for users – on social media, often that is to link to deeper content; a full news article, for example

Online Learning Platforms

Online Learning Platforms and Parental Engagement

What online learning platforms do you use in school?

There is a huge range of tools that are incredibly useful to help support online learning, home learning, and bridging the gap between home and school, specifically from a learning point of view.

The main pitfall here is when schools choose to use an online learning platform, LMS or attainment tool, such as ClassDojo as the primary source of shouting about key achievements.

These are brilliant tools. But, if you only share news of celebration with your parents and the wider community through these tools you’re missing a huge opportunity to engage.

The single, best thing you can do with your school website, and indeed any parental engagement tool, is celebrating the wonderful things that happen in your school. If you share this news through a single app that is used by your existing audience, your prospective parents, prospective staff and inspectors will never see it.

The answer?

Well, it certainly is not to stop using these tools.

It is simply to remember to share your news more broadly than on just these platforms. Use your website to write up a short news article or blog post. Share a link to this post in your app, email, text message, and share the news as broadly as you can.

That is a much more strategic and effective way to share your amazing news.

Learning Platforms from Schudio include our unique and completely free Learning Wall and our own Online Learning Platform, used for teaching, virtual transition and open evenings and CPD solutions.

Brand & Logo Design

Logo & Brand Design and Parental Engagement

When it comes to branding your school, it’s really easy to underestimate the importance and the impact your brand can have.

We’ve included a little bit of extra reading for you in the next section but the main point here is CONSISTENCY.

Make sure that all brand elements across all the channels you use, social, email, apps … all of these needs to be using your brand consistently.

It’s really important that you make sure that you have all the logo and design elements you need from your designer. If you’ve had a  logo created or you’re working on that at the moment, make sure you get different colour versions, all file types and different applications of your logo so you can use it across every channel.

Brand and Logo Design and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Engagement Flywheel Role Attract & Engage
  • Audience All Audiences – Parents, Prospective Parents, Potential Staff, Inspectors
  • Best Uses Your brand is vital for recognition and awareness and you should ensure your logo is something that you are proud of. Add your logo to everything to ensure everyone grows to know your identity
  • Drives to Website? Your logo or brand should be included on everything you do so that all audiences immediately recognise that content is from you, no matter where it is shared

Photography

Photography & Parental Engagement

Photos are a fantastic way of enhancing your content and providing an insight into life at school or college. 

Photos generally fall into two categories; pro and candid.

Pro photos are the ones you need front and centre on your school website which give an immediate, high-quality impression of what your school is all about.

A series of carefully selected, professional, beautiful photos that capture your values and ethos is the best way to use pro photos on your school website.

But, they’re also great to use throughout your website content AND throughout your school. If you think about your brand, consistently using a range of beautiful photos through the school building, on your website and on all your engagement channels you have an opportunity to create great cohesion of your school brand very broadly.

Think about how you can use your pro photos more than just in once instance.

We always say, get the best photos you can afford. If you have a staff member or a parent who can take a pro quality photo, don’t spend money getting a pro in! But, make sure the quality is what you want.

Then, candid photos are what happens day to day in school.

These are just as important and are what you can take on your phone or tablet and publish on your website or social media that capture those best moments day to day in school.

Nobody expects those to be pro quality but they should be the best you can capture in the moment. 

One thing I must say, and perhaps this isn’t so common any more, but please don’t use clipart on your site in place of photos unless you have a reason to do so.

For example, a special needs school might choose to use icons and graphics that represent actions and signs to direct users – that is the right thing to do for their audience.

But pencil buttons and cartoon graphics should be confined to ancient history. Please!

 

School Photography and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Engagement Flywheel Role Attract, Engage & Delight
  • Audience All Audiences – Parents, Prospective Parents, Potential Staff, Inspectors
  • Best Uses Photos are one of the best ways to immediately shout about how amazing your school is – photos can capture beautiful moments and give you the power to share stunning portraits of the lives of your staff and students.
  • Drives to Website? Yes! Photos should be used in every channel

Videography

Video has become a medium of the norm across many sectors operating online and the education sector has seen more and more engagement over this past 12 months.

During lockdown in 2020, the use of video truly exploded and many, many schools are embracing video as a medium more than ever.

An increasing number of schools and colleges are turning to video to drive users through their key content more efficiently. More still are using video as a way of capturing quick snapshots of key moments in school life. How brilliant that devices can capture amazing video content now! 

It doesn’t need to be time consuming or laborious! Schools that put in a little thought, as with anything, see a greater reward. The effectiveness of their efforts pays dividends with improved engagement.

Strategic Thinking

How do we get started with video though?

Well, the first thing to do is to decide as a starting point if you’re going to use one or more of these approaches to deliver video content to your audience then take the plunge. We learned very quickly when we started producing videos and video-based learning content that if you just go for it, you will find it so much easier to really power forward with it.

If you think about it lots, it will take forever to see any progress and we really want to avoid that.

In the content linked below, you’ll find some options you might want to think about when considering really going for it with video in school and some best practice advice to really get you moving.

Using YouTube in Your School

Have you thought about using YouTube to share your video content? YouTube is an amazing way to publish your video content and share your stories far and wide. If you’re thinking it through, check out this video interview with TubeBuddy expert Rob Balasabas about how you can get started and grow your own YouTube channel at school.

 

Videography and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Engagement Flywheel Role Attract, Engage & Delight
  • Audience All Audiences – Parents, Prospective Parents, Potential Staff, Inspectors
  • Best Uses Like photography, video can be a hugely powerful tool to quickly paint your school in a stunning light – one great option is to commission a professionally produced introduction to your school
  • Drives to Website? Yes! Share video socially and on your website and point your users to travel in both directions

New Starter – Virtual Transition Platform

During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools adapted incredibly quickly in a huge variety of ways.

One of the ways that schools changed their approach was around transition. The usual process of parents and students visiting the school, listening to the Headteacher and then having a tour before heading home with a big pile of reading has been rendered obsolete.

Surely, those days will indeed return but, in the meantime, schools have found creative ways to engage their prospective parents and students via Virtual Transition Platforms and Virtual Open Evenings, some with huge success.

Below you’ll find an interview with a school that ran an exceptional Virtual Open Evening and two examples of creative ways to use online learning software to create a highly successful and creative approach to transition.

Virtual Transition & Open Evenings and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Where does this sit on the flywheel? Attract, Engage & Delight
  • Audience Parents & Prospective Parents but publicly available for Inspectors and the wider community to appreciate
  • Best Uses To ensure the very highest levels of engagement with your transition processes and save bundles on paper!
  • Drive to Website? Should be a key part of your website strategy to attract new families

Training

Training and Parental Engagement

We couldn’t possibly put together a guide about parental engagement which covers so many broad areas and not mention how important training is. So, here’s a few things to remember when looking at any solution or service.

New product or service? What training is available?

Whenever you are looking at a new service or solution for your school it is absolutely vital that you know what training and support you will receive as part of the package (and without additional cost). One of the biggest crimes of EdTech providers over the years is how schools are left to their own devices so very often. Don’t accept that level of support.

When you’re looking at new solutions, ask specific questions about what training will be included, how much support can be accessed and when support is available. Don’t forget to find out how long a provider will usually take to respond, often you need a fast answer.

Keeping your skills current

For every area of parental engagement, it is so important to keep your skillset up to date. All EdTech providers should have built-in, ready to go processes to update you on the latest trends, best practice and requirements, all year round. And it shouldn’t cost you any more than the cost of the service, it should be built-in.

Whenever you look at any service provider, again, ask how they will keep you up to date with feature updates and changes to anything you need to know.

The best place to start?

SchudioTV offers a range of free courses on a wide number of different topics including school website management, compliance and yes, parental engagement. Check out the free courses and the paid memberships linked below.

Training and The Engagement Flywheel
  • Where does this sit on the flywheel? Attract, Engage & Delight
  • Audience Training is vital to ensure you are able to meet the ongoing demands of all your audiences
  • Best Uses To ensure that you and your website and engagement team are always working with the latest knowledge in your locker
  • Drive to Website? While your training will not be publicly available for everyone to see, the benefits will be!

The School Website Manager Membership

We would love to teach you everything we know about parental engagement and school website management. Join The School Website Manager Membership for ongoing support and market-leading training plus free access to our annual event and peer to peer support.

Find out more about The School Website Manager Membership

School Website Manager Membership

 

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