My third and final child has just started school.
“Wow, you must not know yourself!” is one thing people like to say when they hear that, after a decade of small children at home, I no longer have any small children at home.
And, yes, I do have a little bit more time, because I work part-time. But, I’d say a good portion of that new, long-awaited, extra time has now been absorbed by keeping track of communication from school.
Class Dojo is only the beginning...
Because the one school all three children now attend is sending me:
1 x weekly newsletter – containing a brief update from each year group, along with key dates and news of children’s extracurricular achievements. Frodo in Year 2 has passed his Grade 6 clarinet, type of thing. Once a week, fine.
1 x school app – this is a new development and was presumably meant to replace some other method of communication, but hasn’t done yet. Today I have had five notifications with reminders, three for the same survey about annual reports.
3 x WhatsApp groups – oh man. One per class. Several messages a day, confirming things that we have already been told in one of the other methods of communication. Things that keep getting missed, because there are too many methods of communication and nobody can keep track of it all.
Class Dojo – messages from teachers. Usually duplicated in the WhatsApp group by a parent because many of us don’t have the Class Dojo app due to our phones being so full of the other apps.
Year group pages on the school website – information about learning each week. Sometimes things like spelling lists appear there, sometimes not. Updated weekly, or so.
Tapestry – my favourite, photos and updates about my actual child, like an old-school learning journey book. Email notifications do arrive as a result of this, though.
Paper letters – yes, despite every other method of contacting us, we are still fishing out crumpled pieces of paper from the bottom of their rucksacks.
I appreciate all the efforts that teachers are making to improve communication between the school and us parents, I really do. And I want to be a good parent, playing an active role in my children’s education. But it’s getting a bit much to keep track of everything, and we’re only two weeks into term.
Just give us a school newsletter
What would really help, therefore, is if schools could perhaps think about going back to basics. At a time when many of us are trying to disentangle our lives from our smartphones, I’m sure many parents would agree that it would be nice to keep track of what’s going on at school without downloading any special apps.
I still want to receive the learning journey-type information, but aside from that I don’t see why we need anything more than: the school newsletter going out once a week, with a list of key dates for the coming weeks and everything we need to know in one place.
Revolutionary, hey? Just because you can get a school-specific app and Class Dojo and, and, and… doesn’t mean that you should.
Fiona Henderson is a parent and writer based in the South West of England