Our student leadership had an intention to go green at the top of their agenda. However, as an international school in Saudi Arabia, making the cultural shift to greater environmental awareness would prove to be an interesting challenge.
We were able to support the excellent initiative by embracing electronic communications. The impact on our school has been astonishing and, 18 months on, we are not only a ‘nearly paperless’ school, we are a stronger, better-connected community.
It’s a small world
With children of 55 nationalities attending our school, BIS Riyadh nurtures an appreciation of diversity in each of its students. Our school’s global perspective is one of its strengths, but with families who travel far and wide during the school holidays, sending important school documents by post is not an efficient way of communicating with parents and pupils.
Previously, we produced a paper version of the annual student report summarising the child’s academic and personal achievements. Students delivered these to their parents every June. However, we felt that families wanted more frequent information to help them support their child’s learning, and our use of technology helped to make this happen.
These days we all expect to be able to look up information with a tap of a screen. So by providing an online parent portal from SIMS Independent, students’ families can now log on to see their child’s scores in each subject, their behaviour points and any other achievements in sport or music.
Now, families have instant access to their child’s performance at school, rather than having to dig out the report from the bottom of a school bag. So, if any issues arise, parents can contact us more quickly and we can work together to sort them out.
The digital generation
Our students have been eager to support the school’s drive to go paperless. Even our youngest students were fully on board and in no time they were encouraging their parents to log on at home to see how many house points had been earned.
We are now introducing online homework tasks too, which we hope will help parents to feel more involved in school life as they can see which projects their children are working on and support them at home.
Another important benefit is electronic exam results, particularly for students who are overseas when the GCSE and A Level results arrive. All students now receive their results electronically, wherever they are.
The power of teamwork
In order to succeed in our quest for a greener school, we needed the support of the staff. So we involved them in the process from day one, and all teaching and non-teaching staff have been engaged in creating a system that really works.
Change should only be made if it’s for the better, but we have yet to find a task that we can’t complete more efficiently using electronic communication. At this point, we are still ‘nearly paperless’, but we are well on the way to eliminating paper communication altogether, having avoided printing a single piece for the last 18 months. The savings we have made on printing and copying have been impressive, too.
We have come a long way in our journey to becoming a greener school in a region where being eco-friendly is not regarded as a high priority. But the result is parents who are better informed, students more engaged with their progress, and the whole school community is seeing the benefits.
Lee Drury is data manager at the British International School of Riyadh.