Technology can enable wellness in schools

backpackgirl

Schools have long been a place for kids to get physical.

Teachers and administrators help them get there, through coordinated sports activities, health classes, and a watchful eye on playground antics. Health professionals also play a role, offering medical expertise and intervention if needed.

But the relationship between physicality and schools isn’t always smooth sailing.

Educators want kids to be healthy, but face enormous pressure to deploy volumes of curriculum amidst competing distractions. Time spent ‘running around’ may feel like time lost. Meanwhile, time spent managing administrative commitments for those physical activities creates further distance between staff, students and desired outcomes.

The rising tide of paperwork drowning schools is like a tension headache for educators, passed onto staff, families and students. The stressors administrative burdens place on schools ripple outwards and impact everyone. Technology has often been a culprit – tools with limited or negligible pedagogical context, that end up costing time and increasing strain.

While exploring the benefits of mindfulness in schools, UK Professor Katherine Weare found that “the perception and reality of stress in teaching gives rise to poor job performance, difficulties in recruitment, and to high and expensive rates of attrition in trainee and practising teachers.” (Weare, 2014)

benches

Can automation save us?

The good news is that programs and initiatives teaching and promoting wellbeing are proliferating across sectors, including education.

At the heart of this drive is the recognition that we need to build a culture of sustainability that encompasses both our people and our environment. We’re becoming more aware of how student wellbeing is connected with staff wellbeing – how energy, creativity and focus need reconstituting. Saving paper and saving ourselves are part of the same journey.

Administrators and teachers in leadership positions can find it particularly challenging to achieve the space for movement or mindfulness in their days. Parent Paperwork users have reported that an unexpected benefit of automating their administrative workload has been time to reinvest in wellbeing activities.

When teachers and staff are more healthy, relaxed and engaged, students respond in kind. We have all worked with someone tired, anxious and distracted. We’ve been that person ourselves. Our hardworking schools can easily tip into a kind of stasis – an endless loop of ticking boxes in a weary haze. This oppresses innovation and degrades the wellness of educational practitioners.

  • Is wellness expressed in your school values and goals?
  • Does your school have a wellness program distinct from any physical education or exercise program?
  • If you have a wellness program, is it focused on students or inclusive of all staff?
  • Which tools or processes in your working life ‘get in the way’ of wellbeing by adding stress or complexity?
  • Do you feel more or less relaxed when you use certain technologies?

Systems in schools, whether human or technological, have the power and responsibility to build healthy habits. Tools like Parent Paperwork aren’t just about operational efficiencies. They mean fewer hours tethered to the computer and more time talking and walking with students and families. Time and paper saved means energy applied more meaningfully and productively.

Finally someone has solved the annual student record update

principalclassroom

What is the most important element in your school’s administration? Apart from your wonderful administrator and reception team.

Many principals refer to their Student administration system or database as the ‘source of truth’. And key to the value of the ‘source of truth’ is its accuracy.

Students come and go. But they also they also stay and move house, their parents get new mobile phone numbers, and living arrangements change.

Across a school year individual students will have at least one key piece of information recorded about them change.

It’s a massive task to update the student record of every single student in your school. Our experience as parents is that many schools print out the entire student record for each student in their school, which can run to seven or eight pages, or more. Then they send it home for parents to note and fill in any changes.

By hand.

In this era of the keyboard and touch screens, many of us have handwriting less legible than that of generations past, making transcription errors more common than we’d care to admit.

If the student record is the ‘source of truth’ in a school, it’s accuracy ensures the school runs efficiently. It is vital that the families contact details, children’s medical details and a record of the ever increasing permissions given by parents are up-to-date and accurate.

For many schools this annual logistical behemoth looks something like this:

Steps Cost
1 A school administrator decides which fields the school would like the parent(s) to review and update. They also have to decide if possible – database ability, staff technical ability – whether they send out a completely empty form or is it pre-filled with the current data held by the school. Staff
Database
2 Print out the form, which is on average 2 – 4 pages in length. Paper
Photocopier
Staff
3 Post to postal address on current record (hoping it’s accurate) OR give to the child to take home. Postage
4 Marshall homeroom/tutor/mentor/year level/ house personnel to remind students and depending the school manage the collection process. Teaching staff
` Once the due date arrives my experience is that, due to the size of the task, up to 30% of the forms have not been returned.The administrator needs to now consider their next move based on assumptions:

  1. Send a reminder – families are just running late
  2. Parents did not return because they have no changes required to the data
  3. Form may not have arrived due to an incorrect postal address or the child did not take it home or give it to their parent.
Staff
6 Forms need to be collected by the schools preferred collection method. Again, options based on assumptions, introducing more variables:

  1. Reply paid envelope supplied by the school
  2. Parents return with their own email
  3. Student returns the form to their school, teacher, homeroom, front office other personnel/area
  4. Parents drop off at the front office
Postage
Teaching staff
Office staff
7 Staff need to collect the forms and cross check with class lists to ensure all forms are accounted for. These forms need to be stored for 7 years. Administration staff
8 Data and administration staff need to make a call:

  1. Are all forms accounted for?
  2. Are all forms completed fully?
  3. Are all forms legible for the data entry staff?
Data and administration staff
9 Forms that are missing or not complete need to be dealt with case by case and may need one or more of the following:

  1. Reprinting
  2. Sending home again
  3. Contacting parents to follow up
Administration staff
10 A staff member must enter all changes directly into the database or on a spreadsheet that will be uploaded at a later time. One staff member can commonly check and enter approximately 50 – 70 forms per day. 2 Data entry staff for around 2 weeks for an average sized school
Process can take up to 4 -5 weeks
11 All forms must be stored and be accessible for 7 years. Some parents realise that they did not keep a copy of the form and ask the school to photocopy and send it to them. Enter another round of printing costs, administrative costs and follow ups. Archives
Administration staff

It’s a little staggering a process this complicated, with so much room for error, still exists.

There is a smarter and more efficient way.

Your school can use Parent Paperwork to achieve the equivalent of all of the above in just two steps from the school.

This workflow and costs would look like this:

Steps Cost
1. School hands ParentPaperwork data set for update.

  • Parent Paperwork sends forms electronically to parents, pre-filled with data.
  • Parent update information that needs updating
Administration Manager
2. School staff review data and can then update your database. Administration Manager

Here’s what the differences translate to.

  • Costs – paper, postage, envelope, staff to type in responses, storage costs. These are substantial.
  • Hidden costs – Teaching staff time, parent reaction, unintended errors, database time tied up, length of time when the database is not verified.
  • Electronic – quick, no teaching staff deployment, cost effective, no transcription errors, ease of use for parents, no admin staff are tied up; parents already respond quickly to our permission forms, the Student Record update could be achieved in record time using Parent Paperwork, meaning you can get on with the business of running your school knowing your student database is as accurate as is possible.

Box of shredded paper

You can now do your student record update in-house using the Parent Paperwork slips module, however if you’d like to truly get this large job off your administrative staff’s plate, consider using our new Concierge Service.

We’ll handle the update for you and hand you back the complete updated student record. If you’d like a cost proposal for the Concierge Service for your school, please email me at sam.sapuppo@parentpaperwork.com and I’ll prepare a compelling offer for you.

Relegate the paper route to history and buy back time, while dramatically reducing risks.

Photo: DC Education/Hans