I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: One of my pet hates is paper permission slips from my daughter’s school (and even more so now that they have switched to emailing me the slips, and I have to print them, sign them and send them back in my daughter’s hands. Double pet hate now!)
So I’m genuinely delighted to share a summary of an article from ParentPaperwork, which gives some extra compelling reasons to abandon paper forms and head online
How risky are paper forms in schools?
Seven significant points of failure with paper-based forms sent home to parents
Risk and liability management is a significant and growing issue for schools around the world. Schools face ever increasingly tight legal frameworks around privacy, risk management and in some countries the advent of litigious parents who will sue for everything from poor exam results to even the mildest perception of the school placing their child in harm’s way. Some schools now employ full time staff members whose job is to prepare risk assessments and evaluate every activity for the potential for all manner of disaster.
With this in mind it’s essential schools consider all aspects of their administrative and management processes and policies. ParentPaperwork is helping schools with this by offering a platform that replaces paper forms with a secure, robust online forms system to capture, manage and report information from parents.
The article looks at seven key risk areas:
- Who signed the form?
Schools have an obligation to secure informed consent from the guardian. Does a paper permission slip actually give you that?
- Are forms filled out correctly?
Because paper forms have no controls to the information entered, you can’t easily make sure that it’s filled out correctly, and that everything you need has been completed. Leading to more work to chase up…
- Can you read their handwriting?
Often you’ll need to transcribe from a form to another system or spreadsheet. Can you be sure that key information is transferred accurately if you’re relying on our famously illegible handwriting (especially if any of your parents are doctors)
- Are the responses from parents being compiled correctly?
If you have dozens or hundreds of forms, can you be sure you’re collating the responses correctly
- Are your paper forms stored securely?
Can you be sure you’re meeting your record keeping requirements, especially if you’ve also transferred responsibility outside of the school office (eg if forms go back to the teacher, are you sure that they are being stored appropriately)
- Can you find a form from six months ago? Five years ago?
How easy is it to go back and find a single form from the past?
- Who has access to your paper forms?
This is a key question, because many of the forms you collect will contain highly sensitive personal information about students and parents - like health information for a school trip - and so you'll have obligations about the security of that information well beyond the immediate life of the form itself.
The team at ParentPaperwork have built a very easy to use system for handling electronic parent permission slips (and it’s easy for parents, not just the school!) that means your staff can concentrate on spending time on teaching and learning, not paper shuffling. And parents can easily respond to a permission slip on their phone, tablet or computer.
Find our more about ParentPaperwork, and see some of the schools around the country already using it
And it’s important to note that it runs on our Microsoft Azure cloud, which means it’s got the Australian Signals Directorate tick of certification for storing non-classified data, and links to your existing identity system through Azure Active Directory. That means you could do things like enforce automatic multi-factor authentication to allow (senior) staff to access it from away from school.