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App puts parents in the picture

A new smartphone app that aims to better engage parents with their children’s education is being trialled in schools after being developed by a former maths teacher.

James Whitaker, 29, is chief executive of Manchester-based technology startup ParentHub, and previously taught in one of the city’s most challenging schools when he became aware of the huge benefits to pupils that come from a strong school community.

What is the issue that ParentHub sets out to solve?

“I was working on my school’s parental engagement strategy and found it was much more effective when the school reached out to parents, rather than just inviting them along to parents’ evenings and other events.

“I left to do an MBA at Manchester Business School because I wanted to develop a way for schools to use technology to build a community that helps them communicate with parents.

“My idea wasn’t fully formed, but I knew that schools needed an efficient way to bring people together as a community.”

How does ParentHub achieve that?

“ParentHub is being trialled by eight schools. It allows teachers to direct message individual parents or send group messages like newsletters or homework assignments.

“The passcode protected app allows parents to check their child’s timetable, attendance and grades.

“Teachers are encouraged to use ParentHub to give positive praise to parents, like sending a picture of their child’s latest artwork.

“Schools pay an annual subscription based on the number of pupils they have.”

Watch the ParentHub video.

How did you decide what features to include?

“ParentHub’s initial features came from my experiences as a teacher and focus groups with teachers and parents.

“It will evolve based on the feedback we get from the trials and after we launch commercially, which we aim to do in January.

“So far we’ve seen investment from a number of angles and the social investment funds Big Venture Challenge and Big Issue Invest.”

How will you judge Parenthub’s success?

“The system went live in September. Reaction from parents has been brilliant, and teachers say they like it because it’s simple to use and efficient.

“We’re planning some research projects to quantify the impact of ParentHub, including its effect on grades, attendance and student wellbeing, but we really value anecdotal feedback from teachers and parents too.”

To find out more about ParentHub, visit www.parenthub.co.uk

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