Seaton House School in Sutton, Surrey, is keeping parents instantly updated with school information through the Call Parents automatic notification system. Previously the school staff would spend hours typing letters, photocopying, and chasing up responses over the phone, now the process of informing parents about events, activities, emergencies or just general news is quick, seamless and straightforward using email, text message (SMS) and automated phone calls. Using the system the school has saved approximately 80% on staff administration time and 10% on annual paper and photocopying costs annually.
Val Mathews, Marketing Manager at Seaton House School, discusses the implementation of Call Parents and the enormous benefits for parents, pupils and staff alike.
Seaton House (www.seatonhouse.sutton.sch.uk) is an independent prep school in Sutton with 140 pupils aged 3 to 11. The nursery includes boys and girls aged 3-5 and from Reception to Year 6 is girls-only. Most girls take the 11+ examinations and go on to local grammar schools or other independent schools.
Communicating with parents
Val Mathews explains: “We send out weekly newsletters and probably 6-8 general letters per week informing parents about events, activities and special arrangements. Before using Call Parents, this involved a lot of photocopying, collating and distributing so it was a very laborious administrative function – involving hundreds of sheets of paper per week and several hours’ work. We would give letters to pupils to take home in a book bag, but many would get lost between leaving the office and finding their way home. It was impossible to know which parents had received the communication and which hadn’t. Many parents didn’t respond and we had to spend a lot of time chasing them up over the phone.
“We looked at what Call Parents offered and we decided to use it because it would obviously save time and money. We first used the emergency texting service in 2011 but from September 2012 we extended its use to all regular communications to parents. Our office manager uses Call Parents to feed into SIMS (School Information Management System). We informed parents that we were using the new system so it was imperative to have all emails and mobile phone numbers up to date.
“We recently used the emergency system when the school closed on a Friday morning because of heavy snow. We made the decision at 11am and everyone was gone by 1pm. Without Call Parents, it would have taken longer to close the school as it would have involved over 140 phone calls trying to locate parents at home, at work or on their mobiles.”
“We also use the system if sports fixtures are cancelled or venues change at the last minute so that parents who want to attend or collect their children are aware. We can use the system to select certain groups affected and send them targeted messages. Another use is for school trips for which we need parents to fill out permission slips and medical questionnaires. This is far easier electronically and they are able to complete these online and get them back to us quickly.”
Saving time and money
“Call Parents has saved us approximately 10% on annual paper and photocopying costs which in turn also helps the environment with the reduction of waste paper and energy use from printing. It has saved approximately 80% on staff administration time annually because preparing letters and making phone calls amounted to several hours per week.
“It is particularly useful for our parents, because most of them work and are very busy. Now they can pick up the message wherever they are and whenever they check their blackberry or smart phone. We can get replies back within minutes. For example, we’ve got a cycling course coming up and it’s on a first-come first-served basis, so after the email went out, within minutes we had parents signing up anxious not to miss out!
“Our parents are far happier receiving communications through Call Parents. It’s much better than pieces of paper that can get lost or dog-eared – and it’s more secure. Before using it, we wouldn’t get replies from many parents and we spent a lot of time chasing them up, but now we are guaranteed a much higher level of response. Ultimately we need 100% replies and we get that far more quickly now. We are quite a traditional school so it’s important for us to use new technology – with hindsight perhaps we should have adopted it sooner!”
Installed in over 2000 primary and secondary schools in the UK, Call Parents (www.callparents.com) is an automatic notification system which enables schools to send a message to parents via text message (SMS) or automated phone call. The system reads live pupil contact information direct from the school’s management system and can send specific messages to parents of a specific class, year or group. Messages can be sent to inform parents when report cards have gone home, when parents’ evenings are taking place, to warn them about school closures, cancellations or delays to events and returning from a school trip.