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Hybrid Parent Teacher Conferences

By Industry News No Comments

As we move out of the ‘restrictions phase’ of the Covid-19 pandemic and look forward to being able to meet in a more familiar, traditional manner, one burning question for all of us should be: How can we continue to embrace new ways that we discovered in 2020 to enhance school/home communication while appreciating our return to more normal times? We believe the answer to this question may be hybrid parent teacher conferences moving forward.

Throughout the pandemic, Parents Booking has endeavored to support schools by providing creative solutions to problems which were new to them.

Distance learning, parental engagement and effectively connecting parents and teachers virtually were amongst some of the biggest hurdles facing schools during Covid-19 lockdowns and restriction. One of the almost-universal improvements brought about by the pandemic however is the world’s more familiar use with video meetings.

In general, virtual parents teacher conferences were much-praised because they lowered barriers to access, made sure that meetings started and ended at the correct times and allowed meetings to take place when they otherwise could not have. It was a quantum leap forward for schools who embraced this technology and were able to facilitate these valuable moments between the parent and teacher, where goals, targets and updates are discussed.

Parents appreciated being able to join meetings from work or home, which helped with childcare or transport. Equally, the convenience of being able to attend while taking a break at work, when parents might otherwise not have been able to attend an in person parents teacher conference, should not be left behind as we pursue ‘normality’.

Being able to support teachers work from home or outside the school has also been such an improvement for staff. Teachers can now create their own mini-parent teacher conferences, at times that suit them, inviting selected parents, which has meant that parent conferences can be much more ‘on demand’ both now and in the future.

For all of us at Parents Booking, our next challenge looks like it will be how to merge virtual and in-person conferences into a ‘best of both’ model. While there are many schools who do not want to run anything by video going forward, for others there will be a natural instinct to offer in-person conferences and conversations again, now that these are possible. However, there will be concern from all, including admin teams, that this which could be at the expense of the groundbreaking accessibility that virtual meetings offered.

By no longer offering virtual meetings, schools risk excluding parents who found video meetings a valuable way of connecting with teachers. The risk is that we go backwards relative to the parental engagement improvements that Parents Booking has helped to engineer for over a decade.

We believe a hybrid of in-person and virtual meetings is going to be a common solution to the pressures of wanting to have in-person conferences, without compromising on accessibility or attendance from parents who truly benefited from virtual parent teacher conferences.

You can already create a hybrid of in-person and virtual parents teacher conferences in Parents Booking, but our primary concentration over the coming weeks and months will be building ever-more functionality, to ensure that the unique needs of all schools can be met by this hybrid approach.

We’d love to hear from you. If you have any special needs or a logistical/school setup which would benefit from a discussion about how hybrid parent teacher conferences would be conducted at your school, ask us for a call back or pop us some thoughts in an email.

Spring 2022 Software Update

By Software Updates No Comments


1. New ‘Edit the Teachers’ page design and functionality

This is one of the most complex and sophisticated changes we have made to Parents Booking since it was created. It is designed to help schools set up parents’ evenings in a simpler, more logical way. It should also help schools who have many ‘shared’ classes select which teachers to make ‘active’ for the parents’ evening, and how to manage ‘shared’ classes, e.g. do the parents book 2+ teachers together (for one single appointment) or separately.

Intro: This functionality will work especially well for schools who have ‘shared’ classes if the school uploads not only their ‘Main Class Teachers’, but all teachers for all class codes. If your Admin user un-ticks the ‘Main Class Teacher’ tick box on the Upload Data page (if shown), and runs an automatic data upload, most school MIS databases will then upload all teachers for all classes, making it easier for schools to see which classes are ‘shared’, and giving them all the options they require to set up the appointment booking rules as wanted.

For example, you can set up one ‘shared’ class code to book two teachers together for all appointments, while setting up another class code to only allow parents to book one or the other teacher. You can even set up a class code so parents can book as many of the teachers as they want for this subject.

If you have parents’ evenings set up already, these should be unaffected by these changes.

We also intend to quickly release a ‘flag’ which shows which of the teachers is the ‘Main Class Teacher’, but this is still in development, owing to our need to code this separately for every school database integration we offer.

How does this new page layout work?

  • The new Edit the Teachers page design shows and sorts the data by class code, where these were not displayed before.
  • You can sort the columns alphabetically by clicking column headers, e.g. Subject Name
  • All class codes begin ‘ticked’. Where a class code is ticked, that teacher is a booking option for parents.
  • Un-tick the teacher name(s) beside a class code to ‘deactivate’ a teacher. This will mean they are not shown as a booking option to parents. Press ‘Save Changes’ when finished.
  • You can un-tick or tick teachers even after appointment booking has begun. Teachers who have no appointments will not be shown as being ‘in’ the parents’ evening, whereas teachers who have appointments and are then un-ticked will no longer be shown to parents who login to make more appointments, but will still be expected to attend appointments (unless the school cancels these).
  • You can add a class code to any teacher at any time via the Teachers page. Once you do, use the red ‘Review Changes’ banner at the top of the website (which shows after changes are made on the Teachers page) to add that teacher/class to the parents’ evening, if applicable. The teacher will be added to the parents’ evening as a ‘ticked’ option, meaning they become immediately available to book by parents. If the class code you add to a teacher is already linked to another teacher in the evening, and they are ‘active’ (ticked), you can then choose how to share these appointments.
  • ‘Shared’ classes can be set up to either book the parents’ appointments against all ticked teachers (meaning that a video meeting can feature 2+ teachers with the parent[s]) OR can be set up so that appointments are made separately against one or more teachers. Select the Yes/No options for class codes that are listed against 2+ teachers to determine the rules for this class code’s parent appointments.

This functionality is still very new, and although it has been being tested for months by our developers and testers, we ask you to let us know if you have any issues using it.

If you have parents’ evenings set up already, these should be unaffected by these changes.

We also intend to quickly release a ‘flag’ which shows which of the teachers is the ‘Main Class Teacher’, but this is still in development, owing to our need to code this separately for every school database integration we offer.

2. Share your screen in video meetings

A new ‘share your screen’ icon in the parent and teacher video meeting rooms will allow you to select content (either other tabs in your internet browser, or other open documents on your computer, or your desktop/screen) while in video meetings. Activate and turn off by using the button indicated in these screenshots.

The screen, tab or document you share will then be shown as a new ‘window’ in the video meeting, which can be clicked on to be viewed as the ‘main video source’ by the other participant(s) in the video meeting.

N.B. This functionality only works on laptops and PCs currently, not smartphones or tablets.

3. Blur your background in video meetings

A new ‘background blur’ icon in the parent and teacher video meeting rooms will allow you to blur your background while in video meetings. Activate and turn off by using the button indicated in this screenshot:

4. Create ‘Custom’ Class Codes / Edit Class Codes

A new ‘Edit Class Codes’ button on the Teachers page now lists all of the class codes which have been uploaded to Parents Booking, either from a data import or those which were created by the Admin when making changes to teachers/class lists.

You can use this new page to search for a class code, and add/remove students from those, OR you can use it to create your own ‘custom’ class codes, which you can then add to teachers. Because of the new ‘Edit the Teachers’ page, we want every teachers to have a ‘class code’ for all groups of students they teach, to make it easier for you to activate/deactivate, transfer and share appointments, but in the future the Custom Class Codes you make will also be able to be used to create special parents’ evenings, events, clubs or trips.

5. Other miscellaneous changes

On the ‘Set Up School’ > Preferences button page, in the admin area, we have added a number of features which schools have been requesting:

  • You can hide the ‘Select All’ button which is shown on the parents’ ‘Suggest Bookings for Me’ page. This will help where schools want parents to hand-pick the classes they want to book, or where schools fear parents will just try to book every possible option.
  • Depending on your school’s MIS database, you may not be able to select whether Parents Booking imports the Subject Name or Subject Description field. This is something some Arbor-using schools had asked for.

In the Reports tab:

  • Schools that use the Events and Clubs module will now be able to bulk-download all sign-ups they have received, which is helpful where a school has many clubs or events setup at one time.

In the video meeting room:

  • A new ‘Diagnostics’ button will help a user understand the cause of any connection issues they have, e.g. broadband bandwidth, jitter and other similar connection issues.

If your school uploads CSV spreadsheets and does NOT use SIMS or SEEMIS, there is a new CSV Upload format which we can move you to, which we call “Aspen”, which brings with is numerous improvements, in particular being able to bulk-upload teacher email addresses. Instructions are here, but it is important that you let us know you want to switch so we can change your upload type to ‘Aspen’ in our school management area.

6. We’re working on these changes now / Coming soon:

  • Very soon we will soon also add an option here to allow a school to choose the teacher naming convention used, e.g. [Title] [Forename] [Surname], or [Title] [Initial] [Surname].
  • One of the most-requested changes of late is being able to search for a student more easily on certain pages, e.g. ‘Login as a Parent’. We are prioritising this change.
  • We will show which is the Main Class Teacher on the new Edit the Teachers page
  • iSAMS schools will soon be shown which is the Main Contact for each student on the ‘Send Invite to Parents’ page
  • We will soon add the ‘Pupil Premium’ flag for associated students to the ‘Send Invite to Parents’ and some Reports pages, e.g. Chase Parents, BUT only for schools who want to import and show this in their Admin area.
  • We are adding more functionality to help schools run a ‘hybrid’ parents’ evening (of video and in-person meetings)
  • We will add the Buffer Time setting to the teachers’ ‘Create 1-to-1 Meetings’ page
  • Facility to email teachers their appointment schedules in bulk
  • Allow parents to RSVP ‘no’ to invites, so that the school knows the parent will not be attending
  • We are still building a new calendar booking interface for Clubs
  • We are considering building an interviews module, and would welcome feedback from schools who would be interested in this. It would allow a school to set up an event with a calendar interface, ‘interviews’ input their availability, allowing parents to pick dates/times ‘interviewers’ make themselves available, and then convert these appointments into video meetings if applicable.
  • Our next long-term project is a complete admin area website design overhaul. Designs have been agreed and the coding will begin soon. We hope to launch this in summer 2022.

What’s New in Parents Booking?

By Software Updates No Comments

There are several exciting new features which have been recently released with a larger software update coming on the horizon for Parents Booking. These updates will change some of the logic behind how parent teacher conferences are setup and allow for a parent’s appointments to be shared across multiple teachers, or to divide appointments between teachers where they share a class.

The new features that are immediately available include:

Appointments can now be easily shared from one teacher to another using the “Share or Transfer Appointments” button in Manage Bookings.

You now have the option of using the “Select All” button above each teacher’s schedule which will make selecting multiple or all appointments easier. Sharing appointments will allow both teachers to join the same meeting.

 


Schools can now give parents the option of selecting a telephone call rather than a video appointment.

Schools can enable this new option for parents when creating their parent teacher conference. It’s as simple as checking a box if a parent would prefer to have a telephone call rather than a video conference.  The teacher will then see a notification on the teacher’s appointment schedule letting them know that the parent has requested a telephone call.


There is now a ‘video meeting help’ button that a parent or teacher can click in the video meeting room, if there are any issues connecting to a video meeting.

 


Teachers can now see which students have not booked appointments yet directly from their schedule page.

Down the road teachers will be able to send parents that have yet to book an appointment a reminder directly from this new feature. For now, teachers can go into the Manage Bookings > Send Request to Parent feature to send a message directly to the parent.

 


Schools can now choose to identify new students and graduating students or students that have left the school during their automatic data import.

This will not affect teachers or classes throughout the semester, but it will allow for parents booking to keep on top of the students and add new students to their respective teachers, making it easier to add them to a live parent teacher conference if necessary.  We still recommend using the “Upload Data” button when setting up a new parent teacher conference, to import the latest curriculum and class teacher assignments.

 

New features for 2021-22

By Industry News No Comments

Firstly, welcome back. We hope you had a relaxing and refreshing summer, and managed to soak up some rays!

This blog article lists the exciting changes we’ve made to Parents Booking since last academic year. You can click on a topic below and this will open that specific change in a new blog post, usually complete with a video explainer.

Also, these are some of the things we’re looking to add ASAP this term:

  • Screen sharing and a chat box in the video meeting room.
  • Ability to email teachers their appointment schedule one-at-a-time or in bulk.
  • Parents and teachers will be able to login from RM Unify in one click.
  • Schools will be able to import Pupil Premium status for students, where wanted, to help with priority inviting or chasing parents this applies to.
  • One click data import for the following MIS/SIS school databases: Arbor, Aspen, Engage, PowerSchool and Progresso/Cloud School.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions just let us know.

Best wishes,

Parents Booking

What are the benefits of a well-planned, and easily managed, parent conference?

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Parent conferences; they’re a universal tool used to better communication and build relationships between schools and families. They’re an accumulation of moments of a year, a painted picture of a child’s academic achievements and well-being, and a chance for some of the most important people in a child’s life to come together to help to create a better future.

They are a vital component of education infrastructure.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Let’s break this down and talk about the benefits of this for those involved.

Schools

By planning ahead of time and implementing a parent’s booking system, it allows schools to be organised, both for present and future parent conferences. This includes allowing teachers to know in advance who they are seeing and when, and personal choice over scheduling and topics of discussion – such as awards, homework or behaviour.

This consequently steers meetings towards being more targeted, relevant and effective for both teachers and families. Here, the use of technology helps to grow parental engagement and interest, offering real life benefits in expertise of importance.

Online parent conferences are a great example of how technology has helped to revolutionise education systems. Now, multiple teachers can join various online meetings with one click; allowing parents to meet with subject leaders, senior leadership members or any other member of staff involved in the child’s education.

A countdown timer clock, visible on screen throughout, allows both teachers and parents to see the start and end meeting time, as well as how long is left in the current meeting. This ensures that each child, and their parents, are given an equal amount of time, promoting a consistent approach threaded within, and beyond, the meeting.

As well as this, parent’s booking systems are simple and easy to manage for school admin staff; simply taking under 5 minutes to set up but saving up to 100 hours of staff time and between £50 – £100 on office paper and ink. In this example, the mathematics makes perfect sense. Parent’s booking systems are easy to use, and easy to understand, offering brilliant solutions and no-nonsense outcomes.

“It’s transformed our lives in many, many ways.”

“It’s really taken us to the next level.”

“I would highly recommend this to any school, anywhere.”

“Parental bookings have definitely increased since we rolled out the system.”

“It was so much easier just to book online to be able to get the appointments that I want, at the times that I wanted and fit it into my life.”

Parents/ Carers

The new, and novel, way of booking that parent’s booking systems bring, has created a shift in culture that has lead to greater parental engagement. The tools in the system that have brought about this change ensures ease; both in terms of access and in booking.

The use of a ‘Booking Wizard’ (a one-click touch) maximises your time whilst still allowing you to see your allocated teachers at your preferred time.  This incredibly effective way of allowing parents to book, can allow parents to see their conference schedule in 15 short, sweet seconds – and it can be emailed directly to their smartphone, lending itself towards even greater ease. No paper, no chasing, no long waits. It’s a stress-free solution that plans itself around you, for you.

Over the last 18 months, we have watched technology weave it’s way into the school day; from virtual show-and-tell, to online lessons, to uploading your homework through a camera and smartphone, we have watched the world re-build, and people come together, as life fell apart. Video meetings have allowed what we envisioned to become a reality. Technology now allows schools to hold their parent conference virtually through an online device, such as a laptop, computer or iPad.

This means that previous issues of moving from classroom to classroom, struggling to find a parking space, listening to distracting noisy conversations or losing your slot to other parents are simply eliminated. Multiple parent’s can join from different locations, meaning night-shift workers could join during their work break, a parent can join as their dinner cooks in the oven, or conversely, a parent could join from a different continent, if their child attends a boarding school during term time.

Gone are the days of difficulties on public transport, of 20-minute gaps between appointments, of not getting to see the one teacher you needed to see, of a lack of accessibility and thought. And here is the future, all from the comfort of your own home; inclusive, flexible and calmer, video meetings are a way of living that meets everyone’s needs – and they’re loved by teachers and parents alike.

Children and Young People

By increasing the ease of access, and providing schools with a toolbox to engage hard-to-reach families, important conversations around goal-setting, future-building and potential-reaching are able to happen. By providing the time and place, positive conversations are able to happen between the home and the school. By creating a simple addition of parent and teacher, the answer continues again and again, to equal student success.

The greater parental involvement, the greater parental understanding, resulting in better educational experiences and outcomes for children and young people.

There is anecdotal evidence from local authorities, multi-academy trusts, leaders in education and schools universally that they will continue to incorporate video parent conferences this new academic year and long beyond. We need to be prepared for the likelihood that across the globe, in-person meetings won’t be going ahead as social distancing rules continue. But it is so much more than that. The habits of a nation have changed. The shift in technological communication is here.

And that’s where we (Parents Booking) come in…

“One of the strengths of this system is that it does allow us to chase parents where bookings haven’t been made with a particular teacher.”

“The parents are able to organize the appointments in a way in which suits them.”

Here at Parents Booking, we believe that we can help you plan calmer, manageable and successful parent conferences, online. The next level of parent conferences are here.

Let us help you get prepared now, and be part of the technological change that is here to stay.

Are you ready?

Set your school up a free trial to get started. This video will also demonstration how video parent conference meetings work.

New Events and Clubs Module changes for 2021-22

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We’ve been hard at work upgrading the Events and Clubs module this summer, and below are a list of the changes we’ve made so far:

  • The capacity for events and clubs are now tied to the date, not the actual event, meaning where you run an event or club over multiple date ranges, with a capacity of 20 for example, this is the capacity per date now.
  • In the school’s Admin Area > Set Up School > Preferences page, there is a new text field that allows the school Admin to determine a maximum number of clubs that a student can be registered for within one group/term. This will be perfect for schools who don’t want the first parents to login to be able to book more than their fair share of clubs.
  • We have integrated with Stripe, meaning that it, ParentPay and PayPal are all ‘payment gateways’ that schools can configure to take payments online.
  • We’ve added more currencies, so that schools who operate internationally should be able to take payments in their currency.
  • Clubs and Events will very soon use the same Reg Class ‘selection’ interface as parents’ evenings, because we know from trials and feedback that this is much more popular than typing in the Reg Class names.
  • Hopefully by 1st Sept we’ll have launched a new type of Club, which allows parents to select multiple dates. This will be perfect for wraparound care, breakfast clubs and after school clubs where parents can opt students in on selected dates, rather than all dates. An example of how this will look is below.

New video meeting features for 2021-22

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  • If a parent is very early for their parents’ evening, a new notification explains this and a button shows where the ‘join appointments’ button will be shown (15mins before the first appointment starts)
  • When you hang up during a meeting, you do not leave the meeting any more. You are held in the video meeting room until your next meeting starts.
  • A countdown timer now shows how long until your next meeting starts, before or in-between meetings.
  • Parents and teachers can see if the other meetings they will have are ‘online’ or not now. A red circle icon indicates the other participant is not in their video room at this moment in time, whereas a green circle icon indicates the other participant is in their video meeting room.
  • Teachers can now click on a parent’s name, in their video meeting room’s appointment schedule, and expand more booking information, such as contact information and comments submitted by the parent.
  • Parents can share a ‘join link’ that will allow other parents to join the booked video meetings in one click, without even the need for a parent login.
  • Parents who have meetings ‘shared’ with them (by other family members) can now see these on their Dashboard > View my Booking Schedule page, and can choose to opt out of joining these from their Parent Dashboard > Make/Edit My Own Bookings page.
  • The school Admin can define which region the video meetings take place in, in case this is required. See Admin Area > Set Up School > Preferences page.
  • The school Admin can see not only which parents/guardians booked and attended their meetings, but also which extra parents/guardians attended, e.g. when the meeting was shared with them. See Reports tab’s List of Attendees and similar reports, on the day after the parents’ evening, for this data.

At the time of writing we intend to add the following within the next month as well:

  • Screen sharing and a chat box in the video meeting room.
  • Better error reporting, e.g. when a video meeting cannot connect we will explain as best we can to the parent/teacher what the issue is.
  • When multiple users are in the video meeting room, we want to show you the person that is talking to you at all times, so we will code the “video area” to work this way.

More Functionality when Inviting Parents

By Software Updates No Comments

We’ve re-designed how parents are sent their invite to parents’ evenings, 1-to-1 meetings set up by teachers, or events/clubs by school Admins. Parents can be sent an invite individually (for example when you are looking to prioritise invites/bookings to certain parents) and later you can send invites to everyone else. You can easily see who you have and have not invited.

This video very quickly describes the changes and how the new features work.

Payment Integration with Stripe

By Software Updates No Comments

You can now take payments for events, clubs and trips through Parents Booking’s new integration with Stripe.

The video below demonstrates how this all looks and works, and by going to your school’s Admin Area > Set Up School page, and expanding the Payment Gateway Settings section you can download the latest version of the Stripe integration instructions.

Sharing Existing Bookings, so that Multiple Teachers Can Join the Same Video Meetings.

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Schools can share bookings that have previously been made with one teacher (let’s call them teacher A) with a second teacher (Teacher B). This is really simple to do, and the video and PDF below are both good instructions/resources explaining the process.

Steps:
1. You can share bookings that have already been made with a 2nd teacher at any time, but consider that it might be best to do this after the booking deadline has passed, so you only have to do it once and can do it for all bookings that require sharing.
2. Make sure the teacher you want to share the bookings with has an account on the Teachers page. If they don’t, add them. They don’t need any students added to them, but they do need a name, subject, department and e-mail address (so you can send them a username/password to login with).
3. Go to the Manage Bookings page, fine Teacher A, tick the bookings you want to share, then at the top of the page click Share Booking and share them with Teacher B. If Teacher B was not in the evening, they’ll be added.

Download PDF Instructions Here

Explainer Video: