Feedback from Parent Focus Group Meeting

Written by admin

Topics: Education, Parents

The inaugural parent focus group meeting took place last night at the college and was a fantastic event from the college perspective. It will prove extremely useful in shaping where we move developments with the parent portal. What also became evident was that parents are engaged by becoming engaged – if that makes sense!

7 parents attended the evening that ran from 7pm until gone 9pm – I was only expecting to go on for about an hour and a half, but the discussions we got into were extremely interesting – for everyone! The parents represented a cross section of the college community with parents from all year groups being represented and the number present was just right to get some good discussion going. We started by giving parents an overview of FROG from a student’s perspective and this immediately confirmed the need to run some sessions on this alone for parents – to develop their understanding of FROG and what it can do. I will be arranging some parent insight sessions on FROG in the new year.
It was clear that parents want more than just an online presence they can visit to get key information. Parents do want to be able to interact on many different levels and get involved with the broader community life at Costello. We started by unpicking what key data/information parents would like to have access to, the following was identified as important:
Student Progress/targets – Parents want access to targets, current working grades/levels but some sort of trend analysis. What is really important is communicating back to parents current targets to facilitate improvement (text comment).
Behaviour – Rewards/Reprimands, along with other positive comments. Not huge amount of detail -just an overview.
Attendance – Pretty much what I thought it would be. Have already discussed this with Jonathan and Craig at FROG. When parents view attendance data they would like to have flagged dates that have unexplained absences so they can send this info to the school via an online form. I.e. parents see exception report and can deal with sorting out reasons.
Key dates for homework assignments/coursework deadlines
Information on Examination courses – exam boards, specifications, past papers etc..
Student timetable
College Calendar – parents would like to be able to export the calendar in different formats (iCAL etc…) so that they can important into their own diaries – thought this was a cool idea.
Interestingly parents are not interested in accessing actual lesson content but having access to project/lesson summaries is more appropriate. For example, a couple of parents talked at length about being able to view student assignments on their diary – when they click on it a simple 2-3 sentence summary of the task is displayed – ideal when the student has not written the task down properly in their diary (HW). Some felt that having access to additional support materials was important to supplement this.
We got into the discussion about different styles of parenting and that actually having some information available to parents could have a negative impact on students and teacher/student relationships. The group felt that students could have access to some privacy settings so that they can decide whether parents can access some elements of content. For example – the discussion that takes places between a teacher and student in terms of feedback is quite private, but a student could decide to allow their parents to see this. Parents agreed that things like attendance/behaviour/grades/progress data would not have privacy settings.
All parents want good quality TWO way communication between themselves and school, a number said that this is one of the key differences between education in the primary and secondary sectors. They want the facility to send notes to students tutors. Ability to contact tutors/teachers directly through the portal – but without necessarily knowing the teachers email address. Parents felt this was important to safeguard staff. To keep things simple they would like to be able to click on a contact subject style button that would bring up a message dialogue box and then send info directly to the relevant teacher (linked to student/subject via MIS). This can open dialogue between parents and staff.
Extra Curricular Activities
These came up on a number of different levels. Parents would like to see an online database of all the clubs available (managed by teachers with basic info) that students can then subscribe to, to attend. But FROG is then used by whoever is running the club to take a register so that parents can check attendance. They felt this was important when some activities might be paid for by parents.
Online discussion forums
These were discussed in quite a lot of detail and seen as having huge potential to engage parents. Parents want to engage with a variety of different formats. Forums where they can engage with each other – parenting support etc… But also forums for feedback and advice on supporting parents. They also felt a parental forum that was Q&A between parents and the senior leadership team was a fantastic idea, with SLT response time targets. It is clear that the majority of parents want to “assist both the school and the student.” Parents want discussion forums that teachers do not have access too as well.
Online Booking System for Parents Evenings
This was something that all parents said would be brilliant and would definitely get used every time. When a parents evening is scheduled, parents log on and see the time slots available for the relevant subject staff and can book slots. Print summary of bookings ready for evening – staff do same.
Online Payments
This was something that everyone said. Parents said they would like to be able to make payments for various things through the portal – such as school trips, peri music lessons – even to the extent of cashless catering systems. Parents mentioned that different payment options would be attractive such as Google checkout, paypal as well as PDQ/merchant services. The more I thought about this, the more I am convinced of the value of this service. However, online payment processing does need investigation from a school perspective in terms of how third party systems can link in with our financial systems etc…
Online satisfaction surveys
Parents are keen to support schools by providing feedback to inform strategic planning – whether it be the annual parent survey or other surveys that focus on smaller school improvement projects.
Method of dealing with forgotten password
The login page must have someway of sending a parent an updated password if current one is forgotten. Parents want the system to collect personal email addresses as they are also keen to get info pushed to them, rather than just pulling information by logging onto the portal. In terms of parental engagement this kind of tug of war is important and we’ll miss out if we do not address this.
Having thought about this overnight I think parents should have a profile page (bits of which they could make public etc..) but we ensure they enter their own email address – it’s their responsibility to keep this up to date. This way if password is forgotten we have an email address to automatically generate and send details of replacement too. Parents also quite liked the idea of being able to sign up for different kinds of email alert, rather than having to rely on logging into the portal all the time. This could be managed via this profile page. Think there is a great deal to be learnt from Facebook actually!
All in all a really good meeting – my head is now full of great ideas.

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