Any school, whether primary or secondary, needs to have a system in place so they can contact parents in an emergency. Using the mobile phone to send a text is quicker than calling each parent individually and most are read within the hour.
From around 4p per message, texting is also by far the cheapest means of communicating with parents and is a much quicker method when contacting lots of parents at once. Take email for example. It will take someone time to create an email and get it sent out to all of the parents you have email addresses for. Unfortunately, on average only 25% of emails are read compared 95% of text messages. 92% of texts are also read within ten mins of being recieved – so you can immediately get hold of parents to advise them of any urgent messages.
Is texting right for my school?
Consider a situation where your school has to close due to the snow. Having to email and wait for a response could mean that pupils are left at school as not every parent checks their email.
You could try to phone parents – again there is no guarantee that they will answer and this will involve phone call costs and your time! Sending an SMS to parents takes minutes and you have more of a guarantee that they will read the message quicker than any other method.
Choosing when to use SMS
- During school closures (snow/extreme weather)
- Alerting parents to pupil absence
- Alerting parents to flu outbreaks etc
- Promoting a school event such as Christmas fair
- Reminding parents to send monies such as dinner money
- Confirming a parent appointment such as parents evening
Knowing what to write
Text messages can only be 160 characters (including spaces) long, so there’s no room for waffling!
It’s important that you get to the point quickly and that parents understand exactly what you’re
trying to say. As a rule, you should make sure that once you have created your message, it answers
these three key questions;
1) Why you are contacting them – i.e. school closure
2) When should they act? – i.e. closure time
3) What do they need to do next? Come to school to collect child or not send children in today
Here are a few examples;
Example school closure;
School closed again today due to snow. Do not
Send your child to school. We will update you at
5pm if we will be closed tomorrow
St David’s Primary School 01234 567 890
Example pupil absence
Urgent message, David has not arrived in school today
Please call us urgently on 01234 567 890
Broad Oak High School
Example head lice outbreak;
School Message: We have had several instances of head
lice in school this week. Please check our website for advice.
Example of event promotion
School message -Don’t forget the Christmas Fair. Tuesday
11th December from 3pm.
See our website for more info
Obtaining Parent permission to SMS
It is unlikely that parents will not want to receive SMS messages from their child’s school, however it is good practice to inform them you will be using SMS to contact them. If parents have already provided their mobile number to you then you don’t need to request permission to send SMS messages, although for future reference it may be worth indicating to parents that when they give you their contact number that you will from time to time send them SMS messages. You could even add a small paragraph in the school newsletter that you will begin to use SMS for more urgent contact.