Schools invest in building and maintaining websites as well as online portals to engage parents, yet as far as parents are concerned they are not fit for purpose. And, given the virtually universal use of social media by parents, very few schools exploit these free tools effectively to engage parents.
The research report ‘Structure and function of school websites: The key to driving parental engagement in the digital age‘ is free to download and includes valuable recommendations and advice to address each of the findings:
- 66% do not adjust to smartphone screens
- Only 16% are deemed easy to read
- 52% of schools fail to meet the DfE requirement to display a named contact
- Social media use: Facebook 14% Twitter 34%
The findings are even more shocking when compared with other research:
- Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the UK internet users No.1 device (OFCOM)
- 5.2 million UK adults ‘functionally illiterate” (National Literacy Trust)
- Schools must publish the name of the member of staff who deals with queries from parents and other members of the public (DfE)
- 66% of UK online adults have a social media account
Gerald Haigh, a former school leader who writes extensively about schools and the role of technology for school improvement, said: “It’s crucial that the first point of contact should be inviting, comfortable, easy to deal with and stress free and that’s whether we’re talking about the receptionist behind the front desk or the school website. To treat either of them as an afterthought is to miss valuable opportunities and risk unnecessary misunderstandings”.
Lynne Taylor, founder of ParentPay and Cogent Computer Solutions, who commissioned the research, says: ‘A review of best practice in parental engagement from the DfE showed that parental involvement in a child’s education inspires the child to achieve better and reach their full potential.
‘Today’s parents have grown up in the digital age and demand that communications, support and information is offered through the channels they know best. School websites are a crucial tool to engage parents but this research shows that it has been overlooked as the key gateway to engage parents in their child’s learning.
‘Our researchers viewed and tested 601 school websites randomly selected across every local authority in England. The overall conclusion is shocking and shows that very few school websites address the needs of the digital parent, and in particular those deemed ‘hard to reach’”.
“There needs to be a ‘digital parent’ engagement revolution – count me in!”