Everything you need to know about your Jotter Mobile v1.8 Update

Published: April 28, 2017

Jotter Mobile just got even better with the release of v1.8, which will roll out across all apps by May 5th.
After lots of market research our developers have created the features you most requested, and we hope you will benefit from this free update.                     
Here are some of the changes you can expect to see:

Custom apps:

  • Custom sections in the navigation structure. Each custom link consists of a name, icon and an URL. You can define up to three custom sections.
  • Reordering and disabling of sections in the drawer menu and the dashboard tray. These are edited from the Mobile Centre module.

All apps:

  • Notification badges on sections within the app. These show that new content has been added but not read by the user.
  • New expanding dashboard tray option. This can be configured at the delivery stage or can be added with PCR.

If you would like more information about v1.8 or Jotter Mobile please call 0800 862 0492 or fill out our short contact form.

Reading, Writing and Breathing: Mindfulness in the Classroom

Category: VLEs

Published: October 26, 2016

The sight of high school pupils sitting motionless with eyes closed is becoming commonplace in classrooms across the UK and beyond. The practice of meditation or ‘mindfulness’ is being taught to help children deal with stress and to help them focus. While some old-school educators may see this as an excuse for pupils to stop working and mess about, studies are confirming that the effects of meditation have numerous positive effects.
The practice of being mindful is generally attributed to Buddhism, although other forms of meditation are linked to Hinduism and Taoism. The practice of modern mindfulness tends not to be spiritual in any way. The purpose is to focus the mind on breathing and the five senses, letting thoughts drift in and out passively.


Apart from psychological effects, physical changes take place in the brains of meditators. An eight-week Study by Harvard University at Massachusetts General Hospital found that grey matter actually increased from regular meditation sessions. The increase was sited in the area responsible for memory and learning. A study by UCLH discovered that people who regularly meditated for twenty years or more had better preserved brains than people who did not. While data on the effects of mindfulness on children is limited, an extensive meta-review compiled the results of 15 studies covering 1800 pupils from the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, Taiwan and India. They found an overall improvement in well-being, social and academic skills. Furthermore children reported higher levels of optimism and self-identity. Meditation appeared to help them cognitively as well, with improved processing, focus, memory and creativity.


The Mindfulness Foundation is a founder member of the NCB Partnership for Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools and is running the Mindfulness in Schools Campaign. The Mindfulness in Schools Project is a charity who support the teaching of meditation in schools. They run courses for teaching the techniques to pupils from 7 to 18 year olds. Even adults who have never meditated can learn how to teach the techniques in just a few days.


There are some interesting and useful apps on the market, specifically aimed at meditation for young people. Smiling Mind is a free app that has been developed by educators and psychologists to help bring balance to people’s lives. There is also now Headspace for Kids, a subscription-based program that’s split into three age ranges: 5 and under, 6-8 and 9-12. The availability of apps means that children can choose a guided meditation that suits them. For those teachers who don’t feel comfortable leading a guided session, classrooms that use iPads or have a BYOD policy can have pupils plug in and just ‘be’. Schools could also easily create their own mindfulness programs and deliver them via a flexible VLE.
The message is that pupils find the sessions calming and focusing. They report that they consider their actions more, resulting in better behaviour. The overall positive effects aren’t just beneficial for pupils; the knock-on effect must improve the lives of teachers and parents as well.

Top Tips for Buying School Tech

Published: September 5, 2016

You’re a school with an IT provision that’s the antithesis of state-of-the-art. Your budget is allocated and the money is burning a hole in your pocket. You’re itching to buy all those shiny, new computers, interactive whiteboards and software, and who can blame you? But before you start shopping, have you asked yourself (and your IT specialist) these questions about buying school tech?

  • Interactive whiteboard – with the most popular choices having been Smartboard and Promethean Activboard, most teachers now prefer to work with a conventional screen and projector using their own laptop or alternatively, they use the screen mirroring feature with iPads or smart TVs. It definitely seems the trend is moving away from expensive Smartboards, with their clunky software and screens that won’t stay oriented.

  • PC, laptop or tablets? – although it could be argued that laptops encourage poor posture with the monitor so low, there’s no doubt that these portable devices facilitate sharing 30+ computers around the school, even moving outside when required. It also frees up the need for having a dedicated IT suite. While laptops are more powerful and have a much larger capacity, many children will be familiar with smartphones and/or tablets, so you may wish to consider a set of iPads as well. The wonderful array of educational and creative apps can make learning more engaging. Tablets can be used for independent learning, guiding reading and whole-class teaching.
  • BYOD – One controversial movement that’s gaining popularity is allowing pupils to bring in their own devices. Not only does this free up more of your IT budget but pupils will feel more familiar with their own tablets or laptops. Of course there is the problem of batteries running flat and online security.
  • Broadband – often neglected when considering buying school tech. Always go for a larger bandwidth than you anticipate needing. Determine if you’ll need as much upstream as downstream bandwidth and how much data you’ll use each month. The line speed and capacity must take account of educational and managerial uses, as well as communications, networks, operational systems and security (closed circuit TVs). With the move towards an ever-increasing percentage of content being delivered through a VLE, requiring numerous pupils to be online simultaneously, it’s more sensible to overestimate the school’s broadband needs.


  • Virtual learning environment – an essential item is your VLE, which needs to be adaptable and easy to use. Apart from buying the platform, many suppliers charge annual, per-user licence fees, which can eat up your budget. An alternative would be to opt for an open source platform..
  • Website – every school should have a modern and multifunctional website to act as a portal for the school brand. An innovative solution would be to find a platform that integrates website with VLE. Buying a complete package can save money and make it simpler to use, with a single interface style.
  • Content – teacher’s time is at a premium and designing effective content for lessons can be demoralising, unless you’re tech-savvy. There are content design companies specialising in the school curriculum, such as Webanywhere. They also have their Content Club, where for an affordable, annual fee, schools can have specific topic websites created. Once in the club, schools can then share their bespoke sites between members. So a cluster group could collaborate to have multimedia, interactive content to cover the entire curriculum.

Power in Numbers
And remember, before you accept any quotes and go off with your shopping cart, find out if anyone in your cluster group is looking for new software or hardware. If you collaborate with others, your negotiating power will increase when buying school tech.

10 Ways to Involve Hard To Reach Parents

Published: August 31, 2016

According to research by Clare Campbell (2011), hard to reach parents are defined as those who:
“— have very low levels of engagement with school
— do not attend school meetings nor respond to communications
— exhibit high levels of inertia in overcoming perceived barriers to participation.”
Having greater parental / carer involvement isn’t just about helping at the bake sale; pupils whose parents actively engage with school attain more, so it’s vital to make that connection. Reluctant parents with low self-esteem cite their own negative school experiences for lack of engagement, so what can be done to encourage them to join in?

  • Parent Profile

For reluctant parents and carers, it’s particularly important to find out what makes them tick. Do they have any outside interests? You might find they have a skill that the school could use, like speaking a second language or a talent for arts and crafts. Taking the ‘glass half-full’ approach and focussing on the parents’ assets will raise their self-esteem and build positive relationships. By getting to know the hard to reach parent, the school is saying, “You matter as much as your child.”

  • Electronic Brochure

That’s essentially what a school website is but has the potential to be so much more. It’s important to have a site that reflects the school’s ethos and brand. Apart from essential information such as staff bios and Ofsted reports, your website should be the communications hub of your school. The calendar and newsletter should be continuously updated. Useful research data can be obtained through regular online surveys. Hard to reach parents would benefit from being able to securely access a portfolio of their child’s work.

  • Connect

It’s vitally important to keep parents up to speed with what’s happening in school and with their children at all times. Poor communication, whether justified or not, is a common complaint from parents. Letters sent home in the school bag often go unread – assuming they’ve reached their destination in the first place. Chatting at the ‘school gate’ is beneficial but can be hit and miss. A more effective solution to sketchy communication is a school mobile app for parents. These apps allow parents to access the latest school news and important dates, as well as receive instant alerts such as an activity being cancelled. This saves time and improves relationships by keeping parents fully aware.

  • Support Workshops

Supporting pupils with their learning at home is paramount, although some hard to reach parents feel ill-equipped, especially if their child has behaviour issues. Offering drop-in workshops during and after school is a way to bridge the gap, particularly if parents know their involvement can really make a difference. Workshops could cover basic numeracy and literacy support guidance.

  • Storytime

It’s a sad fact that fewer children are being read to in the home. Shared stories help develop reasoning, imagination and communication skills, as well as an interest in reading and writing. Those pupils who would rather play computer games or watch TV need particular attention, as this is often a smokescreen for a feeling of inadequacy with reading. One way to encourage reading at home is to have a ‘Story Time with Parents’ initiative in school. Some children may never have heard their parent read a story, which can have a profound effect.

  • Promote School Spirit

To encourage school spirit from the outset, set up a ‘boast board’, where teachers, governors, parents and pupils can post about what excites them about the coming school year. Regular blogging or podcasts can engage hard to reach parents by introducing topics they relate to. Posts don’t have to focus purely on what’s happening in school. It might be a discussion on different behaviour management techniques or it could be a recipe for paper mâché. Make it readable and keep it fairly light. School Facebook and Twitter accounts can be used to share your blog, raising the school’s profile. Social media is useful for school trips too, so parents can share in the experience and keep track of what’s going on.

  • Outreach

Although this might be seen as a last resort, there are occasions when paying a home visit is necessary. This type of approach might be met with hostility from some parents, however if handled correctly, it can pay dividends. Keep it relaxed and friendly; ask for a hot drink if one isn’t offered, as it’s amazing how bonding can begin over a cuppa. Don’t be judgemental – the parent may already be thinking they’re in trouble. Take an interest and keep it chatty, eventually focussing on the child(ren). Hopefully the parent(s) will appreciate you took the time to visit.

  • Speak Their Language

With an increasing number of immigrant parents with little or no English, it can be a nightmare getting them involved with school. Add to that any cultural differences that may preclude certain activities and hit a brick wall. The ideal solution is to ask for help from community leaders or other parents who understand the situation. These helpers should be able to start building a relationship for the school and encourage some form of involvement, however small.

  • Ditch the Cattle Market Parents’ Evening

For hard to reach parents, parents’ evening is a dreaded event. They may feel unable to speak to the class teacher on their level, causing deep embarrassment. Having to mix with lots of other parents could make them uncomfortable, particularly if the school intake has a wide socioeconomic range. And as is the common practise in many schools, having the pupils’ workbooks on display can have a negative effect on parents whose children have below average attainment. If possible, schedule private consultations on different days for these parents. If you remove many of the uncomfortable aspects, they are far more likely to attend.

  • What Do They Want?

This may seem an obvious question but is often omitted. What does a parent want from the school and for their child? What areas are most important to them? It could be attaining excellent SATs scores or it might be developing better social skills and behaviour. You might find asking this question opens up a continuing, positive dialogue with hard to reach parents, simply because no one else has ever bothered to ask them.

Is Your School Website Missing Vital Info?

Published: July 27, 2016

We bet you love your new multi-function school website, with it’s attractive theme to match your branding and its ability to act as a VLE. (PS. If it’s not multi-function, it’s not School Jotter.) All the content has been installed and you’ve uploaded the data to comply with  statutory requirements. Have you forgotten something? Apart from the more obvious information to have on your site such as the school’s contact details and a link to your most recent OFSTED report, there are a few more obscure items that you shouldn’t forget.
Bats and Balls
If your school receives the PE and Sport Premium Funding, you must show how you have or intend to use the money, as well as stating how this has affected your pupils’ involvement and attainment. Providing a larger and more varied range of equipment can help inspire children to become more active, which is a plus point for your school.

Governors Laid Bare
Not literally of course but it’s important to include details of governors’ financial and business interests on the school website. If they get a kick out of being part of a governing body and are on multiple boards, this must also be declared.
Attention or Detention?
Whatever strategies you’ve implemented to deal with challenging and unruly behaviour, these need to be outlined in detail. Parents will want to know how the school approaches bullying and any form of bigotry, which is in the news on a daily basis. This of course should be in keeping with your school ethos.
Levelling the Playing Field
Pupil Premium Funding may seem inadequate but at least it goes some way to helping schools provide extra support for disadvantaged pupils, in the hope they can reach similar attainment to their peers. Details of how and why this is spent, together with evidence of how it has helped disadvantaged pupils’ attainment must be on your school

Touchy Feely
While you might think it’s obvious to prospective parents what your school is all about, it may not be. In any case, it’s imperative that you spell it out on your website. What values do you promote? Do you place most emphasis on academic attainment or pastoral care? As parents and carers browse school sites, most seek out a school’s ethos and values first, rather than the latest SATs results. Don’t just tell them what they want to hear; make it personal and relevant to your school, and your way of doing things.
Regardless of whether you think anyone will ever read the statutory requirements, they’re not an option. To see exactly what should be included, visit the Government website.

Closing the Gender Gap in Literacy

Published: July 19, 2016

As a retired primary teacher I find it unsurprising that numerous studies show a gender gap where girls are significantly outperforming boys in literacy. One of the latest studies, commissioned by Save the Children, has found that the female advantage is established even before they step foot in the classroom. Understanding the Gender Gap in Literacy and Language Development was undertaken by researchers from Bristol University’s Graduate School of Education. Apparently in the 2014/15 school year, one in four boys were behind in language at age five and started Reception without being able to follow simple instructions or speak a full sentence. The report also states that for those children who start school behind, few will catch up.

While the gap appears to exist for all socio-economic groups, it was wider for those children eligible for free school lunches. Whereas the overall ratio was 25% of boy starters unable to answer simple “how” and “why” questions compared to 14% of girls, this escalated to 35% and 23% for lower income families. Several of the schools where I taught had ‘breakfast clubs’ before school, run by volunteers. It was a sad fact that this club was bursting at the seams. Whether this was simply due to poor time management by parents or because of economic factors, cereal and toast were gobbled up greedily. Once the children’s blood sugar levels rose, behaviour improved and they stayed on task longer. But where gender difference is concerned, evidence from the Save the Children study couldn’t definitively point to biological, developmental or social causes. An earlier study in 2008 by the Institute of Education (part of the Millennium Cohort Study) found that for both sexes attainment was better for children with two working parents, particularly if they held qualifications. Pupils in stepfamilies or with one parent had lower achievement.
Department for Education
The DfE produced a report in 2009 entitled Gender and Education – Mythbusters Addressing Gender and Achievement: Myths and Realities where they tended to refute most of the gender gap findings, however the evidence spoke for itself when it came to girls attaining higher in English. At key stage two, the gap is considerably wider for writing than reading but this is hardly news to me, as I repeatedly felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall trying to get boys to write. The DfE say that increased provision has been made for Early Years practitioners to try and redress the gender gap but is it too little, too late?
I recall an old study that maintained girls were better communicators because female babies tended to be carried facing inwards, whereas boys faced outwards. Facing inwards allowed babies to see their parents’ faces and be spoken to directly. They would learn to read facial expressions and understand nuance more quickly than if carried outwards. Somewhat controversially, the Save the Children study advocates treating boys more like girls. Girls tend to be sung to and have nursery rhymes recited to them. The researchers want to boys to experience this in equal measures, as well as having storybooks read to them and being given rewards for good performance. More creative activities such as painting and drawing are also seen as a way to help with cognitive development. But is it fair to lay all the blame at parents’ feet for the gender gap in attainment? Schools need to build a trusting relationship with parents and carers, working with them to promote the importance of one-on-one activities at home. Pupils need to be taught the value of being self-reliant and independent learners, which will raise self-esteem.
Role Models
There are relatively few male Early Years practitioners in UK schools. It’s more typical for men to teach at secondary level, with a view to obtaining headships. With so many single parent families where dad is seldom seen, a positive male role model is vital. In my last primary school they had no less than four male teachers out of 12, one of whom was in Early Years. This state school had some of the best behaviour I’d experienced and the male teachers certainly contributed to that. They provided a different caring style and allowed children to see a more natural gender mix, representative of society. Surely the DfE should do more to recruit male teachers into primary and particularly Early Years.
Methods of Delivery
There is little doubt that even the youngest pupils relate to technology, as it can be exciting and varied. In my KS1 class, while girls would often grab a book and sit in the reading corner, the boys competed for the two computers where they could play games, albeit with an educational objective. More provision should be made at Foundation Stage for pupils to have access to a virtual learning environment. Lower achievers could work through specially designed modules to help them catch up with language skills. As many schools may not have the funds to provide sufficient portable devices to use, a BYOD (bring your own device) policy could be introduced, so that pupils could bring in a tablet or smartphone from home. If boys are more reluctant to read and write, interactive storyboards and gamification could provide the catalyst needed to spark their interest. The beauty of BOYD is that any elearning content can be easily accessed at home as well as at school, hopefully encouraging parents to get more invested in their children’s education.

Website of the week – Woodfield Primary School

Published: May 3, 2016

Another outstanding school with a great-looking website! This week we are looking at the website created by Woodfield Primary School based in Wigan.

I really like the overall design and the layout of this website. Not only it looks good, but it’s also very easy to navigate and to find the information that you need. The white background throughout the website makes it look very clean. Light green and blue colours add a nice welcoming touch to the website.

The homepage features events calendar, live Twitter feed and latest school news. These are great tools for engaging with everyone visiting the website and for keeping everyone updated with the latest things happening at school. Anyone interested in receiving the latest updates straight to the inbox, can subscribe to the school’s monthly newsletter.

It’s always great to see outstanding schools choosing School Jotter to build their primary school website. The only thing I would suggest is to promote the latest Ofsted rating on the homepage and not to hide it.

Well done to the Woodfield Primary School!

Website of the week – St. Anthony’s Catholic Primary School

Published: April 25, 2016

This week we are looking at the website created by St. Anthony’s Catholic Primary School based in Shipley, West Yorkshire. It’s great to see that the school has recently redesigned their website.
There is a nice welcoming message on the homepage that introduces the school and its Catholic values. The homepage also includes useful features like information regarding the latest events and live Twitter feed to help everyone stay up to date with important things happening at school.

The school website is well designed and it’s easy to navigate. There are main contact details, navigation and language bars at the top of the page. The menu is located on the left of the homepage and it includes the learning resources and other useful information for students, teachers and parents.The school is uploading a weekly newsletter to the website which is a great way to improve engagement and to keep everyone updated with the latest news regarding school.

Overall, a great website redesign using School Jotter. Well done!

The importance of having a good school website

Published: April 20, 2016

School website is very important for making a good first impression as it often is the first contact that people have with the school. Therefore, the school website affects the overall image and reputation of your school which can lead to increased admissions. Having good school web design is also very important for delivering a good user experience for its regular users, including teachers, students and parents.

Here are some of the most important features of why having a good school website matters.

The features of a good school website


The overall look of the website is the first thing that users notice when they visit the website. This includes the layout, colours, images and fonts you use to build the website. Make sure that all these factors are considered when building the website as they contribute towards creating an overall impression of the school.

Make sure you check our infographic on how to design an awesome school website here.

Quality content

A good school website is expected to include a range of quality content. Remember to add basic information like contact details, welcoming messages, school value and images to the homepage followed by learning resources, curriculum information, news, events calendar and other school information.


The website design and good content are very important, however, if visitors cannot easily find the information they are looking for, they will become frustrated and it will negatively affect the overall user experience.

This is especially important when talking about parents researching the schools for their children because if they find the website impossible to navigate, they might just leave the website and search for another school.

The right message

Make sure your website sends the right message to its visitors and it actually represents the values and promotes the strengths of your school. Your website is very important when it comes to creating the best image of your school.

Mobile version

This is another very important feature that should not be ignored in the modern days. Most users, including teachers, parents and students will visit the school website on their mobile devices. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the website remains clear on all devices.

Check out our new mobile apps for schools here.

It is engaging

Finally, make it engaging!

Having a school website is very important, but making it a good website is what creates a good image of your school and leads to the positive user experience.

Website of the week – St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School

Published: April 18, 2016

Celebrating a Digital Milestone: Website of the Week

St. Anthony’s Catholic Primary School based in Bradford, West Yorkshire. recently earned the spotlight as the “Website of the Week” on SchoolJotter.com, an accolade that speaks volumes in the educational sector. This prestigious recognition holds great significance in the world of education. It leads us to wonder: what sets St. Anthony’s website apart from the sea of other school websites in the digital world?

Why St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School Website was chosen as the website of the week?

Firstly, I like the school website design. The layout of the website makes it look modern and professional. Yellow and blue colours dominating the website make it look child-friendly and they go well with the colours of school uniforms. There is a nice welcoming message on the homepage which introduces the school and gives an idea about some of the school values. The welcoming message appears on the top of some images of students which always make a website look more personalised.

The website is full of useful content and learning resources and it is easy to navigate. Another great feature of this school website is an option to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. It is a great way to engage with parents and to keep them up to date with the latest school events and other important announcements.

What are the essential elements for the school website for ‘St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School’?

Key Elements of St. Anthony’s Website

  1. Intuitive Navigation: The website is designed for ease of use, allowing visitors to find information swiftly and efficiently.
  2. Current and Comprehensive Information: Regularly updated, the website serves as a reliable resource for the latest school news, policies, and educational resources.
  3. Aesthetically Pleasing Design: The website combines elegance and functionality, featuring a design that is both visually appealing and reflective of the school’s ethos.
  4. Inclusive Accessibility: The website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, ensuring equitable access to information.
  5. Rich Educational Content: The site is a treasure trove of educational materials, offering insights into the school’s curriculum, extracurricular activities, and learning philosophies.
  6. Community Connection: The website effectively bridges the gap between the school and its wider community, showcasing events, achievements, and the school’s impact.

Well done to St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School!

What are the school website features that help to engage with parents?

Engaging Parents: The Features That Stand Out

  1. Dedicated Parent Section: A specialised area for parents offers tailored information, ranging from school policies and procedures to guidance on supporting their children’s education.
  2. Interactive Event Calendar: This feature keeps parents in the loop regarding school events, term dates, and important deadlines.
  3. Newsletter Integration: Regular newsletters keep parents connected with the heartbeat of school life, providing updates, stories, and achievements.
  4. Feedback Channels: The website encourages parent feedback, fostering a collaborative relationship and ensuring that parent voices are heard.
  5. Social Media Links: By integrating social media, the website offers a dynamic and real-time glimpse into daily school activities and announcements.
  6. Multilingual Options: Recognising the diverse backgrounds of its community, the website provides multilingual support, making it accessible and inclusive for all parents.

Conclusion: A Blueprint for Success

The website of St. Anthony’s Catholic Primary School is a true embodiment of what a primary school website should strive for. More than just a source of information, it serves as a dynamic and inviting digital platform that truly embodies the school’s dedication to excellence, inclusivity, and community involvement. It has been recognized as a “Website of the Week,” setting a noteworthy benchmark for other schools and showcasing the potential of a thoughtfully designed website to enhance a school’s communication and educational objectives.