With the lightning speed of technological developments in the media sphere, communication is becoming an ever pervasive part of our daily lives- we are persistently bombarded with notifications from social media, merchants, news channels, work and personal contacts. When is enough enough?
This year the Dubai wellness survey looked at 103,000 responses from 162 schools, Ranches Primary being one of them. A conference was held this February to discuss the survey findings. There was a large focus on communications and how efficient schools are in communicating both internally and externally sparking debate about whether it is all too much.
The KHDA parents survey relating to communication regularly highlights that parents feel overwhelmed by the quantity and range of communications they receive from schools on a daily basis. This is a big area of concern and has been for a number of years. Schools find themselves in the proverbial Catch 22 where demand and desire are at a juxtaposition.
Emails, newsletters, WhatsApp’s…there is a constant stream of incoming data from schools to be sifted through. Parents report feeling that they have to read all communications for fear of missing out on some vital information like a change in dates for a trip, the need for certain items to be brought in etc. The time and effort used in this endeavour generally result in parents feeling disillusioned and discontent. Teachers also feel the pressure.
The evolving and competitive nature of Dubai schools creates the heavy burden of trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’. Though it’s much more than that, we may well be in Elon’s Tesla, Bowie blaring on the speakers, skyrocketing past the Jones! The rate of change and innovation in communication systems for schools is astounding.
Long gone are the days of simple, stand-alone, written reports handed over to parents once or twice a year- now we have ‘transparent classrooms’, ‘interactive learning’ and ‘real-time parent commentary’. Learning new systems alone is highly time-consuming on top of the time and effort used to implement them.
Both schools and parents are calling out for change, more often than not in the direction of reducing or streamlining communications.
What can schools do?
Ranches Primary School hosted a roundtable discussion as part of the Dubai Inclusion Network to address just this. We had leaders and educators from Deira to Jumeirah, representing 24 schools, come together to discuss the challenges and pitfalls faced, as well as to investigate possible solutions to this dilemma.
The general consensus was that parents from all the schools who participated were feeling burdened by the volume of communications they are receiving. Teachers too reported frustrations at constant changes in systems and procedures. The overwhelming message from this discussion was a call for streamlining and consolidation. If you have a system that is working- STICK WITH IT!
Allow time to embed a system.
Don’t be too quick to change- let the Jones’ go! Give teachers and parents time to get to know a system and its scope by allowing a minimum of 2-3 years with a new endeavour like SeeSaw.
Keep up to date with new developments but before trialling them analyse what they do- perhaps you are already carrying out that function in a different way through an app or system that you are using.
Do a little research.
Before buying into a new system ask around, consult with schools or parents who have used it and do a comparative study against the systems you already have in place.
Audit your current communication tools- are they all necessary or can one system carry out multiple functions? For example, robust systems like ISAMS can generate emails, timetables, calendars, SMS and even newsletters, which could amalgamate multiple sources of information in one delivery tool.
By applying these steps schools should be in a better position to appraise their current systems, resist the urge to change and streamline their communications. Cutting out the unnecessary, both teachers and parents should be more satisfied moving toward happier and healthier communications.
By: Catherine Nancy O’Farrell