Helping Australian and New Zealand schools get ready for 2017

If you work in a typical school then you’re about to begin one of the largest and most important behind-the-scenes tasks in your school year.

You’ll be sending out re-enrolment forms, Year Level contact forms and seeking to update medical details for the student body. This is a 5 to 6 week epic journey that includes:

  •  preparing the forms
  •  preparing the data
  •  sending the forms to parents – post, schoolbag, general email
  •  chasing form return
  •  inputting updated data into your student management system
  •  checking for mistakes and inaccuracies
  •  collating the data
  • crossing fingers that it’s all okay

What’s the secret way?

Yet this whole process could be much, much easier. It’s a secret that  ParentPaperwork schools know and have been keeping from you!  Schools who use ParentPaperwork remove the human labour component and let technology do the work for them. Using our platform to distribute your forms and capture and report your data, can reduce the time it takes to complete the re-enrolment process to a matter of days.

The school and parents are the winners here!

We know from the experienced educators on our team, that parents dread receiving the annual student update and re-enrolment forms and greet them mentally as one would the family member who makes a scene at Christmas lunch every year. They’ve got to be attended to but every minute spent filling them out is done through gritted teeth.

On ParentPaperwork your re-enrolment forms can capture:

  •  commitments to policies
  •   contact details
  •   medical updates
  •   global permissions
  •   any other data that you need to capture from parents before the school         year commences.

And something that will really get you excited…

Once you have this information captured ParentPaperwork will pre-fill on future re-enrolment forms. Meaning parents are not filling out the same information, like Medicare numbers and Ambulance details over and over.

We have to ask – what would the value of this elegant re-enrolment solution be to your school community?

Setting up for 2017 – Current Customers

In the meantime, current ParentPaperwork schools are thinking about getting ready for the 2017 school year. Here are some common tasks to consider for later in December or in January:

  • Move students who left at the end of 2016 to a new Student List;
  • Remove students from Year Level and Class Student Lists;
  • Re-import your students and parents to ensure existing students are allocated to the correct Student Lists; and new students and parents records are created;
  • Archive Slips from last year so whilst they are easily accessible, they’re not displayed by default when you are viewing your Parent Slips list;
  • Disable staff who have left the school; add new Staff Users.

Back to School Forms

ParentPaperwork is the perfect solution for all your global or blanket permission forms: photo permissions; policy consents; head lice checks and the forms you wish parents to complete and return before day one, term one 2017.

Once your students and parents for 2017 are organised in ParentPaperwork it is a doddle to set up your Back to School forms and distribute. Then you can sit back and watch as the responses roll in.

We’d be delighted to help you get ready for 2017. If you’d like assistance setting up your students/parents, and/or sending out back to school forms, please email support@parentpaperwork.com

What is a tree worth to your school community?

Your school, your values

What a school places value on can say a lot of about the culture and community of that school. How much you value trees and the environment is about more than being a tree hugger or hippie.

It’s the time of year, in Australia and New Zealand, when everything in school just seems to get busier and busier. Exams are done and dusted. Transition to the next year level will be happening soon. Teachers and students are gearing up for end-of-year performances. And administrators are working hard to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the school year.

In the US, UK, Canada and the other countries where schools use ParentPaperwork the school year isn’t ending but the calendar year is. Students and teachers attention is moving towards Christmas and/or the holidays and spending time with family and friends.

For those in the southern climes, the focus in December is around back to school and being ready administratively for the new school year.

In the midst of all this rush and bustle, it’s good to take a step back and ask yourself what the values driving your school will be in 2017?

So many schools we reach out to still use antiquated processes, particularly when dealing with governance and compliance matters that could all be dealt with in a much more organised, efficient and effective way by using an online platform like ParentPaperwork.

Costs of the old way can be hidden from view

And continuing to do things the old way has hidden costs. Earlier this year we took a look at these hidden costs and created our cost calculator. Want to know how much you could be saving in financial, environmental and labour costs by using ParentPaperwork to handle all your forms? Just plug your student numbers in to our calculator  and take a look.

Something that rides a trend wave of interest and then at times disappears from view, is the effect schools have on the environment. Just what impact does your school have on the environment? Could things be done differently or better? What are some easy ways to reduce environmental burden in school settings? What is the low hanging fruit you could pick in terms of making your school fully sustainable?

ParentPaperwork was created out of a philosophy that schools are important and special places in our communities and that how we run them can have a material beneficial impact to the environment and sustainability.

Since the beginning of the year ParentPaperwork has handled over 1.2 million forms on behalf of our schools customers. Consider that many of these are multi-page if sent by paper. We estimate that in 2016 schools using ParentPaperwork have saved the planet circa 2.5 million pieces of paper.

In a school with 1000 students, using ParentPaperwork as your forms solution will be a huge step towards taking your school paperless. And it will also mean that 7 trees didn’t get cut down this year. If you use ParentPaperwork for 5 years, that’s 35 trees, a copse or small forest.

If you’re not swayed by the cost savings argument yet, maybe you’ll think about your values and how much a tree, copse or forest matters to your school community?

Workload still an issue for teachers in schools globally

Online tools such as ParentPaperwork are a great way to reduce teacher workload.

Where do forms fit in?

This is not a new topic that I’m about introduce. And it’s one I’m hoping for the sake of my 9 month old niece in Phoenix, Arizona and my children’s future children and their teachers, will be solved sometime soon.

What am I talking about? Well as the CEO of an Edtech startup based in Melbourne, Australia one of the key issues that we talk about in our office amongst the team, is ways that we can help schools run better by using the ParentPaperwork platform to automate paper form processes inside the administrative function of the school. And just because what we do deals with administrative forms, doesn’t mean we don’t positively impact teachers too. It does and I’ll explain more further in.

Teacher workload is not going away as an issue

In the education news sources I scanned last month in Melbourne The Age highlighted a new survey, ‘Put Education 1st‘, commissioned by the Australian Education Union’s Victorian branch which found that most teachers are failing basic tasks due to out-of-control workload. You can quibble on the numbers, however when surveying 13,000 teachers leads the survey to the conclusion that teacher workload is going crazy, then I pay attention.

50 to 60 hour work weeks, the new normal?

Earlier this month the BBC reported that many teachers in the UK were working 60 hour weeks. This compares to the Australian teachers who are working in the 50 to 55 hour range and Australian principals over 60 hours a week. The BBC story drew on a report from the Education Policy Institute that used data from the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey between 2012 and 2014. Again the issue of teacher workload and the issue of administrative tasks is mentioned over and over.

One thing I know for sure as a parent who has one child who has made it through 13 years of schooling and another who has another two years to go, and a third who will be in the Australian special education system for another 8 years, I do not want my children taught by someone who is stressed, tired, exhausted and on the point of overwhelm. And that is ditto for my niece and my children’s children. A well-rested, happy, dynamic and positive teacher who really drives the teaching/learning experience, can’t be expected to thrive in a culture and environment of chronic overwork.

New Edtech can be part of the workload solution

I’d like to say that we have a solution for you in ParentPaperwork, however what I think is more accurate to say is that we can be a part of the solution. One point of the UK story that worries me is that teachers are being shortchanged professional development opportunities because there simply isn’t time to attend them or apply for them. They are missing out on learning about the latest techniques, technologies and peer developments that could be shared and deployed to alleviate their current workload.

The part of the solution that we offer should make both teachers and principals happier. On the student side of the equation ParentPaperwork deals with all the forms that go home to parents requiring responses such as permission forms, rsvp’s and the like. The schools who use ParentPaperwork have found over 150 regular form processes that can be deployed using our platform.

The most important equation is the teacher-student relationship

Anecdotally principals and other education leaders report to members of my team that there are many issues that keep them awake at night but maybe the most contentious is how to best support teachers in their efforts to teach and create and grow positive relationships with students.

Principals are also telling us that they want to know about Edtech solutions that their teachers will use. That means they must solve a real problem and be easy and quick to use. Qualitatively I think we know that no matter how much data and structure you give to the bulk of the student population, the single most important factor in student success is the quality of the relationships they have with their teachers. One outstanding, thoughtful and caring teacher can switch a student who is flailing around struggling to fit in to the school environment, back on to learning, not simply because the teacher makes the content compelling but because they also create a bond of trust and safety and a space to learn. Learning after all is about taking a risk to move position from what one knows now and defending that, to opening one’s mind to a bigger picture and greater potential.

How much time does your staff spend on forms?

If you’re a principal I wonder if you’re aware how much time your teachers spend on some basic forms that are part of school life. How many hours do you think are spent doing the following?

* preparation of forms

* photocopying and distribution of forms

* collection of forms and follow ups

* management of the information – is this re-transcribed into another format?

* collation of information

* concerns about accuracy of the information and following up

* storing and retrieval of form information, when required

Schools are busy places and in any week there will be incursions, excursions, specialist classes and activities that require some kind of permission process to take place.

Real Edtech solutions, not fads

As Edtech entrepreneurs we’re not interested in creating tech bling and products that make a teacher, administrator, or Principal’s working day harder. Our mission is to help schools run more smoothly and to make our contribution towards taking a school paperless. We hope that a byproduct of what we do can help give teachers back a few precious hours a week, hours not spent distributing and collecting and hassling for forms from students. And give Principals, the capacity to know that all forms processes that run their school can be viewed at a glance and reports and analysis generated so that some of the compliance and other issues that keep them awake at night, can be put to bed for good.

If you’re currently part of the ParentPaperwork revolution then congratulations, we’re just getting started and we welcome you to help us make your school as efficient and effective on the administrative side as possible. If you’re not, please consider directing your Head of IT to our site for a demonstration. We are not the whole solution to teacher and principal stress and overwhelm but our current schools customers are finding that we take you a good way there. Time off forms and administration is time given back to the people you work with and to your students. Which in my view, is where best to put your precious time and energy.

An easier way to select Student Lists for Slips and Broadcasts

The current Student List selector has been a little problematic for schools with many Student Lists, so we have added a ‘typeahead’ box at the top of the box displaying available Lists on the left side. Simply start typing the name of the List you are looking for and the available options will automatically filter to reflect the text you enter.

It’s a easy way to quickly locate the Student List you need amongst dozens or hundreds.

Obviously it’s important to have your students organised in way that makes sense for your school, and then be able to select those via the Student Lists when you wish to send out a Slip or Broadcast.

Some of our larger ParentPaperwork schools over time have amassed a great many Student Lists. Others are maintaining a large number just day to day because we are not just pulling Year Levels, Home Rooms lists from their student database, but subject classes, co-curricular and others. The new typeahead feature makes finding and selecting Lists super simple.

The same works in reverse, if you have selected a large group of Student Lists you can locate one to remove from the Slip/Broadcast by typing the name of the desired list into the box at the top of the right hand column of selected Lists.

 

Send School Forms to multiple Staff

ParentPaperwork allows you to create a School Form and send it to multiple staff members for completion. An obvious example would asking a group of staff to accept an ICT usage policy.

Create the Form

To create a copy of the Form for multiple staff select the School Form template, and change the drop down ‘This Form is for me’ to ‘No’. Select the names of the Staff who need to complete the form. If there is a file that needs to be attached then click Add Files.

When ready click the Save New Form and a Draft will be created. If all details are correct click the Complete button. A copy of the Form will be created for each of the selected Staff.

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Notification to Staff Members

An email notification will be sent to each of the selected Staff members, with a link to their copy of the Form.

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Staff Open the Form

When the Staff member clicks their link their copy of the Form will open, with the Form assigned to them.

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Staff Edit the Form

The Staff member edits the Form as if they had created it, they click the Edit Form button, enter information into the fields, and click the Save Form button.

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Staff Complete the Form

Once the Staff member is happy with the information they have entered they click the Complete button to submit the Form.

Note you can set up additional workflow steps, for example, to send a notification to other Staff on submission, or to request Approval.

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ParentPaperwork Case Study – I CAN Network, its mission and its activities

150_james-ong_20160527James Ong is the Director (Central) of the I CAN Network, Australia’s first social enterprise founded by people with Autism, and a ParentPaperwork customer. James recently spoke to ParentPaperwork’s Fiona Boyd and explained the origins of I CAN, its mission and its activities.

What was the reason, genesis story, for the I CAN network?

I met Chris Varney (the Founder of I CAN network) in 2012 while I was in a leadership program in university. Chris disclosed that he was on the Autism Spectrum and I also disclosed privately to him that I was also on the spectrum. Chris had an idea about helping people like ourselves that we kept talking about throughout 2013. We finally opened I CAN Network in September 2013.

We established I CAN Network because in Australia it is difficult to be a person on the Autism Spectrum. Compared with the typical population, people on the Autism Spectrum are less likely to go into tertiary education (81% who finished school do not complete a TAFE certificate or university degree) and to be employed (36% people on the Autism Spectrum are employed).

Often we find life difficult due to negative perceptions surrounding the condition in our society. This not only drags people on the Autism Spectrum down but their needs as people are also not catered for (86% students on the Autism Spectrum find school difficult).

I CAN Network was established to not only encourage optimism and skills development in young people on the Autism Spectrum but also to change the perceptions of society to view Autism through a strengths-based lens rather than a deficits-based lens.

What does I CAN do, what is its purpose?

I CAN Network runs mentoring programs in six primary schools, nine secondary schools, two communities and one workplace. Our mentoring programs are aimed to have mentees see their Autism in a more positive light and to develop skills that will allow them to function better in school and society.

We also run a Speakers Agency where people on the Autism Spectrum talk about the strengths and insights of Autism to schools, workplaces, clubs and governments. These presentations are aimed at shifting the perceptions of the public and moving them towards a more positive view of Autism. We also run camps for teens and young adults to give them a positive camp experience as well as to make new friends.

I CAN network has been with ParentPaperwork for a while, how does using the ParentPaperwork platform benefit the work you’re able to do?

We have been using Parent Paperwork to create and send forms for the camps we run. Previously we received paper forms from parents whose children were attending camp.

This was tedious and took ages to compile as I had to physically check that all the fields had been completed and to chase parents to properly fill out the forms.

It was also inconvenient for parents as they had to scan and re-scan paper forms to send to us. We also had to chase up parents who didn’t send the forms back.

With Parent Paperwork, it is way easier for us to create a form online and send it through to parents to complete. As well as that we can track to see who has not completed a form and send out a reminder email in a timely way. It is also so much easier to gather information from Parent Paperwork in an electronic format.

As a new-ish social enterprise, what are the goals you’ve set?

Our vision is “a world that benefits from embracing Autism” and our purpose is “to prove what people with Autism can do”. We aim to change the mindsets of people on the Autism Spectrum and to see their strengths rather than focus too much on their deficits through our school and camp programs. Through our Speakers Agency, we also aim to change the perception of people on the Autism Spectrum in the public mind more generally. And in terms of working in the I CAN Network, we aim to have 50% of people on the Autism Spectrum working on our team .

What do you think are the most noteworthy achievements of I CAN so far?

From the evaluations collected recently, satisfaction towards the mentoring programs has been very strong. 95% of 41 primary school mentees and 81% of 59 secondary school mentees were really happy to be part of an I CAN Network mentoring program.

Interestingly we also found  that there was a strong sense of belonging in both the primary and secondary school mentoring programs, where those on the program were able to be themselves and to talk freely about their interests and problems without being intimidated or ostracised.

What are the things that make your job harder? What are the things that make it easier?

I am currently the Evaluations and Social Impact Manager of the I CAN Network, in addition I am also a PhD student who works in a lab. It is a challenge balancing the two roles but there are also benefits to working this way.  I get the unique advantage of being able to develop skills and knowledge from both areas that I can transfer between my roles.

Fortunately, I have a lot of friends who look out for me and help with the effort required in the I CAN Network, hence lifting a load off my shoulders when needed which helps keep me focussed on my PhD at the key times I need to be.

‘I Can’t’ used to be such a common default phrase in Australian culture when I was growing up (and I’m 50!). I used to really get annoyed at it and at people telling me what I could or could not do. How important do you think it is for young people with ASD (is that the right terminology?) that the words we choose to use, and phrases etc are empowering and not instantly limiting?

I use “young people on the Autism Spectrum” when describing the people we work with. For young people on the Autism Spectrum, it is very important that we empower them and put aside any prejudices of what people on the Autism Spectrum can and cannot do. Young people on the Autism Spectrum can be weighed down by negative comments from the public to the point where it can affect their belief systems and actions.

However, if they receive encouragement and empowered language from people close to them, they start to believe in themselves and defy the stereotypes that they usually have to deal with. Here at the I CAN Network, we give young people on the Autism Spectrum the belief that they can do whatever it is they’re seeking to do and we can then see the positive results that come from the change in their beliefs about themselves.

What can we look forward to from I CAN over the next 12 months?

We aim to expand our mentoring programs to more schools and communities in metropolitan and rural Victoria. We’re also taking up speaking opportunities in other states and we’re also looking at establishing mentoring programs in the other states. You can find more information on how we are progressing at the I CAN Network at ican.network.

We’ve updated our tutorial videos!

ParentPaperwork is a constantly evolving product, as new exciting features are continually added in response to all the feedback from our schools.

That also means that we have to make sure that we keep all of our support and help information up to date.

We have recently finished a big update of all of our tutorial videos, which now reflect ParentPaperwork’s current interface. New videos have been added for more recent features, in order to help our schools use ParentPaperwork as seamlessly as possible.

There are now more than a dozen videos up on the support page which will help you with some of the most common features in ParentPaperwork. These videos are simple, basic and understandable.

Here are some examples of the help videos we have compiled:

Often it’s much easier to learn how to do something by watching someone else complete a task, so we hope you find the tutorial videos a great aid to using ParentPaperwork.

If you have any requests for help videos or have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact our support team at support@parentpaperwork.com.

 

 

Display charts and graphs of parent online form submissions

The online form submissions from parents using ParentPaperwork can now be analysed with charts and graphs. We have reorganised the Parent Slip page and added three tabs – Slip, Responses and Analysis.

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Slip Tab

This displays the Slip preview/overview as before.

Responses Tab

The list of Responses for a Slip that previously hid at the bottom of the page now has its own tab, making it much easier to access, you don’t need to scroll all the way down the page anymore – something a number of people had commented on as being a little annoying.

Analysis/Charts Tab

The Analysis tab will display a chart for each ‘closed response’ question on the Slip. So select lists and checkboxes which have a closed list of answers will automatically have bar graphs created. There is a Print button that will open a new page wiht the charts formatted for printing, one chart per page. You could also screen shot a chart if you need to include it in another document in Microsoft Word or Powerpoint as part of a presentation.

The top chart will always be the ‘Contact Response’ – the mauve field in the Form Template Designer, the main question that must be on all Slips. The rest of the charts will then display in order below.

You might be using ParentPaperwork to survey parents, or capture their orders for fundraising products – but we know that most people respond positively to visual representations of data. It’s fine giving you Excel exports and lists of numbers and values, but a chart offers a simple and effective way of quickly analysing the results of your parent’s online form submissions – whatever the questions you asked.

We’re looking at further opportunities to utlise the data you are capturing and reporting in ParentPaperwork, we believe there’s much more that can we can do to help you understand and interpret the data, and we think everyone will agree this new analysis feature is a great step forward.

 

 

Archive ParentPaperwork Student Lists

Student Lists are a great way to organise groups of Students to whom you will be sending Parent Slips. The Lists could be the students’ home rooms, the swimming team, the brass band – whatever you like. A Student can be assigned to any one or more of the Student Lists, and you can maintain as many Lists as you like. If we have a live connection to your student management database then ParentPaperwork can be reading any student groupings you might have in the database as well.

We have introduced the ability to archive Student Lists that you are not actively using, but which you wish to maintain for future reference or use.

When viewing the list of Student Lists select one or more by clicking the corresponding checkbox, then click the Action drop and select Move Selected to Archive. The Lists will no longer display by default in the ‘Current’ view, but you see them anytime by selecting Archive from the dropdown in the search bar and clicking the Search button.

 

Customise your school branding on the ParentPaperwork Parent Slip form page

Recently we introduced the ability for your school to select the header and footer colours in the notification emails sent to parents advising them of new Slips they need to complete. The school logo is already displayed in the emails and this change meant the email branding could be completely consistent with the school’s style guide.

We’ve had a great reaction to this update so we’ve taken it a step further, and you can now select the header banner colour at the top of the online form page where the parents complete and submit their Slip.

Click on your user name at the top right, click Settings from the menu, the from the Settings page select Customise Parent Slip Response Page.

By default, if you do not select any colours, the banners will be in the ParentPaperwork corporate purple shade – you can click the Reset button to return to the purple.

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