Helen Ellis is on the PTA at Western Primary School in Harrogate. The school started using Classlist at the beginning of the autumn term.
Our head found out about Classlist. She saw an article about the platform and suggested looking into it. We’re a big school – around 450 pupils – so it’s vital for us to have good channels of communication. Classlist is free, secure and fulfils all the data protection rules and regulations, so we decided to give it a try.
Doing things differently. Classlist is designed to be used for parent-to-parent communication but early on, the school decided to do things a bit differently and have the teachers onboard, so that Classlist became a communication vehicle for the whole community. That was a big undertaking, but having one central point from which to message parents – whether collectively or in class/ year/ activity groups – made school-parent communication much easier. When messages go home in book bags, some go astray. The school was also texting a lot of information out, which was costly. There are still times when letters and texts are appropriate, but Classlist gives the school another, free, means of efficient communication.
Gaining buy-in. At the beginning of the year the school ran a small, six-week pilot trial among Y2 parents to see what they thought of the platform. My son’s teacher, Miss Jones, is the head of Key Stage 1 and ICT, so she drove it. I asked 12 of my parent friends (over a bottle of wine) if they’d be willing to trial Classlist and provide feedback. All the feedback was good, so after half-term the school rolled Classlist out across KS1. The teachers talked to parents about the platform and how it worked, which really helped bring the parents onboard. All KS1 children had at least one parent signed up by Christmas. Then we brought in Y3 and Y4 by Easter, and in this summer term we’ve been getting Y6, Y5, Reception and the Nursery involved.
The teachers are loving it. The tipping point for them was when they realised that Classlist was tapping into a really positive parental community. It’s not a typical social media platform – it’s not about swapping gossip and opinion – it’s a professional, respectful community. Seeing that has given the teachers confidence and it’s created a much stronger sense of how both teachers and parents are invested in the children. Now the teachers will post details of what’s happening in school and parents will respond. One teacher had chickens’ eggs in school in an incubator. Using the whiteboard, she wrote on her class’s Classlist page to say that the first chick had hatched. A dad wrote back asking the class what the chickens were going to be called and it sparked a real-time discussion over Classlist about names.
Those insights into the school day are great for parents, too. I used to ask my son what he’d been up to at school and get the typical answer: ‘Nothing’. Now I can say, ‘Oh, I saw you had Billy the reading dog in today’ and he’ll start chatting about it. That improves our communication, makes me feel more involved in the school and – as a result – more committed to the school. I’m more aware of everything the teachers are working hard to achieve, which facilitates my relationship with them. And I can see how those positive feelings grow – we’re getting more volunteers at a class level and we’re getting a broader range of parents volunteering to help. We had an end of year picnic recently – just an hour long – and normally we’d have a few volunteers. This year a parent posted a request for volunteers on Classlist and we were overwhelmed with offers of help!
Classlist creates an inclusive community. As a working mum who can’t be at the school gate every day, Classlist makes me feel much more involved with what’s happening in my childrens’ lives – that feels positive and empowering. Lots of dads have signed up to Classlist, so it’s broadened their engagement with the school. The platform’s good for separated parents too. Both parents can sign up, so they both feel equally involved in their kids’ school lives.
Classlist promotes fundraising. The beauty of the platform is that it brings the school community together. The closer the community grows, the greater the opportunities for fundraising and other initiatives that feed back into the children’s access to opportunities and development. It’s early days for us with the platform – but we can definitely see its potential.
Photo: Helen Ellis, PTA member, and Sarah Jones, Key Stage One Leader, Western Primary School