In conversation with BESA: edtech start-up Studentnomic

Co-founder Ben Harland explains all you need to know about the company’s schools apps, and why parental engagement is key

Almost two years ago now, three students decided to create their own company to answer their school’s need to increase parent engagement. One of them, Ben Harland, CMO of Studentnomic, sat down to talk to Cleo at the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) on the back of visiting the Bett Show.

You have just applied to take part in the EDUCATE project. What are you looking to get out of your involvement?

We can’t wait to get started in the Educate project. We hope to see new collaborations within the industry arise as a result of our involvement, as we believe this could be really valuable for schools. By enabling integrations across a wide range of edtech companies, we’re aiming to streamline processes and simplify tasks for schools.

You mentioned you want to create a ‘go-to’ hub for schools. Can you please give more details? 

Every app that we create for a school will be unique to their individual requirements. We understand that every school has different objectives, some want to streamline parental communication, or to improve student engagement, and others want to modernise school processes.

Our primary focus tends to be: “If we’re going to implement an app, how can we make this as beneficial to parents/guardians and schools as possible?” We’re able to create a go-to hub by bringing school news, photos and important documents to one place, which we know has numerous benefits for parents and schools alike, simply by making it easy to find them.

We also make sure to create an app that’s dynamic and proactive, so that it best supports a school’s communication and engagement. This is where we integrate a range of communication tools, from push notifications (a popular choice for schools seeking a more effective alternative to bulk-SMS) to a central in-app mailbox allowing two-way communication between parents and school, giving all the functionality of email (including attachments and replies), but without getting lost in the overflow of a parent’s emails.

How important do you think it is that parental engagement is a measure for Ofsted inspections? And how do the apps that schools can manage on your platform help schools answer this?

Ofsted often focuses on school performance and management, but we know that’s changing to include a greater focus on parental engagement. There’s a very simple reason for that, which is that if parental engagement is high, we tend to see improved school performance with better engagement between students and a better long-term outcome in student performance.

However, it’s difficult for Ofsted to accurately measure and reflect parental engagement. This is something we’ve worked hard to answer, and we make use of advanced analytics to give schools the supporting evidence to say: “We have 2,000 parents actively checking the schools app on a weekly basis and they frequently visit our school news section, showing active engagement within school life”.

On Disruptive Live TV, during Bett 2018, your colleague Tim mentioned that schools can make the setting up of the app a student creative project. Why is it important to you to give students the chance to get involved in this?

Well, it’s exciting to see some creative flair really shine through when students take this on board. Schools will often struggle to maintain great student engagement within school life, but actually, we find that managing the school’s app can really enthuse students, empowering them to be engaged in school life. 

However, our platform isn’t technically orientated, so most importantly it remains accessible to staff and students alike. 

For more on Studentnomic, please click here.

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