If you’ve got kids in school, you know how many irritating little pieces of paper there are to fill out, on an almost daily basis (not to mention all the important notices that go missing all the time). Well, Melbourne-based tech startup ParentPaperwork are changing all of that, and being nice to trees into the bargain.
Each year around the world tens of millions of parents sign hundreds of millions of paper forms on behalf of their children. That will always be a labour intensive, unreliable and inefficient process. A school with 2,000 pupils might use as much as 80,000 pieces of paper a year – that’s around ten trees that need to be sacrificed just so parents can give permission for their children to do a school activity. ParentPaperwork is an online platform to automate paper forms in education, dramatically reducing costs, improving liability management and saving trees.
ParentPaperwork CEO Fiona Boyd says so far their school customers have sent just over 10,000 forms out via Parent Paperwork, and schools should take several factors into account when thinking about using the ParentPaperwork system: “First, staff cost to manage the paper-based forms process can be considerable. We’ve done rough estimates that a typical school of 500 kids could see $25,000 saved by using ParentPaperwork across a year. We have anecdotal feedback from schools that supports this. There is also the overall liability management improvement. ParentPaperwork’s online tracking and reporting leads to more robust accuracy in the process, with the intention being to reduce errors and misunderstandings (for example, a major error could occur simply because someone could not read a parent’s handwriting). So the benefits are a combination of actual staff cost and non-cash efficiency improvements. With paper and toner, we haven’t yet done a calculation (that we think is solid) as we’re waiting to get enough hard data from our first group of schools customers.”
Now, when I was at school I just perfected my parents’ signature. What does ParentPaperwork do to prevent plagiarism and cheating? “A great proportion of parents use their work email addresses for ParentPaperwork, already a more secure channel to the parent than a piece of paper in a school bag. All the emails sent to parents are tracked using beacons in a similar fashion as newsletter programs like Mailchimp, meaning we track IP numbers, opens, pass-ons and the like. ParentPaperwork also offers a Two Factor Authentication option which operates similarly to online banking services, with parents needing to enter in a PIN texted to their phone in order to submit one of ParentPaperwork’s online forms. We think this is the most robust form of identifying that the person nominated actually signed the form,” says Boyd.
ParentPaperwork’s technology already collates and evaluates forms and sends reminders to parents. Schools can track parent responses in real time, and quickly generate reports and exports. ParentPaperwork automatically reminds parents if they have not submitted a response by a due date, and manual reminders can also be generated. “The system has expressly been designed to be simple to use. Parents are required to interact in only the most minimal way and there is nothing for them to download, install or register. It’s a key reason why we have not gone with a mobile app, we want to ensure the lowest possible barriers to utilisation.”
So what are the most significant challenges ParentPaperwork faces? “Finding opportunities to accelerate and create strong growth on a minimal budget,” says Boyd. “Our main issue right now is creating awareness in the market about ParentPaperwork – because we know that awareness often translates into trial accounts and requests for information and demos. Also, we would be interested in talking to educational technology investors.”
So, it saves time and money, and is good for the environment. We’re happy to make people aware, Fiona.