As school holidays draw to a close, students and staff return now to a new world in education. One-way systems, hand sanitising, and social distancing are all likely to be in schools for the foreseeable future.
And whilst some of these changes are unfamiliar, it is important that schools adopt them for the benefit of all. In much the same vain, places of education should resist the temptation to revert to familiar and outdated systems, instead choosing to invigorate positive change. Schools can, and should, now put their faith in technology.
We at Parents Booking have long been proponents for both ‘parental engagement’ and innovators of systems that make significant impacts. While our primary goal is to help parents make appointments in as easy a fashion as possible, that’s actually the ‘flashy’ part, the end product. Our passion and prime focus is in helping schools to drive success by using technology to lower barriers to access; encouraging use of technology amongst schools, teachers and parents, and being part of the formula that creates success for students.
We have the technology to increase student success.
We all want to help students succeed.
We believe video meetings will form a vital part of the ‘recipe’ that will drive greater student success by improving parental engagement.
Throughout lockdown, office meetings and discussions between businesses turned to services such as Teams, WebEx and Google Chat amongst others for their conferencing requirements. Inside our homes Houseparty, the smartphone app, and enjoying pub quizzes over Zoom quickly became social devices that students, parents and families used in huge quantities in the absence of face-to-face, human interaction. Parents and grandparents the world round became much more familiar with the technology. Their use became so familiar that formerly embarrassing moments, such as your children asking for biscuits or animals climbing on your keyboard became endearing, where they were once perhaps deemed unprofessional.
Schools, too, must further embrace technology, as a solution to ‘social distancing’ but also to solve the biggest problems that surround parent-teacher meetings, namely encouraging participation through ease of access, making life easier for parents and teachers (I’ll be writing a separate blog post on this next).
I think it’s also worth noting that schools can capitalise on the fact they have an audience of parents who know how hard it is to educate at home, owing to their recent experiences of being involved with it day-to-day. They value teachers’ skills, and are, in many cases, more familiar and invested in their child’s class work and development than in the past, while being more conscious of the work the student is undertaking and their progress.
We spent the summer working with the world’s leading integrated video call software, embedding it within Parents Booking. From September schools will be able to have appointments which have already been booked online become video meetings automatically. Better still, video meetings roll from one to the next instantly, making the experience as simple and convenient as possible for parents, teachers, and administrators.
Without our new video call integration, schools looking to run video meetings through Teams or Zoom, primary schools would have to create around 400 video meetings in advance, while secondary schools would have had to prepare, on average, 3,500 video meetings (and up to 10,000 for some big schools), while also having to share personal information belonging to the parent and teacher with these services. Given that time and data security are even more of a valuable commodity, this is a price schools can ill-afford to pay.
How can video calls help improve student success?
We begin by encouraging parent use.
By having meetings run by video call rather than in-person, meetings will run exactly to time. No more knock-on delays from meeting to meeting.
Parents who do not have the facility to travel to a school for parent-teacher meetings, or meetings of any sort, perhaps because they have no mode of transport or mobility issues, will now be able to take part from the comfort of their home.
Parents who work late shifts and have typically not been able to attend during the hours of parent-teacher meetings have a greater opportunity to do so now. Parents can simply join their video calls using a smart phone, tablet or laptop, meaning they can do this from anywhere.
When the parents adopt the technology, we grow their participation, and we grow students’ success. Parent schedules will no longer require ‘moving time’, meaning parent time dedicated to parent-teacher meetings can be halved at many secondary schools, and dedicated to talking about the things that really matter.
Parent-teacher meetings allow for target setting with parents, performance discussions, encouragement and planning. These are the few and limited minutes of contact that parents and teachers share. They’re the opportunity for parents to learn the teachers’ goals for their students, the priority issues.
However, the statistics suggest the students whose parents do not attend parents’ evenings are often those who would benefit most from these meetings. The technology now exists to make meaningful impact on parental engagement, and a further step in the direction of equity.
Technology holds the key to encouraging participation and lowering barriers to access.
The ease with which schools will be able to host video meetings, and the ‘on-demand’ nature of video call setup means easier dialogue between parents and teachers. Indeed, in time, we believe schools and parents will embrace video meeting technology so warmly that they are open to changing the age-old structures that currently underpin how parent-teacher meetings are held.
Distance is also no longer an issue. Parents who are away for work, live distantly from the school or live abroad can now meet with the teacher online rather than navigating roads after work. Nationally, we can even help remove hundreds of thousands of car journeys annually; a green issue close to our company’s heart.
Rather than having hundreds of parents vying for teacher time a few nights a year, which, let’s be honest, can be an absolute melee, in the fullness of time, schools and teachers would have the ability to spread their meeting availability into smaller sessions throughout the academic year, perhaps targeted at priority appointments. The technology to allow teachers to host ‘office hours’ or create a 1-to-1 discussion with parents as required, already exists. We have built it. This innovative way of using the technology will fix allocation complications which often prevent parents from being able to meet with teachers they feel they need to see, and which causes frustration. Video meetings will be more time efficient, eliminating a barrier to either participation or ‘return custom’ of schools.
The technology to do all of this is not only available but is now in much more use than it ever has been. It has become interwoven into how so many of us work. Parents and teachers alike are more familiar than ever with it. It’s accessible. It’s easy. It’s greener. Schools who are innovative and adopt technology can instantly effect positive change by using video meetings, and we will be encouraging every school we can not to return to the inefficient and archaic structures of the past. Moving forward, let’s strive for better.
Written in collaboration with Daniel James-Watling, a teacher, and Deirdre Mackenzie, a retired teacher.
Are you interested in using video meetings this academic year?
Because the video calls themselves are largely inexpensive, customers (old and new) can add video call technology to their Parents Booking account, and host all their parent-teacher meetings as video meetings, for less than £50 per year for even the biggest primary schools, and less than £150 per year for the biggest secondary schools. If you would like to know more, get in touch.