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The Rise and Rise of the E-Parent: Have you Opened the Digital Window to your Child's Education?

16/02/2015 11:02 GMT | Updated 17/04/2015 10:59 BST

Some might say that one of the trends set to have the greatest impact on the world of education in the next year or two is the staggering growth in the number of parents who have embraced the digital age.

While press articles like this one about parents firing off emails to their child's school after a glass of wine in the evening may either raise a smile or a sigh, the piece does highlight an important point.

Schools can no longer ignore the fact that parents are expecting better communication and want more information about their child, whenever and wherever they need it.

Meeting expectations

The coverage about parental emails focuses on schools in the independent sector and effective communication is certainly something that fee-paying schools have had to get better at as families become more technology-savvy. A survey we undertook last year showed that staff in fee-paying schools have seen marked increases in the use of email (84%) and social media (68%) in their schools' communications with parents.

Happy parents are one of the best marketing tools and good schools are always keen to encourage them to get in touch if they have any questions or concerns about their child's education or school life.

But it might be prudent for some parents to take a look at the wealth of information their child's school is already providing, via a wide variety of different channels, before hitting 'send' on that email on a Sunday night.

Smarter communication

According to Deloitte, around two out of three adults now own a smartphone so parents are used to having all the information they need at their fingertips - and many schools are responding to this.

While schools will frequently turn to text or email to let parents know about a flood that has closed the science lab or the fact that the inter-schools hockey tournament has gone into extra time, some have taken this a step further.

It's expected that parents receive termly news about how their child is doing in school, but finding out what they have achieved that very day may be less common. Many schools publish a wide range of information, either online or through other digital channels like social media, to make sure parents are kept fully informed of what is going on throughout the day, week or term.

You might be able to view the latest attendance marks to reassure you that your child has arrived in school safely, as well as real-time test scores so you can see how well they have done in their spelling test today. Online homework diaries can provide a list of assignments set in each subject alongside details of when they are due - as well as marks awarded for completed homework. Parents might be able to sign up to receive the latest news from beyond the classroom too, so they are automatically alerted when their child is voted in as the next editor of the school newspaper or has just been picked to solo in the school orchestra.

Faster responses

In other schools I know, when the head receives an email from a parent saying their child has been struggling with their maths homework, it will trigger a chain of events. This could include a direct response from the head, who has looked at the child's recent marks and comes back to let the parent know what action is being taken to support them. A quick email will then be sent from the head to the relevant maths teacher to suggest the child is invited to some maths catch up lessons. The maths teacher might then email the parent regularly over the coming weeks to keep them up to date with the progress their child is making.

To run well, good communication needs the support of both the school and its parents. This means schools making full use of the tools available for getting information to families more effectively and parents ensuring that their child's school has the most accurate details and preferred method of contact. In some cases, schools allow parents to update their IT system with a change of address or new mobile number quickly and easily themselves, online.

Sharing the good news

Social media offers a plethora of possibilities to involve parents in their child's school life too, with the emphasis firmly on the positive. Many schools are already doing this well; posting photos from the biology field trip on the school's Facebook site for example, or tweeting about the fortunes of the senior netball team.

What better way to show parents the great things that are happening at school every day?

So if you have a question about your child's schooling, it might be worth taking a look at the information that is already being made available to you. You won't want to miss out on all the benefits this new digital trend in education has to offer.