Using forms for Parental Engagement
Last year we launched our new Form Builder which has been used now by many of our schools – and for a huge range of uses. A lot of schools use the form builder to capture information from prospective parents – sign ups for open days, contact information to send a prospectus to, and so on. It is proving to be very useful in this area and saves schools from buying into costly marketing systems when their needs are smaller than that which warrants such expense.
Some schools are also using Form Builder to gather permissions for trips and parent sign-ups for helping at events and fundraisers. Again this avoids costly extra systems but also takes a lot of workload away from support staff and volunteers who would otherwise have to go back and forth over emails or use paper reply slips – which are expensive to photocopy (especially when so many of them just end up screwed up at the bottom of a school bag!)
However, there are so many opportunities outside of the examples above which the Form Builder would be ideal for. Everything mentioned so far has been fairly functional and serves a single purpose usually at one point of the year/term. Although useful, this then is archived and not used again until the next Open Day etc. It encourages parents and prospective parents to use your website at this point – usually requiring you to also send an email or text to parents to ask them to have a look on the website, or needing an advert elsewhere to let prospective parents know that there is an Open Day coming which they could sign up for.
But what you could do with the Form Builder is gather more traction for your school website throughout the year – and promote parental and student engagement through it on a regular basis – by setting up polls and information gathering questions on a regular basis. You could do this on password protected pages if you want to ensure only current parents/students reply, but essentially this could form part of your ongoing communications with parents.
When writing your regular newsletter – which you can host on the school website – why not add a poll to the newsletters page (or maybe even the homepage!) asking different questions or offering parents the chance to feedback on something they have read. These could range from the serious questions, such as voting on a new parent governor, through to something more fun around building the community, such as deciding on a colour theme for the Year 6 disco. But the main thing is to make them regular so that people visit the website often (also picking up on other vital information and news as they do) and engage with you on a regular basis, which will help to build parental engagement.
So much of school communication is, by necessity, one-way – such as sending a letter reminding parents about something and parents do not always have the chance to ask a direct question based on the information given. This means that the office then may be inundated with questions being asked by phone or email in response. The Form Builder could be used as a way for parents to always have a place to ask those questions in a place they know they can go to at any time for non urgent, but important, responses. We also know that often parents do not read the vital information on the website as they tend to not look regularly, whereas they might if they know that there will be a new question to answer.
A mixture of light-hearted and more serious questions means that parents and students will keep coming to check what the “Question of the Week/Month” is so that you get more engagement with your news and events announcements at all times. Using more fun questions mixed into those you really need answers for also means you will get more answers to the BIG questions, whilst also having weeks that you don’t really need to spend time checking the answers in any great depth (when it is something more for fun.) No doubt for some polls you will have students wanting to know the results or sharing them anyway!
You could also add polls and questions to class pages – with teachers being in control of their own forms to gather information they want to, or to engage students with the page so that they never miss the homework links!
Ideas for fun engaging questions, to encourage people to always check on the website, could include things like:
- Which team will you be supporting this weekend?
- What is your favourite day for school dinners?
- Which house will have the most points this term?
- Will you be taking part in the art competition?
- Who is your favourite character from <this week’s class book title>?
- What is <teacher name>’s favourite saying?
- Which session would you like for enrichment this Friday?
- Which song should we have for assembly on Thursday?
Ideas for more serious questions you might want to ask, to gather information for school/class purposes, could include:
- Who should be our class prefect?
- Is there a curriculum subject you would you like more information about?
- Which of the following parent sessions would be most useful?
- What do you think are our priorities for the school year ahead?
- Which of the following fundraising activities would you be most likely to support?
- How should we use the funds raised by the parent group?
- How can we best support you and your family this year?
- Tell us your school memories to use for our upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations.
We are sure you will have even more ideas throughout the school year – let us know how you are using the Form Builder!