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

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.

A Schooling in Green: paper

It’s no secret schools and paper are intrinsically linked – but neither needs the other in order to survive. In fact, it may be time to make paper an endangered species.

Paper is not only a financial burden on schools but the production, deforestation and waste creates a massive carbon footprint. The good news is: schools can green up their act.

But first, a schooling in math.

The amount of paper used in the classroom varies from country to country. In the US, the average classroom uses 25,000 sheets of paper per year, which equals 833 pieces of paper per student.

Now, if one tree makes 8,333 sheets of paper, that means three trees are being used in every single US classroom per annum. That’s a lot of trees, especially when you consider recycling one ton of paper, which is about 20 full-grown trees, saves enough energy to heat an average home for six months.

And it’s not just the trees that are disappearing. Water is a vital ingredient when it comes to the production of trees. In Australia, to make just one ton of paper, over 90,000 litres of precious water are used, which will fill 450 rain barrels.

Modern paper also involves chemicals for bleaching and, once these chemical-laden products go to the landfill after use, it produces dangerous greenhouse gases during decomposition.

All these numbers are not meant to induce fear – they are simply painting a picture of paper consumption in schools. And based on the math, it’s time to make a change.

So how do you build an army of green warriors at your school?

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Learn to love math

A lesson in accounting is the best way to spearhead a sustainable charge. Review your current paper situation. Look at not only how much paper you use but how much paper you waste.

In the UK, the average secondary school produces 22kg of waste per student each academic year. The figure for primary schools is even higher at 45kg per student.

Ashford Secondary School in the UK did their part. They put two lead teachers in charge of Year 7 students to conduct a waste audit, realised they were tossing way too much in the landfill and came up with an action plan.

The school ended up saving nine tons of CO2 emissions per school year through a recycling program.

Educate about trees

Trees are a big part of our collective environments. They produce oxygen, shade, decoration and, if you’re a kid, they are fun to climb.

It’s important to educate students on the impact of paper production on the environment as it is a global problem. The largest producer countries – US, China, Japan and Canada – alone make up more than half of the world’s paper production, which is 400 million tons a year.

According to our earlier calculations, that’s around eight billion trees.

Raise awareness by putting deforestation in perspective. If students cannot imagine that only about 22 percent of the world’s old growth forests remain intact, ask them to imagine a world without trees.

Do something, even if it’s small

After the review and education processes, schools need to take action, even if it is to save one litre of water, one tree or put recycling bins next to every printer.

The simplest way to make a change is to reduce paper-dependent processes and activities with digital alternatives. Go to step one and think about what you have that can go paperless.

Reports and transcripts? Paperless. Permission slips for activities and excursions? Paperless.

School boards and councils should also be encouraged to distribute meeting papers via email or through online blogs to keep the school community up-to-date digitally. It is a cost-effective way to not only save paper but to make sure everyone stays informed.

The technological tools are already at your fingertips to start making your school greener today.

Schools should be red-faced if they’re not going green

Climate change isn’t a buzzword, it’s a call to action. The world’s environmental situation may seem too big to tackle in the classroom but schools are actually perfectly positioned to make an impact.

Of course, education plays a big part in helping to reduce our global footprint. And many initiatives are in place to assist schools in talking the sustainable talk.

There are also a number of resources available for teachers to support the education of students on climate change. NASA, for example, have created an animated infographic called Climate Kids to help with the big science questions.

NASA interactive infograph screenshot

And in the UK, the Sustainable Learning initiative provides information for schools to reduce energy and water. So far, schools working through the program have seen energy reductions of 10% on average, and have a better understanding of how energy and water is used in their schools.

But, as the next generation are going to encounter new and unknown environmentally related issues in coming years, schools need to be on the front foot in teaching students how to take action.

The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI) allows schools to make sustainable decisions. It implements improvements in a school’s management of resources and grounds, and integrates this approach into the existing curriculum and daily running of the school. Students participate in an action learning – or learning by doing – process.

So far, more than 2,000 schools and 570,000 students across Australia are now participating in AuSSI. And it’s working. Earlier this year, an eco-friendly Perth primary school received the United Nations Environment Award for their climate change initiatives, which included recycling food scraps, growing vegetables and walk or ride to school on ‘travel smart’ days.

Although great strides have been made in order to reduce the carbon footprint, schools are still big contributors to eco-unfriendliness. This is because, with so many people, it can be hard to keep track of who’s wasting what and where.

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So how can schools improve? There are four key areas schools can begin taking action on now to get greener, and it all starts with paper.

Paper

Did you know 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 about 10 trees a year that can stay in the ground emitting oxygen.

However, most schools still rely on a paper-based forms to capture parent permissions for activities like excursions and sports activities. For parents with more than one child, this leads to literally dozens of pieces of paper that must be signed and returned.

Of course, recycling is one option for schools but it can be difficult keeping track of all those papers. Paperless solutions will sidestep these problems all together.

Printing

Whether it’s a paper jam or running out of ink, the printer can be a source of many frustrations – including financial ones. Not only are printers expensive but, if not maintained properly, they can sap a ton of energy contributing to a school’s overall footprint.

In the same way, schools can digitise forms and they can also bring printing online.

Schools in the UK have moved towards digitising their print systems, introducing new ways of managing a fleet of printers and copiers centrally. These technologies have not only help schools move closer to becoming paperless but they have helped save money by tracking printing costs across the whole network in real time.

Waste

In the US, paper accounts for 60% of a school’s waste. That’s over half of all the waste a school produces.

Switching to recycled paper is one way to tackle this and, in California, the Green Schools Initiative developed a Green Schools Buying Guide to help schools make sustainable purchases.

Reduce.org suggests involving students by providing information on how to reduce paper waste, encouraging students to not only use recycled and look for recycled products but to proactively uncover ways to avoid using paper.

Remember, recycling one ton of paper, which is 24 trees, saves enough energy to heat an average home for six months.

Distribution

The first question a teacher should ask when distributing paper in a classroom is: can this be done digitally?

The RecycleWorks School Program suggests conducting an audit on the amount of paper distributed to students throughout the week and search for ways to cut down.

In our digital age, it is unnecessary to be using paper for every piece of permission, homework or note when digital solutions like email can cut down on costs, save time and reduce a school’s footprint. Schools still have a way to go before becoming sustainable superstars but, by taking action now, it will make it easier for generations to come.

Ask ParentPaperwork about bringing your school permission slips and paperwork online.