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?

Calculate how much ParentPaperwork can save your school

Paper forms are a major resource and labour expense in schools, and recently we embarked on a quest to create some rough estimates of just how much the cost would be – both cash and to the environment.

If we look across all ParentPaperwork’s customers in 7 countries, on average schools are sending home 30 forms per student per year- so in a school of 1,000 students that’s 30,000 paper forms being managed between school and parents annually, let alone all the paper forms used internally by staff.

In dollar terms the forms sent home to parents for 1,000 students are probably costing you north of $16,000 a year. ParentPaperwork is very significantly cheaper than that.

ParentPaperwork will also obvious substantially reduce paper usage, resulting in strong environmental outcomes.

We’ve created a handy online calculator allowing you to see just how much you could save by using ParentPaperwork’s online forms platform to improve your school’s management processes.

Check out the new calculator!

What is the cost of paper forms in schools?

Paper has served an important role in education for hundreds of years. It’s been an enabler and a multiplier. It’s been a bedrock for schools to inform and improving student outcomes – their core mission.

But paper has been a victim of its own success as an instrument of information gathering.

As it has piled up with our need to communicate, collect, analyse and store more and more data, school workloads have exponentially increased.

Our data suggests that a single child will receive at least 30 forms per year and staff complete at least 20 forms.

So what does it really cost to send home paper forms or use an ill-fitting technology solution?

When schools think of paper costs they usually only consider the costs that they can easily quantify. The truth is that’s only the beginning. These numbers mask the real problem – that educators are taking on the role of full-time administrators.

The human cost

We don’t like to admit it, but every extra piece of paper means more time away from students.

In a recent survey of our school partners, we collected a list of the most used paper forms. These are the ones that involved staff in preparing , distributing, reminding, following up, collecting, collating and in some cases entering, information. Excursion forms, sporting forms, medical forms, record updates, training forms, fundraising forms, parent meetings and more. They were plentiful and often duplicative.

In an analysis of the UK Government’s recent Workload challenge survey, John Roberts revealed that of 43 000 teachers who replied, over 56% reported the single most unnecessary and unproductive data related task was “recording, inputting and monitoring of data”.

Read more: Can automation save teaching?

teacher calling on student in class

Teaching staff in all schools are involved in the paper forms process in one form or another.

  • Preparing the form
  • Preparing the information for the form
  • Distributing the form
  • Managing the follow up and reminder process to have the forms returned
  • Collecting the form
  • Ensuring that the form is fully/correctly completed
  • Collating the information
  • Storing of the original forms

Current paper practices or administration systems that have permission form capabilities are so convoluted staff understandably are turned off them. This adds to stress and workload fatigue.

Roberts acknowledges: “School Management Information Systems (MIS) have glacially evolved since their early beginnings,” to become the source of crippling frustration and burnout.

“Their development focus on breadth has meant that a focus on the needs of the actual user has been left behind.”

Schools want to be seen working on the challenge of staff workload. But technology innovations tend to sit classroom side (where they can attract new students, funding and attention) while applying technology that reduces behind the scenes workload is lower down the agenda.

It’s understandable, given the competitive education market. But it leaves educators, administrators, parents and ultimately, students themselves, worse off.

The financial cost

Paper, printers, photocopying, scanning, labor… and in some cases, faxing!

The pipeline adds up quickly when we count the cost of paper forms. Based on conservative assumptions, modelling suggests that adding basic costs, including labor and storage, tallies up to $16.70 per student.

Digitising and automating these processes could save thousands. Here’s another conservative estimate. A school of 500 students could save up to $8000 a year through smart digitisation. For 2000 that number jumps to $30,000.

The environmental cost

tree drawn on paper

The human cost adds up quickly, in taxing time, energy and patience of educators (and parents). So does the hit to the bottom line.

Consider the impact on the environment.

While some schools are turning to recycled products or techniques to help reduce consumption, the impact on their eco-footprint is usually minimal.

And the heat is on, in the form of externally mandated ‘green’ goals in different educational jurisdictions around the world (and the reporting on those goals… on paper?)

The below figures show the cumulative impact of a school sending an average of 30 forms a year to a single student, at an average of two pages per form.

 

school paper forms eco footprint

The tide is turning

A Principal recently told me: “I now only buy products and solutions that my staff will use. I am trying to build a culture of innovation and I need the staff to believe that what I promise the technology can deliver”.

While the pressures on the sector are vast and confronting, there’s never been a better time to innovate and take the leap. To survive, schools must be smart about scaling solutions, and letting technology shoulder critical, but crunching tasks that have become fundamentally obstructive within teaching environments.

It’s never just a piece of paper.

ParentPaperwork’s mission to change the world

When we founded ParentPaperwork a little over year ago we had one simple idea, to tackle the problem of paper permission forms sent home by schools to parents. Every parent of a school-age child understands this problem, we live with it every day of term. Of course we understand the reason for the forms, but the practical reality is each piece of paper emerging from our kids’ school bags is just another task to be dealt with.

Our goal with ParentPaperwork was to significantly improve this process both for schools and parents. The heart of the idea was straightforward, create an online tool that automated the paper-based process, and through the use of online forms and a database make life easier for all concerned.

Over the past year we have spoken with literally hundreds of schools in Australia and around the world. We’ve never passed up an opportunity to have a conversation with a school wherever in the world they might be located. Last Friday I had a 2am call with a US school, then another at 6.30am – the joys of time difference notwithstanding, and putting aside any need for me to sleep, both calls, which involved demonstrating our software, yielded nuggets of information we could add to our understanding of customer needs.

Our sales team calls probably 20 or 30 schools every day and we receive a stream of enquiries via email, phone and Twitter, and each and every contact also adds to that understanding.

Our objective of addressing a relatively straightforward problem has evolved into an increasingly sophisticated comprehension of school operations, needs and problems, and we have adjusted our goal and mission accordingly.

Schools are traditionally conservative environments from a business management perspective. The innovation that often occurs in their academic operations is not usually mirrored in the school office. In this aspect schools are not alone – a significant proportion of businesses large and small adhere to traditional management approaches.

The winners in business are the ones who can break away from legacy concepts. Often they are referred to as ‘disruptors’, they attack a market from a completely different direction from the incumbents – think SalesForce in customer relationship tools; Uber in taxi cabs; Xero in accounting software; AirBnB in accommodation bookings. These companies have become what’s known as ‘unicorns’, new businesses that have attained $1b valuations in relatively short periods of time. The key reason for that growth and success is the way they have upended traditional thinking and processes in markets with long term deeply embedded incumbents.

There is now a raft of companies tackling disruption of traditional methodologies in teaching and learning, and this is reflected in a significant growth in the quantity of venture capital flowing to the companies in this space. The realisation we have come to is that there is a dearth of businesses targeting the administrative side of a school.

What most people ignore is that schools are businesses, by which I mean, if you forget for a moment that they are educating our children, schools have all the attributes of a business, albeit generally a not-for-profit. They provide a service, they have staff, they have expenses, manage assets and generate revenue. A government-funded school might receive a significant part of its revenue via a subsidy or payment, but there is still a profit and loss statement, and money coming in and going out. There are still staff and all the accompanying human resource management issues. Yet schools for the most part lag behind commercial enterprise in adopting new methods and processes in their administration.

We believe our company and its technology can disrupt a part of that school administration function in way that will have a profound impact on not just the school’s day to day operations, but in the education of our children, and the preservation of our planet.

ParentPaperwork’s Mission

All of our learning accumulated over the past year, combined with our deep diving on the operations of schools around the world has led us to codify conclusions about our mission and goals as a business. They are simply expressed:

ParentPaperwork’s mission is to
replace paper forms in schools around the world.
 

ParentPaperwork’s goal is to
save schools a billion pieces of paper a year.

We’re going to achieve this by providing an online solution that enables schools to capture, manage and report data from across their enterprise to improve productivity and efficiency, and deliver a better experience for parents and staff.

The outcomes from this are tangible. If we achieve our goal:

  1. We’ll save a dramatic amount of staff time, and staff time saved is time that can be redirected to teaching students. By replacing paper systems we improve education outcomes for children.
  1. We’ll save significant costs from the school budget in areas including printing and copying, paper consumption, and insurances – money that can be redirected also to improving the education of our children.
  1. We’ll be making a valuable contribution to creating a sustainable environment for our children, and their children.

Where now for ParentPaperwork?

We’re excited and enthused by the mission we have set ourselves. It has taken time and money to reach what at first glance might seem face-palmingly obvious, but it underlines the importance of taking time to properly consider the true needs of a market, especially one that offers a truly global opportunity like school education. Not matter where in the world the schools we have spoken to are located, they all share a common problem – antiquated paper-based processes that take up time, take up staff resource, and inhibit the modernisation of their administrative operations.

Take the example of a large independent school here in Melbourne. Some of their internal paper forms have a distribution list of ten people – when the paper form is completed, ten photocopies are made and dropped to the in-trays on the desks of ten people in the management team. It’s a crazy system, especially when we’re told it’s because “they like to all have a copy ‘just in case’”.

Shortly we’ll be officially announcing the availability of our new School Forms module. This substantially expands our platform’s functionality across a whole range of paper form scenarios in schools, and has come about as a direct result of working with our existing customers and many prospective users.

Indeed, our original idea for the School Forms module was kicked off by an email from an existing customer asking “would it be possible for staff to fill out an online form as well as a parent”. We gestated on that for a while, and then a few months ago other schools started to pose similar questions to us about various processes and functions in their school – registrations of interest for a place completed by prospective parents; incident reports filled out by school nurses; professional development requests submitted by teachers. Three months ago we sat down and seriously scoped out a response, and the resulting Schools Forms modules caters for all these use cases and more.

The new module is not a perfect response. We know it will generally answer many of the demands made by schools to us, but it will be a work in progress, like the entirety of our product platform. I know our learning will simply begin all over again as we roll out the new module to schools in Australia and overseas. However, I also know the feedback, ideas, criticisms and (hopefully) praise will only serve to further deepen our understanding so we can continue to innovate and disrupt traditional mindsets and methods in schools, and thus fulfil our mission and achieve our goal.

David Eedle
Co-Founder and CTO

ParentPaperwork – Helping Schools Save Billions Of Pieces Of Paper

lotsofpaper

ParentPaperwork is on a journey to help schools save billions of pieces of paper globally by moving their existing paper-based forms to an online system.

Each year around the world tens of millions of parents sign hundreds of millions of paper forms on behalf of their children or relatives. It’s a labour intensive, unreliable and inefficient process.

Most schools still rely on a paper-based form to capture parent permissions for activities like excursions and sports activities. Yet for busy parents, especially those with more than one child, this leads to literally dozens of pieces of paper that must be signed and returned to school every year.

A school with 2,000 students could be using 80,000 pieces of paper a year just to send forms home to parents – that’s around ten trees a year that need to be sacrificed just so parents can give permission for their children to attend a sports carnival or other school activity!

The team at Melbourne-based ParentPaperwork are determined to both help schools and parents communicate more efficiently, and to make a real difference to the environment.

ParentPaperwork is an online platform to automate paper forms in education, dramatically reducing cost and improving liability management.  The system manages excursion forms, field trip forms, permission slips and many other forms parents need to complete for their children and send back to school.

ParentPaperwork is simple to use. There is no set up required by parents. The forms are customisable so ParentPaperwork can adapt to a school’s specific requirements.

ParentPaperwork can connect directly to a school’s management database, ensuring the school can communicate with their whole parent body.

Schools can log in at any time to track the submitted responses. With a single exported spreadsheet ParentPaperwork saves a school having to carry literally ring binders of paper forms whenever they take students off campus.

Fiona Boyd and David Eedle founded ParentPaperwork after counting the dozens of forms they had signed for their three children over the course of a few months. They started consulting a number of schools in their local area last year and uncovered just how much teacher time and school resources are needed to manage the many paper forms sent out by schools each year.

ParentPaperwork recently won a StartUp Victoria Pitch Competition with the judges praising the innovation and potential of the business.

ParentPaperwork is looking to recruit school customers around the world for their online forms system. Schools can sign up for a Free 30 Day Trial at www.ParentPaperwork.com

Keep Calm. Save Paper (and trees). Use ParentPaperwork

KeepCalm

How many reams of paper does your school use each year copying and distributing paper forms to parents and students? Did you know one ream of paper equals around 6% of a tree? Conservatree estimates that each tree that’s processed into paper yields around 16 reams (500 sheets each) of paper.

Let’s try some math. For a school with 1,000 students let’s guess each student is given 20 paper forms a year, each with two pages. So that’s 1000 x 20 x 2 = 40,000 sheets of paper, which is 80 reams of paper. And five trees. Not withstanding the cost of the paper, the cost of copying the forms (all that toner, photocopying charges), distributing them to students, collecting and chasing the returned forms, collating and reporting the responses…..

That’s why schools turn to ParentPaperwork, our mission in life is to replace paper forms with an online system that’s super convenient for both schools and parents.