According to a recent survey by Netmums, there are more than 35 different types of family in Britain. It appears gone are the days of the nuclear family - that picture perfect family depiction that TV used to tell us consisted of a mum, dad and two children.
Netmums’ research also revealed that, ‘10 per cent of families are headed by single parents and 6.1 per cent are blended families with a mix of biological and step children’. With an ever-changing family dynamic now very much the norm, it begs the question, how are schools managing to stay on top of parental communication and student safety?
Traditionally, mum or dad might have collected little Ollie from school every day, but today’s modern family might see him being collected Monday and Thursdays by his step-brother, Tuesday by his dad’s partner and Wednesday and Fridays by his mum. Family dynamics have become increasingly complicated and ensuring that, for example, children are collected by the right person on the right day has undoubtedly added a layer of complexity when it comes to headteachers and senior leadership teams trying to communicate effectively and efficiently with their parents.
Communication systems that ensure easy access to all children’s contact details and additional information, and that quickly and effectively communicate with members of today’s modern families, are a must. Again, using the example above, if Ollie’s dad were to be missed out of the school communication loop, and a burst pipe in the school led to an emergency, last minute decision to close the school at lunchtime on Tuesday, he wouldn’t know to let his partner know that she would need to be at the school at 1pm to collect Ollie, as opposed to the regular time of 3.30pm. This means that Ollie could potentially be left waiting on his own, and unsupervised for two and a half hours.
Thankfully, our own Emerge and Messenger address this problem directly. Our close and extensive work with schools has showed us that traditional methods of contacting a child’s family members are practically obsolete. Communication needs to be streamlined to all caregivers, all stakeholders in ‘real-time’, and in a format that’s familiar and convenient to them and reflective of the fast paced, technology driven world we live in; in the 21st Century, that means digitally.
By providing ‘real-time’ communication with modern families, stakeholders are consistently in the loop when it comes to their child’s attendance, whether they’re in someone else’s care, or they need to be collected if someone is running late.
However, perhaps the most important point in this scenario is the fact that Messenger allows schools to choose priority contacts for each student. This means that multiple family members can be kept in the loop at all times, and nobody misses out on crucial information that may require them to change collection arrangements last minute.
They can also be informed of, for example, their child’s helpful and good behaviour on a school trip, any delays when returning home from an organised museum trip, or a goal they scored at a football match, as each event happens. As a result, communication with stakeholders becomes more meaningful, as it happens in real-time, and as and when issues or questions arise.
Family dynamics are constantly changing, and schools need to adapt to meet these ever changing requirements to ensure student safety and parental engagement remain in pole position.