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7 ways to use text messaging in schools

To keep parents in the loop about important news and notices, schools need fast and reliable ways to communicate. Question is, what’s the best way to reach busy parents?

Many schools still rely on a mix of email, apps and paper notices to connect with families. These messages can go unread. Others use the phone, leaving voicemail messages that often go unheard. In fact, the next generation of school parents (here’s looking at you, millennials) barely check voicemail, and 75% prefer text to talking.

If email, apps, phone calls and flyers aren’t the answer, what is? Two words: text messages. SMS is a low-cost, familiar and fast communications channel. And, with 98% of text messages read within the first two minutes, it gives school teachers and administrators the reassurance that their messages are being seen. 

To help your school get started with SMS, here are 7 practical, effective ways to send text messages to parents.

How to lighten the school admin load with SMS

First, let’s look at how your school’s administrators can use text messaging to send important notices and alerts to parents quickly and cost-effectively.

1. Help parent-teacher interviews run like clockwork

Scheduling parent-teacher interviews can be an administrative nightmare. Held over several hours, and with only 10-15 minutes allotted to each child, the sessions must run like clockwork. No-shows and late arrivals can really throw out teachers’ schedules.

Sending a quick SMS one day prior – and another an hour before – can help ensure parents are on time and don’t miss their meetings. It’s easy to integrate these reminders into your scheduling system and automate the reminders to lessen the burden on your admin staff.

Hi Jane, this is a reminder of your meeting with Ms Appleby at 4pm tomorrow. Please arrive 5 mins prior and wait outside the classroom. Thank you.

2. Let parents know about upcoming events

Between fundraisers, sports events, themed days, Book Week, holidays and more, the school year is jam-packed with activities. And it can be hard for parents to keep up. Yet the last thing any parent wants is for their child to turn up out of costume or without the right gear.

Help parents stay on top of the school term with bulk SMS. Alerts can be sent to the entire student population or can target specific classes.

Hi Jane, it’s Crazy Hair day tomorrow at St John’s Elementary tomorrow, with prizes up for grabs for craziest hair. Each child to bring a $2 donation.

3. Tackle truancy and absenteeism

Whether you’re trying to tackle a truancy problem or just need a better way for parents to notify the school about why their child is absent, SMS can be an ideal channel.

Using a messaging platform like MessageMedia, it’s easy to send automated alerts to parents if a child is skipping class. If students know that parents are automatically alerted, they’re more likely to show up. On the flip side, if a parent needs to let the school know why their child’s not in class, SMS is an easy channel for notes like these.

Dear Jane, this is to inform you that Molly was marked as absent today. Please reply to confirm or call 123-4567 to discuss.

[The school] sends me a message if [my daughter] is not at school which, for the parent of a challenging child, is gold. You can then do whatever you need to – whether that’s look for the child, try to call them, or text them

Andrew Bester, school parent

4. Send alerts and emergency messages to all

If the phone lines are down or a bus service has been temporarily suspended, it’s important to let parents know what’s going on. Same goes for when you’re running an emergency drill – nearby parents will appreciate knowing that the alarm they hear is nothing to be worried about. Or, if there’s a real emergency, such as a bushfire or school lockdown, you’ll need to tell all parents immediately.

SMS is ideal for such messages, with the ability to broadcast important messages in a matter of seconds.

IMPORTANT: school has been cancelled today due to severe weather conditions. Classes will resume as normal on Tuesday.

The school has sent SMS to warn of a nearby bushfire to the school and once of a school lockdown regarding a stranger in the grounds. I like SMS more as I never pay enough attention to the app. I have too many apps and often don’t notice that there is a notification, so SMS is better.

Brooke McGlashan, school parent

How to support teaching and learning with SMS

Now, let’s look at ways teachers can use text messaging to support students who are learning at home, and help parents stay abreast of their children’s progress.

1. Remind students about upcoming tests and exams

Juggling study, work, family and social life, students can sometimes forget the most important dates in the academic calendar – their exams.

To help students stay on top of things, teachers can send automated text messages to groups of students in the lead-up to important tests and exams. A quick reminder to get cracking with their study can help with results, not to mention boost exam attendance.

Hey Joe, don’t forget your big Chemistry test this Friday at 9am. Hope you’re studying hard. Any questions about the topic, just ask.

2. Keep parents in the loop about classwork

Some kids try to hide poor results from their parents. Or they might keep ‘forgetting’ their homework. To fix this, teachers can use SMS to send updates about a child’s progress, request a parent interview, or report on scores.

missed assignment alert 1 1
low grade alert 1 1

3. Offer remote learning support

As Covid-19 has taught us, teachers need the ability to adapt quickly to different modes of learning. SMS is invaluable for keeping parents and students updated about where to access learning resources.

Text messaging can be handy for homework, too. A quick text with a link to the right resources helps ensure no students come to class with excuses about not being able to find their homework.

Hey Molly, here’s a link to access this week’s maths homework. Don’t forget, it’s due on Friday morning. https://nxt.to/math123

Keen to get started with SMS in your school?

There are many ways you can use text messaging to communicate more effectively with parents. And the good news? It’s quick and easy to get started. Learn more about SMS for education or dive in with a free trial of the MessageMedia platform.