It doesn’t matter how much planning you put into your iPad 1:1 leasing scheme, if parents are not on board the project will fail. We look at how to approach parents about school iPad leasing.

I’m currently involved in the planning process for a 1:1 iPad project in a primary school that my team support. And apart from the insurance, device management, teaching training, and eSafety the aspect that I found most challenging was approaching parents to get them involved in the scheme.

Asking a community of parents to make a significant financial contribution towards a new project can be challenging. While the educational benefits may be to clear to the school, they aren’t always obvious to those not involved directly in the project. If you’re asking parents to pay £350 for an iPad you want to make sure you can provide answers to anything you may be asked.

Understanding your students

It’s important to be sympathetic to the home situation of your students which will be influenced by the social-economic background of your student intake. Factors that may affect how you approach parents are:

  • Average size of family
  • Average income
  • Local broadband speed and coverage

Teacher iPadHow successfully you put across your message to parents can hugely affect the outcome of your 1:1 project. In my experience most parents are very supportive, but there have been a number of well documented cases where poor school communication has resulted in parents have actively working against the school taking the project forward.

If the size average family size in your school is 4 children, is it reasonable to expect a parent to buy a $350 device for each child? If your average income bracket is lower than average how will parents react to you asking take on board another financial burden?

Even if the majority of your parents are hugely supportive there is always going to be a minority who simply cannot afford the cost of an iPad. There may also be parents who choose to opt out of the scheme for their own reasons. How will you support those students?

The culmination of planning will likely be a public presentation to parents. It’s likely that you will have a lot of support, but there’s always the risk of a vocal individual putting pressure on you, so it’s important that you have your ducks lined up with laser accuracy.

Justify your decisions —  why iPads?

Whether it’s iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, Android tablets, or 2B pencils you must be able to justify your purchasing decision against the alternatives. Parents are savvy technology consumers and have a good grasp of the consumer market. When they shop at their local supermarket they see the £100 tablets for sale and will want to know why the one you’ve chosen for their child is three times more costly. You may also be challenged on your choice of operating system, make sure you can justify going with iOS.

Unfortunately there is currently a lack of peer reviewed research into the benefits of iPads in the classroom. As more schools embed mobile technology into their curriculum this will change, but at the moment this is a challenge which any schools using iPads will need to address.

Some aspects of iPad you will want to use to justify your use of iPads are:

  • Wider selection of educational apps
  • More management options available
  • Student engagement is higher with iPad

Insurance for lost, stolen, or damaged iPads

If students are taking their iPads home they need to be insured for damage and theft. Most leasing companies will build insurance into the monthly cost,  but you need to be ready to answer questions such as:

  • Who is liable?
  • Is there an excess?
  • What is the claims procedure?

Your insurance company will be able to provide these answers very quickly, but it’s worth comparing the fine print provided to the school with the information given to parents. You will quite often find that the insurance protection taken out in bulk by the school will be massively flexible with very few limits on claims.

Parental iPad leasing

Many schools are looking towards parental leasing to put in place 1:1 iPad schemes. The benefits of this are three fold:

  • Most schools cannot afford to purchase the quantity of iPads required for a 1:1 scheme from school funds.
  • The administration for managing 1:1 iPads — insurance, payments, device management, repairs — can be managed by the leasing company.
  • Teacher training often comes bundled in with the package.
  • The leasing company can provide resources to help with school ICT policy, promoting the scheme to parents, and other useful documentation.

There are a number of ways for the leasing to actually work:

  • The school leases the iPads from the company and parents pay the school.
  • Parents lease the iPads directly from the company.

teaching_with_ipadIf you are looking at leasing any more than a few iPads you will want an external company to manage the day to day running of the leasing payments and insurance claims unless you already have the staff and processes in place to deal with this. You don’t want to tie up your current school administration staff running after missed payments and dealing with broken iPad screens. You also don’t want the school to be liable for any missed payments, make sure your agreement with the parents makes they liable so that the insurance company chases after them rather than the school.

Subsidising leased iPads

Some schools choose to subsidise the leasing payments to lessen the burden on parents and support low income families. Systems I have seen in place include:

  • Subsidising low income families — for example UK pupil premium students.
  • For families with multiple children the school may choose to offer additional iPads at a reduced cost.
  • One school I have spoken to asks parents for a voluntary regular contribution towards the scheme but provides an iPad to all students for free.

Some parents may want to pay outright for the iPad and forgo the leasing scheme. You should make provision for this situation:

  • Will the device still be insured under the same scheme?
  • At the end of the leasing period there may be the option to trade in the device for a newer model — will parents who own the device outright be able to take advantage of this?
  • Do you have the ability to manage and distribute apps to these iPads?

Ending the lease

At the end of the leasing period parents often have three options:

  1. Hand back the device and end the lease payments.
  2. Pay a final cost of keep the iPad.
  3. Continue the lease payments and trade the iPad in for a newer model.

You may want to consider collaborating with feeder schools in your area and look at where your students go next. Could a cross school arrangement be set up to reduce costs and facilitate an easier move for students between schools? Also, by providing all of your students with iPads is the school they transfer to next prepared for an influx of wireless devices?

Lines of responsibility

Parent’s will want to know who is responsible for the various aspects of the project. Who do they need to contact for IT assistance, to raise an eSafety issue, or talk to for an insurance claim. You will also want to communicate school policies such as your IT Acceptable Use Policy, and Data Protection policy.

iPad Cases

If you’re taking out iPad insurance it’s likely that the insurance company will require a specific case to be used. Make sure parents are aware of this cost and their responsibility to make sure their child has the appropriate case.

How do parents deal with iPads at home?

In any scheme where students are talking technology home good communication with parents is essential. After all, once the iPad leaves the school it’s their responsibility to manage the student’s time.

Your school Internet access may be monitored and filtered, but when the student gets home how is their Internet access controlled? If it’s the parents responsibility to provide home filtering you’ll need to provide information about how to go about setting this up.

Will you be allowing your students to store their own content or install their own apps on the iPads? What is your policy on games and other non-school material?

Wrap Up

Proposing a 1:1 program can be challenging, but it can also be extremely exciting. The most important thing is to be open with parents, don’t pretend to have all the answers and, most importantly, give yourself room to fail. Using phrases like “research” and experiment” allow you room to manoeuvre and communicates a conscientious approach. Of course parents will have questions about financing but it’s important to put an emphasis on the educational outcome of using iPads 1:1.

Most importantly don’t lock yourself into a single platform. In 3 year’s time you may decide that a different mobile platform is more suitable for your students, how easy would it be for you to move? Where possible use cross platform apps, and use cloud services such as Google Apps to store your data rather than services locked to a single platform such as iCloud.

Are you going through this process now? How has your school dealt with approaching parents?

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About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

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