Schools are complex, content-rich environments with many moving parts and, while schools are experts when it comes to keeping their communities updated, it’s always a good idea to lean in and check the pulse of your parent community. This week on School Stream, we ask parents what they want when it comes to school communication and if the parents we spoke to are any indication, it seems that most parents are absolutely passionate about what they want when it comes to school comms.
What do parents want from school comms?
Irrespective of whether their children were in primary or secondary school, some common themes emerged when we spoke to parents about school comms, with streamlined, simplified, consistent and relevant comms in an easy-to-access environment are at the top of the school comms wish list. And nearly everyone we spoke with stressed the need for schools to strike a balance between “too much” and “not enough” when it comes to comms.
A big thank you to all the parents we spoke to, both in Australia and the UK, for taking the time to share their experiences and insights when it comes to communication between home and school.
Keeping it simple, clear, and relevant is the key for this busy family in Melbourne (Primary school)
“I’ll tell you the kind of communication that I’m looking for from school: Things that are relevant to me. The information needs to be clear as well. For example, our school has given us a flow chart showing what to do if there is a COVID case in your family with what steps you take and when to notify school. It has all the details for every circumstance, and I think that’s really helpful. Also, bullet points are good – I don’t want long, big, drawn-out repetitive emails.”
“With newsletters, once a month with the whole school information is handy. Just with all the dates of things coming up so you can plan, and go back and reference it in the app. We get all the information for the kids’ year levels as we go along so it’s fresh.”
“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 it 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. I have to say our school mainly does a good job with all this.”
Getting the balance between too much detail and not enough in South London (Primary & secondary school)
“From primary school, we get a headteacher’s bulletin on Friday by email – which is about right. We also get lots of texts – mainly about COVID cases – but also lots about diet changes to the school menu. Thinking about it, I just realized that I don’t care about the school menu. I imagine lots of parents need to talk to their kids to prime them for the lunch meals, but not for me. I think ‘Why are you sending these to me?’ It feels like clutter. I wonder if I can filter this out?”
“What I want from school comms, overall, is just a nice overview, something a little bit rousing and uplifting around values and good stuff that the school is doing, and a bit of signposting to stuff that’s particular to us.”
“With regards to the secondary school, we get a headteacher’s bulletin by email on Thursday. I find that quite useful. It does some signposting to things we need to know; it talks about dates that are coming up and events – stuff like that. We’ve also got an app that has your child’s behaviour, attendance, timetable and homework on it – there’s a parent’s overview via that so you can monitor your kids quite well through that. At the moment, I find the secondary school about right, I don’t really expect anyone here to tell me much more than that and I don’t want too much detail either”.
Staying in the loop during the secondary school years in Adelaide
“I am one of those parents who needs to know what’s going on at school. I feel better if I know what’s going on. High school is much more hands off – I haven’t really been to the school since Elena started high school except for parent-teacher interviews.”
“It sounds awful, but I don’t really care about the whole school. I only want to know what Elena’s year levels are doing, and the year levels above her too, because then I know what’s to come. I see the activities and I think: ‘Elena could do that next year’”.
“I think the newsletter is defunct. We get two newsletters a term, but we know already everything that’s coming up or already happened because I’ve seen it on their social media.”
“The start of the year has been full-on and overwhelming with communication from the school. It’s all about COVID and the rules but it was just too much. I understand the rules in Adelaide are changing all the time so that’s why they’re sending so much, but you can’t keep across it all. The rules are different again for my work and the general population. I don’t think I ended up reading too much of it because it was overwhelming.”
“It really does make a difference to me to know what’s going on at school”.
“They have a portal that I use for most things. I am one of those parents who logs on every day to see the notices, if they have a casual day or an excursion coming up… Elena’s reports are there, and all the finance stuff, learning goals – I hardly ever go to the website. The kids use the portal as well. That’s how Elena submits her homework. I probably don’t need to go on every day because, as you can imagine, Elena is all over her homework and there’s nothing to worry about with her behaviour.”
Thanks again to all the parents who took the time to share their insights.
Are you ready to talk about school communication? Let’s get started.