It’s official: the latest Coronavirus government announcement schools are closing. Keeping parents up to date with the latest news is highlighting the inadequacies for school heads to rely on email-type systems for parent communication. Parents will initially respond well to regular status updates. But working purely in broadcast mode has limitations. Parents don’t always hear what you say, and can’t easily feed back their concerns. Some turn to echo chambers like WhatsApp, where rumours flourish unchecked. What role should the school play?
You are a step ahead if parents at your school already use Classlist – a free comms app entirely private to your school, and fully moderated by your PTA. Classlist enables you to lead, rather than play catch up, in this new world. That’s critical right now – but this new mechanism to engage parents is also valuable longer term. Here are three action items:
1. Use the Classlist app to set up and lead a COVID 19 online discussion group for the whole school
Encourage parents to ask questions – and have a designated staff member answer them, rapidly. Inappropriate questions can be deleted or filed. This also gives you an instant heat map on parent concerns.
2. Set up a COVID 19 Resources section on the app
Copy your email updates and guidance emails here, where parents can find them in one click rather than searching through crowded inboxes.
3. Find who influences your online community – and engage with them
In online communities everybody is not equal. Micro-influencers drive opinion. These influencers may be “official” – Class or Year Group reps, if your school has these. Often they are completely different people. Classlist has tools to help you identify the most active individuals in your online community. Connect with them and get them onside. Ask all of them you can find to help – to act as a sounding board and gather feedback. They are generally thrilled to be asked, and delighted to help.
Sounds like a lot of work? It is a lot easier to get ahead of parent opinion than to try and catch up later.
4. Encourage parents to help each other
School closure creates a huge set of practical problems for parents. Although these aren’t the school’s responsibility, you can provide a lead. School closure means parents need to pull together and help each other. Sharing childcare for example is an obvious way parents can collaborate but not something that schools can get directly involved in. Sharing the job of parenting requires a certain degree of trust and information sharing. Finding out which families live close by, have siblings of similar age are important details for laying some common ground for starting a conversation and even form a friendship. Families that are in the same class or year group have a common incentive to share homework and remote learning sessions. If parents are given permission to ask for help, the environment makes this behaviour the norm, they will receive it from their community. Community members are incentivised naturally to help each other more than the school directly. It is human nature to want to be seen helping and many will thrive on recognition for having contributed to the community. Providing meals, help with homework, answering questions and the list of potential acts of kindness are endless. All flourishing without school intervention.
Check out parents that live nearby by going to the Classlist contacts page and clicking on the map icon
Parents can already connect with other parents in their class as a member of Classlist. Setting up a group to discuss a particular subject, maths for example, takes just seconds to create. Parents helping each other to limit the impact of coronavirus is their child’s education.
Ongoing mobilisation of your community
Of course once you have your community engine humming, post crisis it is a powerful tool for promoting your school generally. Your network of champions provides a parent powered machine for marketing your school to prospective parents – word of mouth is often the source of 80% of new parents. Similarly those schools with fundraising targets have a resource of identifiable engaged parents that in turn are able to recruit new volunteers and involve the wider community.
Susan and Clare
Classlist is a community management platform designed specifically for schools.
What does the school have to do to set up Classlist?
Within a couple of hours you can get your community up and running:
- Sign up to this free service www.classlist.com
- Modify basic year and class structure of groups to tailor to your school
- Appoint some Ambassadors both staff and parent advocates that can support other parents.
- Email parents to join Classlist or upload emails (Classlist’s GDPR policy allows schools to do this)
Contact us email@example.com for any handholding or advice you may need to get you up and running. We love helping out.
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