Parent Portal launches to Year 7 parents

Written by admin

Topics: Education, Parents

I know it has been a while since my last post, and for that I apologise. It has been a truly manic few weeks back focusing on getting technology, protocols, pedagogy and practice right for our launch of the parent portal. I’m going to endeavour to put together some of the key elements we have worked through in recent weeks to see a really successful launch event as we have this evening. I’ll make my apologies in advance for any incoherence in the post – final preparations for launch have taken their toll a bit on me this week and I’m somewhat deprived of sleep!

STRUCTURE OF THE PORTAL
I will endeavour to put a video walk through up of our initial parent portal some time during the next two weeks but as a quick summary I will list how we have structured our phase 1 portal. I say phase 1 as I am sure that the portal will develop in the next few weeks, especially when parents start to engage through the discussion forums and start to throw ideas back at us.
My Child Area – Access to MIS data (Currently Attendance, SIMS lesson monitor, SIMS behaviour log). We have stats pages for attendance and behaviour. Attendance statistics can be analysed by day, period and subject. Every parent has a child overview page that summarises key data and allows them to select each child. on this overview page is the current days timetable, attendance summary, list of teachers and news feed.
The news feed is really interesting as it very much takes the feed you might have on Facebook, but is focused on educational content not people. It summarises legal registration sessions, lesson monitor but also when assignments are issued to the child. All a parent has to do to access the assignment is click on the item in the feed. The assignment will open in a new window and by the way that FROG lessons are structured signposted all the resources that are needed for the student. This will help parents support their children in a much more focused way.
We then have a series of information pages – nested pages for our twitter feed, Youtube channel, school day, canteen menu, homework, bus timetables, extra curricular clubs, PTA and governor information, technology to support learning. Parents also have access to online letters (all main letters – year group/trips/whole school are placed on here in pdf format), college calendar, newsletter, discussion forums, parent surveys, college documents (policies etc…), reporting of student absence.
For launch we have not gone mad with discussion forums at all – there is one forum, entitled parent portal, which is for them to chat about the portal, what they think of it, and give the college some honest feedback. We had the first post within 40 minutes of the launch event finishing. Already we are getting excited about directions the portal will take. I think the general concensus of our parents is how can we support our child and help them with their studies, not just accessing data about them so I can see subject specific support forums being developed, along with specific parental support areas for English and Maths in the short term, other subjects to follow.
For those of you who have been following my blog and/or have heard me speak about parental engagement you will know we’re passionate about true engagement at Costello, not just presenting data, information at best, to parents, but getting parents more involved in the processes associated with education and learning. This will become evident when you see how our parent portal structure is beginning to evolve.
When you log on to our portal you are greeted with an initial screen that takes parents to the AUP – this is an online copy of the paper AUP they have signed and only appears the first time they log on. FROG keeps an audit of when each parent accepted the T&C (form database) for reference. This method of putting the AUP is excellent, if/when the AUP is updated we can just reissue the page to all parents – simple!
LOGISTICS OF ISSUING USERNAMES/PASSWORDS
This can be a logistical nightmare, so I’ll discuss what we have done – having now gone through the process with 1 year group it actually works quite well. We all know that there is a big emphasis on safeguarding, and with current government department legislation on how usernames/passwords can be disseminated (i.e. not using postal systems) it was clear that sending username/passwords out through the post would not cut it at all. So, here is a breakdown of the processes followed.
  • Parent accounts set up in FROG – you cannot exported all parental details, including username and password as a csv file for security reasons. We downloaded every parental user, including FROGid, full address, firstname, surname, username, child name(s) as a csv and used some vb to create random (strong) passwords into the csv file. This was then uploaded back to FROG to populate the system with the new generic, yet strong passwords.
  • The CSV file created was then used to create the mail merge letters (making sure that we had sorted by parent surname / firstname so that all letters would print in order). Letter had parental address on it.
  • Letters printed and split, put in windowed envelope into 5 alphabetical sections to split the work
  • Written copy of the Parent Portal AUP inserted into envelopes – these to be signed and returned to school
  • Run a launch event for the parent portal for each year group. At beginning of evening 5 staff man the boxes of letters. Parents filter to correct queue with proof of identity and address. This information cross matched against the details on the envelope. Once satisfied of identity staff then give parent letter.
  • Most parents opened letters whilst there and duly signed the AUP – we had a drop box out for parents to leave them with us at end of evening.

The fact that we did this has been very well received by parents, they are appreciative of the sensitive nature of the information that can be accessed through these accounts and were fully supportive of the processes we adopted. There were a few positive comments that clearly indicated that parents were impressed with the care we have gone to.

We still have a large percentage of letters to be collected so I will be mass texting all of Y7 parents tomorrow, encouraging them to come in with proof of id/address to collect them. Failing this we can do another hit at our Y7 tutors evening that is in a few weeks time.

Running a launch event for the portal has worked really well, it gives the school the opportunity to do a live demo and really secure their vision in the minds of the parents and help set expectations on how it is to be used. Although not made explicit in what we presented, there is an underlying expectation that parents will use the portal. The evening that was run for Y7 parents was not all about the parent portal it was the first time new Y7 parents have been invited in to the college and they also had a settling in talk-supporting their child as well as the option to attend 5 different workshops that were being hosted.

So, you can look forward to a number of up and coming blog posts about how things are going!

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