Cutting out paper – Get rid of school reports

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Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

Get rid of school reports on paper, by providing electronic reports to parents

Although many schools are already doing this, there are plenty that still provide parental reports on paper. And don’t want to change, because they feel that it’s key for parents to get a paper copy of their children’s report. As a parent, I still like getting the report on a piece of paper. However, I think my mind is changing, as plenty of other systems go online. For example, I now get all of my utility bills, my phone bill and my bank statements online. And the benefit to me is that I can quickly jump back and see any of the historically, rather than having to look for old paper copies (most of which, I haven’t kept filed neatly). Imagine if I could go back and read all of my children’s school reports, save my own copies, and print them out when I needed them.

A school report is one of those documents that parents keep for a long time – but how about taking a step forward by providing a parent with a school report as a PDF document too? So that they can share the report with grandparents online (especially relevant in today’s non-nuclear society).

And perhaps, if parents find the PDF version beneficial, you’ll be able to make the paper version optional?

One school that’s making a determined run for “paperless” status is West Hatch High School in the UK. There, Alan Richards, Information Systems Manager, and his team have put the technology to work in a way that saves costs and improves efficiency right now, and opens up even more possibilities for the future.
The key is to transform paper forms into truly interactive documents on the school’s SharePoint Learning Gateway. The starting point was to tackle the extensive paperwork supporting the school’s Academic Review Days.
There are two Academic Review Days each year, for which staff collaboratively prepare two documents for each student– a Progress Review, and a Target Setting Document. Both are two pages long which makes four pages, twice a year, for each of 1,300 students. So moving the whole process online saves printing 10,400 sheets of paper each year.
How it works is that the Target Setting document for each student is agreed by teachers, parents and students individually at the academic review day meetings. Previously a paper exercise, it’s now done on an interactive InfoPath form on SharePoint. Each student, with their parents and a teacher, works on a laptop to come up with a set of targets. When they’re all agreed, the teacher presses “submit” and the final version goes off by email to the parents and to the student.

You don’t have to go all the way that Alan’s done at West Hatch. If you just simply emailed a copy of the finished report to parents when you send the paper copy home, you are starting the process of changing. Let’s face it, you’ve already got the electronic copy, and parents will value being able to have it electronically to share with relatives. So why not? (It’s a ten second operation to hit ‘Save to PDF’ in Word 2010, and most report-writing software already produces a finished email-able format).

There’s a further benefit. As you start collecting up-to-date parental email addresses, you’ll also have them handy for every time you’re tempted to send out other pieces of paper.

If you want to learn more about Alan’s Paperless School project, then you can read more on his Edutechnow blog, and I’d highly recommend listening to the recording of his Cost Cutting using SharePoint webinar.

Read more ideas to help cut out paper

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