Last week I wrote about schools using Learning Gateway to connect with parents and followed that with looking at the practical issue of making sure your data is up-to-date.
The targets for schools to provide online parental reporting are DCSF & Becta guidelines, not legislation – and as such there probably aren’t penalties for schools that fail to reach the September 2010 deadline for making information available to parents through their school website. However, there are plenty of schools who have done it, and that talk about the benefit it has brought to the families as well as staff in their school.
Deciding to give parents access to their children’s data is one thing. Making it happen is something else, and it needs a bit of thought, especially as you need to ensure that you’re also meeting the Becta Data Handling Security Guidelines too.
Do you send them by post once you’re sure they’re going to the right people, who’ve signed a document agreeing to use the system properly? Or, at the other end of the scale of caution, do you insist not only that each parent presents themselves in person to collect a password, but also brings photo ID? I’ve encountered both of these approaches, and a range of others in between, together with various levels of complication about how you deal with separated parents.
Where a local authority hosts the MIS and the gateway, you’d expect a pretty tightly organised approach.
That’s the case in Bolton, for example, where the authority hosts the Sims Learning Gateway and although it’s made clear that schools are responsible for running the Gateway, the ICT Unit provides schools with a set of proforma documents that takes them through a process. Parents have to read and sign an Acceptable Use Policy, log in details and passwords are sent separately, once the Acceptable Use return slips are in and contact details matched with the addresses of students. Schools also have the option of a letter inviting parents for a training session at which passwords are given out face-to-face. Neil Gregory, System Consultant at Bolton Schools ICT Unit is happy to discuss the way things work in his authority – you can find him on Twitter @nkgsolutions
Whether or not you need to give out passwords face-to-face is one of those debating points.
At Monkseaton High School, for example, passwords are given out to new parents at the first consultation meeting at the start of the academic year. They sit with an administrator who checks their identity and gives them a brief demonstration. Parents who miss the occasion are picked up one by one as they visit the school for other reasons. All of that, of course, takes up time and resources, so issuing passwords by post, after careful checks, has a pragmatic appeal. The thinking at schools where they do that seems to be that the MIS data in question, after all, is quite limited in scope.
The general point, though, is that developing online reporting inevitably throws up detailed issues that either you didn’t see coming, or turned out to be more (or perhaps less) taxing than you thought. It would be good to hear more of your own experiences on this, especially if it helps colleagues who are still working through the process.
You can read more about Monkseaton’s approach, as well as that of five other schools, in our “Engaging With Parents” case studies
When I was at Hillcrest the school was the right size to have all the parents and teachers in the school hall for parents evening. We also had a large screen setup in the hall for everyone to see.
We worked out the best time to catch all the parents in the school hall and then stopped the parents evening. Gave a 10 minute demo and let them know they could collect passwords in reception on their way out. They had to read and accept the policy first. Anyone who didn't collect them that night we sent letters.
We did this 6 times (for each year group and one for sixth form). It was very successful.