Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) will soon provide 137 schools in south-east Queensland with a mobile app that enables parents to view term dates and announcements, and their child’s exam results and rankings from their smartphones or tablets.
BCE operates within the Archdiocese of Brisbane and provides umbrella administrative, learning and employee, and technology services to the schools attended by almost 71,000 students.
The mobile app initiative is part of an ongoing project to reduce the administrative burden for schools in the archdiocese. In late 2013, the company engaged Blink Mobile Interactive to help create an app that lets teachers search curriculum content from their mobile devices.
It also follows the 2012 rollout across schools of an SMS facility that informs parents of student absences by combining daily information from the role marking process with primary contact phone data in its student admin system.
The SMS facility is also used in five admin offices across the region to contact staff in the event of an emergency.
“We had a fire in one of our offices and wanted to let all staff know overnight that they shouldn’t come to work the next day so the most reliable way to do that was to send them an SMS,” said Warren Armitage, CIO at Brisbane Catholic Education.
The latest Android and iOS mobile app for parents – which interfaces with BCE’s SharePoint system – will be rolled out into two phases to the schools during this year.
During the first stage, BCE is creating a generic mobile app to publish information that relates to all schools such as term dates and announcements. There will be a school directory with contact information, and maps to guide users to a specific school.
Authentication is being added during the second stage, enabling parents or carers to log in to school systems using a mobile device and view information such as student grades and rankings. They will also be able to access student timetables and calendar dates, and payment options allowing parents to pay for books, uniforms and even lunch from their mobile devices.
"We will be able to communicate directly with an individual parent," said Warren Armitage, CIO at Brisbane Catholic Education, told CIO.
"We also will start to provide more targeted information to parents, we can give them a snapshot of the academic calendar of the school as it relates to their child individually [providing information about] when they have got assessments coming up or assignments due – specific to that child rather than just broadcast the information."
Six schools are currently trailing the mobile app and all 137 are expected to take it up by the end of the year.
Armitage said the SMS facility and mobile app projects lower administrative burden for school staff.
“Our administrative staffing is pretty skinny ... as is for most schools,” Armitage said. “It [SMS] is a quick notification for parents, they usually find out quickly if something unusual has happened – either because their child hasn’t arrived at school and should be or there 's been an emergency."
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