10 Things you can do to Improve Parental Engagement

Jigsaw School Apps are passionate about parental engagement – it’s what we do!  It is so important for improving students attainment at school and getting parents to understand that their education is something they need to take some responsibility for as well. Here are some ideas we’ve picked up to help your school improve parental engagement:


1. Communicate Often. Don’t limit your communication with parents to a yearly parents’ night and school reports sent home with the children. Update them frequently with your news, plans, events and ideas for the future.

2. Consult with Parents. Get feedback any way that you can – make them feel that their views are important and valued by the school.

3. Use Technology. Get in touch in ways that are tailored to parents circumstances. Not all parents can come into school due to work and time constraints so technology to your advantage to keep everyone updated.

4. Share Expertise and Information with Other Schools. Find out what others do and let them know when you find something that works well for you.

5. Offer Parents Support and Training. If you have identified problems in the school, set up friendly training sessions for parents to attend. Support individual parents who may be struggling – and don’t forget fathers!

6. Break Down Barriers. Not all parents have happy memories of their own school days. Make sure that the school is friendly and welcoming to parents. Give them different ways to get in touch to suit them and offer meetings in the later evenings or weekends if necessary. Look at the obstacles cited by parents in a recent study (below) and address them in your school.

7. Use Parents’ Expertise. you probably have some very talented and skilled parents – use them! Make them feel included by inviting them in to share  their skills or knowledge to groups in the school. It will be good for parents and children.

8. Don’t Give Up on Hard-to-Reach Parents. Is there a language barrier? Time constraints? Whatever the problem try different methods to try to include them. Technology has many solutions as does a friendly face at the school gate!

9. Get Volunteers. Getting parents to help out in the classroom can be a great way to make them realise that they have responsibility for their children’s education and can’t just leave it all up to the school.

10. Have Fun! Have family game nights and other fun activities to get parents into school to see what goes on there and what the children do. Create a relaxed atmosphere to make the parents feel at ease with coming into school in future. Also – make sure everyone gets the invitations and no-one is left feeling ignored or left out.


Obstacles to Parental Engagement Cited by Parents

Not having enough time: 69%

Work hours make it difficult to attend: 66%

Not having child care for your children: 28%

The school is not interested in what you have to offer: 20%

A lack transportation or other difficulties getting to the school: 18%

You don’t feel welcome at the school: 16%

Not having translation services at events: 12%

Edsource Survey December 2013

Sunday Times Festival of Education

We have just got back from the Sunday Times Festival of Education – which was very different from any other show we have done.

Firstly it was held at Wellington College – one of the best public schools in the world and secondly it was held outdoors. Luckily the weather was hot and sunny for the whole two days. We actually went down there on Thursday as it is a three and a half hour journey from here in Staffordshire, where we are based.

The magnificent Wellington College

We packed up the car with Jigsaw School Apps banners, leaflets, pens,  biscuits and staff and set off for Royal Berkshire. Our phone satnav capabilities got us to the school by 4pm and we gasped as we drove through the security barrier and up the long tree-lined driveway and saw the main buildings. It is such a beautiful place with huge grounds including a lake, cricket pavilion and ground and full-sized golf course. It was opened in 1859 by Queen Victoria and names after the Duke of Wellington. It has had many famous pupils – more recently Rory Bremner, James Hunt and Will Young!

We saw lines of white marquees so heading that way we found the Festival office in a Portacabin. We  handed over the paperwork to register and he got our official festival badges –  and we could go and set up our Stand 114 in the marquee ready for the next day and the beginning of the festival.

Getting ready for Day 2

Everywhere was bustling when we arrived the next morning at Wellington just after 8am. Other exhibitors were setting up their stalls and even a few visitors had arrived. We were next door to the Shakespeare Trust – who kindly traded one of their Shakespeare insult badges for one of our Jigsaw School Apps pens :-)

We were pretty happy to see that we were situated opposite the food tents with their barbecues and hot dog and kebab stands. Not only would we be within easy reach of food when we got peckish – but it would also be a very popular area with visitors too.  The sun was beating down on us and it got hotter and hotter as we talked to people and handed out leaflets and gave demos. Gradually as the day wore on our stand went into shade and gave us a bit of relief.


We chatted to lots of lovely educationalists – some heads of schools, lots of teachers and even families and children. Also the students from Wellington itself were walking around and many were really interested in what we were doing. Some of the staff came to look too.  It was very different as they had a lot of sessions going on with high profile speakers and guests. This meant that it was only the  breaks in between when people were strolling around the exhibits. So we had quiet times – then sudden bursts of activity!

Handing out leaflets in the sunshine!

There was lots of interest in our apps though – thanks to everyone who stopped to have a look and a demo! We will be in touch soon about setting up your free trials!

Of course – you don’t have to see us at a show to get a free trial – check out our website for more details:





Code Monkey

In other news the Jigsaw School Apps team have been out and about since we got back from the festival. Darren has been over to Crewe to do some demonstrations for interested schools in Cheshire. Nathan went to the Xamarin Developers Conference at Olympia, to see how it works to improve cross-platform coding.  He also came back with a very cute code monkey – which now has pride of place in one of the JSA offices!

Berni went to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce to attend a seminar on using social media in business – which featured three award winning organisations sharing the secrets of their success with social media. There was a lot of very useful information –  so look out for more useful and relevant tweets and Facebook updates soon!

Enter the Matrix!

Hello again


People often ask us –  at shows or during demonstrations – what is the difference between you and other companies who produce school apps? What makes you the best? So, we thought that the quickest and easiest way to explain would be to produce a comparison matrix – so that you can see, at a glance, exactly what the key features are – and which other companies (if any) offer similar ones.

See for yourself:




Windows Phone


Automatic translation of your messages


In your colours and under your name in the store

File Sharing

Make PDF files available in the app


Instant feedback from parents

Jigsaw School Apps





(70+ languages)


(Included in price)



My School App





Available at extra cost











The School App Company




Web version only





Our First Independent Review

We are very “appy” here at Jigsaw School Apps – as we’ve just had our apps reviewed by John Dabell for TEACH PRIMARY and TEACH SECONDARY magazines.

Have a look here: http://www.teachprimary.com/tried_and_tested/view/jigsaw-school-apps

We knew, from the happy customers we have so far, that the apps are great – but it is nice to have that confirmed by a professional! If you’d like to try one too  – email us at info@jigsawschoolapps.com or give us a call on 01782 305504, for a set of free apps for your school and a no obligation trial. See what difference it can make to your parental engagement.

In other news, we are gearing up for the huge Sunday Times Education Festival. It’s on 20th -21st June. We’ve done education shows before – but never a festival! We are expecting something like a Glastonbury for teachers. Wellington College certainly looks very impressive site and there are some pretty prestigious speakers attending from the world of education – as well as a fair smattering of celebrities too. We are looking forward to seeing Simon Mayo, David Baddiel, Ruby Wax, Johnny Ball and Lauren Child and the poet Simon Armitage.  You never know – they might pass by our stand!

If you are going to be there too please pop by and see us. We’ll be giving live demos of the apps and handing out free biscuits to go with your coffee or tea :-) We’ll be on Stand 114.

What can an app do for your school?

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.”

A few people have said to us “We don’t need an app – we have a website” or “we have a text messaging system” – so what can an app give you that these older systems can’t?

  • Immediacy
    You can get your information straight to the parents and carers wherever they are. Did you know that 72% of adults now have smart phones? That means that 7 out of every 10 parents can download your app. That is because we cover all the main platforms – iPhones, Android phones and Windows phones. The app lets users know every time you post a new item – as the push notifications alert them to the fact that there is something new in the app. The phone will buzz and the message will appear on their screen.
  • Value for Money
    Instead of having  to pay per message as with 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 rates – you can save money by signing up for three years. However – you can have a free trial first – to make sure it is perfect for you. Check out Jigsaw School Apps  
  • 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. If you have any larger documents such as timetables, lunch menus or newsletters on your website – these can also be made available in the app – just convert to pdf and you can add them. This means you don’t have to rely on parents remembering to look at the website regularly – everything can go straight to their phones wherever they are!
    You don’t annoy parents by sending irrelevant messages either – as they can choose within the app which categories they want to receive. So if they don’t have someone in Year 7 or the football team, for example – they can switch those messages off. Don’t worry – you set the categories yourself and there is one you can have that no-one can switch off – for urgent and important information.
  • Inclusivity
    Many 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. We have over 80 languages available  and you can chose which ones you will need and we will translate all your information for them. What better way to keep everyone informed and feeling included in their children’s education?
  • Increased Parental Engagement
    As well as the language feature (above) you can use your app to get instant feedback from parents through the survey function. This allows you to set multiple choice questions for parents to vote on. We have had some very happy head teachers who tell us that after sending home paper questionnaires for parents and receiving very few replies – they set up a survey in the app and were amazed to get over 20 replies within minutes!
    This makes it easier for parents too. They don’t have to fill in a form and then ensure their children take it back into school. They do not have to remember to go to the website and vote. They can do it as soon as the phone buzzes – the questions are there and they have just to press a button.
    Also, you could increase the numbers of parents attending functions and meetings at your school. The events section allows the users to save your events to their own device’s calendar and set themselves a reminder.
  • Control
    The app’s content is entirely controlled by you! No waiting for some company to update your website or install you some software. There is no special hardware or software needed nor any special training! We give you access to a simple web-based control panel. We’ll always be here to get you started or help with any problems – but you are in control of the information. You can access it from the web from anywhere – you don’t have to be in school to use it. You could do it from your phone! So, if you feel you are ready for the next generation of school-to-home communication – get in touch! The details are on the website http://www.jigsawschoolapps.com/ or phone us free on 0800 999 7500

We look forward to hearing from you!


Improving Parental Engagement

We know that most school and other educational establishments try very hard – using a variety of methods – to make parents feel included in their children’s education. You want them to feel part of the school community. Parental Engagement is something we are passionate about here at Jigsaw School Apps. It is at the heart of what we do – we want to help improve parental engagement with you.

It is more important than ever to Ofsted too. If you want to be an “Outstanding” school they stress that you must have:

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.”

Have a look at these articles that stress the importance of keeping parents informed and feeling included in all you do:


Don’t give up on hard-to-reach parents – try harder!



Reaching parents with English as an additional language:



Best Practice in Parental Engagement:

Parental engagement with children’s learning is effectively supported when parents receive clear, specific and targeted information from schools.”



Tips from the USA

“Offer materials in other languages” Parents choose the language with our apps.



Goodall et al. (2011) found that parents need clear, specific and targeted information from schools and further that information and opportunities to engage can be provided by the use of ICT. Their review noted that schools need to take a whole school approach to engaging parents, and adopt an outward-facing strategy which makes use of information and expertise from other local schools. Parents’ need for information, and especially for advice and support, was likewise a recurring theme in our evidence base. Parents valued the school consulting them and respecting the views they expressed. Our evidence also recommended the tailoring of communications to suit parents’ individual circumstances, and there are opportunities here for employing ICT.



Having your own branded school app that can easily be found under your name in the app stores is a great way to keep in touch with your parents – wherever they are. We offer a translation service – so that all parents can choose which language they want to receive your information in. You can post news which gets to them immediately. Also put in your events – if they can add them to their devices’ calendars and set themselves reminders – then they are more likely to turn up! A good way to get more parents to your meetings and events.

Use the app to post surveys and get instant parent feedback on any topic you desire. No need to send home paper questionnaires or rely on the parents looking at your website frequently – you can get straight to their smartphones wherever they are.

You can even post larger documents in pdf format – make sure everyone sees the newsletters or homework timetables. An app has so many uses and the control panel is quick and very easy for your staff to use. No special hardware, software or training needed – just a simple web-based control panel. As soon as you post it – it is in the app for all to see. You control all content. Don’t let anyone feel left out – get a school app today!

Give Darren a call on: +44 (0)1782 305504

or check out the website http://jigsawschoolapps.com/



We are “Appy” to Help!

What have Jigsaw School Aps been up to since the last post?


Darren has been busy designing the apps and has also been out and about giving demonstrations to interested schools. Just this week he went as far as Oxford.

Nathan has been concentrating on building the apps that have been ordered and making sure he gets them into the app stores for all the platforms.

He did take some time to go to London this week to visit the Microsoft Customer Service Headquarters in Victoria – for a live stream of the Build 2014 Conference being held in San Francisco. They were announcing the new Windows 8.1 for phones and he wanted to keep up with all the latest developments. It helped that Microsoft provided free pizza and beer too!

Hopefully he will, as a developer, get the new update this week – before it is rolled out to other Windows customers in June. We like to stay ahead of the game!

Darren and Nathan also enjoyed being interviewed by Ann King, the Business Editor of The Sentinel  (our local daily newspaper) this week. If you’d like to read the article – click its title. The headline was “Parents are ‘Appy’ to be Kept in Touch




Birmingham – you were wonderful!

What a delightful show the Education Show 2014 at the NEC Birmingham was!

Working with a Guide Dog
Working with a Guide Dog

From the moment we walked in we could tell this was going to be different from the others we have done. For a start everything was so bright and colourful! I’m not sure if it was targeted more at primary schools but it seemed like a big playground!

Secondly – there were animals! Real ones and lots of them. We saw the wonderful placid and patient guide dogs at the RNIB stand. They were allowing people to try out working with one – by putting on glasses to restrict the view and showing them how a dog helps and guides you. It was lovely to see. Then there was the PDSA stand who had a lovely sleek whippet sitting on their stand. He seemed to be enjoying the attention. Just round the corner from our stand was one staffed by ladies from a children’s holiday farm who had rabbits and guinea pigs.

Then there was the Animal Man who was sitting on his stand quite calmly with a snake round his neck! Also, he had a tarantula in a glass case and if anyone asked he would let them hold it. I didn’t ask!! One brave lady did though and she had it on her hand for a second before begging him to take it off her!

Want to pet a snake?
Want to pet a snake?

I did meet Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age films – he was much cuddlier than the spider and snake! There were some inspirational speakers too. In fact Professor Brian Cox walked right past our stand. I asked him if he’d like a leaflet – but he politely declined. To be fair – he was on his way to the arena to give his speech about making science more exciting in schools. We also caught a glimpse of Dara Ó Briain – who was doing a question and answer session about the importance of maths and science – though sadly he didn’t come past our stand, so missed out on the offer of a leaflet.

Nice exhibits opposite us!
Nice exhibits opposite us!

Our neighbours were great fun too. The stand opposite ours was all about Health Education. They had some very interesting exhibits and we had quite a laugh watching people try on the beer glasses that simulated intoxication. They then had them trying to walk in a straight line down the edge of the carpet. We did wonder what kind of risk assessment they’d had to do for that – as so many nearly wobbled over or walked into the table!

There were also lots of stands with theatre group dressed up – we saw a gladiator walking around as well as some characters from the army and also Victorian times.  The Harry Potter Experience had a stand too – and they were photographing people sitting on a broom in front of a green screen and then giving them a glossy photo with a background of a Quiddich field in a very nice cardboard frame. All for free. Needless to say one or two of the Jigsaw School Apps team had a go!

Fun with Quidditch
Fun with Quidditch

It was a great position for a stand – we were very close to the café. This meant that we could offer visitors some biscuits to go with their coffee or tea as they walked past. it was a great conversation starter! We met a lot of great people – all full of ideas and keen to improve their school – or pre-school nursery or after-school clubs. We can make apps for anyone who has a group of people they need to keep in touch with.

Sid and Berni :-)
Sid and Berni :-)

We are going to be very busy over the next few weeks – we will contact all those who asked us to and let you know how to get started with your own branded apps. We have hundreds in the stores now and look forward to helping even more institutions improve their school to home communication and parental engagement. It was so much fun to see the look of amazement on visitors’ faces when we showed them the instant translation feature or the survey  function for quick and easy parent feedback. They were a picture!

Please do check out our website if you’d like more information and get in touch if you’d like to set up a free trial for yourself.


Next stop – Birmingham

It feels like we are doing a nationwide tour!

First London, then Manchester, and next on to the NEC Birmingham. We’d love it if you want to come and see us and watch what the school apps can do for your school! We’ll be at the Education Show from 20th-22nd March – come to Stand H83 – we’ll ply you with biscuits while we show you what we can do!

Feeling peckish? Help yourself!

In the meantime we have been busy building the apps for our new customers and getting them into the app stores. That means their parents will soon be able to download them and get immediate access to the news and events from their children’s school. We are particularly proud of our categorisation system which means that parents can decide which news sections they want to receive. If they don’t have a child in the football team – they can switch off that news section! That means that parents aren’t swamped with messages from school. They are in control of what they receive and what language they receive it in.

Don’t forget we make apps for iPhones, Android phones as well as Windows Phones. We had lots of interest in Manchester and people especially loved the translation feature. If you have placed an order – do get your artwork into us and approved as soon as you can so that your apps can be submitted with the next batch.

In other news – we have been featured in the local press! We were very happy that The Sentinel put us in their business section – highlighting our latest translation feature and our appearance at the Education Show 2014. We’d love to see you there! We’ll be in good company – we hear that Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain will be there too!

Thank-You Manchester!

Jigsaw School Apps at the EICE 2014

JSA had a great time at the Education Innovation Conference and Exhibition in Manchester. It was a very well organised, friendly event. Darren and Nathan gave lots of demonstrations to a variety of interesting and inspiring educators. Lots of leaflets and biscuits were handed out to the many visitors. Also, we enjoyed looking at the other products on display and meeting the other exhibitors. We were all fascinated by the blow-up classroom – it was wonderful!

Live demos at the show.

It is great to see people’s reactions when we show them the apps that we create. Some are amazed when they see how quickly the messages we type in the live demos pop up in the app. Others love how quickly they translate the content when they choose a different language. It is fun to watch! Thank-you to all of you who asked for more details – we will be in touch very soon.

Help yourself!

Talking of translations – we were asked if we had Punjabi and we realised that we didn’t. So, Nathan, our developer, has already had a look at that and it is now among the over 70 languages we offer.

We are always open to new ideas – please get in touch if there is a feature you’d like to see. We have quite a few things in the pipeline as we are continually looking to stay ahead. Keep checking back with us to find out more.

If you would like to meet the team and have a live demo –  we will be at the Early Years Annual Conference at Yarnfield Conference Centre, Stone, ST15 0NL on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th March. We will also be at the NEC in Birmingham at the Education Show on 20-22 March. We are looking forward to meeting new customers!