Before you announce your launch you should carry out a ‘cohort survey’ of all parents to establish access to the internet at home. This is essential if you are considering using software or Apps that are cloud based or require access to the school server. It is particularly important to gather data from the Free School Meals & low income families, who are the most likely to not have broadband at home. We have a template letter to download for the survey that most schools have found effective.
If the result of your survey shows only a small proportion without access then you may be able to offer them a low cost or free solution. However, if it represents a significant portion of your population then you will need to consider the impact it will have on your programme. Your School Liaison Manager will be able to help you with ways of ensuring that the programme is still viable and sustainable.
Depending on your population you may also want to consider offering parents the opportunity of parental coaching on the device and the internet. Parents who have little or no knowledge of the internet in particular may be concerned about letting their child have access when they hear so much about the dangers they can face online. Offering advice and guidance on internet safety might go a long way in gaining their trust and support for the programme.
It always helps to put some of the devices you are planning to provide on display at the event for parents to see. Most suppliers will provide samples to show at your launch. Even better would be to have some students demonstrating them to parents.
With regards to setting up donations and other printed materials to have available on the day:
- Online Direct Debit facility
The most efficient method of your parents setting up their regular donations is via our simple online Direct Debit facility. You can provide devices on the launch day where they can enter ther information, add a link on your website so they can complete it when they go home and perhaps have someone in your reception area who can help those less confident complete it during the day. You will be able to monitor the number of people signing up online via your DMS portal which is updated every 24 hours.
- Paper form Direct Debit facility
Although we actively encourage schools to use the online donation facility we understand that some parents are unwilling or unable to access this service. To ensure everyone has the ability to donate we offer a paper form. Our office will generate a bespoke form for you and you should ensure you have a sufficient number available for parents at the launch presentations. If you have mentioned parental/guardian contribution in your letter, you should encourage parents to bring their banking details to the launch as getting them signed up when they are motivated and inspired is always effective.
- Gift Aid
Which ever of the above two options are used, we cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of ensuring that all relevant tax paying donors tick the Gift Aid box. This will ensure that you benefit from the maximum amount of additional income available to support your programme.
- Home / School Agreement
We also recommend that you have some examples of your Home School Agreement available for parents to read. These would not be the ones they ultimately sign – unless you are planning on distributing very soon after the launch. If there is a long gap between launch & distribution (as there usually is) parents & pupils will usually be asked to sign the form when they collect the device.
- Q&A Leaflet
If you have a number of different languages in the school, and even if you don’t, it is worth having a simple Q&A sheet that covers all the usual questions in a simple and clear way. Everyone always thinks of a question or wonders if they understood something when they get home and this should put their minds at rest.
Gift Aid compliance
If you are planning a fully inclusive 1:1 programme (as we really hope you are) and we are handling the parental donations for you, then you will probably be planning to benefit from the additional Gift Aid income as well. The Foundation has an agreement with the Government regarding the collection of Gift Aid but in order to comply with this agreement it is ESSENTIAL that we approve all communication to parents. This is primarily to ensure that there is no suggestion that they have to pay to benefit. This includes the invitation letter, your presentation on the launch day and any signup letter that you may ask them to sign.
Although it must be clear that parents are ‘donating to the programme’ and not ‘buying the device’ it is acceptable to emphasise the importance of donating the recommended amount and maintaining donations for the duration of the agreed term to ensure the sustainability of the programme for their child and for future years, provided it is equally clear that it is not a requirement to donate the recommended amount and they are only being asked to donate as much as they can afford (which may be nothing at all).
We have more information about Gift Aid available.
When to launch
If you are launching your programme to parents then your first thought must be how you can get as many parents as possible to see your launch. The most effective launches we have seen offer parents a number of different times to attend, lunch time, mid-afternoon, school pick-up time and a couple of time slots in the evening. You don’t have to do all of these but the more options you offer the more chance of seeing as many as possible. If you are planning a whole school launch then you might want to consider running the presentation on several days or even a weekend.
We know from experience that parents attending an inspiring and confident launch will be far more engaged than those that just receive a letter. Parents that don’t attend are the hardest ones to bring on board so the more you do to make it possible for them to come to you the more take up you will have.
Having completed and evaluated your survey, made adjustments to your plans if required and planned when you are going to launch, your next step is to invite your parents and plan the event itself.
When you are ready to invite your parents you need to send them an exciting and inspiring invitation letter that is clear and concise and avoids using any technical language. We also discourage talking about ‘our new tablet / laptop scheme’ which will just embed the idea that they are being asked to buy a computer – the programme is so much more than that and for parents to fully understand this they will need to have that message loud and clear right from the very start.
We have prepared a template letter that you can use as the basis for your own. It is important that you ask parents to confirm which session they will be attending. If they don’t respond some schools have even telephoned them to encourage attendance. It is a very special event and a critical learning opportunity for their child and they need to feel that level of significance.
Preparing for the launch
The purpose of your launch is to gain support for your project by engaging as many families as possible.
Before you launch you need to be sure about all the important details:
- Why you think it is important to run the programme
- What you expect your students to gain from it
- When you will provide it
- When it will start to be used in class & at home
- What the package is you will be providing
- What the recommended donation amount is, and over what period
- What will happen at the end of the donation period
It is important to have enough staff attending to answer technical, educational or financial questions.
Ideally, your project team including the bursar, Head of ICT and Year group teachers and parent governors should attend. It is important you fully brief them all to ensure consistency of message and, equally importantly, consistent and clear answers to all the likely questions, particularly the financial ones.
The launch format
As with your invitation letter, your launch event needs to be clear, concise and should avoid technical language. We have prepared a detailed outline of our recommended launch format along with supporting template documents and our compulsory video.
Explaining the donation
The final, and probably the most complex idea, to get across is that you are asking parents to give their support in the form of a voluntary charitable donation. This allows the school to benefit from the Gift Aid that comes through the Foundation; but it can only apply if the scheme is equitable.
You need to be clear about the following points:
- The recommended monthly donation
- The period of the programme – so the number of years / donations they are asked to make
- Who owns the device
- What will happen at the end of the programme
To avoid giving the wrong messages or causing confusion, here are a few "do's" and "don'ts":
- Talk about donations
- Talk about access to learning resources
- Refer to your programme as a home learning programme for all
- Focus on the learning support that the resources will provide the children outside the normal school day
- Keep the donation structure simple. Avoid talking about weekly amounts of money. If you have to bring it down to weekly then say something like ‘just £12 a month or less than a pint of beer a week’ or similar, so they don’t get confused when they write it on their donation form
- Explain that while a high level of parental involvement is vital, no one will be excluded
- Mention payments or installments
- Have a suggested donation amount that is anything other than whole pounds
- Imply guaranteed ownership of the devices both during the period of the programme and after it
- Describe it as a ‘laptop/tablet scheme’
- Give the impression that failure to contribute will exclude some children
- Give the impression the funds will be used for any purpose outside the programme
- Make it complicated eg; with a mixture of cheques for deposits and direct debits for ongoing donations - it always leads to problems and confusion
If you have taken the wise decision to use the Foundation’s Donation Management Service (DMS) we can provide you with personalised online and paper Direct Debit facilities for parents to complete on the night or return to you at a later stage. To use the online service at the launch you will need to provide a number of devices with internet access and some privacy for parents. After the launch you can include a link to the online Direct Debit service, embedded into your website.
Using this service will significantly reduce the errors that can occur when interpreting hand written forms but it is important to remember that some parents will be reluctant, or unable, to use the online facility and so a paper option will also need to be available.
After the launch
If you have used paper signup / Direct Debit forms then you will need to collect them up carefully and check them off against the attendance list. If you have also been using the online form you will be able to access the names of parents that have registered the following day via your portal
It is worth remembering to make sure you capture the names of every parent attending the launch. You will need to know which have attended so that you can track them when they sign up by completing a Direct Debit mandate. For a programme to be truly equitable every parent in the cohort will need to either sign up or ‘opt out’ of the programme. Those have not done either will need to be contacted and asked to take one option or the other.
It is every parent’s right to ‘opt out’ of the programme. They may do this for religious or cultural reasons or just because they don’t believe in it. It is important however that a parent doesn’t opt out because they can’t afford to contribute, the essence of an equity programme is that everyone that want’s to can have a device, no matter what their personal circumstances.
In a genuine opt out situation most schools will provide a device that the child can use or share in class but you have to respect the parent’s decision to not have the device at home. Clearly this can prove very disruptive for the teacher and the child as well as compromising their ability to learn. Because of this we would urge you to talk to any parents that opt out on a one to one basis to try and encourage them to participate.
You need to chase any nil returns from the launch event. You cannot assume they have opted out just because they have not responded. You will also need to send a letter to those parents who could not attend the launch evening explaining the programme and enclosing a Signup / Direct debit form (or providing the link to the online Direct Debit form).