- Topic based conversations – Parents say we are different to WhatsApp because they can find the “important stuff” on Classlist.
- on WhatsApp there is a continuous feed of comments, which some parents love, but others can't deal with. It can be difficult to find what matters, or to follow the thread, or see if there is anything important, particularly if you are arriving in the conversation later.
- On Classlist topics are structured as posts and comments, so it is easier to see which reply relates to which topic. Posts and comments are like LinkedIn or Facebook.
- Privacy and GDPR – Your personal data is secure on Classlist. You are not profiled and your information is not tracked by third parties. Classlist is fully GDPR compliant.
On the other hand WhatsApp is not GDPR compliant for a class, year or school related group. The Independent Schools' Bursars Association (ISBA) recently issued guidance for schools about parent WhatsApp groups and the risks for group administrators and schools. Parents setting up WhatsApp class or year groups automatically become Data Controllers under GDPR and assume a stringent set of liabilities and obligations, which they may not be aware of! A data breach where someone got hold of phone number they shouldn't would be the responsibility of the rep, even though they have little control over the group they created!
- We know of an instance where an ex-husband got his ex-wife's phone number via a WhatsApp group that she was added to by a rep with good intentions, but without her permission.
- For privacy reasons schools can't tell a rep which parents can't share their details, so reps don't know who is left out.
- Because WhatsApp is not inclusive for schools, PTAs or class groups schools should not help parents find and join WhatsApp groups. On the other hand schools are proud of their welcoming Classlist community and want to help new families connect on Classlist right away.
- Inclusive – Classlist enables parents to communicate within their class or reach out to other families in their year group and even across the school, with every family included.
- On Classlist you don't have to share your number to take part.
Some parents can't or don't want to share their number with others. Why should they miss out on class communication and chat, or invitations to events?
- Examples of people who can't join a WhatsApp due to having to share their number with the whole group include: some types of military personnel/police officers, some doctors, teachers, families where one parent has a non-contact order or they are in the middle of a complicated divorce. Some of the above can't even reveal to their class rep that their number needs to be with-held as that may in itself breach their need for privacy, so these families are simply left out whereas the rep thinks they just weren't interested in taking part.
- Even if 1 parent in 100 can't join WhatsApp because they can't share their number with others, that makes WhatsApp a tool that will never include all parents in a class. As such it is problematic for use by Class Reps because they can't be sure that they are reaching all parents who want information.
- Schools can include details of Classlist in their Welcome/Joining instructions for new families, enabling them to join other families on Classlist right away. Some new parents can feel left out with WhatsApp - not knowing a group chat exists at first because they have never met the rep.
- A school administrator is unlikely to know what WhatsApp groups exist and therefore can't help a parent who asks how to get hold of other parents. Many schools won't facilitate passing parent details between parents and reps because it takes time but it also gives school support for WhatsApp, which many schools don't want to do.
- Importantly, with Classlist new parents can join invited by the school as soon as the place is confirmed, enabling families to start to make friends before starting. On the other hand new families find it hard to find and join WhatsApp groups in some schools, and certainly won't find the group before their child starts.
- On Classlist you don't have to share your number to take part.
- Moderation – Classlist has a member code of conduct which includes that it shouldn't be used to complain about the school or people connected with the school. Across hundreds of thousands of users we can report that parents don't use Classlist to complain about their school
- However if a parent sees an inappropriate post or comment on Classlist they can click on 'report this' and their school's Ambassadors on Classlist will be informed. They can decide whether to remove the content. Ambassadors are generally PTA members at the school.
- In WhatsApp group admins can't remove comments that are inappropriate. Reps can be left feeling uncomfortable if the group contains negative comments about the school.
- Staff Admins on Classlist can't read group communications. Some schools want staff to be ring fenced from parent to parent communications and so the Staff Admin role is.
- Who’s who? – This is why our founders set up Classlist in the first place! We were struggling to understand who we were chatting to. Or to match the parent to their children. We believe deep and meaningful relationships can’t start to seed without this information. So on Classlist we have a digital contact list of parents and their children by name. And stating the obvious - this is why we are called Classlist.
- On WhatsApp you can't always tell which parent is commenting, as it may just show their number
- You certainly can't tell which pupil's parent they are!
- Because you can't tell who people are, the group may be out of date and may contain ex-parents
- Anonymity can also be unsettling - if you don't know who wrote a comment. And anonymity also gives some people the confidence to misbehave as well.
- Personalised notifications – With Classlist parents can choose to hear from their community in real time live chat notifications for every comment made, or just once a week in one weekly digest email from Classlist.
- on Classlist you have a lot more options for your notification settings. You can turn notifications off for comments and just have them on for posts if you want less chat. Or you can have notifications on for announcements from PTAs and Reps, but not on for group chats.
- Parents can also choose what they receive by email on Classlist. They may wish to receive the Weekly Digest email on Thursdays which summarises everything relevant to that parent in the last week. Everyone's Weekly Digest is different!
- Find and join interest groups
- Once on Classlist, parents can find and join the community and interest groups at school. Again this is more welcoming and inclusive. Parents can connect with others across the whole school according to what they would like to get involved with. Groups often include PTA groups such as helping with an event or activity (parents making crafts for the Christmas Fair), parent social groups (Friday dog walkers), family activities (Saturday cycling club) or nationality groups (all German parents at the school). In WhatsApp, parents are in the class group sometimes have no contact with parents in other classes.
- Events – Organising events is time consuming. If you’ve ever organised your child’s birthday party or invited parents to a coffee you need numbers for you'll know WhatsApp isn’t fit for purpose, with everyone replying "Yes", "No", "We'll be a bit late".
Whereas Classlist’s event feature is ideal for all types of events: private birthdays, parent socials, online events and even right up to selling tickets for a school-wide summer ball. As a result tackling a real pain point -collecting RSVPs and even money. This takes just a couple of clicks.
WhatsApp is ideal for social interaction between family and friends, but will never be an inclusive solution for all parents in a class, year group or school.
But more importantly than all the reasons above - Classlist is a community of parents. Not a series of separate social media groups. Schools and PTAs are proud of their welcoming parent community on Classlist.
- Classlist brings your whole parent community together - and that can be greater than the sum of its parts. With WhatsApp parents may be in a series of separate groups, but can rarely interact with parents in other year groups at the school. With Classlist you can bring your parents together in one safe and controlled space, as well as enabling class, year and other groups. Some schools have a wonderful collection of community groups on Classlist, bringing parents together who have the shared interests, who are the same nationality, who are working together on a PTA project or who want to exercise together.
Ready to launch Classlist? Here is a letter to parents explaining why you would like them to use Classlist.