School communication – verdict: could do better

old telephone switchboard

Considering the plethora of technology options available to most people today, and the importance of teaching future generations how to communicate well, I don’t think it unreasonable to expect my daughters’ schools to take the lead on professional — and above all else accurate — communication.

Yet I find myself regularly aggravated, bemused or concerned at the lack of forethought, accuracy and general quality of such interactions.

Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that every piece of printed literature is ‘designed’ using Comic Sans font – or that there seems to be so much of it despite both schools priding themselves as “eco friendly” and with a range of more environmentally-friendly options available to them.

Perhaps I could start with dates.

If you’re going to put the name of a day and its date, you must ensure they match up. It’s no good if the day says Wednesday but the date suggests Thursday.

Times would also be good. Not only start times, but expected end times as well. I have no idea how long you expect your Harvest Festival to be (although it could well be longer than I had anticipated).

I also wish you’d let me know that all the local schools run at least five minutes ahead of actual atomic time (or GMT/BST to be slightly less, but still acceptably, accurate). Then I wouldn’t constantly turn up for appointments and be made to feel as if I’m late.

While I’m on the subject of timekeeping, it would be so useful to know if a school trip is running late.

In the first place, don’t ever suggest a return time anywhere near rush hour, particularly if the trip involves navigating a coach through city traffic.

Secondly, if the coach is stuck and running late, please tell us. We don’t really like standing around for an hour or more because no teacher on the coach is able or wants to send a text message updates, and all the admin staff in the school have gone home. Parents are patient… to a point. Don’t test us.

Don’t send home literature about the termly targets for seven-year-olds — to include accurate spelling and grammar — if you have not spell checked and proofread your own work. It really looks bad.

Please don’t mix up “class” and “year” because if you do it once, I will start to mistrust you every time it’s mentioned. As far as I’m concerned, “year” is an academic year which contains several “classes”. I know which year and class my daughter is in and I would rather not take in information about other years and classes if it doesn’t affect us. My calendar is full enough as it is.

Unless there has been a zombie attack or some other completely unforeseen issue, don’t assume that less-than-one-hour’s text message notice of a time, date or venue change is sufficient. Contrary to what you might believe, I do not sit idly by at home between 8.30am and 3pm just waiting to embark on the next school activity.

Please ensure my daughters have been given important take-home letters, even if they are not in school on the day they’re given out. That’s why there’s always the next day. Well, it’s one reason at least.

No, I don’t expect you to write down every child’s homework assignments every week (I never said I did). My daughter is capable of doing this but sometimes she doesn’t. She gets distracted by a friend, or a boy, or an insect, or a piece of fluff shaped like a chicken nugget. She’s 7. Yes, she needs to take increasing responsibility for her work, but she is still 7. And a half.

So… can there be some method (why not use technology) whereby parents know what the homework is. We can’t possibly help our kids with homework if we don’t know what it is, or what the hieroglyphic scrawls mean.

Which brings me on to…

How is your website so out of date?

I was unaware it’s still 2014.

OK, I can see your address on it (but I already know how to get there) and there are some (old) photos.

How about a section for current news? For each week’s homework assignments? Anything to suggest the school is happy to be in the 21st century.

It would take about 5 minutes a week (if that) to log in, type a short homework description, and publish it. Hardly top secret and would go a long way to helping parents understand what’s going on.

Now, I know some schools are already doing this. They have glowing, up-to-date websites and their dates are always right. They’ve even found a different font to use. A grown up one. (Even my daughters don’t like Comic Sans).

Why can’t every school do that?

After all, if you’re seeking to teach my daughters how to communicate well in the 21st century through many different media, I’d hope you could do the same.