Welcome to Term 4.
What are the kinds of things schools need to think about when it comes to school communication? Times have changed and sending home a weekly newsletter just isn’t going to cut it in 2023. We know it can be challenging to find the time and space to wade through all the information out there so you can make considered decisions about school comms that work for your school – especially when staff are already run off their feet doing the important work of keeping schools running smoothly. We understand and have created a Best Practice Guide to School Communication that will bring you up to speed in a jiffy.
A plain English guide to school communication in 2023 (for busy people).
We promise you won’t need a marketing degree or a NASA-level understanding of technology to understand this guide. We’re sharing everything we’ve learned in a decade as the industry leader when it comes to school communication, as well as providing actionable tips and best practice knowledge so you are empowered to make the right decisions for your school.
School Stream is on a mission to help schools. We make communicating with families simple with a world-class communication system supported by our fantastic Australian-based support team. Discover more.
What do you need to know about choosing the right platform in order to facilitate time-saving, cost-saving communication between school and home?
We have developed a series of four key points to help guide schools through the decision-making process when choosing a school communication system.
What do parents expect from your school when it comes to communication?
We have spoken to many parents over the past decade about their expectations around school communication and you may be surprised how passionate they are.
Families are busy. Parents and caregivers want communication from school to be easy to find and easy to navigate, clear, consistent, and relevant to their child.
“I want the information to be able to be really easy to access. I can’t stress this enough: Really accessible. And if there’s an app, I want that to be easy to navigate. Ideally, I want the information sent out to me with notifications, so I know there is new information loaded. I don’t want to have to keep checking either my emails or an app to see if there’s new information there. I just want to be able to have everything on my phone, so I know where to look.” Elizabeth, Parent (Melbourne)
1. Is your school providing accessible information for the whole community?
In a best-practice school communication scenario, accessibility is an ethical consideration, a compliance requirement and part of an effective school communication protocol.
School administrators are experts when it comes to the daunting and never-ending responsibility of compliance, as it touches on just about every facet of school administration and operation – including school communication. Being able to provide accessible information to every audience falls under the remit of Department of Education Guidelines.
The language may vary across states and territories, but the guiding theme is that schools need to provide equal access to information for everyone, with special consideration for those with a disability, literacy challenges, people accessing tech on tablets, and those reliant on translation software. The NSW Department of Education goes as far as to include “time poor users who just need an answer to their question” as part of their criteria which, to be honest, feels like all of us these days.
Tip: You may also hear tech people talk about accessibility and communication using the term, ‘Inclusive Design”.
What to look for in an accessible school comms system.
We are shamelessly including ourselves as an example of a school communication solution that meets accessibility guidelines. Inclusivity is a core value at School Stream and we are proud to say inclusion has been a guiding ethos for over a decade. Our commitment to inclusion means School Stream features:
- A translation feature with over 100 languages.
- Tap-to-Speak mode for those with vision impairment or experience literacy challenges.
- Dark mode to support people who experience vision impairment.
- The capacity to enlarge the font size for parents/caregivers.
- Accessible by parents/caregivers on a laptop, desktop or tablet, as well as phones.
- Messaging is always free for families – even if they have a PAYG phone with a zero balance.
2. Can you reach your entire school community quickly in the event of an emergency?
Having to implement your school’s Emergency and Critical Incident Management protocol is about as stressful as it gets. In these scenarios, being able to reach every parent/caregiver reliably and having ‘one source of truth’ is absolutely crucial.
“It (School Stream) was priceless when we had the bushfires around here. We had to send out an evacuation notice and it was one hour from sending the alert to everyone being out (of the centre).” Taree and District Preschool.
When reflecting on school communication best practice for an emergency context, it can be helpful to think about potential barriers to parents receiving reliable information from school in real-time – and the best way to overcome them. Three of the key problems schools can face include:
- Too many channels of communication mean parents don’t know where to go to find information in an emergency.
- Social media is unreliable and misinformation can spread fast.
- No digital communication plans in place at all.
3. Is it enough to have a Facebook page for school communication? (Spoiler: No)
There is no denying that social media is a ubiquitous part of modern life. There are many things social media does very well: sharing holiday pics, reminding you it’s your cousin’s birthday or selling your secondhand household stuff. But is it a good communication tool schools can rely on? In short, no. Here’s why:
- Being compliant is arduous.
- Algorithms change and no one sees your content.
- Privacy settings change and then anyone and everyone can see your content.
- Social media can create problems for people with complex family situations. For example, if there is a family with a protection order in place.
- The percentage of millennials (many of whom are parents now) using Facebook is decreasing each year.
- You can’t trace parent engagement in social media.
We at School Stream are committed to professional development for schools and we hope you find our guide helpful. We are looking forward to sharing some more insights from our experience to keep you informed, empowered and at the forefront of everything you need to know from the world of school communication.
Are you ready to check out School Stream? Let’s get started.