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Playing to win – Groupcall

Monday January 18th, 2010

Stuart Abrahams, Business Development Director of Groupcall, speaks to GO about the firm’s recent contract win with Manchester City Council to implement an innovative parental communication system to all schools in the local authority.

Q What does your contract with Manchester City Council involve?

A We have partnered with Manchester City Council to provide all of the authority’s 167 primary and secondary schools with our parental communication system, Groupcall Messenger.

Designed to enhance communication between a school and its pupils’ parents, Messenger enables schools to contact parents via text, multilingual voice calls and email to mobile phones, landlines or computers.

Currently used by more than 2000 schools throughout the UK and Europe, Messenger has been proven to reduce unauthorised absences, enhance parental engagement and lower costs. Overall efficiencies are improved as it conveniently reads information directly from the school’s management information system and instantly sends messages to that system’s contacts, thereby ensuring staff time can be better spent on other tasks. Compared with traditional forms of communication such as letter writing, which carries printing and postage costs, or expensive telephone calls, Messenger provides significant cost savings.

Parental engagement is increasingly recognised and accepted as an essential component in the effective delivery of a positive learning experience for students. With Messenger’s ability to communicate with parents conveniently and effectively, parents can gain information on their children’s achievement, development, behaviour, special education needs and attendance.

Q How long is the contract for?

A Manchester City Council purchased Groupcall Messenger for its schools for one year, although we hope to establish a long-lasting relationship.

Q How were considerations on key public procurement issues such as sustainability, ethics and value for money taken into account in your bid?

A For this contract we partnered with leading ICT provider Ramesys, the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) ICT supplier for Manchester City Council. Ramesys won the BSF bid and incorporated Groupcall within its managed service contract. There will always be issues relating to pricing; and of course, we have a role to play in trying to drive down costs and ensure these savings are delivered to the schools.

In terms of ethics, our company focuses on enhancing communication to parents in order to support young people in developing a valuable and productive educational career so that they can flourish both while at school and also into adulthood. Effectively and efficiently communicating with parents helps to nurture school-to-parent relationships; resulting in improvements in a number of areas, including student safety and attendance. We see ourselves as playing a vital role in the development of learners.

Q What were the greatest challenges you encountered in the tendering process?

A. Fortunately, the process was streamlined and straightforward on the whole. The one issue we experienced related to the fact that some schools within Manchester were currently using competitors’ products. Naturally, when institutions use other suppliers’ solutions there will be a small percentage that are slightly apprehensive about introducing a new system. Ultimately schools have the choice as to which supplier’s service they use; it is our responsibility to justify why our service is the best option.

Q What advice would you give to others embarking on a public sector contract?

A. In the education sector and when dealing with local authorities it is vital that you are as clear, accurate and precise about your service and provide as much information as possible. This saves confusion later on and ensures that everyone involved understands the process and what the partnership entails. It is important to also operate in line with government policy and legislation, as there are numerous requirements that need to be satisfied.  

Q What feedback have you received from the client?

A Manchester City Council has provided Groupcall with extremely positive feedback regarding the partnership, reporting that it will save hours of administration time for schools in the area due to the system enabling parents and carers to be contacted effortlessly. The client revealed that it is always a challenge to find new and intuitive ways of assisting schools in raising their performance levels. One of the projects it is currently working on is improving the attendance levels at each individual school, and consequently throughout Manchester as a whole. The council felt that Messenger demonstrated itself to be the product that best fulfilled its requirements. 

Q What impact has winning this contract had on your business?

A Securing this contract has opened doors on behalf of other authorities looking to procure a parental engagement service and shown what they too could achieve. Although schools still have a choice in the services they use, our partnership with Manchester will demonstrate to other local authorities how they too can gain best value, while standardising quality.

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