Communication may be a big time drain for many in schools, but it’s importance can’t be overstated. If you can communicate effectively with parents, you’ll provide peace of mind to them and ensure greater engagement in their child’s education. Harmony between school, teacher and parent is created by effective communication.
With so many different types of people, ranging in age and personality, how do you foster effective communication with parents? In this guide we’ll suggest some of the best platforms to use, plus a few handy tips to making the most of your comms with parents.
The best channels for parent communication
For many schools, email is likely to be your number one source of communication in the digitalised world. Faster, efficient and more cost-effective than physical letters, email can be delivered privately to all your relevant parent contacts in a matter of minutes.
From important school updates that parents need to read, to more informal monthly newsletters that highlight what’s been going on in the school, email can be appropriate for many different types of comms.
The majority of parents and guardians involved in your school will have an email address and use it regularly. It is likely to form the backbone of your effective parent communications strategy.
2. School or blog
The school website is a fantastic opportunity to showcase all the good your school, and the pupils within it, do every day. Think of it as a marketing tool for your school, useful for shouting about all the great work that’s being done and progress that’s being made.
The best place to house regular communications with parents on your website is probably your blog. This isn’t the right place for serious comms or essential or urgent messages, but it’s a great place to post informal updates of what’s going on in the classroom.
Post event summaries, excellent pupil work, or even things like teacher interviews and profiles. It all helps to display a positive message to parents (current and potential) who can see the impact of the work being done.
3. Social media
Once you’ve written all those updates and blog posts, you need a way to amplify them. Most parents won’t find the time, or have the inclination, to regularly visit the blog, but you can use social media to point them to it.
Social media is another great digitally-focused way of reaching parents with fun, positive updates on what’s happening at the school. Be it photos from sports day, amazing artwork from year 3, or announcing a new after school club. Promote it all on your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels – and don’t forget to tell parents to follow.
4. Group text messaging
Even text messaging is pretty old school these days, but it’s still an effective way to send an update or reminder. You can use your own phone to send to groups you’ve compiled manually, or use an app like WhatsApp and setup your own school group chat.
Alternatively, use one of the many available platforms built especially for schools. Take a look at remind, a popular platform for communication between schools and parents.
5. Communication apps
If you want more than just text messages, there are plenty of tailor-made platforms out there that make communicating with parents easy. With a system like Teachers2Parents or Parent Mail, you have added options like data collections with digital forms, online parents evening booking and online payment collection.
6. In person (or remote meetings)
Many of the communication methods mentioned above are great for periodical updates or informal messaging that doesn’t involve personalisation. While they’re great for convenient, fast and efficient communication, they are no substitute for a good face-to-face chat.
Given the time and practicalities of speaking to parents face-to-face, these types of comms are likely to be less regular. Parents evening is an obvious example of this, but any other school events where parents are in schools is a good opportunity to speak to them either about an individual child (for a teacher) or the school’s progress in general (for other staff).
Clearly, the COVID pandemic has significantly reduced the opportunities for schools to speak with parents directly, but remote communication via video conferencing is just as good. Using a service like Microsoft Teams or Skype can carry most of the same benefits of in-person comms without being in the same room.
7. Letters or physical comms
Throughout the process of setting up your school communication platforms, you need to consider what parents would prefer. To many, digital platforms have overtaken the need for old, physical comms like letters – but is that the case with the majority of your parents? Be sure to find out before you rule out sending many letters.
Plus, letter-sending can still be an effective way to communicate. For the most important communications, or anything urgent that requires personalisation, letters are still an effective tool.
Tips and advice for the very best parent communication
All the right platforms are in place, but that can only take you so far. Effective communication with parents requires you to hit the right tone, use the right platform at the right time, and follow best practice.
Here are just a handful of tips to carry into every communication you have with parents.
Be clear with how you intend to communicate
Different parents will favour different lines of communication, so be sure to periodically get a gauge of which methods are the most effective and which ones parents prefer. Once you’ve made a decision, communicate it clearly with everyone so they know where to head for different types of announcements.
Listen as well as speak
A parent can make a deeply impactful contribution on their child’s education. An easy way to encourage further engagement from them is simply to listen. Take the time to gather feedback from parents on what could be done better at the school and be sure to respond to those who take the time to provide feedback.
Remember that, ultimately, communication is a two-way street.
Be warm and positive
There is a correct tone to strike when sending out school communications, and it starts with positivity. Schools are a place where amazing things are discovered and futures are made. Take that positivity and run with it by accentuating the positives and highlighting everything that is good about what you do.
Don’t limit your communications to negative situations. It’s amazing how quickly those positive vibes will spread among parents.
Get everything proofread
When you have a million and one things to do, a “good enough” attitude to comms can easily sneak in. Those last remaining one-percenters, like having your updates proofread, are often the first things to go. No matter how much of a rush you are in to get it out, always have someone cast their eye over it and iron out the inevitable errors that creep into everyone’s work.
If nothing else, it will build trust. Your school is in charge of many children’s education and progression. Simple errors in grammar and spelling won’t look great on the school, even though in reality we know it doesn’t at all reflect the great work you’re doing.
Express gratitude when parents get involved
Foster a positive educational environment and before long parents will be more than happy to feed off that and get involved too. Parents have got plenty of pressures of their own: working and raising a child, so when they do show enthusiasm for their child’s education it’s important to thank them.
Whether it’s them participating or attending a school event or taking the time to help out with some home learning, be sure to personally acknowledge their efforts.