How SMS Messaging Benefits Every Level of Education
Schools up and down the country are working tirelessly to increase the opportunities available to young people. But, with budgets being cut, these are tough times for many education providers. One of the biggest challenges facing head teachers, class teachers, and office staff is how to find cost-effective means of effectively communicating with the parents and carers of their pupils.
Reams of paper are used every day in schools, for classroom resources, displays, and letters home. Letters that are handed out at home time represent a big expense over the course of the year, taking time to draft, ink and paper to print, and staff and pupil time to distribute. This is why an established SMS system can be such an effective tool for schools. It allows for instant communication with parents and carers with none of the overheads associated with letters.
SMS in schools – moving with the times
The mobile phone is now ubiquitous. Every parent or carer will have access to a mobile phone, even in schools in deprived catchment areas. Sending text messages is the ideal form of communication with parents and carers. It means that wherever they are, they will receive the message. It also means that they have an effective and instant way of communicating with the school. It not only makes sense as the ideal replacement of the wasteful printed letter, it also opens up previously unworkable communication options.
SMS to improve behaviour?
In schools in certain catchment areas, SMS is being used as a way of informing parents and carers of their children’s progress. Of course, exam results and general progress can be more individually tailored than if it were included on a paper letter, but SMS can also be used to update parents and carers of behavioural standards. For example, a ‘behaviour chart’ in a classroom might have a top level. If the child exemplifies the expected behaviour that day, they can have a text sent to their grown up sharing the good news. This can be a great motivating factor, especially for those pupils who may have traditionally struggled with their behaviour.
It is clear that text messages can be a very powerful tool in a primary school, serving to cut costs and simultaneously improve the standard of communication. As pupils progress through to secondary and tertiary education, the benefits continue. Let’s consider how a secondary school and a university might benefit from the use of SMS communication.
Secondary school – texting students
As pupils enter secondary school, the range of subjects and teachers increases, and they become much more responsible for their own progress. This is why secondary school is the perfect time for education providers to start directly communicating with students.
The vast majority of pupils at secondary school now own mobile phones. Whichever mobile phone they use, and no matter who the provider, text messages can be received. SMS represents an efficient and targeted way of communicating with a diverse student body with varying needs. If a class has had to be moved in the timetable, or to a different room, there is no better way of communicating this to students than directly with a text message. The more one considers the options, the better a choice it seems for institutions to embrace text messages as the primary form of communication.
Homework is easily set and sent out to students each weekend (often with a copy to the parent or carer too!). Any crucial dates and locations, including exams, is easily sent out to those who need to know, with reminders closer to the day.
As well as the day-to-day running of the school, there are vital issues of safeguarding that text messaging can help with as well. SMS has revolutionised how a school tracks truancy, which is a major safeguarding concern, as well as any other unauthorised absence or sickness absence.
Universities also benefit greatly from improved communication and reduced costs. With tuition fees now being paid in full by students, it is more important than ever that universities are seen to be offering a streamlined and effective service. International students alone are worth £25 billion a year to the UK economy, and it is incumbent upon universities to offer the best service they can, compared with the competition in other countries.
An efficient text messaging service can even be used to send messages in different languages to a variety of students, making sure that they are well informed, feel at home, know who to contact for support, and kept updated with on-campus networking events that could benefit them.
The student bodies that form a part of all major universities would be able to make great use of SMS services, sending updates to signed-up members.
Just as a primary pupil entering secondary school experiences a widening of responsibility and opportunity, so with a secondary school student entering a university. All of a sudden, many students have a variety of new things to consider. These may include tuition fee payments, finding and financing accommodation, and independently researching and producing work.
Every new aspect of their lives could be helped by an effective use of text messages by the university. Reminders could be sent regarding due payments of tuition fees. Important events such as employment fairs and lectures by visiting speakers would not need to rely only on printed posters and word of mouth. Text messaging, when used effectively, can contribute greatly to establishing a sense of community with a student body, and the feeling that a student ‘belongs’ to a particular university, and all the pride that goes with it.
Once a student has left university and embarks on their professional life, they become part of that university’s alumni network, and there is no better way for a university to keep track of how its former students are progressing that with text messages.
It is clear that from the earliest point in a child’s education to the time they embark on their professional life, text messaging represents a real opportunity for an educational establishment to communicate in a valuable and cost-effective way.
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