How your MIS can reduce your staff workload

Maddie Kilminster - 21 July, 2021

Category : Blog

How your MIS can reduce your staff workload

Staff in schools are under a lot of pressure. With regular inspections, reporting requirements and funding cuts, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. Overload and burnout are common problems, as a large proportion of staff time is taken up with admin tasks, data analysis and additional duties. According to the DfE’s

Staff in schools are under a lot of pressure. With regular inspections, reporting requirements and funding cuts, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. Overload and burnout are common problems, as a large proportion of staff time is taken up with admin tasks, data analysis and additional duties.

According to the DfE’s 2016 Teacher Workload Survey, staff spend approximately eight hours a week on administration, much of which is taken up by behaviour management and escalation, and a further 3.8 hours on parent and guardian interaction. Senior Leaders spend around 4.4 hours a week on data analysis alone. 

Teachers, for whom more than half of their time is spent on non-teaching tasks, cite workload as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. 1 in 5 Teachers said in 2016 that they intend to leave their job because they feel overworked. In the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), 59% described their workload as unmanageable.


What is school data workload? 

Data collection and data management are two of the key areas that can cause excess workload in schools. Staff are spending more of their time collecting, entering, updating, analysing and making sense of students’ data than with the students themselves.


Lack of integrating systems

The reason that data tasks are so time-consuming is often due to schools having many competing systems which don’t connect easily to each other. This means they have to enter the same data into multiple places to keep everything up to date. This leads to greater chance of duplication, inaccuracy and inconsistency of data.

If you’re using different systems to manage behaviour, assessments, attendance, HR and communications, it’s also difficult to get a clear overview of what’s happening across your school, or Multi-Academy Trust.


Data fatigue

A high data workload can also mean that you’re simply collecting too much data without a clear purpose. It might be that there are unclear roles and responsibilities around the data staff are supposed to collect, or that there wasn’t a strategy in the first place for exactly why each data set was required. Having too much data leads to “data fatigue”, where the likelihood is that most data collected never actually gets analysed to good effect.


Lack of data skills

Schools can also find themselves in a situation where the data expertise sits with only a few members of staff, such as the Data Manager or someone in the Office. These staff members can get inundated with requests from colleagues to generate reports for them whenever they need to find out even the smallest of data points. As a result, reporting in schools can be slow and admin-heavy. It can also mean that staff are less likely to question or improve the processes they’re following because they’ve been using them for years.

If departmental Leads, pastoral Heads and Teachers, being able to readily access and make sense of data themselves, without having to rely on other colleagues, they’d be able to spot when something doesn’t look right faster, and intervene straight away. 

Check out how SENCOs can make the most of their time and data with Arbor 


The impact of covid on workload

During the pandemic, schools have had to pivot their plans, processes and arrangements dramatically – sometimes responding to changes to government regulations overnight. This has resulted in a huge burden of extra work for staff and even longer hours.

In Autumn Term 2020, TES reported that 84% of teachers felt stressed, whilst according to The Key, 48% of Business Managers reported an increased workload during 2020.

For many schools, their IT systems were part of the problem. As staff needed to work in flexible new ways remotely, older technology that only worked on the school’s on-site server simply couldn’t keep up, making it very difficult for staff to work remotely from home if they had to isolate. As a result, 2020 saw a huge wave of schools moving to cloud-based MIS (Management Information systems) to allow them the flexibility they needed.

Read how Orwell MAT switched MIS during covid


How to reduce your staff data workload


DfE workload reduction toolkit

Governing bodies have been aware of excess workload in schools for some time. In their 2018 letter to School Leaders, the DfE, Ofsted and several prominent teaching unions gave three main recommendations for how to reduce staff workload:

  1. Minimise or eliminate the number of pieces of information teachers are expected to compile
  2. Have simple systems for logging behaviour incidents and other pastoral information
  3. Review and reduce the number of attainment data collection points a year and how these are used – as a rule, it should not be more than two or three a year

The DfE also brought out a School Workload Reduction Toolkit which contains practical tools and materials that School Leaders can use address workload.


How to reduce your data workload

Given the significant proportion of staff time spent on data management, the DfE dedicates a section of the School Workload Reduction Toolkit to reducing data workload. The Teacher Workload Review Group also has some useful advice for managing data more efficiently in schools. We’ve broken this advice down into a six-step checklist for Senior Leaders:

  1. Identification – Identify the key student and staff data points that are important for your school to collect in line with your strategy and statutory requirements. Look out for duplications in the data you’re currently collecting. Make sure you’re calculating data in a standardised way across departments (or schools if you’re a MAT)
  2. Ownership – Define roles and responsibilities for inputting, collecting and analysing particular data sets, as well as a clear owner of the data collection process
  3. Timelines – Identify dates for data collection, analysis and presentation on a single calendar made available to key stakeholders. Keep staff to deadlines to ensure there’s time to put interventions in place based on the data
  4. Sources – Audit the costs of all your IT systems and ensure each subscription is serving a specific purpose that brings value. Make sure your systems connect up together to avoid having to enter data into multiple places, which leads to a lack of consistency and clear overview
  5. Process – Create a process to review your data periodically to ensure that your forecasts match your results. Keep an eye on the time it takes to gather data so you can make your processes more efficient
  6. Results – Define the frequency of reporting that works best for your school, share reporting templates with staff to ensure consistency, and make sure staff understand how to interpret reports. It’s also useful if certain stakeholders (such as Governors) have access to your MIS so they can pull their own reports when they need to

Read how LEO Academies Trust launched a brand new digital strategy


How your MIS could cut staff workload

Once you’ve completed a systems audit, you should discover that you can cut down the amount of systems your school uses and replace them with one MIS that can do it all. 

A smart, cloud-based MIS not only saves you paying for multiple subscriptions; the right one can (and should) help you to work faster, smarter and collaborate more across your school. 

Here are the three main ways a good MIS can support staff and reduce workload burden – access, automatic actions and alignment:


1. Access

As school staff are having to work more flexibly, across multiple sites, and sometimes remotely, cloud-based systems allow them to do their work and access the data they need from wherever they are.

The best MIS systems not only make data available remotely but also give staff access to the right data at the right time. If staff have in-built, easy-to-understand dashboards that give them instant reports, they can integrate reporting into their everyday routines, rather than having to wait for a spreadsheet to come from the Office.

Access to the right data also makes it easy for staff to pull together a rounded picture of their students, with data from all areas of school life. By looking at academic progress and attainment data alongside patterns in behaviour, attendance and pastoral information all in one place, staff can get to the root cause of performance faster, so they can support students sooner. 

Discover effective strategies for tracking pupil progress at your primary school


2. Automatic actions

Since time in schools invariably gets sucked away by “busywork” (or time-consuming admin), having a good MIS that automates key tasks can save staff hours every week.


Sending communications home is one of the most essential and most time-consuming tasks in schools. It might seem impossible to automate, but the best MIS systems give staff the option to send different types of communications wherever they are in the system, which saves them time jumping over to an external app. For example, from a daily whole-school attendance report, they could filter for absences with No Reason, and send emails to the parents of those students in a few clicks.

Having a specialised Parent Portal or App is another great way to save time on your communications. Even better are MIS systems that give you the option to share information or reports automatically with targeted groups of parents. With communications built into your MIS, you’ll also have all your contextual information at your fingertips, you’ll be able to target your communications to the most hard-to-reach families. This also makes it easier to track, and improve parental engagement over time.

Find out why 73% of staff at The Parks Academies Trust say communication has improved throughout Covid-19 thanks to Arbor



When something happens in the classroom like a negative behaviour incident, Teachers need to act fast, such as scheduling a detention. But often they end up with limited time between lessons to follow up on their admin. MIS systems that can automate escalation actions, such as assigning detentions or notifying senior staff when certain behaviours are recorded, can save staff lots of time. At scale, automatic escalations can allow MATs to make sure their schools are adhering to consistent behaviour policies.


Bulk actions

Having a system that allows you to take bulk actions (doing the same task like adding information for multiple students at a time) is also a massive time-saver. Think about how much faster your follow-ups would be if you could do these things in bulk: 

  • Chase meal balances – See all the monies owed to you and ask parents to top up, all from the same screen
  • Assign candidates to exam seats – When you’re arranging large exam sittings and complex schedules, spot quickly which students need to be seated and assign the missing places in bulk
  • Resolve behaviour incidents – Check through the behaviour incidents assigned to you and click to clear the resolved ones all in one go
  • Replace academic leads – When a staff leaves, reassign their course to the new Teacher in bulk
  • Create custom groups – Set criteria, for example “more than four behaviour incidents in a week”, which automatically puts students who fit into a custom group. This means you’ll be able to report on and follow up with this group of students all at the same time



You can save hours of reporting time by setting up recurring reports which generate themselves automatically on a given basis and at a given frequency. This cuts down on the time you would spend manually gathering data and creating the report each week. The best MIS systems will also allow you to schedule your reports to be sent out to key stakeholders. For example, you could schedule a weekly attendance report to all SLT showing students with < 90% attendance. 

If you rely on other staff to send you information on a regular basis, having a system that can automatically chase those colleagues without you even thinking about it, can be a huge help to your workload, too.

Check out how you can use Arbor’s Microsoft Power BI Connector to visualise your MIS in brand new ways


3. Alignment

For Central Teams in Multi-Academy Trusts, a lot of their time is spent gathering data from all their schools so they can put together a clear picture of how their initiatives and processes are working. But setting targets, analysing performance and communicating across a MAT are difficult without centralised tools. Different ways of working and disconnected systems can also pose barriers to schools working together as one.

As MATs grow, many move towards centralising and standardising key processes and policies in order to work in the most efficient way. Having an MIS that’s designed for MATs allows you to truly work as one organisation. Setting common expectations and procedures around behaviour, attendance and assessment helps you to bring everyone onto the same page, and makes reporting and decision making quicker, too. 

Find out more about Arbor MIS – the only true MIS for MATs


Choose a better way to work

Arbor MIS is designed to make a measurable improvement to the way schools of all sizes work. Arbor’s intuitive tools free staff from busywork and help them work more easily and collaboratively. With over 1,900 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. 

One of our impact goals (which we analyse each year for all the schools we work with) is to reduce staff workload to free them up to focus on their students. In fact, 92% users save time with Arbor compared to their previous system. 92% say Arbor has changed the way they work for the better and 81% say Arbor has improved how they analyse and understand data. 


Transform the way you work with Arbor 

We’d love to show you how Arbor could transform the way your school or MAT works. Get in touch with us at or 0208 050 1028. Or arrange a personalised demo today.

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