A common complaint from parents is poor communication and often it's hard to know what else to do. At Ace Early Years we tend to go for 'more is more'! We try to use as many different ways to engage parents and give them as many different ways for us to communicate with them. That way we can try to limit the 'Oh I didn't get that letter' that we often hear. When talking about communication before we've had comments like 'Oh but I haven't got the time to be answering all these questions' and 'I don't know how to use that'. Our response is always that you will reap what you sow. The more effort you put into communication, the more parents will feel engaged and supported. We usually set self-imposed times that we will respond to messages via technology. This can only have a positive impact on the children in your setting.
We're sure many of you will be doing lots of these ideas but perhaps you'll find something that you'd like to take on!
Letters - everyone will send letters home - but do they always get there? Have you considered asking everyone for an email address and sending them electronically? How about adding them to your website to allow parents to download a copy if they've lost it? We know some parents don't like to use emails but most do. Sometimes we send a physical copy and an email - rather some parents get 2 copies than anyone miss out! The same goes for newsletters - don't forget to keep these interesting rather than a list of moans...!
Website - we know that some of our parents really appreciate the class website. We use it to provide a mix of information (when we're doing specific things, classroom routines etc.) and things that parents can do at home with their child (videos we've watched, websites we might use etc.). The most popular part was a regular update of what we've been doing during the week, with photos and videos. Obviously we asked parents for permission to put photos/videos onto the internet but we never identified any of the children by name.
Twitter - we have run very successful twitter accounts (when enough parents have signed up for it). We've tweeted reminders, updates of what we've been doing and even tweeted with the children - they were really excited when a parent responded during the day!
Facebook - we know of some settings that run Facebook sites. We know some people worry about people being able to post anything but it is possible to lock down Facebook sites so that posts have to be authorised by an administrator before they are posted. Seeing as most parents will be using Facebook it could be a great communication tool.
Noticeboard - we have a whiteboard outside of our settings. We write reminders, what we've been up to and sometimes just positive quotes! We also use it to allow parents to sign up for things - for example choosing when to attend an information evening. This way there isn't a queue in the classroom and parents can sign up while they're waiting to come in.
Class Dojo - Mark has been using Class Dojo this year. It is free to use and has had positive effects on communication. Staff are able to message all parents on the system at once and parents can message back. Staff can also post photos and videos onto a 'class feed' for parents to see and comment on - though comments must be authorised by staff before they can be seen by everyone. Children also have their own pages that staff can post to and parents can post on these from home too. We wrote a little blog about it previously.
E-mail - We have previously given out our work email to allow parents to contact us. We explain that we are happy to receive messages that show us what children have been doing at home (including photos etc.) and we don't mind if parents message to ask a question. However, we make it clear that we can not guarantee when we will reply (giving ourselves the chance to have our evenings in peace!) and that it is also not the appropriate forum for any complaints or concerns.
What we have found is that every group of parents is different. We are constantly reflecting on which ways of communicating are working well and which are not so popular and focussing our energy in the most appropriate way. For some years twitter seems to work well and in other years email works better. Just like when thinking about what works well with the children, every year is different!
So what about you and your setting? How do you communicate with your parents? Let us know! x