During Parental Engagement week I wanted to share how we have rolled out our Parent Gateway to over 600 parents and the impact it is starting to have on their relationship with Twynham School. Just this afternoon I had a very encouraging email from a parent who simply said:
Thanks Mike for our login details, and congratulations on the Parent Gateway – this is a great facility and will really help us as to support Jessica at Twynham School.
It has been great seeing so many parents logging on to the Parent Gateway to support their children and becoming better connected within our community. What is particularly nice is to see all the hard work pay off by so many different staff at the school. This is perhaps the most unrecognised part of rolling out a Parent Gateway and so I thought I would share some thoughts in my next few posts on key focus points and pitfalls to avoid. Today I will focus on the importance of accurate data and although it already sounds dull I would identify this work as the single most important action in our Parent Gateway roll out.
How clean is your MIS data?! As an outstanding school with really good systems we were very confident that our data was spot on. We use Active Directory and an automated process from Richard Willis who runs a company called Salamander Soft to automate our parental login and passwords. This is a brilliant piece of work from Richard and I cannot recommend him enough. As children leave and join the school passwords and logins are created and deleted accordingly. What became apparent when we ran this script is we had massive numbers of duplicate login and passwords. Why was this happening? On closer inspection we had a significant issue with duplicate entries of parents on the system.
When parents second and third child onwards joined the school they often ended up with additional accounts related to each of their children with non of the siblings linked up. This can happen so easily for a number of reasons. Each time a parent fills in an entrance form if they enter subtly different data regarding their name or address then it may not link up. One parent called her self Jen, Jenny and Jennifer over 5 years as her 3 children joined the school and non of these accounts linked up. At the same time all of this data now comes from feeder schools in CSV files so that it can automatically be uploaded and the MIS system can do all the work setting the accounts up. This reliance on automation on one level is great but over time has led to a reduction in the rigour of checking accounts. As a result over a number of years multiple parent accounts emerged on the system.
Cleaning up your data.We spent a lot of time looking at different ways we could get the system to do the work for us and sort out this problem. The reality finally struck us that the only way to fix this problem was sheer hard work. Two fantastic members of staff spent over 80 hours cleaning through the data on our MIS and linked up hundreds of siblings from year 7-13 by multiple filtering. Why is this so important? Without this work we could not issue parents one unified login for all their children. Having cleaned through the data we have now reviewed our entrance form to ensure siblings are very clearly linked. Alongside the automated upload we have reviewed the checking process to ensure all entries are manually checked to link up siblings and clean up data which does not match.
If you would like a more detailed input on how to prepare your data for Online Reporting to Parents please contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org