16th December 2020 All Posts

A 2020 round-up of software developments, industry partnerships and child development

As we get set to tick off another year, the past 12 months sum up a time that many of us won’t ever forget.

Our Early Years (EY) sector has had to overcome an array of challenges following the outbreak of Covid-19. And while it has been a truly turbulent time, we’ve been incredibly impressed with how our practitioners, parents, children, customers and colleagues have all handled the global crisis.

During a period in which technology is proving to be a vital resource for many settings, digital adoption has boomed in our industry. 30,808 Individual practitioners added a total of 4,432,538 observations to our iConnect platform during 2020 alone. Alongside that 190,778 parents added 253,933 home observations to ParentZone, all contributing to their child’s learning journeys. 

That equates to 12,840,146 photos, 285,565 videos and 908,682 timeline comments – all helping to improve parent partnerships and aid child development across the UK.

Developing technology to meet vast online demand

We’ve no doubt that software will continue to play a key role in helping nurseries to evolve their processes and streamline operations – and that’s why we’ve had to continue to respond swiftly to industry demands throughout 2020.

That’s included rolling out the new-look ParentZone app with an updated, more intuitive interface. Our developments are ongoing too – such as providing parents with access to contactless payments and sign-ins – as we cater for 190,778 unique registrants making payments of £6,026,548.79 via the ParentZone app.

During the first UK lockdown in 2020, ParentZone became the only parent app on the market to offer a fully dedicated home resources section online. Called ParentHub, we launched this in April to help busy parents of 0-5-year-olds better understand their children’s development needs.

We’ve since partnered with EYFSHome (which has 250 resources in total) to stage a selection of educational activities – all of which are supporting eight-times more home-schooling families. ParentHub’s content is aligned with the EYFS framework and includes industry-inspired collaborations with specialists such as Louise Mercieca and BBC Bitesize, to provide advice-led content on school transition, nutrition and mental health.

Then, in response to the Government reopening EY settings in June – and extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until October 2020 – we launched StaffPlan to help nurseries safely prepare for a ‘new normal’.

Making it free of charge initially, the StaffPlan Module was created alongside practitioners to address the real-time need for nurseries to effectively manage returns and furloughed staff.

Teaming up with EY thought leaders and providing high-profile media commentary

Working with industry experts continues to play a pivotal role in how we shape and develop our software provision for nursery and childminder settings.

This year, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to PurpleBee CEO, Linda Baston-Pitt, about health and wellbeing – which inspired two new eBooks to beat the January blues – and EY advisor Jan Dubiel, who visited Connect HQ for a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session and video interview pre-lockdown.

Our customers never fail to amaze us and have repeatedly pulled out all the stops during a difficult period. That’s why we’ve featured a total of five settings in our ‘Spotlight’ sessions to underline their ambitions for the future of child development.

Later this year, our chief information officer, John Ingham, was invited to be a panellist on an NMT webinar – covering how digital platforms can support the EY sector – and we’ve also landed 31 pieces of media coverage, reaching an audience of over two million.

Alongside hosting our own webinars with industry experts covering the practicalities of reopening a childcare business – which saw a total of 1,000-plus people register – we’ve also run a successful competition in partnership with The Professional Nursery Kitchen, receiving more than 2,200 entries.

What’s next…

There are so many reasons to look forward to 2021. One of which is that we’re gearing up to launch something new, but we can’t say too much about that yet – stay tuned… 

Committed to enhancing our existing software too, we want to explore how to further support the streamlining of contactless payments and improving recurring card and direct debit payments. We’ll also be holding workshops and user groups to ensure our software will support our customers with the EYFS Reforms and changes to development matters. In addition, we’re looking into the capability of capturing parent signatures for accidents within ParentZone. 

Further amends include improving the enquiries features, evolving our app messaging and newsletter features and increasing our first-time-fix rate of support tickets.

Following a year in which we’ve secured 167 new customers, we’ve achieved a Net Promoter Score of +42 and a 97% customer satisfaction rating and we’ve got some further exciting news in terms of our growth that we’ll be announcing soon. Watch this space!

Finally, having created new job roles to bolster our team, we’ll also be adding to the online experience and developing our in-house skillset further with the creation of a new customer success team. You can expect to meet more of our team in our regular Staff Spotlight series on the Connect Childcare blog.

Christmas opening and closing times for your diary

  • We’ll be closed on Christmas Day until 3rd January
  • Our phone lines will re-open at 8 am on 4th January

However, that doesn’t mean we’re leaving you to it – far from it! As well as our 24/7 helpdesk in operation, you can still raise support tickets over the festive break, and we’ll respond as soon as we return. Email: support@connectchildcare.zendesk.com

Thank YOU!

So, while it’s been a rollercoaster year of challenges, we do want to end by saying a huge thank you to our amazing nursery and childminder settings, all the parents and children we work with, and friends of the business for all your continued support. We’re sure you’re with us when we say, ‘roll on 2021!’

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About the Author

Campaign and Content Manager at Connect Childcare