Which app is best to help my school communicate with parents?
Parent communication is critical for any school. It is a fact that students with engaged parents will perform better at school. This has led to an explosion of ‘parent apps’ that all claim to enable a school to better engage parents.
But “which one should I go for” is a common question that we get asked on a regular basis. It’s not a simple answer though as it really does depend on what you need the app to do, how it will fit in with the other ways in which you communicate with parents, how much you can afford to spend, whether you are able to allocate somebody to manage it, and much more!
While we don’t have all the answers, we have done a review of the main apps on the market right now, grouped by their functionality, to help you…
More than just communication apps
Schoolcomms (https://schoolcomms.com/) is the UK’s original and in many respects still leading school communication app. Founded in 2003, and used by over 3,000 UK schools, Schoolcomms was acquired by ParentPay in January 2017. This has led to the integration of cashless payments into the app. We think it is a well-developed and thought out app that includes child performance and attendance, news, calendars, alerts, forms and surveys, timetables, reports and homework, along with a school’s ability to add their own brand. Prices are available on application.
Pupil Asset (https://www.pupilasset.com/) is another management information platform that allows tracking, administration and communication. It is much more than just a communication platform as it allows parents to review “attendance information, behaviour levels, current and historic school reports and progress in the core subjects.” This extra functionality is reflected in the price starting at £1650 per year for 500 pupils.
SIMS Parent (https://www.capita-sims.co.uk/) is a fully functioning management information system for schools that includes a parent app. It allows schools to share information such as attendance, or school reports, or sending reminders for homework tasks, all through the app. Prices are available on application.
Appsforschools (http://appsforschools.org.uk/) is a complete school communication platform. It includes news, calendar, alerts, forms and personalisation. It also includes a clever facility that allows sixth formers to register their attendance through their mobile device using geo registration from the GPS in the students’ phones. It starts at £350 per year with add-ons available.
Parent communication apps
Parentcom (https://parentcom.com/) is a newcomer to the UK market but well established in their home country of the Netherlands. As with Schoolcomms, news, calendars, alerts, forms and surveys are all available and can be branded as needed. The app is available in eight languages and is extremely functional and user friendly. It works off a ‘communication cockpit’, which gives a school the benefit that it integrates fully with the school website and its social media channels so content can literally be published once and then shared anywhere. The price starts at a reasonable £35 per month for up to 100 licenses.
mySchoolApp (https://myschoolapp.co.uk/) is a UK based parent communication app that is very comprehensive. It claims that using it will eliminate paper from parent communication as everything from simple messages, consent forms, news, absence reporting and even a school calendar are built into its impressive functionality. It also offers a choice of 66 ‘auto translate’ languages. It costs £350 per year for the standard package, regardless of the number of students. The consent forms are an obvious add in that a school might choose. There’s also a £200 set up fee in the first year of use only.
Edmodo (https://www.edmodo.com/) looks and feels very much like Facebook when you log into it. The app allows parents, teachers and students to join specific communities and then communicate and collaborate by sending messages, sharing photos, setting calendar reminders and much more. It is free to use for parents, but schools need to sign up.
Piota (https://www.piota.co.uk/your-school/) is a parent communication app that is available for different types of school and key stages e.g. early years, primary, secondary, SEN, Independent and International. It is designed to eliminate the need for paper work and uses a highly user-friendly interface. It is basic with prices starting at £500 per year for up to 500 pupils or £1 per pupil per year for more.
Schoop (https://www.schoop.co.uk/) is a parent communication platform that auto translates content into 41 languages. It is easy to use by just joining a group with a unique id. When registered, Schoop is interactive for parents and includes images, calendars and forms so reducing the need for paper from school to home. The cost is £2.95 per child per year with a minimum spend of £395 per year.
Weduc (https://weduc.co.uk/) is a newcomer to the UK market although has been around since 2009 when it was founded in Portugal. It allows two-way messaging with parents, social media and website integration, noticeboards, timetables, read receipts and a customizable news feed for parents. Prices are available on application.
Messaging only apps
Seesaw (https://web.seesaw.me/) is a platform for student engagement that’s free to use for individual teachers and offers a subscription option of $120 per year for schools. Teachers find or create activities to share with students, whose learning is captured in a portfolio. Families can then see their work and leave comments and encouragement. Seesaw originates from the USA and is used by one in two US schools.
ClassDoJo (https://www.classdojo.com/) is a communication app for the classroom. It connects teachers, parents and students who use it to share photos, videos, and messages throughout the school day. They use ClassDoJo to work together as a team, share in the classroom experience, support children at home and bring big ideas to life in their classrooms and homes. It auto translates into over 30 languages and is 100% free to use.
Remind (https://www.remind.com/) is another messaging app that includes a read receipt functionality so teachers can see who has read their messages. It is designed to support teachers in messaging both students and parents. It includes translation functionality into over 70 languages and has a free per class/teacher version or a paid per school subscription.
Class Messenger (https://www.classmessenger.com/) is a private messaging service that keeps teachers, parents and students in sync. While it is an app at heart, you don’t need to use it as an app and can opt to just receive email notifications or simple text messages. This is helpful for parents who may not own a smartphone or run out of data regularly. It also includes a parent to parent functionality that a teacher can turn on for that all-important sharing of knowledge between parents. It is free to use.
Classlistapp (https://www.classlist.com/) is essentially a parent to parent communication platform offering secure social networking along with event management, fundraising and a marketplace where parents can add listings, freecycle and exchange recommendations. It is very much a private Facebook group for parents within a school. There are approximately 2,000 schools using this free to use platform.
MarvellousMe (https://marvellousme.com/) is an app that engages parents by giving them high-impact news that is learning-led and praise-led, in an exciting, positive and personal way. It’s intentionally one way only i.e. from school to parents. There’s no setup and parents can’t message back, so there’s no extra work. Parents send ‘high fives’ thanking teachers and recognising their child’s success.
Teachers2Parents (https://eduspot.co.uk/) is a simple messaging service that allows simple text or email messages to go between school and parents via the app. It also includes parent evening appointment scheduling. Prices are available on application.
So, the answer to the question of which app is best really does depend on what you need it to do and how much money you can afford to spend. However, rather than sit on the fence with our views, here are our recommendations.
If you are looking for a ‘more than just communication app’ that will integrate everything within your school information system, then we would look no further than Appsforschools as it is competitively priced and is fully customisable.
If you want a good value parent communication app without too many additional bells and whistles and is also future proofed in communication terms, we would recommend Parentcom. We like how it integrates with every communication platform, giving the school admin team or whoever else is responsible for sending and posting messages a break!
And if you are just looking for a simple messaging app to engage parents in their children’s learning and character development, that will keep them up informed of how great their children are doing, then look no further than MarvellousMe.
In addition to all of these, you can use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter for example. The big benefit is they are free to use, and parents are generally familiar with them, so adoption is not really an issue. However, there are downsides, specifically due to lack of accountability and misuse which can cause immense harm and schools find difficult to manage.
We hope that our review helps you to decide which parent app is best for you. However, if you would like more advice on which app would best suit your requirements, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.