Teachers and support staff are increasingly under pressure to keep parents and carers regularly informed of their pupils’ academic progress as well as well as the school’s calendar of events without compromising teaching standards.
The Government has stipulated that by the end of 2012, all schools and colleges will be required to communicate with parents electronically.
Email, however, is not necessarily the most effective way of communicate routine messages to parents and carers, as iSchools, a company that provides online Management and Financial Control Systems to public schools and colleges, is all too aware. In order to add value to its existing system and to offer greater flexibility to schools with regards to communications methods, the company has recently integrated the toText.net online SMS gateway into its overall online management system.
Robert Owen, of iSchools explains the reasons why: “Research has demonstrated that SMS is by far the most popular way of conveying routine information such as school trips, open days, forthcoming events because messages are delivered and read straight away. If parents are out and about or there is no 3G signal they might not pick up their emails until much later. If we need to contact parents, child minders, nannies etc urgently, to inform them that school will be closed due to adverse weather conditions, for example, SMS is the quickest and most effective way to do this”.
The iSchools online management system is modular in design and provides schools with a comprehensive range of services including timetabling, registration and financial management facilities. It is based on the latest Microsoft products and includes a centralised database for managing pupil, staff and supplier information.
In order to make the SMS module completely transparent to system users, toText.net has developed a bespoke interface that connects the iSchools system directly to its SMS gateway. This means that teacher and administration staff can create and send messages directly from the iSchools system, which they are already familiar with.
To send a SMS message users log into the iSchools system as normal via a password-protected interface. They open the message dialogue box, write their message and select a relevant distribution list, the whole school, a particular year group or all, boys in year 7, for example, and press the send button.
The toText.net interface then forwards all messages to its centralised servers where mobile numbers are verified and the messages are converted into appropriate SMS formats for delivery.
System users can quickly see how many messages they have sent and, more importantly, when messages were delivered, using the toText.net system management software.
“When we approached toText .net about integrating their online SMS gateway they were very helpful, continued Owen. All development and testing work was completed within 8 weeks. What’s more, schools are not obliged to commit to a minimum number of messages per month and they are only billed for the messages they send”.
Schools are responsible for their own payments and they can manage their accounts using the toText.net software system, which allows them to top up their account as and when they need to.
Comments Rob Jagger, Managing Director of Totext.net. “We are really pleased to be given the opportunity to work on this project. We pride ourselves in developing services to meet specific applications and we are really pleased with the positive feedback we’ve received so far.”
The online SMS service is currently being piloted by 5 schools including Gemini College in Milton Keynes and Hopelands Prep School in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire.
The online SMS module will be available to all iSchool customers from September.