If your school is a member of ISBA (the Independent Schools Bursars Association) your Bursar will yesterday have received brand new guidance from ISBA with input from Farrer & Co (their legal advisors) which recommends schools taking a stand on WhatsApp, and Classlist is cited as a moderated, inclusive alternative - which also provides great benefits for parent associations.
This advice applies equally to state schools. We expect School Business Managers will adopt a similar attitude towards WhatsApp in their school community.
Here is a practical guide on how to move from WhatsApp to a professional platform such as Classlist.
The Classlist Guide:
Moving Your WhatsApp Groups
Welcome to your community’s next chapter.
Hundreds of schools have taken back control and moved their parents from WhatsApp groups to a Classlist - a professional solution and platform especially for school communities.
With the arrival of new families about to be inducted, this is the moment to make the move. A positive, inclusive network in a school really matters:
“It is clear that a child’s success and happiness later in life depend on the start afforded to her by her parents and community… Minor improvements in connectedness can reap large benefits in social learning”
Professor Matthew Jackson, Stanford University, Author of ‘The Human Network’.
This guide covers:
- Compelling reasons moving from WhatsApp groups
- Common objections
- Most common mistakes moving from WhatsApp
- Timings and templates for sharing your move.
1. Compelling reasons moving from WhatsApp Groups
There are many reasons for moving away from WhatsApp Groups. The three most compelling for your community members are:
- It's not inclusive.
- It’s not GDPR compliant or secure for school business. It’s very risky to use Whatsapp for institutional use. Especially in the case of schools.
- It doesn’t foster positive conversations or kindness
It’s important to remember that WhatsApp doesn’t care about the above. WhatsApp is owned by Meta. Their business model is about mining your data and serving up impressions for Facebook. WhatsApp has been fined by numerous governments for misusing data. Classlist supports your school’s brand and reputation with its advert free pro package. Even the free version (aimed at PTAs who need to fundraise) doesn’t profile members.
2. Common objections
Given the poor track record of WhatsApp in schools it's rare for a school to encourage parents to use it as a means of communication for school related matters. It’s entered by stealth.
Back when parents couldn’t talk to each other beyond the school gate, schools didn’t have to prioritise customer support. If a parent had a bad experience they wouldn’t be able to tell too many people about it. The past few years WhatsApp groups have found fertile ground in which to grow. Like weeds they’ve sprouted in all directions and changed the landscape. Word of mouth has accelerated. Schools have little recourse to correct misinformation. Until now, with Classlist.
Here are the common objections we hear and how to address them:
- We don’t need another App. What puts off parents is the thought of trying to login and remembering another password. Classlist is a modern app that enables parents to stay logged in or use fingerprint technology. Notifications can be personalised to meet individual needs. The reminders are especially helpful. Especially in the case of event rsvps which can be added to your calendar. Ticket purchases take only a few clicks. The other great benefit is that there is only one place to look for school related tickets, posts, and private messages. No need to trail through emails or download mobile unfriendly PDFs to read on your phone.
- We don’t want the school to read our conversations. Classlist has been designed to ensure school staff don’t read parent to parent conversations. A staff member can approve parents, post announcements and create community events. School staff don’t have the resources or desire to read parent conversations. In fact they are grateful that their parents are supporting each other. Answering those frequently asked questions about the logistics, homework and upcoming dates reduces their workload. Classlist has also designed moderation to be the responsibility of parent Ambassadors. Whilst it is rare for posts to be reported, these can almost always be handled by parent moderators. In virtually all cases parents just need to be reminded of the guidelines they signed up to when they joined Classlist.
3. Most common mistakes moving from WhatsApp
Two of the most common mistakes schools make:
- Continue to run WhatsApp groups in parallel. We understand that WhatsApp is popular and parents like all of us don’t like change. We’ve seen community leads attempt to run both WhatsApp and Classlist. This places double the work on posting information and moderation. As mentioned above, the WhatsApp groups don’t have the same controls in which to vet members properly. Nor do they instil behavioural guidelines. This makes it extremely difficult to be able to provide members with the emotional safety integral to creating a positive and constructive place for parents to be part of. Two cultures emerge - divisive and unsafe vs controlled and safe. Ultimately community leads burn out attempting to maintain this set up.
*We don’t recommend you insist on shutting down existing groups. Just make sure new parents understand that new groups shouldn’t be set up. According to legal advice sought by the Independent Schools Bursar Association they aren’t legal from a school perspective.
- Pay too much attention to naysayers. It is a common mistake to listen to those that shout loudest and forget that the majority of members of any community are actually looking for an inclusive, safe space. Instead focus on who really needs your community right now. Are you bringing together parents and staff? Focusing on new families or all families? Most likely to be parents that need practical support - with the school run or childcare? Looking to use their experience and talents in a positive way. Looking to master new skills during a career break? Understanding motivation to stick with WhatsApp vs motivation of your potential advocates. Before you react to the naysayers, set out your community’s purpose on your website. You need to have a clear mission the majority of your parents can get behind. See later in this document an easy formula to apply.
*Identify these groups and make sure you invite them early on to your community. Include your purpose in your welcome message to members.
4. Sharing your move to Classlist
A little advance planning will increase your move from WhatsApp to Classlist. We suggest you start three weeks in advance firstly by drafting your announcement (see example) and then sharing your plans with half a dozen of your top parent advocates. Two weeks ahead you can draft your welcome message for new families. Just before launch make sure you have at least one event to promote. It could be a welcome coffee for new parents that you’ve scheduled already, a date in the diary if you are planning a summer fair. Whatever event highlights that your community is inclusive and welcoming.