An award-winning school-to-parent app has seen a big increase in demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
Liverpool-based Parentapps, which helps schools with parental engagement through its app, now has more than 600 schools signed up.
The app, PA Connect, is also used by more than 100,000 parents allowing them to access all the latest news from their children’s schools.
Parentapps was founded in 2015 by Kevin Clayton and former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy and Bill Currie are among its high profile investors.
Sales of Parentapps’ services, which also include building school websites, has been driven by the national lockdown and the increasing need for schools to deliver homework remotely; help children stay busy during the holidays; keep families up-to-date with the latest local authority advice and to survey parents’ needs as the pandemic has progressed.
Parentapps’ chief executive Kevin Clayton said: “It has been an incredibly tough and uncertain year for schools, their staff and parents with the need for all of them to stay in touch greater than ever. Since the pandemic started we have been inundated with enquiries and we have signed up another 60 schools to help them adapt as quickly as possible to the unfolding situation.
“As a result, we have also had to adapt, not only to demonstrate what we can offer via video conferencing, but also to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our users.
“In response to the huge requirement for home learning we have developed a homework hub, which allows teachers to log in and set work to give their pupils more structure and tailored activity. We have also been delivering weekly webinars over Zoom to help teachers understand and use the technology as quickly as possible.
“Schools have told us that more than 90 per cent of their parents activate the app immediately. Compare this to other forms of communication like paper or SMS messaging which sees people fall through the gaps and which costs a lot more time and money. For example, we know of schools that have printed off homework packs for every child, meaning parents have had to physically go to a school to collect a pack, risking spreading the virus, never mind being a huge and expensive undertaking for the school.
“The feedback we have had from school staff is that they couldn’t have lived without it, having struggled to stay in touch with parents at the beginning.”
Several schools have praised PA Connect for helping it during the Covid crisis.
Darren Gamble, headteacher of Acklam Whin Primary School in Middlesbrough, said: “PA Connect has played a crucial role in maintaining the bond and connection between home and school.”
Helen Owens, school business manager, at Waterloo Primary School in Crosby, said: “The surveys have been invaluable in allowing us to plan school reopening and remote learning.”
Sarah Bartrupe, administrator, at Blackpool Gateway Academy, said: “As soon as we launched, it all just went so fast. It has been amazing – from parents updating their details to signing consent forms and following links to the website to find all the latest news. “
Neil Hargreaves, headteacher of Salford’s Cadishead Primary School, said: “It has been invaluable. We have used the consent forms to create a booking system and agree to new arrangements and we have used it to communicate with and survey parents.”
Kevin and his wife Hailey, who is sales director, created Parentapps in 2015 in response to finding one too many crumpled letters in the schoolbags of their daughters. The company was boosted in 2018 by investment from former Tesco chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, and Bill Currie, an award-winning retail analyst for Barclays and Charterhouse. At the time they had 350 schools signed up.
Mr Clayton added: “It has been a remarkable two years and the investment from Sir Terry and Bill Currie means we have been able to improve user experience, add new features and become the market leader.
“We are now about to launch the latest enhancement to the app – a booking system for parents’ evenings and school clubs and a fully integrated payment system, allowing schools to be completely cashless.”