New app helps parents get involved with their kids’ education
The Business Growth Hub has helped a former teacher to launch an innovative new app that helps parents become more involved with school life. A mixture of workshops and one-to-one advice has helped the business to become established and begin to make a difference to teachers, parents and young people across the UK.
As a former teacher, James Whitaker knows how important parental engagement can be to a child’s education. But for some parents, the infrequency of school communication does not provide them with enough information to effectively support their children.
He also feels that current parental engagement products that ‘mass-broadcast’ information from a central administrative account do not provide teachers with the flexibility/platform they need to engage parents in two-way, regular conversations, discussing individual students.
“The key to the ParentHub app is that it’s designed to make it easier and more convenient for parents and teachers to stay in touch,” explains James. “It allows parents to interact with teachers, but also to see their children’s timetable, check whether they got to school safely and find out which subjects they’re doing well in”. As well as messages, attendance alerts and letters or notices can be sent through the app; features that make life easier for parents while reducing admin overheads for schools.
While James and his team had the educational experience to take the idea forward, they identified a need for support in some key business areas to help get the project off the ground.
They approached the Business Growth Hub for information and signed up to a series of workshops designed to help fill specific gaps in their knowledge. These included a ‘master class’ on tax, specifically looking at VAT and Corporation tax, how to enrol and the rules and regulations governing returns.
A second workshop was focussed on sales and as James explains: “Having had no previous sales experience, this workshop was useful not only in advice for generating a sales pipeline, but also in providing the opportunity for us to role play our sales “patter” and receive feedback from other, more experienced professionals.”
James has also benefited from regular consultancy visits from BGH advisor Isabelle Farquhar which, he adds: “provided an opportunity to step back from day-to-day activities and think strategically about what we do, as well as seeing the bigger picture.”
With the confidence to take the venture forward, the business has raised £150k of private investment, supported by an additional £25k of match funding from the Big Venture Challenge, a funding and support programme for early-stage social enterprises, and a £50K from Big Issue Invest as part of the Corporate Social Venturing programme.
The company has also formed an important partnership with Teach First, a charity whose mission is to end inequality in education by building a community of exceptional leaders who create change within classrooms, schools and across society.
ParentHub is now being used in eight schools across the North West, with plans to expand significantly by May 2015. Once a school has adopted the system, James and his team work with teachers and parents to provide regular support to embed the service and ensure schools benefit from its full potential.
The app has the potential to be used to signpost parents to useful services such as community groups or educational events in their area, as well as information on e-safety, sexual health and substance abuse.
“Our long term vision is to create a comprehensive reference point for parents that brings together all administrative aspects of their children’s lives,” adds James. “But ParentHub could also be used by sports clubs or scouting groups to communicate with the parents and help encourage their children to become involved with activities outside of school too.”
“Seeing the progress of ParentHub over 12 months has been extremely rewarding. As well as developing successfully a two-way communication system, which really all parents should ask their school to use, they have a strong vision and leadership from James. This is key, and that’s what will make the business grow.” Said Isabelle Farquhar, Growth Startup Adviser for Parenthub