QR language codes translate school news to parents

A Sydney school is putting technology into play to reach non-English-speaking parents via QR codes translated into home languages.

Image: Brad Lanham and community liaison officer Lee Ly with the QR codes embedded on notes home to parents.

Most of the students (97%) at Canley Vale Public School in south-western Sydney are from low socioeconomic families where English is a second language.

Acting principal Brad Lanham told department Secretary Mark Scott on the first COVID-19 edition of the Every Student Podcast that his staff and school community adapted quickly to learning from home, but the language barrier presented particular issues since parents were not always literate in their home language.

This meant that even if translated information was sent home or posted on the school’s website, it was not always understood by parents keen to support their children’s learning.

“We decided as a staff when we were planning for the online transition that our students and our community deserved the best and we wanted to provide the best education possible,” Mr Lanham

Getting the message out to parents has required a strong focus on the personal touch – from daily phone calls to targeted SMS messages and interpreters.

One solution was to record the text of important letters and embed the notes with QR codes in seven community languages. Parents can then scan the QR code on their mobile phones and the information is read to them.

The text of the letters is pre-recorded by the school’s community liaison officers and community languages teachers.

“It has been very useful and it's something new that our technology support officer suggested and we thought it was a great idea. Our community liaison officers have given us very positive feedback about continuing,” Mr Lanham said.

Machine-readable QR (Quick Response) codes contain information linked to a website or application.

Secretary Mark Scott said the communication innovation was important since “we’re enlisting parents to be partners in learning in a more profound way than they ever have been before”.

Canley Vale Public School, with an absentee rate of 99.4% and just five of the 927 students at school, is now aiming to equip every student with a device since some families have up to five primary school-aged children now at home.

“We want to ensure equitable access to remote learning for every single student,” Mr Lanham said.

The school has loaned most of its school devices, spent equity funds to buy more laptops and is attempting to source more computers and internet dongles.

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