With smartphone ownership at record levels and school budgets getting tighter more schools than ever are looking at mobile apps as an alternative to often expensive and outdated text based communication systems.
From saving money to boosting engagement there are many advantages of switching to an app but not every app is the same and many can lack key the key functionality needed to make savings or boost parental engagement.
If you are looking for a school app take a look at our top 5 questions you should ask before committing.
Can we control who has access to the app?
This might sound like a given, however many 'school' apps do not have any control mechanisms in place and once the app has been downloaded anyone can login and view school messages.
As a minimum you should have full control over who has access to your content and also the option to add and remove your connections at any point otherwise is will simply become uncontrollable and not suitable for parental engagement.
Can we personalise communication by sending messages to specific people or groups?
This is the difference between an app that supports engagement and one that simply broadcasts messages to everyone. It is also vital that the school has control over who is in each group, it is not uncommon for providers to ask parents to self-select the group they are interested in.
Can we send push notifications?
The answer this question will make a real difference to the savings your school can make. Push notifications allow you to alert parents in a similar way that a text messaging does but push notifications are sent using mobile data or the internet. Push notifications can often be used as an alternative to text messages but whereas schools will commonly pay per text or per bundle a mobile app should come with unlimited push notifications.
Are there any limits on the number of messages we can send or number of contact we can have in the system?
Text messages often come with limits and because of the impact on the budget this typically results in messages being reserved solely for the most critical of occasions; pupil absences, detention notices or school closures.
One of the key advantages of using an app is that there should not be any limits on the number of messages a school can send which means you can share all the positive messages, the pupil and school achievements, the termly highlights and good news stories.
Also because there is no impact on the budget you can easily involve more people in the school such as key stage leaders, departments heads and classroom teachers.
What happens if a parent doesn’t have a smartphone?
Smartphones have revolutionised how we all communicate however not every parent has an app enabled device and your chosen provider should accommodate this by incorporating alternative communication options such email or an online version to ensure the maximum parental reach is obtained.
If you are looking for an app and would like some further advice on what you should be looking out for please get in touch.
SchoolCal has been developed by governors, parents and practitioners in education who understand the importance of effective communication throughout the whole school.