Sam is a committed educationalist who believes in the transformative power
of community. Through his 30-year involvement in the leadership team of a prominent educational institution in Melbourne, Sam uses his extensive knowledge to help school workflows and processes run smarter.
As a school, we need to have student and parent data as complete and up-to-date as possible. Why? So we can act on it.
When our student and parent data is complete, we can be confident in:
Acting within informed consent;
Actioning medical/emergency procedures.
The big question is: How do we request updates in a way that maximises the chances of student and parent information being completed successfully?
Logically, the parent has all the information required, and we have the questions that we need answered. Getting a parent to enter and/or update their data in a timely and comprehensive way is another story.
Parents are busy. They don’t always remember to keep the school informed and, when they do, they might not have the updated information readily at hand; it might need to be dug out from their ‘files’ (e.g. a cluttered email inbox). Sometimes, parents don’t even realise how important certain information is for a school and/or their child(ren).
But this is not about playing the Parent Blame Game; this is about respecting the time of parents, endeavouring to understand the best way to communicate with them, and then explicitly telling them what is required. This is about creating forms in ways that are easy to complete and that provide us – the school – with accurate, informed data that can be analysed in simple, exportable and usable ways.
In taking all this into account, we’ve prepared some tips for ensuring your student and parent information is always as up-to-date as possible:
Advise parents that a form that will require them to check all their contact and medical information is coming within ‘x’ number of days and they should have ‘a list of the following details’ ready to be completed;
Explain to parents how important the information is, and why it is necessary they complete it in full;
Think carefully about the time of year you are sending the form because this can be impacted by parents’ schedules. For example, November is much better than December.
Create easy, fast forms
Have forms sent directly to the parent(s) and ready to go – all they have to do is open and start completing the forms, rather than asking them to go to another site to enter information;
Have forms pre-filled with the latest information in your SMS so they are merely updating and not having to start from scratch;
Use personal language and questions, rather than the field names from the Student Management System;
Lay out your forms out in a logical flow with sections and headings, and even use colour to indicate different sections of information.
Think digital forms, not paper forms
Where possible and appropriate, use closed questions or checklists with all the options – this prompts parents to remember and avoid misspelling medical conditions, and you can also sort by closed questions, options and checklists when creating lists;
Remember that people are used to replying to digital correspondence or forms immediately so set a short reply/return date – 24 to 48 hours works most comfortably for the majority of our schools, especially when they have been warned and the form is prefilled with all the details ready to go;
Start with the end in mind – create forms that have fields that can be mapped back to your SMS.
Treat parents as partners
Let this form and the process for its collection speak to the relationship you have with each family and child – this is more than just a data collection exercise, it is about handling information that is sensitive to both the parents and child, and it needs to be communicated in such a manner;
The above tips allow you to stamp your school’s brand on this important piece of communication.