A new paradigm in Early Childcare Education on the South African landscape

Why do I Have to Pay for an Advanced Communication Tool?

"Communication and Trust are the two main ingredients for a healthy relationship."

                                                                                                        - Unknown

 

Introduction

Few people involved in the Child Care industry today will disagree that it is becoming more pressurised and challenging by the day. There are many reasons for this, but let’s look at only a few (of course we don't even mention COVID-19):

 

  • Our children are growing up in a rapidly changing world characterised by new technological breakthroughs - see the Fourth Industrial Revolution that we mentioned in previous articles as example - which place new demands on not only children, but also teachers. Not to even mention "keeping up with the Joneses!"
  • Time pressure – so much to do within so little available time. Teaching children, writing reports, cleaning up, engaging parents, engaging your peers and principals – and then there is your own private life to also manage!
  • So many competing curricula to take note of – literally every day there is a new teaching approach, or a new curriculum that someone wants to sell to you. How do you know what is best? Am I keeping up with the latest developments, or are my children falling behind? This means you have to be a permanent student yourself, reading up all the time on the latest research and developments in Child Care.
  • Parent pressure. As parents we all want the best for our children – the best Child Care facility, the best teachers, the best ecosystem[1] for them within which to develop – and it absolutely HAS to be aligned with best practice!
  • Communication – everyone wants a piece of you! Some days it feels like all you do is communicate – with peers, children, parents, cleaners, maintenance staff, governing bodies, etc., etc. Be this verbally, or via e-mail. And if you are in the "lucky" position to be part of management or administrative staff, then there is still all the other software that you have to update, like invoicing and/or stocktaking packages.

 

We could go on, but you get the picture. Child Care Centre staff are definitely not in it for the money! They do this work for the love of it. For the privilege of being involved in raising the next generation – for being involved in getting our children school-ready.

 

This is their primary outcome.

 

But somewhere within this new and challenging environment within which Child Care Centres operate, something must give. It just cannot carry on being business as usual. The few points we listed above should make that abundantly clear.

 

One of the tools at our disposal to make life easier for all stakeholders – teachers, parents, principals, administrative staff – is the use of a CCMS (Child Care Management System), or as it is also called, a CCCS (Child Care Communication System).

 

Most of these system cost money (some are free, but as mentioned in our last article – be careful of those offerings). So, the obvious question begs: "Why should I, as a school/parent, pay for such a communication tool?"

 

Aim

The aim of this article is to explore the benefits of using a CCMS, in the process answering the question as to why Child Care Centres, and by implication parents, should pay for such a tool.

 

Why the Need for (Mobile) Technology?

We wrote in a previous article about the pros and cons of using management information software. Our aim is not here to repeat those points, but the following bear mentioning:

 

  • Mobile Communication brings parents and Child Care Centres closer together. It is an excellent way to make the relationship between the parents and the centre more meaningful, providing an avenue for real-time communications and updates.
  • Updated Parents. Sending all messages between the centre and parents to a mobile device is an excellent way to make sure parents are updated constantly with important school information, like enrollment times, reminders for holidays, changes to policies, etc.
  • Benefits for School Administrators. Paperwork is decreased, reports are updated by teachers and administrators can update their portion quickly and efficiently
  • Other Benefits for Parents. Parents often find it difficult to find the time to speak to teachers directly. Online communication enables teachers and parents to discuss a child’s performance on their own time. Informal communication can also sometimes reduce the stress and worry of more formal meetings.

 

Apart from the above, many child care systems also have the following capabilities, as does the Parent App:

 

  • Check-In Functionality. Track children and staff attendance using automated tools.
  • Document Sharing. Share documents with staff anytime and anywhere using your smart device. This can also be done for selected documents with the parents.
  • Smart Calendar. Create, manage, and share events and holidays. Send invites with RSVP’s to parents and staff.
  • Permissions. Assign role-based access to each user from a centralised console.
  • Manage Lists. Create, modify, and manage allergy lists, immunisation lists, and more.
  • Food Plans. Create daily menus and upload them to the app for everyone to access.
  • Children’s Attendance. Quick sign-in tools for children.
  • Working Hours. Track employee working hours and get insightful reports on their productivity.
  • Reports. Generate reports on children’s performance – moving away from paper.

 

So, the benefits are quite clear, and to most teachers, principals, and parents the benefits of using some sort of automated communication system are intuitively evident. But the nagging question about price remains, and with this article we are happy to address that.

 

Still – Why Do I Have to Pay?

Firstly, most of the available CCMS software packages - basically all of which operate as some sort of App - must be developed. Software engineers do not come cheap. But perhaps the most expensive part of the process is to capture the intellectual capital within the processes that a Child Care Centre operate according to. A business analyst typically must first scope the processes before designing an application.

 

Second, it is quite tricky to develop a system that is generic enough to be useful to all Child Care Centres, but in the same breath unique and tailorable enough to be suited to your establishment’s specific needs. Parent App is an excellent example of a package that fits the bill, and that can be adapted to your needs.

 

As to cost? Well – we cannot speak on behalf of all software packages, but we think that adding between $2 and $4 (less than the price of a Big Mac burger) a month to the price of a child’s enrolment in a Child Care Centre, considering the benefits that the school and parents get from this, is really not pricey. And in most cases vendors are quite prepared to negotiate around economies of scale to suit your specific needs (and your pocket).

  

So, adding between two and four dollars a month per child is not likely to break the bank. And there are options as to how this may be introduced in your Child Care Centre:

 

  • Negotiate a discount with the supplier, i.e. either per number of children that you may have on the system (economies of scale typically kick in when you have more than 50 children), or in the way that it is implemented (could be phased in).
  • Absorb the total cost of the new software yourself as the school, although that would probably be a bit shortsighted, considering the thin margins at which most of you already operate.
  • Let the parents absorb all the cost, i.e. increase the child’s enrollment fee by that amount per month. This would in most cases be acceptable to parents, once they are privy to the advantages that the new system will provide them. We suggest going this route.
  • Do it in a phased approach – for instance: split the costs 50/50 (or 25/75) between yourself and the parents for the rest of the school year if you purchase a system during the year, with the understanding by the parents that they will have to shoulder the total burden of the cost come the new year.

 

As you can see – there are various options with which to absorb the new cost item, but rest assured – the relatively short term burden will be more than offset by the long terms gains, once the system is properly implemented and running (an organisation like Parent will gladly assist you in training and on-boarding all your children and parents’ details as well, should you require it!).

 

Conclusion

We think that with this and the previous articles that we have produced, we have made a succinct case for going the CCMS route. In our case we of course promote Parent App as the optimal solution. Whatever software solution you should choose though, there is likely to be some cost involved.

 

In this article we have further illustrated that (a) the costs that we are talking about will not break the bank even for a price-sensitive environment like a Child Care Centre, and (b) that there are various options for absorbing this cost, the preferable option being adding this to the child’s enrolment fees.

 

Whatever approach you should want to consider – talk to us! We at Parent  and PLW are ready to receive your calls or messages and will gladly assist!

 

 

References

 

 

[1] An ecosystem is a community of living and non-living things that function together. Within an ecosystem, people and things are interdependent and adapted to the environment. Ecosystems can be large or small – class, school, suburb, community, town, province, or country.


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