School app keeps parents close

19:40, Sep 17 2014
Whakaronga School students Finnley Wineera, 13, left, Phoebe Phillips, 12, and Jack Carey, 13, with principal Jaco Broodryk show off the school's new mobile app.

Keeping up with the kids' school stuff just got easier for some Palmerston North parents, with instant updates now sent to their smartphones.

Whakarongo School is one of a growing number of New Zealand schools changing how it communicates with parents and pupils by taking a more tech-savvy approach to the issue.

The Palmerston North primary school has launched a free mobile app this week, which allows parents to receive pop-up reminders and instant messages.

The customised computer program has been designed to run on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices and should help parents keep up to date on school happenings, principal Jaco Broodryk said.

The school created a Facebook page earlier this year that had proved popular among parents - sometimes one picture posted by the school would pull more than 1000 individual views.

After seeing the success of the social media page, Whakarongo decided to take it one step further by developing an app.


"It reiterated the point that these days people don't want to go looking for stuff, you need to put it in in front of them for them to interact with it, respond and take note," Broodryk said.

The app allows parents to report absences online, receive instant alerts, check the calendar for upcoming events and download staff contact details.

It was another tool to connect with the school community in a means that suited them, Broodryk said.

"It's moving with the times and interacting with parents in a way that they interact with the world."

A big benefit was the ability to send out instant alerts and push notifications to parents if events, such as school cross country were cancelled at short notice, or to remind them of late starts or early finishes.

It saved parents making phonecalls to the office, tuning into the radio or trying to find the information on the web.

"It's all those sort of things which are sometimes hard to send a reminder or provide information at short notice about, but we can do that now in seconds," Broodryk said.

"It's such a quick and easy way for us to keep in touch."

Parents could also personalise what information they wanted to subscribe to, such as sports news or the kapa haka practice timetable, so they would only receive information directly relevant to them.

Senior school students were also encouraged to sign up, with 12-year-old Whakarongo pupil Phoebe Phillips' iPad app already personalised.

Snapp Mobile, which develops mobile apps, has more than 40 New Zealand schools on a mobile app.

Parents found it helpful to receive updates and alerts on their mobile devices wherever they were, Snapp director Joshua Woodham said.

Manawatu Standard