The Croft Preparatory School is an independent school in Stratford-upon-Avon. The school itself caters for children up to Year 6, with their Early Years provision, ‘Little Crofters’, accepting children from aged 3.
At The Croft, the team were already using a digital learning journal software and the team loved that it connected the parents to what the children were learning. But sadly, the app they were using lacked the ability to do all the admin they wanted it to.
Alison Webber, the Early Years teacher and manager, explained that for booking children’s sessions, she was having to use a file and a pencil. Alison was manually adding sessions (or removing them) by physically writing them in by hand, or rubbing them out. Of course, Alison explains, that could easily lead to confusion or mistakes.
“It just got a bit chaotic,” says Alison, “We thought that there must be an easier way to do this!”
So, the Little Crofters were on the hunt for a new tool. On Alison and the team’s checklist was software that could:
“We look into a few different packages and made a shortlist,” says Alison, “But I saw so many recommendations for Famly specifically.”And, as Famly had everything the team needed, after a short trial, they knew they’d found what they’d been looking for.
Using Famly for attendance has saved the Little Crofters team time, especially Alison, as her old way of doing registers was much more labour-intensive. Previously, she’d had to hand-draw a grid in her file, showing Monday to Friday, then individually write the children's names next to the right session.
“It took me hours,” says Alison, “I used to have to take the file home with me at night, so if a parent emailed in to ask if their child could have an extra session, I could check. Now I just look on my phone. It’s saved me no end of time.”
Now, after months of relying on her handwritten notes, being able to see how many children are due in (with just a few clicks) is revolutionary.
“I’m just so impressed with how you can forward plan,” says Alison, “Just to be able to pop into room planning and see how many children we’re due in on a Tuesday afternoon in four weeks’ time!”
And, now Alison has Famly with all the children’s sessions at the touch of a button, she can invoice the parents herself, rather than having to do everything through the school’s main office.
“It means I always know parents are being billed correctly,” she says, “The old way, with handing over lots of sheets of paper, invariably meant there was more chance things could go wrong.”
But Famly’s also streamlining other admin too.
Accident forms are now sent straight to parents’ phones, so if one of the Little Crofters children takes a tumble, there’s no more paperwork to write out and file.
“We use the health and safeguarding section of Famly for accidents and it’s brilliant,” says Alison, “Parents get an immediate notification and they can click in the app to say they know about it. Then we have a record in school too. We used to have a paper system where we’d have to chase parents for signatures. This is so much easier.”
As an Early Years educator, the last thing you want to be doing is spending hours linking observations to curriculum statements, when you could be teaching and interacting with the children.
And Alison and her team at Little Crofters are no different.
“With our old tool, we would spend ages looking through finding the right statement to link the observations to. Now with Famly, and the new EYFS, you just write the observations, add the area of learning and that’s it. It’s saved so much time.”
But Famly also offers educators a way to share learning and experiences with parents, without having to make a formal observation.
Alison and her team use the Famly Newsfeed for what they call ‘Parent Pleaser’ posts, allowing the team to share photos and events happening in the setting in a more ad-hoc way.
“It just gives the parents a bit of a flavour of what the children are doing during the day,” says Alison.
And Famly’s not just for observing in the classroom.
“We take the iPads down to forest school too, which we’re lucky enough to have on-site, so we can take videos and make observations there too.” says Alison.
“The relationships with our parents are so much more trusting now. It helps them see we’re doing the best for their child. We want the parents to be happy too.”
The thing that Alison and her team loved most about their old learning journal software was how it supported the parents to share in the children’s learning at Butterflies and Little Crofters. And so for them, parent communication was a key requirement when they moved to Famly.
Luckily, Famly’s parent communication is second to none.
“The messaging feature is so useful,” says Alison, “And Famly Live. We used it so much during lockdown, but also for parents’ evenings.”
The team also love being able to share videos with parents, which they couldn’t do before. Alison explains that especially for parents of children just starting pre-school, seeing a video of their child happy and playing can help relieve any anxiety they’re feeling.
“A child might cry when their parents drop off, but be completely fine a little later,” says Alison, “So you just put a quick post on Famly and they can see their child playing happily, and they can get on with their day.”
And that’s not all. Parents are keeping Little Crofters staff in the loop too. If a family goes on holiday, or if it’s half term, Alison and her team ask the parents to add photos in Famly of what they’ve been up to.
“We can then share that with the rest of the class,” says Alison, “It opens up conversations and it’s a great way of information sharing. And then the parents feel happy too, as they know we value what their child does outside of school.”
As well as their school and Early Years provision, The Croft School also offers wraparound care. Thanks to the success at Little Crofters, Famly is now also used to support the team with this too.
“It was just working so well,” says Alison, “It was a natural progression that we would use Famly for wraparound care too!”
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.