Papatoetoe West School is a thriving, multi-cultural school with a keen eye on innovation. Like most schools, it’s faced with a mass of daily administrative and communication tasks to ensure its smooth running.
Getting important messages out to staff and pupils in an efficient and timely way takes precedence. Different content has different priorities. These range from ensuring teachers submit their class attendance rolls to the school office before 9.30am each morning; distribution of general school notices and reminders about upcoming events; and in the unlikely event of an emergency, the ability to activate an urgent mass notification.
Reducing the administrative burden and improving communications school-wide were the primary challenges for the school. It had traditionally relied on a variety of methods for its day-to-day communications, but each had their drawbacks:
Emails were often not seen by teachers until the end of the school day; Hand-delivered messages via pupils took them away from their schoolwork; and the Public Announcement (PA) system didn’t reach all corners of the school. It was also disruptive to pupils, and hard to hear inside a noisy classroom.
Not one to settle for the current status quo, Paul Andrews, the school’s ICT e-Learning Leader, set about exploring a better system for internal communications. His two-sided brief was to find a solution that would be ‘less disruptive to the classroom yet more effective in message cut-through’.
Andrews explains: “We did not want a system that relied upon teachers having to log in to a system to check their messages - that defeated the purpose.
“We wanted to control and ‘push’ messages directly onto screens – whether that’s a teacher’s laptop or iPad, a classroom desktop used by children, or the large screen in the main hall.”
He adds the chosen software had to be straightforward to use as the administrators (the school office staff) had varying technical abilities. At the same time, it also had to incorporate smart functionality such as group targeting, message-recurrence-until-read, and quick publish.
After trialling a couple of software choices, the school chose SnapComms. “Our mind was made up after speaking with a SnapComms customer in the education sector who explained how SnapComms Alerts had solved identical issues to ours,” comments Andrews.
Papatoetoe West School purchased cloud licences for SnapComms Alerts. These notifications bypass email systems completely and are delivered straight to the recipient’s screen, desktop or mobile.
An Alert can present as a pop-up message window, with the option to ‘read now’ or ‘read later’. Alternatively, for important or urgent messages, the message can override the recipient’s display and populate the entire screen – complete with a sound notification if required.
SNAPCOMMS TOOLS IMPLEMENTED
The school uses SnapComms Alerts for a mix of communication tasks, from action-oriented messages, time-sensitive notifications to general reminders.
“If a teacher has yet to submit their classroom roll, a reminder is sent via a full-screen Alert to their computer. This remains there until they acknowledge the message, and the roll is submitted (if it’s not, the Alert is repeated as required),” explains Andrews.
Other use cases include IT outage notifications (“when email is down”), prompts for children i.e. ‘sports training starts in 10 minutes’; ‘don’t forget it‘s school photo day tomorrow’ and birthday celebrations) to timely updates i.e. ‘it’s a wet-day – children to remain indoors’.
More recently, the school is trialling SnapComms Panic Button Emergency Alerts for lock down scenarios.
“While our PA system is effective - because it is intrusive - it doesn’t reach those staff who might be temporarily off site, or out of earshot. But a full screen SnapComms alert is a major interruption that can be seen throughout the school and on mobile devices – you can’t miss it! That’s exactly what’s needed in an emergency scenario,” explains Andrews.
SnapComms Panic Button is designed to be fast and simple to activate. By creating a series of ready-made emergency notifications, administrators can publish an Alert in seconds.
Other communication tools that perform well in an educational environment include tickers (also known as scrolling newsfeeds), ideal for status updates, and more passive channels – such as screensavers and wallpapers – for messages promoting positive pupil behavior and the school’s cultural values.
Andrews says there have been noticeable time-saving improvements and streamlining of processes. “We’ve reduced the admin burden for office staff immensely, cutting back the time spent chasing up mundane tasks.
“We’re improving our use of the channels all the time, including use of the advanced features, and emergency notifications."
“Feedback from the school community has been positive. Communication has improved, as has teacher and pupil responsiveness to our gentle-but-firm reminders,” smiles Andrews.