How to convince your Head/Governors that your school needs its own app

Listen, you and I both know that having your own school app would solve a lot of problems and revolutionise your parental engagement fast – but what if the decision-maker in your school is not convinced? They might say “We don’t need an app – we have a website” or “We have a text messaging system – why would we need an app?” Here are some arguments to help you change their mind. These are some of the problems having your own Jigsaw School App can help to solve:

  1. Language barriers Most schools have hard-to-reach parents. For many, language could be a barrier – as not all parents have English as their first language. With our apps the parents can choose which language they would like to read your information in and it translates it for them. We support over 80 languages and the school can decide which to make available, depending on what languages you have in school. What better way to keep everyone informed and feeling included in their children’s education?
  2. Information overload Text systems can bombard parents with constant messages that they may not be relevant to them. With a Jigsaw School App you can categorise your messages, and parents can decide to switch off the categories that they don’t need. No children in the football team? Then they can turn off the football messages. No kids in Year 4? Then switch off that stream. Don’t worry – there is a way to override this for any urgent messages that need to go to everyone (for example when the snow is 6 feet deep or the boiler has exploded!)
  3. Information Underload Do you rely on parents checking your website to find information? How are they going to know when you put something new on there? Not many busy parents check the school website as often as you’d like. If you have an app then parents are alerted every time there’s something new – they get a push notification the minute you press send.
  4. Busy Parents According to Ofcom “Smartphones have become the hub of our daily lives and are now in the pockets of two thirds (66%) of UK adults, up from 39% in 2012.” You can reach most parents with your app as we make them for most of the popular platforms: iPhone, Android and Windows. So, when you have busy parents who are always on the go you can be sure to get your information straight to their pockets wherever they are!
  5. Incorrect Parent Contact Information Not all parents are good at letting schools know when they have changed their email address or got themselves a new phone number – but if they have the app it won’t matter! They will still get all your messages, events and other information you make available in it.
  6. Ofsted will be impressed Don’t forget: in order to be judged as outstanding by Ofsted you must show “highly successful strategies for engaging with parents and carers, to the very obvious benefit of pupils, including those who might traditionally find working with the school difficult.” Getting an app is a positive step you can take. For example, the survey feature would allow you to get parent feedback quickly and easily. Many schools are using this feature to pose the Parent View questions. They are getting more responses than paper-based or website surveys.
  7. Value for money Hmmm – maybe we should have put this one at the top? J Instead of having to pay per message (as with most text systems) the school pays a yearly subscription. This is a flat rate – no matter how many pupils you have or how many messages you send. The app is free for the parents to download – they just search for your name in their app store. Have a look on our website to see the yearly subscription rates – you can save money by signing up for three years.
  8. Flexibility You are not limited to only 160 characters as with texts – you can make your messages, events, news items as long as you like. Also you can add images and photo galleries. If you have any larger documents such as timetables, lunch menus or newsletters on your website then these can also be made available in the app – just convert to pdf and you can add them. All your information available in right in the parent’s pocket!
  9. Control The app’s content is entirely controlled by you! No wasted time waiting around for some company to update your website or install you some software. We give you access to a simple web-based control panel so you can update your information from anywhere – you don’t even have to be in school to use it! There is no special hardware or software needed nor any special training! Of course, we’ll always be here to get you started or assist with any problems – but you are in control of the information.
  10. You can get a free trial! It’s a no-brainer! Try it for 28 days and if it doesn’t work – don’t keep it! What have you got to lose? Visit the website ( or phone us free on 0800 999 7500 anytime!


So, there you go – ten convincing arguments to help you persuade the powers that be to get a school app. If they’re still not swayed after all this – I’d consider changing schools if I were you!


10 things to use your app for over the summer

1. Introduce new staff

Most interviews and appointments for new staff take place over the summer. You can let parents and students know the latest staff changes via the app. They’ll see your latest news wherever they are in the world!

2. Remind parents of the return-to-school dates

How many times do parents call you over the break to ask when the kids have to come back? Or ask others on Facebook and Twitter? (We see it on social media all the time!) Make sure everyone has the correct information for return dates and times for their class/year. Put it in the app – then they can save these to their phone or tablet and set themselves reminders too!

3. Keep parents updated on any new building or classroom moves

Quite often refurbishments and new building or temporary classrooms have to be done over the summer – it’s safer that way! Let everyone know what is going on – you can even add galleries of photos from works in progress.

4. Add new timetables

As you work on these before the start of the new academic year you can make them available in the app so that parents can ensure that their children have the correct equipment and items with them at the beginning of term.

5. Latest lunch menus for coming year

Let parents see the new menus and healthy eating options before the new year begins. Give them chance to make decisions on the best options available in school for their children.

6. New prospectus

Make sure you make your latest prospectus available in the app for any prospective parents to see what facilities you have available. Publicise the dates of your open days in the news section and the cut-off dates of applications in the calendar too.

7. Uniform regulations for new pupils – and to remind old ones!

It is good to make sure that all parents are aware of the rules on uniform and what is acceptable footwear, hairstyles and policies on jewellery etc. Good for the parents of new starters and to remind parents of older pupils too!

8. Updates and news on any summer school trips

There may be field trips or school holidays happening over the summer break – keep all parents updated and worry-free at all times with the news section of the app. You can post photos with your news items too.

9. Preview/tease new classroom displays

Get the children excited about coming back to school with photos of new displays or equipment in their classes. We know that teachers spend a lot of time updating their class displays during the last week of the holidays – let parents know it!

10. Remind parents to keep their kids learning over the summer

Remind them about local schemes – such as the Summer Reading Challenge in their local libraries. Encourage parents to get their children to write about their holidays and trips. Literacy can drop over a six week break – so it’s in your interests to encourage parents to keep them involved with (stealth) learning! Parental engagement in their education is a key to success!

Awards and shows

It’s about time we did another update about what Jigsaw School Apps have been up to recently. It has been a busy couple of months! After BETT we exhibited at the Education Innovation Show in Manchester and The Education Show in Birmingham and have just got back from the Nursery2Primary Show down in Bournemouth. More on that later… We were very happy to be finalists at The Sentinel Business Awards in March – and even more delighted when we won the award for Business Innovation and were runners-up for the Science and Technology in Business award too. It was a wonderful night celebrating with some inspirational and exciting companies. The Sentinel put on a great event!

Darren and Nathan receiving the Business Innovation Award
JSA Lanyards!

Meanwhile, Nathan, Berni and Martin went south to Bournemouth to staff the JSA stand at the Nursery2Primary show. We were very excited as we’d not done this show before and were looking forward to meeting lots on enthusiastic educators and showing them our parental engagement apps. Also, we’d sponsored the lanyards this time and were so thrilled with how they turned out. We just don’t want to take them off now :-) The show was over two days – Friday and Saturday 24/25th April – we drove down there from Staffordshire the day before to get everything on the stand up and running. We had a great position right by the entrance!

The BIC is a great venue and although the show was quite small we were amazed at how many people came! We had biscuits at the ready to welcome everyone in! It’s a good way to get to talk to people and find out what they do and why they have come to the exhibition. After the first day we were invited to the exhibitors’ cocktail party at the Royal Exeter Hotel (which was just across the road and happened to be the one we were staying in). It has a famous cocktail bar and we were each given two tickets for free cocktails of our choice. It was amazing – we sampled mojitos, Moscow mules and a Pisco Sour. The best thing about it though was the chance to get to know some of our fellow exhibitors

Getting the stand ready for opening day!
Me and My World Stand

It was so nice to see the innovative and unusual products that people manage to come up with to make lessons and learning so much more effective and fun! We enjoyed meeting Dorothy and her Me and My World activity packs. Loved the 2 ranges “I want to be…” and “I’m learning about…” – all crammed with educational materials and fun artefacts and costumes relevant to the topics. I would have loved something like this back when I was in primary school!

Nathan and Martin giving live demos of the apps.

There were two areas where talks and presentations were being held – a large theatre and a corner spot within the exhibition. Sadly, being on duty on the Stand meant that we couldn’t attend them ourselves – although I did sneak off to listen to the speaker telling us how to excel at storytelling! He was amazing! He encourages you to move around all the time so and change your position a lot to keep everyone transfixed – at one point he was standing on his chair! Also, while we were on the stand we heard a song session by Alison Wheeler including a brilliant “Let’s Tidy Up” song. I keep singing it now every time the JSA offices start to look messy :-)

Our Bett Story

Phew! We have just returned from Bett 2015 after four hectic days of talking to school staff, college staff and other companies about our Jigsaw School Apps and giving demonstrations and biscuits to everyone who was interested!

Bet 2015
Bet 2015


We launched our parental engagement apps last year at the Bett Show and it proved such an effective way to meet prospective new customers that we returned again this year with a bigger and better stand.

So, what is it like to be an exhibitor at the biggest Ed Tech show in the world?

Great fun, exhilarating and hard work (not to mention hard on the legs and feet!) Most of all it is rewarding – it is so great to see people blown away by the products you have been working on all year.


So, we arrived at London’s ExCeL Centre on Tuesday afternoon – the day before the show opened. It was amazing to see the huge space full of half-built stands, bare floors, fork-lift trucks, lighting, rolls of carpet and wires everywhere. Lots of noise and people everywhere rushing to get their exhibits ready before the deadline.

We located our lovely corner space (chosen whilst we were at Bett last year!) and wondered how we were going to turn this bare spot into an eye-catching display!

This has got to look good by tomorrow!

Last year – as it was our first ever trade show – we had pull-up banners, a branded desk and a small space to give demos in. It worked really well and we had lots of interest – but experience helped us to improve things for this year.

This time we had some panels printed for round the walls of the shell-scheme and had three podiums to set up iPads in – to demo the apps on bigger screens than smartphones – and a large leaflet stand.  This meant that, as there were five of our staff there this year, there was room for three demos at once. We could fit lots of people in the stand at one go!

We all set to work putting the stand together. There was a slight issue with one or two things – the workmen had stored some metal posts behind and buckled the walls a little and spilt coffee on the carpet. However, a quick visit to the organiser’s office on site soon got it all sorted. We were very impressed!

Then, there was an announcement to tell all exhibitors to clear the gangways immediately – so that the carpet-layers could do their stuff. It was unbelievable how quickly these guys filled all the walkways with purple carpet! They just rolled it out and ran down sticking it to the floor as they went. It looked great when it was all done! It is nice of Bett to choose our company colours for the carpets this year :-)

Almost ready!

Pretty soon we were all set up for the next day and could go to our hotel and try to relax before the big day. Luckily we were staying at a hotel very close to ExCeL – we learnt from last year that having a lengthy commute each day is NOT a good idea. At the end of a few long days on your feet you are lucky if you can hobble very far!!

We were all up early the next day and fortified by a sizable breakfast at the hotel we strolled over to ExCeL to start setting up for our first day. The stand looked good and we set up the iPads and the laptops – and Nathan had his favourite Surface tablet – all charged up and connected to the right network. We were ready to show the visitors to Bett 2015 how our Jigsaw School Apps could revolutionise parental engagement by allowing them to reach parents wherever they were.


We had chosen bright yellow t-shirts this year – so no-one could miss us! Suddenly, the tannoy burst into life with the announcement “Ladies and gentlemen – it is 10am and the Bett Show 2015 is now open!”

It wasn’t long before our first interested customers came along and our demonstrations were in full swing. The best part for me is when you show someone the translate feature and they see the messages turn into Urdu or Somali at the touch of a button. Some people actually gasp! It’s so great to see their reaction. The stand was soon buzzing and the next time we checked our watches it was lunchtime!

View from inside the stand

We took it in turns to have a break and sample some of the excellent food choices available in the ExCeL centre – although I’m not sure they are equipped to deal with the huge volume of people that come to Bett. Some days there were such long queues at the outlets that we had to make do with a sandwich from the shop, and also there were not enough tables and chairs either. Not much fun sitting on the floor, juggling your food when you’ve been on your feet all morning!

I can see why some (informal) Bett guides advise visitors to bring their own lunch – so our advice to exhibitors – have a huge breakfast then you won’t need lunch. :-) On the plus side – there are lots of stands giving away free food and drink. There was free coffee, a juice bar, lots of sweets and chocolate – and we were giving away packs of biscuits for our customers to have with their coffee/tea breaks!

The afternoon also went by quickly – with most of our staff heading back to the hotel early to get themselves glammed up in black tie and cocktail dresses as we were attending the Bett Awards that night. The two that stayed until 6pm and the end of the show had to get ready really quickly. :-) We were finalists in the category ICT Company of the Year – and were so excited about going to The Brewery and seeing Josh Widdicombe handing out all the awards.

Our taxi got us there for the 7pm drinks reception which was very impressive, as was the meal and drinks in the main rooms. The food was superb and beautifully presented and the wine as plentiful – we didn’t want to overdo it though as we still had three long days at Bett to go! It was very enjoyable and we met some great people – some chemists from Boulder, Colorado and a maths expert who was at Bett promoting Mathspace.

Sadly none of the people on our table won an actual award – but we were all very happy to have the recognition of being Bett Finalists and having such a great night out.

We do scrub up quite well!
Very nice champagne :-)


The next morning we were back to Bett ready to show more visitors our apps. I had a little time at lunch to have a look round the exhibition myself and I was so blown-away by the number and variety of products and services on display.

One of my favourites was Romo – a really great idea that turns iPhones into programmable robots that kids can learn how to program with. We saw them following lines and chasing balls – and they just look so cute!

Also everyone was captivated by the industrial robots on another stand that were showing off their capabilities. It was all very busy until one got bored and decided to put on some music – it chose a cd, showed it to the other robot, who shook his head. He tried again with another CD, got a nod of approval – so put it in the player. Suddenly there was Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits) blasting out and they were both doing a perfectly synchronised dance to the track – including a bit of shimmying and head-banging!  It was so funny!


it's a Romo!
it’s a Romo!

I also enjoyed the snow dome – an inflatable classroom where the inside could have anything projected onto it. I saw it snowing in there – and when the guy put his arm out against the side – the snow piled up above it!

Quite impressive.

Anyway – back to business. We handed out leaflets, biscuits, mints and pens for all we were worth and showed so many guests our apps. We ended the show with an impressive number of requests for more details and very tired legs and feet. It was great fun again and we love meeting so many school staff in person. We find that when they actually get to see the products then they are really keen to try them. It is so much better than sending emails or putting ads in magazines.

Also being Bett Finalists seemed to make a big difference to how many people came to see us this time. So, thank-you Bett for another wonderful show! We’ll be back next year! :-)

PS The orders started rolling in on the train journey home and in the first week after Bett orders are up five-fold on the same time last year. These shows really work!!

We’re Bett Award 2015 Finalists!

We are very happy to learn that we have been chosen as one of the six finalists for ICT Company of the Year (under £1m turnover) at the Bett Awards 2015! We won’t know until January if we will win – but it is so great to be recognised by one of the biggest education shows in the world.

Formerly known as the British Educational Training and Technology Show, the Bett Show is an annual event that showcases the use of information technology in education. It has been running since 1985 and now takes place at the ExCeL Centre in London. Bett celebrated its 30th anniversary at the 2014 show, which attracted over 35,000 visitors from 113 countries. We are looking forward to attending the Awards ceremony in January hosted by Josh Widdicombe. We’ll also have a stand at Bett 2015 – so please come along to see us on Stand G74!

Nathan Beardmore, co-founder said:

“It’s a great honour to be recognised by one of the biggest education shows in the world. We’re proud to be helping so many schools to connect with parents and look forward to helping many more join the parental engagement revolution!”

Want the main features in a nutshell?

  • Free 28 day trial of your own school app
  • Add all news, events and other content – and get straight to parents
  • Automatic translation of your posts into 70+ languages – great for parents with EAL
  • Your own branded school app – not shared with other schools
  • No per message cost, and free for parents to download
  • Survey feature – to get fast parent feedback
  • Complete control of your app’s content via our web-based dashboard
  • Available on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone
  • Simple yearly subscription for the school


According to Teach Secondary Magazine it is

“What schools should be doing in order to be judged outstanding”

Our customers are very happy too:

“I can honestly say that it is certainly the most effective communication tool that we use in school”

– Tony Gorton, Headteacher, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Outstanding in all categories)

We are very proud of our apps and passionate about improving parental engagement and communication for schools and other institutions. If you haven’t seen our products yet – head over to to have a look for yourself. You can download a demo app to have a play with – or call us for free on 0800 999 7500 and we can give you a 28 day trial for your school so that you can see how your own branded apps will look and work for you.

Parental Engagement Quality Standard

The UK has a parental engagement quality standard that is the envy of the world. How does your school measure up? Check the criteria here: Parental Engagement Quality Standard (source: SSAT).

We can help revolutionise your parental engagement with our smartphone apps for your school.

For example you need to ensure that:

Mechanisms are in place for reaching all parents

What do most parents and carers have with them wherever they are? That’s right – their phones! What better way of keeping in touch with parents than having your own school app they can download for free? Even better – if parents don’t have English as their first language they can choose which language to read your information in – we have over 70 to choose from! Make sure that no-one feels left-out or side-lined.

Capacity to further parental engagement is a feature of the school

Imagine if all new parents and prospective parents could go to their app store and search for your school and find a free app to download? That is what we can provide for you on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. It will give them all your news, events, contact information, and any files you want to add. You can include lunch menus, newsletters, exam timetables, information for prospective parents and checklists for school trips. Anything you put into PDF format.

A range of information, in a variety of formats is provided for parents about the school

Most schools have websites – but you can increase your reach with a smartphone app. They can work out much cheaper than text-based systems, as you don’t pay per message – just an easy subscription once a year. That is the same whether you have 100 pupils or 1000 pupils. Any information you have on your website can be made available in your app.

Mechanisms are in place for gleaning information from parents

With our apps you can set up surveys to ask parents what they think about anything you like! Schools already using our apps are amazed how quickly survey responses come in – and how many answers they get compared to traditional methods. Some have used the survey function to ask Parent View style questions to gauge parents’ feelings about the school.

So, let us revolutionise your approach to parental engagement and help you meet the quality standard. Check our website for more information about the apps – you can even have a free trial – or call us for free on 0800 999 7500

10 Reasons why Parents don’t Engage with School

I didn’t get the letter until it was too late (it was under a soggy swimming kit!)

Our printer was out of ink so we didn’t print out the website calendar to put on the wall.

I forgot to check the website – so missed the parents’ evening.

We’ve lost the password for the parent portal.

We were going to fill out the survey – but it was too long – we didn’t have time.

We don’t speak English well – there was no translation available for your information.

I have been at a conference all week – didn’t check the website until it was too late.

You didn’t send out reminders about the school concert – I was too late to get tickets!

We changed our email address and forgot to inform the school about the change.

I didn’t get the urgent message about school closing until I got home and checked my emails.


Just imagine if your school had its own app which parents could download for free! It would send a push notifications to their phones wherever they were – and could solve all these communication problems for you.

Give us a call now to set up a simple free trial on 0800 999 7500 or check out the features at

6 Types of Parental Engagement

According to the research collated by Professor Bill Lucas  in collaboration with other colleagues at the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester, there are :


Six Types of Parent Engagement

Type 1 – Parenting Helping all families to have the basic home conditions in place including active parenting strategies and regular communication with school

Type 2 – Communicating Designing effective home-to-school and school-to-home communication methods which engage all parents regularly

Type 3 – Volunteering Recruiting volunteer parents to help in school in classes and in extra-curricular activities

Type 4 – Learning at home Providing good information to enable all parents to help with homework and offer other family learning activities

Type 5 – Decision-making Including parents in decision-making activities to build a sense of ownership including being involved in governance

Type 6 – Collaborating with Community Finding and using resources from the wider parent community to enrich school life


His paper contains many practical strategies to help with these too. Here are the ones about communication:


  • Invest time in establishing personalised communications with all parents
  • On at least a half-termly basis, make sure parents know what their child is going to be learning and have some simple ideas as to how they can support them, as well as web-support. Ideally this should be done on a weekly basis in advance of the week ahead and available online.
  • Identify and remove educational jargon from all school literature and encourage all staff to speak to parents in plain English
  • Make it possible for all new parents to observe lessons at first hand
  • Use technology – e-mail, scanning etc – to communicate as regularly as possible, ensuring that they are often relaying positive messages


Here at Jigsaw School Apps we are passionate about parental engagement – helping schools communicate with parents so that they are better informed and feel included in their child’s education. Our apps make it easy to communicate frequently and quickly with parents via their smartphones. Unlike the text-based systems,  schools don’t pay per message and the messages can be as long as you like and include pictures! There is a simple subscription fee per year – it doesn’t matter how big the school, how many pupils or how many messages you send.

There are so many things you can share with your apps – including news, surveys, events calendar and pdf files – so you can make bigger documents like newsletters and timetables available in your apps. We’ll brand them for your school – and your parents will find them in their app store under your name!

Some parents are hard to reach because they may not have English as their first language. The apps can translate all your content into the language of the parent’s choice! We offer over 70 languages. We make the apps for iPhones, Android devices and Windows phones.

For more details have a look at the website: or call us free on 0800 999 7500

Want to see our testimonials?

Don’t take our word for it – wouldn’t you like to know what the actual users of our apps think of them? Here are our most recent testimonials from some professionals.

First up we have Mr Tony Gorton – the head of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Hertfordshire – a school which is OUTSTANDING in all categories:

Having used the App for over three months now, I can honestly say that it is certainly the most effective communication tool that we use in school, an opinion which is supported by all members of our school community, including parents, children, governors and friends of the school. Whilst we have a vibrant website which is updated several times a day, many parents have commented that they prefer to access the App when ‘out and about’ since it is designed specifically for this purpose and they can receive instant updates throughout the course of the day. Also, the ability to save dates to personal calendars on their mobile devices (with the added functionality of setting reminders) is another positive feature. As well as this, users like the fact that they can ‘filter’ which posts they receive based on the categories set up by the school.

In addition to all of the above, the fact that it is extremely simple to download the App in the first place (an opinion supported by 95% of our parents from a survey that we posted on the App) is simply the icing on the cake!

We are incredibly ‘Appy’ with our App!! Thank you, Darren and all at Jigsaw!!

Tony Gorton, Head Teacher
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Hertfordshire

Since having our own school app, parents have commented upon how much communication has improved and how impressed they are with the opportunity to access dates, information and updates regularly. It was set up quickly and professionally, it is very easy to update information, photos and even survey parents. It is excellent value for money and now our key way of sharing information with parents.

Sam Phillips, Headteacher
Hopping Hill Primary School, Northamptonshire

The uptake and feedback for the app has been very impressive – helping us reach some parents who have been previously difficult to engage with. The support provided for the app has been outstanding – a parent noticed a scrolling issue on her windows phone and mentioned it to me in the morning, and by the afternoon an update had been rolled out across the different platforms. I was able to get in touch with the parent that afternoon, who told me the app had already updated and was working perfectly! The survey function has proved invaluable as a way to supplement our understanding of parents, as we have used it to mimic the questions asked on the Ofsted ParentView website. Obviously, this doesn’t replace the information on there, but it allows us to engage with parents who may, for whatever reason, be unable or unwilling to take the ParentView survey. Around 60% of our app users respond to each survey question, significantly more than the 30% or so who respond to paper questionnaires. Jigsaw are also eager to listen feedback about how we can tailor the app to meet our needs further and we’re looking forward to seeing how we can further integrate the app into our communication in the future.

Alex Reppold, Deputy Head Teacher
Malton Community Primary School, North Yorkshire

Get in touch with us now if you’d like to start the 2014-15 academic year off right by improving parental engagement at your school: 0800 999 7500

10 things teachers should do over the summer… (but probably aren’t)

Here are 10 things teachers should be doing over the holidays – followed by the ten things they probably ARE doing…

10 things teachers should be doing over summer

  1. Relaxing on the beach
  2. Staying out late
  3. Lying in bed in the mornings
  4. Visiting stately homes
  5. Riding on the scariest roller-coaster
  6. Drinking outrageous cocktails
  7. Reading for pleasure
  8. Not worrying about a thing
  9. Catching some live music or outdoor theatre
  10. Wearing comfy and crazy clothes

10 things teachers probably ARE doing over summer

  1. Worrying about exam results
  2. Planning next term’s lessons
  3. Putting up new displays in school
  4. Attending training sessions
  5. Meeting other teachers
  6. Creating awesome educational materials
  7. Buying smart clothes for next term
  8. Writing research papers
  9. Fretting about their retirement pension
  10. Learning new skills

We wish you all a happy holiday – and hope you manage to do a few things from the first list! You deserve a break :-)