In 2005, e-applications to Bristol’s schools had risen to 43%, but with improvements to the online form, and applying lessons learned about e-admissions, online applications rose in 2006 to 57%.
Bristol City Council first offered parents and carers the option to apply for schools online in 2003. In 2005 Bristol became one of the pilot authorities for the eAdmissions national project. Building on the experience of other local authority pioneers, Bristol then improved the usability of the system.
Making the online application form easy to use was achieved with a process of trial, feedback and modification. Bristol found that information about how to complete the form, with guidance at hand for when people made simple mistakes, was essential, particularly for applicants who were not familiar with computers, and there was also a need to reassure users that the system was safe and secure, and that it ‘worked’ (for example by sending a confirmation email.)
The benefits of e-applications are many. Parents who have ready access to the internet
appreciate find the system quick and easy. One advantage of the e-form over a paper one is that it can be changed easily during the process. The system allows the user to complete all or half the form online, save it, and then come back later and change things. The form can easily be saved and sent electronically, and users get an acknowledgement of receipt from the LEA.
More details of this and other projects can be found in the SOCITM report Better marketed, available here.
SOCITM can be contacted here.