Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from ParentPaperwork

The team at ParentPaperwork wish all of our schools, customers, partners, affiliates, friends and colleagues a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. We’re sure you are all glad to be finishing up your year – however successful the past twelve months there’s no doubt a little rest and relaxation is welcome.

It’s certainly been a huge year for all of us at ParentPaperwork, we started 2015 as a barely-known little startup with a couple of school customers in Australia, and now are relied upon for fast, safe and secure online forms and data capture by schools in seven countries including the USA, UK, and Canada. We’re incredibly proud of our team, supporters and investors who have all made amazing contributions to making this success possible. To all of them, a very special ‘thank you’.

For our schools in our home country of Australia please enjoy your long summer holiday – it’s not such a bad idea having Christmas in Summer, although those of us in cities like Melbourne that are currently enjoying a run of 40 degree Celsius days (that’s 104 for those in Fahrenheit) the idea of snow seems a fantasy! Doesn’t prevent plenty of people in Santa costumes strolling the streets, just hope they have the light-weight versions on!

Our schools in other parts of the world will be back early January, so we trust you do have time for a break and time with family and friends.

The ParentPaperwork office will be technically closed from 25 December, re-opening Monday 4 January 2016. However, we are never really on holiday, we’ll be checking emails and requests for support throughout and will respond as quickly as usual in most cases, so please do not hesitate to reach out if you need assistance. Plus we’ll be using the quiet time to work on some updates and improvements to ParentPaperwork…

Have a safe and festive holidays, here’s to a fantastic 2016!

Fiona and David
Co-Founders, ParentPaperwork

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How risky are paper forms in schools? Seven significant points of failure with paper-based forms sent home to parents

Risk and liability management is a significant and growing issue for schools around the world. Schools face ever increasingly tight legal frameworks around privacy, risk management and in some countries the advent of litigious parents who will sue for everything from poor exam results to even the mildest perception of the school placing their child in harm’s way. Some schools now employ full time staff members whose job is to prepare risk assessments and evaluate every activity for the potential for all manner of disaster.

With this in mind it’s essential schools consider all aspects of their administrative and management processes and policies. ParentPaperwork is helping schools with this by offering a platform that replaces paper forms with a secure, robust online forms system to capture, manage and report information from parents.

Let’s break down why paper forms are inherently risky in schools, and examine seven significant points of failure with paper-based forms sent home to parents.

1. Who signed the form?

Schools have an obligation to secure informed consent from the guardian of a student for excursions and other activities. That means ensuring the parent has all the necessary information to make an informed decision about their child participating in an activity. And the school needs to be confident they have secured that consent from the appropriate person.

How can you have any confidence the information provided on a form, and signature at the bottom, is from the intended parent or guardian? The paper form has been stuffed in a school bag, and presumably transported home, but schools have no capacity to validate the form was filled in by the parent. ParentPaperwork communicates directly with the nominated contacts for a student, and can add another layer of identification with Two Factor Authentication.

2. Was the form filled out correctly?

A paper form has no controls to ensure that information is entered into all the required fields. Even the design of the form is a problem – all too often class teachers simply design their own form, ignoring the mandated form created by the school, or the school’s auspicing body – the local authority, the school district. ParentPaperwork ensures staff use the correct form template, and can designate fields as required to force parents to complete the necessary information.

3. Can you read their handwriting?

Once paper forms have been returned the information needs to be transcribed often into a central report, perhaps an Excel spreadsheet. You are dependent on being able to read the parent’s handwriting, a mistake can be costly. We all know we have parents whose handwriting is illegible, can you be sure you have interpreted the information correctly? ParentPaperwork’s online forms mean parents are typing their responses to all the fields and questions.

4. Are the responses from parents being compiled correctly?

Your school’s office staff might be faced with a pile of dozens or hundreds of forms they need to collate and assemble information from. Any time information is moved from one medium to another the risk of corruption is high. Maybe they could read the handwriting, but did they then transcribe the information consistently and correctly? ParentPaperwork collates the parent responses for you, there’s no opportunity for data to be corrupted along the way.

5. Are your paper forms stored securely?

Schools must adhere to data retention policies, they vary around the world but a good rule of thumb seems to be seven years. Where are you storing your paper forms? In a box in a shed down the back of the playing fields? In the basement – the one that floods each winter? Are you really sure they are safe for the next seven years? Some schools even pay for secure off-site storage of paperwork! ParentPaperwork stores all the online form data in a secure cloud-based database, backed up constantly.

6. Can you find a form from six months ago? Five years ago?

Let’s say there was a question or query raised about an activity in the past? Can you locate and retrieve a paper form submitted by a parent two years ago? Would you have to pay your offsite document storage company to retrieve and deliver a box back to school? Is there a catalogue or index for every batch of paper forms you’ve added to storage over the years? ParentPaperwork’s online database means you can search for a particular student, parent or activity and immediately display the online form the parent completed, no matter how long ago.

7. Who has access to your paper forms?

Paper forms regularly contain highly sensitive personal information about students and parents – health information, personal circumstances and addresses and contacts, all of which is likely strictly regulated by the privacy and data protection laws in your country. How do you control access to the paper forms, or the transcribed data within the school? Can any teacher just pick up a form, or see a spreadsheet of compiled responses? ParentPaperwork provides strong user permissions to control which staff member can see what information, ensuring only those who ‘need to know’ can access personal data.

These seven points of failure should be keeping school administrators awake at night everywhere. It only takes one incident to highlight the inadequacies of old style manual processes. In today’s world any incident is one too many, and that’s why the team behind ParentPaperwork has worked hard to create the right technology solution to reduce risk and improve liability management in schools around the world, by replacing paper forms with a secure online system.

 

 

 

 

 

ParentPaperwork joins the Schools IT Roadshow around the UK

ParentPaperwork will be part of the Schools IT Roadshow around the UK in coming months, kicking off on Jersey on 18 November, presenting a range of tools and services to groups of schools that can assist in improving efficiency and productivity.

Today, access to technology and IT, both in the home and at school is more prevalent than ever. We now use apps, where once we might have used websites and the hardware we use is changing from desktops to smart phones and tablets. IT influences our daily lives, and teachers and students naturally bring these influences with them into school.

This opens up great possibilities to improve the way schools engage with parents, students and staff through communications, surveys and events such as parent’s evenings.

To help you with this, three IT providers, Groupcall, NetMedia and ParentPaperwork have launched a roadshow of school based meetings to guide local schools in how technology is evolving and improving the running of schools and helping to cut costs and increase efficiency. The three businesses cover:

Communications: Groupcall helps schools communicate and engage with parents, students and staff quicker, through Messenger and help staff with registration, reporting and analysis through Emerge.

Events: NetMedia helps schools to connect better with parents through more effective parents evening, using the Parents’ Evening Booking System.

Forms and Surveys: ParentPaperwork enhances parental engagement and helps schools to free up time through online forms and surveys replacing notes in book bags and flyers handed out at the school gate.

If you are looking at ways to improve parental engagement, communication and deliver cost savings and efficiencies in your school, then why not explore a number of areas of opportunity at The Schools IT Roadshow:

Channel Islands: Jersey – Wednesday 18th November, @ Jersey College of Girls, Le Mont Millais, St Saviour, Jersey C.I. JE2 7YB

South West: Devon 25.11.2015 @09:00

North West: Manchester 3.12.2015 @09:00

East London: Waltham Forest 27.01.2015 @09:00

North Midlands: Nottingham 10.02.2015 @ 09:00

Register to attend one of the roadshow meetings

Explore what is happening with technology in schools, and find out, what is helping them to cut costs, improve efficiencies and ultimately help to drive parental engagement, student attainment, and achievement.

Register today to find out more: http://schoolsitroadshow.eventbrite.co.uk

ParentPaperwork has moved house to St Kilda

We’re moving today into our new office, on Wellington Street in St Kilda, Melbourne, opposite Albert Park (great for walks at lunchtime). There’s plenty of natural light, heaps of space to expand, and all new fitout – in fact they haven’t installed the kitchen yet, but we’ll rough it for now!

Our new street address is:

Level 1
3 Wellington Street
St Kilda VIC 3182

Feel free to come and say hello!

 

Loopy & downright loony school forms

Those of us with school-age children will appreciate how much of a hassle the seemingly endless stream of permission forms and slips can be during the school year. Excursions and field trips, free-dress days, swimming carnivals, sports meets and anything else that may be even the tiniest bit out of the ordinary will usually call on a guardian’s signature to give the OK.

Those on the other end of the stick – the teachers – will realise, although this can sometimes be an annoyance to already time-poor parents, the problems that can crop up from not properly informing them of school activities can cause major headaches and even legal trouble down the track.

When it comes down to it, most parents want to know what’s happening with their child during the hours they’re not around. Informed consent is important for any activity that might put your child in an unfamiliar situation or those which parents may want to know about.

And, although some permission forms have caused concern for parents, like one that asked for blanket permission to allow a school to publish photos of their child online, most are routine and innocuous, acting only to inform parents and get their seal of approval.

However, occasionally schools can miss the mark. A permission slip for parents of sixth graders in the US that asked consent for their child to eat a single Oreo biscuit stirred up an epic online battle that divided people into camps of the overprotective versus the free-range. Like all online debates, there were no winners, and we’re not sure how many kids were denied their chocolatey treat.

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Even a form which is borne from good intentions can come across as loony. Here are some of our recent favourites:

As mad as some of these may seem, let’s spare a thought for the poor teachers who have been pushed so far they thought their crazy form was necessary. That’s right, if they’re wanting the OK to go ahead and screen a kids movie to kids, offer a cookie in class or let your child get in touch with nature, there’s a good chance they’re doing so because someone complained about it in the past!

We’ve even seen how poorly communicated information can threaten school excursions and why these kinds of activities are important, especially for students, so let’s not let a few loony forms ruin everyone’s fun.

ParentPaperwork takes the craziness out of administering permission slips. Click here for more information.

How to be a Good Digital Citizen: a guide for teachers and students

Navigating the online world can be a bit of a minefield, even for us adults, so when it comes to teaching the next generation how to survive in a technology-driven society, it can be difficult to know just where to begin.

There is a lot of information out there about the negative side effects of technology. Articles warn of it changing the way children think or feel, putting their privacy and safety at risk and even the possibilities of overuse leading to obesity. But when it comes to the Internet, our gadgets and how we interact with them, maybe some morality needs to come into play? We all need to be good digital citizens to promote responsible use of technology.

Good digital citizenship is all about the quality of behaviour that we display online, both kids and adults need new skills to behave safely and responsibly in the digital landscape. Preventing kids from accessing unsuitable material online through filters is an uphill battle. Instead,  teach them to understand the digital world and act responsibly within it.

Being a good citizen online follows the same basic rules as good citizenship offline.

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More than just online safety

Often when we read about students and their digital lives, the focus is on safety and civility online, teaching them not to engage in cyberbullying, or to give out personal information or post anything that may come back to haunt them. But being a good digital citizen goes beyond this; promoting the use of a sophisticated set of skills that allows full participation in the worldwide online conversation.

Joseph Kahne, Professor of Education at Mills College in Oakland, CA, and Chairman of the MacArthur Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, says we need to broaden our ideas about digital citizenship and give kids a little more credit:

“One of the challenges and important priorities for K-12 today has to be broadening our understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen,” he says. “So that we’re talking about young people as producers and managers of information and perspectives, and not simply as people we need to keep safe and civil.”

The 9 elements of digital citizenship

There are a lot of little rules that can be followed to make our online lives a lot easier. Through its digital citizenship site, the International Society for Technology in Education has made it simpler for us by identifying a framework of 9 key themes of digital citizenship that teachers and students can use to promote responsible online interactions.

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  1. Digital Access
    Not everyone has the same access to technology. Digital citizenship starts by promoting equal digital rights and supporting electronic access for everybody. No one should be denied digital access.
  1. Digital Commerce
    The Internet provides an open marketplace of almost any product, some of which can be in conflict with local laws or societal norms (such as pornography and gambling). Digital citizens need to understand this economy and become effective consumers within it. 
  1. Digital Communication
    The digital revolution has also been a communication revolution, and we can now be in constant contact with almost anyone around the world. Good digital citizenship means making appropriate decisions around our communication options. 
  1. Digital Literacy
    Technology is present in all aspects of our lives. Although a lot is taught at schools, there are many technologies in workplaces that are not. Digital citizens need to learn how to adapt to new technologies quickly and understand how these systems work. 
  1. Digital Etiquette
    There are many online who act inappropriately, some by choice but others by not understanding the etiquette of the digital space. Some spaces ban users for this behaviour but, to be a good digital citizen, we have to learn these rules and know what is appropriate and when. 
  1. Digital Law
    Just like in the real world, stealing and damaging other people’s work or identity or property is a crime. Every country has its own laws regarding online crime but good citizenship means having responsibility for actions and deeds, and being aware of the legalities of your behaviour. 
  1. Digital Rights & Responsibilities
    There are freedoms online that are extended to everyone in the digital world, such as privacy and free speech. With these rights come responsibilities, and good digital citizens must use technology in an appropriate manner and understand their own accountability for what they do online.
  1. Digital Health & Wellness
    From bad ergonomics, strain and eye safety to psychological issues such as Internet addiction and the effects of cyberbullying, digital citizens need to be taught how to protect themselves from dangers posed from online interactions. 
  1. Digital Security
    Our personal property and identity can be in as much danger online as off from people that steal, deface or destroy. As a responsible digital citizen, it is up to us to put the locks on our virtual doors and minimise our possibility of becoming a target of crime.

Digital citizenship can be a tricky concept for us to get our heads around but, when broken down into these elements, we can see the parallels to the real world.

Being a responsible digital citizen is important not only for students to learn but also teachers. Understanding these concepts can help us lead the way for the next generation and open the door for more positive online interactions.

And remember…

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A Schooling in Green: printing

The humble printer and photocopier can be a mini blackhole when it comes to expenses.

Many of us have worked in offices where the printing room is an unsupervised hotbed of wasted paper and ink. But, when it comes to schools, often the amount of wastage is multiplied, thanks to unnecessary printing of resources that could be handled electronically.

We’ve looked previously at the monetary costs associated with printing in school environments, which quoted Microsoft’s Education Marketing Manager Ray Fleming, who stated that schools often spend more on printing than they do on IT:

“An average school will use 1m sheets of paper a year and spend £60,000 (AUD $120k) on photocopying but only £56,000 (AUD $110k) on IT.”

The environmental cost of this amount of paper use is startling enough, but when we consider the additional burden of disposing of printer toner and ink cartridges, we can start to understand the immense size of the problem.

According to not-for-profit Australian environmental foundation, Planet Ark, Australians throw away more than 18 million printer cartridges every year. This equates to over 5,000 tonnes of non-biodegradable material that ends up as landfill. Compounding the issue is the fact that, when these cartridges break apart, they can potentially contaminate groundwater and the environment.

In the UK, it is estimated only 15% of the 65 million printer cartridges sold each year are recycled.

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For your health

Another often-ignored danger of printing is the affect it can have on your health.

Toner ink can contain carcinogens such as ‘carbon black’ – a dust that isn’t exposed during normal use but can be released if a cartridge is mishandled, and they can also emit carbon monoxide when overheated or place in poorly ventilated areas.

Studies have looked into the effects of sitting in close proximity to a printer and found there is a possibility of illness from spending long periods of time near printers, especially if not set up or used properly.

What can be done?

Thankfully, there is a lot that schools can do to help the environment when it comes to printing.

In Australia, Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is a recycling program for toner and ink cartridges that has collected and recycled over 28 million cartridges since its inception. The program offers collection bins for schools that use a lot of cartridges and have drop-off points at many participating stores. They also have competitions for schools that participate, offering prizes made from cartridges they have recycled.

Also in Australia and the US, Close the Loop is a recycling program that turns used cartridges into products as diverse as pens, garden benches and even tarmac. In the US alone, the program has recovered close to 69,000 tonnes of material that otherwise would have gone to landfill. They too offer collection boxes for cartridge recovery.

In the US, most major ink and toner cartridge manufacturers will also offer a service to collect and recycle your used cartridges. In the UK, companies such as The Recycling Factory and Recycling 4 Charity will take your used cartridges, and even have programs aimed at schools.

There are many options when it comes to staying green within your school. Creating a program to collect and recycle your ink and toner cartridges is something simple that can have a huge positive impact on the environment. Of course, finding ways to reduce your use of printers and photocopiers should always be the first step in any attempt to make your school more sustainable.

Ask us how the ParentPaperwork system is contributing to environmental sustainability in schools.

ParentPaperwork now integrates with Denbigh School Administration system

We’re pleased to advise ParentPaperwork now integrates to the Denbigh School Administration system.

Denbigh is a terrific Australian company which specialises in the development of customised administration solutions for educational institutions and other enterprises throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

The new integration means ParentPaperwork can automatically import parent and student data directly from Denbigh, without the need for manual data handling.

We schedule the data sync each night, so any changes you’ve made to parent or student records in Denbigh will automatically transfer to ParentPaperwork. We can also bring over co-curricular activity information to make creating Student Lists in ParentPaperwork really easy.

If you are using Denbigh, we’d love to show you how ParentPaperwork can benefit your school!

ParentPaperwork uses GroupCall’s Xporter system to automate the update of data from your SIMS or CMIS school management database

We’ve recently brought on board our first schools using GroupCall‘s XPorter system to automate the update of data from their SIMS and CMIS school management systems to our platform.

Groupcall Xporter provides an automated solution to securely collect and deliver data to a chosen location or system. The system allows Local Authorities, Academy Groups and 3rd party organisations to define what data is collected and how frequently. Xporter runs in each school to extract the required information from the MIS system and transfer it securely and in a uniform format to the desired location regardless of the source MIS type.

The solution is currently installed in over 17,000 UK schools and is used by over 65 Education Authorities and academy groups, as well as being the data provisioning agent for over 60 3rd party commercial customers – including ParentPaperwork. Once installed, the Xporter client requires no further maintenance as its built-in update facility ensures it is never more than 3-4 hours out of sync with the very latest version of your data extraction specification.

Xporter integration is a fantastic feature of ParentPaperwork. It means that any of the 17,000 schools around the UK and the world using Xporter don’t need to worry about manually handling parent and student contact information -each night Xporter sends us your current parent and student contacts, so any changes you’ve made in SIMS or CMIS are automatically transferred to ParentPaperwork.

Is your school using SIMS or CMIS? Please contact us for more information about how ParentPaperwork + Xporter = easy to use online forms!

Why the sad face? The loss of morale in teachers

Everyone in every job in every country at some point thinks, ‘I hate my job’. It’s one of the challenges with full-time work – but, when you are overworked, overstressed and falling behind, those four little words can begin to creep into your everyday vernacular.

This is certainly beginning to apply to teachers as job satisfaction levels reach record lows.

A 2012 MetLife Survey of Teachers found teacher job satisfaction declined from 62 percent of teachers feeling ‘very satisfied’ in 2008 to 39 percent by 2012. The survey also showed 51 percent of US teachers report feeling under great stress several days a week. But the trend does not stop there.

A recent survey by the Guardian Teaching Network found, by large, teachers in the UK feel overworked and undervalued, with 82 percent saying their workload is unmanageable and only four in 10 saying they are happy with their job.

And, in Australia, teachers work harder than their colleagues across the world. On average, Australian primary school teachers have 871 face-to-face hours with students annually compared to the world average of 782 hours per year.

This is leading to a decline in not only the amount of students enrolling in teacher courses, but it has been reported close to 50 percent of those who graduate as teachers leave the profession in the first five years.

When you actually crunch all these numbers, add the stress and overtime, these factors are major contributors to a loss of morale in teachers. And the biggest question that remains is: how do you win back that lost morale?

In Australia, the Grattan Institute put out the report, ‘Making time for great teaching’, which found teachers need to cut back on things that don’t directly improve teaching and learning. The report showed, when teachers were more efficient by cutting back on unnecessary tasks, they could spend more time doing what they loved – teaching.

This research is also in step with the UK Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who recently explained, “Teachers should spend more of their working week in the classroom rather than carrying out pointless administration tasks.”

“More should be done to tackle the issue of ‘unnecessary workload’ faced by teachers to give them more time with children.”

One of the ways teachers can take charge of their workload is to cut down on irrelevant or outdated processes and even start school initiatives for assisting the entire teaching workforce.

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First, find out which aspects of classroom time you can control. In some schools, teachers find they can reduce the time it takes to schedule lessons, grade papers and plan extracurricular activities by using digital tools to better organise calendars and paperwork.

The key is to find simple solutions for eliminating menial work like printing paper, or brush up on some time management skills by really looking at where your time is going during the day. And, if any of these methods work, it is a great opportunity to share your time-saving methods with the rest of the teaching team to hopefully adopt a school-wide approach to lessen the workload.

Rich McKinney, PhD, an award winning assistant principal in the US, explains how taking the initiative helps empower teachers and leads to better teaching and student learning outcomes. He says, “Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.”

“Students need teachers are who are highly competent role models, whose talents and expertise are leveraged both inside and outside of the classroom, and when possible, away from school in the community. When students recognize their teachers are leaders, their natural response will be to follow. School morale can only improve in this type of environment.”

There may be a loss of morale but it does not spell destruction for the teaching industry. Instead, it is an opportunity to take back control and get back to the real reason you became a teacher – to teach.

Read about how ParentPaperwork is playing its part in reducing teacher and school administration stress.