Parents Gateway: A Smoother Transition To Primary 1

The Parents Gateway app has been enhanced to better support parents with school-going children, and be a one-stop portal that strengthens the school-home partnership.
Enhancing the Parents Gateway app for better parent-teacher communication

For time-pressed parents, their child’s transition from kindergarten to Primary 1 can be a challenge. They may have trouble keeping track of hardcopy school handouts and information on key school matters.

Fortunately, Ms Emily Chew was able to avoid the administrative hassle and smoothly help her daughter transit into the Primary 1 (P1) cohort at CHIJ Our Lady of the Nativity in 2021.

“The Parents Gateway app has made life easier and more convenient,” said Ms Chew, who has another older daughter in Primary 3. With the Parents Gateway mobile app, she has all the consolidated information – relevant handouts and notifications – at her fingertips.

Her favourite feature? The PG app alerts parents to read notifications and messages. Parents can acknowledge these and grant consent just by clicking “Yes” or “No”.

The Parents Gateway app has made life easier and more convenient for parents.

“Before the app, the child will bring a hardcopy form back home to the parents, and parents might miss certain information or deadlines. But now, parents can receive first-hand information from the school without the need for the child to pass the information to us, thus cutting out the ‘middleman’,” she explained.

Behind the Scenes

The Parents Gateway project started as a partnership between the Public Service Division (PSD) InnoLab and the MOE. The agencies wanted to explore the idea of an all-in-one portal for parents. The MOE and GovTech then developed this into a working app.

Launched in January 2019, Parents Gateway became part of the Service Journey movement for the Whole of Government in the same year. The aim is to better support parents as their children go through different schooling phases and developmental milestones.

Developing the Parents Gateway App

Brainstorming and environmental scanning as part of Design Thinking.
Brainstorming and environmental scanning as part of Design Thinking.
  • The team used Design Thinking to design, implement and test the product.
  • It was engineered using the Agile software development method.
  • It was developed in-house and deployed in a commercial cloud environment.
  • A suite of DevOps tools, a combination of software development and IT operations, supported continuous integration and delivery.

A significant challenge when implementing the app’s planned features was syncing data sets (in varying formats) across agencies. To overcome this, the PG team requested a change in how the relevant data could be extracted from the relevant source agencies. Though a mammoth task, it sped up data-sharing, improved processes, and accelerated the implementation process.

Earlier Access for Pre-P1 Preparation

In the past, parents of children entering Primary 1 could only access the app from mid-November, when P1 orientation usually takes place. But as parents needed to be informed by October, schools were forced to rely on hardcopy forms, emails and SMS to communicate with parents.

To further support these parents and the schools, the PSD-MOE Parents Service Journey Team reviewed the app to provide the parents with access to it even before the P1 registration exercise commences.

To achieve this, the team did user research, had discussions with stakeholders such as parents, schools and MOE officers, and put the list of features through a prioritisation matrix.

“Each feature was assigned a score – a business value – based on its reach, frequency and value to both parents and teachers,” said Victor Chua, Deputy Director, MOE, who oversees the PG team.

Since October 2020, all pre-P1 parents have received early access to the Parents Gateway app to get a head start in preparing for the start of school. Through the app, parents could learn about virtual orientation dates, and how to purchase school uniforms and book supplies.

In 2021, access was granted even earlier in May. The app also provided more information and resources on the P1 registration process and requirements. This further streamlined the administrative processes for schools and parents, and made the app a convenient way to disseminate timely information.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the PG app was especially useful for parents who could not physically visit the school for administrative matters. The PG app’s feature for mass communication from MOE HQ to parents proved to be a serendipitous enhancement that allowed timely instructions to be shared with parents during the pandemic.

The Parents Gateway app currently allows parents to receive updates about their child’s school programmes.
The Parents Gateway app currently allows parents to receive updates about their child’s school programmes, access administrative information for all their school-going children (even if they attend different schools), and provide consent for the child’s school activities.

More Benefits for Schools

Schools are already reaping the benefits from the app’s enhanced features.

During the Circuit Breaker in early 2020, CHIJ Our Lady of the Nativity used the app to provide parents with task sheets for children to complete during the home-based learning period. The school also provided timely updates on the school’s safe management measures and changes to school processes, such as staggered dismissal timings.

Next, the school plans to use new app features to improve communication with parents. A new ‘Meeting’ module allows parents to choose timeslots to talk to teachers during Meet-the-Parents sessions.

Over at Huamin Primary, the digitisation of paperwork has reduced teachers’ administrative workload. For instance, form teachers can seek parents’ consent via the app with just a click of the consent form button. This eliminates hardcopy forms and strengthens the school’s green efforts too. The teachers can then devote more time to teaching and nurturing students.

Developments To Come

Two-way communication, a most-requested feature from parents, is in the pipeline. In addition, parents can expect to have stronger support, with more parenting resources curated and consolidated across various agencies to make the app a one-stop parenting portal.

The Parents Gateway team is also planning to reach out to more parents whose children are in non-mainstream MOE institutions.

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    Mar 9, 2022
    Toh Ee Ming
    Courtesy of MOE
    Lei Ng
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