THE BLOG
01/10/2013 08:22 BST | Updated 30/11/2013 05:12 GMT

How Often Do You Hear From Your Child's School?

Last week a colleague of mine went to India for a week on business. While he was away, he was able to find out whether his son had turned up to all his lessons, what homework had been set and whether he'd handed it in on time.

Long gone are the days when the only piece of communication a parent expects to receive from their child's school is the annual pupil report that arrives by post or in the bottom of the school bag. Nowadays, most schools know how important it is to build strong relationships with parents by enabling them to stay in touch with their child's school life, much more regularly.

And advances in technology now offer schools more opportunities than ever for getting the right information out to parents, at the right time.

Get off to a strong start

Providing timely and relevant information is incredibly important, particularly for fee-paying schools. Families that choose to educate their child privately have made a financial as well as an emotional commitment to giving that child the best possible start in life. And they want to know that the decision they have made is doing just that.

Although different schools have different approaches, the independent schools I speak to that are most successful in engaging parents are those that make a connection before their child joins the school, keeping information flowing through the whole school year - including during the summer break.

Information to your pocket

Some schools make great use of email and text messaging. This offers an informal way to pass on information to parents and can help schools to seem less distant.

Imagine how delighted you would be to receive a message on your mobile letting you know that your child had been picked for the school rugby team or had just come top of the class in the latest maths test.

And how pleased would your child be to have you congratulate them on something they achieved that day as soon as they got back home?

Log on anytime, anywhere

With more and more of us managing our lives online, another effective way for schools to keep parents up to date is though a dedicated parent portal. Parents can simply log on to a secure website and find out whether their child got to school on time that morning, see how they are doing against their learning targets and check what homework they have been set for the week. Some schools I know even enable their students to get their exam results by text or email rather than having to wait for the official paper letter.

Schools that communicate well with parents from the outset are in a much stronger position to develop long standing connections with them. And parents who have a regular dialogue with a school are less likely to look elsewhere when their child reaches those critical points when school choices can be re-considered, such as moving on to secondary education, decision time for GCSE options or before entering the sixth form.

Finding the right balance

Technology can be incredibly useful for helping schools to get the more immediate information to parents on how their child is doing. But as the best schools know, it should never replace that all important face-to-face contact completely, just complement it by enabling schools to provide more information, more frequently.

At Ruthin School, parents get so much online information on how their child is doing throughout the year that the traditional parents' evening has been replaced with a more informal wine and cheese, meet-the-teacher social event. And the response from parents has been really positive.

When a school gets the communication balance right, it reassures parents that the school is delivering on its commitment to ensure every child reaps the benefit of the quality education they provide.