Compare Systems as a Bursar 


The biggest issue to consider though, is the type of scheduling method, not the technology used to support it. Batch processing or book specific times?


Cost comparison 
Although not always directly visible, there is a large degree of cost savings that can be achieved through a more efficient scheduling of parent teacher interviews. Batch scheduling routinely provides a far more efficient schedule than can be achieved with systems where parents book specific times manually, and sequentially, compared to considering all interview requests together automatically.

One key aspect of batch scheduling, is the dramatic reduction in parent wait time across the board results in a very significant drop in parent congestion, which is often remarked as the most visible aspect of the new method of event scheduling which has to be seen to be believed. It is common for schools to comment on this, or even worry on the night about where all the parents are, as there is such a marked change. This leads to several cost savings.

Reduced event frequency – amalgamate event year groups 
Schools which had previously run PTN events across multiple days for multiple year groups find that the more efficient batch scheduling method allows them to more easily group multiple years in the one event. This allows them to reduce the event frequency where instead of a Yr7 and a Yr8 event, they can collapse these to one event with both years. Schools which had a Yr7+8+9 and a Yr10+11+12 find they can run one event with all years together. This is not possible under a booking system that solely manages specific times, as the demand is not managed, and the congestion is not managed, and hence this is the reason schools have historically broken the events down into manageable sections on different days.

Another smaller aspect is that batch scheduling allows a much earlier start to the event, as parent preference and availability is far more considered. This means schools move the event more into the afternoons, and less in the night, which helps spread the event into more efficient time ranges, instead of being densely scheduled during a more limited evening range.

These aspects allow the school using batch scheduling of interviews to reduce the frequency of their events, as more interviews or more ‘parent priority’ interviews can be scheduled into the one event without concern over congestion or lack of access to book busy teachers.

Reduced event frequency translates directly to many areas of cost saving, in consumables, staff meals, lighting, heating, staff wages for casuals, support staff or in overtime. Savings are also achieved through more efficient facility use, as an area required for PTN events can then be used for other purposes, or have other school event bookings for these dates used. A reduction in event frequency is also extremely beneficial in the personal time for parents with multiple children (who now attend more interviews on one night, instead of spreading them over multiple nights). There is also a direct saving in staff time as staff are far more efficiently employed and have a reduced number of nights they need to work.

Earlier start times
The unique parent preference based batch approach allows schools to ‘consider’ a far earlier start time in many cases, where the more traditional book specific times method is far more difficult to manage in this respect. Batch processing allows consideration of the ‘actual’ start time to be based on when parents are free, and is determined AFTER the parents have submitted their preferences and availability. In many cases this new visibility and control of time options allows the school to commence interviews perhaps two hours earlier than usual. There are numerous benefits and direct savings to this approach, including:

Reduction in energy costs
Lighting and heating are less required earlier in the day, and in many cases these lights will already need to be on, so the two hours earlier finish of the event translates directly into cost savings as these lights and heating will suddenly not be operating for this additional (later) event time.

Reduction in support staff costs
While many teachers do not get paid for attendance at events, any support staff such as janitors who may lock up the school, can do so earlier with reduced overtime costs due to an earlier finish.

Reduce meal costs
While schools do not often pay staff directly for attendance at PTN events, they do often compensate through provision of meals, given the event traditionally occurs across the dinner time frame. Under a batch processing of the PTN schedule, any meal costs can be directly reduced through:

Reduced event frequency
This translates to reduced meals to be provided, as while more teachers may attend a larger combined year PTN, the total number of meals provided is reduced – any teacher who may have previously attended two PTN events will now only have to attend one events, and so consumes one less meal.

Reduced meal attendance
Under the more traditional booking systems which require parents to book specific times, all teachers generally need to attend the entire event as there can never be any surety over when parents will book them, and it is difficult to block out times for these teachers with reduced student numbers, as parental availability is not known prior to bookings being made. Under the batch scheduling method, teachers who will end up with few bookings are scheduled automatically together, which allows these teachers to finish the event hours earlier. In cases where these teachers finish prior to the meal break, there is generally no need to cater for them, which means reduced meal costs.

Reduced meal overhead costs
Schools which provide meals to staff often schedule one meal break for all staff, as this is an efficient way to manage this need against the traditional method of parents booking specific times. Parents can more easily book manually where there is a single fixed meal break block, compared to more scattered meal breaks which may confuse or make it more complex to efficiently schedule good times manually. Under a batch scheduled event however, there is a much reduced need for staff to attend meals in one large group, and this means meal breaks can be spread out. There are many costs associated with the need to cater to 100 staff in one go, compared to scattered meal breaks where staff attend meals in (say) faculty groups for example, where only twenty staff are on meal break instead of 100. This reduced demand means less congestion at meal facilities, and allows much smaller resources to be employed – smaller or less urns, reduced catering staff costs etc.

Reduce venue costs
Schools employing batch scheduling find the dramatic reduction in parent congestion means they can far more easily move the venue for the event to a more appropriate venue, which can often result in cost savings. The event may have previously been run in a large hall to cater to large parent numbers waiting between interviews. A batch processed system has very little parent wait, and hence very few parents need to be accommodated while waiting.

The school library may be more efficiently heated and lit compared to a much larger hall for example. Venue costs are also reduced through reduction in the number of venues, as one venue can more readily cater to the demand instead of needing two. There is also the improvement in comfort afforded to a nicer, smaller or more appropriate venue – quite apart from the real cost savings.

Reduce consumable costs
The efficient nature of batch scheduling of interviews translates to a direct saving in consumables. Schools which previously provided tea and coffee for waiting parents find that these facilities are simply not required, as there are never any parents waiting around.

Other costs such as paper and printing of booking forms, and staff admin costs for these are also reduced, though these reductions apply to any electronic interview booking method – i.e. as opposed to the numerous other cost savings available solely through a batch scheduling method.

Reduced phone call costs
Phone call costs can also be higher in a booking system that is not as efficient, as schools need to spend longer on calls, and will more often need to call back parents as they can’t always resolve the entire process in a minute or two, unlike a batch process system where the content of calls is orientated solely around provision of preferences as opposed to schedule negotiation. There is also a higher degree of support phone calls required for any system that does not manage ‘complications’ as well, or is as flexible. While it may appear that calls are more often received, there is often quite a degree in outbound calls made with these systems due to call backs from the school office.

Reduce wage costs
Teachers generally attend PTN events without any direct payment for their time, however there are often costs for casual or support staff. A batch processing of interview schedules allows much earlier event finish times, which means staff who are paid by the hour have reduced overtime costs. Similarly the reduction in the event duration are also cost savers to any support staff which have a direct time based cost. An example is paying the janitor overtime to lock up the school later than usual on a parent teacher interview event.

Some schools employ administration staff to ‘manage’ the PTN scheduling, or to do data entry of booking forms, or man the phones, or do other tasks associated with event administration. The batch processing of parent interview preferences comes at the fraction of the cost to other methods, as there is no need for any schedule negotiation – any support staff are dealing solely with ‘parent preferences’ which can be expressed in seconds, and do not need any time to process. The second phase of batch scheduling is where late parents get times instantly, but again this is an automated process compared to the more time consuming manual booking of interviews.

Staff retention and morale
While not a direct cost, there is a very high cost involved in staff retention and training. It is common for teachers to not be so pleased with having to attend parent teacher nights in their own time, and for no direct financial reward. This is especially so when the event appears congested and confusing, and where their own interview schedule is very inefficient. A teacher who has to wait for an hour and a half, just for two more interviews at the very end of the night will not be pleased with such a long waste of their time. Batch processed events mean teachers are far more effectively employed, and much happier with their schedules – both in finishing hours earlier in many cases, having a reduction in the number of such events, or having more breaks scattered through the schedule to regulate their workload. Even the removal of staff from the initial booking process has a large benefit in staff time saving, though this is true for any electronic form of booking interviews.

There are numerous significant benefits to teachers in a batch processed schedule compared to simpler ones where parents ‘only’ book specific times on the web, and in fact this model is often worse for teachers than a manual paper system, where teachers used to have at least some degree of control over their bookings, and would traditionally discourage or swap possible outlying interviews to ensure their own schedule is efficient. The batch process ensures teacher schedules are always very efficient and consider teacher needs as well as parents.

The batch processing of schedules has been shown in many schools to be very warmly welcomed by the vast majority of all staff, who recognise the benefits in their efficient schedule, and reduction in unpaid work. This translates into a positive staff experience, and then indirectly to staff morale and staff retention.

Increased enrolment revenue
When external entities provide parent teacher scheduling technology, parent opinion of the school can be strongly influenced by the parent experience, given parents sometimes have limited moments of contact with the school. Many reports from parents have stated that the time efficient manner of batch processed schedules, and the fact these are produced entirely automatically (unless manual control is desired), has led to extremely positive parent experiences. Schools have reported parents actually taking the time to phone or writing in to thank them about the new scheduling method, which is unusual, and shows the level of appreciation for the time saving nature of batch processing. This saving in parent time is both in the submission of interview requests, and more importantly in reducing waiting time at the event itself – often by a significant amount.

The very positive parent experience with the school naturally translates indirectly to better student retention and increased enrolment numbers, as parents want to send their children to a modern and technologically advanced school, which can automatically allocate very time efficient schedules.