Smartphone app could transform care for 20,000 Norfolk families

Posted by / Friday 29 April 2016 /
Mum and baby supported by Action for Children2

We've been working on an adapted an app designed for schools to improve communication with parents at children’s centres


Over the past four weeks, we've been piloting a smartphone app for parents in Norfolk (where we run 25 children's centres on behalf of the county council) and are hoping that this app will transform the care we provides to 20,000 families in the region.

Developed by Milton-Keynes company Sentio Media and released around 18 months ago, ‘mySchoolApp’ was originally designed as a way for teachers to improve contact with their pupils’ parents and carers.


Schools registered with the app use it to give parents access to everything they need to know about their child’s schooling - including the latest news and events, an up-to-date school calendar, staff contact details, school policies, absence notifications and other documents such as ‘letters home’. The information in the app is continually updated and even when parents are not logged in, teaching staff can send them free, instant ‘push-notifications’ which pop up on their screens, similar to text messages.

Lisa Nicholson, our Norfolk service coordinator was shown the app by our senior information officer, Alan Crawford, after she approached him for help in finding a way of using technology to save money on the cost of communicating to more than 20,000 parents across the county.

Lisa said: “Previously, we posted out calendar planners to our families three times a year which outlined our children’s centre activities for the following four months.

“Timings and locations of sessions regularly changed so this quite often meant the mailings were out of date soon after they were delivered. It’s also very expensive in terms of design, printing and postage, as well as in staff time.”

Lisa is working with Sentio Media’s Simon Mead to develop mySchoolApp into a dedicated Action for Children app over the coming months. Families from children’s centres in Aylsham, Reepham, Spixworth, Sprowston, Stalham, Broadland Drayton and Taverham are testing an adapted version and will feed back to the developers before the end of the year.

"The app is proving really popular and for to us to have instant, free contact with the vast majority of our parents via the push notifications is fantastic– it’s so important in emergencies, or to chase follow-up appointments."

Lisa, Norfolk service coordinator at Action for Children

Recent research* shows that around 90 per cent of parents in the UK own a smartphone and a parental satisfaction survey conducted by Norfolk County Council into children’s centres this year showed 98 per cent of parents in the county had access to the internet, 86 per cent via smartphones.

“Of course, we’re aware that many parents may not have a smartphone, or the correct software, so naturally we’re continuing to provide information through our usual methods and via the Action for Children website”, added Lisa.


* Data source: IPSOS MORI Q4 2015