In-app messages

In-app messages are an easy way to communicate with guardians for schools on the Comms or Perform Packages who have enabled the Parent Portal.

We recommend using this channel of communication for messages that are not critical or time-sensitive, as some guardians might not log in to Parent Portal regularly to read the messages.

Guardians are able to see these messages in the communications section of the Parent Portal. If they have downloaded the App and have enabled Push Notifications, they will also be able to receive the messages as Push Notifications on their mobile devices. You can see how guardians can view, send or reply to In-app messages here: In-app messages in the Parent Portal and Arbor App

Why should you use In-app messages?

  • They are free!There is no fee for using In-app messages to communicate with guardians.
  • Instant notifications and follow-ups - Guardians can be notified when they receive an In-app message via email or Push Notification and followed up with an SMS (Please be aware this uses SMS credits).
  • Read status - Check whether the message has been read by each guardian.
  • Response notifications - Choose which staff members are notified when guardians reply to In-app messages. 


The permissions required to send In-app messages are (you can see how to give someone these permissions here):

  • To be able to manage In-app message settings you must have the School Communications: Setup: Communications: Setup School Communications permission.
  • To be able to send In-app messages you must have the School Communications: Action: Send and administer school communications: Administer permission.
  • To be able to view In-app messages you must have the School Communications: View: View school communications: View permission.

You also have to be a permitted sender of In-app messages. To see how to manage this for each staff member, see this article. 


Preparing to send In-app messages

How to check if your school can send In-app messages

To be able to send In-app messages, check you have displaying In-app messages in the parent portal switched on.

To do this, go to Students > Parents & Guardians > Parent Portal Settings and scroll down to the Communication section. Click the 'In-app messages' field.

In the slide over, change the setting to Yes, then click Save Changes.



Managing In-app messages settings

These settings allow you to choose whether guardians can respond to a message, whether an SMS will be sent after an In-app message, and how soon after. These settings apply to all In-app messages sent, and cannot be customised on a message-by-message basis.

Before you send your first In-app message, you should check that your follow-up settings are correct. Please note, you must have the School Communications: Setup: Communications: Setup School Communications permission to make amendments to these settings.

Go to School > Communications > Setup > In-app Message Settings.


Allowing guardians to send messages

To set whether to allow guardians to initiate a message or send a reply to In-app messages, click the 'Accept messages from Guardians' field. Tick or untick the box, then click Save Changes.

To see what the screen where Guardians can reply will look like, see the 'How can guardians read the messages?' section.


Notification of replies

To set who is notified and how when a guardian responds to an In-app message, click the 'New in-app message notification' field.



These settings allow you to select whether the person who sent the In-app message is notified when a reply is received.



You can also choose to notify other members of staff, by selecting one or multiple Business Roles or individual staff members in the Notify Staff section.

You can select whether staff members or the sender are notified by email, with a notification in the top-right of their Arbor site, or both.


Managing communications sent

Manage what follow-up communications are sent after the In-app message by clicking the Guardian's notification field.

The settings will automatically have both boxes ticked, and the 'Send SMS' field set to not send a follow-up SMS message

This means that when an In-app message is sent, a Push Notification will immediately be sent to guardians who have installed the App and enabled Push Notifications. For those who do not have the App installed, or have not enabled Push Notifications, an email will be sent instead.

No SMSs will be sent automatically. Keep in mind that in this case, there is an even smaller chance that the Guardian will read the intended message if they don’t have push notifications enabled.



You can choose to send a follow-up SMS to In-app messages. Please note that if you turn this on, SMSs will be sent following every In-app message after the time period chosen. You can amend the time period to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, any amount of hours up to 24 hours, 36 hours, or 48 hours.

In the example below, 4 hours after the In-app message is sent, any users who have not read the In-app message 4 hours after it was sent will receive an SMS. Please be aware this does use SMS credits.




Sending a mail merge In-app message

Creating and sending an In-app message

You can send out email communications individually or to an entire group, depending on your permissions. If you can't send communications, check your access following these instructions.

Just go to School > Communications > In-App Messages > New Mail Merge In-App Message to set up a new message, or In-App Messages > In-App Message Drafts to select a previously saved draft. You can read more about drafts here.



  • The From field will automatically show the school name. Select who to send the emails as, staff should click the drop-down menu in the 'From' field, and select the correct name. 
  • Select the groups of guardians you would like to send the message to in the To box.
  • In the 'Combine messages?' area you can choose whether you want to combine the messages - see this article to see what each option means.



The Merge Fields selection box may be used to customise each SMS to the appropriate individual. Don't see the fields you want? Follow these instructions: Creating a Mail Merge using data from a Custom Report Writer report

Content options such as text colouring and line spacing are not available for in-app messages.

You can add a URL hyperlink using the link button. Please note that you must use the button - typing out a link will not convert it to a clickable link.

  • Clicking a link in the Parent Portal or MIS will open the page in a new tab.
  • Clicking a link in the Arbor App will open the page in the user's default web browser app (e.g. Safari, Chrome etc).

Add your message, then click Proceed.



On the second step, you will be able to see the last time the guardian logged in to the Parent Portal. This can be used to help to predict whether this person will actually read your message or not.

Please note that the recipients list here is in random order.

The colour coding of this field is:

  • Red if a recipient has never logged in. 
  • Orange if the last login of the recipient happened more than 24 hours ago.
  • Green if the last login happened less than 24 hours ago.



At the bottom of the page before sending you’ll see the total number of messages you’re about to send.





Viewing replies and replying to messages

View a log of all In-app messages sent or received

You can see an overview of all school communications (including In-app messages) sent on the School > Communications > All School Communications page.

Clicking into each communication type provides more information, including whether the message has been read for In-app messages.



You can also see communications to or regarding a student on their Student Profile, or to a guardian on the Guardian Profile.


In-App Messages sent by the school

Go to School > Communications > All school communications > Outbound In-App Messages to see all individual messages the school has sent for the current academic year. It will not merge messages that were created from the same template at the same time.

Click a message to display whether it has been read or not.



To view merged In-app messages, go to School > Communications > In-App Messages > Sent In-App Messages.



More information can be viewed by selecting one of the messages. This will display the message, a full list of its recipients and whether each email has been read or not.

You can also see which recipients have been sent a follow-up SMS with the same message if your school has set this up.

Please note that the recipients list here is in random order.



Send another follow-up email, SMS or In-app message to recipients of your In-app message by selecting the tick boxes next to the people you want to follow up with, and clicking the blue pencil icon. This will open a new Mail Merge with the people you've selected in the To field.


How can staff read messages or replies from guardians?

If you have enabled guardians to initiate or reply to messages (See the section called 'Managing my In-app messages settings'), you can see replies in School > Communications > All School Communications > In-bound In-App Messages.

Inbound In-app messages will be in bold if they have not yet been read by school staff, and normal text if read.

You can click the message to read it and see more information.


Replying to an In-app message sent by a guardian

You can send a reply to an In-app message right from the communication logs in:

  • School > Communications > All school communications - just filter for inbound In-app messages
  • School > Communications > All school communications > Inbound In-App Messages
  • Communications on the guardian's profile
  • Communications & Notes on the student profile that the guardian is linked to
  • Communications & Notes on the guardian's profile

Just click into the inbound In-app message you want to reply to. Click the Actions button and select In-app message reply.



This will open a pop-up where you can type in your new In-app message to send.

It will include the original message text from the guardian, so you and the guardian can see what the follow-up communication is about. You can delete this text if you wish.


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