Councils ‘use radio most’ for school closure message but why not use texting?

Article sourced from BBC News

Scotland’s councils rely most on radio bulletins and word-of-mouth to let parents know schools are closed due to bad weather, BBC Scotland has found.

The news website asked all 32 local authorities what policies they used to get the message across.

Of the 31 which responded, all said they used local radio bulletins and 15 said parents’ passing on the news to other parents was also key. But new technology is being used with 17 on Twitter and 13 sending e-mails.

The school closure communication policies of most of Scotland’s councils were tested this week following relentless snow falls and freezing temperatures. Thousands of pupils at hundreds of schools have been away from the classroom for three days or more.

A council spokesperson told the website: “As Glasgow has to communicate with the parents and guardians of approximately 70,000 youngsters, we need to use a variety of communication channels to cascade information to parents.The ways of doing this will be done in consultation with head teachers to decide the best method for each school and local community. For example, in a school last year, a walking bus was organised and teachers passed on information to parents as their child was taken home from school.”

All councils use a number of methods to communicate closures, but Midlothian Council – which has shut school doors until Monday – was the local authority which appeared to embrace all new technologies. It communicates on Twitter, Facebook, through blogs, e-mail, text message, websites, and local radio and via word-of-mouth.

SMileS Comment:

We can’t help but wonder why more schools haven’t opted for using texting as a channel of communication for their disaster planning strategy. Whilst  radio is an easy method to communicate with a large target audience sending a simple text to every parent would be a much more effective method as it’s fast and direct. Instead of having to listen out for the school on the radio and waiting a long time as the radio speaker piles through an extensive list of schools within the area, it would be much easier to receive a direct text confirming if the school was closed or open. 

Sending out a bulk message is also a quicker method than email, as more people are likely to check their texts whereas a email can go unread for days. During emergency planning scenarios head teachers want to get in contact with as many people as they can, as quickly as they can to inform parents on a current situation, surely texting would be one of the most logical solutions. In addition, most schools are more likely to have your telephone number than an email address so sending out an email is not always an option, whereas you can guarantee that the school will have numerous contact details for each students parents in order to contact them in case of an emergency. 

As referred to within this article some schools have started using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to inform parents of any important news, but this is a limited avenue of communication as you don’t know if parents are aware of your online presence. Therefore, using social media sites is an unreliable method of communication as you would have to support this channel of communication with another i.e. emails or post to ensure that the message had reached the parents. 

We already have a number of schools that are customers using texting as their chosen method of communication to inform parents of important information they need to be made aware of. One example is ‘Colne Valley Specialist Art College’ who turned to us to improve communication with parents, guardians and staff. The reason they implemented texting as part of their disaster planning strategy is that the system is online which means it can be accessed from any internet connected computer; with your database of contacts ready and waiting. This has proven to be very handy in situations like heavy snow when no one can make it into school. Click here to read more about how Colne Valley has benefited from using SMileS ‘Colne Valley Specialist Arts College Case Study’

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Posted on October 5, 2011, in Market Industry, SMileS Features/Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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