Schools and Nurseries across the UK and Ireland are using an Apps Central School app to transform parental engagement and reduce costs within their schools and nurseries. Hear from some of our clients
Ardvreck School is one of Scotland’s leading independent full boarding and day prep school with 125 children from 5 – 13 years old. The school has a very busy academic, sports, music, arts and after school program.
At the same time as reinvigorating the Ardvreck web site and parental communications policy Ardvreck, adopted the App as the core method of communicating calendar events and news with parents. Since inception of the App in September 2013; it has been downloaded by over 200 people (there are 125 pupils) and is used on a daily basis by many parents. The school ceased to produce a hard copy school calendar thus benefiting from an overall saving in costs.
In addition to the school calendar, Ardvreck publishes team sheets, sports match results, news and the headmaster’s blog via the App. Parents are also to see a map location of home and away fixtures. The App enables parents to quickly and easily find the time and location of all fixtures.
The school utilises the “calendar website widget” feature, enabling the App calendar to be replicated on the website, meaning that there is no need for double entry and that what is on the App is the same as the web site – “one version of the truth”
“I have found the app to be an intrinsic feature of school life. Regular communication to our stakeholders is a critical component of the ‘modern school’ and our parent body appreciate and value this forward thinking innovation. Apps Central are cost effective but more importantly they have listened, taken on board and implemented our own particular needs and thus the product and service continues to be of infinite value.”
From a Parent
“This phone app makes it so much easier for us to organise visits to the school for matches and other events – being able to choose events relevant to us and add them to our calendar makes it all very easy and a vast improvement on hard copy and website calendars.”
Lisa Bennet, managing director of the four Cherrytrees Nurseries sites in Scotland, explains the nursery-to-parent communications challenges they faced and how Apps Central’s Day Nursery App improved engagement.
Cherrytrees Nurseries was formed in 2000, with its first nursery in Melrose in the Scottish Borders. Three more followed, in Dunbar, Edinburgh and Hawick. These four geographically diverse sites currently provide childcare to over 700 children.
Cherrytrees Nurseries have been awarded either ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good’ in their latest Care Inspectorate reports.
as quickly as possible – from dietary requirements and rescheduled activities through to the latest news on our teddy bears’ picnic and Lego building on a trip to the museum.
Although we publish four newsletters a year, post notices in the classroom and email parents, a number of factors can create communication problems. These include a change of circumstances at home, a change of email account, different carers picking up children, and so on.
We worked with Apps Central, creators of the Day Nursery App, and soon had the perfect real-time solution to meet our needs. It had the functionality we were looking for and the image we wanted to project in terms of our branding. The costings were good and it is a really professional product. The app went live in our Edinburgh nursery in May 2014, the rest of the group followed in November that same year.
Using Apps Central’s Day Nursery App, we can now send out a weekly update on each nursery room with photographs included. One of the biggest benefits of this is that parents can use our app to see what their child has had for lunch! The benefit for us is that this avoids complaints about duplicating meals!
Our apps are particularly useful to us because some of our nurseries are in rural areas. If we experience a power cut and loss of telephone systems, for example, we can access the app management centre from another site and post a message to update parents. Last year our Hawick nursery was evacuated because of floods that were affecting the region. The Hawick app enabled us to inform the parents that their children were safe and had been moved to a nearby sports centre.
We have had approximately 420 Apple downloads and 240 Android downloads so far, that equates to 75-80% of our families utilising it.
Parents approve of the app and say it’s easy to download. They like being connected and feel their nursery is communicating better with them.
Thanks to Apps Central, parents now enjoy easy access to newsletters, policy announcements and forthcoming events such as graduation days, parent meetings and Fun Days.
The most popular feature of Apps Central’s Day Nursery App is that it allows parents to import any important dates straight into their phone’s calendar, creating a crucial reminder for any event. Push Notification messages are very popular .
The app also has a pin number, so staff can ensure that only parents and people closely connected with the school have access to the calendar of events and activities. This gives an extra layer of security which is extremely reassuring for parents. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on this feature in particular. I think this is where the app has a major advantage over using texting and social media.
Meanwhile, we have made a saving on time and on printing costs. Because of benefits like this and the satisfaction of parents, Apps Central has clearly added value to Cherrytrees Nurseries’ approach, helping us to enhance the experience of both parents and children.
Apps Central is an all-in-one solution. It offers a fast, professional service and has proved perfect for our needs.
Easterside Academy is an Academy convertor Primary School in Easterside, Middlesbrough. They currently have 296 children on the school roll which includes 52 part time nursery children.
Easterside invited Apps Central to visit the school to discuss how an app would help their parental engagement, in addition to using other methods such as texts and emails. Head teacher, Delyth Linacre believed that lots of important information was not getting through to Parents because phone numbers were changing and letters were not always read. With the significant rise in smart phone usage it was very clear that parents would be able to access information easily and quickly in their smart phone. Apps Central created the Easterside app which allows the school to communicate news and calendar items straight onto parents’ phones.
The school calendar was uploaded to allow parents and carers to see all the school events and add them to their personal calendars if they wanted to. This has helped parents remember events and reduce time spent contacting the school to check what is going on.
The introduction of messaging within the app has enabled the school to send out important messages to parents and carers about, for example, event reminders, school closures, late buses and any other important information. Delyth Linacre said about the app ‘The app has rapidly become an integral part of school life, it’s very affordable service and there is no fixed term you have to sign up to.’
Windmill Primary School
Andy Howe, deputy head at Windmill Primary School, Oxford, reviews the challenges of school/home communications and how his school further improved parental engagement.
About the School
Windmill Primary School in Headington, Oxford, is a large primary school with a pupil roll of 570 in a very mixed catchment area.
In June 2015 the school was judged Outstanding by Ofsted who said: “The head teacher, extremely well supported by all governors and staff, leads a school where ‘Achievement through Community, Creativity and Challenge’ is the vision.”
The main challenge was to communicate with all parents, to encourage them to attend events such as school plays and carol concerts and to enter into the life of the school.
We used to send out weekly newsletters, but because parents would often forget dates and times before the event we started to send reminders on social media and to interact via Facebook and Twitter.
This worked well but we felt it was not a good real-time solution for communicating with parents. Teachers could never be sure that parents would log into Facebook at the right time which could result in them missing important updates, for example about a school trip.
Texting was never a realistic option. It is inefficient and cumbersome. The cost of sending messages to mobile phones can be very expensive. Some companies charge 6p a message so we were not willing to go down that route.
In 2013 we sent out a survey and the overwhelming result was that parents would prefer an app.
We worked with Apps Central, creator of the School Calendar and News App and soon had the perfect solution to meet our needs. It had the functionality we were looking for and the image we wanted to project. The costings were good and it was a really professional product. The app went live in October 2014.
Enabling real-time notification of important matters such as trips and activities, it is an ideal way to send frequent reminders to parents. We also use social media to drive the message home. The results speak for themselves as we now have better and larger attendance of school events.
There have been 500 downloads so far: 330 have been for Apple and 174 for Android. Although in some cases both parents of a child will have downloaded the app, I estimate the school has achieved 70% to 75% coverage. The school hopes to extend coverage and sends out reminders in the printed newsletter which we still send out.
On average there is a message every other school day. It links with social media so generally I will write a post for Facebook which is automatically replicated on Twitter and then as a news story on the app.
Parents approve of the app and say it’s easy to download. They like being connected and feel they are communicating better with school.
The messenger function on Apps Central’s School Calendar and News App has been particularly useful for real-time communication and the school can target messages at specific groups – for example, they can send a message to say that a coach returning Year 4 pupils from a school trip is going to be 15 minutes late so parents do not need to rush into school.
The app has a pin number which is sent out in a newsletter so staff can ensure that only parents and people closely connected with the school have access to the calendar of events and activities. This gives an extra layer of security which is very reassuring for parents.
While I cannot put a figure on savings, I know that the school is spending less on photocopying. We are also saving time because a simple short reminder on the app reaches most parents, replacing the need to send letters. The app is easy for staff to use and Apps Central populates a basic calendar with events and key dates at the beginning of each school year which can quickly be amended and edited to suit changing circumstances.
It is an all-in-one solution. Apps Central offers a fast professional service and the app has proved perfect for our needs.