Having made it through September, now is as good a time as any to review the progress of your back to school checklist following the start of the new school year.

Planning for the new academic year amid a global pandemic has undoubtedly been anything but straightforward. Social distancing measures are sure to have dominated most back to school preparations, changing the look and feel of classrooms up and down the country.

But change isn’t always bad. New ways of learning and connecting are emerging as we look to adapt amid the ongoing uncertainty.

So, while your plans for the new academic year may already be well underway, it’s never too late to try something new – especially when it comes to simplifying school life.

In short, there are some simple steps you can take to help minimise unnecessary contact between staff and children, reduce inefficiencies and foster stronger parent-school relationships – that you might not have considered.

To ensure you’re well on the way to achieving the above, we’ve pulled together some action points worth adding to your back to school checklist as you continue to navigate the new school year.

6 ways to simplify the new school year

1. Switch to online payments

If removing cash from your operations isn’t already high on your to-do list, it’s definitely worth considering.

Going cashless not only reduces the risks associated with cash handling but also minimises contact between parents and the school office, making trips to the bank and queues of parents a thing of the past.

Besides streamlining the school office and improving safety, switching to online payments can help you maximise your budget. A good cashless payments system will enable you to track transactions, costs and parent debt, giving you actionable insights into your school’s finances.

What’s more, online payments make school life simpler for parents too. With parents able to pay anytime, anywhere – be it via the web or a trusted parent app, it’s easy to see why cashless payments are becoming the go-to solution for schools.

2. Opt for paperless communications

When it comes to maximising the safety and efficiency of your school, paperless communications are a sure-fire way to save time and money.

Using a digital communication tool can help you capitalise on cost-savings, particularly concerning parental engagement.

As is stands, your school might be sending out hundreds of letters at a time. Online communication can help you save on printing and postage costs – not to mention the time spent on admin.

Better still, online communication enables you to keep a paperless trail of ongoing communications between school and the home. This not only simplifies record-keeping but also improves data security.

3. Share achievements, attendance and pupil progress online

Another great way to remove paper from your operations is to start making use of paperless reports.

With a parent app, such as School Gateway, you can share regular updates with parents directly to their mobiles, keeping them up to speed on their child’s development in real-time.

Sharing attendance, achievement and behaviour reports online, not only cuts costs but enables parents to connect with their child’s school life anytime, anywhere.

And this extends to sharing online resources. Be it via a parent app or the web, sharing materials, such as homework, reports and timetables, via email allows for quick, hassle-free delivery. This saves staff valuable time while ensuring parents can easily access these resources and better support at-home learning.

4. Automate your messaging

Communication is key - now more than ever. Ultimately, keeping parents in the know is not without its difficulties. The sheer volume of communications required to achieve this can be a real drain on resources.

One sure-fire way to streamline this activity is to plan and schedule your messages in advance. That way, you can be sure your messages are ready to go, saving your school the need to schedule them in later down the line – an instant time-saver.

This could come in particularly handy as and when your school is organising events, trips or even parents’ evenings, as you can schedule a series of communications in one go – from the initial announcement through to various follow-ups.

Scheduling in multiple communications at any one time not only makes life easier, but can also help bolster parental engagement. Sending multiple reminders can go a long way to improving attendance when it comes to events such as open days or parents’ evenings.

5. Utilise video appointments

With school safety an ongoing priority, it’s perhaps no surprise that staff are looking to take their meetings online.

Tools such as SchoolCloud Parents’ Evening make this a reality, with staff and teachers able to attend meetings remotely via video appointments.

Gone are paper reply slips and lost invitations. Instead, parents can book appointments online, saving admin staff the need to spend hours chasing and collecting responses.

With parents able to attend from home or on the go, and see teacher availability in real-time, video calls are a hugely convenient option for all involved. and can vastly improve attendance and turn out for important meetings and events.

6. Invest in your parental engagement strategy

There are many strategies you can invest in to improve your parental engagement without breaking the bank or placing an added strain on resources.

The positive impact of parental engagement on pupil progress has been well documented. But budget restrictions and burgeoning workloads can often make the task at hand seem unmanageable.

One way of simplifying your approach is to leverage technology.

Parental engagement apps, such as School Gateway, can help connect parents with all aspects of their child’s school life in real-time.

At just the click of a button, you can send online resources, reports or notifications direct to parents’ devices, keeping them informed with minimal admin time required.

With this in mind, parental engagement apps are a worthwhile investment if you’re looking to better connect with parents without increasing your workload.

Additionally, when it comes to parental engagement, it’s important to think outside the box.

Effectively engaging parents in school life can require some creativity. Conducting surveys, optimising your school website and posting regular updates on social media are just some of the ways you can improve parental engagement on a tight budget.

If you’d like some extra advice on how to simplify your school operations, be it going paperless, cashless or improving parental engagement, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of friendly specialists.