School-links is helping I Have a Dream Charitable Trust to connect ‘dreamers’ and ‘navigators’
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.
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.”
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.”