Parent stress over permission slips goes off the charts

We’ve always known that permission slips are a constant bugbear for both parents and schools – after all, that’s why we created a business directly addressing that problem. But even we were amazed when satirical page Cottesloe Barbie decided to roast parent permission forms and received a reaction that went through the roof.

As the anonymous Editor in Chief of Cottesloe Barbie tells us, “That particular post has just risen in the last day (14th September 2017) to be the number one post we’ve ever had, with a reach of 112K, 1.8K reactions, 462 shares and over 500 comments.”

So what’s all the fuss about? Read below and you’ll see why Cottesloe Barbie hit the nail on the head with their hilarious depiction of parental permission grievances. And, if you’re laughing because it’s so true, tell your school about ParentPaperwork as soon as possible so we can make such frustrations a thing of your past.

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Interning as a Data Scientist at ParentPaperwork

LinkedIn Photo
Juan Daza

University of Melbourne, Masters of Information Technology student Juan Daza shares his experience interning as a Data Scientist at ParentPaperwork across the Australian summer.

The University of Melbourne currently runs the Tin Alley internship program where students have the opportunity to apply to great companies in Victoria. Tin Alley has been named Australia’s best internship program and I was honored to be a part of this summer’s intake. One of the companies who gave students the opportunity to get hands on experience was ParentPaperwork and I have been working with the team in the role of Data Scientist.

In this blog post, I want to take you through part of my journey and ParentPaperwork’s goal to empower hundreds of schools with tools to make better informed decisions and more importantly, reach a 100% response rate from parents to slips.

I believe that the first step to make informed decisions is to have the facts and information at hand, which is why one of my main tasks was to assist in the development of the real-time analytical dashboard with key metrics for schools to understand their patterns of use and behaviours.

Data visualisation is a powerful tool in any Data Scientist’s tool box, so I set out to explore the data using Python and SQL and through multiple iterations develop simple yet powerful and self-explanatory visualisations.

I found key metrics that would allow schools to understand their current situation and trigger their curiosity. In conjunction with the team at ParentPaperwork I defined the following metrics.

    • Average response rate (AVR): This is defined as the number of parents who respond to the slips sent to them.
    • Average response time (AVT): The average time it takes parents to respond the slips received.
    • Slips returned by due date: The percentage of slips that are returned before the due date.
    • Timely parents: The number of parents that respond before the slip’s due date.
    • Total Number of forms and broadcast sent.I was mindful of the importance of having the right data displayed at the right time which is why I made sure that my data cleansing process was thorough.

In many cases, slips are sent to both parents and only one parent responds which means that if I calculated the response rate based on the available data, then the number would be biased because I would always have one responded slip and one unanswered slip. I had to develop some cleansing techniques to deal with this fact and get a clean and unique dataset from which I could query freely. I tested some powerful Python functions to wrangle ParentPaperwork’s large dataset and to find the correct dataset to achieve what I wanted to do.

I had to take additional considerations whilst analysing other metrics. As an example, while analysing the average response time from our parents I found an interesting fact. My calculations of the arithmetical average response time were of roughly 80 hours. This meant that on average, a parent responded to a slip every 80 hours or around 3 days. This is an amazing turnaround since paper based forms have a turnaround of around two weeks or more.

However, once I drilled down to the data I found some interesting insights. To look further into this, I set out to understand parents behaviour and I analyzed the response rate progression in the first 30 hours. I thought that the best way to do this was to visualise the behavior of this metric within the first hours of having sent it.

Reverse Burndown Chart

Figure 1. Completion Percentage per Time to Complete

We can clearly see how responses behave. At first, there are very timely parents that respond within a couple of hours and as time passes by, slips get more and more responses making the average response rate higher. Eventually it would reach the Global Average Response Rate which is around 75%

After this, I wanted to understand how many responses are received once the slips are sent. I developed a histogram to get an answer to this question.


Figure 2. Response Frequency per Time to Respond

As it can be seen from the graph, parent responses have a very long tail, however most responses received occur in the first 30 hours of sending the slips. At the time of writing this article, around 60% of the responses were received during the initial 30 hours.

Taking this into account, I decided to calculate the weighted average based on the amount of responses received in each time slot. Using this method, I found an average of approximately 9 hours which is a very impressive number. Additional considerations such as night hours might be taken into account to adjust the average response time but in this instance, I will not go further into it.

Answers to many more questions were developed by following a thorough process where I drilled down in the data to find useful hints. I created groups of parents and found those who consistently respond late (or don’t respond) and determined based on the time of day what are the response times and response rates overall. All of these features will be rolling out gradually to help schools make better decisions. This comes to show how at ParentPaperwork various techniques are deployed to work towards making it a data driven organisation.

Stay tuned because over the coming months more news about the upcoming Data Analysis module will be released. The new Analytics Dashboard is now available to all ParentPaperwork schools.

New Parent Slip and School Form User Permissions available

We’ve had a bunch of feedback recently from schools piloting our new School Forms module about User permissions. One request has been the ability to split a User’s read only/edit permissions between Parent Slips and School Forms.

For example, you might have a staff member who only needs View Only Permission for Parent Slips, to generate reports and search for parent Responses. But as a member of staff they need to be able to add and edit School Forms.

We’ve now split the permission, so it can be set separately. To edit a user click your User name at the top right, then Settings > Users. There are now two fields:

  1. Parent Slips User Permission
  2. School Forms User Permission

The ‘Only these Student Lists’ option remains in force for Parent Slips, and the ‘Only the User’s Slips/Forms’ remains active both for Parent Slips and School Forms.



New ways to sort and filter Parent Responses in ParentPaperwork

The Responses List displayed when you view a Parent Slip is a terrific real-time view of the forms being completed and returned by parents. It makes it easy to see at a glance how you are tracking, whether you sent out 10 forms or 1,000 forms.

We’ve added new Sort and Filter tools to help make reviewing and monitoring the Responses even easier.



The new Filter drop down gives you five options:

  1. Show All – remove any filter
  2. Have Responded – only those Students for whom forms have been returned
  3. Only Positive Responses – only returned forms with a ‘Yes’ or ‘positive’ response
  4. Not Positive Responses – returned forms which do not have a ‘Yes’ or ‘positive’ response
  5. Have not Responded – only those Students for whom forms have not been returned


The Sort options allow you to change the order the Responses are listed. Click on the same option to change alternative descending/ascending order.

The Filter and Sort features work in tandem. For example, you could Filter to only show Positive Responses, and sort by the date the Response was submitted.


ParentPaperwork announces the launch of new School Forms module

ParentPaperwork is pleased to announce the launch of our new School Forms module, expanding the ParentPaperwork platform to a wide range of online forms scenarios in schools.

Since its launch in 2014 ParentPaperwork has been enthusiastically embraced by schools in Australia and internationally to replace the paper forms exchanged between schools and parents, realising significant time and cost savings, and improving productivity and efficiency.

Over the past few months, as schools utilised ParentPaperwork more, and for a wider range of activities, they started to ask “so if it’s this easy for parents to fill out a form, is it possible for staff to complete forms as well?”. ParentPaperwork took onboard this feedback, and consulted widely both with existing school customers and others, and has created a completely new module that embraces many of the paper form scenarios raised by schools.

The current system used by schools for convenience is now known as ‘Parent Slips’, and remains the initial product purchased by schools, with the School Forms module available as an add-on at your request.

The forms can be created by staff, parents and even prospective parents; they can relate to a student, or be purely administrative. Forms can move through approval workflows, and notifications to relevant staff and parents can be automatically triggered during the workflow process.

Staff can initiate a form for one or more students, enter information and then optionally send to parents for additional information or acknowledgement. Perfect for incident reports; disciplinary reports; and many more.

Parents can create new forms to send to school, for their current students or a new child. Great examples are Leave of Absence requests; and advising of issues for discussion during forthcoming parent/teacher meetings.

Parents can create new forms to send to school, for their current students or a new child. Great examples are Leave of Absence requests; and advising of issues for discussion during forthcoming parent/teacher meetings.

All the School Forms templates have unique URLs you can pass onto people outside the school. When clicked the visitor can create a new parent log in, a student record and complete and submit the form. Ideal for registrations of interest for a place; enrolment information and more.

In another major development existing parents can sign in and view a complete history of all forms for their children; be alerted to outstanding forms; and start new forms.

Plus data from School Forms can be exported to PDF files and downloaded after uploading a PDF template and mapping the form fields. This is a great feature if your governing body or authority requires some forms to be provided on their official templates, yet you want the convenience of online data capture.

The School Forms module is available now, and we’d love to show you how it can help your school’s administration – please contact [email protected] to arrange a demo and to have the module enabled. Pricing for the School Forms module is the same as for the current Parent Slips – so you will be charged an additional amount equal to your current subscription. Current customers can ask for a proportional price so the subscription expiry date is the same for both modules.

ParentPaperwork’s mission is to replace paper forms in schools around the world, and we’re achieving this by creating a fantastic online platform 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 School Forms module is another step in our journey, and we are excited to continue to help teachers and school administrators everywhere.

There is a detailed explanation of the key features of the School Forms module on our web site, click here to read more.