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Parental contribution: Our ultimate guide for schools

Parental contribution is a popular funding model for schools looking to roll out a 1:1 iPad deployment. It lets the school minimise its hardware costs by having parents make a monthly contribution toward the cost of their child’s device. But why is it so popular, and how do you get started? Our education experts teamed up with staff from Hazlewood Community Primary School in North Tyneside and Benton Park Primary School in Newcastle to answer some common questions...

Liz Sunter
First of all: what’s in this for the school, besides the lower hardware costs?

The first and most obvious one is that leasing devices rather than buying them outright means that you always have the most up to date devices.

“When we first used iPad, we bought a class set outright, and I think that was a mistake,” says Laurie Underwood, a class teacher and ICT Co-ordinator at Hazlewood Community Primary School. “It meant they had a shelf life. After a few years we ended up with very old devices that were limited: we couldn't update them, we couldn't access certain apps on them, and once one or two had been damaged, we didn't have enough for a full class to work on them.” In a leasing situation, the school can renew their devices at the end of each leasing period, so they’re always up to date, and damaged devices are instantly replaced.

Benton Park Primary School had a slightly different problem: they’d started a self-funding scheme, but, as Deputy Head Nick Shepherd explained, “We have 240 new devices across Key Stage 2, and that needs quite a big infrastructure in terms of broadband networks, wireless points and configuration. So you end up spending your money on infrastructure and by the time you get to the actual kit, you find you can’t fund it all yourself.”

Having a 1:1 iPad deployment also means you can use iPad more spontaneously, rather than planning a digital activity for the one day a week you have the class set booked out. Schools with a 1:1 iPad scheme found it far easier to deliver remote lessons during the pandemic, and report much higher engagement with parents around their child’s learning. It’s also a valuable opportunity to help families living in digital poverty by providing an affordable route to device ownership.

But really, the main advantage is the depth and variety it adds to the classroom. “There's not a wasted minute with iPad, because the learning that the children can continue to do is endless,” says Laurie. “It’s so easy to set extension tasks at the end of the lesson or do a brief test to see what the children have understood. We've seen massive progressions throughout the school because the kids get to practice things they didn't have time for in the past.”


Let’s talk logistics. How do parents make their contribution, and who really owns the iPads?

At Jigsaw24, our first step is to work with the school to come up with a list of appropriate devices and accessories. Some accessories can be optional, like cases or styluses, while others, like insurance or device management, should really be mandatory in order to keep your devices secure. We then make these bundles available in a Parent Portal – a dedicated online store where parents can sign up for the scheme and choose the bundle they want.

While the devices are usually leased in the name of the school (schools have access to more favourable finance options that individuals), the monthly repayment is made by the parents, and at the end of the lease, they own the device.


How much is a typical repayment?

It depends on the model of device and length of the loan period, but it can be as low as £4 per week.

“The prices are very affordable,” says Laurie. “We haven’t had a parent so far say they couldn’t afford it. We make sure to say on our communications that there’s no credit check, because that’s a barrier to a lot of families but it’s not necessarily something they’re comfortable asking about.”

“I like to point out that if you're a parent of a child and they go off on a Residential trip, that's going to set you back,” says Nick. “A weeklong outward bounds trip is going to cost in the region £450. And for a similar price, your child's going to have an electronic device which they can use at home as well, and they're going to have it for four years.”


How long does it take to pay off the device?

Leases are typically between 24 and 36 months.


What happens to children whose parents can’t afford, or don’t want, to take part?

Typically, the schools we work with will buy a small set of iPads for children whose parents don’t take part in the scheme. The pupils use these school-owned iPads during lessons so that they can keep up with their peers, but leave them at school at the end of the day rather than taking them home, and they don’t get to keep the device at the end of the lease.

“Some of our kids bring their own devices, some families are leasing through the scheme and some are owned by the school, but we’ve never had any trouble getting students the apps they need for the classroom, because we enrol all of the devices into Lightspeed, our device management programme, so our IT manager can send out and manage apps en masse, no matter who owns the device.”


Do many parents decline to take part?

No. Even in areas of high deprivation, we’ve found that uptake rates are consistently very high. “Our initial uptake was about 50%, but now we’re up to 93%,” Laurie tells us. “Even during lockdown, when we weren’t able to hold parents’ meetings and show them what we’d be doing with the iPad, the take-up rate has stayed high.”


What can you do to help parents get on board?

The first thing you need to do is make sure your staff are on board with the scheme and can explain the school’s vision to parents. “We had a Vision & Planning session with Jigsaw24 that included our Business Manager, the head, all the senior leaders within the school so that everybody was on board,” Laurie says. “Once we’d created a vision, we were able to get staff on board.”

Training is also key to ensuring staff are confident with iPad and will make the best use of it in lessons. Our Coaching & Mentoring scheme gives staff the chance to team teach with one of our Apple Education Specialists, so that they can ensure they’re applying their digital skills effectively. “It’s great because we can work together to make sure what we've learned gets applied effectively and the children are able to apply it as well,” says Laurie. “We’re able to learn new skills, try them, reflect and improve.”

Once staff are on board, it’s about communicating clearly and regularly with parents. The more they know ahead of time, the more likely they are to sign up. “When we started the scheme, we were kind of drip feeding it out there, saying ‘we're looking into this, what do you think?’ on newsletters and emails. Then we held a massive parental meeting where we could show them videos and demonstrate how we’d be using iPad. We actually had one of the IT co-ordinators from another school who had been doing the parental lease scheme for a few years come in, and she was able to parents and give them information about what impact it had on their school.

“It’s important that you’re transparent with parents across the school, even if their children are too young to sign up for the iPad scheme yet,” Laurie advises. “You have to show the work that children are able to do on the iPad that they wouldn't be able to do without access to one. We do that through Twitter, we share things on newsletters, we showcase things on SeeSaw, and over time parents come to understand what their children can create.

But we also try and answer a lot of their questions ahead of time. We send out a letter that's almost like a handbook, and goes into detail about what the iPad is used for. We say every time, in bold, the iPad will never replace and paper. We answer FAQs like "Will this impact my child's handwriting?" and we explain that it’s just a tool to extend their child’s learning in a new direction that they wouldn’t get to experience otherwise.”


Thinking about launching a parental contribution scheme? Remember our keys to success:

·      Engage early with staff and parents.

·      Be transparent about what you plan to do.

·      Train teachers so they’re confident in the classroom.

·      Manage devices so that you can keep students safe (and on-task!).

·      Include insurance with accidental damage cover.

·      Find a good IT partner (we're available).


To find out more, call the team on 03332 409 290, email or fill in the form below. For the latest news, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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