Texts vs App notifications in a primary school
- 28th March 2023
- Hannah Osborne
- Return to Insights
When texts were first introduced in schools over a decade ago, they were deemed as being the future of school communications.
They were simple, effective, and compared to the conventional printed letters and notes in a school bag, far better value for money.
But shortly after this, flip phones and Blackberries gave way to iPhones and Androids, and phone cameras improved in leaps and bounds. Fast forward five years, and instant messaging on platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iPhone ‘iMessages’ were quickly gaining momentum with traditional text messaging struggling to keep up.
From a personal-user perspective, communicating via these new channels offered much more flexibility to send other media such as pictures and videos. More importantly, it didn’t cost as much because a certain amount of data would be included in your mobile phone plan, and if you were on wifi, it wouldn’t ‘cost’ you anything at all.
For businesses and schools, this last point was crucial. With the sheer volume of messages they needed to send, the costs were becoming unsustainable and it became clear another method of communicating with parents was required.
App notifications cost considerably less than text messages
As far as school budgeting is concerned, an app wasn’t seen as a ‘risky’ option because in nearly all cases, software providers would offer unlimited app notifications in return for a capped annual subscription fee. This is still the case today.
Push notifications AND a reference point
In addition to this, a good school app enhances parent engagement more effectively than a simple text message. Because not only can it push out information to parents, it is ALSO a permanent reference point, an up to date school bible, where parents can go when they need to check something.
What else can a school app do?
The customised home screen of a good school app will offer shortcuts to the following:
The school calendar
Here, parents will be able to find term dates, school trips, and special school events like non-uniform day, World Book Day or Christmas dinner day. Sometimes, you’ll be able to add consent forms to these events, and also sync events or the whole calendar direct to your phone. Always ensure that your events are up to date though. Even the most sophisticated calendar will be deemed useless to parents if the information isn’t updated regularly.
A feed of all relevant notifications
Parents can rest easy knowing all their messages are in one place, perfect for referring back to when they want to check something. Parents with children from more than one school, single parents and working parents can often feel overwhelmed with information. That’s why it’s good to know that when they want to refer back to school comms, everything is handily in one place; no sifting through dozens of messages in an email or text inbox.
Parents’ evening bookings
The pandemic has forced many things online, and parents evening bookings is one of them. A digital booking system for parents evenings is a must for many schools now, and if this is possible through the same school app, even better!
The latest newsletter and newsletter archive
When the school newsletter is sent to parents, many will want to ‘save it for later’ when they’ve got more time to consume it properly. Again, on an app this newsletter is super-easy to find without scrolling through heaps of other messages, and always in the same place.
Online absence form
Free up the school phone line for more important calls, with a link to a school absence form. Include fields for the student information and a box for the parent to sign their consent.
Other important school information
If the home page of an app is customisable, take some time to ensure all the relevant information for your school is on there, and therefore easy to access. School uniform lists for example, a link to staff contact details, or to social media pages.
Text messages still have their place
That being said, it’s important to note that text messages will still have their place in a lot of schools.
Consider a ‘belt and braces’ approach when sending big news, and send by text as well as app notification (and also even email).
Emergencies like unplanned school closures, an unauthorised student absence or last minute club cancellations must get to the parent as quickly and effectively as possible.
If you have a communications platform that allows you to send the same message simultaneously via multiple channels, this will really help save time, resources and money.
If you’d like to explore ways you can introduce a customised app in your school, get in touch.