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budgets getting tighter, more schools than ever are looking at mobile apps as an alternative to often expensive and outdated text-based communication systems.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 to switching to an app. To help you find the right provider for your school, we have put together the top five questions you should ask before committing to an app-based system.
Can our school control who has access to the app?
This might sound like a standard requirement; however, many apps aimed at schools have not been designed to have any control mechanisms in place, meaning that, once the app has been downloaded, anyone can view school messages.
As a minimum, a school should have full control over who has access to their content, with the option to add and remove parents at any point; otherwise any app will simply become uncontrollable and potentially unsafe.
Can our school 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, as it is common for providers to ask parents to self-select the group they are interested in.
Can our school send ‘push notifications’?
The answer to this question will make a real difference to the savings your school has the potential to make. Push notifications allow you to alert parents in a similar way that a text messaging system does, but push notifications are sent using mobile data or the internet, and schools should not incur any costs to send.
Are there any limits on the number of messages our school staff can send or number of contacts 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 positive messages, pupil and school achievements, termly highlights and good news stories.
Additionally, because there is no impact on the budget, you can easily involve more people in the school, such as key stage leaders, department heads and classroom teachers.
What happens if a parent doesn’t have a smartphone?
Smartphones have revolutionised how we all communicate; however, not everyone has joined the app revolution yet and your chosen provider should accommodate this by incorporating email and web portal options to ensure that 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 with our school communication experts SchoolCal.
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