Effective school communications

Introduction

One of the biggest problems that any organisation faces is how to keep the right people informed, in the right way and at the right time. Get it wrong and you risk leaving someone out of the loop, while others are swamped with calls, meetings and emails.

For any school, effective communication between staff, parents and stakeholders such as MAT teams or the governing body is a balancing act involving spinning plates of confidentiality, safeguarding and compliance – not to mention teacher workload.

Good communication has taken on a whole new importance in the age of Covid-19, with schools having to keep staff and parents informed of any urgent messages relating to health matters or changing guidelines.

If you and your staff are spending hours on the end of the phone, juggling emails or scrolling through address boxes, it may be time to give your communications strategy an overhaul. But that needn’t be a scary, time-consuming job.

We have come up with some tips which will help you make small changes with big impacts.

If you follow our actions on school communications, you will find it a little easier to keep the plates spinning and win back more Child-Time across your school.

More Child-Time actions

What can I do today?

Prepare a straw poll on your internal communications

Internal communications are key to keeping everything running smoothly in your school. But if you mark every email ‘urgent’, your staff will soon switch off, and the genuinely urgent messages get lost in the background noise.

It’s also important to consider people’s preferences when it comes to communications platforms. Email tends to be the mainstay of work communications, but some people respond better to text, group chats or a good old-fashioned phone call.

Have you done a straw poll recently to find out how staff across your school prefer to communicate? We’ve created a quick questionnaire you can simply cut and paste on to some paper and share with your team at the next get-together to help you make a start.

What is the best way to contact you about something urgent?
Please circle one box
Email Text message Phone call School app WhatsApp Communication platform eg Slack (the business comms tool) Other (please say which)
What is the best way to send you information, event announcements and news?
Please circle one box
Email Text message Phone call School app WhatsApp Communication platform eg Slack Other (please say which)
Which communications method do you prefer when contacting colleagues?
Please circle one box
Email Test message Phone call School app WhatsApp Communications platform eg Slack Other (please say which)

If you have asked colleagues these questions before, it might be interesting to see if their responses have changed. Is there anything that surprises you or you weren’t expecting?

When you have the responses back, you can decide which methods of communication will be standard at your school for urgent and non-urgent messages.

You won’t be able to please everyone, but this will help select the best options for the majority.

Explain your rationale to your team, for example you might decide to use text as well as a call for an urgent matter.

Ask your staff to stick with those communications channels, if possible, to help you continue to ensure communications are effective across your school.

What shall I work on next term?

Draw up a flow chart for your school’s communications

This will help you get into the habit of triaging to sort the urgent from the important, the informative from the nice to know. It also ensures everyone receives the right information in the correct order. And crucially, having a process in place for communications saves valuable time.

Different procedures will work for different schools, so we haven’t drawn up a flow chart for you. But the main things to think about for each of the standard types of internal and external information you send are:

  • Why is a message is being communicated?
  • Who needs to see what, and in which order?
  • Should the message be escalated to the SLT, head or governors?
  • Which tools and technology should be used?

Bear in mind that less is often more. This applies to both the information itself and the technology you use – you want to ensure everyone receives the information they need but not if that means using 20 different channels to do so. Try to streamline communications where possible to save staff time.

Having considered all these points, you are ready to create a flow chart for in-school and parental communications as a guide for staff to use. This will save time passing messages from one colleague to another. You can also adapt your flow chart to show parents the right person to contact in the first instance.

What shall I be working on for the rest of the year?

Monitor your communications

Having reviewed your internal communications tools and created a flow chart, you will need to monitor how well these are working. Make changes where something isn’t going as well as anticipated.

Ensure communication are reviewed two or three times a year in your standard SLT or staff meeting so the temptation to add more layers is constantly kept in check.

Focus on the following:

  • Talk through how to streamline communications and save time
  • Consider the pros and cons of each communication platform
  • Debate which tools and technologies are good for in-school and parental communications
  • Discuss the boundaries of how and when platforms should be used

This will help you choose the right technology and approaches as this will change over time.  By consulting your staff you will benefit from their experiences and gain their buy-in.

Expected results

With everyone knowing which person they should contact, when, and what communications channel they should use, good communications will become even more efficient and effective in your school.

And any time you spend looking at your existing technology, streamlining channels and trying out new, more useful communication tools will be time well spent. It will help to eliminate lost messages and inbox overload and make it easier for everyone to focus on the business of teaching and learning.

Effective communications help everyone to work together towards the same goal, freeing up more Child-Time.

If you would like to understand how Juniper can support you further in this area, please provide your details below and we will be in contact.