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.

ParentPaperwork makes an impression at BETT

The BETT Show, held in London each year, is one of the largest education technology tradeshows in the world. It’s big and it’s exhausting.

Originally known as the British Educational Training and Technology Show, BETT has been running for more than 30 years, and attracts more than 35,000 visitors and hundreds of exhibitors. It’s held in the Excel, a vast exhibition hall on the banks of the Thames in the east end of London.

Nothing can completely prepare you for the sheer size of the event – walking from one end of the exhibition floor to the other takes 15 minutes, or longer, as you squeeze past hundreds of people packed along the aisles or hanging around exhibitor stands. Education and technology are rapidly colliding and sparking.

Anyone who is anyone in the EdTech universe is there, including Microsoft, Apple and Google, who each have large elaborate stands carefully designed to reflect their corporate image and brand.

Microsoft is all right angles, pale timber and slick video screens. Google is less formal and incorporates their ‘Google’ colours even into the benches. Apple has dozens of bright young things roaming around in trademark T-Shirts, jeans and runners.

Parent Paperwork at BETT

We spent the four days of BETT working with our UK partner Groupcall and meeting some terrific EdTech firms from all over the world.

Some countries, including Singapore and Israel, had stands showcasing groups of local EdTech firms. The United Arab Emirates had a stand devoted to recruiting British teachers to move to the UAE.

Special credit to Melbourne business Caremonkey who also made the trip. It was lovely to catch up with their founder Troy Westley and I’m hoping he found BETT as productive as ParentPaperwork did.

bett2
The Groupcall stand at BETT was spectacular

Groupcall’s stand was fantastic, one of the largest at BETT, and definitely with the largest video screen, a 9m LED video wall across the back (and yes we played the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer a few times late one afternoon!).

The set up was perfect, with multiple seating areas with large computers where you could sit down with a group of school representatives and demonstrate products, as well as free standing touch screens also running the demos.

We even had a visit from Sir Bob Geldof. You may know him as a musician, but he’s also an original investor in Groupcall, and regularly attends to BETT to spend time connecting with Groupcall users and edutech innovators at large.

It was fun watching visitors walk past the stand and do a double take when they saw Sir Bob! (And of course immediately pull out their phone for a selfie).

_87836677_dscf6859
Sir Bob dropped by and was mobbed.

For us, it was our first major opportunity to showcase ParentPaperwork’s new integration with Groupcall’s Messenger school/parent communication platform.

We’re proud of this partnership – we’ve baked ParentPaperwork’s Parent Slips module deeply into Messenger, giving schools a seamless experience and all the benefits of replacing the paper forms they exchange with their parents.

I should also mention a fellow partner in Messenger, PEBS (Parent Evening Booking System).

Like us they have deeply integrated their parent teacher interview booking platform into Messenger, and their founder Will Mackenzie came down from Scotland to share time with us. He’s a fabulous guy, and already has hundreds of UK schools using PEBS.

bett3
BETT is a remarkable experience.

I must confess, by the end of the last day my voice was almost gone, and my feet were killing me – I laughed I needed a foot spa to recover!

But this was a brilliant opportunity to talk to hundreds of people about ParentPaperwork, gauge their reaction, and solicit their feedback. We left BETT with a long list of interested school staffers.

Not one that I spoke with (and that was a great many) didn’t see the value of ParentPaperwork.

Once they had their ‘light bulb’ moment and connected in their mind the paper form problem with our solution, their enthusiasm was palpable. We can’t wait to see what happens next!

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