Reversing the impact of COVID by building relationships with parents

The disruption caused by the pandemic brought many parents closer to their children’s learning,  as many adults and children worked alongside each other at home. However, since then, KS1/KS2 SAT results and phonics screening tests have shown basic numeracy and literacy have not returned to pre-Covid levels.

In fact, in a recent blog post, we wrote that 41% of children left primary school this year without having met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. Additionally, as the cost-of-living crisis puts education at risk due to school funding struggles - disproportionately affecting disadvantaged pupils - the quality of schoolwork and learning is undoubtedly suffering.

In our recent post, titled Parents want to be more involved in their children’s learning, we wrote that absenteeism, student confidence, grades, social skills, behaviours, and community links are all shown to improve when parents are involved in their children’s academic journey from primary to secondary school.

Reaching parents in a way that works for them

For London-based school, Southern Road Primary School, building long-lasting relationships with parents is key to improving their student’s education and outcomes. Headteacher of Southern Road Primary School, Gavin MacGregor, tells us, “Covid obviously had an impact, and we’ve seen things change both for the better and for the worse since returning. Children who were at home during lockdown obviously missed out on months of nursery and school experience and we have seen the effects of that, through both social skills and grades. Attendance since Covid has also been an issue and is an example of why it’s so important that we have strong two-way communication with parents.”

“We were very lucky that when Covid hit we already had ParentMail in place, so we could reach parents digitally with ease. That meant we could maintain the levels of communication that they were used to and support parents through a time that none of us had ever experienced before. We knew of other schools who simply didn’t have the tools in place to support with that and it was a very difficult time for them, and I’m sure is something they’ve since fixed.”

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Recent research suggests that technology can play a key role in overcoming fragmented communications to improve parent engagement. In fact, we found that primary and secondary school parents are 2.5 times more likely to be satisfied with their school’s efforts to communicate with them when they use an app. Furthermore, 88% of those parents have a great relationship with their child’s teacher and think the school makes the best use of technology.

Gavin tells us, “Our teachers are out welcoming parents each morning so having a good relationship between teachers and parents has always been important to us. When we were unable to do that, we relied heavily on ParentMail to keep that relationship going, and now we’re back in school, it’s shared between face-to-face and technology.

As a school, we have 93% of students with English as an additional language, so actually, technology really supports us when it comes to any language barriers we might face.

The technology has to be easy for parents to use and we support our parents with that, and we’ve found that it’s often the preferred choice for many.”

Lightening the load for teachers

Technology has also supported the school in lightening the load for teachers, replacing manual parents’ evening administration with a slick, online booking system through ParentMail. Gavin tells us, “Parents’ evening was a bit of a headache for us a few years ago. We have a lot of families who have multiple children within the school and it was on our staff to ensure meetings didn’t clash, or that parents weren’t hanging around for hours between appointments. It was quite a lot of work for teachers to manage.

Now, however, teachers get given a list of their evening schedule and there’s no administration for them to do in advance. For parents, it’s a really easy process of booking through their phone or online, with reminders in place should they need them. It’s been a much better process for all involved.”

Happy parents, happy school

Just a few years ago the school was still sending home paper letters that got left in book bags - and had a high print cost! Today, they send communications, request payments and manage parents’ evenings all through their ParentMail account. For parents, it means just one account for all their school communications, and a handy app to simply make a payment, or have a video appointment with the teacher through.

Gavin tells us, “Each year as we get a new intake, we find more and more that parents expect this information to be digital. Every aspect of life is digital, so why wouldn’t that be the same for their school communication? We have 94% of parents signed up to ParentMail, and when we need to reach parents instantly, we can do so with ease.”

That was put to the test over Christmas when the school suffered from a boiler leak! “We got a call that evening saying it wouldn’t be safe to open the school the next day, so from home I was able to contact the parents and say the school would be closed the next day. Before ParentMail we would have had to get staff into school bright and early to make phone calls home to parents. Instead, I sent a text out to all parents within minutes and it was done. We rely on ParentMail now to reach our parents and it’s a tool I’d 100% recommend to other schools to make their lives, and their parent’s lives, easier.”

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