by Rebecca FindlayHead of Primary at the International School @Park City
In my experience, all schools have various challenges with communication, all usually stemming from the different methods in which parents prefer to engage with information and the fast-changing technology landscape. In an international school, there is an additional layer of challenge as we seek to communicate effectively with families from all over the world.
Most international schools aim to be inclusive environments and part of this means providing information at my school where curriculum is taught in English in a format that can be accessed by non-English speakers. One of the ways we are addressing this is to use a school communication app which allows the users to translate messages into 40 different languages. We also use translators, where possible and when needed, for more formal communication and our Head of Learning Support has built an online system where urgent messages can be quickly translated into some of our commonly spoken home languages. This came in very useful when we had to close the school at short notice due to Covid restrictions.
We continue to work with our teachers, who regularly write communications, to reflect on their language choices, idioms, colloquial expressions and educational acronyms. Showing more awareness of the needs of all our families contributes to the inclusive culture of our school.
Channels of Communication
Due to the shift to online and remote learning, and the significant increase of information online linked to education and the pandemic, families have received a high volume of information from school. There is also the ongoing need to ensure data safety and privacy and therefore, we ensure all our information is shared via school channels only. This creates the common issue of log-ons, passwords and different accounts on different devices. I would say this is one of the main barriers to communication being effectively received and as a parent, I am guilty of this myself!
We have Parent Class Representatives who also support the school with communication. They will often use other communication channels to share quick reminders and updates with parents of students in their year group. This is a great way to ensure no one misses key information like dress-up days or special events. When this communication is missed, whilst it can be seen as trivial in the big scheme of things, it can impact the child and this is something we want to always avoid.
Content of Communication
After speaking to parents about our communication style, we have learned they prefer to have everything in one place and many wish to have easy access to the headlines to fit in with their busy lives. We have responded by changing the way we structure our school newsletter. Now, we place the key headlines and information we need parents to get out of it, right at the top, in clear and simple language.
Formal communication which is directed across large bodies of parents always comes from the principal and is formatted in the same way. Parents know when these messages are shared, they often include important information.
A trend that we’ve seen more recently is the popularity for video updates around school news or general communication from the teacher. There is a real focus on providing quick, bite size visual updates that parents can now consume ‘on the go’. We also see a preference for being able to re-watch presentations so we offer recordings and share slides.
Regarding seasonal increases in communication between the school and parents/guardians, there are major cluster times for example at the start of the year, start of term, during festivals, key celebrations and school trips that need parent sign-off, which is now all done digitally.
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This article is provided by the International School Network. If you’re a passionate educator working at international schools please join their network.