On the 7th of August 2018, the Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced his challenge to the EdTech sector in England to ‘launch an education revolution for schools…’ or, to provide tools and software to support and ease the burden of teachers and schools in a number of critical and often troublesome areas.
The edtech sector immediately rallied and responded to this challenge with applause aplenty lauding the recognition of past failed or missing policies from the department on the ‘proper’ use of technology in schools to actually support learning and outcomes, and improving the daily lives of teachers, pupils and everyone else involved in delivering and supporting education.
I personally felt slightly smug at this announcement knowing that Groupcall have been delivering software proven to improve the delivery and provision of education in schools for 17 years.
The Rt Hon Hinds (MP) delivered 5 key opportunities for improvement in the education sector, including the call to:
“Developing innovative… administration processes to reduce the burden of ‘non-teaching’ tasks”
Groupcall have been developing software to support the administrative tasks for schools since the company began in 2001. With Groupcall Xporter, information is automatically and securely synchronised between the school's central MIS and over 100 edtech products so that information does not need to be entered multiple times and kept separately up to date, preventing possible human errors.
Fast forward to 2018, and over 21,000 schools of the 24,372 schools (86.2%) of all schools in England have Xporter in their setup, eliminating a huge administrative burden for support staff, and providing reliable and sometimes critical or life-saving information to teachers.
Groupcall have gone further too by making the interfaces for this data very simple and easy to use, using industry-standard technologies to assist established vendors and allowing them to focus their efforts on providing the tools they are specialists at building, to the schools that need it.
Before Xporter, Groupcall produced Messenger – the complete school communications and administration platform to assist schools in all forms of parental engagement.
But specifically, how does Messenger deliver on ‘reducing burden’ for staff within schools?
Messenger provides SMS, Email and Push Message (via the free parental app, Xpressions) communication channels to allow schools to communicate to parents en-masse instantly. Using email and push are free, and parents can also respond for free too if they use the Xpressions app. They can even proactively contact the school at any time, for example to let the school know their child is unwell and will be off school – avoiding the usual busy morning phone lines and avoiding the school chasing them.
Messenger utilises Google Translate to allow schools to message parents in their home language (104 languages available and counting), improving communications with all parents regardless of their background – and this is automatically known via the MIS sync that provides all data to Messenger.
Messenger’s sync with the school's MIS also allows intelligent messaging to specific groups, such as just parents of absent pupils without having to check through individual registers. Messenger also allows for the collection of responses from parents with their reasons for absence – removing the need for time-consuming phone calls or letters.
This more than any other feature has proven to dramatically reduce workload for administrative staff, as well as actually improve attendance in schools though active parent-school communications – something evidenced by numerous testimonials and analytics from long-standing customers.
Messenger Parents’ Evening
Messenger Parents Evening makes organising a parents’ evening, often complex with many dimensions of staff schedules, room availability, parent management, very simple and quick. Parents can pick the times that suit them, teachers can see who is booked for when, all online, and it can all be set up within half an hour per ‘evening’. Messenger Parents Evenings is fully integrated into Messenger
Messenger Payments allows schools to collect money to pay for school trips, equipment, events and also top-up lunch balances, very quick and simple – an ‘activity’ can be set up in under a minute ready for parent to pay for, and comprehensive reports to reconcile and review every aspect of the finances is available at a click of a mouse. Messenger Payments is fully integrated into Messenger.
Messenger Forms gives schools the power to create complex forms, surveys, permission slips, data requests and just about any document a school traditionally sends out by paper, online and able to be completed electronically by parents (and students and staff). Not only does this save huge amounts of money in printing and postage costs, but the administrative efforts to do this and distribute is just as costly.
With all of this time, monetary cost, efficiency and burden saving, Groupcall are already meeting this key objective of the Education Secretary and the Department’s future vision.
Graham Reed, Head of Products, Groupcall