Do your school a favour and banish the paper

Paul Hughes explains how schools can make the transition to a paperless environment ahead of World Paper Free Day

AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), the organisation behind World Paper Free Day, has revealed that using less paper in both work and personal lives will contribute towards huge benefits in efficiency, collaboration and well-being. Yet, despite the increase in technological advancements available to both organisations and schools, almost four billion trees are still cut down each year to supply 300 million tonnes of paper. It is quite often the case that schools still rely on paper-based communications simply out of habit, because ‘they’ve always done it that way’. Therefore, it is our responsibility as experts with first-hand experience of digital systems, to re-educate schools on the advantages that can be gained from online communication. 

Schools have previously used reams of paper for letters, reports and class activity sheets. Yet, nine times out of 10, the paper being used both in the classroom and the staff room will end up being thrown away or filed, never to resurface. More worrying though, is that this paper won’t even be recycled. Not only is this costly for schools, but it is also failing to teach pupils the importance of sustainability and appreciation for the environment. Now more than ever, World Paper Free Day is the ideal opportunity for them to stop wasting time, paper and resources and switch to digital communications. 

‘Teachers and office staff should use web-based communications as the prime method of contact between school and home’

Teachers and office staff should use web-based communications as the prime method of contact between school and home. Not only does it reach parents quicker, but it also reduces the time that staff spend collating and distributing letters. On average, staff spend between five and 10 hours every week collating information to send to parents. Sending the same information via email or smartphone is far more efficient, giving staff extra hours to focus on other, more beneficial tasks. 

ABOVE: Online home-school systems allow the school office to contact parents directly, and instantaneously record whether they have read the announcement

Using digital communications such as email, text and app notifications also means that teachers are able to reach more than one parent or guardian, and can share real-time updates and information. Paper-based communication can be a tedious process, especially when students forget to hand over a school trip form, delaying the consent and payment part. However, online home-school systems allow the school office to contact parents directly, and instantaneously record whether they have read the announcement. They can also track responses and send polite reminders when a reply or payment is required.

If schools want an even speedier process, then smartphone apps can be incorporated in the system to allow parents to be as involved with the school as they wish. Notifications can flash up for parents on the go, and allow teachers to send important alerts in urgent situations. With communication streams running directly from school to parent, it reduces the risk of messages being missed. 

“It is hard to believe that in 2015, so many of us are still so reliant on paper. It is slow, inefficient and terrible for the environment. There are much better options available, with more and more technology dedicated to reducing use of paper.” John Mancini, president of AIIM

While schools may be reluctant to make the switch, especially those with traditional habits, by replacing paper-based notifications with online systems, our research shows primary schools will save an average of £3000 a year, while secondary schools could save up to £7000. 

For schools, an online home-school communication systems can provide copious benefits including reducing paper usage, printing costs, increasing staff resource and improving efficiency and the environment. World Paper Free Day is the time for schools to take note and do themselves a favour and ditch the paper! 

Paul Hughes is Managing Director at ParentMail 

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