Education

Classlist: A virtual school gate for parents – without gossip or grumbling

By Kitty Knowles 8 January 2018
Classlist CEO Susan Burton (left) alongside co-founder Clare Wright (right). Image: Classlist.
Summary

Classlist is the social network for parents with no space for slackers.

Jimmy’s throwing a tantrum because his new backpack has the wrong Avengers superhero on it. Janet’s upset that you told her she can’t be a dog when she’s older.

It’s no wonder mums and dads enjoy befriending other mums and dads.

These relationships become even more important when your children are at school – helping you share the burden of picking up and dropping off, costume-making, or stepping up at the monthly PTA meeting.

The thing is, if you don’t have time to literally loiter at the school gate, it can be difficult to meet the parents of local kids. Especially as schools aren’t allowed to give out contact mobile numbers or email addresses anymore.

Fortunately, there’s a thriving social network that exists specifically to help parents connect.

It’s called Classlist and it’s just what you need to get your kids (and yourself) through the turbulent school year.

Creating Classlist

Former PwC consultant Susan Burton founded Classlist in 2013 alongside Clare Wright, a former planner at Ogilvy & Mather.

The entrepreneur was actually inspired to start the online hub when she was living in Bangalore – the Silicon Valley of India – where armed guards outside her kids’ school made it incredibly difficult to meet parents, or even to get on the premises.

After her nine-year-olds birthday party was unexpectedly inundated by 50 hyperactive boys, Burton registered ‘schoolclasslist.com’ – the first step to creating her new company.

Back in the UK, Burton still found herself relying on shoddy Excel sheets and endless WhatsApp groups to make school connections, so she piloted her own platform at her kids’ new school in Oxford, before taking one UK school after another.

Classlist now operates in over 1,800 schools, with tens of thousands of parents using the app each week. Some months almost a million notifications are sent out over the network, and currently, a new school is registering every working hour, with activity on the site growing 350% in the last year alone.

“We’re a bit like a school-based LinkedIn for parents,” Burton explains.

“Parents can join interest groups and post photo galleries, there’s a marketplace for parents to freecycle, look for babysitters, sell musical instruments, holiday lets and so forth, and the school run share map is very popular.”

The platform even has tools to help boost communities like event ticketing, newsletter, announcement and fundraising options.

A Classlist dashboard. Image: Classlist.
A Classlist dashboard. Image: Classlist.

How it works

To start using Classlist you create a profile with your photo, address, and child’s details, in order to be able to contact other parents online and organise ‘In Real Life’ meetings. Schools have their own separate accounts too. 

“Classlist isn’t a forum for gossip or grumbling,” Burton explains.

“Parents really do use it to help each other … every week we see amazing acts of generosity: whether it’s children getting together to create pom-poms to sell to raise money for Grenfell Tower victims, parents collecting winter clothing for refugees or parents volunteering to read to children less fortunate than their own.”

The best part for parents and schools? It’s free.

Instead of charging a fee, Burton runs a revenue-sharing scheme for schools who help Classlist sign up local business sponsors to their website.

“Advertisers are often parents at the school who enjoy contributing to their school and raising the profile of their business at the same time,” she explains.

The businesswoman has already raised £2m from private investors (including an oversubscribed crowdfunding round in 2016) and will be holding a further funding round in Spring 2018.

Burton hopes Classlist will help schools meet the relatively new Ofsted metric of ‘parental engagement’, and is even in discussion with schools on multiple continents about taking Classlist global.

“There are zillions of other apps focusing on academic stuff and ‘learning’,” says Burton. Our USP is our ability to help build stronger relationships between parents, pupils, school staff and families – that’s the dream.”

Could Classlist be your dream come true?

For the sake of little Jimmy and Janet, let’s hope so.