Skip to main content
All Posts By

Will

Spring 2022 Software Update

By Software Updates

1. New ‘Edit the Teachers’ page design and functionality

This is one of the most complex and sophisticated changes we have made to Parents Booking since it was created. It is designed to help schools set up parents’ evenings in a simpler, more logical way. It should also help schools who have many ‘shared’ classes select which teachers to make ‘active’ for the parents’ evening, and how to manage ‘shared’ classes, e.g. do the parents book 2+ teachers together (for one single appointment) or separately.

Intro: This functionality will work especially well for schools who have ‘shared’ classes if the school uploads not only their ‘Main Class Teachers’, but all teachers for all class codes. If your Admin user un-ticks the ‘Main Class Teacher’ tick box on the Upload Data page (if shown), and runs an automatic data upload, most school MIS databases will then upload all teachers for all classes, making it easier for schools to see which classes are ‘shared’, and giving them all the options they require to set up the appointment booking rules as wanted.

For example, you can set up one ‘shared’ class code to book two teachers together for all appointments, while setting up another class code to only allow parents to book one or the other teacher. You can even set up a class code so parents can book as many of the teachers as they want for this subject.

How does this new page layout work?

  • The new Edit the Teachers page design shows and sorts the data by class code, where these were not displayed before.
  • You can sort the columns alphabetically by clicking column headers, e.g. Subject Name
  • All class codes begin ‘ticked’. Where a class code is ticked, that teacher is a booking option for parents.
  • Un-tick the teacher name(s) beside a class code to ‘deactivate’ a teacher. This will mean they are not shown as a booking option to parents. Press ‘Save Changes’ when finished.
  • You can un-tick or tick teachers even after appointment booking has begun. Teachers who have no appointments will not be shown as being ‘in’ the parents’ evening, whereas teachers who have appointments and are then un-ticked will no longer be shown to parents who login to make more appointments, but will still be expected to attend appointments (unless the school cancels these).
  • You can add a class code to any teacher at any time via the Teachers page. Once you do, use the red ‘Review Changes’ banner at the top of the website (which shows after changes are made on the Teachers page) to add that teacher/class to the parents’ evening, if applicable. The teacher will be added to the parents’ evening as a ‘ticked’ option, meaning they become immediately available to book by parents. If the class code you add to a teacher is already linked to another teacher in the evening, and they are ‘active’ (ticked), you can then choose how to share these appointments.
  • ‘Shared’ classes can be set up to either book the parents’ appointments against all ticked teachers (meaning that a video meeting can feature 2+ teachers with the parent[s]) OR can be set up so that appointments are made separately against one or more teachers. Select the Yes/No options for class codes that are listed against 2+ teachers to determine the rules for this class code’s parent appointments.

This functionality is still very new, and although it has been being tested for months by our developers and testers, we ask you to let us know if you have any issues using it.

If you have parents’ evenings set up already, these should be unaffected by these changes.

We also intend to quickly release a ‘flag’ which shows which of the teachers is the ‘Main Class Teacher’, but this is still in development, owing to our need to code this separately for every school database integration we offer.

2. Share your screen in video meetings

A new ‘share your screen’ icon in the parent and teacher video meeting rooms will allow you to select content (either other tabs in your internet browser, or other open documents on your computer, or your desktop/screen) while in video meetings. Activate and turn off by using the button indicated in these screenshots.

The screen, tab or document you share will then be shown as a new ‘window’ in the video meeting, which can be clicked on to be viewed as the ‘main video source’ by the other participant(s) in the video meeting.

N.B. This functionality only works on laptops and PCs currently, not smartphones or tablets.

3. Blur your background in video meetings

A new ‘background blur’ icon in the parent and teacher video meeting rooms will allow you to blur your background while in video meetings. Activate and turn off by using the button indicated in this screenshot:

4. Create ‘Custom’ Class Codes / Edit Class Codes

A new ‘Edit Class Codes’ button on the Teachers page now lists all of the class codes which have been uploaded to Parents Booking, either from a data import or those which were created by the Admin when making changes to teachers/class lists.

You can use this new page to search for a class code, and add/remove students from those, OR you can use it to create your own ‘custom’ class codes, which you can then add to teachers. Because of the new ‘Edit the Teachers’ page, we want every teachers to have a ‘class code’ for all groups of students they teach, to make it easier for you to activate/deactivate, transfer and share appointments, but in the future the Custom Class Codes you make will also be able to be used to create special parents’ evenings, events, clubs or trips.

5. Other miscellaneous changes

On the ‘Set Up School’ > Preferences button page, in the admin area, we have added a number of features which schools have been requesting:

  • You can hide the ‘Select All’ button which is shown on the parents’ ‘Suggest Bookings for Me’ page. This will help where schools want parents to hand-pick the classes they want to book, or where schools fear parents will just try to book every possible option.
  • Depending on your school’s MIS database, you may not be able to select whether Parents Booking imports the Subject Name or Subject Description field. This is something some Arbor-using schools had asked for.

In the Reports tab:

  • Schools that use the Events and Clubs module will now be able to bulk-download all sign-ups they have received, which is helpful where a school has many clubs or events setup at one time.

In the video meeting room:

  • A new ‘Diagnostics’ button will help a user understand the cause of any connection issues they have, e.g. broadband bandwidth, jitter and other similar connection issues.

If your school uploads CSV spreadsheets and does NOT use SIMS or SEEMIS, there is a new CSV Upload format which we can move you to, which we call “Aspen”, which brings with is numerous improvements, in particular being able to bulk-upload teacher email addresses. Instructions are here, but it is important that you let us know you want to switch so we can change your upload type to ‘Aspen’ in our school management area.

6. We’re working on these changes now / Coming soon:

  • We are prioritising adding more functionality to help schools run a ‘hybrid’ parents’ evening (of video and in-person meetings).
  • We will be refining the red ‘notifications’ banner functionality, expanding the scope of its use and pairing this with a more automatic data import (where we hunt specifically for changes in the school’s database). This is a big job and may take several months to fully release.
  • Very soon we will soon also add an option here to allow a school to choose the teacher naming convention used, e.g. [Title] [Forename] [Surname], or [Title] [Initial] [Surname].
  • One of the most-requested changes of late is being able to search for a student more easily on certain pages, e.g. ‘Login as a Parent’. We are prioritising this change.
  • We will show which is the Main Class Teacher on the new Edit the Teachers page
  • iSAMS and Bromcom schools will soon be shown which is the Main Contact for each student on the ‘Send Invite to Parents’ page
  • Where a teacher works at multiple schools, we will make it easier for them to switch between those schools
  • We will soon add the ‘Pupil Premium’ flag for associated students to the ‘Send Invite to Parents’ and some Reports pages, e.g. Chase Parents, BUT only for schools who want to import and show this in their Admin area.
  • We will add the Buffer Time setting to the teachers’ ‘Create 1-to-1 Meetings’ page
  • Facility to email teachers their appointment schedules in bulk
  • Allow parents to RSVP ‘no’ to invites, so that the school knows the parent will not be attending
  • We are still building a new calendar booking interface for Clubs
  • We are considering building an interviews module, and would welcome feedback from schools who would be interested in this. It would allow a school to set up an event with a calendar interface, ‘interviews’ input their availability, allowing parents to pick dates/times ‘interviewers’ make themselves available, and then convert these appointments into video meetings if applicable.
  • Our next long-term project is a complete admin area website design overhaul. Designs have been agreed and the coding will begin soon. We hope to launch this in summer 2022.
Submit your feature request here

Create your own Custom ‘Class Codes’

By Software Updates No Comments

As part of a wider movement of changes to make moving groups or classes of students from one teacher to another, a new change has been added this weekend. You can now name changes you make, e.g. adding a portion of a subject, class, year group or reg group for selected students, when adding these to a new teacher.

The benefit of doing this will become more clear very soon, when we release a big software update, but now, when viewing a list of Class Codes in your parents’ evening (E.g. Dashboard > Options > Edit the Tecahers > Download Classes) you will see your ‘customisations’ as well as the class codes that have been imported from your school’s curriculum automatically.

To augment this new feature, we will soon be releasing a new page which will allow an Admin to see a database of all Class Codes that have either been imported from your school’s database, OR created as a ‘custom’ class code using this new feature. You will also be able to add students to Class Codes and review which teachers the Class Codes are “linked” to.

The screenshot below shows where you can create a custom Class Code name for the change(s) you make.

Creating a Booking Setup for Covid Testing

By EdTech Discussion No Comments

You can use Parents Booking to take appointments for Covid tests. The principle is very similar to setting up a parents’ evening, in that you want different students ‘booked’ into their own unique time. However, in this case you’ll be asking parents to book “Testing Stations” (or similar) rather than teachers.

Below are some instructions on how to set up a very quick Covid Testing booking process.

Step 1: Create the “Testing Stations”

On the Teachers page, create some new “Teachers” and call them “Testing Station 1”, “Testing Station 2”, etc. Create as many as are required. Each of these will provide a different ‘slot’ for pupils to book. So if your capacity is to have 3x students being tested at the same time, per “appointment time”, you’ll need 3x testing stations.

In the Teacher Name, Department and Subjects fields, just input “Testing Station 1”, so its clear what parents are booking. The Email and Room fields can be left blank.

Step 2: Linking Students to the “Testing Stations”

Still on the Teachers page, you now need to “link” students to each “Testing Station”. This is required because, unless you do this, parents will not see the Testing Stations as booking options.

Click a Testing Station’s name to edit it, then scroll down to the ‘Add Students’ button and use the filters to (one-by-one) add the Year Groups or Reg Classes to the Testing Station. If the whole school will need to be able to book an appointment, add all Reg or Year Groups to the Testing Station. If there are Year Groups in the Year Group tab, this would be our suggestion – click one, then click Add Class, and this adds that whole Year Group. Repeat until all students required have been added to the Testing Station. This may take 5 minutes or so.

Repeat the above step for all Testing Stations.

Step 3: Set up a ‘Parents’ Evening’ Specifically for Covid Testing

Moving now to the Evenings page in Parents Booking, create a new “Term/Group”, which we’d suggest calling “Covid Testing” or similar. Click on this group once created and then create a new parents’ evening.

Create the event as you would a parents’ evening, choosing the date, start time, end time and length of these ‘appointments’. You can use the Buffer Time feature to add a gap between one Covid test ending and the next starting.

Remember to keep the evening as a ‘Parents Evening’ and not a ‘Video Calls’ evening.

You can add more dates by pressing the relevant orange button half-way down the page.

In the 2nd screenshot below, you’ll see we are recommending you institute a rule of 1 appointment per student.

Lastly, select the Reg Groups that apply (which may be the whole school) and then save the parents’ evening.

Step 4: Remove Class Teachers from the Covid Testing evening

Your parents’ evening will have imported lots of class teachers, as well as the Covid “Testing Stations”.

Go to Dashboard > Options > Edit the Teachers OR Evenings > Covid Testing > Edit > Edit the Teachers, and then Select All teachers (untick the Covid Testing Stations) and se ‘Delete Selected’ to remove them all. This means parents will only have the Covid Testing stations as booking options.

Step 5: Send Your Invite

You can now invite parents to book slots for students’ testing.

Go to Dashboard > Options > Send Invite to Parents OR Evenings > Covid Testing > Edit > Send Invite to Parents, where you can customise a bespoke invite to be sent out, select the parents you want to invite and send them an invite.

Mid-Term Feature Release

By EdTech Discussion No Comments

We plan to release a big software update very soon, which will principally change the logic of how to set up the teachers for parents’ evenings (including how to share a parent’s appointment with multiple teachers, to divide bookings between two teachers where they share a class). We’re just dotting i’s and crossing t’s, there are lots of factors to test.

In the meantime we have released the below new features today, with there being no need to delay their release any longer:

1. You can now easily transfer appointments from one teacher to another using the “Share or Transfer Appointments” button in Manage Bookings.
You’ll also see a ‘Select All’ button above each teacher’s schedule to make selecting multiple/all appointments easier.
Sharing appointments means both teachers can join the same meeting. Transferring moves selected appointments from one teacher to another (where the second has free appointments to take these).

2. Parents can request a telephone call rather than a video appointment, where schools allow them to.
Schools turn on this feature when they set up their parents’ evening. The parent is asked to tick a box when making their appointments, if they want to ask for a telephone meeting rather than a video meeting. This is then shown as a notification on the teachers’ appointment schedule.

3. Parents and teachers now have a ‘video meeting help’ button that they can click, from their video meeting room, if they’re having problems connecting to their video meeting.
The instructions provided today will soon be replaced by a new diagnostic tool that Twilio, our video meeting provider, has very recently released.

4. Teachers can now easily see who has not booked appointments with them yet, by clicking the “30 slots available for 28 pupils” type ‘calculator’ on their schedule page.
It is our intention to expand on this by allowing tecahers to send parents a reminder email directly from this pop-up in due course. For now, teachers can use the Manage Bookings > Send Request to Parent feature to directly message a parent.

5. Your automatic data import can be set up to run scheduled searches for new students, and to identify ‘leavers’.
This will not refresh the teachers/classes throughout term, because we don’t want to overwrite customisations you’ve made, but it will help keep on top of the students, adding new students to their teachers and making them easier to add to live parents’ evenings if such a scenario presents itself.
N.B. We still suggest you use the ‘Upload Data’ button before setting up new parents’ evenings, to import the latest database curriculum/class teacher assignments.

Red ‘Review/Confirm Teacher Assignments’ Banner

By Software Updates No Comments

Something that we want to make much easier for schools is changing a teacher or class assignment AFTER a parents’ evening has been set up. This has long been a goal of ours, because in the past schools had to go to the Dashboard > Options > Edit the Teachers page and press ‘Update’ to review and import changes.

A new, red ‘Review/Confirm Teacher Assignments’ banner will now show any time the school Admin make changes to teachers/classes on the Teachers page, helping schools apply changes to evenings they have previously set up, more easily.

For example, if you add a class or student to a teacher, or create a new teacher, or move/copy a class code to a new teacher, if you delete a teacher, these changes will all be shown on a red ‘Review/Confirm Teacher Assignments’ banner, which shows at the top of every page until these changes are either ‘applied’ to one or more of the evenings to which they might have an effect, or until they are ‘ignored’.

We hope schools will find this very helpful when making changes.

What are the benefits of a well-planned, and easily managed, parents’ evening?

By EdTech Discussion No Comments

Parents evenings; they’re a universal tool used to better communication and build relationships between schools and families. They’re an accumulation of moments of a year, a painted picture of a child’s academic achievements and well-being, and a chance for some of the most important people in a child’s life to come together to help to create a better future.

They are a vital component of education infrastructure.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Let’s break this down and talk about the benefits of this for those involved.

Schools

By planning ahead of time and implementing a parent’s booking system, it allows schools to be organised, both for present and future parents evenings. This includes allowing teachers to know in advance who they are seeing and when, and personal choice over scheduling and topics of discussion – such as awards, homework or behaviour.

This consequently steers meetings towards being more targeted, relevant and effective for both teachers and families. Here, the use of technology helps to grow parental engagement and interest, offering real life benefits in expertise of importance.

Online parent’s evenings are a great example of how technology has helped to revolutionise education systems. Now, multiple teachers can join various online meetings with one click; allowing parents to meet with subject leaders, senior leadership members or any other member of staff involved in the child’s education.

A countdown timer clock, visible on screen throughout, allows both teachers and parents to see the start and end meeting time, as well as how long is left in the current meeting. This ensures that each child, and their parents, are given an equal amount of time, promoting a consistent approach threaded within, and beyond, the meeting.

As well as this, parent’s booking systems are simple and easy to manage for school admin staff; simply taking under 5 minutes to set up but saving up to 100 hours of staff time and between £50 – £100 on office paper and ink. In this example, the mathematics makes perfect sense. Parent’s booking systems are easy to use, and easy to understand, offering brilliant solutions and no-nonsense outcomes.

“It’s transformed our lives in many, many ways.”

“It’s really taken us to the next level.”

“I would highly recommend this to any school, anywhere.”

“Parental bookings have definitely increased since we rolled out the system.”

“It was so much easier just to book online to be able to get the appointments that I want, at the times that I wanted and fit it into my life.”

Parents/ Carers

The new, and novel, way of booking that parent’s booking systems bring, has created a shift in culture that has lead to greater parental engagement. The tools in the system that have brought about this change ensures ease; both in terms of access and in booking.

The use of a ‘Booking Wizard’ (a one-click touch) maximises your time whilst still allowing you to see your allocated teachers at your preferred time.  This incredibly effective way of allowing parents to book, can allow parents to see their evening schedule in 15 short, sweet seconds – and it can be emailed directly to their smartphone, lending itself towards even greater ease. No paper, no chasing, no long waits. It’s a stress-free solution that plans itself around you, for you.

Over the last 18 months, we have watched technology weave it’s way into the school day; from virtual show-and-tell, to online lessons, to uploading your homework through a camera and smartphone, we have watched the world re-build, and people come together, as life fell apart. Video meetings have allowed what we envisioned to become a reality. Technology now allows schools to hold their parents’ evenings virtually through an online device, such as a laptop, computer or iPad.

This means that previous issues of moving from classroom to classroom, struggling to find a parking space, listening to distracting noisy conversations or losing your slot to other parents are simply eliminated. Multiple parent’s can join from different locations, meaning night-shift workers could join during their work break, a parent can join as their dinner cooks in the oven, or conversely, a parent could join from a different continent, if their child attends a boarding school during term time.

Gone are the days of difficulties on public transport, of 20-minute gaps between appointments, of not getting to see the one teacher you needed to see, of a lack of accessibility and thought. And here is the future, all from the comfort of your own home; inclusive, flexible and calmer, video meetings are a way of living that meets everyone’s needs – and they’re loved by teachers and parents alike.

Children and Young People

By increasing the ease of access, and providing schools with a toolbox to engage hard-to-reach families, important conversations around goal-setting, future-building and potential-reaching are able to happen. By providing the time and place, positive conversations are able to happen between the home and the school. By creating a simple addition of parent and teacher, the answer continues again and again, to equal student success.

The greater parental involvement, the greater parental understanding, resulting in better educational experiences and outcomes for children and young people.

There is anecdotal evidence from local authorities, multi-academy trusts, leaders in education and schools universally that they will continue to incorporate video parents’ evenings this new academic year and long beyond. We need to be prepared for the likelihood that across the globe, in-person meetings won’t be going ahead as social distancing rules continue. But it is so much more than that. The habits of a nation have changed. The shift in technological communication is here.

And that’s where we (Parents Booking) come in…

“One of the strengths of this system is that it does allow us to chase parents where bookings haven’t been made with a particular teacher.”

“The parents are able to organize the appointments in a way in which suits them.”

Here at Parents Booking, we believe that we can help you plan calmer, manageable and successful parents evenings, online. The next level of parents’ evenings are here.

Let us help you get prepared now, and be part of the technological change that is here to stay.

Are you ready?

Set your school up a free trial to get started. This video will also demonstration how video parents’ evening meetings work.

New features for 2021-22

By EdTech Discussion No Comments

Firstly, welcome back. We hope you had a relaxing and refreshing summer, and managed to soak up some rays!

This blog article lists the exciting changes we’ve made to Parents Booking since last academic year. You can click on a topic below and this will open that specific change in a new blog post, usually complete with a video explainer.

Also, these are some of the things we’re looking to add ASAP this term:

  • Screen sharing and a chat box in the video meeting room.
  • Ability to email teachers their appointment schedule one-at-a-time or in bulk.
  • Parents and teachers will be able to login from RM Unify in one click.
  • Schools will be able to import Pupil Premium status for students, where wanted, to help with priority inviting or chasing parents this applies to.
  • One click data import for the following MIS/SIS school databases: Arbor, Aspen, Engage, PowerSchool and Progresso/Cloud School.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions just let us know.

Best wishes,

Parents Booking

New Events and Clubs Module changes for 2021-22

By EdTech Discussion No Comments

We’ve been hard at work upgrading the Events and Clubs module this summer, and below are a list of the changes we’ve made so far:

  • The capacity for events and clubs are now tied to the date, not the actual event, meaning where you run an event or club over multiple date ranges, with a capacity of 20 for example, this is the capacity per date now.
  • In the school’s Admin Area > Set Up School > Preferences page, there is a new text field that allows the school Admin to determine a maximum number of clubs that a student can be registered for within one group/term. This will be perfect for schools who don’t want the first parents to login to be able to book more than their fair share of clubs.
  • We have integrated with Stripe, meaning that it, ParentPay and PayPal are all ‘payment gateways’ that schools can configure to take payments online.
  • We’ve added more currencies, so that schools who operate internationally should be able to take payments in their currency.
  • Clubs and Events will very soon use the same Reg Class ‘selection’ interface as parents’ evenings, because we know from trials and feedback that this is much more popular than typing in the Reg Class names.
  • Hopefully by 1st Sept we’ll have launched a new type of Club, which allows parents to select multiple dates. This will be perfect for wraparound care, breakfast clubs and after school clubs where parents can opt students in on selected dates, rather than all dates. An example of how this will look is below.