Down High School

Time to read: 2min 12 Feb 2020

Schoolcomms case study

Phase: Secondary

Local Authority: Northern Ireland – South Eastern region

Unique challenge: Finding an easy-to-use system that links with SIMS and the school canteen facility.


  • To improve communication with parents.
  • To implement online payments.


  • A solution that integrates seamlessly with SIMS.
  • A parent-friendly payments system.


  • Significant reduction in paper usage.
  • Huge time savings on administration.
  • Greatly improved school-parent communication.

What goals were you hoping to achieve when you decided that an engagement system would be a good fit for your school?

We were hoping to be able to:

  • Link up to SIMS – so the integration wasn’t cumbersome.
  • Streamline communication with parents.
  • Find an online payment method for parents.
  • Find a way of communicating urgent news – e.g. school closures.

What made you decide to use Schoolcomms to reach these goals?

Schoolcomms integrates seamlessly with SIMS. The website design is so user-friendly – we knew from the first moment we saw it that our staff and parents would love it! The ability to create your own groups for communication purposes allows us to keep all school stakeholders up-to-date with what is happening. Finally, the Payments System with built-in receipting and reports that can be so easily accessed and exported to Excel. All this meant that Schoolcomms was a simple choice to make.

What has been the impact of adopting Schoolcomms?

The impact was immediate and impressive. We have reduced workload for form teachers and improved communications with parents, while the system has made running school trips significantly easier. Additionally, absences are dealt with promptly.

Down High School quote 1

When we first adopted Schoolcomms, we took our time to rollout each stage, fearing that parents would be overwhelmed. In reality, each stage of the rollout has been met by thankful parents – a positive outcome for the school. My only regret is that we didn’t have Schoolcomms sooner!

What has parent and staff reaction been to School Gateway?

Our parents love School Gateway. It has opened up avenues of communication that allow for us to quickly send information home to whichever group of parents we need. In fact, a number of parents who are teachers in other schools have been so impressed that they have sent delegates to our school to look at the Schoolcomms system.

What savings do you feel have made investing in Schoolcomms worthwhile?

Schoolcomms has enabled us to save time by reducing the form teacher’s role regarding the recording of absences. Also, the record keeping regarding receipting of incomes has become so much quicker, allowing us to free up some admin staff time. We send home a weekly diary to parents which enables the whole school community to know what is happening in the school, and to celebrate the collective successes. Using Schoolcomms to send the weekly updates saves the school over 27,300 pages a year. All school events and letters are distributed by Schoolcomms, and no parent can now be uninformed due to the forgetfulness of their child!

Why did you choose Schoolcomms over other solutions available on the market?

We chose Schoolcomms because of the ability to link up to SIMS and also the ability to link up to the school canteen facility. We looked at other options, but felt that the interface, and the options available, best suited our needs. I remember reading recommendations (like this one) at the time and thinking that if the product is half as good as advertised, then it will be worth it.

We can honestly say that the product has far exceeded our expectations. Since we became customers, we have always been impressed with the customer service offered by Schoolcomms. Our queries are answered quickly and accurately. We have also been impressed that Schoolcomms listens to suggestions for improvements and takes on board these suggestions to further improve an already impressive service.

Down High School quote 2

What day-to-day challenges has using Schoolcomms helped you to overcome?

With 1000 students, pupils forgetting their lunch or their lunch money (having likely squandered it on junk food on the way to school) was a daily occurrence.

Linking our cashless cafeteria to Schoolcomms allows parents to load money directly onto students’ accounts from their phone.

Parents can also see what their child has bought from the canteen which allows for conversations regarding healthy eating.

Attendance is a huge issue in every school, and trying to look after pupils from a safeguarding perspective can be a very arduous administrative task. However, Schoolcomms takes the pain out of this. Using SIMS generated data, Schoolcomms sends a text message home which ensures that we have information regarding absences more quickly.

What’s more, Schoolcomms has allowed us to remove the task of recording the reason for absences from the form teacher. As a result, form teachers and students now have more time to further build on the excellent relationships which characterise this school. When we decided to use Schoolcomms, we hadn’t really considered using this function, but we are so impressed by the ease of link-up between SIMS, Schoolcomms, and back into SIMS again.

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