Gareth Copeland: 3.5 minute read

Could instant messaging transform the school application experience on National Offer Day?

Over the past ten years I have seen technology grow at an astounding rate and I’m always interested in how we can apply this to improve the lives of Children and Families.


Tomorrow is National Offer Day, a day in which parents around the country receive the news they were looking for or dreading.

Will my son or daughter get their first or last choice school? It is an emotional rollercoaster ride from start to finish. A stressful process but one that I believe can be improved through the use of existing technology. Efficiencies are there for the taking and we simply need to be brave enough to back them.

Who am I to challenge the status quo?

That is a very good question and so let me explain more.

First and foremost, I am a proud parent with experience of National Offer Day and its associated trials and tribulations. I am also a former Education Systems Manager at Stoke City Council, Consultant and Account Manager for Education software suppliers. I have been with OLM for the last year and believe that my experience qualifies me to ask this question.

Over the past ten years I have seen technology grow at an astounding rate and I’m always interested in how we can apply this to improve the lives of Children and Families. I can order a takeaway from a device smaller than a book, speak with far flung relatives at the click of a button and buy my wife flowers instantly. It truly is the age of enlightenment but one that also baffles me when it comes to work.

Many organisations still refuse to embrace the benefits that technology can provide. They are stuck clinging on to antiquated processes that are no longer fit for purpose. The reasons for this are numerous and range from budget cuts to being wary of change, when existing processes continue to work but the consequences of not embracing change are obvious.   


The danger of not embracing change

You end up like Blockbuster, closing your doors to the public after years of successful trade, as when change came along, you looked the other way.

The founders of Netflix arrived at Blockbuster’s doors back in 2010, when they sat at the top of the movie rental industry offering to run the online arm of Blockbuster’s, in return for promoting Netflix in store. They were laughed out of the building.

In hindsight, it would have been a sound business decision but hindsight as they say is 20-20. It is an easy decision to look back on and suggest, negligence on the side of Blockbuster’s management team, but we weren’t there and this is not the point that I am looking to make. The point to note here is that history is littered with examples of businesses such as Blockbuster’s, organisations that did not embrace change and perished.

This is not to say that all the schools around the country will perish if they do not embrace change, no. This is to showcase the benefit that change can bring and in this format, how technology can take a start up from being relatively unknown to a world leading organisation worth billions. Imagine what the benefits would be if education as a whole embraced technological change.


Let’s have a look

As National Offer Day is tomorrow, I will take this as my example to showcase the benefits that technology can bring. To this end I have created a two minute video that will show you how we can take the current process, one in which paper is still regularly used, and translate it via existing technology to create efficiencies.

Please click on the image below to watch the video.



Why is this important?

The process for applying for a school place can be a lengthy one on all sides. From the local authority to the schools and then the parents. It is a process riddled with inefficiency and one that I would like to see improved.

  • By utilising existing technology such as Facebook you ensure that the process is familiar to the user
  • You ensure minimal overhead costs as you are utilising a form of technology that already exists, so you don’t need to worry about development
  • You ensure that the process is as simple and accessible as possible
  • You remove the need to contact different organisations and the need to apply to individual schools
  • It ensures that you have one simple process at the heart of everything


By having only one process at the heart of the application you ensure ease of use, with the only thing needed behind the scenes being effective integration. For example the parent could go onto the messenger Chatbot, as per the video above and apply. From there the information is fired off to the schools and the local authority. Less than two minutes and all of these systems could be updated.

The parent would also have the Ofsted report and school website available at the click of a button. These would be gained through geography and the Chatbot looking at the applicant’s name, seeing where they will be applying from. They would seem on the surface to be insignificant additions but will save you, the parent time that you can then use for your family.

What do you think?

I would love to hear from you, about the concept that I have put together and the discussion points that I have raised.

  • Do you think that it would benefit the education system?
    • Or is the system perfect as it is?
  • Could the format be taken further?
  • Could you think of any other mediums in which we could make efficiency changes such as this?
  • What cost savings do you believe could emerge from this?


I believe that technology has the power to make a difference to the lives of everyone involved in the education sector. It will be able to create efficiencies and streamline processes where humans will struggle.

I created this video to illustrate what is possible but believe this is only the start. Technology has the power to revolutionise how we look at education, from applications to school meals and Special Education Needs and Disabilities.

Let me know your thoughts via email at