Support Elves Newsletter

03 September 2015
Issue Six
Head Elf School Report
School Project - Volunteer Rosters
Dear Support Elves... real emails from real parents
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Head Elf School Report


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The release of our new interpreter feature, has seen so many schools sigh with relief at the ease parents and staff can book interpreters to attend appointments. They are LOVING  the reduction of work for staff who no longer have to try and coordinate it all.

Like anything new, we rely on the feedback from schools using the service, to give us an on the ground picture of how it is working for their school.

The feedback we have received so far has been absolutely positive, and we have also had some feedback about a couple of issues regarding "back-to-back booking warnings".

Schools in a primary school setting or schools where parents need to travel to different locations for appointments, will be familiar with our back to back booking warning feature. It reminds parents that it is not a good idea to make one appointment directly after the other, because they will either have to leave their appointment early or turn up late for their next appointment. 

It is just a warning  - a reminder that it is not a good idea - so parents can override/ignore this warning. It is not compulsory, because for parents with twins in the same class, it would be appropriate for them to have one appointment after the other. And when bookings become limited, we do not want parents to miss out, just because the last two remaining appointments are one after the other.

Where schools are providing interpreters for families, this back to back booking warning becomes much more important. As an interpreter is assigned to a family, to go to all appointments with this family, they also need to travel from classroom to classroom and generally interviews with interpreters can take a little longer than appointments without them. We believed that it was so important, the back to back booking warnings in this instance were not just a warning, they were made compulsory.

For some schools, this isn't appropriate. Where interpreters are only available for a short amount of time, a school may need to maximise number of appointments for interpreters and reduce any down time.  We have heard you, and we are working on it.

Our next release will include an override option, so that it isn't compulsory for interpreter interviews to leave a gap between appointments.

This will take some time to get right. We are working on a live site, with parents booking and schools setting up for events and it needs to be thoroughly tested before we release it.

So what to do while you wait?

Every school is different, so here are a few ideas that might suit your school situation, in the mean time.

  1. Disable the back to back booking warnings for all. Pretty simple, but back to back booking warnings ARE a good idea for most families.
  2. Where you still want parents without interpreters attending, to space appointments, by leaving a gap in between appointments , the use of the "booking notes" - found on the EVENT page, can be used for this purpose. At Step 3 (the page where parents select their times) you can include the following message:

    Back to back bookings are not a good idea. Booking one appointment directly after the other, will not allow sufficient time to travel to the next appointment. You will need to either leave an appointment early, or turn up to the next appointment late. Please leave a gap between your appointments so that you may make the most of your appointment time.

  3. Temporarily disable the back to back booking warnings, and issue the event code only to families that are likely to require interpreters, so that they can book first. Once interpreters have been booked, enable the back to back booking warnings and send home booking notes to remaining families. 
  4. If you have 10 minute appointments, consider having the bookings start every 15 minutes instead. Appointments still last for 10 minutes, but there is a forced 5 minute parent free gap between all appointments, allowing sufficient travel time for all.

School Project - Volunteer Rosters

School Fetes and Fairs

Getting volunteers to help is always a big ask and a school fair is a time where you need all hands on deck, and as many volunteers as possible to help make it a great success.

If you make it easier for people to volunteer, then MORE people will volunteer and stick around helping in areas that need the most help.

A school can have an account for just this purpose and it can be set up and administered by a member of your Parents And Friends Association, without them ever gaining access to your other events or school information and it doesn't cost a cent more. We'll even show them how it's done. After all, they signed up to help, so it seems only fair that they do the work.

Mum can volunteer herself and Dad to help out

Your volunteers can see at a glance, all the areas that you need help in, and all the times that still need volunteers to help.

They can help in different areas, at different times or they can both be volunteering at the same time.

All the volunteer information, is all in one place. You can have class co-ordinators in charge of certain areas, and they can see how their grade is doing, and encourage more volunteers for that class with reminders about how easy it is to book to be a volunteer.

Try it for yourself

Try it yourself - make a fake volunteer booking at our imaginary school by using the EVENT code FETES

If you think your Parents and Friends could do with a little help this year, encouraging more volunteers and reducing their workload, send an email to [email protected] and we can show them how to make this their most successful school fair ever.

Dear Support Elves... real emails from real parents

Wrong Event Code?

Dear Elves, 

The school newsletter has an event code that isn't working. I tried to enter it and it says, "Invalid Event Code".

Sometimes the font used by a school can be a little confusing a "Q" that looks like an "O" or an "S" that looks like a "5" for example, but sometimes a school sends notes to parents with the wrong code!!!


I don't mean stop sending out wrong codes (though that would be helpful) but STOP WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO DO TO TRY AND FIX IT!!!

You are not the first school to send a note home with a typo, and you won't be the last. You are human (but we are elves!)

Call us, email us, send a carrier pigeon or smoke signal - as soon as you discover that the wrong code has been sent home to families. 

All is not lost.

So long as the event code you have sent out, is not being used by another school, we can CHANGE the event code for your bookings, so that they MATCH all the notes you have already sent home. Crisis averted.

What is this token?

Dear Elves,

I made a booking with your system, but today when I went back to change my appointments, I was sent an email with a token. 

When a Parent makes a booking with our system, they are required to enter the EVENT code and also their email address.

This email address is used to create/store/retrieve their bookings.

When a parent returns to our service using this same device they used to make their original appointment, after they enter the EVENT code, our system prepares to allow them direct access to their bookings, by the use of cookies. This makes the booking process as simple as possible for parents.

If a parent needs to access their bookings from a different device, or if they do not have cookies enabled on their device, by entering the EVENT code AND an email address our system recognises as having an existing record, a token is sent to this email address, and by either clicking  on the  link in the email, or by entering the token in that email into the system, they are then given access to the bookings.

Why do we do this? 

The privacy of parents information is very important to us.  The chances of another person knowing to go to our website, knowing the exact EVENT code and knowing the exact email address a parent has used to make a booking - knowing all these 3 things in the first place - would require that person to be part of the school community and also have knowledge of the exact email address a parent would have used to make the bookings, and require some kind of grudge against this person. And while that dramatically reduces the risk and doesn't give them any more personal information than they already have, it might allow someone to know the given whereabouts of that person at any time.

The token is a security measure.

It prevents curious ex-partners or ex-friends from gaining access to these bookings.

If the correct EVENT code is used, and an email address is entered that exists in this event, an email is sent to the email address belonging to that booking, so that only the person that owns that email address, can access the bookings with the use of the token.  It also acts as an alarm, that someone is trying to access their bookings and appropriate legal action can be taken, if required.

Because of this token, it is IMPORTANT, that schools wishing to make appointments for families, make these appointments in the correct manner.

The EVENT code, should only ever be used by parents, and NEVER by school staff.

Staff wishing to make appointments for families, need to login as an admin, click on the PARENT button and make bookings from the PARENT page. 

An email address for these bookings is OPTIONAL. That means, if a parent has not given you THEIR actual email address, it should be left blank. 

Do not be tempted to put in your personal email address or the school's email address. Only enter an email address belonging to the parent, if they would like their booking confirmation emailed to them directly. If they do not supply you with an email address, the bookings can be printed and sent home with a student or posted to the parent, or the parent can just write down the details given to them over the phone.

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