An outline workshop has been produced for schools looking to assess how their work is affected by the way in which they communicate. In addition, model policies have been developed that can be used to deal with the burden of emails and pressure from parents.
Communications is an issue that "can lead to excessive workload in schools" and the materials are to "help leaders and teachers review tasks associated with communications in schools, so they can reduce workload", according to the guidance, which was published last month.
A recommended comms policy, drawn up by St Edward's Secondary School in Poole, Dorset, states: "Communication by email or student planner are the preferred method."
It sets out clear procedures for parents and others wanting to make contact with teachers, and says: "Schools can look at using electronic tools that assist communication to parents through text, email, and newsletter."
Headteacher Michael Antram explained: "As a school we decided that we had to manage both parental expectations of teachers, and ensure high standards of home-school communications."
He added: "Our policy has led to a reduction in the demands to respond to parental emails in the evenings and weekends, so that work and home boundaries are clearer."
The DfE guidance includes an 'email protocol' developed by St Edward’s, whereby "staff are not expected to check email after 6pm, or over the weekend". It is designed to reduce the volume of emails sent and received within the school day and recommends using weekly bulletins and increased targeting of emails rather than sending blanket messages to all staff.
Antram commented: "As a result of the protocol the volume of emails we send has reduced and the use of centralised bulletins has gathered important general communications into one place."
Tips from other school leaders, teachers and education experts are included in the guidance, with suggestions ranging from reducing the number and duration of meetings to having a comms policy in place.
Another suggestion is to explore different forms of communication, since "a short email or text may be as appropriate as a phone call, or a phone or video call could be used rather than a face-to-face meeting."
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