At Pennyhill Primary School

About: Pennyhill Primary School in Sandwell near Birmingham is a large, three-form-entry primary school with around 700 pupils aged between 3 and 11 years.  The school is set in an area of deprivation, and 30% of pupils at the school receive pupil premium funding, with around 40% speaking English as an additional language. 

The challenge

As with many schools, one challenge for the school is engaging with some of the parents.  For a variety of reasons, some parents are harder to reach, whether that be through lack of understanding, or if English is an additional language.  For other parents who may be immigrants, it could be that they do not understand how the UK education systems work.  

To ensure that home-learning happens and that school-home partnerships work well, the school wanted to improve parental communications.  The school’s headteacher, Elaine Williams, had seen a system whilst working at another school and wanted to explore what it could offer Pennyhill Primary, as Elaine explains:

“Our school community is diverse, with many parents not speaking a good level of English.  This means that when we were sending communications home, they were not being understood.” 

Crisis Communications

Like many schools, when the pandemic hit in February, the headteacher knew how important it was to be able to reach all parents of pupils at their school, with so much change happening and critical messages needing to be sent, received and most importantly understood.  

“In the current climate, we wanted to have a system which was visual so that most parents would understand any important messages coming through to them.  I had seen MarvellousMe being used at another school and knew straight away that this was the system for our school.”

A new insight

As a school, it is not easy to know who or how many parents are receiving or reading the letters sent home in bags.  But this has all changed says, Elaine.

“MarvellousMe has given us a new insight into parental engagement.  Before, we would send home letters and would not know whether parents had read them.  Now, when teachers send home a message, we know who has received it, who has read the message and, if we get a ‘high-five’ back, we even know who has enjoyed the message.”

Putting teachers in control 

One of the great benefits of MarvellousMe is that teachers can share the good news with parents in real-time as it happens.  

“As a head, I can see which year groups are using it better. I can also see which teachers are engaging with it most.  But I need not worry; teachers love MarvellousMe.  Now, social distancing could cause a breakdown in teacher/parent communications. But, thanks to MarvellousMe, our engagement is thriving.  In the beginning, we had a competition to see which teacher could get the most ‘high-fives’ from parents and we have not looked back.  The teachers are in control of the good news messages going out, and parents know precisely what is happening in school.  It’s been brilliant.”

“Our team are using it really well for sending messages, sending reminders and boosting pupil morale through giving badges, which is important in the current climate.”

All schools need a champion 

All schools should have a champion, and Pennyhill Primary has their very own MarvellousMe Champion. 

“We appointed a go-to person as a Champion to help set up our own reward badges, subject areas, groups, such as EAL or pupil premium, to make sure that we were using the system in the best way.   If teachers have any questions or want to create a new badge for an event or one of our school values, we can easily do this ourselves in the system.”

Next steps

As a school looking to technology to improve parental engagement, what is next?

“As we have only had MarvellousMe since March 2020, it’s a bit early to say what we will do next.  We are impressed with the partner badges being rolled out for TTRockstars and many others, and these will be great for our teachers awarding praise to pupils who are working hard.”“I know our parents love MarvellousMe and I’ll  be interested to hear from them about what else they think we could use it for.  I am sure there are many ways it could help us.  Perhaps with remote learning or more ways of working smarter.”

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