School app gives parents the news

03:23, Aug 27 2014
 Southwell School app
NEW TECHNOLOGY: The Southwell School app is a new way to communicate with parents, headmaster Royce Helm says.

Keeping up with the kids' school activities just got easier for some Hamilton parents thanks to a mobile phone app.

Parents can notify absences, check upcoming events and get notices and more through Southwell School's app.

It has been up and running for around two weeks and is so far on about 500 phones.

Southwell is thought to be the first Waikato school to get an app and headmaster Royce Helm said it was about "being on the front foot".

"The first or second day it was released we had our school cross country. And it was a rainy day and parents were sort of wondering if it was going to go ahead," Helm said.

"We could just message off here saying ‘cross country going ahead'. And that saves all the phonecalls into the office or trying to look on the web . . . You just get a push notification."

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After seeing an app in action at Christchurch Girls' High School the school decided it would like one of its own.

"Most of our parents have smartphones and tablets, and we see this as an additional positive means of communicating with them," Helm said.

The free app runs on iPhone and Android and was developed by Snapp Mobile in about six weeks, Helm said.

Southwell would have spent less than $5000 on the app, which came with a "back end" website so the school can make minor modifications.

Snapp Mobile director Joshua Woodham said more and more schools were choosing to communicate with parents through apps.

School parents were on the go and found it helpful to receive updates and alerts on their mobile devices wherever they were, he said.

Functions of the Southwell app include checking out upcoming events and copying them to personal calendars, linking parents to ticket purchasing, quick access to staff contact details, and alerts straight to mobile.

"It comes up just like a Facebook notification . . . It pops up and says ‘don't forget chapel on Sunday'," Helm said.

Now the school will start learning how best to manage the app to avoid information overload for parents.

libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

Waikato Times