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School-links makes a difference to community organisation

September, 2021

School-links is helping I Have a Dream Charitable Trust to connect ‘dreamers’ and ‘navigators’Picture of Lesley

Communication is critical for the I Have A Dream Charitable Trust, a social service agency providing mentoring and ongoing support for 960 students ranging from Year 0 to Year 13 across four schools. The organisation has been using School-links for the past five months. Executive Manager, Lesley McCardle, shares the positive impact the School-links platform has had on links between staff and between ‘navigators’ and ‘dreamers’.

I Have a Dream’s student ‘dreamers’ are assigned a ‘navigator’, a full-time adult advocate who works one-on-one with the student, mentoring them all the way to further education or employment. The navigators connect daily with their dreamers and also engage with the children’s whānau and the wider community. Additionally, a team of I Have A Dream managers work out of the four schools, located in Whangārei, supporting the navigators. Prior to using School-links, Lesley’s administrative staff would collate whānau and student contact data from the schools and pass it onto the navigators who would create groups in their phones. Updates to contact information would be ad hoc and records of communication difficult to maintain.

Lesley was inspired to look for a dedicated communication platform after the first COVID19 lockdown in March 2020, “We moved our support online and encouraged students and their whānau to connect with our navigators via a virtual korero, but I needed to know who wasn’t getting our messages so that myself or a navigator could follow up. I realised that we needed a more robust means of communication.”

I Have A Dream wanted to be one hundred per cent sure that the close contact that underpins the organisation’s ethos could be maintained even during extenuating circumstances, “Plus I was concerned that some of our dreamers and their whānau may need our support more than usual. I wanted to know who needed kai parcels or help with anything.”

Knowing who’s read what

Lesley came across School-links and could immediately see how it would meet the organisation’s needs. Firstly, the delivery reports were exactly what she was looking for, “When you send a message in School-links you can see who has read it. The navigators love it because they can see that their emails have been read by whānau and get in touch if not. I love it because I can quickly see if staff have read their messages and avoid a potential communication breakdown, which is always a problem for any large organisation. If they haven’t, I check in with that member of staff.”

“The support from the team at School-links has been excellent. They get back to you quickly and they are open to ideas. They tweaked the system so that our navigators, as well as managers, could take advantage of the delivery reports feature too.”

Seamless data management

Secondly, School-link’s ability to data-sync with the edge student management system has reduced administrative time and improved data management, “Our partner schools use edge so when a school edits student and caregiver contact information in their student management system, our system is also automatically updated. This saves us a lot of administrative time and means we consistently have accurate information.” Groups such as teachers, classes and years are also transferred across.

Tailor-made groups

Thirdly, Lesley rates the ability within School-links to create their own groups, “I can use the information that is imported from the schools to create a group of dreamers for each of my navigators, so they don’t have to set them up themselves on their phones or whatever. They all just hop onto School-links now to send emails and they find it really easy to use.”

Multi-channel communication

Lesley hasn’t had to manage an emergency situation as yet but is comforted to know that with School-links she does have the ability to text staff or whānau in a crisis, “I predominantly use the email functionality and I will use the new Facebook integration, but it is good to have the option now and again to use text, and to have it there in the event of a disaster such as post-earthquake.”

Lesley highly recommends School-links to community groups, “Having a dedicated communication platform has made a real difference because of the ease of use and the extra features. The delivery reports are huge for us. It has improved my links with staff and our connection with our dreamers and whanāu.”

 

Tips for sharing your COVID updates

August, 2021

The Prime Minister has announced a COVID-19 Alert Level 4 for the whole country. School-links can support your school to keep everyone informed and safe, via text, email, data-push and now with Facebook integration.

Text: use text for important alerts and to direct your community to email, app and Facebook for more detailed updates over the next few days.

Facebook, data-push (app), emails: in a couple of clicks share ongoing communications across all three platforms – your school Facebook page, the School-links app and via email. Coverage counts.

Target: quickly and easily send updates to groups already set up in your SMS such as year groups who have specific postponements as a result of the lockdown. Keep it relevant.

Remote access: ensure that in the event of snap lockdowns you and your leadership have remote access to all your communication channels, including Facebook. The School-links platform can be accessed online giving you and your team access to text, data-push, Facebook and email all in one place.

A Principal’s experience

Read how the Principal of Papatoetoe High School navigated an outbreak of COVID earlier in the year.

We hope that this three/seven day snap lockdown will have the desired effect and we will be able to return to school next week. In the meantime, if you need any support with your communications, our team are available on [email protected] or call 0800 333 480.

School-links now includes Facebook Integration

August, 2021

Facebook Integration graphic

Exciting new feature for School-links schools: you can now share your communications via your school Facebook page, as well as via text and email.

Next time you visit the School-links Message Centre, you’ll see a new option. Simply tick the box to share your message to your school’s Facebook page, in addition to email and text.

Benefits

  • Your administrator can use one tool to manage all school communication platforms.
  • School communications will be visible to all members of your Facebook group, or the wider community if a public page.
  • Quick and easy to use. In fact, the ‘News’ option on School-links will automatically share news with your Facebook page – you don’t even need to tick the box!
  • You can complement your Facebook posts with emails and texts to remind people to check the school Facebook page for more information, an efficient solution for weather cancellations and updates to emergency situations. All the information in one place rather than spread across a number of emails.

For further information visit your School-links portal, check your emails for the latest School-links newsletter, or contact School-links direct.

Beep4Alumni available to schools

August, 2020

GraduateFollowing up on the exciting launch of a sister product to School-links, Beep4Business are now in the position to be able to offer Beep4Alumni to schools, universities, and colleges for koha donations.

Beep4Alumni will allow schools to easily and effectively connect with past students. You can use Beep4Alumni to:

  • Send regular newsletters
  • Promote events and fundraisers
  • Establish group communications for sports codes, international students
  • Easily send notices, reminders, postponements & cancellations

Just like School-links it offers the following features:

  • Online communication portal and app
  • Branding for your school, university or college alumni
  • Seamless multi-channel communication – email, text and app 2-way messaging
  • The option to target specific groups

Best of all, send us your spreadsheet of contacts and we will set it all up for you!

The ‘Koha’ Option: set your own monthly Hosting & Licence Fee for the software and support in the form of a ‘Koha’ (donation/gift). Note: you will have to pay for any text messages sent though your portal, charged at 12c per text.

Learn more at Beep4Alumni or contact us direct.

School-links develop cutting edge comms platform – available to community groups for koha donations

August, 2020

App, text and email tool ‘Beep4Business’ now available to the arts, sports, churches and not-for-profits

Andrew Balfour, CEO and founder of School-links, is offering his new multichannel communication platform ‘Beep4Business’ for koha donations to support the community sector as it battles with the ongoing impact of Covid19. Workers and volunteers have spent hours during the Covid19 situation communicating news and updates to their clients, members and congregations, often unsure as to whether the messages were getting through. Now the Beep4Business app, text and email messaging service is available for koha donations to support not-for-profits and community groups to ensure that they can maintain contact with their clientele going forward.

Living through the devastating Christchurch earthquake, Balfour had experienced first-hand how important no-fail methods of communication are in a crisis. School-links, his communication solution for schools, became a leading communication platform in the New Zealand education sector, and his team have become a recognised authority in the field of Emergency Response and Attendance Management.

Beep4Business, the sister platform to School-links, was due for release just prior to the Covid19 pandemic, “During the lockdown the mantra ‘stay safe, be kind’ really struck a chord with our organisation. We have always been about helping people stay safe, and we feel in these difficult times that we have an opportunity to support all those agencies who support all of us.” Andrew has subsequently launched Beep4Business with a ‘koha’ option for charities, not-for-profits, churches, social enterprises, clubs, and associations.

Andrew’s Beep4Business software allows organisations to easily push out 2-way messages to members, or targeted groups, via a free Beep app, or personalised emails or texts, “We just ask that the church or charity, or whoever, contact us and we will do whatever we can to help.”

Learn more

Communicating through the COVID-19 response

June, 2020

Schools and early childhood centres talk about how they utilised School-links Emergency Alerts during the COVID-19 lockdown

We spoke to a number of our schools and early childhood centres to see how they used School-links during the COVID-19 response, both to inform our own ongoing platform development, and to share good practice with other organisations.

The build-up: sharing information to quell the fear

As the pandemic ramped up across the globe, schools began to see the number of queries from parents and caregivers increase. Megan Chisholm, Office Manager at Newlands School in Wellington recalls, “Even a week or so away from lockdown, we could feel that the school community was starting to panic and we were getting a lot more questions. We had already received a couple of Ministry of Education guidelines, so we used the School-links email notification service to forward these onto parents to keep them in the loop.”

Julie Dawick, Deputy Principal at Cambridge Middle School, agrees and explains how they took full advantage of the multi-channel nature of School-links, “We texted parents to say check your emails for further information and this alerted some caregivers that we had the wrong email address which we could then put right before the situation escalated.”

Megan also appreciated School-links Early Notification (EN) system, “The Monday before lockdown many families didn’t send their kids to school. A lot didn’t contact us with everything that was going on, but I was able to use the EN system.” This systems sends texts and emails to the caregivers of students marked absent without explanation, “I can’t imagine what it would have been like to chase up a third of the school without that, especially as we were preparing for the Prime Minister’s announcement.”

Shifting from Level 3 to 4: pre-empting the situation

“That Monday felt almost scary,” reflects Megan, “We knew we were all going to be hearing the news at exactly the same time so we could potentially be inundated with queries. So, we pre-empted the situation and sent out a text to all caregivers to say that we would be in touch shortly.” This gave the management team time to make a plan, “Then we sent out a multi-channel message, on text and email, to announce that the school would be closing except for the children of essential workers. We advised them that we would forward official information via email as soon as it came available.” The parents of essential workers were also able to quickly and easily respond to let us know if their child would be attending.

Rachel from Woolston Pre-School in Christchurch was also able to swiftly contact her families, “Obviously COVID-19 was a situation we hadn’t been in before, and an emergency situation, so it all happened quite quickly.” It soon became apparent after the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Centre needed to send out a communication to families alerting them that they would be closed the following day, “I was a wee bit panicked about how I was going to keep them updated but we just used the text messaging in School-links. It was really good. I could keep everybody informed and I could send links through it to further information.”

Level 4 – lockdown: communicating for well-being

Newlands Primary School used the School-links email platform to stay in touch with their community, reassuring them that the students’ wellbeing and mental health was a priority. As soon as they had  a plan in place for online learning, they shared the information with caregivers and gave specific times to the families for when the teachers would be in contact. Megan stresses, “Having a reliable communication system that syncs with our management system edge was invaluable. It meant that all the new students who were starting our school in term two were seamlessly receiving all the communications too. It just made my life so much easier.”

For Cambridge Middle School too, School-links meant that everyone was connected. Julie explains, “We used School-links to share all communications that were relevant to parents, and always texted to alert them to check their emails. School-links meant that our comms were relevant, on time and to the point. It provided such reassurance for the community at what was a very difficult time.”

Moving out of lockdown: administration made simple

The main issue for schools as the country moved back into level three was finding out the numbers of students who would be attending. Megan again found the text alert system critical, “We used the text option again at this point, with a link to an online form that made it easy for parents. We had so many positive comments about our communication.”

Rachel had the same response from her early childhood parents, “I have had a lot of feedback from the families saying that it was great, that we kept them up to date and they knew what was happening.”

Reflection: it was all about reassurance – and time

For Megan there were two clear benefits of School-links Emergency Alerts. Firstly, the school had time to craft the content, rather than worry about how they were going to get communications out, and secondly it gave the community peace of mind, “They knew that they didn’t have to chase us. We hardly had any queries because we were able to keep right on top of it.”

Julie describes School-links as pivotal for the communication strategy at Cambridge Middle School, “It would have been absolutely onerous without it.  When we moved into level four, we knew we had everything in place and were just waiting to press go. And that feeling of reassurance spread to our community too.”

With thanks to Cambridge Middle School, Newlands Primary School and Woolston Pre-School.

Learn more about Emergency Alerts

edge school: ‘we’ve got this’ during police lockdown

June, 2020

School-links Emergency Alerts keep community informed

Cambridge Middle School went into lockdown in February, at approximately 2.45pm, just prior to the end of the school day. The lockdown stemmed from a call from the police to advise of a police operation near the school. They recommended that Cambridge Middle along with three other schools go into lockdown as a precautionary measure.

The school took immediate action upon receiving this advice and the school was locked down with all staff and students remaining inside the buildings until they were notified as to when they could come out of lockdown. The lockdown ended at approximately 3.30pm without incident.

The school utilised School-links to keep the community up to date on the situation. The automated daily data synchronisation between edge and School-links meant that all contact information was up to date. Parents, caregivers – and staff – were able to be informed via text message and email within minutes, and kept informed as to further developments. Approximately 1400 messages were sent on multiple communication channels in a couple of clicks. Critically, it meant that parents who had already come to collect their children remained in their vehicles and didn’t interfere with the work of the emergency services.

Cambridge Middle School received wholly positive feedback from relieved parents and caregivers, who did not have to search social media for the latest information but were able to rely on clear and accurate messaging from the school leadership team.

Julie Dawick, Deputy Principal at Cambridge Middle School says of School-links, “Just do it. You have to be prepared for situations that are outside of your control. It was so reassuring that we had School-links. We knew we’d got this and could concentrate on the situation at hand.”

Learn more about the features School-links adds to the edge platform

Learn more about Emergency Alerts

New feature for all School-links clients: the Community ALERTS Directory

June, 2020

At School-links we know how in any crisis, communication is critical. To support government, national, regional and local bodies manage communication during a crisis, we are providing a new service, the Community ALERTS Directory (CAD). 

This service allows organisations such as the Ministry of Education, the Police, or Councils communicate important alerts and updates to school communities. To see the type of information that will be shared by these organisations visit the School-links CAD webpage.

How does the Community ALERTS Directory work?

A banner linking to the Directory will be included on School-links email templates (schools can opt out if they wish). Schools will also be asked to include a CAD tile on their own school website and will be provided with the line of code required.

The banner and tile will link to the School-links CAD webpage featuring the latest information, both nationally and regionally, that organisations wish to communicate to a school community.

All listings are pre-approved by School-links to ensure that the information and content that the organisation provides is appropriate for the Directory.

If you would like any further information please contact us [email protected] or [email protected]

Andrew Balfour
Managing Director