New parent app could save schools around £14,500 a year

An entrepreneur involved in Liverpool’s first business accelerator, Spark Up has developed a unique series of bespoke school apps to communicate with parents through mobile devices, which could save schools in the region up to £14,500 a year.

Father of two, Kevin Clayton from Huyton launched in 2014 after recognising a need for better communication between schools and parents and his own experience of receiving too much information in too many formats from his children’s schools.

The businessman was already working in the app design industry through his company Swanky Apps, which develops consumer apps for businesses. Recognising the benefits of this type of communication could have for schools and parents, he set about creating

His first ever ‘parent app’  was designed for St Anne’s Catholic Primary School in August 2014, offering an easy way for parents to access information via their mobile devices and with the potential to save the school thousands of pounds a year.

A typical school could spend around £15,000 a year on its communication with parents. This includes, around £750-£1,000 a year on email and text messaging services, just under £10,000 a year on photocopying facilities and about £1,800 a year on paper.

By offering a centralised information resource, which uses push notifications to send parents messages and alerts, removes the need for expenditure on text and printed messages, meaning school money can be spent elsewhere.

Apps costs around £995 to design and then £495 a year to maintain and update. Apps are free for parents to download on iOS and android platforms.

Kevin has since created apps for 10 more schools across Merseyside, generating around over 3,000 downloads. A further 20 schools have signed up to and their apps will go live within the next two months. The apps will also be rolled out nationally and Kevin has been contacted by schools in Northern Ireland and Gloucestershire.

Each app is individually tailored to the school, with full branding and features that are unique to them. Apps allow parents to access information such as term dates, contact information, newsletters, event calendars and school policy information. They can also include options to report absences and fill out parental consent forms – removing the need for multiple communication channels.

Kevin said:

“Forgetting important dates or being the last to know about forthcoming events is a common problem for many parents – I know I’ve been there. Having all the information in one place, that’s easy to access on the go 24hours a day seven days a week, makes it so much easier for parents.

“Market research shows that the average person spends around three hours a day using mobile devices and 80% of this time is spent on apps. Lots of businesses are spending money on apps to reach their audiences and consumers – and it makes perfect sense for schools to do the same.

“Some schools were a little bit apprehensive at first, as the technology is relatively new to them, but as soon as the app goes live and they see the number of downloads and level of communication with the parents, they are glad they made the investment.

“The cost savings are a big plus with the app as well. Each app has the potential to save schools thousands of pounds a year on communication materials – money which can now be spent elsewhere. It also helps schools reach their sustainability targets by wasting less paper.

“Feedback from both parents and schools has been fantastically positive so far and we are starting to work more closely with the education groups and bodies across the Merseyside region to roll the app out to as many schools as possible.”

Schools can also access analytics about the app in a clear and easy to understand format, allowing them to see which information is being accessed most commonly by parents and help develop the app further to be as beneficial as possible.

One school which has seen the benefits of is Prescot Primary School in Knowsley which was one of the very first schools to sign up. Its app launched in February this year and has been downloaded over 500 times. Head teacher Steve George believes, that as an Apple Regional Training Centre, having an app was the next logical step for teacher-parent communication.

He said:

“We are a forward thinking school when it comes to technology and we have fully embraced all types of communication. In particular we have a strong community and following on twitter and use this to provide regular updates to parents.

“One of our teachers showed us an app that parentapps had created for a friend’s nursery school and it seemed like the perfect fit for us. It was a really simple process and working with Kevin on a face to face basis meant we got an app which was tailored to the school’s and our parents’ needs.

“The response from parents has been great, many of whom have been very vocal about the benefits of having the app. We haven’t completely stopped sending letters to parents, as we still want to have that option available to them, but are trying to use the app for reminders via push notifications wherever possible.

“For us it’s about giving our parents’ choice and ensuring we are communicating with them using the most effective ways possible and most importantly in ways which they want to be communicated.”

Mum Claire Gaskell whose children attend Prescot Primary, echoes Mr George’s sentiments. She believes the app has helped improve communication between the school and parents.

She said:

“Sometimes we were finding out about things from the kids after they had happened. Now we feel we are fully aware of everything beforehand and it’s great. It makes everything so much easier. All the mums are talking about it at the school gate – there is a real buzz about the app.” can be used for a wide range of educational groups, not just schools. Kevin has created apps for the LFC Foundation and the University of Liverpool Sports Club. He is also in the process of designing an app for the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce’s business accelerator programme Spark Up, which he is currently enrolled on.

Spark Up is a 20-week programme set up by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce to encourage and inspire entrepreneurial thinking.

Jenny Stewart, CEO Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and founder of Spark Up, said: “ is a great example of entrepreneurship which is not only forward thinking but addresses a particular need from the local community. I’m sure all parents will find its apps extremely useful as I hope we will when our new Spark up app launches. ”

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