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Cosima Baring - 14 January, 2021

Category : Blog

Virtual afternoon tea with Arbor: Learn more about Arbor MIS over free tea and brownies

At this time of year, we’d normally be getting ready to meet schools and MATs at BETT (over lunch and a glass of wine!). Sadly that can’t happen this year due to Covid-19, so we’ve decided to make a new plan instead. You and your whole team deserve a break after what’s been a challenging

At this time of year, we’d normally be getting ready to meet schools and MATs at BETT (over lunch and a glass of wine!). Sadly that can’t happen this year due to Covid-19, so we’ve decided to make a new plan instead.

You and your whole team deserve a break after what’s been a challenging 12 months. So, we’ve decided to host a series of virtual afternoon tea sessions before Half-Term – with brownies and tea on us!

 

Find out about Arbor MIS

We’re running these sessions as an informal way for primary, secondary and MAT leaders to find out about Arbor MIS, and explain how we’ve helped over 1,400 schools pivot to remote working and blended learning this year.

Because Arbor is cloud-based, our schools can access it from anywhere – which means they have a way to track staff sickness, plan teacher rotas, set work for students and send mass comms out from wherever they need to work.

 

Join us for afternoon tea!

Your afternoon tea session is a chance to see the system in action, and talk through how Arbor can help you achieve your longer term strategic goals. We’ll also discuss how simple switching MIS really is, and share some stories from the 412 schools who moved to Arbor remotely in 2020.

Book your 30-minute afternoon tea with us (from 27th Jan-5th Feb) using the link below. Share your address, and we’ll send you tea and brownies in the post to enjoy during our chat (hosted on Zoom). It’s that simple!

Click here to sign up for your tea and brownies with Arbor 

 

Hope to see you for a cup of tea later this month!

Got a question? Get in touch on 0208 050 1028 or email us on brownies@arbor-education.com

 

Maddie Kilminster - 11 January, 2021

Category : Blog

How to find out more about Arbor MIS this term

With more and more schools choosing to replace their older software with smarter, cloud-based systems (over 900 schools switched in 2020!), it’s becoming less a question of if, and more a question of when you might move your MIS to the cloud. The most important thing to bear in mind when choosing a new MIS

With more and more schools choosing to replace their older software with smarter, cloud-based systems (over 900 schools switched in 2020!), it’s becoming less a question of if, and more a question of when you might move your MIS to the cloud.

The most important thing to bear in mind when choosing a new MIS (Management Information System) is to find the system that will support your school or MAT to meet your goals.

We know it’s going to be a busy term, so we’ve made it really easy for you to find out more about Arbor MIS – the UK’s fastest-growing MIS – so you can decide if it’s the right move for you.

 

1. Come to a free webinar to see Arbor in action

In our “Discover Arbor MIS” series starting next week, there will be lots of opportunities to join an in-depth demo of Arbor and to ask any questions you might have. With sessions dedicated to primary, secondary, special schools and MATs, our Partnership Managers will show you how Arbor could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more at your organisation.

We’re also running deeper dive sessions dedicated to assessment, as well as walking you through the process of moving to Arbor. Find out all the sessions that are coming up here. If you can’t make a live webinar, watch any session on-demand!

 

2. Join us for virtual tea and cake – on Arbor

This half term, we’re hosting virtual afternoon tea, with brownies and tea on us.

We’re doing this to give schools and MATs the chance to have an informal chat with us about Arbor’s cloud-based MIS, including how it could help with the Covid-specific workload challenges you’re facing now, and how Arbor can support your longer-term strategic goals. 

Plus, your whole team deserves a big box of brownies after what’s been a challenging 12 months! 

Book your 30-minute afternoon tea with us (from 27th Jan-5th Feb) using the link below. Share your address, and we’ll send your tea and brownies in the post to enjoy during our chat. It’s that simple! 

Click here to sign up and get your tea and brownies with Arbor 

 

3. Hear from fellow MAT leaders 

We understand that digital tools are only one part of a better working life, so this term, we’re also bringing experts together to discuss a holistic approach to supporting your trust. 

In our “Building a Resilient Trust” webinar series, starting up again later this term, Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill, will be talking to MAT leaders about their strategies for running a trust successfully during a pandemic. The 45 minute webinars will be your chance to hear from your peers, take a pause, share ideas and leave with a little bit more knowledge and a preparedness to support your trust this term and going forwards. 

Keep an eye out on our Twitter and LinkedIn page to be the first to hear when we announce the first sessions.

 

4. Get in touch with us

If you’d like to speak to one of our Partnership Team about how Arbor could help your school or MAT work better, we’d love to hear from you. You can send us an email at tellmemore@arbor-education.com, call us on 0208 050 1028, or book a demo here.

Maddie Kilminster - 11 January, 2021

Category : Blog

3 reasons to switch your secondary school to a cloud-based MIS this year

In busy secondary schools with so much information in different places, it’s often difficult for staff to find what they need. With the added demands of Covid-19 and staff and students working remotely, now is the time to switch to a cloud-based system that you can rely on to support your daily tasks. Arbor’s Secondary

In busy secondary schools with so much information in different places, it’s often difficult for staff to find what they need. With the added demands of Covid-19 and staff and students working remotely, now is the time to switch to a cloud-based system that you can rely on to support your daily tasks.

Arbor’s Secondary School MIS is designed to make a measurable improvement to the way you work by bringing all your systems, data and communications under one roof. This gives everyone at your school a single source of information so you can support the students and staff who need it the most.

Over 168 secondary schools have chosen Arbor MIS for a better working life, joining the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community of over 1,400 schools and MATs.

Moving your school to a new system might seem daunting, but over 412 schools moved to Arbor remotely during Covid-19. Below are three of the top reasons you should consider a switch this term:

1. Your current systems can’t meet the demands of Covid-19

Schools are working in totally new ways right now and older school software simply can’t keep up. Because Arbor MIS is cloud-based, you can stay connected to your school community and maintain all your administrative tasks wherever you need to work – with fast, secure online access.

During Covid-19, we’ve also developed market-leading tools to help free staff up to focus on supporting students and staff:

  • Covid-19 Dashboard – Gives you all the data you need for DfE reporting and helps you track attendance and absence across your student body including vulnerable and key status groups. Follow up with parents directly from the dashboard.
  • Flexible timetabling and cover – We’ll automatically show you which teachers are isolating or sick so you can arrange cover easily, adjusting school timetables flexibly to accommodate bubbles.
  • Built-in communications – Keep in touch with your community by email, SMS, and in-app message from wherever you are in Arbor. The office can send communications in bulk using mail-merge and use templates to save time. Teachers can contact their students directly from the Lesson Dashboard.

“I just wanted to say how impressed I have been with Arbor during the COVID crisis. What you guys have implemented has made my job so much easier.” Josh Pearce, Marches School

2. Arbor MIS works for secondary schools of all shapes and sizes

Arbor is designed to meet the needs of secondary schools of all shapes and sizes. With so much going on, Arbor helps you create a more joined-up school, with a shared view of progress and purpose for all staff.

With accessible, flexible reporting at every level, Arbor gives you a holistic view of your students’ progress across all areas of school – completely out-of-the-box – so you can direct the right support to the right students. Plus, Arbor’s powerful integrations with data analysis platforms including Power BI, SISRA and 4Matrix mean you can dig into your data exactly how you need to. 

Arbor’s fast, intuitive tools, like timetabling, communications and end-to-end exams management, cut down on repetitive manual work and help make life easier for everyone, from Support Staff, to SLT, to Teachers. 

92% of school staff say they save time with Arbor compared to their previous MIS, and 81% say Arbor has improved how they analyse and understand data.

3. We’ll make sure Arbor is a success at your secondary school in the long-term

When you join Arbor we’ll take the time to truly understand your school and your goals – then help you meet them, year after year. Our friendly, expert team of consultants and former educators will work with you to provide the training and services you need to drive impact with Arbor at your secondary school. 

Being part of Arbor, you’ll share best practice with a growing community of like-minded schools learning from each other and sharing best practice. What’s more, we’re always keen to hear your feedback on Arbor and work hand-in-hand with schools to shape the new features we develop. 

We’re proud of our 97% customer satisfaction rate for support and 99% customer retention rate. 

Want to discover more about Arbor MIS and see the system in action? Join one of our free webinars this term to find out how Arbor could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more at your organisation. See all the sessions that are coming up here. 

Alternatively, get in touch with us directly – we’d love to hear from you! tellmemore@arbor-education.com0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 5 January, 2021

Category : Blog

How to use your MIS to reduce your workload this term

With schools working in totally new ways right now (juggling in-person education with remote learning, remote parent engagement, and remote working, all whilst keeping up with rapidly changing DfE advice), many staff members have reported an increase in workload this year. In fact, TES reported that 84% of teachers felt stressed in Autumn Term, whilst

With schools working in totally new ways right now (juggling in-person education with remote learning, remote parent engagement, and remote working, all whilst keeping up with rapidly changing DfE advice), many staff members have reported an increase in workload this year. In fact, TES reported that 84% of teachers felt stressed in Autumn Term, whilst The Key found 48% of Business Managers reported an increased workload

Often this increase is down to the fact that, whilst schools are working in totally new ways, the tools they’re using haven’t changed. Older, server-based software wasn’t designed for remote, flexible, and highly changeable ways of working – not least because they require the user to work at a fixed station within school. 

But there is a better way to work – and it starts with finding a system that can support your staff now and in the future. 

We designed our cloud-based MIS to make a measurable difference to the way schools work, and we’re proud to say that 92% of our customers say we’ve changed the way they work for the better. We’re here to help with all the extra Covid-specific admin and workload challenges you’re facing now (see how here), and we can help you build sustainable ways of working as we all start to plan for recovery.

In this blog we share 5 ways our schools use Arbor to reduce workload for their staff every day, with a focus on how we can help you in the longer term:

1. Get the evidence you need to support students at your fingertips

When you’re making decisions on how to support your students, you need the right evidence to support you in turn. Because Arbor gives you access to student progress data alongside behaviour, attendance and contextual information in one place, you’ll have the full picture you need to identify the students requiring support at your fingertips.

Plus, where some systems just show you data, Arbor goes one step further and helps you ask those “why” questions. With people-friendly dashboards that are easy to filter and drill into, and personalised reports you can make in a few clicks, you’ll be able to easily get to the bottom of patterns and problems influencing performance in your school. 

2. Benchmark your school against others nationally to speed up decision-making

Arbor is the only MIS to integrate DfE performance and finance data with your live, in-year data, so you can understand how your school’s or MAT’s performance compares with others across the country. Not only will you have over five years of attendance, behaviour, attainment and student characteristics data built-in, you’ll also get intelligent call-outs and analysis, helping you see what’s important without spending hours analysing raw data manually. 

Get started today with free benchmarking for your school or trust with Arbor Insight.

3. Automate key tasks so they take up less time

We build Arbor hand-in-hand with schools, which means everything we do is focused on tackling the real problems leaders, teachers and support staff face day-to-day. In fact – you can check out what we’re working on next here. With intuitive design that just works, Arbor automates your key admin tasks like data collection, reporting and communications, giving you hours back a week to spend where you like.

4. Make communicating with your school community fast and simple

Many schools have the goal of improving how they communicate with their community of parents and families. With Covid-19 making it more important than ever to keep parents in the loop, you need a reliable system in place that makes communication seamless.

Arbor MIS gives you lots of communications options so you can choose the right way to send the right messages, at the right time. Send multiple, personalised SMS, email or letters at once or share reports directly to parents’ phones via the Arbor App. What’s more, with all your student information at your fingertips, you’ll be able to target your communications to the most hard-to-reach students, and keep easy records with a built-in log.

What do Arbor schools and MATs say? Thanks to Arbor, 73% of staff at The Parks Academies Trust say communication has improved throughout Covid-19, with the Pool Academy managing to keep contact with 100% of students every day during the first lockdown. 

5. Standardise your operations and ways of working

Whether it’s schools who have lots of different systems and processes, or MATs whose schools are working in disconnected ways, a big focus for many trust leaders is finding the right balance between standardisation and autonomy. Arbor helps you set common expectations and procedures around behaviour, attendance and assessment, so that everyone is on the same page. This makes reporting and decision making much quicker and easier, plus it helps you embed an ethos and values for your organisation.

 

Want to discover more about Arbor MIS and see the system in action? Join one of our free webinars this term to find out how Arbor could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more at your organisation. See all the sessions that are coming up here and if you can’t make a live webinar, watch any session on-demand!

Danielle Arkwright - 4 January, 2021

Category : Blog

Top 5 ways you can set wellbeing goals this year

After the year we’ve had, and with most normal holiday traditions having gone out the window, the key to a happier and healthier 2021 might well start with some realistic, compassionate New Year’s resolutions.  See below for our top 5 tips for starting your year right.  Rather than beating yourself up about all the things

After the year we’ve had, and with most normal holiday traditions having gone out the window, the key to a happier and healthier 2021 might well start with some realistic, compassionate New Year’s resolutions. 

See below for our top 5 tips for starting your year right. 

Rather than beating yourself up about all the things you need to change and the new, better version of yourself you need to become, what about reflecting on the ways in which you’ve actually coped really well during the stressful and unpredictable year we’ve had?

Did you learn a new skill that boosted your self-esteem? Did taking some time for mindfulness help during the worst of lockdown? Did you feel a lot better when you were out in nature or spending time with a particular person? 

Start by writing a list of the things that helped you, or perhaps a journal entry about your reflections on 2020. While you’re at it, give yourself a massive pat on the back for making it through and taking care of yourself and your loved ones the best you could. 

If you do decide to make a New Year’s resolution, try and pick something manageable. Choosing to make small, positive changes can benefit your confidence as they’re easier to keep up. Plus, these doable changes are much more likely to become habits in the long term. 

Below are some small, practical ideas that can benefit your mental health for 2021:

1. Try mindfulness

Mindfulness is proven to have a profound impact on our overall wellbeing. Over the last ten years, hundreds of studies have been conducted proving the positive effects of meditation such as reduced stress and anxiety, improved memory and focus, better relationships and reduced emotional and physical pain

It’s important to remember when starting your mindfulness journey to start small and be patient with yourself. Apps like Headspace provide options for free trials and introductory courses to help you imbed the practice in your life. 

 

2. Start a gratitude diary

Why not experiment with how looking on the bright side could improve your life? Making a note of the things in our day that have gone well can help ground us when things are rocky.  

When considering the things you feel grateful for, be specific and keep it simple, for example, “My colleague made me laugh today” or “My partner got up early to make me breakfast”. The act of recalling these small moments is proven to help us focus on positive elements of our day and increases our sense of wellbeing

You could try writing these in a journal, which can be a lovely thing to revisit when you need a boost. If writing isn’t your thing, you could try starting a practice with the person you live with, sharing three things you’re grateful for each night before you go to sleep. I try to do this regularly with my partner, which helps us to feel connected and, if we mention something the other has done, appreciated! 

 

3. Take a break from social media

Regular digital detoxes are a healthy ritual to begin in 2021. We’ve all probably had moments over the last year when our social media apps have made us feel connected and less lonely during multiple lockdowns. However, you may also have noticed that increased usage of these apps has made you more anxious and less able to switch off. 

Why not try deleting one or more of your apps for a month, and seeing what that’s like? If this is difficult, try scheduling in a social media free hour before bed. This can also help with a healthier, calmer bedtime routine. 

 

4. Walk

Want a simple, free way to improve your physical and mental health? Just starting putting one foot in front of the other! There’s never been a more important time to ensure you’re getting fresh air and getting out of the house. If you’re working from home, or even if you find yourself with a spare ten minutes on your lunch break, taking the time out to walk has a lots of benefits. If you’ve also started a mindfulness practice, you could try embedding this into your walk too! 

 

5. Tweak your bedtime routine 

Did you know that your brain begins to prepare itself for sleep around two hours before it expects to actually hit the hay? Why not help it along by cultivating a relaxing bedtime routine? 

Try not to make it too complicated or unrealistic. You probably won’t take a hot bath, turn your phone off and meditate every single night. But maybe you could carve out half an hour to decompress before sleep. 

Setting a regular bedtime is also a fantastic way of regulating your sleep and ensuring you feel bright in the morning. Check out this article for more tips on a bedtime routine. 

 

So, hopefully you have identified one or two areas of your life where you could make small and achievable improvements. Remember, changing habits takes time and patience; you won’t necessarily see results overnight and there will be times when you want to give up and go back to old habits. 

Try letting a loved one in on your resolutions, or share them with as many people as possible. This will keep you accountable and might encourage others in your life to follow suit.

Thank you for reading and here’s to a happier 2021 for us all! 

Danielle Arkwright - 10 December, 2020

Category : Blog

Top tips for managing stress during constant change

As schools and trusts navigate this time of tough challenges and constant change, we want to offer some helpful advice for adapting to new ways of working. Danielle Arkwright, our HR and Office Manager, has put together some guidance on how to manage any stress you may be experiencing due to all this change. Danielle

As schools and trusts navigate this time of tough challenges and constant change, we want to offer some helpful advice for adapting to new ways of working. Danielle Arkwright, our HR and Office Manager, has put together some guidance on how to manage any stress you may be experiencing due to all this change. Danielle is trained in creative therapies, stress and trauma, and is in her final year studying for an MA in Drama Therapy at University of Roehampton, so we’re really excited to share her tips with you.

Up and down the country, we’ve all been working in new ways over the last year. You might have spent time working remotely, or had to quickly adapt and take on more work at a moment’s notice. Whatever your situation, you’ve probably been going at full tilt, and are in need of a break.

As you start thinking about the holiday season – though it’s not a normal one by any means – we wanted to share ways of understanding and managing some of the difficult emotions you might be experiencing.

How are you feeling?

This period of change might have left you feeling irritable, anxious or down. You may be feeling less confident than usual and having more consistent worries about body image. You might be drinking and eating more, finding it difficult to make decisions and having trouble sleeping. Maybe you’re noticing unpleasant things going on with your body, like skin irritation, muscle ache and headaches. All of the above are symptoms of stress. I’m going to cover how to recognise and manage these symptoms. 

Firstly, it’s important to say that feeling these things is a perfectly normal response to such an abnormal situation. There will be millions of people across the world experiencing similar feelings. Even if you haven’t been personally affected by Coronavirus, you may be worried about you or your loved ones getting infected, or about getting the supplies you need. You may be concerned about money or job security. 

Uncertainty is one of the most difficult things to face. Not knowing when things will get back to “normal” makes us feel powerless and unsafe. You might be feeling hyper-vigilant; constantly checking the news to feel more in control. The good news? You’re not alone and there are strategies you can use to cope.

Being aware of what is happening to our bodies when we feel in a panicked state can help us to step back and not judge ourselves.

What is stress?

  • Stress is how our body responds to external pressures (something that happens to you)
  • Stress is triggered by a stressor – this could be when you experience something new or unexpected which makes you feel like you don’t have control 
  • Stress triggers a release of cortisol which causes a “flight, fight or freeze” response. An example of “flight” would be if you deny the situation is happening, “fight” if you get angry, and “freeze” if you get depressed and turn inwards 

Is stress bad? 

Sometimes having a stress response is appropriate and helpful, for example, if you’re pushed into a dangerous or uncomfortable situation, it’s good to trust your instincts to and avoid it. However, if we constantly experience stress over a long period of time, this pressure can make us feel overwhelmed or unable to cope. This is what we call “chronic” or long-term stress, and it can have an impact on both physical and mental health.

For more info, go to MentalHealth.org

How can we manage stress? 

There are small and meaningful things you can do to lessen the symptoms of stress. Some of these techniques might seem simple and obvious, but if practiced regularly, they can have a huge impact on your stress levels. 

At Arbor, we’ve set up a dedicated wellbeing committee, who have been rolling out lots of different activities, particularly over the last few weeks, that allow colleagues to dedicate time to mental wellbeing together. We’ve had online yoga classes, weekly group mindfulness practice, fun daily challenges and art sessions. We’re also planning to send out seeds to everyone’s home address so we can start a sunflower growing competition! 

Top tips for managing stress

Stay connected – Even if it’s a few phone calls a week, sending a funny video, or doing a organised online activity like a quiz, connecting with others can remind us we’re all in this together 

Stay hydrated – You might be really good at remembering to drink when you’re in the office but during lockdown, don’t forget to keep hydrated to at least cut down on unnecessary headaches

Structure your day – Routine helps us feel secure. It can be as simple as eating lunch at the same time (perhaps “with” colleagues) or a regular time you connect with your friends 

Take regular breaks and go outside – It’s easy to forget to get up and move when a cup of tea is in reach! Try and plan breaks and a short evening walk into your day to keep your mind fresh

Try mindfulness – Now is the time for an open mind (literally!). I’d really recommend trying an app like Headspace, even if only for 5 minutes a day, to allow you to step back when it all becomes too much 

Dress for the day you want – Try and resist staying in your PJs all day! Get dressed and see how different you feel!

Remember, some days will be better than others and if you manage just a few of these things you are doing really well. My biggest advice is to lower your expectations – if you don’t feel very productive, don’t let it pull you down. When you’re kind to yourself, you’ll allow your best thoughts to flow.

Useful links 

I’ve put a list together of some resources I think are really helpful, particularly during the challenges we’re facing at the moment:

For coping with the Coronavirus outbreak:

  • Advice from Mind if you’re worried about Coronavirus
  • How to looking after your mental health while working during the coronavirus outbreak from MentalHealth.org
  • Tips from the BBC about how to protect your wellbeing during Coronavirus
  • 10 tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus from the NHS
  • Guided meditations from Headspace during Coronavirus

General recommendations:

  • Top tips for managing stress from the NHS
  • 7 Simple Meditation Techniques to Practice at Work (to Boost Productivity) from Inc.
  • 10 Minute Mindfulness Practice exercise from MentalHealth.org
  • Mindfulness sessions for kids from CosmicKids.com 

Tom, our Partnership Specialist, has some reading recommendations too!

If you have any tips to add to Danielle and Toms’ lists, share them with us on social media using #ArborCommunity or on our Community Forum if you’re an Arbor school.

We’re running a webinar programme called “Adapting to Change: Managing Your Schools and Staff Remotely” for MAT Leaders to share strategies during lockdown and beyond. You can sign up for free by clicking the link.

To find out how to manage and report on the Coronavirus situation in Arbor, you can read our blog, or find practical advice on our Help Centre. If you’re new to Arbor, find out if Arbor MIS is for you with an online demo – get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028. 

Maddie Kilminster - 8 December, 2020

Category : Blog

4 top tips for procuring a cloud-based MIS for your school or MAT

Hundreds of schools are switching to cloud-based IT systems this year to help them work more flexibly. But with several cloud-based MIS systems on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start in choosing the system that will work best for your unique requirements. To support you in your search, we wanted

Hundreds of schools are switching to cloud-based IT systems this year to help them work more flexibly. But with several cloud-based MIS systems on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start in choosing the system that will work best for your unique requirements.

To support you in your search, we wanted to share some of the best advice we’ve gathered from our 1,300 schools and 110 MATs about how to take control of the MIS switch and choose the right system (and the supplier) for you.

Read below for top tips to help you break down the process into manageable steps, when to involve your staff, and how to work with your supplier to get the most value out of your new system.

1. First, think teaching and technical

When you’re first scoping your MIS switch, start with a small team of staff who represent both IT and teaching and learning. Together they make the perfect team to think about the full potential of what a new MIS could do for your school. Try to worry less about admin (in the beginning!) and focus instead on how you want to improve ways of working at your school. 

Remember, your current system will be easier to replace than you think!

2. Keep your strategy in mind

The best MIS suppliers will work with you to help you achieve your school or trust’s long-term goals. So make sure you talk through your objectives during the sales process. The company should make clear how you’ll be able to adapt the system to meet your needs, and how it will help you implement improvements at your school over a longer period of time. 

Remember, switching to a new MIS isn’t just a one-off project, it should be a partnership you can trust in year after year.

3. Consider using a framework

Many of our schools and MATs have found using a government-approved framework like G-Cloud a really clear and compliant way of procuring MIS. Having the information about all MIS suppliers on the market in one place can save you time, and helps you choose the most competitive, reputable and secure supplier. 

Read our handy guide to using G-Cloud to procure your new MIS.

4. Get staff on board

A change in systems can be daunting for staff, so it’s a good idea to get them involved in the process early on, so they have the opportunity to air their concerns and ask any questions they have. The best suppliers will provide personalised demos for each of your key staff (E.g. Admin Officers, Finance Manager, Middle Leadership, SENCOs, Teachers, HR Manager) to help them visualise how the new system will work for their everyday roles. 

Remember, your supplier should be able to reassure all your staff how the new system will improve (not just replace) their day-to-day ways of working.

Arbor is the UK’s fastest-growing MIS supplier, with more schools switching to us than any other supplier.

If you’d like to discover how Arbor MIS could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more at your school or trust, join a free demo webinar or get in touch with the team at tellmemore@arbor-education.com or 0208 050 1028. 

 You can also check out our profile on the DfE’s G-cloud framework here:

David Norton - 8 December, 2020

Category : Blog

Why we’ve partnered with Local Authorities to give schools like you more choice 

Local Authority IT teams have been working with schools in new ways over the last few years. Joining forces with cloud-based MIS suppliers, many are now able to give their schools more choice of systems, whilst still providing the local support and advice that schools value. At Arbor, we work with a wide range of

Local Authority IT teams have been working with schools in new ways over the last few years. Joining forces with cloud-based MIS suppliers, many are now able to give their schools more choice of systems, whilst still providing the local support and advice that schools value.

At Arbor, we work with a wide range of local IT support teams and Local Authorities in all regions of the country. We run an established accreditation programme to certify our Partners to provide schools with training and support with Arbor MIS.

Hertfordshire (Herts for Learning) and The City of Bradford (E-ICT Team) are Local Authorities that we work especially closely with. Both teams are Arbor Accredited Partners and support a growing number of schools in their local areas. We recently spoke to them about their experience of working with us – check out their case studies below.

Whether you’re a Local Authority looking to provide more MIS options to your schools, or you’re a school who’d like to move to a cloud-based MIS with the continued support from your local IT team, these case studies will give you a feel for what a support partnership with Arbor looks like.

 

Herts for Learning (HfL)

HFL

Why did you choose to partner with Arbor?

We have been aware for some time that the MIS market is beginning to fragment, as competition increases and more schools begin to look at moving to the cloud, not only for MIS but teaching and learning too. A few Hertfordshire schools had been using Arbor for some time and Herts for Learning weren’t able to support them at the time they migrated. As more schools started to approach us about providing them with support for a cloud MIS, it made sense to invest our resources into accreditation with Arbor as we had an established customer base and it meant that we could provide schools that want to retain HfL support with more choice. It helped that the Arbor ethos is a good fit with HfL.

 

How did the accreditation process go?

It was straightforward; we took the decision to start with a small, focused project team, given that we had a limited number of schools to support at the time. Since then, we have rolled out the training to the whole HfL support team, so that customers don’t see any difference in the high level of support for Arbor that they’ve come to expect from us.  

The support from Arbor during the accreditation process was good, I think both sides learned a lot from it. We were able to feed back to the Arbor team about what worked and didn’t work for us, and that was taken on board.

 

How have you found working with Arbor so far?

The relationship we have developed with Arbor is really positive, we’re all working to the same goal ultimately – to improve outcomes for schools. Collaborative working and effective communication has been really key in getting the support we need, in order to be able to provide a great level of service for our schools.

 

How have your schools that use Arbor found it so far?

The positive feedback from our Arbor schools has been great. As a local support team, we have been able to provide the added value that Arbor are not able to – we provide some very specific guidance that reflects what the local authority requires from schools in Hertfordshire, which schools and the authority really value, as it saves every school re-inventing the wheel in their MIS.

We have also produced tools in Arbor, so that schools can continue to use HfL’s Easy Tracker assessment, part of our PA Plus subscription service which supports schools and academies analyse pupils’ attainment and progress from Early Years to Key Stage 2.

 

How do you hope to develop your relationship with Arbor in the future?

Working with partner organisations is a key part of HfL’s success and we sincerely hope to continue working closely and collaboratively for the benefit of the schools we support, both now and in the future.

   

The City of Bradford (E-ICT Team)

city-of-bradford

 

Why did you choose to partner with Arbor?

Schools are now looking at moving to cloud-based systems and Arbor seems to be one of the preferred options with good feedback from schools already using it. From the demonstrations by other cloud-based systems, the majority of schools fed back that Arbor was the one that impressed them the most.

 

How did the accreditation process go?

It was not rushed and easy to access all the information needed. It was a new way of learning for us as we’re used to a more classroom-based environment but all the information was there. 

 

How have you found working with Arbor so far?

Very approachable and forward thinking. Arbor makes adjustments that are relevant and on time to make school life easier – they give prior notice with training, and documentation is available early enough to be able to advise schools when needed. We’ve had no problems at all in contacting Arbor for help when needed. 

The fortnightly Product Update meetings are very useful and keep us abreast of any changes coming along. We are very impressed with the speed that changes are made to the system. The Team is helpful, friendly and professional.

It is particularly helpful that we have Dominique who works with Bradford so we have someone to contact directly. When we requested a training session on a particular area of Arbor recently, as we weren’t sure which route to go through with our schools, this was set-up very quickly and Dominique answered all our questions.

 

If you’re a school who’s thinking about switching MIS but would like to continue to work with your Local Authority for support, we’d love to speak to you. Get in touch with us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com

 

Similarly, if you work for a Local Authority and would like to find out more about the benefits of supporting your schools with Arbor MIS, get in touch on tellmemore@arbor-education.com

James Weatherill - 2 December, 2020

Category : Blog

The future of Arbor and the MIS market

I feel like we’ve turned a corner in good news after what has been a fairly glum year, and I wanted to share ours to add to it! I’m delighted to announce that we’ve joined forces with The Key Group to help propel Arbor to the next level on our mission to transform the way

I feel like we’ve turned a corner in good news after what has been a fairly glum year, and I wanted to share ours to add to it! I’m delighted to announce that we’ve joined forces with The Key Group to help propel Arbor to the next level on our mission to transform the way schools work. I wanted to explain a bit more about why this is good news and how it changes our ambition for what we want to accomplish over the next few years. 

We chose The Key as they share our values, support our mission, and can accelerate our growth with their network of over 16,000 school leaders and governors. At Arbor, we want to provide an experience that isn’t just slightly better than other MIS systems but which totally transforms the way schools work. This requires a step-up in terms of ambition and investment. We have chosen The Key as partners in this journey as they genuinely care about improving school outcomes, can accelerate our plans with their network of over 16,000 school leaders and governors, and will provide additional investment to enable us to make a measurable difference to even more schools, MATs and support partners!  

We’re growing fast, and will now grow faster! Combined with ScholarPack, we are immediately the UK’s largest cloud-based MIS provider, and the most credible alternative to SIMS.

ScholarPack is the specialist Primary school MIS owned by The Key and used by over 1,500 schools – combined with Arbor this immediately makes us the largest cloud-based MIS in the UK! We’re also the fastest-growing, with 8 out of 10 schools who switch MIS choosing either Arbor or ScholarPack. Together we can challenge the monopoly SIMS has had on the sector, and create the most credible alternative MIS that offers outstanding value to schools.

Don’t worry, Arbor and ScholarPack will continue to be run separately for the foreseeable future, with investment into both platforms so schools can choose the solution that is right for them

There are no current plans to merge platforms, so customers of Arbor and ScholarPack will see increased investment into both systems. Schools will be able to choose between ScholarPack’s market-leading MIS for primary schools, or Arbor’s MIS that works across primary, secondary, specials and MATs, with no pressure to switch. I’d add to this that I’m not going anywhere and nor is Arbor’s team, so you’ll continue to work with the same people with the same values and passion. We enjoy our work, and we’re only just getting started!

In short, this means more investment into our product and platform, and a step-change in ambition to provide tools that transform the way you work for the better. Over the next few years we will use this to…

1. Transform the ecosystem of apps and support partners

We are very focused on providing an incredible MIS, but for all the other tools and support partners you love to work with, we want to provide a completely seamless and smooth experience too. Imagine if all your tools and IT providers worked together in harmony. Well, you might not have to wait much longer!  

2. Provide smarter insight

Schools contain a sea of information, but too often staff end up drowning in endless charts with no real insight. Imagine logging on to your MIS as a teacher and seeing the three most important tasks that are stuck waiting for your approval, the five students who you should check in on today and why, as well as recommendations for interventions and praise. This will completely change how teaching staff see the MIS, making it an essential tool for daily school life. 

3. Bring school communities together

Schools don’t just provide education, they cater to large and complex local communities. We want to bring support staff, students, guardians and external providers together using Arbor to help them communicate, coordinate and collaborate around each child’s progress through school, so everyone is kept informed and up-to-date.

I hope that gives you a bit more of an idea of what’s in store for Arbor over the next year. COVID has meant that schools are demanding a different way of working and this will lead to a rapid adoption in cloud-based MIS. As the cloud-based MIS designed to make a measurable difference to the way you work, Arbor is really well positioned to help, so I’m really excited about what the future holds. 

I can’t wait to meet you online and hopefully soon in person to tell you more about it! 

James

CEO and Co-Founder, Arbor Education

Daniel Giardiello - 1 December, 2020

Category : Blog

How our “catch-up” strategy is going – Interview with Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at The Mead Educational Trust 

The Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is made up of ten primary and secondary academies in Leicestershire. In September, we spoke to Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at TMET, to find out how they were assessing and aiming to close the post-lockdown learning gap, particularly for their most vulnerable students. We recently caught up

The Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is made up of ten primary and secondary academies in Leicestershire. In September, we spoke to Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at TMET, to find out how they were assessing and aiming to close the post-lockdown learning gap, particularly for their most vulnerable students. We recently caught up with Mark again to hear how he’s been implementing those strategies and how they’ve been going.

You can read Mark’s conversation with Dan, Senior Partnership Manager at Arbor, below.

How are your strategies going for getting students “back on track” who you identified as behind at the beginning of term?

For our primary schools especially, the strategies we’ve been implementing have been really useful to in many ways reinforce what we already knew – that embedding the key skills that will be most useful going forward is much more important than re-covering the curriculum. 

In the past, we might have used short-term interventions to target students who fell behind in reading, for example, but what we’re finding more effective is looking at the skills we’d anticipate they would have embedded had they had a normal year last year, and spend a bit more time on them. As a result of focusing on the skills, we’ve seen their progress in the curriculum catch up naturally. 

For our secondary schools, they’ve been using a well mapped-out, sequenced curriculum which we’ve adjusted, rather than filling gaps or “playing catch up”. 

This approach has been a rapid and valuable CPD process for new Teachers who have joined the trust this term, as they’ve had the opportunity to spend a bit longer embedding good quality teaching and learning practices with peer coaching from a more experienced practitioner. 

What data have you been using to assess gaps in learning?

At the beginning of term we looked at the vulnerability index to assess students as individuals across all school areas. We also used ImpactEd’s Covid-19 Wellbeing Questionnaire for our KS2+ students. This helped us identify key vulnerable groups, some of whom we didn’t necessarily expect to be vulnerable, who had become vulnerable as a result of the initial lockdown. We’ve also just run our first academic assessment which we’ve been able to analyse in relation to the vulnerability and wellbeing data. 

What has been the benefit of using ImpactEd in particular?

Because it’s a national data set of 60,000 students, ImpactEd has allowed us to benchmark our students against national averages. We found that our students are about 70 points above the national average, which I attribute to the fact that we used it in tandem with the vulnerability index, which means we’re looking at wellbeing much more broadly.

Our ImpactEd results have backed up our approach of embedding key skills, as well as the other initiatives we’ve put in place this term, such as our regular contact with families and sending out additional food packages. When we re-ran ImpactEd this week, our students have made about 15% progress on average across their anxiety, wellbeing and metacognition scores.

Another benefit of ImpactEd is you can drill down into each student’s score, which has allowed us to identify the nuances to students’ anxiety. It’s meant we’ve been able to put in place really bespoke interventions, along with our team of educational psychologists and a SEMH practitioner. Examples have included simply increasing the number of positive reinforcement opportunities that we would do anyway in the year, such as hot chocolate with the Headteacher. We’ve also thought about the ways we’re meeting and greeting students, and we’ve arranged “bubble” parties. 

It’s really important to us to give all students a sense of belonging at school. We believe there should be no student who doesn’t think they’re the most important person in the building.

What has been the effect of Covid-19 on vulnerable students that you were already aware of? Did you see a rise in any antisocial behaviour over the summer?

We had almost 100% success contact with our Key Worker primary school students over the summer holidays, with staff making weekly visits to selected families. At secondary level, this was more difficult because students had more unstructured time and since they returned to school, we’ve seen an increased sense of anxiety. 

For some of our most needy students, the rigour of Covid-19 regulations has actually helped them reintegrate into school and stay out of trouble because they’ve known exactly where they need to be and what they need to do.

We have, however, seen the onset of more mental health problems this term. We were prepared for this to a certain extent, as we hired two Educational Psychologists over the summer, knowing that we’d have more vulnerability and SEMH cases that would need to be diagnosed effectively. We’ve also had a targeted interventions team working with smaller bubbles off-site. 

What strategies and initiatives will you take forward after Covid-19?

We’re confident that we’re planning and sequencing learning in the right way, and together with our new IT equipment, we’ll be able to set more effective homework and more effective interventions in future. We’ll keep the IT equipment refreshed, and make sure that our most vulnerable students continue to have access to additional equipment. 

We hope our blended learning will allow students to work effectively wherever they are. We’ve given all students aspirational targets which they’ll be able to achieve better as a result of having a Chromebook at home. The Chromebooks have been really popular, and students enjoy using them for school work and to structure their time effectively.

What have been your main learnings and do you have advice for other trust leaders?

The main thing we’ve learned is just how important it is to cultivate a school community and to get to know your families well. The second is the importance of Teachers and the impact they can have on students throughout their lives. We have really valued the efforts of everyone across our schools, in many respects they have been the anchor for their local communities and provided a constant source of support, love and care to everyone associated with their schools. 

For fellow Trust Executives, my biggest piece of advice is that you can afford to scale back on things like your normal QA process or auditing measures, and instead focus on a few really pertinent areas of practice that will make the biggest difference.

Have you been able to collaborate more across your trust as a result of Covid-19?

Yes, definitely. Our SEND provision in particular has benefited from us working more closely together across the transition between primary and secondary. It’s also benefited from us working more closely with the wider community, for example we’ve been able to expedite transfers of our students to local special schools where needed. 

Across the trust, we’ve tried to balance the communications we send out about Covid-19 regulations and health and safety etc., with the sharing of best practice across schools. This is because we recognise that our practitioners are ambitious every day – they don’t just want to make schools operate safely, they want to go above and beyond. 

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Beth Mokrini - 30 November, 2020

Category : Blog

Make an easy switch to a cloud-based MIS with expert local support 

With all the challenges of Covid-19, now may seem like a difficult time to switch your Management Information System (MIS) – but what if you had an Arbor expert in your local area, who could support you every step of the way?  Working with one of Arbor’s 30 accredited Support Partners located across the country

With all the challenges of Covid-19, now may seem like a difficult time to switch your Management Information System (MIS) – but what if you had an Arbor expert in your local area, who could support you every step of the way? 

Working with one of Arbor’s 30 accredited Support Partners located across the country means you can start reaping the benefits of a cloud-based MIS right away with expert support, so you’re freed up to focus on what’s most important – running your school and keeping your community safe.

What does a Support Partner do?

Your local Arbor Partner will organise a demonstration at a time that suits you and advise you on which of our three simple packages would suit your school best. Once you decide to switch, they’ll help you check and migrate your data, train your staff and be there to support you as you discover your new MIS. 

All our Partners go through a detailed training and accreditation process to make sure they know Arbor inside out – and many of them can also support other aspects of technology at your school, from audiovisual equipment and laptops, to network and infrastructure. 

Choosing to be supported by one of our Partners means you get the best of both worlds: a future-proof MIS that helps you work better, collaborate more easily and stay connected on the cloud; supported every step of the way by a knowledgeable, local team. 

Arbor-Partners-map

Our accredited Partners are located all across the country, so you’re never far away from an Arbor expert. We introduced you to our first 10 accredited Partners back in March, and we’ve been busy training up a new cohort, so we wanted to shine a light on the most recent additions to our growing Partner network. 

See which Partner works in your area and get in touch about switching to Arbor today: 

AdEPT Education – Nationwide

Established in 2003, AdEPT are a managed services and telecommunications provider offering award-winning technical solutions for over 12,000 organisations across the UK with a mission of ‘Uniting technology, inspiring people’.

In a world where there is simply too much technology to choose from, AdEPT use their expertise and strategic partnerships to ensure customers get the right solution to their individual requirements. As well as being an accredited Arbor support unit, they specialise in IT, communications and connectivity. 

Agile Technical Solutions – East Anglia

Agile Technical Solutions provide all your hardware and software needs – just like having an in-house IT department, but without all the hassle. They are cost effective as an IT solution, particularly for schools. They always respond whatever the time of day and work hard to resolve problems as soon as possible. Agile understands what matters most to you; creating excellent and safe learning environments. To enable this, school ICT support needs to be secure, responsive and value for money.

Agilisys (Sefton Borough Council) – Sefton

For over 20 years, Agilisys have partnered with healthcare, local government and organisations throughout the public sector to unlock the potential of technology and transform services that improve lives. Through a partnership with Sefton Borough Council, Agilisys are delighted to provide accredited Arbor support to schools in Sefton and surrounds.

Bradford Metropolitan Borough Council E-ICT Team – Bradford

Technology plays an increasing role in education. The Bradford Education ICT team offer friendly and expert support and training so that your school can get the most from your hardware and software, both in the office and in the classroom. The team comprises dedicated ICT qualified trainers (who are members of the Learning Performance Institute) and MIS support officers.

Carbon Cloud – Kent

Carbon Cloud is a team of friendly, real people, all with over 20 years experience in the IT industry. They want to use their experiences and skills to make IT better for your business. They’ll explain new technologies and help you understand the cloud, but most of all, they’ll help make doing business easier. Carbon Cloud understands that IT is not a core function of your business – you just want it to work to allow you to focus on growing your business.

The team’s experience is wide and varied, ranging from Cloud computing platforms, like Azure, AWS and opensource technologies to Office 365 and the management of enterprise scale service desks.

Code Green (Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council)  – Barnsley

Technology has revolutionised the way in which we work and is an integral part of everyday living. Code Green demonstrates ways to apply this technology effectively within education environments to bring a range of features and benefits.

Having supported schools for over 10 years, their specialism in technology for the education sector is second to none. Each and every employee of Code Green is dedicated to providing the most professional and efficient service possible to our customers.

Cygnet IT Services – Sutton

Cygnet has a team of Arbor accredited staff with extensive experience providing professional MIS support to schools and MATs. They have over 25 years’ experience working within the education sector, specifically in the Sutton area and surrounds, and their continued success and strong relationships within this space reflect the high calibre of support they provide. Above all else, the Cygnet team are friendly, understanding and always willing to go the extra mile to meet the needs of their customers.

Education Lincs – Lincolnshire

Established in 1998, Education Lincs prides itself on providing personable and tailored solutions to primary schools and academies around Lincolnshire and the surrounding areas. Having partnerships with trusted brands such as Google, Lenovo, Promethean and Arbor, we look to always offering the best products and services to each of our schools, whilst tailoring costs to meet the school’s budget requirements.

Holker IT (formerly PC Edutech) – North West

In just 10 years, Holker IT has become one of the UK’s leading suppliers of intelligent, flexible IT solutions and services. Solutions that recognise the critical importance of security and integrity of data to the daily operations of a school or MAT. Today Holker looks to the future, with world-class services such as our Holker Cloud solution, which migrates all systems and IT Services into the virtual Cloud environment, securely, to future proof your school and your data.


In July 2020, Holker IT acquired PC Edutech, experts in IT support for schools with over 11 years’ experience in the Education sector and full accreditation on Arbor MIS. 

Integra Schools (South Gloucestershire Council) – Gloucestershire

Integra is a South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) division who trade with schools, local public sector organisations, local businesses and provide services to the council. They have extensive, proven experience of working in the education arena, knowledgeable and committed staff, and a deep shared public sector ethos. The Integra Schools team is committed to making a difference in schools and educational settings; their operational staff are regarded as members of the extended school family and their  professional support staff are passionate about the work they do to support school leaders, teachers, support staff, parents, children and families.

Interm IT – South of England

At Interm IT, their family business values centre on providing schools with qualified, experienced, affordable, onsite IT technician support. Each school has a dedicated technician-consultant, who will visit at an agreed regular time, to proactively help keep your computer systems operational, not only to fix but also maintain, advise and progress. This ensures that you have faith to teach with a supported, reliable computer system.

Itech Support – Hertfordshire

Itech Support is an experienced team of IT Specialists, with a Head Office in Hertfordshire, dedicated to making your IT work for you. Their aim is to simplify technology by providing you with a single point of contact for all your IT requirements. They get to know and understand how your business works so they can best support you. Itech Support’s success has grown from offering unrivalled customer service mixed with exceptional technical expertise.

JC Comtech – East Anglia

Based in East Anglia and with over 15 years’ experience, JC Computer Technologies Ltd specialise in ICT support and consultancy for primary schools and Multi Academy Trusts. They don’t just come in, fix your ICT problems and leave. Their aim is to become part of the school team, working with you to ensure your ICT is working effectively, but also supporting you in using ICT to deliver the curriculum. With many years of specialist experience, a wealth of knowledge in their support team and their willingness to go the extra mile, JC always have your interests in all that they do.

Keystone MIS – Yorkshire

Keystone MIS are a Yorkshire based company who provide professional, impartial, comprehensive and affordable MIS support to Schools and Academies throughout the UK. They take a great deal of pride in the level of support they offer and have a long history of excellent customer relationships with a large number of local schools. They’re a friendly, approachable and knowledgeable team who are experts in handling children’s data and keeping up-to-date with current legislation, with core values built on customer service and high quality support.

Somerset Council Support Services for Education (SSE) – Somerset
The SSE MIS Support team is a fully accredited, well-established and respected team with expertise in both Arbor MIS and related ICT. The team has a wealth of experience working with Schools, Academies, Federations and MATS. Their aim is to reduce the burden on schools, by providing effective, tailored guidance and support to enable you to fulfil your statutory duties. They react swiftly to new DfE initiatives and work closely with educational colleagues to monitor and apply recommendations from current Ofsted thinking. The team will work closely with you to ensure you get the maximum value and benefit from your MIS system that meets your individual school needs.

School Care – Hampshire

If you teach ICT or manage a school network then you will know that building effective and reliable solutions for schools that support 21st Century educational initiatives is a demanding and skilled task. SchoolCare’s team is dedicated to seeking out the leading new ICT solutions for education and new opportunities to improve teaching & learning. From installations to MIS support, from digital signage to wireless systems and from special needs software to equipment disposal, SchoolCare is able to offer schools and colleges a complete service driving innovation in their ICT.

Services 4 SchoolsWolverhampton

Services 4 Schools offer a range of high-quality professional business support solutions, enabling schools to achieve and operate with excellence and efficiency. The S4S team of experts are available to assist school leaders and business managers with specialist advice, reassurance and hands-on operational support across all aspects of data and information management, HR, data protection, school payroll, finance and governance. 

Their competitively priced MIS support is loved by schools. From training and guidance for new users, to specialist consultancy on key processes, S4S can advise your staff on how to get the best out of the systems that keep your schools working. 

The SCAS Team – West Sussex

The SCAS Team provides a personal, friendly service enabling all schools to maximise the benefit of their Management Information System (MIS). Based in West Sussex, their team have extensive experience working in a range of roles within schools and completely understand and appreciate the challenging demands placed upon schools.

Trading with Schools (Bristol City Council) – Bristol

Trading with Schools supports schools in delivering a first class education for all learners. The Trading with Schools unit brings together services across Bristol council into one trading unit, to better support the changing needs and requirements of schools and educational settings.

Trading with Schools provides a vast knowledge base and a wealth of experience in meeting the complex business and training needs required to help schools and educational settings perform well. They can offer set packages as well as bespoke services to meet your individual requirements.

SCAS pride themselves on providing a prompt and reliable service to all school staff, enabling efficient use of your MIS and empowering school teams to enhance all aspects of school performance.

Vitalize IT Nationwide

Vitalize was formed in 2009 with a simple mission – to help schools and colleges around the UK to transform teaching & learning using the power of digital learning platforms. All Vitalize trainers have worked in schools previously, and experienced first hand the impact that digital learning and cloud-based systems can have. With our expert support for G-suite for Education, Arbor MIS and other complementary tools, we can help you create a Digital Learning Strategy encompassing teachers, learners & parents.

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help your school work faster, smarter and collaborate more, join one of our free webinars to see the system in action. You can also get in touch with our team directly at tellmemore@arbor-education.com or call us on 0208 050 1028.

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Rachel Coldicutt - 27 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How to reflect on rapid technology change and plan for the future

Schools have been on an incredible journey in the last year, adapting to completely new ways of working with technology to deliver virtual lessons, cope with staff and students offsite, organise complex logistics and report on a whole new range of data. But changing ways of working in such a short space of time means

Schools have been on an incredible journey in the last year, adapting to completely new ways of working with technology to deliver virtual lessons, cope with staff and students offsite, organise complex logistics and report on a whole new range of data.

But changing ways of working in such a short space of time means staff haven’t had the change to properly reflect on this change – especially since schools have remained open throughout the pandemic!

To discuss how we can use technology in a more positive way, we were delighted to welcome Rachel Coldicutt to ArborFest on 12th November to give the Keynote presentation at our customer festival. 

Rachel is the former CEO of Doteveryone and expert on the social impact of technology, having collaborated with many organisations in the charity and public sectors. She recently produced The Glimmers Report – a practical toolkit designed to support schools and community organisations to reflect on their use of technology and how to build resilience for the future. 

Rachel shared some really meaningful tips that schools can use to make sure as we move forward in a reflective way under the new Covid-19 status quo. 

Rapid change

First of all, I think it can be useful to look outside of the school context to think about where you fit in. Since March, society as a whole has had to pivot extremely quickly to cope with rapid change, living now more of less all of our whole lives on video or looking at a screen. 

We’ve started to accept new ways of behaving as normal and hardly remember things we took for granted as normal before. I’ve seen, for example graduations – institutions which haven’t changed their format for decades, transformed into a virtual events.

graduation

People have responded to new restraints incredibly quickly, and this pivot is completely unprecedented. When we think about change and progress, we normally think of things happening in a linear way; with a horizon in sight. We’re used to moving forwards a bit, then backwards a bit, then forwards again. We’re used to having time to learn the new rules and adapting as we go. We’re used to getting clues and cues so we know when change is having success. 

But during the pandemic, progress surged overnight. 2020 has been like having one foot in 2050 and one in 1630 – in some ways a lot of things have been taken away from us, but in other ways we’ve travelled miles into the future. What we need to remember is that we’ve moved into the future with the same skills and experience we had last year. 

rapid-change

No time for reflection

Everyone has been gathering around the technology, rather than the cultural or human elements of change. It’s only months later that we’re realising how exhausted we are, having had no down time to talk about the changes, or even to properly process the traumatic things that have happened. 

I drew the diagram above in June, but actually it’s probably better drawn like a fast heart rate, to reflect how we’ve been continually adapting to and integrating change at an incredibly fast rate.

Building foundations for the future

As we move forwards into a future that is uncertain, we should think about “recovery” not something that accidentally happens but something you have to nurture. At the moment, as we’re still responding and still don’t know how long the crisis will go on for, it’s important to think about how to look after ourselves, and to prioritise our culture, our team and our tools. 

The first step to moving forward is to recognise some of the compromises or problems that have perhaps been overlooked, such as burnout, lack of infrastructure and platform dependency, instead of storing them up for later. 

The designer Caroline Sinders has come up with the “digital duct tape” phenomenon which describes how, rather than having well worked-out infrastructure, we’re more likely to be using a collection of tools patched together that only sort of work.

We should also recognise the heavy negative focus that has surrounded new technologies – focusing on safety, privacy and a culture of worry – particularly in schools and the public sector when sensitive data is involved. This has meant that people tend to use platforms only in exactly the way they’re prescribed from fear of doing something wrong. But if systems are well made and safe, they should give you the freedom to adapt, improvise, and use them creatively. 

Practical tips for moving forward

The Glimmers Report is a toolkit designed to help schools and other organisations understand where you are now in terms of your use of technology and the impact it’s having, and to end up in a position where you feel you have the tools and experience to be prepared for change in the future.

When compiling the report I began talking to charities and other groups in March and April, most of whom had not really worked in digital ways before the pandemic, but had suddenly moved to operating almost completely digitally. We then carried out interviews and observations, brought together theory and a range of practitioners to share the kind of things they’ve experienced. 

Glimmers-report

The toolkit helps you and your staff reflect around three main themes:

  • Tracking your change

This section encourages you to capture and understand what has changed, what you’ve learned, what you’ll keep and what you’ll discard, helping you to move ahead with more certainty. 

  • Reflection on roles

These questions allow you to think about how people’s roles have changed, the skills people have gained, and how people have felt during the process. It also helps you reflect on the intimacy that might get forgotten when using technology. For example, without the usual in-person cues, how do we know when people are listening and engaging? How can we create space? How can we get feedback? How can we show applause? How can we celebrate achievements? You might ask these questions once, or keep asking them regularly to see how your responses change over time. 

  • Planning for uncertainty

These simple questions and prompts help you look ahead and forecast the opportunities and obstacles that are likely to happen, and how you will respond. This is different to how you might normally plan because you’ll be able to bring the skills and experience of dealing with uncertainty. Just the exercise of projecting as a group what you might do if something totally new happens is really important in building resilience.

Remember, we co-create technology

An important thing to remember about technology is that no two people use a product in the same way, and the way we use products is always changing. And they’re designed that way – rather than there being a prescribed way of using technology, most developers are fascinated by how their users adapt and integrate technology in their lives. 

So rather than thinking of technology happening to us, we should allow ourselves to adapt the tools we use around our lives and experiences, and to meet our changing needs.

Enjoying our blog? Why not subscribe to our newsletter to get a round-up of our most popular blogs every two weeks, straight to your inbox. 

Sophie Elms - 24 November, 2020

Category : Blog

Women in tech leadership

As part of our focus on diversity and inclusion at Arbor, we wanted to shine a spotlight on our leadership team, which is made up of majority women. Sophie, Arbor’s Talent Acquisition Manager, interviews five of our female leaders at Arbor below. The lack of women in STEM and tech starts in education and the

As part of our focus on diversity and inclusion at Arbor, we wanted to shine a spotlight on our leadership team, which is made up of majority women. Sophie, Arbor’s Talent Acquisition Manager, interviews five of our female leaders at Arbor below.

The lack of women in STEM and tech starts in education and the subjects women choose, with only 26% of  STEM graduates (science, technology, engineering and maths) being women.  

Although this number is increasing, not all female STEM graduates go into jobs in the industry (only 22% are women), with computer science, engineering and technology the most affected. 

These statistics are sparking projects and events aimed to boost female representation in the STEM and tech sectors. Last month was Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM, which aims to create role models to encourage more girls into STEM subjects and careers, and to support women already working in STEM.

Women in Tech Leadership at Arbor 

I’m very proud to say that Arbor Education is leading the way – six out of nine of our Senior Leaders are women and we have a high percentage of women in line management positions across the business. Our board has a female chair too. 

But what does it feel like to be a woman in leadership in the EdTech world? I recently caught up with five of our female leaders at Arbor (our sixth is on maternity leave!) to discuss their career and experiences. 

I’ve pulled out some highlights from the interviews below. 

Sonia Leighton – Chief of Customer Success 

Sonia-leighton

What is your role at Arbor and what got you into the tech world in the first place?

“My team provides first and second line support, as well as training and onboarding for our customers. I’ve been working in tech for about 20 years now across a number of different sectors. I left university and didn’t know what I wanted to do… and landed in BT Group… and I’ve been in tech ever since! 

The thing I love about it is that my role – Chief of Customer Success – didn’t exist 20 years ago. It’s now one of the fastest-growing roles in the industry. So it’s just a super exciting space to be in!”

Maggie Wright – Finance Director 

Maggie-wright

Have you experienced challenges based on your gender in your career?

“When I was studying (Bachelor’s in Accounting and Master’s in Financial Analysis), half or more of my classmates were women. Yet today, women are still disproportionately underrepresented in senior leadership positions. We need to try to level the playing field to make sure that we start to see the industry become more equitable.

I think there are a few ways this can improve, for example seeing more female role models in tech leadership, participating in and promoting networks which focus on nurturing women’s career progression and, most importantly, improving access to funding for female entrepreneurs .”

Hilary Aylesworth – Head of Product

hilary ayelsworth

What advice would you give to women thinking of exploring a career in tech?

“Making the move from teaching to tech is a hard one to make, and the advice I might give myself back then, that I’ve learnt and reflected upon now, is I think the first step is mapping your skill set and really being clear what your strengths are. I didn’t know at the time that I wanted to be a Head of Product, I think that’s something that ended up fitting me very well, but I can see now that actually a lot of my skills were really nicely correlated with the specifications for a Head of Product kind of role. Also, mentorship is huge – whether you’re a woman in tech or a young person trying to get into tech, find somebody who you think does it really well. Spend time with them. Get to know how they do things!”

Phillippa De’Ath – Chief Revenue Officer

PDA

Have you noticed any significant changes in the industry from when you first started? 

“Despite 20 years in tech, Arbor is my first software job. I think the difference in  working on an enterprise software platform (as opposed to a mainframe) is that it brings together people who care about the end user, and that tends to require a lot of sensitivity to the challenges of work, understanding different ways of solving the problem. Different ways of thinking about the humans using the tools that you build and not just being in a big, sweaty data room with increasingly powerful engines but no thought to user experience.

The age of people we work with also influences our design and approach – the demographic of our heavily-female group is much younger than the industry average, so there aren’t entrenched ideas of how to do things.”

Harriet Cheng – Head of Marketing

Harriet-cheng

There are a number of networking communities aimed at developing future female leaders within technology. Have you been part of any and are there any you would recommend? 

I think it’s really important for women to support each other at work through mentorship, community building, networking and coaching – in tech, but in all industries really. I’m lucky to be part of an amazing team at Arbor and to know women leaders at several other EdTech companies across the UK, who have all been really helpful for sharing advice and swapping stories. Beyond that, I go to events by DevelopHer, a nonprofit community supporting women in tech, and would recommend Code First Girls who my sister (a games developer) has mentored with before. 

I’d also like to call out The Girls Network who are excellent – they work with girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in schools across England. I mentored girls interested in tech through their programme previously and would highly recommend it.”

We know that female representation in leadership positions is also behind in education, with only 38% of Headteachers are women at secondary level, and at primary men outweigh women almost 2:1. We’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about these issues and how they relate to your schools you’ve worked in.

Enjoying our blogs? Why not subscribe to The Arbor Newsletter to get a fortnightly round-up of our most popular blogs straight to your inbox. 

Tony Phillips - 19 November, 2020

Category : Blog

Free training and webinars to help Microsoft Teams work better for you

We’re proud to be partnering with Cloud Design Box to host three free training sessions specially designed for schools and MATs who are using (or planning to use) Microsoft Teams to deliver blended learning. Here’s Tony from Cloud Design Box to tell you more:    At Cloud Design Box, we specialise in Microsoft Teams, SharePoint

We’re proud to be partnering with Cloud Design Box to host three free training sessions specially designed for schools and MATs who are using (or planning to use) Microsoft Teams to deliver blended learning. Here’s Tony from Cloud Design Box to tell you more: 

 

At Cloud Design Box, we specialise in Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Office 365 for Education. As a Microsoft Partner, we aim to make it as easy as possible for people to work, learn and collaborate using Microsoft Teams, offering training, consultancy and intranet packages for schools, academies and Multi-Academy Trusts across the UK. 

Cloud Design Box integrates with Arbor to help their schools enjoy more flexibility to set work, collaborate and share resources for their classes. We use data from Arbor to provide access to Class Teams, Class Notebook and centralised subject Teams through an easy-to-use class dashboard.  

We’re thrilled to be offering three free Teams training sessions across two days next week – from Tuesday 24th to Wednesday 25th November. 

1. Planning Long-Term User Adoption of Microsoft Teams in Schools and MATs 

10am, Tuesday 24th November 

The first session will centre on helping schools with user adoption and planning for the long term. It’s perfect for you if you have already adopted Teams but need a hand getting students and staff on board and using the technology. We’ll discuss ways you can get started, as well as how you can develop a long-term plan to make the most out of the suite of tools.  

We last hosted this session at the Department for Education’s EdTech Festival earlier in 2020 and it went down well with School Leaders and MATs who needed a clear plan of action to succeed with the software.  

Teams-training-1

2. Blended Learning for Primary Schools with Microsoft Teams 

3pm, Tuesday 24 November

Built specifically for Primary Schools, this webinar will provide you with a solid foundation of using Teams to deliver learning inside and outside the classroom, for example, how to use Class Notebook to host an online lesson and how to make the most of the Conversation features. 

Teams-training-2

3. Centralising Resources and Reducing Teacher Workload using Microsoft Teams 

1pm on Wednesday 25 November 

We know this year has been tough on Teachers, who have had to quickly increase their workload to provide digital and online resources for their classes.  

 This session has been developed with overworked Teachers in mind, who are struggling with Teams. We’ll show you some time-saving ways that you can centralise and improve your resources with Teams. 

Teams-training-3

 

All our webinars are open to anyone working in a school, academy or Multi-Academy Trust. To sign up for any of the sessions, please fill out this form with your details and we’ll send you an email invite to join us.  

 

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work, get in touch on tellmemore@arbor-education.com or arrange a 1-on-1 demo for your school.

Sophia Krage - 18 November, 2020

Category : Blog

Arbor features for Teachers: helping you speed through admin and get time back for students

The classroom has seen a lot of change this term and Teachers are really stretched. To give you an extra helping hand, we’ve developed some really great features in Arbor which take the hassle out of your admin and give you more time to focus on what matters most – your students. Hear from our

The classroom has seen a lot of change this term and Teachers are really stretched. To give you an extra helping hand, we’ve developed some really great features in Arbor which take the hassle out of your admin and give you more time to focus on what matters most – your students.

Hear from our Product Manager for Teaching and Learning, Sophia, below sharing two tools we’ve created to support Teachers this term – My Classroom – an all-in-one solution for classroom management, and My Homepage – a brand new personalised homepage which helps you stay on top of things and act fast.

My Homepage – your personalised dashboard – Launching today!

We know Teachers have little time between lessons to get through their admin, and even less time to check their student records for anything to be aware of. We believe busy Teachers shouldn’t have to search for the information they need. 

That’s why today we’re excited to launch My Homepage – Arbor’s brand new, personalised homepage for Teaching and Pastoral Staff, giving you brand new tools to help you stay on top of things and act fast.

my-homepage

As soon as you log into Arbor, you’ll have everything you need for your day right in front of you:

    • My Students – This is your new, personalised view of your students’ progress. Drill down to see which students are driving overall trends, filter your stats by key groups, such as FSM Year 5 boys, or SEN EAL girls, or switch back to the Whole School tab to get an overview of your school
    • To-do list – See your most urgent tasks, from incomplete registers, unresolved behaviour incidents, cover requests, to any assessment data you need to add, helping you tick them off between lessons
    • Student Alerts – See safeguarding or pastoral notes, detentions and birthdays for your students so you never miss the important things!
    • Whole school notices – Your important announcements are prominently displayed at the top of the page helping you make sure everyone sees key notices
    • Quick Actions – Go straight to your most important actions in Arbor like “Take attendance”, “Create event” and “Send email”
    • Shortcuts – Head right to the core Arbor modules such as “Behaviour”, “Student Profiles” and “Summative tracking”
    • Calendar – Jump straight into your next meeting or lesson from the Homepage

What are schools saying?

“The filters work great for me as I can quickly select the students I’m responsible for. Student alerts also allow me to easily spot pupils that had an absence mark due to Covid.”

Matthew Domine, Assistant Principal and Music and Geography Teacher at Avanti House Secondary School

“57% of our staff are now more aware of school key measures such as attendance and behaviour compared to when they used SIMS” 

Jon Ward, Vice Principal (Curriculum and Standards) at the Abbey Park School

My Classroom – your all-in-one classroom management tool

Classroom management is a lot more complex right now, with new social distancing rules, track-and-trace, and challenging student behaviour as they adjust. 

To help you manage your class this term and beyond, we’ve created My Classroom – your new all-in-one classroom management tool – that brings together behaviour management, seating plans and attendance in one place for the first time!

my-classroom

Here are some of the main ways My Classroom will take the hassle out of preparing and managing your lessons:

1. Flexible seating plans

My Classroom gives you a powerful solution to seating plans, allowing you to create smart seating plans which reflect your real classroom, assign students using helpful demographic tags, see student photos (or remove in student view if you’re presenting on the board), and share your plans with your colleagues.

2. Take action seamlessly throughout the lesson

With My Classroom, you’ll spend less time on the little tasks which disturb your lesson flow. Cut out the lengthy register call at the beginning of the lesson by bulk selecting marks straight from your plan. Assign positive and negative behaviour points dynamically during the lesson, or log an incident and trigger an automatic follow up action. 

3. Powered by Arbor MIS

The best thing about My Classroom is that it’s built into Arbor MIS, which means you have up-to-date contextual information about your students automatically on your plan, helping you to tell the full story of each of your students lesson to lesson. Plus, any behaviour incidents you record or points you assign feed straight back into Arbor, so you’ll never have to update anything twice. 

What are schools saying?

Teachers are already sharing with us how My Classroom is giving them their time back to focus on teaching and learning instead. It’s also proving really useful during the pandemic, by helping to track-and-trace student contact, and create socially distanced arrangements.

“The reason why I think My Classroom is so exciting, is that it does not have to integrate with any other tools. Managing the lessons from one place rather than having to open lots of different screens will be the key benefit for our staff. For us as a school this will be definitely the right tool. It will be cost-saving and you have the whole data set all in one place.”

Steve Hackshaw, Assistant Headteacher (Learning, Progress and Assessment), at Ralph Thoresby School

“Many thanks to everybody for developing this; I think it’s a really intuitive way for teachers to work with their students and classes.”

Andy Cunningham, Headteacher at The Lakes School

“Using My Classroom has really taken off with our staff – they love the overview of students they get on their seating plans and being able to see the seating plan and take the register at the same time.”

Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead Academy

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to find our more about how Arbor could transform the way your staff work, we’d love to hear from you. You can join one of our free demo webinars, or arrange a 1-on-1 demo here. Alternatively, contact us on: tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

In the meantime, why not sign up to our fortnightly newsletter to get a round-up of our most popular blogs like this straight to your inbox.

Maddie Kilminster - 17 November, 2020

Category : Blog

Join us at the Schools and Academies Show online for free!

The Schools and Academies Show is back! Join us online this week from Tuesday 17th – Friday 20th November to learn more about Arbor’s cloud-based MIS! Previous Schools and Academies Shows have been fantastic opportunities for schools and trusts to meet different suppliers, see products in action with live, tailored demos, and have honest conversations

The Schools and Academies Show is back! Join us online this week from Tuesday 17th – Friday 20th November to learn more about Arbor’s cloud-based MIS!

Previous Schools and Academies Shows have been fantastic opportunities for schools and trusts to meet different suppliers, see products in action with live, tailored demos, and have honest conversations about how a service can help transform the way they work. (Not forgetting all the goodies you can come away with!) 

This year, you can still take part from the comfort of your home or office! We’ve got a virtual booth so sign up, jump online, and come and see us!

 

Who can sign up?

The Schools and Academies show is perfect for staff at both schools and Multi-Academy Trusts who are looking for innovative and best-value products and resources for their schools. If you’ve been asked to attend by your Headteacher, CEO or SLT, it’s a good idea to agree on some key questions beforehand so you know what to look out for, and can report back. 

 

Why should I sign up?

Whether you’re just starting to think about new products, or you’re further along in the buying process, this is a great opportunity to look at a product in more detail and get answers from an expert. 

The Schools and Academies Show has created an easy-to-use online platform which allows you to set up meetings with suppliers at a time that suits you, or to ask your burning questions directly. There’s also a full programme of talks throughout the show, giving you the chance to hear from peers and experts in the education sector. 

 

How do I sign up?

Just click here to sign up to The Schools and Academies Show for free. You’ll then be sent an email with details of how you can log in to the online platform.

 

How do I book a meeting with Arbor?

1. Log into your Schools and Academies Show portal
2. Click on the Schools and Academies Show event
3. Select “Sponsors/exhibitors” from the menu in the middle of the page
4. Search for Arbor on the left hand side of the page
5. Select a time slot that suits you this week
6. Select “Virtual Booth” as the location to meet at the event
7. Let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to know about
8. Click “Send meeting request”
9. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible via the online platform to confirm your meeting with someone from our friendly Sales Team

 

What will I get out of a meeting with Arbor?

A 1-on-1 meeting with one of our Partnership Managers is your chance to ask any questions you have about moving to a cloud-based MIS, and to figure out if Arbor is right for you. You can meet the team “face-to-face” via a video or watch a live demo to discover why hundreds of schools and trusts move to Arbor every year. 

 

Do I need to prepare anything for the meeting?

It’s a good idea to make sure your audio is working on your laptop or computer – but you can always use the online chat if this doesn’t work. The Arbor Team will be on video so you can see our friendly faces, so it might be nice to have your video on as well so it feels like a real meeting! But don’t worry, this isn’t necessary. 

 

If you want to get in touch during the show, you can reach us by telephone on: 020 8050 1028 and by email at: tellmemore@arbor-education.com

 

We look forward to meeting you at the show!

 

Maddie Kilminster - 16 November, 2020

Category : Blog

What you missed at ArborFest

Last week we welcomed over 1,500 members of staff from over 500 schools, trusts and partner organisations to ArborFest – our virtual customer conference dedicated to transformative ways of working.  The benefits of being online were that we were able to gather together a huge and unique group of school staff from across the country

Last week we welcomed over 1,500 members of staff from over 500 schools, trusts and partner organisations to ArborFest – our virtual customer conference dedicated to transformative ways of working. 

The benefits of being online were that we were able to gather together a huge and unique group of school staff from across the country – with some joining from the staffroom, and some from their sofa at home! 

As the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community, with over 1,300 schools and MATs, we loved meeting lots of friendly faces from Arbor schools, including Leaders, Administrators, Teachers, Business Managers and every school role you could imagine – and some new faces too! 

It was a fantastic opportunity to come together, share best practice and to learn from fellow colleagues. As every school has their own innovative ways of working, we certainly learned a lot ourselves too.

So what happened at ArborFest?

Kicking off the conference, Arbor’s Co-Founder and CEO, James, welcomed everyone by setting the scene (his dodgeball analogy for 2020 might resonate with some of you!) and sharing some of Arbor’s ambitions for the future. 

“We should be thinking bigger than just the MIS, and bringing the whole school ecosystem into one holistic view.” – James Weatherill, Co-Founder and CEO, Arbor Education

You can catch a snippet from James’s Opening Talk here

The programme was jam-packed with practical workshops, feedback sessions and a brilliant keynote speech by tech expert, Rachel Coldicutt, who shared some really helpful advice on how we can reflect on our use of technology.

“We’ve all changed our behaviours overnight because of technology but we haven’t really had the time to consider its effect on us.” – Rachel Coldicutt, expert on the relationship between social impact and tech

You can catch a snippet of Rachel’s Keynote Speech here (look out for the full blog soon!)

Sharing transformative ways of working

Accompanied by staff from schools using Arbor, we held workshops across all areas of school operations – including assessment, reporting, exams and parental engagement. One of the stand-out sessions was “How Arbor can Support your School during Covid-19”, where we demonstrated the ease of Arbor’s Covid-19 dashboard – your daily reference point for Covid-19 information.

covid-talk

What’s next in Arbor MIS? 

Arbor’s Head of Product, Hilary, demonstrated how our Product Vision shapes all the features we develop at Arbor. You can find out more about how we prioritise the features we work on here.

The Product Team also revealed a sneak peak of what’s coming up on our Product Roadmap, including the ability to roll out assessment policies centrally across your trust, and an exciting new toolkit – Arbor Enterprise – which gives you more control over your data and setup. 

We also welcomed feedback from Arbor schools on how our features are helping them work more effectively in daily school life.

“Our vision is to give school Leaders, Teachers and Admin Staff the tools they need to work faster and smarter, together – with meaningful data and school-focused design and ways to collaborate with their school community.” – Hilary Aylesworth, Head of Product, Arbor Education

Making Arbor a long-term success at your school or MAT

Arbor’s Chief of Customer Success, Sonia, talked through our tried-and-tested process for moving schools to Arbor, and how we work with schools to help you transform the way you work for the better. 

We provide lots of ongoing support and consultancy services to help schools drive even more impact from Arbor. So if you’re an Arbor school, your Account Manager will be happy to arrange the best session for you. Just get in touch via accountmanagers@arbor-education.com 

“When you move to Arbor, you begin a journey. We give you the support you need to empower all your staff to use Arbor to transform the way they work!” – Sonia Leighton, Chief of Customer Success, Arbor Education

Arbor-success

Competition 

A real highlight of ArborFest was the positive activity we saw on social media, with ArborFest attendees spreading the word to colleagues. 

We asked attendees to share a photo of their ArborFest location and we were thrilled by all the entries. It was really difficult to choose a winner but in the end, it had to be Dave Leonard, Strategic IT Director at Watergrove Trust, whose beaming selfie really put a smile on our face. We’ll be sending Dave a £100 Amazon voucher as his prize. 

Coming in second place, Sarah Sprack, Head of Isle Education Trust and Principal at South Axholme Academy, also impressed us with her lovely sunny view from her office. We’ll be sending Sarah some brownies in the post!

Here’s a small sample of the other runners up: 

Want to find out more?

If you didn’t make it to ArborFest, but would still like to find out more about Arbor MIS, why not join one of our regular free demo webinars to see Arbor in action, or arrange a 1-on-1 demo with one of our team. 

If you’d like to receive regular content and updates from us, sign up to our fortnightly newsletter to get the best of our blogs straight to your inbox. 

Beth Mokrini - 11 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How Arbor helps you create a more joined-up school

At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. Whilst most schools choose Arbor MIS to replace all the various school systems they use for different tasks, it’s important to us that schools can choose to still use the tools they love with Arbor.  That’s why we’ve partnered with

At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. Whilst most schools choose Arbor MIS to replace all the various school systems they use for different tasks, it’s important to us that schools can choose to still use the tools they love with Arbor. 

That’s why we’ve partnered with over 30 of the best-in-breed platforms for communications, clubs and trips, data analysis, and more, so you can use them seamlessly alongside your MIS.  That means Arbor will sync data automatically with your favourite apps, so you’ll only have to update your information once!

As well as working with your favourite tools, read below for the top four ways Arbor helps you create a more joined-up school – from data security, to remote working.

1. Keep your school running securely on the cloud

With Single Sign On (SSO), staff will be able to log in to their email, virtual learning environment and Arbor MIS at the same time – with only one password to remember! With the possibility of school lockdowns or staff having to isolate, these features free up your staff to access their systems from wherever they’re working.

With remote working, it’s important to make sure your school data stays secure. With our Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) functionality, you’ll have an extra layer of security to logins across your school, which requires the user to enter both their password and a unique code sent to their mobile device. You choose whether to require 2FA for all users at all times, or only for staff who are working from home.

Arbor connects seamlessly with your Google or Microsoft platform so if you’re one of the thousands of schools who has taken advantage of the DfE provisioning scheme for these platforms, this is an added bonus!   

2. Link up your systems securely, with total control 

Your MIS is home to some of the most sensitive data your school collects on students, staff and guardians. This data is also an incredibly useful source of insight, so you might sometimes want to dig deeper into your data using another system. 

At Arbor, we work closely with all the major data providers in the UK including Wonde, Groupcall and Salamander Soft to allow schools to connect with  the widest possible range of systems. What’s more, you have total visibility and control over the data you choose to share. The biggest benefit is we don’t charge these companies to integrate with Arbor, so that costs are kept as low as possible for schools. 

3. Explore your data further with Live Feeds

Arbor’s built-in dashboards surface the data most relevant to your staff, and you can build any number of personalised reports in minutes. But if you want to go the extra mile and do something even more creative with your data, we’ve made it as easy as possible to export your Arbor data quickly and securely with our Live Feeds functionality. 

Export any Arbor report in a few clicks into Excel, Google Sheets or even PowerBI! Once the Feed is in, your data will refresh automatically. And don’t worry, we keep your data completely secure using a random, salted 16-digit string within the Live Feed (making them near impossible to hack!). You also have full visibility and control over who can access the Feed in Arbor, with the option to cut it off at any time.

4. Coming soon: Simplify your remote learning environment

We’re excited to announce that in February 2021, schools will be able to synchronise their teaching and learning tools directly with Arbor MIS, thanks to our new integrations with G-Suite, Microsoft School Data Sync and Apple Classroom. This means your students, staff and classes will be automatically set up in your VLE, so there’s no need to create them manually or use a costly third party service. 

This is part of our new Arbor Enterprise toolkit, which helps schools and MATs simplify their setup and get more from their data. Keep an eye out for more news on this next year!  

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor could help your school or MAT work faster, smarter and collaborate more, join a free webinar or arrange a 1-on-1 demo here. 

Alice Martin-Hawkins - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How to recognise staff burnout and prevent it

In recognition of International Stress Awareness Week, Arbor’s Partnership Specialist and Wellbeing Champion, Alice, has some tips for how you can protect your school staff against burnout. In my role at Arbor I speak to Headteachers, SLT and admin teams everyday when they’re in the early stages of exploring Arbor MIS. I’ve noticed a question

In recognition of International Stress Awareness Week, Arbor’s Partnership Specialist and Wellbeing Champion, Alice, has some tips for how you can protect your school staff against burnout.

In my role at Arbor I speak to Headteachers, SLT and admin teams everyday when they’re in the early stages of exploring Arbor MIS. I’ve noticed a question that comes up time and time again in conversations: “How can we reduce workload for staff?” 

It’s no secret that Teacher workload is high and studies have found that Teachers experience more stress than other workers. Tes reports that almost a third of Teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying. This got me thinking about the impact of heavy workload and the difference between being busy and being burned out. 

What is burnout?

Burnout is recognised as the feeling of running out of steam at work – those days when even small tasks can feel unachievable. Psychology Today describes burnout as “a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism,  detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” It doesn’t just happen overnight which is why it can be hard to spot, even for the person experiencing it. One of the best ways to prevent burnout is to spot the signs as early as possible so that you can make small changes to get back on track. 

Some signs you might be experiencing burnout at work: 

  • Fatigue and sleep issues 
  • Finding it hard to concentrate 
  • Finding it hard to stay productive 
  • Feeling cynical and detached
  • Reduced creativity 
  • Not doing things to the best of your ability

Potential causes of burnout 

  1. Workload – If you consistently have a workload that goes beyond your capacity and leaves you no time for rest and space for development 
  2. Lack of control – At the moment we have to quickly adapt to new Covid-19 rules and regulations which can be stressful and make us feel out of control 
  3. Work-life balance – When work takes up too much of your time and prevents you from focusing on friends and family, this can make you feel isolated  
  4. Too much admin – If you feel like you are spending too much time on admin at work it can leave you feeling demotivated

Tips to prevent burnout 

One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to take some time off. It’s important to have time when you don’t think about work so that you can be energised and engaged when you are at work. This can take the shape of a holiday, but for school staff you might find the holidays don’t fall when you need them the most. More and more schools are introducing paid wellbeing days for staff, and in many circumstances this has helped reduce staff absence, sickness and turnover rates. Read more about how Dan Morrow, CEO at Woodland Academy Trust, implemented wellbeing days and other initiatives across his schools. 

It’s important to set boundaries to protect the time you have for yourself as well as being available in a work capacity. Set hours in the day where you don’t respond to work-related messages, no one should expect you to be on call 24 hours a day – even parents!

Work out some strategies to manage your stress by making a list of all the things that help you deal with stress. These can be things such as exercise, spending time outside or having a long bath. Self-care is often the first thing to slip off your to-do list when you’re busy so make sure you build time into your routine for yourself.

It’s important to tell someone when you are feeling burned out at work. Reach out to your colleagues, friends or family if you are feeling overwhelmed, sometimes just having someone to listen can make a world of difference. If your mental wellbeing is being especially impacted by burnout, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP about arranging some extra support.

Want to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way your school works for the better? Book a free demo here or get in touch on tellmemore@arbor-education.com or 0208 050 1028.

If you’re enjoying our blogs, why not subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive a fortnightly round-up of our most popular thought leadership pieces, straight to your inbox.

Danielle Arkwright - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How to create a culture of wellbeing at your school 

In recognition of International Stress Awareness Week this week, Arbor’s HR Manager and Wellbeing Champion, Danielle, shares practical tips for how schools can support the mental health of students and staff this term. Danielle is a trained Emotional Literacy Support Assistant and Drama Therapist who has delivered interventions and 1-to-1 mentoring in schools around emotional

In recognition of International Stress Awareness Week this week, Arbor’s HR Manager and Wellbeing Champion, Danielle, shares practical tips for how schools can support the mental health of students and staff this term. Danielle is a trained Emotional Literacy Support Assistant and Drama Therapist who has delivered interventions and 1-to-1 mentoring in schools around emotional communication.

We’ll all have noticed that the return to full time schooling and the ongoing pandemic has been challenging on lots of different levels for both students and staff. The last six months has been about everyone adapting to new ways of living, learning and teaching. 

Whilst coming back in the new term is a welcome chance to reconnect with classmates/colleagues, others might be finding everything that’s going on really difficult to process and could even be dealing with the trauma of loss.

Impact on mental health

With 80% of young people with existing mental health needs say that the Covid-19 pandemic has made their mental health worse, (according to a Young Minds survey of 2,036 young people), it’s time to put mental health awareness first in schools.

And it’s not just students who have been feeling the impact; according to a report by Education Support, 52% of UK Teachers say their mental health declined during the first stage of the coronavirus pandemic. 

As we head into the winter months, and some parts of the UK lock down once again, it’s more important than ever that we help students and fellow colleagues feel safe and supported in the school community. 

Create a culture of wellbeing

In this blog, you’ll find some practical suggestions for how your school can open up spaces to talk about mental health and wellbeing and support those who need it the most.

First of all, I wanted to share a mantra. If a student is being particularly challenging during this time, or a colleague is grumpier than usual, it’s always worth remembering: “Same storm, different boats”

same-storm-different-boats

Whilst we are all going through this tough time together, each of us has a different set of circumstances, levels of support and starting points when facing the virus. For more on how inequality has been highlighted during the pandemic, see this article. 

Actions schools can take to create a culture of wellbeing 

For Staff…

  • Monthly staff wellbeing workshops – This could be in the form of skill-share workshops for approx. 6 people, e.g. cooking classes or meditation. Whilst school staff have limited time, making the effort to connect in this way and learn something new will boost your mood 
  • Designated mental health champions – See Mind for guidance on how to set this up in your school. If staff are nervous about committing, why not have this change on a termly basis? 
  • Mental health training for staffPlace2b and MHFA England both offer excellent courses aimed specifically at school staff. This equips staff to deal with Mental Health First Aid and signpost young people to the appropriate places
  • A wellbeing notice board This could include a wellbeing “menu” of events and activities, who you’re wellbeing ambassadors are, and how to sign up for training 
  • Staff Stars – Consider how you show gratitude for each other. Consider handing out a Staff Star award in your weekly staff meeting, then the winner gets to nominate the next person and explain why 

For Students…

  • Tutor group check-ins If possible, create some time in tutor groups for circle time, with each student sharing either a word or a sentence about how they are that day. Having this daily “safe space” will help young people to feel safe and secure 
  • Creative spaces to reflect on the pandemic Find creative ways to allow students to reflect through Drama, English or Art. Having a creative outlet for their fears and questions will allow them to focus in other areas and process difficult feelings 
  • Visuals around the school to promote mental health and wellbeing, like this one from the Anna Freud Centre 
  • Workshops and wellbeing consultants – Try delivering termly workshops with a focus on mental health and wellbeing. Consider developing partnerships with specialist charities like Young Minds 
  • Gratitude Jar Gratitude practices are proven to boost our moods. All you need is an empty jar, strips of paper, and pens. As part of your tutor morning routine, have students write down something specific that they’re grateful for on a strip of paper and put it in the jar. Towards the end of the week, ask students to come up and read out items from the jar! 

For more ideas and resources check out the following websites: 

Want to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way your school works for the better? Book a free demo here or get in touch on tellmemore@arbor-education.com or 0208 050 1028.

If you’re enjoying our blogs, why not subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive a fortnightly round-up of our most popular thought leadership pieces, straight to your inbox.

Maddie Kilminster - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How we’re preparing for Ofsted this term: case studies from two Senior Leaders

We spoke to two Senior Leaders in a primary and secondary school about the biggest challenges they’re facing this term, and how they’re feeling about potential Ofsted inspections. To find out some of the questions Ofsted have been asking this term and how Arbor MIS can help you prepare, check out our blog. Martyn Essery,

We spoke to two Senior Leaders in a primary and secondary school about the biggest challenges they’re facing this term, and how they’re feeling about potential Ofsted inspections.

To find out some of the questions Ofsted have been asking this term and how Arbor MIS can help you prepare, check out our blog.

Martyn Essery, Chief Operating Officer at The Reach Free School

1. What are some of the biggest challenges your staff are facing this term?

The changes to the “zoning” of students has required a change of perspective for some Teachers who have cultivated their own classrooms over the years, but the biggest challenge now is keeping on top of staff and student absence, and seeking to offer the best remote learning experience for those who are not in school.

2. What are your strategies for getting your students “back on track” after lockdown?

We have deliberately avoided using language around “catching up” and “filling gaps” in order to get students back to school. Instead we reconnected with the physical space and daily social interactions without causing unnecessary mental burdens in relation to the time missed between March and July. We are making use of the excellent guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation – we are in the fortunate position that much of the back-to-school guidance chimes with initiatives we already had in place, such as targeted academic support.

3. Are you concerned at all about Ofsted inspections?

No, but I hope they are being carried out as a means to fact-find and share best practice around how schools are approaching this unique challenge.

4. How will you be preparing for an inspection?

We do not implement processes or add requirements specifically in relation to a planned or unplanned inspection, so we will continue to ensure that our systems are working effectively – supporting our students to learn and enjoy their learning, and giving us the data we require to analyse and intervene where required.

5. How has Arbor helped you prepare for inspections in the past?

The quick access to a wide variety of data in relation to students, staff, attendance and behaviour has meant that drawing up overviews and headlines has been very straightforward. But, as mentioned above, rather than it being useful specifically for an inspection, it is the way in which we have been able to integrate Arbor into all of the day-to-day routines which makes it so useful in relation to feeling prepared and on top of what is going on in school. 

The close tracking of behaviour, with clear workflows and follow-ups in order to ensure nothing slips through the gaps, has contributed to behaviour in our school being both high quality and consistently managed. 

With custom reports and Live Feeds, individuals can create bespoke reports which monitor the data relevant to them – this has been utilised in relation to absence and punctuality in recent weeks. 

Finally, we have been able to manage a changing landscape related to timetables and when students are required to be at school thanks to the way the programmes are set up in Arbor.

Anthony David, Executive Headteacher Monken Hadley & St Paul’s Primaries

1. What are some of the biggest challenges your staff are facing this term?

At the moment, it feels like we’re dancing on the tightest of tightropes. I’ve never known Teachers to work such long hours, and students are now having to make seven steps rather than five just to meet expectations. 

This next six months will be the most complicated stage of the current crisis. In some ways, last term’s lockdown was quite straightforward – we had 10-15% of our students in school and the rest we provided remote support to. But the current period is a sort of “halfway house” – we’re not fully open nor closed. The Government’s covid-related illness codes give the false impression that there is a high attendance nationally, whereas in reality the codes mark students as present. One of our schools is currently struggling to reach 90% attendance when Covid-19 registration codes are taken into consideration. 

However, I’m pleased to say that behaviour so far has been very good – you can sense students feel the joy of being back to school.

2. What are your strategies for getting your students “back on track” after lockdown?

Since the beginning of term, we’ve taken the opportunity to reset. Everything we are doing has been adapted to the Covid-19 situation. This has often meant we’ve had to re-evaluate what we do and why we do it. For example, we’ve re-launched our school curriculum which has gone down well. 

3. Are you concerned at all about Ofsted inspections?

It’s uncertain when and what the visits will look like. Under the current framework, core subject leadership is the most challenging area. Until recently, it was only senior leadership who were judged, but for the last five years Subject Leads are being judged more and more. In the 90’s, each Local Authority would have their own Subject Leads, who could upskill staff in schools. But now schools do not have such support. Many MATs and federations are developing dedicated subject leadership strategies. Our approach has been to develop a subject leadership handbook between our two schools. This handbook sets out our vision, expectations and timelines for Subject Leaders. It’s been designed to get new leaders up to speed as quickly as possible, and for experienced leaders it’s a useful touchstone. New leaders have also buddied up with experienced Subject Leaders, often across schools.

4. How will you be preparing for an inspection?

The main thing Ofsted will want us to evidence in relation to the Covid-19 learning gap, is “How do you know what students don’t know?” Baseline assessment will support much of this but running alongside this will be an adjustment to our school vision – how does our vision for learning fit in this new climate? What adjustments do we need to make? What financial impacts will this lead to? These are typically long term questions that we are having to make decisions on rapidly in a very uncertain world.

Assessment is better understood. We’re in the process of using Puma and Pira assessments which import neatly into our Arbor MIS. This will show us how student groups are doing across key measures. Equally we’re using our Early Years assessments to gauge how far we have to go in order to meet minimum requirements. Early evidence is suggesting that younger children have a wider learning gap than older children. What we know is that younger children also tend to make more rapid progress than older children. At the moment we have set a challenge to address 18 months of learning in one year. This will have to be adjusted if we are called to close again, as the suspicion is that a second round of school closures could create an even greater learning gap than the first.

Ofsted are also likely to ask whether you’re just doing the “minimum” to get students back on track with their learning, or if you’re being adaptive and creative in order to enrich their learning. The fact that we can’t get out on trips (Transport for London has closed school trips) makes this difficult for us to do, especially for foundation subjects. So we’re working with what we can do locally and internally, for example our Head of School recently dressed up as the Queen (which managed to convince our Year 1’s!)

5. How has Arbor helped you prepare for inspections in the past?

Arbor is where we can evidence core learning and the effectiveness of our policies around attendance, behaviour etc. We can get the data we need rapidly to show where we are, how things have changed over time, and which students are behind the trends, which is vital in Ofsted conversations.

Want to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way your school works for the better? Book a free demo here or get in touch on tellmemore@arbor-education.com or 0208 050 1028.

If you’re enjoying our blogs, why not subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive a fortnightly round-up of our most popular thought leadership pieces, straight to your inbox.

Maddie Kilminster - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

Find out what’s on at ArborFest and book your spot!

With just over one week to go until ArborFest – our free virtual conference dedicated to schools and trusts – we wanted to tell you all about what’s on so you can book your place! From 12th-13th November, ArborFest is your chance to hear how fellow school staff have transformed the way they work with

With just over one week to go until ArborFest – our free virtual conference dedicated to schools and trusts – we wanted to tell you all about what’s on so you can book your place!

From 12th-13th November, ArborFest is your chance to hear how fellow school staff have transformed the way they work with Arbor MIS. You’ll discover best practice in all areas – from assessment, to reporting, to parental engagement. We’ll also give you a sneak peak of what’s coming up on our Product Roadmap. 

If your school isn’t yet using Arbor, it’s a great opportunity to get a taste of what it’s like to be part of the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community, and to see first hand how our schools use Arbor day-to-day.

Here’s a look at what’s on and all the links you need to sign up – just click the title of the talk! Click here for the full programme

Thursday 12th November

Morning sessions

Theme 9.30-10am 10-11am 11am-12pm
Getting the most out of Arbor 

Best practice and advice from schools and trusts using Arbor MIS

Welcome to ArborFest!

Arbor’s CEO James and Chief of Customer Success Sonia will welcome you to ArborFest and let you know all about the top sessions to look out for.

Transformative Reporting: Using Arbor’s in-built Reporting Tools to Change the Way you Work

Find out how to use Arbor to get even greater insight into your students.

Improving Parental Engagement with Arbor MIS

Find out how Arbor’s tools could help you communicate in a more dynamic way with your school community.

What’s next in Arbor

Hear about our new releases, and take part in workshops to shape the future of Arbor

How we Build a School-Centric Roadmap

Ever wondered how an EdTech product team works? Arbor’s Head of Product Hilary will reveal how we decide what to develop to help schools work better.

New Feature Reveal: My Classroom and My Homepage

Discover two of our brand new features for Teaching Staff – an all-in-one classroom management tool and a personalised dashboard.

Feedback Forum: Navigation and Layout in Arbor

If you’re using Arbor MIS, this is your chance to tell us what you think about the design, usability and layout to help us improve the experience.

(For Arbor customers only)

MAT Feedback Forum: Teaching and Learning in Group MIS

If you’re a MAT Central Team using Arbor, this is your opportunity to tell us what you think of Arbor’s Group MIS to help us improve the experience.

(For Arbor customers only)

Afternoon sessions

Theme 1-2pm 2-3pm 3-4pm 4-5pm
Getting the most out of Arbor

Best practice and advice from schools and trusts using Arbor MIS

Keynote Speech Planning for Uncertainty: How to Reflect on Rapid Transformation

Our Keynote Speaker, Rachel Coldicutt, expert on the relationship between social impact and tech, will show you how you can manage uncertainty and move on after Covid-19.

A Deeper Dive: Attendance Analysis and Reporting in Arbor

We’ll show you how you can quickly access the attendance data you need in a few clicks using Arbor’s out-of-the-box reporting.

Best Practice: Primary Assessments in Arbor

Join former Headteacher, Jackie, to find the right approach to assessment and progress tracking for your primary school, and how to implement it in Arbor.

Discover Arbor MIS for Primary Schools (Demo with Q&A)

If you’re a primary school discovering Arbor for the first time, join this demo to see Arbor MIS in action.

Teacher Twilight

Hear top tips from fellow Teachers for managing your class and keeping on top of your admin! We’ll also show you how Arbor helps reduce workload, plus our new teacher-focused features.

What’s next in Arbor

Hear about our new releases, and take part in workshops to shape the future of Arbor

Arbor’s Vision for Assessments

Join Arbor’s Assessments Lead, Chris, to find out how we’ve built school and MAT-level assessments in Arbor, and what’s on the horizon.

Best Practice: Secondary School Assessments in Arbor

Join Martyn, Deputy Head at The Reach Free School, and Chris, Arbor’s Assessment Lead, to learn how you can get greater insight into student progress in Arbor.

Discover Arbor MIS for Secondary Schools (Demo with Q&A)

If you’re a secondary school discovering Arbor for the first time, join this demo to see Arbor MIS in action.

MAT Feedback Forum: Back Office

If you’re an administrator at a trust using Arbor MIS, this is your chance to tell us what you think of Arbor’s Group MIS to help us improve the experience for trust Office Staff.

(For Arbor customers only)

What’s Next for Group MIS

Join Stephen, Chris and Nataliia from Arbor to hear how we’re shaping Arbor to best support MATs over the long term.

Friday 13th November

Morning sessions

Theme 9-10am 10-11am 11am-12pm 12-12.30pm
Getting the most out of Arbor

Best practice and advice from schools and trusts using Arbor MIS

An Overview of Arbor’s Training and Services

Arbor’s Chief of Customer Success, Sonia, will walk you through the support we provide throughout your life with Arbor, to help drive long-term impact.

How to Use Arbor to Support your School During Covid-19

We’ll show you how Arbor makes the DfE Daily Form easy, plus how to keep track of student and staff sickness and absences.

Best Practice: Exam Entries and Seating in Arbor

Meet fellow Data Managers, Exams Officers, Admin Staff sharing top tips for managing exams in Arbor.

ArborFest Closing Talk

End your ArborFest experience with closing remarks from the Arbor Team. Hear about what’s coming next and how you can keep up-to-date with what we’ve got coming up. See you there!

Discover Arbor MIS for MATs (Demo with Q&A)

If you’re discovering Arbor for the first time, join this demo to see Arbor’s Group MIS in action.

What’s next in Arbor

Hear about our new releases, and take part in workshops to shape the future of Arbor

New Feature Reveal: Arbor Enterprise

Discover our brand new toolkit for schools and trusts that are large, complex or want more control of their data and system infrastructure. 

We really look forward to welcoming you at ArborFest this year. It’s a great opportunity not only to learn more about Arbor MIS but also to network with fellow school staff from across the country.

If you’d prefer to arrange a 1-on-1 demo of Arbor for your school, one of the team would love to speak to you. You can book that here.

Otherwise, see you online!

If you’re enjoying our blogs, why not subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive a fortnightly roundup of our most popular thought leadership pieces, straight to your inbox. 

Maddie Kilminster - 29 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Managing the new classroom dynamic – A conversation with Dr Rob Long, Educational Psychologist

As Teachers face lots of new challenges in the classroom this term, with students sometimes struggling to adjust to constant change, it’s important to build our understanding of students’ mental health so we can best support them. A large part of that is looking at how we frame and manage “problematic” behaviour in the classroom.

As Teachers face lots of new challenges in the classroom this term, with students sometimes struggling to adjust to constant change, it’s important to build our understanding of students’ mental health so we can best support them. A large part of that is looking at how we frame and manage “problematic” behaviour in the classroom.

We spoke to Rob Long, Educational Psychologist, about his work with schools and young people and his advice for how we can better support the emotional and mental health of students, particularly as they experience the challenges of Covid-19.

For more information about Dr Rob Long and the training and services he provides, check out his website.

1. How do most schools manage behaviour? Is it working?

A lot of schools look at behaviour at a surface level. Though it’s worth saying that schools differ greatly, many focus on “managing” behaviour, having “zero tolerance” and relying on rewards and sanctions. These strategies are based on the assumption that the child is wilfully misbehaving; that is that they can control their behaviour. While such approaches will work for many children, there are “repeat offenders” whose behaviour needs to be understood if they are to be  supported  effectively. 

In some main-stream schools it can be 3-5% of the school population who are responsible for something like 50% of the discipline referrals. So it’s often the same children/young people who are being sanctioned. It would be fair to say therefore that sanctions are not working for them. In fact some children, sadly, have habituated to sanctions. It’s what they expect as normal.

The problem with a “zero-tolerance” culture is that some students (3-5%) are consistently at risk of being excluded. There is a case for trying to understand these problem behaviours – an approach that more and more schools are developing. 

2. How should schools be looking at behaviour?

A one-size-fits-all behaviour policy doesn’t work – we need to address individuals. 

We need to understand students’ behaviour on a deeper level in order to get to the root of why they’re acting the way they are. Often students who misbehave are dealing with Adverse Childhood Experiences, such as mental health problems at home, deprivation or abuse. It’s evidenced that children who have had four or more of these experiences are especially vulnerable to having problematic behaviours. 

Behaviour is never random – there’s usually a motive for it. Even aggression can be driven by such emotions as fear and anxiety. We should see behaviour as a form of communication, and ask what it is that the student is trying to communicate to us. Have they had breakfast that morning? Is their school work at the appropriate level for them? Are they being bullied? Are there learning difficulties? Have they experienced trauma? Behaviour is ambiguous, three children may have the same problematic behaviour, but for three different reasons.

Given that 1 in 8 children are dealing with some sort of mental health problem (according to MentalHealth.org), and most adult mental health problems start before the age of 15-16, schools need training to be aware of and support students to manage their emotions. 

3. What kinds of behaviour might students be exerting this term?

This term, as a result of Covid-19, some students will be processing trauma through bereavements and other losses, and many will be experiencing an increased level of anxiety. 

Typically, as children develop, they learn to contain their emotions in order to function with a degree of anxiety – these are emotional regulation skills. There will be some students however, who may not have learned such control skills and therefore have we can describe as an “over sensitive smoke detector”. These students are likely to react to worries about Covid-19, for example, in a more pronounced way, and may cope by either “acting out” or “acting in”.

Schools should be aware that it’s common for vulnerable children to also have other co-occurring mental health conditions (50% of autistic children have a predisposition for co-occurring anxiety). 

4. How can we support students this term?

Here are some techniques I’d encourage schools to use in order to reframe “bad” behaviour (I would prefer the term “problematic” behaviour) and promote a positive, supportive environment for students:

  • Tell them, show them, let them – Some children will struggle to adapt to new routines and rules this term, so they’ll benefit from Teachers modeling the new behaviour and showing them how to relate to their classmates, the curriculum and themselves.
  • Support the personal – Cultivate a compassionate and understanding atmosphere in the classroom with the Teacher as someone they can open up to and share concerns.
  • Stop, think, choose – Some students may not have learned how to deal with challenging emotions in an appropriate way. Teachers can help by modeling problem-solving skills. Talk out loud, showing them how to weigh up and think through problems.
  • Analyse don’t personalise – It’s important to reframe “bad” behaviour as  “mistakes” rather than something fundamentally wrong inside the student. Do they have the necessary skills, or do I need to teach them? What is the function of this behaviour, are they gaining something or avoiding something? Teachers and Support Staff need to act as behavioural “detectives”. Also often a “behavioural mistake” can be a learning opportunity.
  • Normalise negative feelings – Students need to know that having anxious or angry thoughts is part of normal human life; they help us prepare for bad things happening. Acknowledge their negative emotions, then shift the focus to their positive emotions. Negative emotions lead us to turn in on ourselves, to self-protect, so balance this by focusing on positive emotions which lead us to go out and explore the world, such as gratitude (who has helped you today?), curiosity (what have you learnt?) and achievement (what was a new skill or success?).

5. What can schools do to support mental health?

It is important to recognise that schools today face even more demands on their time and resources. They therefore often don’t have the time to support students’ mental health problems to the degree they’d like to.

I encourage schools to make wellbeing a whole-school priority. Evidence shows that the more students feel belonging to a school, the better their emotional wellbeing. Feeling connected to their school results in less externalising and internalising problematic behaviours.

It’s true that there is a growing openness to mental health within the education sector – I’m seeing a “therapeutic” understanding approach to emotional health filtering down to schools and there’s more and more information and support out there. However, the Government needs to support, with resources, the importance of wellbeing and mental health in schools. We need to change the culture that turns students with added mental health needs away from schools because they can’t manage them. 

6. What can we learn from the pandemic and how can we move forward?

The pandemic has, for many schools, justified and emphasised what they’re already doing to support students’ emotional health. It’s given us a vocabulary for students’ emotions and experiences, and crystallized what’s important. We need to celebrate such good practices. Going through this difficult period will enable  schools to include wellbeing, mental health and resilience at the heart of their school ethos. Such policies and practice will support us all to come through the pandemic stronger and more resilient in the future. 

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help your school work faster, smarter and collaborate more, join one of our free webinars to see Arbor in action, or arrange a 1-on-1 demo.

Maddie Kilminster - 29 October, 2020

Category : Blog

How hundreds of LA maintained schools are moving to the cloud

Since most of us can remember, maintained schools have generally used the IT systems that their Local Authority recommends and supports. Until recently, there hasn’t really been any other option. But in the last few years, many Multi-Academy Trusts have been reviewing their schools’ tech and replacing their legacy, server-based systems with more efficient, cloud-based

Since most of us can remember, maintained schools have generally used the IT systems that their Local Authority recommends and supports. Until recently, there hasn’t really been any other option.

But in the last few years, many Multi-Academy Trusts have been reviewing their schools’ tech and replacing their legacy, server-based systems with more efficient, cloud-based solutions. 

Many Local Authorities, too, have started to collaborate with suppliers like Arbor in order to support their schools to move to a cloud-based MIS. We’re working with a growing number of Local Authorities up and down the country, each of whom has gone through our rigorous accreditation and training so that they can support their schools with Arbor.

If your Local Authority hasn’t started to look at cloud-based options yet, don’t let it hold you back! Many schools have decided they can’t wait and are moving to the cloud by themselves, supported by Arbor’s simple migration process. In Hampshire alone, over 22 schools have moved to Arbor, spurred on by two early pioneers.

Find out below how two Hampshire schools broke away from their LA and moved to Arbor MIS – and they haven’t looked back.

 

Interview with Jason Anderson, Headteacher at Romsey Primary School (moved to Arbor in Spring 2018)

 

1. What motivated your move to Arbor MIS? 

We used to have a number of different systems that managed all the different operational aspects of a school (MIS, attendance, communication, assessment, medical, etc), and although individually these systems worked well, we found that you had to keep switching between them to get the full picture, i.e. linking attendance to progress, or emails home to confirm social media consent. This, coupled with the extraordinarily complex processes to get straightforward answers to simple questions (e.g. What is the absence trend of our PP children this term?) was becoming increasingly frustrating for us.  

I had used Arbor Insight reports for a couple of years, and loved the clarity in which detailed information was presented. The charts and graphs were consistently user friendly, and I was able to get the data I needed swiftly. I did some investigating into Arbor MIS, and spoke to a couple of schools – who all spoke highly of the system. When we costed Arbor over a three year period and found that we would save just under £6k compared to the other systems we were using, the transition was a no brainer!

2. Did you have any concerns before moving?

There were a number of issues that I needed to be confident about before moving to Arbor. Obviously we checked their reliability, ‘uptime’ status over the past few years, accounts, customer service, compliance with GDPR and other relevant legislation. I was also mindful of our school being the first maintained primary school in the county to move away from local authority’s preferred product. We were also twitchy about the actual transition and the physical moving of all our MIS data from one product to another! We knew that we were taking a leap of faith! 

However, after the delays in getting the data out of the old system, the actual transfer into Arbor was slick with several layers of verification. Additional checks by the Arbor team continued to make us feel confident that our data was being well looked after!

3. What was your staff’s reaction to changing MIS? 

The office team were instrumental in evaluating Arbor before moving over to it, so they had some idea of what to expect. They were very excited about the transition, especially with regard to us being a growing school and requiring a product that would grow and help us streamline systems and processes. We are still finding time-saving devices regularly in the product!

My Business Manager is able to put all the staff details in a single system, and add staff attendance, contract details and we are investigating transferring our Single Central Record over too. Teachers like being able to locate parent’s contact details quickly, alongside assessment and attendance data. All these features make for a happy staff!

4. How has Arbor transformed the way you work? 

One of the most notable areas that has been transformed is the census return.  Having our own maintained nursery (with its variety of Nursery 2s and 3s, 15 and 30 hour funding, irregular sessions, non compulsory attendance, paid for sessions, etc.) used to require multiple telephone calls to the previous system’s help desk. These were often painfully long, incredibly complicated and stressful days! However, the most recent census return was completed in under 20 minutes (and when help was required, it’s always clear and accurate!).

I love the automated reports – I’ve got two main ones set up at the moment; one for safeguarding, the other for attendance. These scheduled reports are automatically generated and emailed to the relevant staff. These save so much time! 

For us, however, Arbor is the one-stop-shop for everything. During parents’ evenings, we load on the pupil’s page, and we have all the information at our fingertips. We can quickly see who is social media safe, or doesn’t have permission for the administration of paracetamol, who has a food allergy, or what they achieved in their Y1 Phonics screening. We used to waste so much time digging into separate systems to find all this – having it all on the screen in one place has been fantastic!

5. What would you say to a Local Authority maintained primary school in an area like Hampshire who’s thinking of moving away from SIMS but is nervous about it?

Do it! Don’t hesitate! There are better, more efficient and more effective ways of working. Arbor holds your hand all the way through the process (and beyond – they definitely do not “drop you once you’re in!”). The ongoing communication, support and training continually reassure and help you get the most from Arbor. They are continually developing the product (the Covid attendance summary page is brilliant for the daily DfE return!), and they listen to your suggestions for improvements too! Take the plunge – you won’t look back!

 

To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could help your school work faster, smarter and collaborate more, join one of our webinars at ArborFest – our exclusive online event for schools across the country. You’ll hear how fellow school staff have transformed the way they work with Arbor MIS. Find out what’s on and book now – it’s free!

 

Read Part Two for our second interview with Kay Bowen, Headteacher at St John the Baptist CoE Primary

Maddie Kilminster - 29 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Why this maintained school chose to move to the cloud, independently of their LA

As hundreds of maintained schools are choosing to move to cloud-based systems, many independently of their Local Authority, we’ve been speaking to schools in Hampshire about why they made their decision to move to Arbor. You can catch up on our first interview with Jason Anderson, Headteacher at Romsey Primary School here. In this blog,

As hundreds of maintained schools are choosing to move to cloud-based systems, many independently of their Local Authority, we’ve been speaking to schools in Hampshire about why they made their decision to move to Arbor.

You can catch up on our first interview with Jason Anderson, Headteacher at Romsey Primary School here. In this blog, we speak to Kay Bowen, Headteacher at St John the Baptist CoE Primary, who moved to Arbor in Spring 2020.

Interview with Kay Bowen, Headteacher at St John the Baptist CoE Primary, Waltham Chase

1. What motivated your move to Arbor MIS? 

The cost of our previous system and lack of usage; feeling that it probably could do a lot but we did not have staff trained and experienced in using it over many years and thus we weren’t able to get the power from it. We wanted a system that everyone could use to quickly find out anything they needed to about a child. 

We wanted to save time and make the office function more efficiently, have everything paperless, with all staff able to access all they needed themselves rather than relying on the office. We felt sure there was a more 21st Century solution to school data than the rather 20th Century system we had.

2. Did you have any concerns before moving?

Cost was a concern as we could not afford to spend more (on training for everyone). We needed to find a really straightforward system so that everyone could do the basics and we would not have much time or money to train people. We also had the worry of losing data or things being complicated for parents at the start, thus them being disinclined to use it. I think I was also worried that a lot of these systems seem to be very “secondary centric” and would they understand that an average sized primary has different usage and needs compared to a big secondary?

3. What was your staff’s reaction to changing MIS? 

They seem quite relieved, and hopeful! The office team we have are new in post in the last few months so they are keen to learn a new system that they will then know inside out.

4. How do you hope moving to Arbor will transform the way you work? 

I hope that everything will be efficient and fast. The medical info will be shared more easily, and data should remain up to date every day without needing to be checked. We hope that it will be easy for parents to use to communicate messages from the school. We hope it will reduce the load on the admin team to do routine data work and they will be freed-up timewise.

5. How is implementation going so far? 

OK – there has been a lot of work to tidy our current system which has been more difficult than for other schools as we have a new team and they had not learnt the old system, so it is time consuming. We are about to swap over systems, but we have had someone to talk it through with every week and check if we have any queries. Our Admin Staff have had their first training session and report that it all looks very straightforward to add information to.

6. What would you say to a local Authority maintained primary school in an area like Hampshire who’s thinking of moving away from SIMS but is nervous about it?  

Don’t be afraid – having a system that everyone can use with ease as an end point to keep in mind makes it doable. Plus, financially we’re not losing out this year, even with the additional training costs of year one, when you add up all the systems we had for emails, payments, MIS – we will be saving money every year going forward and can see that we will be saving time too.

To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could help your school work faster, smarter and collaborate more, join one of our webinars at ArborFest – our exclusive online event for schools across the country. You’ll hear how fellow school staff have transformed the way they work with Arbor MIS. Find out what’s on and book now – it’s free!

Maddie Kilminster - 28 October, 2020

Category : Blog

How to prepare for Ofsted inspections this term

With the potential of an Ofsted inspection this term, we’ve been speaking to Arbor schools and MATs about how they’re feeling and preparing. Although Ofsted are calling this term’s inspections “interim visits” that will focus on supporting schools to welcome students back to full-time schooling, the inspections are still likely to cause upheaval for schools.

With the potential of an Ofsted inspection this term, we’ve been speaking to Arbor schools and MATs about how they’re feeling and preparing. Although Ofsted are calling this term’s inspections “interim visits” that will focus on supporting schools to welcome students back to full-time schooling, the inspections are still likely to cause upheaval for schools.

Ofsted may not be asking schools to do any formal preparation, however School Leaders will naturally want to present as much evidence as possible about how their students are doing this term.

To help you best prepare for Ofsted, we’ve gathered together some of the key questions they’ve been asking over the last few weeks, and how Arbor MIS can support you to prepare for each of them.

 

1. Attendance

  • What impact has Covid-19 had on your attendance?
  • How does your attendance compare to this time last year?
  • Have you had any children not return to school?
  • Are any children on reduced timetables?
  • How have you encouraged pupils back into school?
  • What have been the challenges?
  • What have you put in place for those who need support?
  • What adaptations have you made to your attendance policy?
  • What adaptations have you made to the school day? What impact has this had?
  • How has your Inclusion Officer supported you?
  • Are you planning to spend any of the catch-up funding on supporting attendance?

 

Gather your evidence in Arbor… 

In Arbor, you can quickly pull together attendance data over time, and compare classes, Year groups, demographic groups, or Covid-19 bubbles:

attendance-dashboard

Arbor’s Covid-19 Dashboard is your reference point for daily attendance across your school, split into the key DfE categories, including students with an ECHP, with a social worker and cases of Covid-19. Click into any measure to see a full list of students in each group:

covid-dashboard

For MATs, Arbor’s Group MIS gives you real-time attendance stats across your schools, allowing you to drill down from the trust-level data to the individual students:

MAT-attendance

 

2. Behaviour

  • What has been the impact of Covid-19 on behaviour?
  • What changes have you noticed in pupil behaviour? Can you give an example?
  • What have you put in place to support children coming back to school?
  • What has changed in terms of how you manage behaviour?
  • How have you adapted your behaviour policy?
  • Have you had any external support? Give us an example
  • Are you planning to use any of the catch-up funding in relation to behaviour?

 

Gather your evidence in Arbor… 

Arbor’s built-in dashboards help you understand behaviour across groups of students (Year groups, Form groups etc.), and track how the types and frequency of behaviour has changed over time:

behaviour-year-group

You can also add new types for Covid-19 related behaviour, such as pulling off another student’s mask during a lesson. Arbor will notify the relevant staff who need to know about the incident, and set up your follow-up actions automatically:

behaviour-incidents

Track the effectiveness of your behaviour interventions groups by pulling together a quick report in Arbor:

interventions-report

 

3. Safeguarding

  • How have you identified and supported vulnerable children?
  • What have been the challenges? How have you overcome these?
  • How have you adapted your safeguarding  policy in light of COVID?
  • What additional training have staff received?
  • How have you found working with outside agencies?
  • Online safety: how have you ensured children are safe online?
  • Talk us through an example of how you have supported a family
  • They were keen to hear about individual cases and what we did in response to concerns

 

Gather your evidence in Arbor… 

Arbor’s new My Homepage gives your Teaching and Pastoral Staff live information about the student groups they look after, so they’ll never miss a new detention, pastoral or medical note. Easy filters also help them keep track of the behaviour, attendance and attainment of their key demographic groups:

homepage

 

Check out this interesting example from a mixed-phase MAT in Leicestershire, The Mead Educational Trust (TMET), about the methods they’re using to assess the impact of Covid-19 on their most vulnerable students.

 

4. Curriculum

  • What impact has COVID had on your pupils? How do you know? What have you noticed?
  • How are you assessing where pupils are?
  • What are you doing to identify the gaps in learning?
  • How are you going to incorporate missed learning?
  • How have you adapted your Maths and English curriculum?
  • When do you expect to return to a full curriculum?
  • Has COVID impacted on specific subjects? If so how?
  • Talk us through your remote/ blended learning policy and provision
  • How will you support vulnerable pupils?
  • How do you plan to use the catch-up funding?

 

Gather your evidence in Arbor… 

In Arbor you can set up customised formative assessments which allow you to track how your students are developing during the year. Easy-to-use colour-coded dashboards will then help you monitor performance, and show you clearly where you need to intervene:

formative-assessment

You can then filter your results to see how particular Covid-19 groups are performing:

covid-groups-assessment

Set up interventions to get certain students back on track, and review the cost and effectiveness of your interventions in one dashboard:

interventions-tracking

 

For guidance on how to utilise the Government’s Catch-Up funding, you might find this cheat sheet from The Key useful.

 

If you’re new to Arbor and want to find out how our cloud-based MIS can help your school work faster, smarter and collaborate more, join one of our webinars at ArborFest – our exclusive online event for schools across the country. You’ll hear how fellow school staff have transformed the way they work with Arbor MIS. Find out what’s on and book now – it’s free!

Maddie Kilminster - 22 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Why are so many schools switching to cloud-based tech right now?

We spoke to Educational Consultant David Hughes about why such a large wave of schools have started moving to cloud-based tech in recent years (approx. 1,700 have switched to a cloud-based MIS since 2017).  David Hughes is the author of “Future-Proof your School” and “Re-examining Success”, as well as the popular blog “Learning Renaissance’” He

We spoke to Educational Consultant David Hughes about why such a large wave of schools have started moving to cloud-based tech in recent years (approx. 1,700 have switched to a cloud-based MIS since 2017). 

David Hughes is the author of “Future-Proof your School” and “Re-examining Success”, as well as the popular blog “Learning Renaissance’” He has over 40 years of experience in schools and Education Technology, with particular expertise in change management, professional development and flexible learning. 

Read below for David’s advice for how schools can make sure large-scale technology changes support learning in a sustainable way.

 

Why are so many schools switching to cloud-based tech right now? 

The challenges of running a school remotely during Covid-19 have accelerated the cloud-based revolution – but this is a trend that was already well established. 

There are two main drivers: 

1. Economies of scale
2. School improvement

 

Schools now recognise that they can save money using cloud-based solutions, which place the technical support burden on the vendor, meaning schools no longer have to maintain costly servers on site. In times of stretched budgets, this is enough to encourage many schools to switch. 

However, there are also deeper educational motivations at play. Although the first generation of EdTech products greatly improved the productivity of collecting, collating and presenting information, schools are rightly now demanding more intuitive and granular information. 

For example, schools recognise that their Management Information System (MIS), not only saves time for office staff, can actually drive iterative school improvement. Where previous systems merely showed the “what”, they can now use their MIS to ask deeper “why” questions. They can use their own data to experiment and collaborate in the search for better learning outcomes for students and more effective professional development for staff across the school. 

 

Why have schools been reluctant until recent years to change their tech? 

I think a lot of this comes down to negative past experiences with technology roll-outs. Schools often didn’t realise that a technology change isn’t just about installing a system and teaching staff what the buttons do – it requires a cultural change and a behavioural adjustment for teachers. 

I’ve seen many companies who are too keen to make a sale and let schools skimp on training or rush through the implementation. This always leaves teachers exasperated that as well as their normal teaching load, they now have to incorporate a confusing new technology. 

Instead, good technology providers take the time to demonstrate how they can drive up standards across the school, either by saving time, enabling better collaboration, improving teaching practice, or shining a light on successful strategies. Ultimately, schools and vendors need to be critical friends and share a vision centred around educational outcomes. 

 

What should companies do to help? 

Companies need to realise that there’s no point in building a great piece of tech unless it’s totally aligned with the needs of your customers. Too often, companies are at risk of letting the “tail wag the dog” – making decisions based on what’s possible, rather than what’s needed. 

One aspect of Arbor’s offering that greatly impressed me was the number of experienced former Teachers and Senior Leaders in the company. Hiring and consulting with Educators means companies understand their users’ context and can be more responsive to development needs in a timely and iterative way. 

 

How can schools ensure new systems have a long-term positive impact? 

Having flexible, cloud-based systems is now a necessary condition for driving school improvement, but it’s far from the only thing you can do. There are a number of other dimensions that need to be addressed if technologies are to support learning in a sustainable way. 

The most critical aspect, which is often least addressed, is to do with the dominant school culture, or “the way we do things in this school”. This will decide where, when, how and why change is initiated or stalled. School culture comes down to more than leadership – it’s a commonwealth of perspectives which drive behaviours in the school. 

School Leaders should engage the whole school in change right from the start – this means involving people in the preliminary discussions, not just when unveiling the final plan. Leaders should also be clear about their  goals, whether short or long-term (e.g. maximising exam performance in a particular year, versus a longer-term transformation). 

Having worked in and with both high-achieving and struggling schools, a common theme that shocks me every time is that senior leadership teams often don’t think to audit what skills and experience staff have at the outset of a project. Change is done to rather than with them. This management-centred perspective limits the scope, success and sustainability of change. 

With simple tools, such as a survey of “can do” statements, School Leaders can generate a complete picture of the skill level across the whole school before starting an initiative. Staff who consistently score highly become the “champions” of the project, developing materials and processes which other staff can then adapt to suit their own needs in the classroom. 

 

What positives can schools take from the Covid-19 crisis and build into their strategies going forwards? 

Covid-19 has (understandably) forced schools to be far more reactive in their approach. There is much talk of the “new normal” which, in my view, is extremely premature. The current situation is not normal, it is transitional. 

There is some truly transformational potential in determining not to go back to the “old normal” and instead exploring how the disruption of the pandemic has changed the way staff and students have shown they can learn. For example, both students and staff have found new ways of working in the disruption, and students have, to an extent, become independent and autonomous learners. 

Here are a few ideas for how we could be more ambitious going forwards:

  • What if school lesson time was devoted to higher level explorations of a particular topic, with some preliminary materials and exercises before the lesson, plus some extension materials after it, for those motivated to develop their understanding in greater depth? 
  • What if there were accredited artistic, linguistic, cultural and STEM activities online so that the curriculum could be more balanced and cater for choice, interest and consolidation? 
  • What if there was some element of choice for students in negotiating curriculum pathways? 
  • What if we used online resources to better inform students about the impact of their choices in their studies on their preferred career destination? 

 

This blog post references materials developed in the books “Future Proof Your School” and “Re-Examining Success”, as well as the Learning Renaissance blog by David Hughes, which schools are welcome to incorporate into their staff CPD library.

 

To find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work, get in touch on tellmemore@arbor-education.com, arrange a demo or join a free webinar. 

Maddie Kilminster - 19 October, 2020

Category : Blog

How to give your trustees the best overview of your MAT’s past performance

How will you present your schools’ performance to your board this year? Where will you pull the data from? As a MAT leader you’ve got the task of presenting what could be a very mixed picture of attainment this term, with each of your schools facing a unique set of challenges and a slightly different

How will you present your schools’ performance to your board this year? Where will you pull the data from?

As a MAT leader you’ve got the task of presenting what could be a very mixed picture of attainment this term, with each of your schools facing a unique set of challenges and a slightly different approach to “catch-up”.

So how can you best support your trustees with data this term? One of the most useful resources they’ll benefit from is a clear overview of prior attainment, which will help them contextualise the current situation.

In this blog we’ll show you how your newly updated Understanding Your MAT Report will give you a ready-made report to share with your board showing them a complete overview of your prior attainment data.  

The Understanding Your MAT Report

Created especially for your trust, your Understanding Your MAT Report brings together key measures like your schools’ ASP performance statistics, alongside your MAT’s size and local demographics, to help you understand the unique make-up of your trust compared to others in England. 

This specialised combination of aggregated data is presented in a clear and compact report, with colour-coded charts and expert commentary in plain English, making it the perfect document to kick off discussions at your next meeting.

Your Understanding Your MAT Report is live now for you to download from your free Insight portal

Understanding-your-mat-report

How the report can help your trustees

The Understanding Your MAT report will give your board a grounding in the socio-economic factors affecting attainment at your trust over the last three years. They’ll be able to assess at a glance your schools’ strengths and challenges, and how they compare to trusts in the wider national context.

Here’s an explanation of how your trustees can use the report in more detail:

1. Get a clear picture of student performance
2. Understand student performance in context
3. Shape smart strategy 

Let’s break that down…

1. Get a clear picture of student performance 

The report uses your schools’ latest validated 2019 Analyse School Performance (ASP) data to show your spread of performance in key measures at KS4, 2 and 1, such as Progress 8, Achieving Expected Standard: Reading, Writing and Maths, and Working at the Expected Standard: Year 1 Phonics. We’ve also just updated your report to include ASP data for all schools who joined your trust up to 1st September 2020.

The report also compares all results against three key benchmarks: Trust average (the weighted average of all your schools’ results), National average (weighted average of all state schools in England) and National MAT average (weighted average of all academies in England) to help them see what makes your MAT distinctive.

You can also share with Trustees a login to your free Arbor Group Insight portal, where they can dig further into any data set to see student level figures. Here they’ll also be able to download 2019 reports for all schools in your trust for free, allowing them to drill down to identify the subjects and student groups behind any underperformance.

progress-8-report

KS4 Progress 8 score, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020

2. Understand student performance in context

Trustees might be wondering whether the pace at which you’re growing is normal compared to other trust. They might also want to know if your school demographics (e.g. the proportion of students eligible for Free School Meals, or with English as a Second Language) is higher or lower than other similar trusts. 

As they’ll see from the report’s leading article “Breaking the link: Attainment, poverty and rural schools”, the relationship between disadvantage and attainment varies considerably between different parts of England, so it’s important for trustees to understand how this plays out across your mix of schools.

The Understanding Your MAT Report will help you answer these questions, by showing you how your MAT context compares to other trusts in the country.

Using latest 2019/20 GIAS (Get Information About Schools) data and information from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the report gives an overview of your MAT’s size, growth, blend of phases, pupil characteristics (% of FSM, SEN and EAL pupils), as well as the “Area Type” classifications for where your schools are located, including level of education and the unemployment rate. 

area-type-report

Area Type Blend, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020

3. Shape smart strategy 

With the attainment gap for students from disadvantaged backgrounds potentially widening by up to 75% as a result of Covid-19, it’s more important than ever to be able to explain the link between your students’ performance and their contextual factors. 

By understanding all the factors impacting achievement at your MAT, your trustees will be better equipped to help identify student groups in need of extra support this year.

Your Understanding Your MAT Report is ready to download from your Arbor Group Insight portal. If you’re not registered, don’t worry, you can sign up for free

If you have any questions about your report, or if you’d like one of our team to show you around Group Insight, get in touch at insight@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Rebecca Watkins - 16 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Introducing: Virtual ArborFest – You’re Invited!

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of Virtual ArborFest – the second instalment of our festival dedicated to schools and trusts using Arbor MIS.  Only 1 month away, ArborFest is your chance to hear tips and tricks from fellow school staff using Arbor, as well as expert best practice from the Arbor Team. We’ll also

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of Virtual ArborFest – the second instalment of our festival dedicated to schools and trusts using Arbor MIS. 

Only 1 month away, ArborFest is your chance to hear tips and tricks from fellow school staff using Arbor, as well as expert best practice from the Arbor Team. We’ll also give you a sneak peak of what’s coming up on our product roadmap

Join us online on 12th-13th November for a two-day event with lots of talks, workshops and feedback forums to choose from. The best thing is ArborFest is completely free!

If your school isn’t yet using Arbor, it’s a great opportunity to get a taste of what it’s like to be part of the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community, and to see first hand how our schools use Arbor day-to-day.


What’s on the programme?

Click here to see the full programme and book your tickets 

You’ll see that we’ve split ArborFest into three key themes, each with multiple talks inside it. Click the link above to see the full programme and book into the sessions you’d like to join: 

  • Getting the most out of Arbor Training and best practice sessions led by Arbor schools
  • What’s next in Arbor – See our newest features in action and join feedback forums to tell us what you think
  • Arbor Community – Meet the Arbor team and hear from our guest keynote speaker

For schools who are discovering Arbor for the first time, and don’t yet use our cloud-based MIS, we’re holding special sessions just for you so you can learn more about Arbor. Book your place here if you’re a primary school, secondary school or MAT.

Announcing our keynote speaker

We’re excited to announce a very special keynote speaker for ArborFest – Rachel Coldicutt. An expert on the relationship between social impact and tech, and former CEO of Doteveryone, Rachel will walk us through “The Glimmers Report” – a new, practical toolkit to help schools, trusts and other community organisations reflect on their rapid transformation, look ahead, and set new Key Performance Indicators. 

Sign up for the keynote speech here – everyone is welcome!

Re-live the last ArborFest

We’ve put together a video showcasing our last ArborFest back in February of this year (when meeting in a room full of people was normal and exciting!) Take a look and see what ArborFest means to us: 

We look forward to seeing you online soon – don’t forget to tell your colleagues!

P.S. If you’re having trouble getting onto the webinar site to book your tickets, make sure you’re using an updated version of Chrome or Firefox and delete any cache or cookies, which may be blocking you.

Maddie Kilminster - 13 October, 2020

Category : Blog

What your school or MAT could gain by running a systems audit

When school systems are working well, you shouldn’t even notice they’re there. They should run in the background, helping you to speed through your daily admin and giving you all the information you need, when you need it. However, many schools find that over the years, they’ve somehow accumulated lots of different IT systems that

When school systems are working well, you shouldn’t even notice they’re there. They should run in the background, helping you to speed through your daily admin and giving you all the information you need, when you need it.

However, many schools find that over the years, they’ve somehow accumulated lots of different IT systems that only do one job each. 

A messy network of systems which don’t “communicate” with each other, also leaves your student data in lots of different places. This puts an added burden on staff who have to enter data manually multiple times over, and added risk of errors or things going missing.

Why should you run a systems audit?

If you counted the number of hours your staff spend every day entering data or logging into various systems to find information – it would really add up. This is valuable time that they could be spending on tasks that matter – like speaking to a parent, or supporting students in the classroom. 

By auditing your school systems, you’ll spot immediately where cutting down on your systems could save costs and give staff quicker access to the information they need. You might be surprised by the amount of overlap you have where two or three systems could be replaced by just one. 

For MATs, using lots of different systems becomes especially unsustainable when they grow to 5-10 schools or more. At this scale, consolidating and centralising systems can not only hugely cut costs, but will also allow staff across the trust to work together more easily. Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust, has a great example of his vision for centralisation.

What’s the first step in an audit?

The most important question to have in mind when you start reviewing each of your systems, is Why do we need it? 

And more precisely:

What does it do that another system can’t?

Do staff use it frequently? If not, why?

Do staff use every feature of it?

For example, a school might have been using a behaviour tracking software for many years, and are happy with how it charts behaviour points over time. But this is the only feature they use this software for. In cases like this, and with many other systems that are an added cost, it’s worth questioning whether you could do it all within one tool – such as your MIS. 

How to run a systems audit

We recommend tackling your systems audit using this four step process. Many schools find it helpful to work in an Excel template like this:

Systems-audit-example

How you can approach a systems audit

Step 1

Start by listing out all the systems your staff use for their core tasks, like attendance, assessment, behaviour and communications. Remember to ask staff at all levels and from all areas across the school – don’t assume that one person will know what everyone is using!

Step 2

Move on to listing the annual costs of each system. If you don’t have to pay for something annually and you already have it, you can mark the cost as £0. Make sure to split out all software products even if they’re from the same company because you might find one is more useful than the others.

Step 3

Go back down your list and note each software’s functionality – not just what you’re currently using it for, but what it could do if you used every feature within it.

Step 4 

You’ll probably have come across several overlaps by now. This is the tricky part: for everything that overlaps, consider which has the greater value, and which you could think about cutting.

This value judgement can’t entirely be based on price, although that is important. You should also question why you had several systems in the first place. Is one of them more user-friendly? Is it quick to train new staff on? Could you get a better deal and a better product by getting rid of both altogether?

Next steps

If you decide to cut out some of your systems, this might require a change in mindset for staff who have been used to working in a certain way for years. 

Working now with over 1,200 schools, most of whom chose to move to Arbor MIS to consolidate their systems, we’ve seen schools manage this change and come out the other side with much more efficient ways of working. 

Arbor brings together all your core school tasks into one place, giving everyone shared access to information and a shared view of progress. Staff save time by only having one login to remember and no longer having to transfer data manually between systems. 

Of course, your audit might have shown you that some systems are worth keeping alongside your MIS, and that’s great – now you know you’re making a good investment. At Arbor, we integrate with over 30 powerful external systems to give you the flexibility to use the ones that work for you, whilst making sure your data is all joined up.

To find out more about how Arbor could help you work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, join a free webinar or arrange a personalised demo

Tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 13 October, 2020

Category : Blog

5 ways to cut down census stress with Arbor

It’s the time of year when most School Admin Officers have one thing at the top of their minds – census. With the end of October deadline fast approaching, and workforce census on the horizon, you’re probably somewhere deep into the process by now.  Census can be a bit of a daunting task, and with

It’s the time of year when most School Admin Officers have one thing at the top of their minds – census. With the end of October deadline fast approaching, and workforce census on the horizon, you’re probably somewhere deep into the process by now. 

Census can be a bit of a daunting task, and with so much unexpected admin to cope with this year, another lengthy, clunky process is the last thing your back office needs. 

Here are five ways that Arbor takes the hassle out of census management, giving you valuable time back in your day: 

1. Save hours of manual data entry

Preparing and updating your data is quick and easy in Arbor, thanks to bulk actions. Update information about a group of students, such as attainment grades, UPNs, or student contact details at the same time, in just a few clicks.

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Click the pencil to update all students in one click

2. Up-to-date DfE validation forms

In Arbor, you’ll always have the most recent DfE validation form for your school built into the system, so you don’t even have to think about it. This cuts out a major step in the process, allowing you to run the same checks on your census data as the DfE, all within Arbor.

3. Navigate your data in an easy dashboard

Forget scrolling down endless tables and forms, in Arbor you can review your census data in an interactive dashboard, which means you can click into each category and easily check the students listed. 

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Click on any category and review which students are listed

You can then cross check which students should be in each category from your demographics dashboards:

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Get quick access to demographic information for all students

4. Correct any errors straight away

Once you run checks on your data, Arbor will flag any errors or missing data so you can see what needs your attention at a glance. You can then amend and correct each line instantly from the same screen.

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Spot an error and fix it right away without leaving the screen

5. Speed up workforce census with our HR integration

We’re the first MIS to integrate with an HR platform (CoreHR XD) giving schools and trusts a smarter way to manage HR tasks like workforce census. If you’re using Core HR XD, integrating with Arbor means you’ll always have up-to-date information about your staff right when you need it, helping you complete your census in half the time. 

Our Help Centre is full of handy guides and videos that help make your census process as smooth as possible. 

But don’t just take it from us – here’s how some of our schools have found completing census in Arbor:

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Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Rebecca Watkins - 13 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Building a Resilient Trust: Lessons from leaders 8 months in

After the success of our MAT Conference webinar series in Summer Term, “Adapting to Change: Lessons from Leaders in a Global Crisis”, we’re excited to announce our new series “Building a Resilient Trust: Lessons from leaders 8 months in”. As the months quickly roll on in this new academic year, trust leaders are having to

After the success of our MAT Conference webinar series in Summer Term, “Adapting to Change: Lessons from Leaders in a Global Crisis”, we’re excited to announce our new series “Building a Resilient Trust: Lessons from leaders 8 months in”.

As the months quickly roll on in this new academic year, trust leaders are having to shift from crisis mode towards ensuring their schools and staff are getting back on track with their curriculum, attendance, systems and other areas of school life.

We’ve created this new webinar series to give you a safe space to hear from fellow CEOs, COOs, CFOs and Directors about what they’re doing to prepare for further challenges now and in the future. 

In each 45 minute webinar you’ll hear from an established trust leader speaking with James Weatherill, Arbor’s Co-Founder and CEO, on areas such as leadership, remote learning, financial management and software procurement. They’ll speak openly about their experience and how they’re future-proofing their trust, giving you practical ideas and strategies to take back to your own trust. 

To sign up for individual webinars, or for the whole series, simply follow the links below. 

Sign up for the MAT Conference Webinar Series here (and be the first to hear when we add new webinars!)

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Friday 23rd October, 11am
How to Build a Centralised Approach to Financial Management that will Outlast Covid-19
– in conversation with Jason Brown, CFO at Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust (BWMAT) and Will Jordan, Co-Founder of IMP Software

With 33 schools to oversee, Jason will explain how he re-examined and re-aligned budgets last year and how this affected the trust as a whole. Jason has been at BWMAT since it’s formation, so has a wealth of experience in scaling sustainably and challenges along the way. Find out how a centralised approach to Financial Management impacted BWMAT’s Covid-19 response and how the past few months will change the way the trust will operate in the future. 

Will, Founder of IMP, also joins this webinar, to discuss IMP’s MAT forecasting solution that you can use for budgeting, automated forecasting and reporting. In the webinar, you’ll get first access to their free whitepaper on GAG-pooling. 

Sign up here

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Friday 20th November, 11am
Is Blended Learning the Future of Education?
– in conversation with Giles Hill, Digital Learning Lead at Aspire Academy Trust

Wondering what the future of education will look like and how you can build your teaching and learning initiatives across your trust to support this? Giles will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of both classroom and online learning and offer his advice for trusts now and for the future. Giles is part of the EdTech Demonstrator Programme, a government-backed initiative supporting schools and trusts to deliver remote learning during the coronavirus period – and to build the foundations of solid future EdTech strategies.

Sign up here

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Friday 27th November, 11am
Lessons Learnt From Procuring Systems During Covid-19
– in conversation with Jim Farquhar, COO at Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust

Moving from old to new technology systems will always be a bit of a heart-in-mouth feeling, and moving 27 schools to a cloud-based MIS is no different – especially during a pandemic. Jim will speak candidly on his first-hand experience of migrating systems during lock-down, and the lessons he’s learnt. He’ll share advice on how you can start this process if you’re thinking of a systems change and what should be on your checklist to ensure your trust us prepared for the future. 

Sign up here

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Friday 4th December, 11am
Leading Through a Crisis: How to Keep your Staff Engaged, Motivated and Connected
– In conversation with: Andy Buck, CEO of Leadership Matters

The coronavirus pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on leaders in education. With regional lockdowns and continued uncertainty, a focus on your leadership style and practices is as important as ever. Entering the winter months will be a test of character, and this webinar will provide you with some tools and top tips for leading through this period.

Sign up here

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If you’d like to get a taste of what our last MAT Conference Webinar Series was like, take a look at the ebook we’ve put together featuring six of the best interviews with MAT leaders at the moment when the Covid-19 crisis took hold. 

“Building a Resilient Trust: Lessons from leaders 8 months in” is brought to you for free by Arbor Education as part of our social mission to transform the way schools and trusts work, saving teachers time and improving student outcomes. We want to help you get the support you need during a time of unprecedented change so you can ensure students get the best start in life. 

To hear more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could help you and your schools work better today and be ready for tomorrow, join us for an MIS Demo Webinar, designed for trusts like you.

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 12 October, 2020

Category : Blog

How we make Arbor a long-term success at your school

Over the last three years, there has been a big movement of schools choosing to replace their server-based school systems with more flexible, cloud-based ones.  We’re proud to say that 1 in every 3 schools that switch MIS choose Arbor – that’s a new school every day! We’re now working with over 1,400 schools and

Over the last three years, there has been a big movement of schools choosing to replace their server-based school systems with more flexible, cloud-based ones. 

We’re proud to say that 1 in every 3 schools that switch MIS choose Arbor – that’s a new school every day! We’re now working with over 1,400 schools and MATs across the country and since March 2020, we moved over 400 schools to Arbor completely remotely.

When thinking about moving your school to a new cloud-based system, it can often seem daunting, especially if you haven’t gone through a large-scale change at your school before. 

That’s why we wanted to walk you through how we move schools to Arbor, from data migration, through to making long-term impact, and all the support we provide along the way. 

How easy is it to switch MIS?  

The most common worries schools have about moving MIS are: that it will put a big burden on school time, that their data might get lost, and that staff might not get used to new processes.

We understand these worries, and that’s why we’ve designed the Arbor implementation process to make sure schools get the right support every step of the way. 

Once you sign with Arbor, your Arbor journey follows three key phases. We work with you to make sure every stage of the process happens at the right time, and that everyone in your team is brought in when they need to be.

Generally, primary schools can go “live” with Arbor in as little as eight weeks, and secondary schools in a term! 

Phase 1: Technical Migration

We first plan your implementation process around your needs and priorities. We then transfer your school’s data to Arbor and give you lots of opportunities to check everything is accurate. Meanwhile, your staff can take part in introductory training to help them get familiar with how Arbor works on a test site. 

Phase 2: Getting Started

Your Arbor site is now ready to go “live”! Your staff can take part in training on how to use the core parts of Arbor, and customise it to your school needs.

Phase 3: Active (long term)

We offer lots of further training, consultancy and services options designed to make Arbor a success at your school and help you drive impact over a longer period of time.

Find out more:
Download “How we make Arbor a success at your primary school” brochure here

Download “How we make Arbor a success at your secondary school” brochure here

Download “How we make Arbor a success at your MAT” brochure here

It’s not just switching systems, it’s a journey together

We believe that switching MIS is so much more than moving your data to a new system, it’s the start of a journey to change the way you work for the better.

Throughout the implementation process, you’ll partner with a dedicated Arbor Project Coordinator who gets to know how your school is set-up and what you want to achieve by moving to Arbor. They then shape every training session around your needs, and help you plan how to meet those goals over the long term. 

Your Project Coordinator will also drive the momentum of the project forward, take care of all admin, and keep you in the loop with regular progress calls. This frees you up to focus on what matters most – running your school and supporting your staff and students.

Find out if Arbor MIS is right for you

If you’re thinking of moving to a cloud-based MIS, join one of our free webinars to find out if Arbor MIS is the right fit for your school. We run sessions for primaries, secondaries and MATs, as well as sessions dedicated to implementation. Alternatively, you can arrange a personalised demo here.

Hilary Aylesworth - 8 October, 2020

Category : Blog

How we work with schools to shape our product development

Schools are at the heart of Arbor. Hear from Arbor’s Head of Product, Hilary, all about how we use feedback from schools and the “RICE” framework to shape the vision for our MIS.   At Arbor, we’re always looking for new ways to help schools work better. When we develop new features in our MIS, we

Schools are at the heart of Arbor. Hear from Arbor’s Head of Product, Hilary, all about how we use feedback from schools and the “RICE” framework to shape the vision for our MIS.  

At Arbor, we’re always looking for new ways to help schools work better. When we develop new features in our MIS, we design them to be intuitive, and to help school staff work faster and collaborate more at all levels. 

The vision we work to in our Product Team is made up of three core objectives:

1. Provide staff with meaningful data they can use to identify and act on trends
2.
Design a truly school-focused MIS which helps speed up daily tasks and save staff time
3. Develop ways for staff to work better together, creating more joined-up school communities

The way we achieve these objectives is by working hand-in-hand with school staff to make sure everything we work on makes a measurable difference to their working life. It’s also important to us that everyone who uses Arbor up and down the country has the same quality of experience.

That’s why our product roadmap is public-facing and we welcome Arbor schools to contribute their feedback to it. Our Product Managers keep an eye on the roadmap regularly for comments which feed directly into how we prioritise the products we’re developing.

We also gather feedback from schools via termly feedback forums, surveys and our customer festival – ArborFest.

How we shape our product roadmap

In the Product Team, we use a method we’ve adapted from the “RICE” framework in order to prioritise our roadmap. This helps us plan what we work on next, from feature improvements, to new integrations with popular platforms like TimeTabler, to big new ideas like our all-in-one classroom management tool – My Classroom or the Arbor App.

Using the RICE framework helps us prioritise our roadmap to make sure we’re developing the products that will make the greatest possible impact to the greatest number of school staff in the shortest or most appropriate time frame.

How does it work?

The framework is a calculation – we plug into it all the customer feedback, market analysis and suggestions we’ve gathered, plus how beneficial the new features will be to schools. We then weigh these up with other factors like how long it will take us to build new features.

Here’s how RICE breaks down:

  • Reach – How many members of staff will this new feature benefit in each school? How many schools will benefit across the country?
  • Impact – How often will staff use this feature? How much of an improvement will it make to their working life? Does this new feature support us to achieve our company mission statement?
  • Confidence – Do we have enough data and research to understand what schools need in order to develop this feature? 
  • Effort – How long will it take us to develop this feature? What expertise do we need to build it?

The other ways we gather your feedback

We really value the insights we receive from our Arbor schools. Comments on our product roadmap are really useful in our product development process, but we’re also piloting new ways of gathering more detailed feedback from schools to help us measure the impact we’re having more widely. We’ve launched several channels for this:

Termly Feedback Forums

Once a term, we hold feedback forums tailored to different staff roles and school phase (e.g. Teachers, Business Managers, Trust Admin Staff) to gather feedback on the new product features we’re working on. These intimate sessions with one of our Product Managers are a great way for us to hear how our ideas are going to impact everyday school life, and how we can improve them to help you work even more effectively.

If you’d like to find out more about the feedback forums we’re running this term, get in touch with your Arbor Account Manager.

NPS survey 

We send an NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey to Arbor schools every term, which helps us understand how Arbor is helping you save time, understand your data better and improve school life overall. Measuring the impact we have on schools is a core part of what we do – it’s also what our investors ask us to demonstrate. 

Last term, our schools told us:

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ArborFest

Following the really successful event we hosted earlier this year, we’re taking ArborFest online! Arbor schools are invited to join us for a two-day virtual programme on 12th and 13th November packed with talks by the Arbor Team and fellow schools, and product feedback forums where you can find out more about what’s on our product roadmap. 

Arbor schools – check your email inbox for your invitation and link to sign up for all sessions!

Designing for impact

It’s great to see from our recent feedback that Arbor schools feel that we’re listening to their needs – that’s what motivates us every day. 

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Want to find out more about Arbor MIS?

Discover how Arbor could help you work more easily and collaboratively this term – either by booking a demo, or joining one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 6 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Choose a better way to work: Announcing 7 powerful new Arbor features

Today we’re announcing Arbor’s biggest product release ever, with seven new features designed to help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more across your school or trust.  Working hand-in-hand with school staff like you, we’re constantly improving and evolving Arbor to meet the new demands facing staff. This wave of brand new tools forms part

Today we’re announcing Arbor’s biggest product release ever, with seven new features designed to help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more across your school or trust. 

Working hand-in-hand with school staff like you, we’re constantly improving and evolving Arbor to meet the new demands facing staff. This wave of brand new tools forms part of our vision to make a measurable difference to the working life of school staff everywhere. 

With schools facing perhaps the most challenging term for decades, we’ve designed these features specifically to give a boost to everyone – from Teachers, to Office Staff, to Chief Executives. 

For Teaching Staff…

My Classroom (Out now!)

My Classroom is our brand new, all-in-one classroom management tool. Build flexible seating plans, take the register and record behaviour incidents all from one place for this first time (no other MIS does this!) 

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My Homepage (Coming in November)

My Homepage will be a new personalised space within Arbor for Teaching Staff which keeps you up-to-date with all your students at a glance. Plus, live alerts and to-do lists will help you speed through admin between lessons.

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For School and Trust Leaders…

Free Arbor Insight reports (Out now!)

To help you get started on your school improvement planning this term, we’ve released a complete set of our popular past performance reports (worth £300-400) exclusively for free. 

With no new DfE performance data this year, free access to Arbor’s most popular reports from 2019 exams will give you a reliable picture of your prior attainment data to help you see where to focus your efforts this year. 

For Academies, we’ve also created a few Academies’ Financial Benchmarking Report to help you kickstart your budget planning. 

Sign up to get your free reports here.

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Understanding Your MAT Report (Coming later this month)

The latest version of the Understanding Your MAT Report will contain the most up-to-date contextual information about your trust. Together with your past ASP performance measures, your trust’s size and local demographics will help you understand your MAT’s unique strengths and challenges compared to others in England.

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For MATs and larger schools…

As schools and MATs have grown in size and complexity over the past few years, we’ve been building out our product and support to help School and MAT Leaders deal with the challenges of scale:

Advanced Support (Out now!)

With Advanced Support, you’ll be able to speak to a Success Analyst who knows your set-up intimately so they’ll be able to get to the bottom of any technical issues you have faster, and give you tailored solutions. Plus, they’ll save you valuable time by setting up automatic reports for you with exactly the information you need to see regularly, such as a weekly attendance report.

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Arbor Enterprise (Coming in February 2021)

Introducing a brand new toolkit designed to help you simplify your system setup and get more insight from your data at scale.

  • Run a joined-up back office and save time by syncing your HR and teaching & learning systems with Arbor 
  • Customise your data any way you like with PowerBI export capabilities
  • Use Arbor staff usage reports to identify strategic improvements and best practice to standardise ways of working across your organisation

For all staff… 

Google & Microsoft SSO and 2FA (Out now!)

With Single Sign On and Two-Factor Authentication, staff will be able to log in securely to their email, virtual learning environment and Arbor MIS at the same time – with only one password to remember! With the possibility of local lockdowns or staff having to isolate, these features will free staff up to access their systems from wherever they’re working.

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We’re committed to working with our schools to make sure that with Arbor, schools really do work better. This new release is packed full of features to take the hassle out of admin, give your staff time back, and ultimately help your school be ready for whatever tomorrow brings.

We’d love to speak to you about our new features, so get in touch if you want to find out more. 

New to Arbor?

To find out more about moving to Arbor MIS, get in touch on tellmemore@arbor-education.com, arrange a demo or join a free webinar.

Already using Arbor?

Find out more about our brand new features from your Account Manager on accountmanagers@arbor-education.com.

Rebecca Watkins - 1 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Kickoff your academy’s budget planning this year with Arbors’ new Financial Benchmarking Report

We’re all aware of the widespread funding shortfalls in the education sector, and it’s definitely a challenging time to be a budget holder in schools and Multi-Academy Trusts.  Having full visibility of all of your income and expenditure is really important in order to understand your academy’s financial allocations, like where you may be lacking

We’re all aware of the widespread funding shortfalls in the education sector, and it’s definitely a challenging time to be a budget holder in schools and Multi-Academy Trusts. 

Having full visibility of all of your income and expenditure is really important in order to understand your academy’s financial allocations, like where you may be lacking in funding and areas you might be overspending in. 

We’ve created an Academies’ Financial Benchmarking Report (AFB) for every academy in England, which displays all of your income and expenditure over the past three years in a clear, easy-to-read PDF report. And it’s free!

Your report is waiting for you – simply log into your free Arbor Insight portal to download it

Arbor Financial Benchmarking reports are really popular with Headteachers and Governors as they give you a reliable source of evidence needed to drive forward budget planning decisions.

Financial-benchmarking

Get started with this year’s budget 

It’s best practice to align your budget with your school improvement plan – covering a five-year basis, showing two years in retrospect, the current year, and the next two years’ forecast.

Before setting up any new budget, you’ll want to have handy:

  • Old budgets/past financial data to look at past performance, so you can learn from under and over-spends. You can find the last 2 years of financial data in your AFB report with clear trends shown in line graphs and three-year rolling averages 
  • Student numbers, so you can find the last 5 years of your school numbers in the free ‘School Context’ dashboards in your Insight portal and in the free Performance Summary report we’ll be launching in Spring Term (keep an eye out!)
  • Exam results, so you can identify which parts of the curriculum could benefit from more money, and which have previously benefited. This year, we’ve released seven of our most popular Analyse School Performance reports completely for free to all schools in the country. They’ll give you a complete picture of your student attainment from the past three years! Download yours from your free Arbor Insight portal  
  • Other resource requirements – money needed for insurance, maintenance, etc.

Being aware of where you expect to see larger expenditure and accounting up front for your budget planning and communication is really important. For example, staffing costs in schools typically account for between 75 to 85% of the overall school expenditure and premises costs 10 to 12%. It’s therefore important to forecast likely costs in these areas early on. 

What can I do with my Academies’ Financial Benchmarking report?

Arbor’s Academies’ Financial Benchmarking report is a useful resource for budgeters, as you’ll be able to see all your expenditure and income across key areas shown as a percentage of total spend so you can visualise all of your finances better. We also break down every value as an amount that has been spent or received per student in your academy.

You’ll also be able to benchmark your academy against others in the country that have a similar demographic cohort of students to you, weighted by percentage of prior attainment, FSM and EAL students. If you have a high proportion of disadvantaged students, or perhaps students with low prior attainment, it’s important to see whether similar academies have comparable spending patterns – or if being benchmarked against these academies highlights some areas of funding/spending that might be good to look into. 

In terms of planning your budget and making sure it aligns with your school improvement planning, you can see in the report how your finances have shaped up over the last three years with colour-coded line graphs that include trend figures. We also show the last three years of finances for each resource compared with that of the national average for academies and academies like you. Our three-year rolling average for each expenditure and income resource can help you predict and plan your future three-year expenditure planning. 

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How to present this data to your key stakeholders

Now comes the time to break down your finance data for your team, and for Governors. It’s a good idea to come to Governors’ meetings with easy-to-understand, clear reporting documents, and to feel prepared to explain any holes with recommendations for avoiding them in the future. For example, if you overspent on building maintenance this year, you could suggest implementing more regular building checks to spot problem areas, or negotiating better terms with your insurers and maintenance providers.

Your Arbor Academies’ Financial Benchmarking report gives you a clear, visual overview with concise, expert analysis in handy callouts – perfect for sharing with your Governors to support them in driving decisions.

Next steps

Don’t forget to sign up (for free) to Arbor Insight where you’ll be able to download your Financial Benchmarking report.

Sign up here in seconds: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register then log in here in future:https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login

When you come to shaping your budget, check out the useful budget planning resources from The Key.

If you have any questions or would like any help with your report, you can reach the Arbor Insight team at insight@arbor-education.com or by calling us on 0207 043 1830.

If you’re looking to keep your cost low and give next year’s budget a little wiggle room, look at how Arbor’s simple, smart MIS can help you not only centralise your systems and data, but also your costs, so that you can focus on what matters most – your students. Find out more with a free demo or join a webinar.

Sophie Elms - 30 September, 2020

Category : Blog

Why Diversity & Inclusion is our top priority as we grow

As the fastest-growing MIS provider in the country, we’re learning and changing all the time. As we grow further, Arbor’s Talent Acquisition Manager Sophie, explains why Diversity & Inclusion is one of our top priorities. Striving for a wide range of perspectives Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is a very important topic at the moment, both

As the fastest-growing MIS provider in the country, we’re learning and changing all the time. As we grow further, Arbor’s Talent Acquisition Manager Sophie, explains why Diversity & Inclusion is one of our top priorities.

Striving for a wide range of perspectives

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is a very important topic at the moment, both here in the UK and across the world. The recent Black Lives Matter protests have brought the issue to the fore, and shown just how important it is for people to come forward to tell their stories around discrimination. 

Diversity doesn’t just relate to visible characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and cultural background, it also includes a wide range of non-visible differences such as religion, social background, sexual orientation, personality, thinking styles and ways of working. 

At Arbor, we’ve always thought of ourselves as a forward-thinking, innovative and authentic company, but as we grow we’ve been thinking more and more about how to make sure we’re creating a diverse and inclusive workplace for all our employees.

It’s important to us that we have a wide range of types of people and perspectives represented. Diversity is proven to increase creativity, innovation, efficiency and productivity in the workplace as well as employee engagement and as a growing tech company this is exactly what we are striving for. 

We have some way to go to achieving a full balance of diversity in our offices, and it’s not something, unfortunately, that can happen overnight. To maintain a diverse and inclusive culture takes real, practical actions and commitment across the board.

So what are we doing as a business? 

First and foremost we need to understand the make-up of Arbor. We are proud of our commitment to diversity and inclusion but without data we won’t be able to measure how successful our efforts are. We’re in the process of gathering data on the backgrounds, ethnicities and demographics of both our employees and applicants to our job openings. This will help us understand where we’re under-represented so we can work to improve diversity.  

We’ve created a dedicated D&I Guild internally, made up of people from different backgrounds and teams across the business, who bring perspectives from lots of different industries. We’ve also made D&I a measurable part of our objectives and key results for the People team, so we have real ownership over these actions. 

The D&I Guild has been setting up “lunch & learns” with presentations from both internal and external speakers, including Crayola The Queen who spoke about LGBTQ+ and the difficulties she has experienced in the workplace, as well as Sophie Elwes who shared how disability has affected her working life. I recently spoke about being aware of unconscious bias during the recruitment and interview process, with transferable lessons for the wider world too. 

We’ve got lots of initiatives coming up, with more talks and promotion of awareness months including Black History Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. We’re also going to be partnering with leading organisations at the forefront of the D&I field.

Join the Arbor Team!

This is a very exciting time of growth for Arbor, so if you wish to join a company with with employees at their heart, check out our careers page here: https://careers.arbor-education.com/ 

Here are our current open roles:

Billing Manager – Leeds/London/Remote

Software Trainer – Remote/South

Account Manager (6m FTC) – Leeds/London/Remote

Senior Marketing Manager – London

Product Engineering Lead (PHP) – Leeds/london/Remote

Senior Product Engineer (PHP) – Leeds/London/Remote

Maddie Kilminster - 29 September, 2020

Category : Blog

The most secure and cost-effective way to procure systems for your trust – with G-Cloud

As the DfE advised in their letter to schools last February, it’s a good idea to re-procure any large contracts (such as Management Information Systems (MIS)) when they come to an end.  When procuring systems like your MIS, going through an approved framework allows you to search a range of accredited suppliers for one which

As the DfE advised in their letter to schools last February, it’s a good idea to re-procure any large contracts (such as Management Information Systems (MIS)) when they come to an end. 

When procuring systems like your MIS, going through an approved framework allows you to search a range of accredited suppliers for one which matches what you’re looking for.

A framework is the simplest route to buy off-the-shelf software, without limiting personalised support through the buying and delivery process. It saves you spending hours drafting requirements, researching companies and going through the tender process – instead giving you all the information you need to choose the most competitive, reputable and safest provider all through one platform. 

You’ll also have peace of mind that due diligence checks have already been carried out on the products and companies, and that you’re complying with buying procedures and applicable procurement law. 

Today, we’re excited to announce that Arbor has been added to the DfE’s latest G-Cloud 12 framework for approved cloud suppliers! 

Find out below how you can use the G-cloud 12 framework to procure a cloud-based MIS for your MAT.

What is the G-Cloud framework?

The G-Cloud framework, available on the DfE’s Digital Marketplace, contains 31,000 cloud services for cloud hosting (services for processing and storing data), cloud software (internet applications) and cloud support (helping you set up and maintain your software). 

All companies on the framework must go through multiple legal, financial and social responsibility checks on the way they work and the services they provide.

How does G-Cloud work?

You can find the DfE’s guidance on using the G-Cloud framework here

1. An important first step is to work out exactly what your trust needs from your system or service before you start. For example, it might be important to you to have built-in communications and meals management, or you might want to customise the system to your bespoke assessment framework. You will likely want a system that’s compatible with multiple internet browsers and devices, and gives you secure logins.

The DfE provides this requirements list to help you start (though it’s from 2014, and most English MIS have developed new capabilities since then). 

2. Go to “Cloud software” 

3. Search for keywords that are relevant to what you’re looking for, such as ‘Primary MIS’, ‘Secondary MIS’, or ‘MAT MIS’, to find the list of relevant suppliers. Remember to download this list for your audit trail once you’ve found what you’re looking for.

If there are too many results after putting in your keywords through, you can click a filter, e.g. “2-factor authentication” to see the suppliers that provide that feature.

4. Read each supplier’s product and pricing information

5. Send any clarification questions to the suppliers or host a demo day to confirm which supplier best meets your needs

6. Award your contract using the G-Cloud contract template

Why Arbor?

Arbor MIS helps over 1,200 schools and 100 MATs work more easily and collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference. 

Arbor’s Group MIS is the only true MIS for MATs, allowing you to see the bigger picture across your trust. Designed with trusts like yours, Arbor helps you work more collaboratively, with tools that make working together easier at every level. 

100 schools have joined Arbor through G-Cloud so far! You can find us on G-cloud 12 here:

If you want to see Arbor in action you can book a free demo or join a webinar here.

Maddie Kilminster - 22 September, 2020

Category : Blog

3 reasons why you should switch to a cloud-based MIS now to future-proof your school

It’s been the most challenging year yet for schools. From navigating changing DfE guidance, to keeping tabs on vulnerable students, staff have had a lot on their plate. On top of all this, leadership teams have had to grapple with legacy, server-based software, which slowed schools down as they adapted the way they work.  This

It’s been the most challenging year yet for schools. From navigating changing DfE guidance, to keeping tabs on vulnerable students, staff have had a lot on their plate.

On top of all this, leadership teams have had to grapple with legacy, server-based software, which slowed schools down as they adapted the way they work. 

This year won’t be without its challenges, so you’ll need smart, flexible systems that can do the heavy lifting for you. 

That’s why hundreds of schools are switching to a cloud-based MIS like Arbor to help them react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing.

Here are three reasons why you should move your school to the cloud this year: 

1. Stay on top of DfE requirements
2. Get the information you need wherever you are
3. Pivot and stay flexible

Let’s break that down…

1. Stay on top of DfE requirements

Having a cloud-based MIS in place makes it easy to adapt to rapid changes in regulation, like socially distanced timetabling, new attendance and absence codes or key worker status. 

Whatever the DfE introduces, Arbor can make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day), meaning you can keep on top of new requirements. No more patches or workarounds!

You’ll also have everything you need to follow the new DfE reporting requirements thanks to Arbor’s Covid-19 dashboard. Every day, Arbor crunches the numbers for you across all the DfE’s categories, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed cases of Covid-19, giving you everything you need to submit the Daily Form each morning. 

covid-19-dashboard

2. Get the information you need wherever you are

Schools are having to work in lots of new ways – some Teachers are moving between classrooms, some staff are quarantining at home, and some schools are going into local lockdown.

In order to keep your school running whatever happens, your staff need access to their student information so they can complete their essential tasks, like tracking attendance, reporting on vulnerable students and following up with parents and guardians – all from wherever they’re working. 

That’s where a cloud-based MIS like Arbor comes in, which gives staff all the data they need wherever they are, without being restricted to school computers or setting up a VPN. Plus, Arbor’s people-friendly dashboards help you get insight from your data and take action in a few clicks. 

3. Pivot and stay flexible 

In an unpredictable term, you might have to change your social distancing arrangements, timetables and staff rotas at short notice. 

Arbor gives you the flexibility to plan or switch up your arrangements whenever you need to. Here are just some of the ways the system will work around you:

  • Flex your timetable – Arrange new bubbles, assign different Teachers to each class, change your start and finish times and much more, all without clashes or gaps
  • Capture changes – It’s quick and easy to update key demographic information for your students so you can capture all the circumstances that might have changed post-lockdown. Creating custom groups will then help you keep tabs on the students you need to
  • Quick actions – Speed up your admin with key timesavers like bulk actions, communications templates and live to-do lists, freeing up your staff to focus on what matters. Find out more about how to save hours a week on admin here
  • Custom reports – Keep track of the student groups and the criteria that’s important to you, and schedule your reports so you’ve always got the most up-to-date data

It’s easy to switch

Because managing your school how you need to right now is so difficult with a server-based system, the question has become not if you should move to the cloud but when

To help, we’ve made the process of moving to Arbor simple and we can get you up and running in a matter of weeks, 100% remotely. From migrating your data to Arbor, to training up your staff to use the system confidently, a dedicated Project Manager will guide you every step of the way.

Read about how Woodland Academy Trust moved to Arbor remotely during lockdown, along with more than 250 schools! 

Arbor-covid-19

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

James Weatherill - 21 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to adapt to constant change and move forward after a crisis 

In our popular “Adapting to Change” webinar series last term, we invited MAT leaders to share how they were adapting their strategies to navigate the Covid-19 crisis as it unfolded. We’ve collated six of the best interviews into a special book which we hope will give MAT leaders useful advice for how to support your

In our popular “Adapting to Change” webinar series last term, we invited MAT leaders to share how they were adapting their strategies to navigate the Covid-19 crisis as it unfolded.

We’ve collated six of the best interviews into a special book which we hope will give MAT leaders useful advice for how to support your schools through constant change and prepare for whatever the future brings.

You can download your copy of the “Adapting to Change” ebook here

Here’s a bit more about the book from Arbor Co-Founder and CEO James:

As MAT leaders there has never been a moment where so much change happened in such a short period of time. In the past six months every trust has been forced to adapt almost all processes overnight to safeguard and support staff, students and the wider community. Whilst this has been an incredibly tough time (I hope you got a break over the summer), it’s also taught us a lot, including how agile, bold and resilient schools could be.

At Arbor we’ve seen a lot of new ideas and practices emerge over the Spring and Summer terms from the 100+ MATs we work with, and have been holding weekly webinars with MAT leaders on strategies they’ve put in place to help adapt to this change.

This book is a concise write-up of practical tips and tactics from MAT CEOs centered on the broad topics of Leadership, Student and Staff Wellbeing and Online Learning. You’ll see how others have wrestled with pivoting their organisations quickly, defining how much autonomy to give to schools, making sure staff don’t burnout and how to ensure quality when teaching online. Hopefully it will stimulate a few new ideas as you look ahead to the future.

I’d like to thank all the authors and those on our webinars for being so open and brave in sharing their experiences as they happened. No one’s pretending they have all the answers, but if there’s ever been a time to experiment with new ways of working it’s now, and I’m encouraged by what I see.

Our mission at Arbor is to help centralise your insight, improve your communications and streamline how you work across your trust. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, please get in touch.

I look forward to seeing you online in our next series of MAT webinars this term, or even one day in person!

James Weatherill

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Joanna Paterson - 18 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to save hours a week of school admin 

At Arbor we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with intuitive, people-friendly tools that help staff work faster, smarter and collaborate more.   With constant new demands on schools right now on reporting, logistics and communications, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. We believe this is preventable. When you’re

At Arbor we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with intuitive, people-friendly tools that help staff work faster, smarter and collaborate more.  

With constant new demands on schools right now on reporting, logistics and communications, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. We believe this is preventable. When you’re stretched to maximum capacity, you should be able to lean on your MIS to pick up the slack. 

Whether you’re part of SLT, or work in the school office, discover below five of the top ways you’ll save you hours of admin each week with Arbor, and accomplish more – put together by Arbor Programme Manager, Joanna. 

1. Save time each day by automating your reports
2. Save duplication across your teams by sharing reports
3. Cut down on repetition with bulk actions
4. Manage data retention and keep GDPR compliant in a couple of clicks
5. Make your communications smoother using templates

​​​​

1. Save time each day by automating your reports 

With Senior Leaders spending around 4.4 hours per week on data analysis, automating their reporting can help give you valuable time back to focus on understanding your data and driving impactful decisions.

In Arbor you can use ready-made reports and schedule them to be sent to your colleagues on a regular basis automatically. For example, you could schedule a weekly attendance report to all SLT showing students with < 90% attendance. This cuts down on the time you would spend manually gathering data and creating the report each week. 

Here’s a few geeky details: 

  • Thanks to the ‘relative dates’ feature in Arbor’s Custom Report Writer, you only have to create a report once, then it automatically refreshes the data each week. You can choose your own relative dates, e.g. “today”, “this week”, “this academic year” etc. 
  • With flexible scheduling options, you can arrange for your report to run at any time and on any basis. For example, every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; or once a week on a Friday lunchtime
  • Embedded communications means you can quickly take action on the basis of your report results (e.g. follow up with parents) directly, without jumping between systems 
  • We’ve got lots of report templates to get you started, including some you might need right now, such as Mode of Travel, Native Language Numbers and Attendance for 1st September 2019 – 20th March 2020

Discover more ways Arbor’s automation will help you streamline routine processes, reduce errors and mean you spend less time on repetitive tasks here.

2. Save duplication across your teams by sharing reports

Arbor is designed to make it easier to collaborate with colleagues, and to give everyone a shared view of progress and purpose. Built-in dashboards give staff at all levels quick access to the information they need, but it’s also quick and easy to share custom reports you’ve made with other colleagues at your school or schools within your wider trust.

The ins and outs: 

  • Choose from a range of options to share your report with a colleague – either within Arbor, where it will get added to their list of reports or externally by SMS, letter or email (we do not recommend this if the report contains sensitive information)
  • You can also notify other staff members that you’ve sent out the report to keep them in the loop
  • In Arbor everyone has a business role, so if you share a report with someone who has left the school, it will automatically reach their replacement 
  • Once you’ve scheduled a regular report, you can make changes to the frequency or staff members at any time

Thanks to Arbor’s link to Microsoft Power BI and other BI tools, you can also export your reports if you want to customise how you look at your data. Read our five steps to creating your own BI dashboard here.

3. Cut down on repetition with bulk actions

Bulk actions in Arbor allow you to perform actions or add information for multiple students or staff at a time. It’s amazing how much time this can save! 

Here are just some of the tasks made much easier using bulk actions:

  • Assigning students to interventions – Wherever you are in the system, whether you’re in an attendance report, or a marksheet, you can select a group of students and add them to an intervention in bulk
  • Sending communications – From any dashboard, such as a list of persistent absentees, or a list of students with balances due for a club or trip, you can select students you want to follow up with and take action right away, such as emailing their parent
  • 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
  • Creating custom groups – This is where automation meets bulk actions. 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 in one go

manage-attendance

4. Manage data retention and keep GDPR compliant in a couple of clicks 

Keeping on top of GDPR regulations for the data you keep on students and staff can be time-consuming and cause a lot of worry for Admin Staff. In Arbor, we take the hassle out of data retention with an automatic dashboard for both students and staff. Arbor will flag for you which records have passed the recommended retention time. You can then select and delete them safely in bulk.  

manage-GDPR

5. Make your communications smoother using templates

Do you send out the same communications to parents at regular intervals? Maybe it’s a weekly newsletter or a regular bulletin to parents whose children are missing lessons. With Arbor’s built-in communication templates, you can have SMS, letters or emails saved and ready to go when you need them. We’ve created a bank of typical templates but it’s also easy to make your own!

If you want to be even smarter, you can set up your communications templates to automatically include data from a report you’ve created. For example, you could send an email to the parents of Year 5 EAL boys whose attendance is below 90%. Arbor will automatically send the right attendance figure to the right parent.

Choose a better way to work

We know it can sometimes feel daunting to change the ways you’ve been used to working for a long time. But as Arbor schools tell us, switching your mind set to more efficient processes can save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run. 

Hear it from Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead Academy:

“I’d been working with our old MIS system both in support roles and as the Data Manager here for over 20 years, so I think everyone was really surprised at how I embraced the change to Arbor, but I could see at an early stage of the implementation process that it had some really powerful and easy to use features for creating custom groups and sending out communications for all the curriculum groups as well as the custom groups. I thought I would need to create lots of custom reports, but most places where the information is displayed you can just use the download button instead. I really wouldn’t want to go back to the old system.” 

And Julie Smith, PA to Headteacher at Parkroyal Community School: 

“The first word that comes to mind [when describing Arbor] is ‘simplicity’. It’s easy to grasp, and new users can quickly work their way around the system’s functions – you don’t feel like you need hours of training, as you do with other systems. Something I love about Arbor is the fact that it’s multi-functional across the school. By that I mean that most areas of the school use Arbor, whereas with our previous MIS provider, we found that it was only really the School Office staff that were using it – classroom teachers were using it to take the register in their classes, but that was about it! Now everyone in school knows how to use it. Arbor is a school-wide tool, not an office-based MIS System” 

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 14 September, 2020

Category : Blog

The only 3 apps you need to manage your class

Great lessons don’t necessarily call for cutting-edge technology. Teachers make great lessons, not apps.  What teachers do best is motivating their learners and creating a safe, engaging environment in the classroom. But sadly, time-consuming admin and clunky systems are holding them back from time with their students. We believe great tech can actually help teachers

Great lessons don’t necessarily call for cutting-edge technology. Teachers make great lessons, not apps. 

What teachers do best is motivating their learners and creating a safe, engaging environment in the classroom. But sadly, time-consuming admin and clunky systems are holding them back from time with their students.

We believe great tech can actually help teachers in the classroom. The right tools take the hassle out of your daily tasks, freeing you up to get back to what matters: delivering great lessons.

With lots of new challenges in the classroom this term, we’ve put together a list of three intuitive, people-friendly apps that will help simplify how you manage safeguarding, behaviour, attendance, seating plans and blended learning: 

For Safeguarding: CPOMS 

Banishing paper logbooks and filing cabinets from over 13,000 schools all over the country, CPOMS is an intuitive app for monitoring child protection, safeguarding and pastoral issues. It cuts down paperwork for staff, while ensuring incidents are properly reported, details are shared securely and students are kept safe. 

Arbor MIS integrates seamlessly with CPOMS, so you won’t have to worry about transferring data between the two systems to keep them up-to-date. Your sensitive data will be safe and secure in CPOMS, while Arbor looks after the rest. 

For behaviour management, taking attendance and seating plans: My Classroom 

My-Classroom

Take the hassle out of organising your lessons with My Classroom from Arbor. Our new all-in-one classroom management tool has been designed by teachers, for teachers to help you manage your class seamlessly – giving you your time back to focus on teaching and learning instead. 

My Classroom brings seating plans, registers and behaviour management into one place for the first time. Create interactive seating plans using easy drag-and-drop blocks, then add attendance and behaviour points directly onto your plan throughout your lesson on your tablet or desktop. You can share your plans with colleagues too!

The best thing about My Classroom is that it’s powered by Arbor MIS, so you’ll automatically see photos and contextual data about each of your students on your seating plans. Plus, everything you capture in My Classroom shows up on each student’s profile, helping you to tell the full story of each of your pupils lesson-to-lesson.

For blended learning: VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)

Many schools in the Arbor Community are planning to continue with a blended learning approach going forward, even when most teaching has returned to the physical classroom. Making lessons available online means students can catch up or reinforce their learning remotely outside of school. Using a virtual learning environment such as G-suite or Office 365 is also a great way to encourage sharing of resources between staff.

The DfE are providing funding for all UK state schools to get G-suite or Office 365 set up and get ongoing support for free. Arbor is working with 14 of the Government’s accredited suppliers on the scheme – for a full list and more information on the scheme, check out our blog!

Of course, technology can only go so far – the real challenge this term is how to support both students to adjust to new routines and rules, and process some of the difficult experiences they might have had during lockdown. 

To discuss this in more detail and share some practical advice, we’re bringing together an expert panel for a webinar on “Best Practice: Classroom Management Post-Lockdown” on Thursday 24th September at 11am. For more information and to book your place, click here.

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 14 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to use your past performance data to kickstart your school improvement plan

The start of this academic year presents a lot of immediate challenges for students and staff – from new routines, to catching up on lost learning and recovering emotionally from lockdown. Looking beyond September towards setting school improvement objectives for the whole year, School Leaders are also faced with a challenge. With a six month

The start of this academic year presents a lot of immediate challenges for students and staff – from new routines, to catching up on lost learning and recovering emotionally from lockdown.

Looking beyond September towards setting school improvement objectives for the whole year, School Leaders are also faced with a challenge. With a six month gap in reliable attainment data, there’s less evidence to help identify areas for improvement.

So how can you use the data you do have to inform your school improvement plan this term? 

Gathering evidence

Like any other year, the first (and arguably most important) step in creating an effective school improvement plan is to really understand your school’s performance in depth, including the attainment gaps between different student groups and the factors that cause them. 

This year, without performance tables, ASP data from the DfE or consistent assessment data from last term, a good idea is to look back at your prior attainment data (averages over three years are ideal) as a starting point.  

For a full picture of your school’s attainment from the last three years, we’re releasing a bundle of our popular Arbor Insight reports exclusively for free. Find out more below or go straight to download your reports here.

In combination with your past performance data, you can look at data from other sources, such as:

  • Any Teacher assessments during lockdown 
  • Centre-assessed teacher predictions for GCSE and A Level
  • School context and demographic information (e.g numbers of Pupil Premium, Free School Meals and Disadvantaged students) 
  • Outcomes of your previous school improvement plans 
  • Previous self evaluations 
  • Findings from any surveys to students during lockdown (e.g. how they experienced working from home). This could provide you with some useful qualitative data on the wellbeing of your students. Wellbeing surveys are working well for The Mead Educational Trust 

Discovering the impact of Covid-19

A big focus of most school improvement plans this year will be how to get students back on track after lockdown. Your Governors will need to understand the impact of partial school closures on students’ learning and wellbeing to help them review your plans for recovery.

To understand the impact of Covid-19 on your students’ attainment, most schools will be performing a new set of baseline tests with students in the first few weeks of term, then comparing these results with where students were at before lockdown. This is where a full and broad evidence of students’ prior performance will help you reliably understand what has changed and set the most effective goals for how to get students back on track.

How Arbor Insight reports can help

Gathering full and reliable prior attainment data could mean lengthy searching through DfE performance tables, and pulling together internal spreadsheets and student records. 

To save you time this term and help you kickstart your school improvement planning, we’re releasing a bundle of our most popular Arbor Insight reports (usually worth £300-400) – exclusively for free.

Created especially for your school, your reports will show you the full picture of your students’ progress and attainment over the last three years, giving you the context you need to see where to focus your efforts this year. 

You can download your reports from your free benchmarking portal – Arbor Insight – used by over 10,000 schools in the UK to dig deeper into their results and benchmark their performance.

Here’s what the reports will help you to achieve:

  • Visualise your students’ progress – Using three-year rolling averages, your reports will help you understand how consistent your performance has been over time and quickly spot any inconsistencies and identify anomalies 
  • Instantly spot attainment gaps – Your reports will help you understand how gaps have emerged between your key demographic groups (such as SEN, Pupil Premium, disadvantaged & EAL) and the school & national averages, so you can better support your most at-risk students post-lockdown
  • Understand the impact of socio-economic factors – Using contextual information about the area your school is in, your reports will help you look at all the factors affecting your students’ attainment 
  • Benchmark your school against others – Your reports benchmark your headline measures against other schools nationally, your LA, Top Quintile schools and similar schools to you, allowing you to put your school’s performance in its wider context 
  • Give your Governors the background they need – Saving you time gathering data, your reports are also presented in easy-to-understand PDFs with colour-coded charts and expert analysis, ready to share at your next Governor meeting

Your reports are waiting for you in your free Arbor Insight benchmarking portal – sign up here and download them today!

Here’s some more detail about each of your reports: 

school-report

progress-report

attainment-gap-report

Next steps

We hope your Arbor Insight reports are helpful in giving you the context you need to get started on your school improvement plan. 

Make sure you look critically at your data in the reports, and ask questions like “Why did these trends happen?” and “Are they typical of our school?” This will help to make sure your decisions are not based on any bias or previous assumptions. Check out our earlier blog for two approaches you can use to challenge your assumptions – 1) the Socratic Approach and 2) Asking “why?” 5 times.

As you move onto drafting your in-year priorities and objectives, question where you are in your current 3-5 year rolling plan: What have you achieved? What’s changed? 

Take a look at some guidance we’ve gathered below on writing an effective plan: 

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Daniel Giardiello - 9 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to assess the impact of Covid-19 on your vulnerable students – An interview with Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at The Mead Educational Trust 

The Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is made up of ten primary and secondary academies in Leicestershire. In the first week of Autumn Term, Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager Daniel Giardiello spoke to Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at TMET, to find out how they’re addressing the post-lockdown learning gap, particularly for their most vulnerable

The Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is made up of ten primary and secondary academies in Leicestershire. In the first week of Autumn Term, Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager Daniel Giardiello spoke to Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at TMET, to find out how they’re addressing the post-lockdown learning gap, particularly for their most vulnerable students.

How are you going to assess the impact of Covid-19 on your students’ progress this term?

In the first few weeks of term, we’re going to re-baseline students using assessments that are very similar to what they took last February. From this, we’ll be able to assess if there has been lost learning, and if so, we’ll restart the curriculum from the point that they need us to, and ensure that deep learning is still able to take place. This is going to be particularly important in the formative primary years.

In order to chart the impact of Covid-19, we’re going to use a “vulnerability index” which, rather than assessing age-appropriate attainment, looks at where each student is compared to where we expected them to be, so we can plan best how to get them back on track. This term we’re applying it to all students so we can gather more information about the situation for each individual. Once each student catches up to where we expect them to be, we’ll move them back onto the usual way of reporting. 

We’re also going to use the Covid-19 Wellbeing Questionnaire from ImpactEd to ask KS2+ students across trust what their experiences were during lockdown, with a focus on wellbeing. Using this structured, universal method will allow us to test the temperature of the whole trust, and gather more reliable data than what Teachers could observe in the classroom. The first questionnaire will happen in the first few weeks back, followed by a second in early October. The second point of assessment will give us our first real data drop of academic attainment, which we’ll be able to compare with the wellbeing assessment at the beginning of term. 

This combination should begin to show us the impact of Covid-19 because it could reveal sets of students who have become vulnerable whom we might not have known about. 

interventions-assessment

Interventions Assessment: Assessing students’ circumstances

Could Covid-19 have caused more students to fall under the “vulnerable/disadvantaged” categories?

Yes, we’re predicting that Covid-19 will have created a new set of vulnerable students who, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t have been considered vulnerable. Due to having lost six months without the rigour and routine of regular schooling and socialisation with peers, gaps will appear across the board. 

It’s important that we don’t start term with assumptions of who our “disadvantaged” and “vulnerable” students are, but we work out who is vulnerable now. Those who are already acknowledged as vulnerable are at an advantage in some ways because we already know about them and they’ve had tailored support throughout lockdown.

What is likely to be the effect of Covid-19 on your most vulnerable students?

During school closures, the vast majority of our SEND children were coming in – for our schools in very disadvantaged areas, this was a large number of pupils who needed wrap-around family support. In many ways our relationships with these pupils has strengthened as a result, and we hope to use this to our advantage when closing the attainment gap.

First and foremost, we need to assess the wellbeing of our SEND cohorts –  particularly how they’re feeling being part of their class. Although they might not feel vulnerable in the first few weeks, if their classmates are able to catch up faster than them, they may begin to struggle. To combat this, we’ve employed an educational psychologist to come in two days a week to help properly diagnose what our students are going through, such as digging into difficulties at home. We’re also putting our most vulnerable students into smaller “mini” bubbles to make sure they don’t get excluded or marginalised from their wider classes if they present new challenging behaviour. 

How are you adjusting the curriculum to get students back on track?

In KS1, we’re planning an in-depth focus on the formative skills such as literacy and maths in order to make sure they have strong foundations to progress through the rest of school. We’ve also hired an SEMH Primary Intervention Teacher to work with rolling carousels of children on social and communication skills, so as to quickly fill the gaps that could have developed.

What role did technology play at your trust during lockdown, and what role will it play going forwards? 

Going into lockdown, we have a well-developed blended learning policy but what we realised was that not all children’s homes were equipped. We first sent a questionnaire home to assess the access to devices, making sure that we were clear of what we expected, for example “has access to a laptop for at least two hours each day” rather than simply “has access to a device” which could have meant borrowing a parent’s smartphone.

We bought 1,200 Chromebooks and distributed them across the trust. We also invested in a Microsoft learning platform and appointed digital champions to help roll it out. We plan to keep our online learning programme going post-Covid-19 as a means of aiding progress. It will allow students to do extra learning remotely outside of school. Our wide-ranging intervention strategies and expert teaching has been further invested in, and will be the key to ensuring a secure and successful start in our primary schools, and to helping Year 6s transition to Year 7. 

What lessons have you learned from Covid-19 as a trust?

Covid-19 has forced us to collaborate and think more as a trust. For example, it’s given us the opportunity to improve how we transition students between year groups and between schools, particularly from Year 6 to 7. Our Primary and Secondary Leads have been working effectively together and by recognising the strength in each other’s practice, have been able to influence trust improvement plans even further. 

For our most vulnerable students, we’ve learned that this transition needs to be even more personalised, recognising that the effects of lockdown could be far reaching and impact their wellbeing for a sustained period of time. We know that happy schools with meaningful relationships will underpin our approach to intervention in ensuring successful pupil returns. 

We’re going to be catching up again with Mark Oldman in October to see how his recovery and catch-up strategies are working out. Watch this space!

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 7 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to be prepared for anything this term with Arbor MIS

As we enter a new term with lots of new regulations and routines, we’re working closely with school staff to make sure they’ve got the tools they need to react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing.  To support you with your big new challenges this term – from new DfE reporting,

As we enter a new term with lots of new regulations and routines, we’re working closely with school staff to make sure they’ve got the tools they need to react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing. 

To support you with your big new challenges this term – from new DfE reporting, to remote learning, to monitoring your vulnerable students – we’ve added some new features to Arbor which take the hassle out of your essential admin.

Whatever the next few months bring, here are some of the ways Arbor can help you focus on what matters – supporting your students:

1. Track attendance & absence without the stress
2. Look out for your vulnerable students
3. Report to the DfE with peace of mind
4. Create flexible timetables that work for everyone
5. Communicate with everyone from one place
6. Pivot your plans when you need to

Let’s break that down …

1. Track attendance & absence without the stress

 With students adjusting to full-time school, joining new classes and following new timetables, managing attendance is going to be a little more complex this term. 

In Arbor, School Office Staff can instantly pull together the attendance data they need, spot patterns and follow up with guardians straight from built-in attendance dashboards. 

Plus, we’ve created a range of new codes to make it simple to record attendance and absence in line with the new DfE guidelines:

  • SI – Self-isolating due to exposure to Covid-19 
  • Sym – Suspected case of Covid-19 
  • Cov – Confirmed case of Covid-19

These codes automatically map to the DfE “I” and “X” codes, so your CTFs and census returns will always be accurate.

You can also record staff absence categories to help you keep accurate, detailed records: 

  • Suspected case of Covid-19 and self-isolating 
  • Confirmed case of Covid-19
  • Self-isolating due to underlying health conditions
  • Member of their household is sick
  • Travelled somewhere that puts them at risk 

Staff absences are flagged in Arbor to everyone who needs to know, making arranging cover simple.

2. Look out for your vulnerable students

After a long time away from school, students in some vulnerable categories will need extra support to recover and catch up. To provide the best care for these students, School Leaders will need to keep a close eye on their progress across attainment, behaviour and attainment.  

Arbor makes it easy to pull reports on your key vulnerable demographic groups in a few clicks, or you can schedule reports to notify key staff members regularly. Compare each groups’ performance with the school average, spot trends and set up interventions to help them get back on track. 

3. Report to the DfE with peace of mind 

To save you time completing the DfE’s Daily Form, Arbor’s Covid-19 Dashboard crunches the numbers for you, giving you everything you need to submit the form each morning. 

We’ve just updated the Dashboard with the latest categories the DfE is tracking, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19. Click on each category for a breakdown by year group and a full list of students.

For a MAT-level overview, you can use Arbor’s Group MIS to get data at your fingertips about all your students and staff. Monitor attendance patterns, student & staff absence, track key disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and manage Covid-19 related issues centrally.

4. Create flexible timetables that work for everyone

Depending on your space, staff numbers, and the needs of your students, you’ll need to set up your new timetable in your own unique way. That’s why we’ve built flexibility into Arbor to help you schedule your classes however you need to. 

  • Create bubbles: Once you’ve divided your students into cohorts, you can easily edit your existing timetables and add extra slots for the same lesson, add or change the Teacher, and stagger the start and finish times
  • Stagger registration: If you need some students to arrive at school at different times, it’s easy to adjust your Statutory Roll Call times in Arbor
  • Check for clashes: Make sure your new timetable works for everyone with Arbor’s handy dashboard alerting you to any clashes or gaps you need to resolve
  • Design it your way: Thanks to our integration with TimeTabler, you can create your timetable there then import it straight into Arbor

Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here.

5. Communicate with everyone from one place

Forget switching between systems or uploading/downloading contact lists, in Arbor you can follow up with parents, students or other staff members as soon as you spot something important, from wherever you are in the system. Simply choose the method that’s best for your message – from an email, an SMS, a mail merge letter or an Arbor App alert.

Click here to see how Arbor’s communications allowed The Parks Academies Trust to improve the way they contacted hard-to-reach students during the crisis.

6. Pivot your plans when you need to 

If your school goes into local lockdown, and you have to move back to partial school closures, remote working and virtual learning, Arbor can help you make sure you’re fully prepared to make that transition a smooth one.

Because Arbor is cloud-based, you can manage your school with more flexibility, accessing what you need to do your job from wherever you’re working. 

Plus, if the DfE brings out any new guidelines, we make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day!) to help you keep up to date.

We’re here to help

During this difficult term, don’t forget the Arbor Team is here to support you with any questions you have.

  • Check out the Help Centre – We’ve put together a page dedicated to everything you need to know about reopening your school with Arbor
  • Join us live – We’re hosting a range of webinars this term, both sessions with tips and tricks for Arbor users, and sessions open to everyone to learn more about Arbor. Check out what’s coming up here
  • Join the community – If you’re an Arbor user, join the Arbor Community of fellow schools where you can share advice, best practice and learn from each other
  • Get in touch: Our Support Team are here from 8:00am-5:00pm every day on email, phone and webchat

Choose a better way to work 

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Alice Martin-Hawkins - 7 September, 2020

Category : Blog

Top 3 wellbeing initiatives for schools

Wellbeing and mental health are big priorities for us at Arbor, and we’re pleased to see these issues becoming more and more important for schools, too. In support of Youth Mental Health Day today, Arbor Wellbeing Champion Alice has some advice for how you can look out for your mental health and wellbeing at your

Wellbeing and mental health are big priorities for us at Arbor, and we’re pleased to see these issues becoming more and more important for schools, too. In support of Youth Mental Health Day today, Arbor Wellbeing Champion Alice has some advice for how you can look out for your mental health and wellbeing at your school.

I’ve been a Wellbeing Champion at Arbor for a year now. We started off as a team of two and have grown to a team of six, with representatives across our London, Leeds and Belgrade offices. At Arbor, Wellbeing Champions have three main objectives:

1. Promoting positive wellbeing at work
2. Organising wellbeing initiatives and activities
3. Being there to listen if anyone needs to talk

This year we’ve had the added challenge of supporting staff wellbeing whilst working remotely. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s taught us that small gestures like checking in on a colleague can go a long way. We’ve been hosting regular mindfulness Zoom calls, and at the beginning of lockdown, we sent everyone in the company a packet of sunflower seeds to start growing. This was a big hit and created a real sense of community. 

Recently, we’ve been seeing Arbor schools and MATs bringing student and staff wellbeing to the top of their agendas. Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, shared with us how they’ve been using Wellbeing Dogs to lift the spirits of students and staff. And Mark Lacey, CEO of The Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, says every catch-up call he has with his Headteachers starts with a check-in with their wellbeing. 

This term, as schools return after months of disruption, both students and staff may find it challenging to adjust. Now more than ever it’s vital that schools and trusts build initiatives into their strategy to support the wellbeing and mental health of the whole school. 

To help you in shaping your school wellbeing programme, we’ve tracked down three of the top school wellbeing initiatives you could consider for your school. 

1. Plan a Wellbeing Week

Organising a Wellbeing Week at your school is a great way to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing, and gives students the resources to help them support their own mental health. The Mental Health Foundation has created a free downloadable pack to help you plan the week based around the 5 Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, Get Active, Be Mindful, Keep Learning and Give to Others.  

2. Appoint Wellbeing Ambassadors 

Embedding a whole-school culture of wellbeing doesn’t happen overnight, but a good basis to start from is building supportive and respectful relationships between students, teachers and parents. A great way to do this is by appointing student and staff Wellbeing Ambassadors to create a supportive environment where students can talk openly about how they are feeling. Worth-it provides training for Wellbeing Ambassadors to equip them with approaches and strategies to support the wellbeing of their peers as well as their own. 

3. Encourage Mental health literacy 

Mental health is often not talked about enough in schools because of the stigma around it. One of the best ways to combat some of the misconceptions around mental health is through education. Stem4 offers free teaching resources for Key Stages 3 and 4 that cover topics such as anxiety, stress and depression to empower students with knowledge about mental health.

And remember .. don’t forget your staff wellbeing!

Something that we always tell ourselves in the Arbor Wellbeing team is that if you look after your own wellbeing first, you’ll be in the best position to look out for others. This is something that Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary at the National Education Union, also advises for schools.

This term is going to be especially challenging for staff, so make sure you’re supporting your colleagues when they need it. Arbor HR Manager,  Danielle, has some useful advice for understanding more about stress and how to manage it in her blog for some tips for managing stress. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup! 

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or contact us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 3 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How The Parks Academies Trust stayed flexible in the face of change 

With constant changes to Government guidance, family situations and the wider national picture, schools and trusts certainly learned a great deal last term. Where there were huge challenges that meant working in totally new ways, schools has also taken some positive lessons from the crisis. It gave schools the opportunity to pivot fast to work

With constant changes to Government guidance, family situations and the wider national picture, schools and trusts certainly learned a great deal last term. Where there were huge challenges that meant working in totally new ways, schools has also taken some positive lessons from the crisis.

It gave schools the opportunity to pivot fast to work more efficiently and find new ways to reach out to parents and guardians. It also put the spotlight on student and staff wellbeing issues, bringing them top of the agenda.

We recently caught up with Jon Ward from The Parks Academies Trust who told us about the ways he and his staff adapted their ways of working during the crisis. Moving their secondary schools to Arbor MIS in April – right in the middle of partial school closures – meant they saw right away the new and better ways of working with a cloud-based MIS. 

Staff across the trust felt Arbor allowed them to collaborate and align over their work. Plus, it took the hassle out of important Covid-19 related tasks like tracking attendance and following up with hard-to-reach families.

To read more about the measurable differences Jon and his team have measured since moving MIS during Covid-19, download their full case study here along with other feedback we’ve received from schools during Covid-19 crisis.

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference. 

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

 

Maddie Kilminster - 1 September, 2020

Category : Blog

4 things to think about as your school re-opens

Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch

Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch them up on lost learning.

However the “new normal” is going to look for your school this term, we’ve put together a list of the most important things you should be thinking about this week:

1. Go through your social distancing checklist

2. Prepare communications your parent and guardian community

3. Evaluate your catch up plan for students

4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing 

Let’s break that down…

1. Go through your social distancing checklist

Depending on the size and layout of your school, and staff capacity, there’s no one solution to keeping students apart. Here are some top tips to consider:

Staggering

  • Stagger start and finish times for each bubble 
  • Create separate entrances/exits to school for each bubble
  • Discourage parents gathering outside school gates
  • Stagger lunch and break times or divide your dining hall into sections
  • Introduce a one-way system around school 

Timetabling

  • Leave gaps between lessons for cleaning
  • Can your students stay in one room and teachers move around?
  • Think about keeping seating plans consistent
  • Increase time spent outdoors. Can some lessons be outside?
  • Instead of gathering for assembly, live-stream to each classroom!

Hygiene

  • Encourage a routine of hand washing. Make it fun for younger children by giving them a stamp card!
  • Hand out hygiene packs containing sanitiser and essentials
  • Do you have an isolation room for anyone showing symptoms? 

Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here. Arbor schools – check out our Help Centre for lots of guidance on setting up flexible timetabling arrangements.

2. Prepare communications to your parent and guardian community

At the start of term, you’ll be sending your parents lots of updates on the new protocols you’re putting in place. But you should also think about how you can start strengthening relationships with your parents and guardians after their children have been at home for so long. Here are some more top tips:

  • Think about your tone of voice: Help parents feel secure that you’ve got things under control. Balance your practical updates with more positive, upbeat notices. For families who are anxious about the return to school, the NSPCC has some useful resources 
  • Choose the right communication method: A long email is not the best way to communicate everything. Think about using texts, social media, a virtual noticeboard or the Arbor App for different messages
  • Put together a clear communications plan: A comms calendar will help make sure parents get the info at the right time, plus your staff can plan their workload around it
  • Make sure you’ve got up-to-date contact details: Check you’ve got the right contact details for all your parents and guardians. Many schools find it helpful to send out a Google Form for parents to submit their contact information straight to the office

3. Evaluate your catch up plans for students

After months of disrupted learning, students’ progress is likely to be set back, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students hit the hardest. Getting learning back on track will be a big challenge, but here are some suggested first steps: 

a) Assess where students are at: You might want to run low-stakes assessments to identify gaps in students’ knowledge this term. The Key has some useful guidance on this and there’s a good school case study here

b) Compare with past performance: Once you have a baseline of performance post-lockdown, comparing this with prior attainment will give you a better sense of how students’ progress has been affected.

To save you time pulling together data, we’re giving schools free access to Arbor Insight reports this term, which will give you a full picture of your students’ progress over the last three years. The reports will be out soon but join the waiting list to be the first to get yours!

c) Identify your most at-risk students: In order to use the Government’s catch-up fund most effectively, it’s important to assess which of your students will benefit from it the most, such as vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category might include more students now as situations have changed. 

Arbor’s built-in reporting will allow you to quickly analyse the attainment of your key student groups across subjects, and instantly spot the biggest gaps. Our free performance reports will also help you understand how these attainment gaps have changed over time and the impact of socio-economic factors on your attainment.

4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing 

It’s likely that students will be dealing with some difficult emotions when they return this term. Teachers might see some new and challenging behaviour in the classroom, but as Educational psychologist, Dr Rob Long, explains, it’s important to understand the anxiety causing the behaviour so they can best manage it. SecEd Magazine has some great guidance on how to support students’ mental health and wellbeing this term. 

Remember not to overlook your staff wellbeing; they’ll need support adjusting to the new term as well. Check in with your staff at the beginning of term and think about ways to allow staff to collaborate with and support each other. 

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or contact us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 10 August, 2020

Category : Blog

Manage your Exam Results Day flexibly with Arbor

GCSE and A-Level Results Days are going to look a little different this year. Some schools will be sharing results with students in-person in bubbles, while others will be managing the whole process remotely.  However you need to run your Results Days this year, we know your top priorities will be making sure the day

GCSE and A-Level Results Days are going to look a little different this year. Some schools will be sharing results with students in-person in bubbles, while others will be managing the whole process remotely. 

However you need to run your Results Days this year, we know your top priorities will be making sure the day goes smoothly, the results get to the right people at the right time, and students get the support they need.

That’s why we’ve made it simple and straightforward to import, share and analyse your results with Arbor. Check out our overview below of all the ways we’re supporting you this year to manage your Results Day successfully.

 

We’re here to help

Our Support Team is full of secondary and exam specialists who will be on hand throughout both Results Days, as well as the days before, on phone, webchat and email. This year, they’ll also be available from 6.30am on 19th August to give you extra support with preparing your GCSE results.

Exam Results Day Support Hours Linkedin

We’ve added lots of materials on our Help Centre to support you with preparing, organising, sharing and analysing your results. We also hosted a webinar last week walking you through the basics – you can catch the recording here.

The Arbor Community is always buzzing around Results Day with Exams Officers, Office Managers and SLT sharing tips and best practice. If you haven’t already, join the forum for free today!

 

Get your ducks in a row

As soon as results are available, importing them into Arbor is quick and easy. Your results dashboard will flag any errors in your data so you can resolve them straight away. Plus, you can also reverse the results import if you need to.

 

Dig into your results

We’ve teamed up with industry-leading analytics tools that schools love, including 4Matrix, SISRA and ALPS Connect, to make it easy for you to analyse your results in depth. Simply export your results from Arbor into a spreadsheet for quick upload into your chosen platform.

 

Share results with the right people 

When it comes to releasing results to staff, you can easily set up your embargo time and date, and control who has access to results before and after this time.

On Results Day, you can choose from lots of different options for sharing results with parents. You can download results both in bulk and as individual PDFs, which you could either print out and distribute in person, or share electronically (note, we’d advise adding password protection to each student’s PDF statement). Share your results in a way that’s right for you:

  • Use Arbor’s Parent Portal to make results available to parents at a selected time
  • Add each statement of results to each student’s shared drive (e.g. Microsoft Sharepoint, GDrive or Dropbox)
  • Send each student their results in bulk using a “mail merge” email 

 

Keep a record 

Since there may be a mixture of some students collecting their results remotely and some in-person at staggered times, it could be a challenge to make sure every student gets the right support from staff on the day. To help you keep track of the contact students receive and the follow up needed, we recommend setting up a log sheet in Excel/Google Sheets to record key points of contact and resolutions on the day. This will also be a useful reference if you have to process any appeals. 

Add key student details (e.g. name, SEN, PP, EAL, CLA), then add columns for the milestones you want to record, for example if the student has had communication from staff and how (e.g. email/telephone), if they have requested their teacher-assessed grades and if a follow-up is needed.

Here’s an example of what this log sheet could look like:

tracker

Top tips: 

  • You can export all the student data you want to track from Arbor in one go using Custom Report Writer
  • Use “conditional formatting” to automatically colour-code your Yes/No fields so you can spot any issues at a glance
  • Create drop-downs for set options such as “email”, “telephone” or “in-person” using the “data validation” menu, then add your options in another tab
  • Schedule your follow-up meetings in Arbor to give your pastoral leads and other relevant staff the visibility they need

 

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work, our team would be happy to show you around in a virtual demo – simply book here. Alternatively, give us a call on 0208 050 1028 or email hello@arbor-education.com.

Harriet Cheng - 17 July, 2020

Category : Blog

United Learning chooses Arbor MIS for all 72 of its state schools

We’re proud to announce that United Learning, the largest mixed-phase MAT in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 72 state schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the two largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK! From Autumn Term 2020, 34 secondary schools and 23

We’re proud to announce that United Learning, the largest mixed-phase MAT in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 72 state schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the two largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK!

From Autumn Term 2020, 34 secondary schools and 23 primary schools in United Learning will move to Arbor – joining the 15 United Learning schools who already use us. Together they’ll join our growing community of over 1,000 schools and 100 MATs who have all chosen Arbor to help transform the way they work – including REAch2, the largest primary school MAT, who moved to Arbor in 2018.

 

The MIS of choice for schools across all phases:

As a large mixed-phased trust, United Learning chose Arbor to help them analyse information across all their schools simply and effectively, automate repetitive administrative tasks and operate remotely at scale all from one system. 

Dominic Norrish, Chief Operating Officer at United Learning said: “United Learning are excited to realise the benefits that a modern cloud-based MIS such as Arbor will bring to our schools – resilience, mobility, security and the reduced costs of a single, highly capable tool.”

Arbor's Group MIS

We’ve taken the time to build out features tailored to each school phase:

  • For MATs: Arbor’s Group MIS lets you work across all your schools from one central system, so you can collaborate more easily and really understand what’s going on. Arbor allow’s you to track performance from a distance, compare data across schools, manage your staff, and communicate with everyone centrally.
  • For Secondary Schools: Our MIS for secondaries lets you analyse your data in any way you like. Choose our built-in Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards, or securely export your data to external analysis tools like Power BI, Google Sheets or Excel. Roll out your behaviour policies consistently and automate time-consuming follow-ups such as booking detentions and notifying parents. Arbor also includes end-to-end exams management, cover planning, timetabling, and interventions management.
  • For Primary Schools: With Arbor for primaries, daily jobs like chasing absent students and following up on incidents are simple and painless. Our MIS brings all your student and staff data together so you can easily spot patterns, and get the data you need at your fingertips to tell the full story of each pupil as they progress through school. Our primary schools love our lightning-fast registers and simple census tools, too.

 

100 MATs have chosen Arbor MIS in the last 3 years…

United Learning is the latest MAT to choose Arbor – joining trusts like REAch2, Aspire, Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, Red Kite, LEO Academy Trust, Wellspring, and Hoyland Common Academy Trust who have all moved to Arbor in recent years. 

 

…and more schools chose Arbor in 2019 than any other MIS system

320 schools started using Arbor between January-December 2019, joining the growing movement of schools switching to the cloud to transform the way they work. Recently we’ve been focused on helping our schools work flexibly and remotely during Covid-19, with over 250 schools having moved to Arbor during lockdown! We’ve built out our MIS to help schools manage staff rotas, communicate with parents, and set classwork remotely (see more on that here).

You can read more about our cloud-based MIS in our brochures for primary and  secondary schools (click here), and MATs (click here).

 

Interested to see whether Arbor could be a good fit for your school or trust?

We’d be more than happy to arrange a remote, personalised demo for your team – just click here, or reach us at hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028. 

Maddie Kilminster - 16 July, 2020

Category : Blog

How to collaborate and communicate across schools at scale during Covid-19 and beyond with Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust

As part of our “Adapting to Change” webinar series for MAT leaders, Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust, shared with us how the trust have been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. Dave explained the vision he’s building for a centralised and collaborative IT infrastructure across the trust. Embracing new technology has been

As part of our “Adapting to Change” webinar series for MAT leaders, Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust, shared with us how the trust have been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.

Dave explained the vision he’s building for a centralised and collaborative IT infrastructure across the trust. Embracing new technology has been vital in responding to the challenges of the pandemic, from maintaining business critical operations like payroll, to reaching out to vulnerable students, to managing the quality of remote teaching and learning.

Check out Dave’s webinar and presentation below.

 

To find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform how you work at your school or MAT, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 15 July, 2020

Category : Blog

The Arbor Community is here for you over summer

The summer break is usually a chance to step back, reflect on the last Term, and gradually start preparations for Autumn. This year, with so many new timetabling and curriculum arrangements coming in September, there’s likely to be even more planning to do in July and August.  Whilst you’re preparing for the new Term, you

The summer break is usually a chance to step back, reflect on the last Term, and gradually start preparations for Autumn. This year, with so many new timetabling and curriculum arrangements coming in September, there’s likely to be even more planning to do in July and August. 

Whilst you’re preparing for the new Term, you and your staff can access Arbor MIS from home so you can look back at last year’s data, set up your new classes, assessments and registers, and send vital communications to keep parents in the loop

Whenever you need during summer, you and your staff can access our online support resources for a refresher on how key parts of Arbor work. You can also share tips with fellow Arbor users on the Arbor Community. And don’t forget our expert Support Team is on hand to answer questions too!

Find out below more about all the free support you can access over summer.

 

Keep in touch with the Arbor Community

 

Building relationships with colleagues and learning from each other has been especially valuable during the Covid-19 crisis. The Arbor Community has been a great forum for schools and MATs to share their experiences and get advice on the best ways of working.

Over summer, as you prepare for Autumn, you’ll be able to use the Community to chat with colleagues from other schools and compare plans. You’re bound to meet someone who does the same role as you who can show you tips and tricks that you might not have thought of to save you even more time next Term. 

We celebrated the positive impact of the Arbor Community at our first ever ArborFest event earlier this year. 100 School Leaders, Business Managers, Teachers and Admins using Arbor across the country came together for a fantastic day of demonstrations on topics across the school landscape – from assessment, to parental engagement, to running an effective school office.

To mark the success of ArborFest we put together a video of the highlights. We’re planning another virtual ArborFest in Autumn Term so keep an eye out! 

 

Access our free digital support any time

 

Whether you need to complete essential admin tasks to get everything set up for September, or you want to give your staff training resources they can use in their own time, the support resources on our Help Centre and our expert Support Team are here whenever you need them.

  • Want a recap of key parts of the system like assessment or behaviour? Our Help Centre is full of clear, step-by-step guides which break down every part of the Arbor 
  • Get quick answers to technical questions: Our Support Team is available by phone, webchat or email 8am-5pm*, Monday to Friday
  • Want help setting up your new timetable? Check out this section of the Help Centre. You can also book onto one of our free webinars at the beginning of September which will help you get set up for the new Term
  • Have you completed your New Year Setup? Check out the dedicated section in Arbor which walks you through the steps of how to set up everything from your statutory enrolment information to your calendar, courses and assessments
  • Want more in-depth training for your staff? Your Account Manager will help you arrange the best type of session for you. Get in touch at accountmanagers@arbor-education.com. If you’d like to find out more about the training, consultancy and services we offer, sign up here and we’ll send you a brochure
  • Want to train up a new member of staff? The best place for them to start is the eLearning journey which gives them an introduction to the core parts of the system

*Between 24th July and 28th August our Support Team will be available 9am-12pm on Fridays. 

If you’re new to Arbor, you can find out more about how a cloud-based MIS will help you run your school or MAT flexibly next term in a free online demo. Alternatively, get in touch with us at hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028. 

JanHetherington - 13 July, 2020

Category : Blog

Structuring your school timetable for Autumn Term: Tips from Jan Hetherington, Vice-Principal at Wykham Park Academy

With planning arrangements and timetabling at the top of school leaders’ minds right now, we invited expert timetabler and curriculum planner Jan Hetherington to join our webinar series “Adapting to Change” to share her solutions for September.  Jan is Vice Principal and Specialist Leader of Education for Curriculum Leadership at Wykham Park Academy, a secondary

With planning arrangements and timetabling at the top of school leaders’ minds right now, we invited expert timetabler and curriculum planner Jan Hetherington to join our webinar series “Adapting to Change” to share her solutions for September. 

Jan is Vice Principal and Specialist Leader of Education for Curriculum Leadership at Wykham Park Academy, a secondary school which is part of the 15-school Aspirations Academies Trust. As well as developing the timetable for her school, she also coaches senior leaders across other trusts on how to create more effective timetables.

Jan shared with us some of the plans Wykham Park Academy is putting in place to keep students socially-distanced and to help maintain teaching and learning standards in September. She explained that above all, she wants to ensure that the new arrangements don’t sacrifice students’ full learning experience.

You can read Jan’s conversation with Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill below.

 

You’ve said that “Timetabling is more than an annual exercise. It defines the experience students get.” Could you explain that?

What I mean by that is students need a variety of rhythms across the school day and week to get the highest quality experience. The right timetable should put together the right groups of students with the right teachers. Every lesson slot has a currency; some are lower value than others, for example nobody wants Friday Period 5, or Monday Period 1. Staff need to appreciate that if they get any of those lower value slots, they’re going to have different pedagogical challenges. The timetable should also be suited to the age of the students. I worked once with a MAT which completely restructured their day based on teenage sleep patterns with a staggered day. 

 

How did you adjust your timetable and learning provision during Covid-19?

As we went into lockdown, we decided that KS3 would have four lessons a day – English, Maths, Science and Humanities – and Year 10&11’s would have five lessons a day. We didn’t synchronise these in the school timetable, we simply uploaded them onto Google Classroom. Our staff skill set has grown exponentially in terms of using online platforms. We had been using Google Classroom already for about a year for setting homework, but we’ve had to learn rapidly over the last few months how to use it for much more. 

At first, when we didn’t know how long school closures would last, we wanted to keep a normal lesson format as far as possible. But after Half-Term, we shifted to project-based work for KS3. Year 10 moved away from new learning into consolidatary learning, and for Year 11 we put on four lessons a day only to support those students who were at risk of achieving a 4 or above. 

The quality of pre-recorded teaching and learning was mixed at first, so we started to give live lessons to KS5. We chose not to do this for the rest of the school due in part to union advice, plus we wanted to protect staff given potential safeguarding issues and uncertainty around best practice. Instead teachers uploaded pre-recorded lessons – some with audio, some with video. 

 

What are the key lessons you learned about how to engage students with online learning?

A key lesson was wrongly assuming that simply uploading a Powerpoint will do. We quickly realised that students need more support; they need a full learning experience with learning modelled by the teacher. For example, we started to use videos showing the teacher writing or demonstrating. It’s also important in pre-recorded lessons that the teacher still engages with the students personally, for instance calling out student names as though they were live in the classroom. 

 

What are your timetabling plans for September? 

We’re going to use the same lesson timetable we would have used in the normal course of events. The location of lessons might change but the timings won’t. We’re also going to offer a full curriculum. This is because we want to keep things as normal as possible in terms of what is being taught in order to give students’ the richest experience possible. We worry that if they had only a “partial diet” they might easily disengage. We also don’t want to stagger lesson start and end times too much because this would lead to unsupervised time. 

 

How will you keep students apart? 

We’re going to split the student body into different physical zones, with their own entrance exit and toilets. On the Banbury Aspirations Campus (which contains an Academy, a Studio School and a Sixth Form), we have the unique advantage of a massive site with lots of different buildings housing lots of different specialist areas,  so this makes it easier for us to keep students apart. 

We’ve got the potential for three different entrances into the school site. Students will have their own route to their zone, and within the zones, they’ll be able to move around into new spaces in order to maintain a rich and varied school day. KS3 will be kept in a “bubble within a bubble”, having all their lessons in one classroom. They’ll only leave their zone as a class to do specialised activities like Drama. KS4 will be zoned as a Year Group “bubble” so all their lessons will be in that zone unless they move for specialist activities. 

 

How will dining work?

We’re going to have a reduced menu and students will place an order, then pick it up and go. We’ve got two dining room spaces and we’ll have staggered slots so two “bubbles” can use the room but be separated by time slots. We’re going to continue the breakfast clubs we run for disadvantaged students by keeping them in a “bubble” with each other.

 

What about cleaning?

We’re still waiting for advice from the Government on what “enhanced cleaning” means. In the meantime, Headteachers are looking at what pubs and restaurants are doing right now to inform our plans. IT and Food Tech rooms are tricky because they’re used by every Year group and they’re available to book. The plan is to timetable them so there’s at least one lesson period in-between usage so we can clean down surfaces before the next group of students. We’re also going to limit use of those rooms to practical lessons, keeping theory based lessons elsewhere. Cleaning is of course going to be a big expense. We’re looking to the trust to support with that.

 

What about breaks?

Breaks are easier because students will use the outdoor spaces within their zones. We won’t be serving food at break, but students are welcome to bring their own break time food. We will be offering snacks and keeping an eye on known vulnerable students to make sure they are fed.

 

What is your advice to schools that don’t have the capacity or space you do?

I’d recommend staggering lesson times and movement times. Also assess what size of “bubble” you’re comfortable with. Some schools I’ve heard of are doing Key Stage “bubbles” which can include 600 students! Some are using online platforms to teach different lessons to classes that stay in one room. 

 

What’s your attitude to a “catch-up” curriculum?

On his blog recently, James Duran gives a range of options for Teachers to consider to balance “catch-up” content and new material. We’re planning a parallel approach of new learning with some revision along the way. We’ll review the content and progress regularly, and define “threshold” concepts within the curriculum students need to understand to move forward.

 

What are your fallbacks and contingency plans?

We plan to make all lessons digitally accessible if needed, making use of the online platform skills staff have learned. We’ve found pre-recorded videos are not just convenient but have the additional benefit that students can pause and rewind which can actually help to reinforce learning. If there’s another lockdown, we’re going to commit to doing live digital lessons because we don’t want to sacrifice the face-to-face element again going forward. 

 

What does quality online learning look like and how will you guarantee it going forward?

We’re still working out our quality assurance processes. Some schools have been doing live lesson evaluations but we don’t want to do that. In September, we’ll first of all carry out an audit of the technology students have at home to avoid the situation we’ve had where 600 students had to have paper lesson packs because they couldn’t get online. We’ll also do a RAG rating so we’re taking into consideration student preference and learning style. 

We’re going to put a digital learning policy in place so students know what we expect of them. In terms of teaching, we expect the same high quality as in the classroom. We want to maintain the learning structure we use normally, with a balance between guided practice and independent practice. 

The structure will look like this:

1. Live guided practice: 15 mins or more (live or recorded) where teachers model what they want from students. We’ll encourage the use of audio for this, rather than video, because we know that audio doesn’t split students’ attention in the same way video can

2. Live Q&A and dialogue, encouraging peer interactivity,

3. Independent offline practice, then students upload the work they’ve achieved

 

We also want to encourage a variety of different learning experiences (e.g. app-based and flip learning). In terms of assessment, we’re still working this out and looking into a system that allows live online assessment. We’ll definitely be including low stakes testing (e.g. using Kahoot). We’re also looking into functionality which allows students to put their work up on the screen rather than asking the teacher to come over and have a look. 

 

To what extent do you think changes next Term will affect students’ experience? 

If you look at the research after the 2011 earthquake and lockdown in New Zealand, it showed that students did better than expected when they returned. John Hattie (2020) says rather than focusing on “gaps” and content students have “missed”, you should focus rather on what students actually need. 

In this vein, we’re not expecting the new arrangements to have a huge effect on students because they’re going to be in a group that’s good for their learning and they’ll be with the right teacher. The sequence of learning may change over the year but they’ll achieve it all by the end of the year. 

 

If you’re new to Arbor, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 9 July, 2020

Category : Blog

6 steps to prepare your school for September

During Covid-19 and partial school closures, schools have been adjusting their timetables, rules and plans along with rapidly changing DfE guidance. Since there’s now more clarity from the Government about the return to school in September, it’s a little easier to put plans in place for the new Term. There are a lot of things

During Covid-19 and partial school closures, schools have been adjusting their timetables, rules and plans along with rapidly changing DfE guidance. Since there’s now more clarity from the Government about the return to school in September, it’s a little easier to put plans in place for the new Term.

There are a lot of things to consider when planning for September – from how to create a “bubble” timetable, to helping students catch up on lost learning, to drawing up your new school improvement plan. 

With the help of some of the schools, trusts and education experts we work with, we’ve put together a list of six key things you should think about to help you get everything in place for Autumn:

1. Have you planned for different scenarios?
2. Can you quickly adapt if new DfE guidance comes out?
3. Can you communicate easily with your school community?
4. How are you going to support your students and staff?
5. Have you got good online learning tools?
6. Have you set up your systems for next Year?

Let’s break that down… 

 

1. Have you planned for different scenarios?

When you’re writing risk assessments, you should consider a few different scenarios that could happen in September, and make sure you’ve got the resources and policies in place to cope. A we’ve all learned from the past few months, the Covid-19 situation can change suddenly, so you should build flexibility into your plans.

Take a look at this useful example of a “Covid-19 Exit Strategy” document that Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, has helpfully shared with us. It outlines various risks, such as the rate of infection rising or large numbers of students having to work from home, and how the trust would address each of them. 

 

2. Can you quickly adapt if new DfE guidance comes out?

Once you’ve planned for lots of different scenarios, you should also make sure your systems can adapt and support you if the DfE suddenly introduces new guidelines. For example, could you quickly gather key attendance or demographic information to report to the DfE? Could you quickly adjust your timetable if a local lockdown was introduced in your area? Could your staff access the student information they need from home?  

In Arbor, you can log all attendance and absence on your Covid-19 dashboard, and access all the data you need wherever you’re working. You’ll also have key stats to hand, such as everyone who is expected in school that day, and you can directly follow up with any parents/guardians if you need to. Arbor also takes the hassle out of planning staff rotas, creating flexible timetables and arranging classroom layouts for social distancing.

Want more support in creating your September timetable? Join our webinar today (Thurs 9th) at 2pm “Structuring your schools’ timetable: what you need to know as a trust leader for Autumn Term” with Jan Hetherington, Vice-Principal at Wykham Park Academy.

 

3. Can you communicate easily with your school community?

Once you’ve planned your new timetable and daily logistics, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got a cost-effective communications system that can cope with all the various updates you’ll need to send out to parents, staff and students. You might also want to think about innovative and uplifting communications you can send out to motivate your community. We found this great example from Hackney Primary using videos to show students what school will look like when they return. 

In Arbor MIS, you can send emails, texts and Arbor App messages (which are great to share updates with parents directly on their phone) from wherever you are in the system. You can also share information on the Parent Portal or Student Portal that parents and students can log in and see. Check out our top 3 tips for keeping in touch with your school community.

 

4. How are you going to support your students and staff?

As students and staff return from six months of partial lockdown, it’s going to be tricky to adjust to the “new school normal”.  We’ve seen school and MAT leaders bringing wellbeing to the top of their agendas recently, by introducing things like “Wellbeing Days” and appointing new members of Pastoral staff. You can read here how Dan Morrow, CEO at Woodland Academy Trust, nurtures his staff wellbeing. 

When planning how to look out for your most vulnerable families and staff members, bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category may include more people now as situations have changed. In Arbor, you can quickly produce reports on key demographic groups such as children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers at school and MAT level.

 

5. Have you got good online learning tools?

With students coming to school in “bubbles”, you may need to continue a blended approach of face-to-face and remote teaching. During partial school closures, online learning has taken lots of different forms, some using systems like Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to set assignments and hold video lessons. But depending on the technology students had at home and how prepared schools were, remote education has had varying degrees of success. 

Think about what you can learn from this Term and how you can improve your online provision going forward. As The Harris Federation found, it’s a challenge to measure the effectiveness of online learning by just looking at quantitative data, like the number of lessons or assignments. Instead, try gathering feedback from staff and students on how they’ve found remote learning so you can see where to make improvements. 

You should also make sure your staff are confident using online teaching tools. Did you know the Government is offering a grant for support with Office 365 and G Suite? Find out more info here.

 

6. Have you set up your systems for next Year?

Before the Summer Holidays, it’s vital to set up your statutory enrollment information, calendar, courses and assessments in your Management Information System (MIS), so your staff can hit the ground running in the new Term. In Arbor, we have a dedicated section in the system which walks you through the steps you need to complete so Arbor can get everything ready for you when you return.

Don’t forget, over summer you can access all our free support resources in the Help Centre if you want a refresher on parts of the system before September. If you’d like to arrange any training for new members of staff, get in touch with your Account Manager at accountmanagers@arbor-education.com.

 

If you’re new to Arbor, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.

Dan Morrow - 8 July, 2020

Category : Blog

Switching MIS during lockdown: How Woodland Academy Trust moved to Arbor 100% remotely

Over the last few months, we’ve welcomed over 250 schools and MATs to Arbor who we’ve onboarded, migrated and trained 100% remotely. Most of these schools chose to move to Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to replace their server-based system which was preventing them from managing their schools remotely, and meant they weren’t able to

Over the last few months, we’ve welcomed over 250 schools and MATs to Arbor who we’ve onboarded, migrated and trained 100% remotely. Most of these schools chose to move to Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to replace their server-based system which was preventing them from managing their schools remotely, and meant they weren’t able to adapt to the new DfE guidelines quickly. 

We use a simple, personalised process to move your data to Arbor and to get staff ready to use the system confidently, with expert guidance every step of the way. If you’d like to see a brochure about the support we offer from signing with Arbor and throughout your journey, leave your details here and we’ll send you a copy

Rather than take our word for it, it’s often most helpful to hear how real schools and MATs have found the experience. Recently we caught up with the team at Woodland Academy Trust, a Primary MAT in Bexley and North Kent, who have moved to Arbor during lockdown. 

You can read our conversation below with Dan Morrow (CEO) Sue Ashton (COO and Deputy CEO) and Yvonne Bruce (School Business Manager).

 

How have you found the support from Arbor during your move? 

Our MAT Programme Manager Joanna has been very supportive and approachable from the start. She and her colleague Kate have ensured that we have been on target in the run up to the data migration, with regular calls being made to our Arbor Champions and School Business Lead. 

There was a level of nervous excitement during our Discovery Day. Being a SIMS user for so many years, it was difficult feeling 100% about moving to a new system. Again, Joanna was very supportive and explained each step from the Trust & School’s priorities, operational priorities, module role out, training and data migration, going live and third party applications, ensuring that we understood the information we needed to provide.

The Discovery Day was very useful as it allowed us to really look into the applications we were using, and to look at the key successes and challenges we were currently facing when it came to deciding on which applications to migrate over.  

 

How did the data migration process go? 

The migration was very smooth and lived up to the expectation I had from the seminar I attended, when other users assured me that this process was seamless. The response from other members of our team has been that they were able to find the answer to their queries through your help page and only needed to speak to a trainer on very rare occasions.  

Whilst this is clearly a structured process, there was some clear anxiety from our executives and data users over it. The security and assuredness of the project framing from Arbor’s side ensured that these could be addressed and the actual delivery was without any issue whatsoever.

 

How have you found the training you’ve had so far? 

The training has been very thorough and relevant to our needs. The trainers have made their way through the areas at a good pace for everyone on the call to take in and understand. They have each encouraged questions and answers after every section to make sure that everyone on the call understands what has been said. The recording of the training sessions has allowed us to reach out to other members of staff to review. 

In a number of our sessions we have had different groups of staff with different focuses and areas of interest. The training has meant that the universal concepts can be delivered and that more bespoke training is then brokered and arranged as needed. The clear respect for people’s time and the subsequent thought and care put into the whole training programme has been a clear win, as it’s meant that our whole team have then engaged with the training. 

 

Since Arbor has been live in your schools, how has it been received?  

The response from our Office and Business Management teams across the Trust has been very positive; with comments that Arbor is easy to navigate, especially around reports and is a far superior system to what we were using previously. Setting up the new academic year has also had positive responses; with many of the team saying the step-by-step guide was the easiest they’ve come across, that it’s quick and time-saving and the ability to save as you go has ensured confident use of the system. 

 

Have you had any challenges? 

The permissions around business roles has taken some getting used to as not all roles in Arbor have the permissions for the business roles we are used to, but again, your help centre has been on hand to show that we can add ad hoc permissions to specific roles.

 

What has it been like making the move during Covid-19? 

I would say this has been the perfect time to move! Firstly, It has allowed more personnel to sit on training sessions than perhaps would have been possible under normal circumstances.  

Equally, to have a positive change project that has been so well scoped and framed has given us a boost to be able to “control the controllable” and see robust and rigorous systems introduced to further underpin the care that our children and communities deserve. 

 

Is Arbor helping you manage your schools during Covid-19? 

The news bulletins from Arbor have been helpful with regards to tips for setting up the new academic year and the attendance information required by the DfE. 

It has provided a “blank page” to reconsider the way we collect, store, monitor and report our information and at a time when we are looking to reimagine as well as return within education, the timing has been far from a threat; it’s a golden opportunity.

 

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help you manage your school or trust flexibly next Term, you can book a free online demo or contact tellmemore@arbor-education.com. You can also reach us on 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 6 July, 2020

Category : Blog

Coming soon: Arbor Enterprise & Advanced Support

Arbor’s solution for larger and more complex schools and MATs   When you’re running a large school or MAT, you’re dealing with lots of data. Your setup and the way you work is quite complex and you probably do things a bit differently, with behaviour workflows and assessment frameworks that are unique to you.  To

Arbor’s solution for larger and more complex schools and MATs

 

When you’re running a large school or MAT, you’re dealing with lots of data. Your setup and the way you work is quite complex and you probably do things a bit differently, with behaviour workflows and assessment frameworks that are unique to you. 

To keep on top of everything, you need smart, joined-up systems that give you central control of all your student and staff information – and help you really understand and report on your data. Plus, with limited time in your day, if you come across any technical issues, you need to get a quick solution from a technical expert who understands how you work.

At Arbor, we’ve designed our Management Information System (MIS) for schools and trusts of all shapes and sizes. As a MAT leader or Headteacher, you have oversight of what’s going on across your organisation, and can jump in if you need to. 

As schools and MATs have grown in size and complexity over the past few years, we’ve been building out our product and support to help you deal with the challenges of scale.

That’s why today we’re excited to announce Arbor Enterprise – a brand new feature that’s launching soon, packed full of powerful integrations and advanced data customisation tools, perfect for schools and trusts that are large, complex or want more control of their setup. 

Arbor Enterprise will help you simplify your system setup and speed up logins across your organisation. You’ll also have the tools to learn even more from your data – with reports on how staff are working in Arbor, and customisable report templates to use in Microsoft Power BI.

We’ve also created a new support package to give you a direct line to a dedicated expert. With Advanced Support, you’ll be able to speak to a Success Analyst who knows your set-up intimately so they’ll be able to get to the bottom of any technical issues you have faster, and give you tailored solutions. 

Your Success Analyst will also give you deeper, focused support with your complex workflows like exams setup or data analysis in 1on1 webinars and in-person Support Days. Plus, they’ll save you valuable time by setting up automatic reports for you with exactly the information you need to see regularly, such as a weekly attendance report.

Arbor Enterprise and Advanced Support will be available in Autumn Term 2020. If you’d like to learn more, join the waiting list and be the first to hear when we launch!

To find out more about Arbor MIS for schools and Group MIS for MATs, you can arrange a free online demo here with one of our team. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Andrew Mackereth - 30 June, 2020

Category : Blog

5 easy steps to build a BI dashboard with your Arbor data

As you begin strategic planning for Autumn Term, you may want to dig into your data from the last three years in order to shape your new improvement plan. Arbor’s out-of-the-box dashboards make this easy, helping you quickly access meaningful data so you can make the best decisions. You can drill down into key attendance,

As you begin strategic planning for Autumn Term, you may want to dig into your data from the last three years in order to shape your new improvement plan. Arbor’s out-of-the-box dashboards make this easy, helping you quickly access meaningful data so you can make the best decisions. You can drill down into key attendance, behaviour and attainment metrics and easily spot useful patterns, all without the need for any special training (and no need for a complex setup process!). 

We’ve been working with schools and MATs recently who want to customise how they analyse and visualise their data even further using BI (Business Intelligence) tools, such as Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Excel. We make it easy to export your Arbor data securely into BI tools if you want to, so you can dig even deeper into your student measures. 

Using BI tools are great for:

  • Driving strategic planning by bringing data from your MIS, HR, and finance systems all into one dashboard
  • Exploring contextual factors affecting your performance by bringing in other national and regional data sets, such as GIAS (Get Information about Schools), IMD (Index of Multiple Deprivation) or crime statistics
  • Visualising your data in new ways – choose from lots of different chart and graph options

 

How to create a custom BI dashboard – an example 

So what does using BI look like in practice as a MAT? Andrew Mackereth, Arbor Senior Partnership Manager, caught up with Empower Trust in Shropshire about how they created a custom dashboard in Google Sheets using their Arbor data. Find out why they wanted to create it and how they built it in five easy steps below.

Google Sheets screenshot 2

 

3 things they wanted to achieve

 

1. Share information with the Board

As the Board of Trustees is accountable for the performance of the Multi-Academy Trust and its Academies, a key issue for Ian Nurser, Empower’s CEO, was to provide them with a breadth of accurate, timely information across a range of key performance indicators (KPIs). This would allow the Board to understand the trust’s strengths and development issues, assess progress and review future risks and priorities.

Pulling everything into a single live dashboard would give the Board a single source of truth. At each meeting, the data would automatically refresh, updating the current picture, or monthly/termly trends at the same time. 

 

2. Make sure everyone has the same information

It was important to Empower that the CEO, the Trust School Improvement Officers and local governing bodies (LGBs) had access to the same Academy-level information to allow them to question, support and appropriately challenge Academy leaders to build on their strengths and continually improve. 

 

3. Bring together a range of live data sources

Empower wanted to bring together real-time information across a broad range of KPIs including attainment and progress for all year groups, pupil attendance, exclusions, SEND, safeguarding and staff absence (as an indicator of staff wellbeing). Using Google Sheets would enable the reports to automatically update as each Academy entered data. 

As well as providing real-time information, they wanted to increase efficiency and save leadership time by compiling the content for their termly CEO and Headteacher reports to Trustees and LGBs automatically. They also wanted this information to be available to other groups of Trust and Academy staff such as SENCos and EWOs, so they could better monitor SEND, attendance, staff wellbeing, etc.

 

How they built their custom dashboard

Empower took the following steps to plan and build their Google Sheets dashboard:

1. Agree the data they want it to show
2. Find the sources of the data
3. Plan the structure of the dashboard
4. Export the data they want from Arbor
5. The dashboard is ready and will refresh automatically!

The main process involved in creating a dashboard in Google Sheets is exporting data sets from Arbor using “Live Feeds”. Empower pulled the majority of their data from the data tables in Arbor and the other information (such as the number of days of absence caused by holiday) using Arbor’s unique Custom Report Writer. 

For each data set (table) they wanted to export from Arbor, they created a “Live Feed” for it, then inserted it into their custom dashboard using the Google Sheets add-on. Then they selected the graph type they wanted to use to illustrate the data (like the bar chart below). 

Google Sheets screenshot 1

 

Ensuring the data is secure

It’s important to be confident that your data is safe when you export it out of your MIS. That’s why in Arbor you can add authentication to your “Live Feeds”. This means that anyone accessing your new custom dashboard (whichever BI tool you create it in) must enter a password. You can also track when each Feed was last accessed. Read more about how Arbor keeps your data secure here.

Google Sheets Google Sheets screenshot 3screenshot 3

 

To find out more about how to explore BI tools with your Arbor data, join our free webinar next Tuesday (7th July) at 11am. In this 45-minute session, we’ll show you how to get the most insight from your school data, both within Arbor MIS and using Power BI. Former Middle Leader at a secondary school and now Arbor’s Lead Product Manager Stephen Higgins will be joined by two data experts – Ed Cadwallader, School Improvement Consultant, and Mark Hodges, Education Systems Manager at Cantium Business Solutions.

  • Part 1: Data analysis in Arbor MIS with Stephen Higgins
  • Part 2: Creating a MAT dashboard in Power BI with Ed Cadwallader
  • Part 3: Supporting schools and MATs with Power BI with Mark Hodges

There’ll be plenty of time for questions of our three panellists.

 Click here to sign up for your free place – hope to see you there!

Rebecca Watkins - 24 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How to use benchmarking and performance analysis to inform data-driven decisions for your trust

Where do you look for data analysis across your trust? How do you pull this data together? What tools will you have to make informed decisions next year without 2019/20 performance data?  Although 2019/20 Analyse School Performance (ASP) data won’t be coming out for any schools in Autumn Term, the government is advising schools and

Where do you look for data analysis across your trust? How do you pull this data together? What tools will you have to make informed decisions next year without 2019/20 performance data? 

Although 2019/20 Analyse School Performance (ASP) data won’t be coming out for any schools in Autumn Term, the government is advising schools and trusts to use the last three years of performance data to build improvement plans.

In our webinar last week, with guest speaker Loic Menzies, Chief Executive of The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), we showed you how you can use the benchmarking and performance analysis in your free Arbor Insight portal to help you inform your strategy for next year. You can catch up on the webinar on YouTube:

What is Arbor Insight?

Arbor Insight gives you out-of-the-box, MAT-level dashboards which aggregate your academies’ latest performance data and benchmark your MAT against national and Top Quintile averages. The dashboards show multi-year trends, which are really important for forming next Academic Year improvement strategies. 

You can also drill down to see how individual schools, demographic groups or particular clusters of schools are affecting results. You can also remove schools from your analysis to see how that changes your overall performance. 

Also available in your Arbor Insight portal is your trust’s personalised Understanding Your MAT Report, which gives you a unique picture of the contextual factors affecting your trust’s performance, like local area demographics and pupil characteristics.

Access your free Arbor Insight portal here

Upcoming webinars

We have some very exciting webinars for MAT leaders coming up in the next few weeks. Click the links below to sign up for your free space:

Friday 3rd July, 3.30pm
MAT Centralisation vs School Autonomy during Covid-19
Kate Davies, CEO of the 13 school White Woods Primary Academy Trust, will discuss how she is bringing together a group of autonomous schools.

Friday 10th July, 11am
How to look after your most vulnerable students during and after Covid-19
Angela Ransbury, CEO of The Raedwald Trust will discuss how the parameters of education have changed, and the ways in which we fulfilled our teaching and caring commitments before Covid-19 are no longer fit for purpose. She’ll explain what mainstream schools can learn from AP, and how changing and adapting now will help Teachers, pupils and guardians in September.

To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you future-proof your school during Covid-19 and beyond, book an online demo. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com

Maddie Kilminster - 24 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How to open up your school’s mindset to change

Schools have had to adapt how they operate at a rapid pace over the last few months, and change isn’t always easy, particularly for a large, complex school or MAT (we’ve written on this subject before).  As schools begin to look forward to September, flexibility and adaptability will continue to be part of life. Like

Schools have had to adapt how they operate at a rapid pace over the last few months, and change isn’t always easy, particularly for a large, complex school or MAT (we’ve written on this subject before). 

As schools begin to look forward to September, flexibility and adaptability will continue to be part of life. Like many schools, you might be considering switching to cloud-based systems so you can manage your school more flexibly next Term.  

Whatever change you’re considering, Arbor’s Partnership Manager, Mark Maitland, has some advice below for how a change in mindset can help you make change a success.

 

The change mindset

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve been helping individuals, schools and companies work through change. I started out in my career as a Teacher in special needs before moving into psychotherapy and change psychology. When faced with new ways of working, behaviour and new technology, I’ve seen people react in lots of different ways, some finding it more difficult than others.

I was once worked with GP practices to help them change to a new cloud-based system which would free up GP time and improve patient safety. Even when they could see the benefits, staff were reluctant to change their ways of working because it was what they were used to. 

This “fear” of change is hardwired in our brain from the past when change was dangerous. Nowadays, when we face a change, our brain’s first reaction is to hesitate! It’s a very emotional reaction to protect ourselves and play it safe. Familiarity is a comfort. 

 

Caution in a pandemic

In times of national crises like the pandemic we’re living through right now, two things happen. Society looks to retreat and wait for a return to normal. Then, once we get over the initial shock and accept that “normal” isn’t returning as quickly as we hoped, we begin to reflect and think about what we might do differently in future. 

Changing school technology 

I’ve definitely noticed a shift in mindset from some of the schools I’ve been speaking to since Covid-19 began. Before the pandemic, the demands of normal school life would often get in the way and make staff less open to changing how they’d always done things. They were fearful of yet another burden on their time, and a potential threat to them being able to do their jobs properly.

What we’re seeing more of now is School Leaders stepping back, reflecting on lessons they’ve learned over the last few months, and looking at changes they can make to prepare themselves for the future. 

At the top of their minds is asking themselves if the systems they have in place can cope with flexible ways of working going forward.

  • If things change again, do we have a good communications system?
  • If staff have to work remotely again, can they access all the student information they need from home
  • Do we have quick ways to track vulnerable students and staff?
  • How quickly would our systems update if the DfE changed guidelines again?

 

“We should have done this years ago!”

A crisis can often clarify our minds and allow us to make practical decisions in order to get through. Switching systems like your MIS (Management Information System) during such a busy and challenging time might feel too daunting, but lots of schools have found that by finding something that’s within their control that will help them deal better with the crisis can feel really positive. 

 

How Arbor can help

At Arbor, we believe you should be able to rely on your tech when you’re pulled in lots of different directions. But if you’re still using a legacy, server-based MIS, you’ll find it difficult to run your school flexibly next term. 

Our cloud-based MIS lets you run your school however you need to, giving all your staff the student information they need wherever they are. In Arbor, you can easily plan your rotas, set up flexible timetables, log and manage attendance and keep track of vulnerable students easily with in-built reports. 

Read about how both Hoyland Common Academy Trust and LEO Academy Trust moved to Arbor during lockdown, along with more than 225 schools since March! 

To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you future-proof your school during Covid-19 and beyond, join one of our free webinars or book an online demo. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com

Maddie Kilminster - 24 June, 2020

Category : Blog

3 reasons why you should switch to a cloud-based MIS now to future-proof your school

We’ve been working hand in hand with schools and MATs to help them to adapt to partial school closures and the recent wider opening to some year groups during the Covid-19 outbreak. Because Arbor is cloud-based, staff can continue to access all the student information they need to do their daily tasks remotely, without worrying

server vs cloud

We’ve been working hand in hand with schools and MATs to help them to adapt to partial school closures and the recent wider opening to some year groups during the Covid-19 outbreak. Because Arbor is cloud-based, staff can continue to access all the student information they need to do their daily tasks remotely, without worrying about having a VPN or patches. 

There’s lots of uncertainty about what school life will look like in September. Schools don’t know how many students will be on-site or what social distancing arrangements will be in place. What they do know is they’ll need to prepare for lots of different outcomes.

Trying to plan flexible arrangements in September is difficult if you’re still relying on a server-based MIS. That’s why lots of schools are switching to a reliable cloud-based system which will allow them to manage their school flexibly over the next few months. 

Over 225 schools have moved to Arbor since March. Here are three reasons why moving to the cloud now will help you manage your school during Covid-19 and beyond:

 

1) Be prepared for September with systems that reduce your admin burden

There’s likely to be more challenges to come in September, so you need a school system that automates your essential daily admin and frees you up to focus on supporting your students and staff. 

Whether all students come back, or you have split-populations, Arbor’s cloud-based MIS will allow you to easily plan your rotas and set up flexible timetables. You’ll be able to log and manage attendance from wherever you are, plus track key demographic groups such as children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers easily with in-built reports. Simon brown quote

2) Keep on top of DfE requirements

Having a cloud-based MIS in place makes it easy to adapt to rapid changes in regulation, like socially distanced timetabling, new attendance and absence codes or key worker status. This is because whatever the DfE introduces, Arbor can update within 24 hours, meaning you can keep on top of new requirements from the next day. No more patches or workarounds!

 

3) Instantly access student and staff information from anywhere

With staff working in different ways, and in different locations, their jobs are much more difficult if they have to come into school to access the information they need. That’s where a cloud-based MIS like Arbor comes in, which gives staff all the student data they need wherever they are. 

Having instant access to data about the children in your school also reduces the safety risk. Staff can see immediately if something doesn’t look right and follow up immediately with their Teacher or parent directly from the same page. No more switching systems or downloading contact lists! You’ll find more tips for keeping in touch with your school community here.

jacky blaikie quote blog

It’s easy to switch

Because managing your school how you need to right now is so difficult with a server-based system, the question has become not if you should move to the cloud but when

To help, we’ve made the process of moving to Arbor simple and we can get you up and running in a matter of weeks, 100% remotely. From migrating your data to Arbor, to training up your staff to use the system confidently, a dedicated Project Manager will guide you every step of the way.

Read about how both Hoyland Common Academy Trust and LEO Academy Trust moved to Arbor during lockdown, along with more than 225 schools since March! 

Vicky Harrison blog quote

To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you future-proof your school during Covid-19 and beyond, join one of our free webinars or book an online demo. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com

 

The Harris Federation - 18 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How Harris Federation implemented a failsafe online learning strategy – Part 2: What they learned from their data 

In our latest webinar for MAT leaders, we were joined by Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation. In our previous blog, we explained Harris’s unique approach to IT and how they were able to enable remote learning for their 36,000+ students when the Covid-19 crisis hit. In

In our latest webinar for MAT leaders, we were joined by Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation. In our previous blog, we explained Harris’s unique approach to IT and how they were able to enable remote learning for their 36,000+ students when the Covid-19 crisis hit.

In this blog, Derek and Andy share how they analysed their data across the trust using Microsoft Power BI, so they could measure how well students and staff were engaging with the online learning tools they’d put in place. 

 

How do you measure the success of remote learning? 

Once remote lessons got underway at The Harris Federation, questions soon arose around how it was all going; how many Teachers and students were engaging and what the quality of the interactions were. It was easy for Teachers to get insights about their classes from Microsoft Teams, but it was difficult to get useful information at a departmental, academy or trust level. To combat this, the IT team developed reports using Power BI to analyse usage data across the trust. 

Report 1

Below is a standard Power BI template they used to see all trust digital activity over a period of time, such as where users were logging in from and which files they were accessing. This was useful as it meant they could look at huge quantities of log data (10 million rows a day) during lockdown. 

Harris log data

Report 2

This image shows a different report they used to look at log information showing all online student activity. This allowed them to easily see the peaks and troughs over time, which helped them identify anyone they should follow up with.

usage data 2

Report 3

The below report showed them usage of systems during the Covid-19 period. Office 365 is orange, SharePoint is pink, OneDrive is grey, purple is Teams and yellow is Exchange (email) (not many students). 

They could see that in March, there was a big increase in email use as students and staff needed to communicate more than ever before, but Teams soon overtook email as remote lessons became regular. Use of Onedrive dropped, potentially because students and Teachers were storing and accessing assignment files within Teams instead. 

systems usage

Report 4

They also used Power BI to get important demographic information for safeguarding purposes. They also had to keep Governors and the Board of Trustees up-to-date with stats such as attendance. 

contextual analysis

Covid-19 has drawn attention to just how important having a strong IT infrastructure has been for teams across Harris. It has allowed the IT team to continue business as usual for the large part, and respond to the huge number of data requests they’ve received during lockdown. 

Though they’ve been able to learn a lot about the quantity of their online learning data, e.g. the peaks and troughs of usage, which parts of the system were being used and by whom, but what they haven’t been able to analyse is the quality of what was actually going on in the classroom. 

We’d be interested to know how and what you’ve learned from your online learning data at your school or trust, and the lessons you’ll take forward as you continue with a blended learning approach. Post a comment here or on the Arbor Community forum.

 

You’re invited to join us for the next webinar in our “Adapting to Change” series tomorrow (Friday 19th) where we’ll be demonstrating how to use benchmarking and performance analysis to drive smart strategy at your trust. Sign up for free with the link below.

Friday June 19th 2020, 11:00am

Using Arbor’s benchmarking and performance analysis to inform data-driven decisions for your trust

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Harris Federation - 18 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How The Harris Federation implemented a failsafe online learning strategy – Part 1

Recently we invited Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation – a trust of 48 academies in London and Essex – to talk about how they rolled out an online learning programme for their 36,000+ students.  They explained how when Covid-19 hit, their flexible, cloud-based setup allowed them

Recently we invited Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation – a trust of 48 academies in London and Essex – to talk about how they rolled out an online learning programme for their 36,000+ students. 

They explained how when Covid-19 hit, their flexible, cloud-based setup allowed them to quickly and easily give all students access to online education, which would not have been possible using a legacy, server based system. You can read more below about Harris’s unique IT approach and how they responded to Covid-19.

Check out our next blog to find out how they analysed their online learning data!

Harris’s technical approach

With 4,500 staff and 36,000 students across primary and secondary, Harris uses a centralised and standardised IT set-up designed to give everyone the same experience across the trust. 

The focus of Derek and Andy’s roles is making IT work for everyone across the trust with systems that are as efficient and cost effective as possible. 

The key principles of their IT approach are:

  • Centralise: Keep central control of system setup to reduce the amount of IT support needed at each school site
  • Integrate: Make sure data flows between systems so you don’t have to access everything separately
  • Consolidate: Make sure there is no duplication or errors in the data when it is brought in from different systems 
  • Automate: Make sure workflows and processes are automatic to save staff time and cut down on the number of people needed. This is particularly important when dealing with a large amount of staff and student data 

Using a data warehouse

The IT team at Harris manages data centrally through a combination of their own data warehouse and cloud-based systems. They created a data warehouse so that they could hold all their MIS (Management Information System) data on premises and develop systems on top of it. 

Using a data warehouse also means that when they bring in a new system, for example Microsoft Teams, it can set up user accounts for all students and staff automatically. Admin Staff simply add the student names, then the data warehouse puts them into the right groups, saving the central IT team time. 

Whenever they design new systems or processes, Derek and Andy ensure they can be used across all academies. They want to make sure all staff and students have the same technology options at their fingertips. At the same time, it’s also important to give Teachers the freedom to use digital tools in a way that suits the particular lesson they’re giving. For this reason, the IT team doesn’t advise that staff teach in a certain way, or use a certain VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) such as Google Classroom. From experience, without top-level buy in from trust leadership, initiatives like these are rarely successful.

Harris uses Microsoft systems across the trust which are set up to communicate with their data warehouse. These are some of the key parts of the puzzle that help the systems interact:

  • API: Harris makes sure that systems they integrate with (like their MIS) have a “read” and “write” API which means they can interact with their data warehouse
  • SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services): They use middleware that sits in between systems to connect them and allows IT to tweak the data as it moves between systems
  • MIM (Microsoft Identity Manager): This is a type of middleware they use for integrating with Microsoft Active Directory
  • SDS (School Data Sync) and Microsoft Flow: Allows them to push data up to Office 365 from their data warehouse and create Microsoft Team accounts
  • Microsoft PowerBI: A reporting tool which gives them insights into the information in their data warehouse 

How Harris responded to Covid-19

As schools began to close and remote working became necessary, Harris was able to respond quickly, using lessons they’d learned from a recent snow day. On that day, phone lines couldn’t cope, staff ran out of SMS credits and the web connection crashed. They therefore had already solved these issues, and increased their supply of laptops for students and staff to take home when Covid-19 hit. 

Setting up remote teaching and learning was also a smooth transition because staff were already using Microsoft Teams and Show My Homework to record lessons and set assignments. The only difference was that staff had to adjust to doing much more on Teams such as leading live lessons. The IT team also needed to set up lots more users on Teams – in March alone they set up 20, 000 accounts which took two weeks as Microsoft struggled to cope!

Click here to see the four steps the IT team took to set up users on Microsoft Teams using their data warehouse

Although they were smooth to set up, remote lessons brought some challenges. IT worked quickly with Teachers to adapt the ways students interacted with Microsoft Teams. For example:

  • Behaviour policy: Due to behaviour issues, they had to draw up a new Behaviour Policy and turn off certain capabilities for students, like switching off their cameras or not allowing them to create meetings themselves
  • Meeting formats: They looked at lots of different formats for remote lessons that Teachers could alternate between for best effect, for example a live “webinar” or “meeting”
  • GDPR: They had to navigate GDPR concerns for the recording of lessons, i.e. how long to keep the recordings before deleting
  • Remote support: Microsoft Teams was useful for IT teams to communicate easily with staff and give them support with systems, especially by being able to share their screen

Check out our next blog to find out what Harris has learned about their online learning programme from analysing their data in Microsoft Power BI.

You’re invited to join us for the next webinar in our “Adapting to Change” series tomorrow (Friday 19th) where we’ll be demonstrating how to use benchmarking and performance analysis to drive smart strategy at your trust. Sign up for free with the link below.

Friday June 19th 2020, 11:00am

Using Arbor’s benchmarking and performance analysis to inform data-driven decisions for your trust

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

LEO Academy Trust - 15 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How to digitally transform your trust – the LEO Academy Trust story

During our webinar series “Adapting to Change”, we’ve been hearing from lots of Multi-Academy Trust leaders about how they’ve shifted their strategy to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, shared how he’s looking out for staff wellbeing, whilst Mark Greatrex, CEO of Bellevue Place Education Trust, spoke about the

During our webinar series “Adapting to Change”, we’ve been hearing from lots of Multi-Academy Trust leaders about how they’ve shifted their strategy to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, shared how he’s looking out for staff wellbeing, whilst Mark Greatrex, CEO of Bellevue Place Education Trust, spoke about the balance between school autonomy and trust centralisation, and Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust shared some lessons for leaders in a global crisis

Our latest speaker in our Adapting to Change series, LEO Academy Trust gave a brilliant talk about how they’ve rolled out cloud-based technology and consolidated their systems across their trust. They shared how they had to rapidly step up their rollout as the Covid-19 crisis began to kick in. They also explained some of the ways Arbor’s cloud-based MIS has helped them work flexibly during lockdown since they moved in March.

LEO’s Director of Technology (Learning) Graham Macaulay and Chief Operations Officer Nicky Gillhespy shared some great advice for fellow MAT leaders, particularly if you’re planning on updating your trust’s digital strategy in light of the demands of Covid-19. 

We’ve summarised their talk below – we hope it gives you some useful tips to take back to your trust when thinking about how to manage the coming weeks and months.

 

The journey towards digital transformation 

 

Our Trust is built up of six academies, 3550 students, 415 members of staff across seven sites, but we wanted to bring in one digital strategy which drives our use of technology across the board. It was really important to us that we aligned all our key stakeholders in a clear direction before thinking about how we would actually roll out new systems.

When we began planning our new digital strategy in September 2017, we had five challenges we needed to overcome before moving forward:

  • Financial constraints
    We started from quite a bleak financial position so where we wanted to use technology to improve outcomes and opportunities for our pupils, we had to be mindful of the finances that would be needed to make it happen
  • GDPR
    When we started the project, GDPR was on the horizon, and there was quite a lot of scaremongering and uncertainty about what it might involve. We had to make sure that anything we introduced would be bullet-proof when the legislation changed
  • Loss of LA support
    A big impetus to our digital shift was our Local Authority central admin server being decommissioned. The cost of replacing the physical servers across our seven sites was estimated at £60,000. So this prompted us to make a new plan
  • We needed a way to collaborate
    Our staff across the seven sites wanted to work together and help each other, but unfortunately, our IT systems actually prevented that. We wanted to make sure that the systems we moved to enabled the whole trust to come together
  • We had no technology vision
    When we started, there was no joined up direction or strategy. Our approach to technology was basically if it’s there, it’s great. And if something breaks and we’ll just replace it

To solve these problems, we had two options. The first was to carry on doing what we’d always done and “fill the holes and paint over” so that on the surface everything looked like it was working. This would have been the easy option, as it would involve no new staff training, no new risks, costs or demands on staff time.

Option two was to innovate and think differently. We had to realise that the world was massively changing and that we as an organisation needed to embrace that change. Sometimes the quick wins don’t always produce the best outcomes in the long term. 

 

Defining what we wanted to achieve

The digital vision has to come from the top and you have to have the support of the Trust Board. You also have to have input from various different groups. The key to our success was setting up Digital Working Parties with key stakeholders from across the trust, including Trustees, the CEO, the CFO, COO and Director of Technology. We asked key questions such as “What do we want out of the system?”, “What do we need?” and “What are we doing now that we could do better?” Then we tasked the IT and Technology departments to devise new solutions. Having input from every single area within our trust helped to manage knock-on effects of initiatives and make sure they worked for everyone. 

 

Planning is essential

During the journey, there have been highs where we’ve made progress and delivered change, but of course, there have also been challenges along the way. We learned quickly that the key to success, as with any change management project, was setting essential milestones along the way. Then as the plan began to change, we could default back to our core objectives in order to manage expectations.

We spent a lot of time thinking about long-term development, for example the sort of organisation we wanted to be and the opportunities we wanted to provide to our staff and pupils. But we also needed to deliver short-term projects where staff could see the benefits immediately. What was important was to position these “quick wins” within the longer term direction.

 

Communicating the strategy

We initially took a “dissemination approach” to communicating the changes to staff. Centrally, we communicated in the Digital Working Party, then Headteachers and Principals passed on the message to their teams. We reflect now that this process could have been improved because it meant those messages weren’t always delivered on time or accurately, and this generated a feeling of hearsay between schools. It would have been better if we’d have taken on some of that responsibility centrally. 

 

Changing mindsets and empowering staff

We wanted to ensure that every staff member had the core skill set they needed to make the changes we were putting in place. We therefore spent almost a whole academic year preparing support materials for staff and delivering CPD on everything from beginner’s Google, to creating forms, to managing files. 

Running a staff development programme was essential to making the digital project a success. And this work is ongoing – as we evolve our digital strategy, we will regularly review our provision for our staff and their capabilities, and change the way we deliver our CPD accordingly.

Although most staff have adapted to the new technology we’ve introduced, there was some reluctance and fear of change. We found the most important thing was to build their confidence. Our Office Staff have enormous skill and so we asked them why they liked working in certain ways so we could make sure our new ideas suited them and made their workload easier. By encouraging them to take part in our Digital Working Parties, and demonstrating their particular skills, they started to flourish. 

 

Our biggest wins of moving to the cloud

 

  • Online forms
    At the same time as introducing a central finance team, we created online Google order forms which are automatically sent to the right person to approve, then back to the School Office to process. This was important for auditory purposes but also allowed us to make sure budget holders didn’t feel they were losing control of their own budgets. We also find Google forms useful for staff to book their annual leave and to send surveys to parents

 

  • Joint calendars
    Having live calendars that all staff can feed into and look at has saved us lots of time and money. For every event this saves at least one email with people asking for details

 

  • Shared docs
    Using Google Docs allows all our staff, regardless of what site they work out or the device they’re using, to work on the same document at the same time. This really boosts collaboration and saves time

 

The impact of technology on teaching and learning

Since we moved to the cloud, we’ve been able to change our pedagogy and the way we deliver teaching and learning. We’re running a programme to provide all KS2 children with a Chromebook to use in school and to take home. This has enabled us to move from a passive approach where teachers talk and children do an activity, to having a lot more strategies that enhance the teaching and learning. Pupil engagement has rocketed as a result. 

We’re also really proud that one of our schools has become a Google for Education Reference School which means they regularly host visitors from around the world to look at the impact that technology is having on pupil experiences and outcomes.  

 

Supporting remote learning

During these unusual times, we’ve used technology to maintain a sense of normality as much as possible. One of the ways we’ve supported teaching and learning has been through setting up a simple Google website for schools to upload activities. The vision was to provide fun opportunities for children and help families support their children with their education from home. The site is massively helping not just our children, but children across the world, with around 15,000 visitors every day! 

We’ve also set up Google Hangouts for our classes, as well as sessions for our “Digital Leader” pupils with speakers from Google and Adobe sharing words of wisdom and ideas for how they can develop their computing knowledge. We’re also holding virtual discos with staff acting as DJs which we’re streaming live.  

 

Moving to Arbor during Covid-19

We moved to Arbor on 16th March – midway through the start of the Covid-19 crisis – but the timing worked out perfectly. Moving to a cloud-based MIS meant that our Office Staff could do all of their admin work at home. From the operations side we have been able to continue business as usual since the crisis hit, since all of our payments and orders could continue, and we could set up staff to work from home easily.

Moving to the cloud has changed how we work for the better and put us in a really strong position, especially for the demands of distance learning. From one computer we can access all areas across the trust, such as the MIS, our data stores and our finance systems. As soon as we decided to close our schools, we created a form to find out from pupils and staff whether they had access to a device or the Internet at home. We then made sure that every pupil and member of staff went home with a web-based device. 

 

Look out for more webinars with MAT leaders in our series “Adapting to Change”.  You can also check out our Summer schedule of webinars all about how to manage your school or MAT flexibly with a cloud-based MIS. With sessions specific to primaries, secondaries and MATs, and managing assessments, meals and payments, and more, find the session that’s right for you and book here. See you online soon!

Maddie Kilminster - 5 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How can you move forward with your socially distanced school timetable?

Just before half term, lots of schools joined us for a webinar hosted by The ONTO Group all about designing a new school timetable in line with social distancing. It was a great opportunity for schools to discuss the challenges of their settings with timetabling experts and MIS providers. Lots of important practical and technical

Just before half term, lots of schools joined us for a webinar hosted by The ONTO Group all about designing a new school timetable in line with social distancing. It was a great opportunity for schools to discuss the challenges of their settings with timetabling experts and MIS providers. Lots of important practical and technical questions were raised, including “How could I split my school into two populations?” and “How can we keep students separate when they arrive and depart from school?” TimeTabler had some useful advice that you can find on our blog.

Since then, the conversation has continued on Facebook, with school leaders sharing the solutions they’ve found. You’ll find some great example timetables that members have shared in the “files” section on the page. 

With schools now starting to open up to more year groups, the questions now are “How are you putting your new timetable into practice?” and “What is working well and what have been the challenges?”

To discuss all this and more, join us for another free panel discussion next Tuesday (9th June) in partnership with The ONTO Group and with contributions from Edval and TimeTabler. Sign up for free here to join fellow Timetablers and School Leaders and share best practice.

The main topic we’ll be discussing is “Should you put your new timetable into your MIS?” The answer to this will look very different depending on your school setting. We’ll dig into this in the webinar, but beforehand we’ve put together some of the things you can think about to help you make the right call for your school:

  • How many students are you expecting?
  • Will your students be moving around the school?
  • Are you following the same rota each week?
  • How will you take your registers?
  • How will you know which students to expect in school? 
  • How will you follow up if expected students don’t come in?
  • Will you be able to identify quickly who is on site for health & safety and safeguarding reasons?
  • Can you easily log the contact points between students and between staff and students for contract tracing purposes?
  • Do you have any systems linked to your MIS? For example, Show My Homework, Hegarty Maths, CPOMS, Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom?
  • What will happen if you end courses and replace your main timetable for this year? Will it affect your New School Year setup?

If you’re using Arbor MIS, you can find all our guidance on how to set up your new groups and classes, and complete your New School Year Setup on our Help Centre. You’ll find everything we’re doing to support schools during Covid-19 here. You can also discuss with fellow Arbor schools on the Arbor Community.

Maddie Kilminster - 5 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How IT support teams are helping schools adapt to new ways of working 

As we all know, schools have had to rapidly change the way they work in the last few months – adjusting their processes to meet the needs of children and families in and out of school. In turn, IT teams that support schools have also had to change the way they operate.  At Arbor we’re

As we all know, schools have had to rapidly change the way they work in the last few months – adjusting their processes to meet the needs of children and families in and out of school. In turn, IT teams that support schools have also had to change the way they operate. 

At Arbor we’re proud to work in partnership with more than 30 IT teams across the country, who collectively support thousands of schools. Teaming up with support partners means we can give schools freedom and flexibility so they can get the support that’s right for them

Over the past weeks, we caught up with some of our support teams (Agilisys in Sefton, ICT Schools Team in Buckinghamshire, Cantium in Kent, HertsForLearning in Hertfordshire, iCT4 in Cornwall, and Orbis in East Sussex) to get their perspectives on the challenges schools are facing and how they’re helping. 

We thought we’d share this insight into what’s being going on behind the scenes. Look out for links to some useful blogs and webinars to support you with wider school opening.

 

Working remotely to help schools do the same

Up and down the country, our partners have been working hard to help schools get used to a new way of working, whilst dealing with working remotely themselves. For many it’s been the busiest period they can remember, with teams pulling together despite, as Richard May from Orbis puts it, having “relocated to a variety of spare rooms and kitchen tables”, and as Sheryl Everett from Buckinghamshire Council adds, with the companionship of “pets, offspring and partners.” 

Whether putting their own business continuity plans into action, or reacting quickly to help schools with the latest government guidelines, it’s been a time of constant adaptation for our partners. They’ve moved their usual consultancy services online and redesigned their summer training programmes so they can deliver them digitally. However, it has been important to the majority of teams to provide continuity and business as usual as far as possible. Maintaining familiar working patterns has not only been vital for schools, but it has been helpful for IT teams too, as they adapt to the new climate. 

 

Helping schools access the information they need

For the first few weeks of lockdown, the biggest challenge for our partners was to make sure schools who didn’t have cloud-based systems (for example, if their MIS was server-based) could access the data they needed and get work done. This often meant many hours of work setting up remote access to locally hosted servers via VPNs. One of the most important focuses has been helping schools work securely without their normal networks.

Find out all about the new government grant that could save you thousands on tech support with your G Suite or Office 365 setup – and our Support Partners who could help you – on our blog. 

Partners were also busy guiding schools through the rapidly changing government advice. The team at Cantium, for example, pulled together a dedicated resources page where schools could find all the information they needed on Covid-19 in one place. 

Find all the support you can get from Arbor during Covid-19 here.

When plans were announced to open schools to more year groups from 1st June, partners began helping schools think about how to design a timetable that keeps students and staff safe. We attended a webinar hosted by The ONTO Group, EdVal Timetables and TimeTabler on how to adapt your timetable for social distancing. Check out our top tips from TimeTabler in our guest blog.

Join us for our next webinar all about timetabling on Tuesday 9th June when we’ll be sharing examples from schools of how to embed your new timetable. Sign up for free here.

 

Guiding schools on how to manage online learning

More recently, the focus has switched to supporting online learning, helping schools through daily blogs such as those provided by Herts for Learning, or webinars on a range of distance learning topics and getting schools up-and-running with O365 or G-Suite. The team at iCT4 for example, have been running daily Q&A sessions on Microsoft Teams. 

Richard Martin from London Grid for Learning (LGfL) wrote a guest blog for us recently with advice for schools on how to manage teaching and learning remotely, including links to digital training for staff.

Join us for a free webinar all about how to manage online learning on Friday 12th June. Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director at Harris Federation will be sharing how they rolled out their online learning to over 36,000 pupils during lockdown, and what they’ve learned from looking at the data from remote learning. Sign up for free here.

 

A blended learning future 

As we look to the future and the gradual extended opening of schools, our partners will continue to have an important role to play in both supporting schools with the technology and the pedagogy for a more blended learning approach. If we’ve learnt one thing from the current crisis, it’s that we can all operate effectively more remotely. Whilst our partners (like all of us) can’t wait to get back to a more normal way of working, elements of online training and service delivery will be here to stay. 

If you’re an IT Support Team, School or MAT and you want to find out more about Arbor MIS get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028. 

Maddie Kilminster - 4 June, 2020

Category : Blog

Announcing the new Understanding Your MAT Report – out now!

See your trust in a new light with our new free report Often serving a broad range of pupils from different backgrounds, and sometimes varying geographical areas, a big priority for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) is ensuring their spread of provision gives every pupil an equal chance of success.  There are lots of factors that play

See your trust in a new light with our new free report


Often serving a broad range of pupils from different backgrounds, and sometimes varying geographical areas, a big priority for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) is ensuring their spread of provision gives every pupil an equal chance of success. 

There are lots of factors that play a part in how pupils perform, such as where they live, whether they’re eligible for free school meals (FSM), or have special educational needs (SEN). As a DfE official warns that the attainment gap for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds could widen by 75% as a result of Covid-19, it’s more important than ever for trusts to look at their school performance in context. The problem is, it’s not always easy to gather all this data in one place without trawling online data tables or waiting on spreadsheets.

That’s why we’ve launched a brand new free report for MAT leaders – the “Understanding Your MAT Report”. Created for every MAT in the country, the report helps you understand your unique make-up in a national context, so you can shape smart strategy going forwards.

Designed in partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth, the Understanding Your MAT Report brings together your schools’ key performance measures, alongside your MAT’s size and local demographics, to help you understand your unique set of strengths and challenges. What’s more, the report shows you how your MAT compares to other trusts nationally for the first time.

Your Understanding Your MAT Report is live now for you to download from your free Arbor Group Insight portal (our benchmarking tool for MATs)! If you don’t have an account yet, sign up here for free.

What can you do with the new Understanding Your MAT Report? 

  • Get a clear picture of student performance across your trust, how you compare in a national context 
  • Compare your size, growth, pupil characteristics and socio-economic factors with other trusts
  • Shape smart strategy by looking at the relationship between deprivation and attainment across your trust 

Let’s break that down…

1. Get a clear picture of student performance across your trust, how you compare in a national context 

We use your schools’ latest validated 2019 Analyse School Performance (ASP) data to show you your spread of performance in key measures at KS4, 2 and 1, such as Progress 8, Achieving Expected Standard: Reading, Writing and Maths, and Working at the Expected Standard: Year 1 Phonics

Then we compare your results against three key benchmarks: Trust average (the weighted average of all your schools’ results), National average (weighted average of all state schools in England) and National MAT average (weighted average of all academies in England) to help you see what makes your MAT distinctive.

Plus, you can use your report as a companion to your free Arbor Group Insight portal, where you can dig further into any data set to see pupil level figures.

Image 1 – KS4 Progress 8 score, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020

 

2. Compare your size, growth, pupil characteristics and socio-economic factors with other trusts

You might be wondering “Is my MAT growing at the same pace as other trusts?” Or “Is our proportion of students eligible for Free School Meals higher or lower than other trusts?” The Understanding Your MAT Report will help you answer all these questions and more, showing you how your unique make-up compares to other trusts in the country.

You’ll get an overview of your MAT’s size, growth, blend of phases, pupil characteristics (% of FSM, SEN and EAL pupils), as well as the “Area Type” your schools are in, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) area classifications. The report also shows you the demographic factors associated with the areas your schools are in (such as the level of education and the unemployment rate) which helps you understand your pupils’ socio-economic background.

Image 2 – Area Type Blend, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020


3. Shape smart strategy by looking at the relationship between deprivation and attainment across your trust

By bringing together your demographics, pupil context and school attainment, your Understanding Your MAT Report will help you understand all the factors impacting achievement at your MAT. As you’ll see from the report’s leading article “Breaking the link: Attainment, poverty and rural schools” (preview here), the relationship between disadvantage and attainment varies considerably between different parts of England, so it’s important for trusts to understand how this plays out across their mix of schools.

Use this analysis to drive decision making at your next strategy meeting, and find new ways to improve results for staff and pupils. 

 

Your Understanding Your MAT Report is live now for you to download from your Arbor Group Insight portal – we’ve also sent the link to you by email. If you’re not registered, don’t worry, you can sign up for free here

If you have any questions about your report, or if you’d like one of our team to show you around Group Insight, get in touch at insight@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Mark Lacey - 3 June, 2020

Category : Blog

When the Strategic Plan just doesn’t cut it! Lessons for leaders in a global crisis from Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust

In our webinar series for MAT leaders “Adapting to Change”, we recently heard from Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, who shared his strategies for leading his trust through the challenges of Covid-19.  Mark had some really useful advice for fellow MAT leaders around how having strong foundations through your strategic plan,

In our webinar series for MAT leaders “Adapting to Change”, we recently heard from Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, who shared his strategies for leading his trust through the challenges of Covid-19. 

Mark had some really useful advice for fellow MAT leaders around how having strong foundations through your strategic plan, business continuity plan and risk registers, as well as a strong set of digital tools, can help you pivot flexibly in a crisis. Most importantly, Mark highlighted the need for realism and compassion for staff.

As you’re planning your exit strategy from the current Covid-19 crisis, you might find it helpful to take a look at Mark’s planning document which he kindly shared with us. As you’ll see, the document addresses key risk scenarios and outlines the trust’s response, with space for the individual schools to complete their responses. Click here to download the PDF.

We’ve summarised Mark’s conversation with Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill below.

How well prepared were you for the Covid-19 crisis? 

I don’t think anyone was prepared for what has happened, but what we benefited from is we have a clear strategic plan, business continuity plan and risk register which gives us a strong backbone and allows us to adapt and flex when external events occur. 

We also pride ourselves on having an adaptive culture at the trust. We recognise that we don’t always have all the answers, but that it’s more important to share best practice, collaborate, and be open to admitting when we’re doing something wrong. This allows us to change direction fast.

How did you adapt to the crisis?

Earlier in the year, we had already experienced a large challenge – we went through 7 Ofsted inspections over a period of 10 weeks – which forced us to adapt quickly. This served as a test in some ways for what was to come with Covid-19 and we were able to learn important lessons so we could easily switch to a new rhythm of working. 

Given our schools are spread over quite a wide geographical area, we made sure above all that we worked tightly as a Central Team and that we set a clear direction. It was important that we were responsive in relaying information as soon and as clearly as possible to schools, and that we were accessible for whatever schools needed.

What have you learned about being responsive in a crisis?

The speed at which we’ve adapted to ensure emergency provision has shown us just how much potential we have for change. It’s also proven to us the importance of building into our strategic planning a focus on people more than process. We know staff will continue to feel vulnerable sometimes going forward and we believe taking a compassionate approach and prioritising wellbeing is really important.

When you return to more normal operations, how will your “people over process” approach change the way you work?

Putting people first is a difficult thing to measure and be certain about, but there are some concrete measures we can put in place. For example, we’ve seen that easy-to-use shared IT systems like Office 365 take a lot of burden away from staff and can help them feel connected. We also try to gauge how staff are doing through sending out digital forms and bringing representative groups of staff together to discuss certain issues. We aim to use the feedback we get from staff to build into our policy making going forward. A big emphasis across the trust is also social and personal development. 

How do you monitor wellbeing when working remotely?

A big focus of ours as a Central Team is looking after our Headteachers. Our Academy Improvement Team members have each taken responsibility for a group of Heads who they meet with every week using Microsoft Teams (video chat). Every meeting starts with questions about their wellbeing – it’s been important for us to understand all the different struggles Heads are dealing with at the moment, such as spouses who are key workers or having children at home. We’re learning a lot, and fast, about how to sense how staff are doing from their body language and tone over video. Many of the tensions Heateachers found with staff at the beginning involved miscommunications over email, so we’ve actively encouraged video chat to bring a personal approach.

Keeping regular lines of communication has also been really important. We’ve converted our monthly bulletins to weekly bulletins focused on wellbeing, in order to make sure everyone has access to helpful resources. 

How has your leadership style changed during Covid-19?

The most challenging thing we’ve faced as a Central Team has been working remotely and not being physically in each school. Whilst my natural leadership style is collaborative and approachable, this has been essential to emphasise even more, making Headteachers aware I’m here if they need.

Of course, we’ve been direct and interventionist where it was necessary. For example, we felt it was important to bring some schools together into hubs so that we had greater control of emergency provision and more staff could shield, despite some resistance from Headteachers.

How have you been using tech to adapt?

Because we’ve invested quite considerably in digital tools over the last two years, we didn’t have to suddenly bring on lots of new systems to cope with remote working. This crisis has shown us the real value of having systems like Arbor’s cloud-based MIS and Office 365 in place to rely on. It’s meant we can share data within and between schools easily, and communicate with parents using tools staff are comfortable using already. Some of our schools weren’t using some of the communications features before the crisis, but Arbor switched these on swiftly for us.

We’ve also seen the benefit of Arbor in our financial management during the crisis. We were able to set up our own Free School Meal voucher scheme and get all the data we needed from Arbor. 

Setting up students on Microsoft Teams has also made a lot of impact. Going forward, we’re going to ensure everyone has access to a remote learning platform. 

Has this crisis challenged your expectations on how quickly you can implement change?

It’s shown us the importance of being clear about what we all need to do together and what will have the most impact. It’s given us conviction and belief to step into changes more boldly in future. 

What are your future plans?

Having learned from this current situation, we’re going to be cautious about making too many plans going forward. Being able to adapt is much more important. We’ve got to be realistic about what can be achieved over the next year, given schools will need time to recover. 

In terms of planning towards wider school opening, we’re trying to make neutral decisions by weighing up the polarised spread of views out there. We’ve put together a risk assessment and planning document for our exit from the Covid-19 situation* which outlines key questions and issues, and the trust responses to each of them. It also provides space for schools to add their responses. 

* You can download Mark’s “Risk Assessment: Planning for Exit from COVID-19 Emergency Period” document here

What are your key takeaways from the Covid-19 crisis? 

I hope we will all go forward with a greater appreciation for what we have and more compassion for each other. I have been incredibly impressed with everything our staff have achieved and will not forget it. 

As a Central Team, we will aim to take collective responsibility for who we are as a trust and move forward with a strong moral compass.

Maddie Kilminster - 3 June, 2020

Category : Blog

Apply for free support from Google and Microsoft to support your virtual learning

You may have seen that the Government has introduced a new grant that schools can apply for to get support to use digital learning platforms G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education. This is a great opportunity for schools – especially at a time when you’re having to manage at least some of your

You may have seen that the Government has introduced a new grant that schools can apply for to get support to use digital learning platforms G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education. This is a great opportunity for schools – especially at a time when you’re having to manage at least some of your lessons, and your staff and students, remotely. 

At Arbor, we believe that you should be able to lean on digital tools to pick up the slack when you find yourself pulled in lots of different directions. That’s why we’ve designed our cloud-based MIS (Management Information System) to allow schools to work flexibly – with access to all your data, the ability to follow up with vulnerable students, plan staff rotas and communicate with your school community – wherever you’re working from. 

Arbor MIS integrates with G Suite and Office 365, which means all your students, staff and classes will be automatically set up in your online learning platform – so you can get on with teaching.  

The new government grant will help you get started with G Suite or Office 365 with free technical support and project management. We’ve summarised below everything you need to know about the grant:

  • What is the grant?
  • Why should I use a digital learning platform at my school?
  • How does Arbor work with G Suite or Office 365?
  • Use your grant for support from our trusted partners

Here’s the breakdown …

What is the grant?

1. What’s the deal?

Although G-suite and Office 365 are already free for educational settings, you’ll need technical support and project management to get set up. This is where the grant comes in. To migrate all of your teaching and learning resources to the cloud you’d normally have to pay a supplier £1-2,000, but qualifying for this grant means the DfE will effectively pay the supplier on your behalf.

2. How much is the grant? 

Up to £1000 per school for a Multi-Academy Trust (capped at £10k per trust), £1,500 for an individual primary school or £2,000 for an individual secondary school. 

3. Who can access the grant? 

The grant is available to both Local Authority maintained schools and Academies, but not to independent schools. 

4. How do I sign up?

First of all, we’d recommend doing some research into the digital platforms available to make sure you choose the right one for your school or trust. Speak to other schools, your IT provider or your Local Authority, and read advice from The Key in partnership with the DfE.

Next, you’ll need to choose a supplier who will work with you to migrate your data and set up your new platform. Only certain companies are part of the scheme, so it’s worth checking first whether your local IT partner is involved, and if not, whether they could recommend another supplier. See below for a list of Arbor partners who are on the scheme! 

Once you’re ready to go ahead, you can apply using these links: 

Why should I use a digital learning platform at my school?

Some level of remote working looks set to be part of the “new normal” going forward for schools, so this grant is a great opportunity to review your technology and make sure you have a reliable set-up in place for the future.

In an earlier blog, we wrote about how carrying out a systems audit at your school can help you identify where you could cut down on systems to work more efficiently and save money in the long run. Moving to a cloud-based MIS means you can complete all your daily admin tasks and access all your data from one place, rather than all over the place. 

The same principle is true for how you manage your online teaching and learning. Choosing a cloud-based platform, like G Suite and Office 365, allows you to access your curriculum resources in one central place, wherever you’re working. They also open up exciting possibilities for more efficient, collaborative working. 

Here’s just a few things you can do on G Suite or Office 365: 

  • Hold virtual lessons using Google Meet or Microsoft Teams 
  • Create classes and groups instantly using data synced from your MIS
  • Assign and mark homework online, so you can continue teaching and learning remotely if your teachers or students have to work from home
  • Test students’ learning remotely with online quizzes
  • Collaborate more closely with students, e.g. via shared online whiteboards or notebooks. Just because you’re separated, doesn’t mean you can’t still have meaningful interactions!
  • Communicate more easily with students, staff and parents using Gmail or Outlook and share calendars
  • Get answers quickly – create and send simple online forms directly to parents 

What’s more, when both your MIS and your learning platform are cloud-based, this frees you from having to have a server at your school, saving you thousands of pounds in maintenance and replacement costs. Working on the cloud also secures your data making you less at risk of losing your information. You can read more here about how Arbor keeps your data secure.

How does Arbor work with G Suite or Office 365?

Having an MIS and digital learning platform that you can rely on is great, but the next step to working even more efficiently and saving your staff more time is when all your systems can communicate seamlessly with each other.

That’s why Arbor has integrated with G Suite and Office 365. You’ll have all your student data from Arbor at your fingertips when you’re giving your remote lessons. 

Here are some of the benefits of syncing Arbor with G Suite / Office 365:

  • Analyse your data however you need to – You can dig down further into your live student data from Arbor using Google Sheets, Excel or other BI platforms like PowerBI. You can also track and authenticate exactly who has access to your data from Arbor
  • Set up new users, classes or groups faster – Because your data in Arbor syncs with G Suite / Office 365, your student profiles will be set up automatically and the system will use their timetable and class information to put them into the right groups for you
  • Only ever log in once – Arbor’s integration with Google means you’ll only have to log in once to access your MIS and G Suite – no more remembering multiple passwords!

Use your grant on support from our trusted partners

We work with IT support teams up and down the country who support our schools to get set up on Arbor, and any other technical issues they have. Many of our partners are part of the new government G Suite / Office 365 scheme, so they come highly recommended from us to help you manage your move to one of these platforms. 

See below for a list of our trusted partners on the scheme, and the support they offer. Feel free to get in touch to hear more about how you could work together to get your digital learning platform up and running.

Vitalize IT

Can support you with: G Suite and Arbor MIS

“Training teachers is the key to success with digital learning and a big part of what Vitalize deliver to schools throughout the UK. We have found that schools that invest in training and have a clear digital learning strategy achieve the most impact from deploying cloud learning platforms. It is great to see the positive impact in a short space of time that Google for Education can provide schools with. This will not only help schools now, but provide the basis of a digital strategy for the future.”

123ICT 

Can support you with: G Suite 

“123ICT Computing Solutions specialise in working with primary schools to develop their digital education platform and our team of education consultants have trained and supported hundreds of teachers over the past few weeks. With our support and training, many schools have adapted well to the current situation and are now providing a reliable, engaging and easy to use digital education platform enabling daily lessons and activities to be delivered remotely.”

Computeam

Can support you with: G Suite and Office 365

“Computeam were delighted to be part of this new DfE scheme to level-up digital learning in England. While Covid-19 has been the trigger, we believe the benefits of cloud-based teaching and learning will extend well into the future. As both a Google and Microsoft partner, Computeam can offer deep expertise in either platform. We can also extend the initial service by offering enhanced training and MIS integration to drive benefits from these technologies after the crisis has passed.”

Computer Talk 

Can support you with: G Suite 

“As a certified Google Partner with over 30 years’ experience within the education sector, we are delighted to be part of this joint initiative with Google and the DfE. Our EdTech Team are a fountain of knowledge and we pride ourselves on our ability to deliver new ways of improving on-premise or cloud learning which should be seamless, collaborative and engaging.”

Badger Computer Services 

Can support you with: G Suite and Office 365

“Remote learning is not going away and digital platforms are the tools for schools to empower teaching and learning and connect with your students. The DfE funding is available for a finite time and our view is that we should be doing everything we can to ensure schools can continue to support our children’s futures and wellbeing even when away from the physical classroom.”

Turn IT on 

Can support you with: G Suite, Office 365 and Arbor MIS

“Our mission at Turn IT on is to enable schools to get the most from their technology – and the last few weeks have shown that tech is an absolutely critical part of any school environment, whether in lockdown or “normal times”. This DfE initiative is a fantastic opportunity for schools, both in the short and longer term. Turn IT on is delighted to have been chosen to partner by both Google and Microsoft and we are looking forward to helping schools all over the UK take advantage of this great opportunity.”

Herts for Learning 

Can support you with: G Suite

“The Covid emergency has required a re-engineering of the education system overnight and the schools that were able to adapt fastest were those that had already adopted digital classroom offerings. At HfL, we believe that successful implementation is just as much about the process of change management with staff and students as it is about technology and this is at the very heart of our approach when we work with schools.”

JTRS 

Can support you with: G Suite

“During this challenging time, technology is crucial. At JTRS, we’ve been working hard to help schools achieve distance learning – we created a Distance Learning Resource Centre for parents, and we’re excited to be part of this DfE scheme to help schools who do not yet have a digital platform like G-Suite for Education. We can help you check if you’re eligible for the funding and apply for it, as well as implementing G-Suite for your school quickly.”

Joskos

Can support you with: G Suite and Office 365

“Joskos has been working closely with the DfE on the platform provisioning programme, which will support schools as they look to leverage the ever growing world of SaaS based EdTech solutions. The scheme will proactively support schools as they start to bring some students in, whilst others remain working at home. We believe that the programme is a positive step forward in making sure that every young person can continue to access learning.”

Other Arbor partners on the scheme and what they can support you with: 

 

Once you’ve started your school’s cloud journey with G Suite or Office 365, the next step is to think about your MIS. The Arbor team is here to help with any questions you have about how your school could make an easy move to be fully cloud-based today. Get in touch hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 1 June, 2020

Category : Blog

Breaking the link between deprivation and attainment in schools – article by Loic Menzies

Preview of the new Understanding Your MAT Report – special article  In partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), we’ve created a new free report for MATs across the country – the Understanding Your MAT Report – to help you see your trust in a new light. Built especially for your trust, your

Preview of the new Understanding Your MAT Report – special article 

In partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), we’ve created a new free report for MATs across the country – the Understanding Your MAT Report – to help you see your trust in a new light.

Built especially for your trust, your report brings together key measures like your schools’ ASP performance statistics, alongside your MAT’s size and local demographics, to help you understand the unique makeup of your trust compared to others in England. 

The report is out soon but you can sign up to our waiting list to get early access to your report now!

As a preview, we wanted to share with you the leading article from the report, written by Loic Menzies, CEO of The CfEY. The article introduces you to the contextual analysis the report gives you and the kinds of conversations your report might bring up in your next strategy meeting.

To find out about what’s included in the Understanding Your MAT Report, check out our blog.

Breaking the Link? Attainment, poverty and rural schools

by Loic Menzies

The relationship between disadvantage and attainment varies considerably between different parts of England. Combining datasets shows that poverty has a particularly pernicious effect on educational attainment in some area-types, particularly the rural areas shown in green, below.

Free School Meals aren’t the only ingredient

In recent years there has been increasing recognition that the relationship between deprivation and educational achievement is not as simple as we once thought. Researchers like Simon Burgess have shown that the interaction between disadvantage and ethnicity / migration status, for example, is often underestimated.

At LKMco we’ve had a longstanding interest in ONS area classifIcations (see “The Two Kingstons – what FSM does and doesn’t tell us” and “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner”). These classifications combine a range of characteristics of different areas, including industrial and employment data; demographics and qualification levels.

Combining these classifications with school data reveals striking differences between patterns of school performance in different area types.

Affluent England and London in the lead (surprise, surprise)

At the most basic level, we see that area types differ considerably in their attainment and deprivation levels.

Areas described as “Affluent England” achieve most highly, but “London Cosmopolitan” and “Ethnically Diverse Cosmopolitan” areas are not far behind – despite having two or three-times the same level of deprivation.

However, once we plot FSM levels against attainment, the results get considerably more interesting – and the worrying situation in rural schools is revealed.

A variable picture

Firstly, notice how, apart from a small cluster of very-low-deprivation, very-high-attainment schools on the far left, pink dots dominate the top of the distribution. These represent “ethnically diverse cosmopolitan” areas (most of which are in Greater London). This shows that regardless of their deprivation levels, pupils tend to do best in these areas. Meanwhile, red dots are concentrated in the top right-hand corner. These represent high-achieving, high-deprivation central-London schools.

How strong is the link between deprivation and attainment…? It depends on the area

Switching our attention to the trend lines and R-squared values (representing the strength of the relationship between poverty and attainment), we see that the angle of the lines differs considerably – as does the strength of the correlation, even though all eight correlations are significant.

Notably, in rural areas the relationship between poverty and educational outcomes is particularly strong. So although pupils in rural schools with low deprivation attain highly, schools in deprived areas are really struggling.

It seems that rural schools have particular difficulty breaking the link between poverty and low pupil attainment.

What about pupil progress?

Switching the measure to pupil progress paints an even starker picture of pupil outcomes in disadvantaged rural schools.

In general, the relationship between FSM and Progress is much weaker than when looking at attainment (r squared values of <0.2 in most area types).

This is unsurprising, since how well pupils achieve at KS2 (which is taken into account in Progress 8), already depends a lot on their deprivation level.

However, in rural schools, we find that a moderate relationship returns. It therefore seems that low attainment in rural, high-deprivation secondary schools is not just about pupils having low starting points. Instead, there is an important link between school deprivation level and progress rates.

Why is pupil progress in disadvantaged secondary schools worse in rural schools than in other parts of the country?

Implications

When considering how to break the link between poverty and education outcomes, it is crucial to take a nuanced view of poverty. Geography, demographics and community/economic context play a critical role in moderating the relationship between poverty and educational outcomes.

Studies of the factors affecting schools in different area types are therefore urgently needed, since these would help schools understand how best to respond to their circumstances.

Key factors to explore could include:

  • Local labour markets and their history
  • Attitudes to education linked to the above and to their contrasting ethnic make up
  • Proximity to other schools
  • School size
  • Teacher labour market
  • The range of, and actual wealth levels, both in the school and the community (FSM is a binary which hides huge variation in deprivation levels)
  • The effect of school funding levels

Find out more about this analysis in Schools Week.

 

Loic Menzies is Director of The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY). He specialises in education policy and research, youth development and social enterprise. He was previously a tutor for Canterbury Christ Church’s Faculty of Education, an Associate Senior Manager and Head of History and Social Sciences at St. George’s R.C. School in North West London and a youth worker. He has authored numerous high profile reports and works with policy makers to communicate the implications of research, for example presenting to the Education Select Committee on White Working Class Underachievement or presenting to civil servants on teacher recruitment, retention and development. He is currently editing CfEY’s first book with Routledge entitled ‘Young People on the Margins’.

 

Methodology notes

  • Thank you to Alice Luetchford for support with analysis
  • All data is from 2017-18
  • Calculations are based on three fields in DfE data: “PTFSMCLA” (This refers to ever 6 FSM and Looked after children) and ATT8SCR (Average attainment 8 for the school) and P8MEA (Progress 8 measure after adjustment for extreme scores)
  • Details of the area level classification can be found here
  • Schools without available data were excluded from the analysis, as were special school where attainment, progress and deprivation follow different patterns. This means that since PTFSMCLA is suppressed for schools with very low numbers of eligible pupils, schools with very low levels of disadvantage are not included in this analysis
  • Calculated averages are based on school rather than pupil level data

    For descriptions of all the area types in England, as defined by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), take a look at the ONS website.

Maddie Kilminster - 28 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Arbor’s guide to managing your school flexibly

Spring Term has brought a great deal of change for schools and trusts, with staff having to quickly adapt to every new challenge and requirement that came their way. As we move into Summer Term, change is set to be the new normal, and we’ll have to keep adapting in lots of new ways. Since

Spring Term has brought a great deal of change for schools and trusts, with staff having to quickly adapt to every new challenge and requirement that came their way. As we move into Summer Term, change is set to be the new normal, and we’ll have to keep adapting in lots of new ways.

Since partial school closures were announced, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with schools to build out our MIS (Management Information System) to ensure schools can continue to run flexibly. Because we can move schools to Arbor 100% remotely, lots of schools have taken this opportunity to get up and running on our cloud-based MIS to help them access the information they need wherever they are.

As experts in school operations and data, with many former teachers in the Arbor team, we’ve been sharing practical support and guidance over the last few months, designed to help schools adapt. In case you missed anything, we’ve put together a round-up below so you have one handy guide to managing your school flexibly.

1. Using Arbor MIS to manage your school remotely

2. Expert guidance on key topics on our blog

3. Advice from schools and MATs in our webinars

4. Hear from the Arbor Community

Here’s how to find everything … 

1. Using Arbor MIS to manage your school remotely

We’re firm believers that you should be able to lean on tools like your MIS to pick up the slack when you find yourself pulled in lots of different directions. Arbor takes the hassle out of important tasks like following up with vulnerable children, planning staff rotas, and communicating with your students and parents, wherever you’re working from. Plus, we’re making updates every day to make sure you’re covering all the new government requirements

Here’s a list of some of the features we’ve developed to help you manage your school or MAT during Covid-19:

  • Log all attendance and absence from wherever you are from your Covid-19 dashboard, and have all the info to hand ready to complete the DfE’s Daily Form, and directly follow up with any parents/guardians you need to
  • Produce key demographic reports on children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers at school and MAT level
  • Keep track of vulnerable students and follow up, all from one system 
  • Communicate with classes, staff, and parents from one place – no more switching systems or uploading/downloading contact lists
  • Arrange supermarket vouchers for FSM students
  • Plan rotas and set up flexible timetables (see our blog for tips on creating a socially-distanced timetable)
  • Record medical conditions for students or staff
  • Track the information that’s important to you, e.g. students’ access to the Internet or a laptop at home

You can find more detailed guidance and all the support you need from the dedicated Covid-19 page on our Help Centre. Don’t forget, our Support Team is always there for you on the phone, email and web chat.

Find out about the government grant you can apply for to get support with setting up G Suite or Office 365 at your school or trust on our blog.

 

2. Expert guidance on key topics on our blog

Over the last few weeks we’ve been blogging about some of the top priorities for school leaders right now – from keeping in touch with students and parents, to nurturing staff wellbeing. We’ve gathered advice from across the Arbor team, guest experts, and schools and MATs in our network, designed to give some practical tips on how to adapt to change – whatever your role.

Check out the topics that interest you below, there’ll be more to come! Look out for links to useful resources in the blogs if you want to learn more.

From the Arbor team:

From guest experts:

From schools and MATs:

 

3. Advice from schools and MATs in our webinars

We’ve also been learning a lot from listening to our schools and how they’re coping during lockdown, and the strategies leaders have put in place. We’ve been asking questions like “How do you plan for change, support your students, and manage staff wellbeing when you’re working remotely?” and “How do you keep adapting as new guidance comes out?” 

We’re running two free webinar series that have been really popular:

  • Adapting to Change: Bite-sized 45-minute webinars created for MAT CEOs, COOs, CFOs and SLT and delivered by your peers. Each week we invite a trust leader to share one thing they’ve been doing particularly well or think others could learn from in an informal setting. With topics ranging from how to make online education a success, to how to collaborate and communicate at scale, this series is a space for sharing best practice, network with other MAT leaders, and leave with new ideas to take back to your own trust. Look out for more in the series!
  • Managing your school remotely with Arbor MIS: We walk you through the parts of the system that will help you run your school flexibly and remotely. Choose from a range of topics such as assessment, behaviour and payments, as well as sessions designed for primary, secondary or special schools and MATs. Check out our schedule of Summer Term webinars here.

If you’d like to listen to the recording of any of our past webinars, get in touch at james@arbor-education.com. 

 

4. Hear from the Arbor Community

Across our network of schools and MATs, we’ve seen some inspiring responses to an extremely challenging situation, with schools finding new and innovative ways to connect with their students. English Martyrs Catholic Primary School were straight out of the gate with their virtual PE lessons, as were LEO Academy Trust with their distance wellbeing sessions. Hoyland Common Academy Trust have been promoting mental health awareness and Avanti Schools Trust have been offering free yoga sessions

As staff and students are working in totally new ways, it’s more important than ever to reach out and connect. When we shared some of our work-from-home stations and morning routines on Twitter, we were pleased to discover lots of our schools also wanted to share their creative ways to make the most of lockdown.

In what continues to be a difficult period, the Arbor team is always here to help and support where we can. We wanted to share a few pieces of feedback we’ve got lately from schools and partner organisations that we’re really proud of.

“Arbor’s been pretty essential to the distance learning program here and I’m confident we have a system that is really strong. We log daily checks with our students and have been able to use this to get to the stage where we can say we have contact with 100% of our students every day.”
Phil Jones, Head of Academy Services at Pool Academy

As a school we could not have accomplished half of what we have with our previous MIS. Arbor’s cloud based MIS has not only allowed remote working within what is a challenging, time sensitive period; but also given the exact information required without the need for additional query templates to be set up.”
Simon Brown, Headteacher at, Blaydon West Primary

“It’s refreshing to know that Arbor listen to what schools need and respond so quickly and also that priorities change depending on the current situation.”
Susan Scott, Education ICT, Bradford Metropolitan District Council

“We wouldn’t have known what to do without Arbor this week, it’s been an absolute godsend being able to access school info from the Group and all the other inbuilt reports we can access, as well as accessing remotely!”
Vicky Harrison, COO at Hoyland Common Academy Trust

“We just don’t know how we have managed before we had Arbor. We are all in this together and should ensure people know how much we appreciate Arbor helping us get through this difficult time.”
Jackie Blaikie, Bursar at Acresfield Primary School

“I’ve found it great to be able to use Arbor while working at home. I’ve sent instructions for parents about how to resolve issues with students logging into Show My Homework and how the students can access their school email accounts from home.”
Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead CE Academy

We’re moving schools to Arbor every day, 100% remotely. If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help you manage your school or remotely and flexibly, get in touch at hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028. 

Mark Greatrex - 27 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Managing a trust that is geographically dispersed – Mark Greatrex, CEO of Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET) shares his strategy

Mark Greatrex has had a rich history in education; having held senior positions in three academy trusts and serving ten years at the DfE, his current position is CEO at Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET), where he’s been for five years. BPET is geographically spread out, made up of eight primary schools in eight different

Mark Greatrex has had a rich history in education; having held senior positions in three academy trusts and serving ten years at the DfE, his current position is CEO at Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET), where he’s been for five years. BPET is geographically spread out, made up of eight primary schools in eight different Local Authority regions across London and Berkshire.

Mark joined us for a brilliant webinar in our series “Adapting to change”, where he shared with fellow MAT leaders his strategies for leading a geographically dispersed trust, and how these strategies play out during the challenges of Covid-19. 

You can read Mark’s conversation with Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill, below. Here’s a quick summary of the three main strategic areas Mark talked about:

  • Education autonomy – the importance of developing Headteachers to take ownership of their organisation, and how to monitor this autonomy through a strong performance management programme and school improvement strategy
  • Financial alignment – the power of having central oversight of the trust’s finances and top tips for efficient financial management
  • Plans to expand – the “10, 40, 100” model that Mark uses to plan how the trust would need be run as it grows, and the strategies to ensure geographical distance does not become a barrier to success


Why is educational autonomy important for your trust?

We’re very passionate about the breadth of provision we offer. We want the children to leave having real independence and confidence. Not only is the curriculum broad, but it’s delivered in an exciting, engaging and purposeful way. 

The most important thing for us is educational autonomy. We create the culture of the organisation centrally, and do have some policies that are approved centrally, such as safeguarding, first aid, health & safety and HR. But all our educational policies are approved at a local level. 

In the autonomy model, the role of the Headteacher is key. I’ve wanted to make sure that they have full ownership of everything that goes on in the institution they lead. It’s the middle leaders and the Teachers too, who are the engine room of the school. They own the curriculum content and the delivery of it. Because we serve schools across a diverse group of affluent and not so affluent areas, the curriculum needs to meet the needs of the local community that we serve. 


How do you build successful Headteachers?

The first thing I did as the CEO was put a very strong Headteacher performance management policy in place so that I can properly hold them to account, and that the metrics are shared and understood across the organisation. If we are pushing accountability, we need to reward so our Headteachers are eligible for discretionary bonuses every year of 2-8%. 

Headteacher objectives and targets are linked to our trust goals: Learn, enjoy, succeed

  • Learn: This curriculum objective is judged by the breadth of the curriculum and the richness of after-school provision. An example of a target within that is 60% of children attending an after-school club once a week 
  • Enjoy: This measures the effectiveness of the school and is judged by pupil numbers and attendance 
  • Succeed: This measures the quality of teaching and learning. Teachers are graded by “Outstanding”, “Good”, “Requires Improvement” and “Inadequate” (all of our Teachers are “Good”, and about 40% are “Outstanding”). We also look at pupil achievement here
  • Corporate target: This looks at what the Headteacher is doing across the organisation. Do they lead initiatives like learning reviews, collaboration groups, art projects or sports initiatives? 


How do you monitor school autonomy?

We make five two-day visits a year to review each of our schools. In the visits, we look at the school development plan, the safeguarding audit. The essential element is the learning review where we look at a particular piece of teaching and learning. 

Our review cycle is modelled on “C.O.D.E.” (Challenge, Ownership, Dialogue and Engagement). Each school chooses one area to be reviewed on each year. For example, under “Ownership”, we review childrens’ engagement in their own learning. This drives a powerful teaching and learning conversation within our schools. I wouldn’t recommend doing the whole Ofsted review cycle, because if the Central Team has got leadership right, and we’ve got teaching and learning right in schools, everything else will fall into place

Systems like Arbor MIS and Civica (our finance system) are invaluable to us as a Multi-Academy Trust, as they make those conversations a lot more focused. Five years ago, when I was going into schools with school improvement advisors, we’d spend a whole hour just trying to agree on a figure. Now we can immediately identify where the challenges are, for example persistent absences or behavioural issues. Arbor and Civia take us to the right places to focus our discussions and move the schools forward at pace.


How do you roll out your school improvement strategy?

As part of our school improvement strategy, we produce performance reports every term that are similar to the “school on a page” reports that some trusts use. These are two-page reports with RAG ratings covering attainment, quality of teaching and learning, leadership, attendance, safeguarding, behaviour, resources, staffing and engagement with the community. These consistent documents share the dialogue and increase visibility and accountability, bringing everyone into the conversation of improvement.

As a Central Team, we then plan strategic improvement interventions. As David Blunkett said “Intervention should be in inverse proportion to success.” We believe the system is improved by working on our worst performing schools

Depending on internal capacity, we sometimes commission organisations such as Local Authorities or expert private providers to do a piece of work with a clear scope e.g. improve attendance in one of our schools. 


How do you develop your staff?

We’re lucky to have an “Enrichment fund” which we use for certain passion projects across our schools, such as “Philosophy for Children” staff training, or hiring a Maths advisor five days a year for each school. 

Our CPD offer is critical. We’ve developed new Headship, Senior and Emerging Leaders programmes. We run one trust-wide INSET day a year in one of our schools, with about fifty one-hour taster sessions in different areas e.g. having courageous conversations with parents. These really drive enthusiasm and give staff tools and techniques they can take back to their schools. They’re also aimed to continue to fire their enthusiasm for teaching and learning.

We also make sure we do safeguarding every year for new staff or those who need a refresher. It’s possible to do things centrally but you can’t do it as often and you need to use remote formats. Going forward, we plan to do 4 out of 5 of our collaboration sessions per year virtually. 


Why is financial alignment important to your trust?

Where we give our schools educational autonomy, the opposite is true in terms of how we’re structured financially. By managing finances centrally, I want to invest funds in the schools that need it the most. That’s not to say we pool school funding. Each school retains their budgets based on the school funding letter. 

We’ve set three key financial performance indicators:

1) No school will go into deficit. Those who are in deficit have a goal to be out by the end of the year 

2) Staffing should be no greater than 75% of each school’s budget. This has allowed us to prioritise our numbers of staff 

3) 95% of invoices should have a purchase order. We want to ensure a formalised process where all committed spend at school level is raised in our finance system (Civica) as a purchase order. We then process all invoices centrally in weekly payment run across all schools. This ensures all our suppliers are paid against their payment terms 

What are your top tips for managing finances across your schools?

  • Give Headteachers access to cash. Our Heads have a procurement card with a monthly limit of £3000. This means they can buy supplies for breakfast clubs, make small purchases from Amazon etc. However, they don’t have bank accounts
  • Only have one bank account. If you have more than one account, ask yourself why? Why move money? It’s too much of a risk
  • Have one role instead of multiple. We have one payroll provider so everything is in one place when we need to do things like gender pay gap reporting. We also have only one catering provider and one ICT provider, and we’re moving towards having one facilities management provider
  • Go cashless. We use Arbor for meals and trips. We also use SchoolsBuddy for our schools who run lots of clubs, because it can rank clubs 
  • Think about your pension options. Because we’re based in London and our Teachers have large student loans, we offer a third pension option alongside LGPS and TPS, which has a 0% employee contribution for Teachers and 2% for Support Staff, and we pay an 8% employer contribution
  • Have a separate internal auditor so you know what you need to know and the external audit isn’t a surprise
  • Hire more efficiently. Some MATs have a Business Manager per school being paid highly for a mostly administrational role which only requires a small amount of financial expertise. At BPET, we have one central Finance Director who has complete control of the finances, and school Office Managers to do the admin work. This saves us around £5-10,000 per school which goes towards supporting the schools. It also gives me visibility of finances across our organisation, and means we can react very quickly to the needs of schools 
  • Procure large spend centrally. We procure any expenditure over £20,000 centrally, such as staff appointments. This means we can look at our spend across the whole trust. We work with Schools Buying Club who tender our contracts for us and hold them to account, which helps make sure we get real value for money across our contracts 

Is distance between schools in a trust a barrier?

Since 2011, the MAT market has been growing and evolving exponentially. The question of proximity was only really brought up by Lord Nash when he recommended an hour’s journey time between schools. Hopefully the way we support our schools will give confidence that distance doesn’t have to be a barrier, but we take responsibility for our growth, not only in numbers, but in geography, and work hard to make sure we don’t have any true outliers.


Do you plan to grow? What is your expansion model?

A management consultant once introduced to me the rule of “10, 40 100”. If you think of these proportions applied to an organisation – it could be the number of employees, or the turnover – organisations with 10, 40 and 100 need to be run in very different ways and probably need very different CEOs. In our case, we think of this in terms of number of schools. Our aim is to grow to 15 schools, but if we’re successful at 15 and the trustees want us to grow to 40, that will be a very different business model.

However, where operational alignment works well for 15 schools, the question is, is it scalable within the 10, 40, 100 rule? I don’t know. If we grow, Regional Directors and hubs might be an option. We could also split the Finance Director role into four hubs. What we’d have to think about, however, is how we’d bring those hubs together to maintain consistency. 


How have you adapted to managing your schools remotely?

Over the past few weeks we’ve been thrown into web calls; we use Zoom for all of our conversations with Headteachers. Normally, having a meeting with a school can take two hours out of everyone’s time, so doing them virtually is really powerful. I think having a blend of the Internet and meeting in person is important – Zoom is something the finance and operations teams use quite a lot anyway, and have been for a few years now. But you can’t deny the power of personal contact. I think we’ll always continue our physical meetings with Headteachers four times a year.

Look out for more webinars in our series “Adapting to Change”, where we’re interviewing MAT leaders about how they’re adapting to partial school closures and all the changes that are happening at the moment. You can catch up on one of our recent webinars with Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust all about “Nurturing Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing” here

If you want to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help your trust work flexibly and remotely, get in touch at hello@arbor-education.com or 0208 050 1028. Or alternatively you can book a web demo here

 

Maddie Kilminster - 20 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Top tips for creating a socially distanced school timetable

Over the last few months, schools have had to adapt to constant change, and keep their schools running without really knowing what the weeks ahead would hold. Although we still don’t have all the details, the latest Government plans suggest schools should prepare to partially reopen from 1st June, starting with Reception, Year 1, Year

Over the last few months, schools have had to adapt to constant change, and keep their schools running without really knowing what the weeks ahead would hold. Although we still don’t have all the details, the latest Government plans suggest schools should prepare to partially reopen from 1st June, starting with Reception, Year 1, Year 6, Year 10 and Year 12. A key question on everyone’s minds right now is how to design a school timetable that will adhere to social distancing and keep students and staff safe. 

To help, our partners at TimeTabler have put together some practical advice on adapting your timetable for social distancing. Maggie, our Key Account Manager and former Timetable Manager at a secondary school, has summarised their advice below:

  • Top 3 tips for a socially distanced timetable
  • Managing two school populations 
  • Questions you should ask

You’re also invited to join us in a webinar on Thursday at 3pm where we’ll be discussing timetabling in detail with our partners TimeTabler and The Onto Group. Click here to register! 

If you just can’t get enough timetabling tips, you can read the full article on TimeTabler’s website. Otherwise, this blog should give you some food for thought.

 

Top 3 tips for a socially distanced timetable:

1. Set different start and end times

Think about staggering your school start and end times to reduce contact in the school playground before and after school. This may seem straightforward, but bear in mind any implications for the local bus services, who may not be able to change their timetable. Instead of staggering by year group, you could even stagger by transport method, so that pupils who travel by bus arrive a little earlier or later than those whose parents drop them off in the car. 

2. Set different break and lunch times

Spacing kids out at lunch might sound like a simple solution, but without careful planning it could mean that some staff end up going without a break. For example, if Mrs Jones teaches a Year 7 class before break and Year 10 class after break, but Year 7 now has a later break time than Year 10, Mrs Jones may have to go straight from one class to the next. (Note, if you’re using TimeTabler, you can use the ‘split-site’ feature to avoid this).

3. Limit group sizes by creating two school populations

As and when all year groups return to school, if social distancing is still a requirement, one option is to set a maximum group size (e.g. 15) so students can be spaced out in the classroom. However, in most schools, this would mean only 50% or less of the school population could be in school at a time, and therefore students would only receive 50% of their ‘normal’ teaching. In this case, schools could try splitting into two student populations and manage teacher coverage using a rota system. 

Currently, the DfE is not expecting schools to introduce staggered returns or a rota systems, but without the ability to be flexible, many schools are concerned it will be impossible for them to follow social distancing guidelines.

If splitting your school into two populations is something you want to consider, we’ve put together some more detailed advice on this below. 

 

Managing two school populations 

There are two routes you might consider when splitting your student body:

Route 1: Split each teaching group within each Year in two

At Key Stages 1-3, it should be fairly easy to split each class in two as students are generally all taking the same subjects. However, you might want to consider how you split the teaching groups, for example to maintain friendship groups, or to separate antisocial or disruptive pairs. Equally, you might actually decide to break up friendship groups to cut down on social interaction before and after class.

However, at Key Stages 4 and 5, it’s likely to be more difficult to create two populations of equal size by dividing teaching groups. With students attending lots of different combinations of subjects, each with different class sizes, it would be near impossible to coordinate options to have only one population at school at one time (see ‘Staggering populations’ section below). 

Route 2: Group Years to make populations

There are a number of different ways to do this, for example you might group Years 7, 9 and 11 into Population X and Years 8, 10, and 12/13 into Population Y. Alternatively, you might split by Key Stage – whatever makes the most sense for a balanced demand on specialist rooms, labs, equipment and so on. Note, with this option, individual teaching groups may still need to be split to stay within the size limit.

Staggering populations

Once you’ve split your population in two, you then need to consider how to manage how to timetable them. For schools considering reopening on a rota basis, there are a few different ways you could approach this:

  • Populations come in on alternate weeks 
  • Population X in morning, Population Y in afternoon
  • Population X in morning Mon-Weds AM, Population Y in afternoon Weds PM-Fri

If you go for B or C, you should bear a few things in mind: 

  • Make sure social contact is limited at crossover time
  • Mornings tend to be longer on a school timetable, so make sure each population gets an equal amount of teaching time
  • Plan two lunch sittings during crossover time

Whatever your approach, it’s also important to consider whether there are sufficient transport links to get all populations to school on time, and whether parents’ work schedules are able to adapt.

Questions you should ask:

  • Could you find a way for students to stay in one place? Unless they needed a specialist room, teachers could move from room to room instead, to reduce social contact on the corridors
  • Do students have to eat lunch in the canteen? Students could eat in their classroom or on the school field, where they can spread out and where it’s more ventilated
  • Could students spend the day in their PE kit? There are different opinions on PE – some say it could make physical contact more likely, but others argue it’s vital for mental as well as physical health. If you do keep PE on your timetable, students could come to school in their PE kit to avoid the close proximity of changing rooms
  • Will you be adding hand sanitiser stations around the school? If so, you might need to make changes to the work of ancillary staff like cleaners and caretakers
  • Could you make a one-way system? You could use floor-arrows or cordons to cut down on corridor bottle-necks 
  • Is the staffroom big enough? Is there enough space to spread staff out too?
  • Can you make detentions socially distanced? Or is there an alternative way of managing behaviour?
  • Do you have students living with elderly or vulnerable parents or guardians? These students might need to arrive late or leave early
  • Do you have any elderly or vulnerable staff? For example, should vulnerable staff do online teaching only? If so, how will this affect the timetable?
  • Have you got consistent guidelines for setting and marking remote learning? Staff with lower teaching loads could be made responsible for setting online work and monitoring the students who are not currently in school
  • Do you have a plan to make up for lost time? The effects of this break in learning may well be felt for some time after schools return. Do you have a plan to tackle the loss of motivation that some students may experience?
  • Should you invest in the future? Has the technology you have been using for remote working worked well? It’s worth investing in good solutions now, because although things are starting to return to normal, restrictions may be tightened again in future

About TimeTabler

TimeTabler is a fast, friendly and reliable computer program used by schools & colleges in over 80 countries to schedule their timetables. Designed to reduce the manual work involved in timetabling, TimeTabler leaves you with more time to apply your professional skill and judgement where it’s needed, to produce a timetable of the highest quality.

TimeTabler’s founder Keith Johnson is also the author of the standard ‘bible’ on Timetabling: ‘The Timetabler’s CookBook, which has now helped thousands of beginners to learn the Art of Timetabling, and many experienced timetablers to understand it in even more depth.

The good news is that TimeTabler integrates with Arbor MIS to give you the best timetabling experience. Use TimeTabler to schedule your timetable, then simply import it into Arbor’s MIS, using our inbuilt Wizard that guides you through the steps. Once your timetable is imported, you can make any changes or tweaks you need to in Arbor, so you don’t have to keep going back and forth. What’s more, as a trusted TimeTabler partner, Arbor customers can receive a discount on their TimeTabler licence.

If you’d like to find out more on the topic of timetabling for social distancing, Arbor and TimeTabler are taking part in an online debate hosted by our partners The ONTO Group on Thursday 21st May at 3pm. Click here to register!

Because Arbor MIS is cloud-based, you and your staff can work from wherever you need to. Find out more about the ways Arbor can help you work remotely and flexibly in our free webinar series today – check out the schedule here. You can also get in touch to book a virtual demo with one of our team – simply email hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

 

 

Richard Martin - 15 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Delivering remote teaching and learning during lockdown by Richard Martin from LGFL

LGfL (London Grid for Learning) is a not for profit organisation that provides secure internet connectivity and digital services to over 90% of London schools and many others nationwide. Special Projects Lead at LGFL, Richard Martin, has put together this blog with advice for schools on delivering remote teaching and learning during lockdown. Richard was

LGfL (London Grid for Learning) is a not for profit organisation that provides secure internet connectivity and digital services to over 90% of London schools and many others nationwide. Special Projects Lead at LGFL, Richard Martin, has put together this blog with advice for schools on delivering remote teaching and learning during lockdown. Richard was previously the CIO for the ARK academy group and Head of IT for the Girls’ Day School Trust. He is also a governor for a small primary school in Surrey.

 

The challenges presented to schools during the Covid-19 lockdown have been diverse and complex. In my role as the Special Projects Lead for LGfL, I get to speak to many schools directly and have regular contact with organisations who provide on-site technical support for schools through the LGFL Digital Transformation Partner Programme that I run.

This has brought to the fore real challenges for schools that go beyond traditional teaching in the classroom. I am aware of many school heads and school leaders spending their time delivering lunches to vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils and regularly checking in with families to help them through the crisis. Schools also stayed open during the Easter holidays to look after children of key workers. 

The challenge to move to new ways of working and delivering remote teaching and learning provisions almost overnight introduces a level of organisational change that would break most large corporate organisations, let alone a small primary school! At LGfL we have been supporting our schools and the wider education community as best we can, and have set up a website – coronavirus.lgfl.net – to provide advice, guidance and useful links.

 

Some schools were more prepared than others

As someone who has been promoting the use of tech, especially cloud-based tech, in schools for years, I am aware of the vast differences in approach and progress with digital tools across the school community. Some schools have embedded technology in their organisation very positively, whereas others for many reasons have made slower progress. A small but not insignificant minority of school leaders just did not see that tech would add any value. This view has not been helped by a multitude of failed IT initiatives in schools that were poorly thought out, highly expensive with little or no thought given to teacher training and effective, sustainable ongoing support.

Unsurprisingly, what we have seen in the schools we are engaging with during lockdown, is that those who had already started down the road to the cloud were the ones who have had the greatest success in sharing online content, lessons and materials. Schools starting from scratch in the few weeks before lockdown have struggled. One large London academy group who had already invested heavily in setting up and providing training on Microsoft 365 were quickly able to expand operations, including setting up 25,000 MS Teams sites in the days after the announcement of lockdown.  

 

Harnessing Google to deliver learning

Similar successes were had with Google G-Suite in schools such as Poverest Primary in Bromley who were quickly able to switch to online provision. Paul Haylock, the Deputy Headteacher, explains below what they have achieved during lockdown:

As a school already set up with Google accounts for both staff and children, we found the transition to online learning very easy to do. Within those last two days of school we managed to be completely set up and ready for the Monday lessons. […]

 All our teachers have become so much more confident using Google Classroom and now using many features they weren’t before. Using Google Meet we have had staff meetings and year group planning meetings. Teaching presentations sourced from a whole host of website-based companies are shared in the classroom for pupils and parents to read, tasks are also shared in the same way and blank documents (mainly docs and slides) are given to each pupil for them to share their learning. This is then remotely handed in and reviewed by the teachers. Those who can only access on phones and small devices read the information but complete learning on paper and upload photographs for the teachers to see.

 Teachers are preparing work as year group teams and posting on the Google Classroom so that each new learning is posted at 9am each morning. This is done via a time stamp so learning for a whole week can be prepared at any time but only appears to the child at 9am each day.

As school leaders we are using Google Forms with our parents to identify when children are coming into school and what the weekly free school meal arrangements are for each family. This means we can staff the building with the minimum number of staff for the children we have in the building, helping our staff to work from home and isolate as much as possible.

Paul Haylock was able to achieve this comprehensive provision because he had put in the groundwork previously and worked closely with an engaged and competent support partner. You can see more on how LGFL work with schools here.

 

Getting tech to every pupil 

Another challenge amplified by remote learning is digital connectivity for disadvantaged children at home and ensuring there’s a solution for pupils who do not have access to a device or whose only internet provision may be via a parent’s mobile phone. Upon request from the DFE, LGfL are looking to procure devices and provide a safe, secure route to the Internet for those that need it.

The Covid-19 outbreak has been a horrible time for everyone and a tragic loss of life both in the UK and around the world. What we once perceived as normal is unlikely to return for a very long time, if ever, but I hope that some positive change will come out of our experiences in the past few months. 

This time will teach us the true power of tech – if staff have the right support, tech can free them up and help them to adapt. If implemented in the right way, tech can improve and transform the way schools work so they can weather any storm. For example, the ability to set and mark work digitally should, in the long term, save teachers’ time and effort, and provide analytics on engagement far more easily. Teachers will now be much more confident using tools to teach children who are incapacitated, or for whatever reason cannot get into schools once they are opened. Sadly, for many of us, snow days will now be a lot less fun!

If you want to get up to speed with digital tools to use in your classroom, click the links below to access online learning resources from: 

 

Because Arbor MIS is cloud-based, you and your staff can work from wherever you need to. Find out more about the ways Arbor can help you work remotely and flexibly in our free webinar series today – check out the schedule here. You can also get in touch to book a virtual demo with one of our team – simply email hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Emily Copsey - 15 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Keeping in touch with your school community during lockdown

Arbor’s Head of Support, Emily Copsey, shares top tips for communicating with your school network during Covid-19 and partial school closures Our schools have been sharing with us that keeping in touch with parents – particularly the most vulnerable families – is top of their minds right now. School staff are relying more than ever

Arbor’s Head of Support, Emily Copsey, shares top tips for communicating with your school network during Covid-19 and partial school closures

Our schools have been sharing with us that keeping in touch with parents – particularly the most vulnerable families – is top of their minds right now. School staff are relying more than ever on parents and guardians to engage in their children’s education. Ensuring you can help parents to support their children starts with having a strong line of communication in place.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve worked with our schools to make sure they have everything they need in Arbor to keep in touch with their school community. Because Arbor’s MIS is cloud-based,  staff have up-to-the-minute data about all their students and guardians at their fingertips, so they can communicate with the right people at the right time, from one place

We’ve put together three top tips for engaging with parents – particularly during lockdown: 

1. Make sure it’s not all doom and gloom

2. Plan your content in advance

3. Get something in the diary

 

 Let’s break that down …

 

1. Make sure it’s not all doom and gloom

Alongside essential announcements, share some content with parents that might lift their spirits. This could be some fun weekend activities, craft projects or TV recommendations.

We’ve seen some really uplifting posts from schools on social media – like this wonderful “We miss you” video from the Knockhall Primary Staff, and free yoga sessions from Avanti Schools Trust. You could even put a short newsletter together with a weekly roundup.

We’re also delighted to share this poem sent by English Martyrs Catholic Primary School in their newsletter to their Year 6 students due to start their SATS this week. This is a great example of giving parents a way to talk about this difficult time and all the emotions surrounding it with their children.

 

2. Plan your content in advance

Over the last few weeks, you’ve probably been sending parents lots of updates as you react to daily changes. But as we adapt to a new way of working, it’s a good idea to plan a schedule of content you want to share with parents. Whether it’s a weekly round up of the work set for each class, or a regular prompt to parents to send in their details, creating a content calendar can help your team to prioritise their workload, and make sure information reaches parents at the right time.

Many Arbor schools are having success with planning regular communications. Baxter College send weekly key worker surveys in Arbor so they can keep track of who to expect the following week. Find out more about how Baxter College use Arbor to send automated reports here.

Remember, one channel might not work for everyone in your community. In Arbor there are lots of different options you can use to share information with parents:

  • Parent Portal – Parents can log in to see information about their child. Many schools at the moment are using the portal to get parents to provide their details (e.g. medical or dietary requirements for new starters), or complete consents for new measures
  • The Arbor App – In-app messages appear as push notifications on parents’ phones, so it’s a great way to get their attention remotely. Use them to send a quick prompt to parents to check their emails, or to complete consents by a certain date. Parents can reply or write in-app messages themselves, too
  • Texts – A great way to get a quick answer from parents, or vice versa. Were you expecting a child of a key worker in school today but they haven’t shown up? Was the parent expecting them to be in school or has something changed? Top tip: if you’re sending texts regularly, our SMS Unlimited package can help
  • Emails – This is most effective for sending critical or major updates, such as new Covid-19 requirements, or on the steps your school is taking to prepare for 1st June. Some schools are also using email to share Google form links with parents so they can let the school know when they are planning to come in – plus, you’ll be notified automatically with their responses

 

3. Get something in the diary

With less in-person contact with parents, it might be easy for some parents to drop off your radar. It can be useful to get a contact slot in parents’ diaries so they can plan around it. In Arbor, you can use Guardian Consultations to book one-on-one check-ins at a time that suits everyone. 

For parents who you know are not online, you’ll have to contact them in a different way. In Arbor, you can keep these parents separate in a custom group so you can plan how to reach them separately – maybe through a phone call or a physical letter. Staff can pull up parents’ phone numbers easily in Arbor, or quickly create a letter template, which will automatically populate with each parents’ details, that they can print and send out.

To find out more about communicating with parents remotely, we’re running a series of practical support webinars on parental engagement, kicking off with a session all about using the Parent Portal on Monday 18th May – sign up for free here. The Arbor Community is another great place to find advice and best practice from fellow Arbor schools – join today for free.

For full guidance on how to use Arbor to manage your school during Covid-19, check out this guide on our blog.

Vicky Harrison - 12 May, 2020

Category : Blog

How we’ve used a cloud-based MIS to manage our schools during Covid-19 – Vicky Harrison, COO at HCAT

Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill caught up with Vicky Harrison, COO at Hoyland Common Academy Trust (HCAT), about how she’s adapted to change over the last few weeks  Why did you decide to move to Arbor? Last year we had significant growth, acquiring a large secondary school with over 2000 pupils and two more large primary

Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill caught up with Vicky Harrison, COO at Hoyland Common Academy Trust (HCAT), about how she’s adapted to change over the last few weeks 

Why did you decide to move to Arbor?

Last year we had significant growth, acquiring a large secondary school with over 2000 pupils and two more large primary schools, as well as working with a school in Barnsley as an associate MAT member. We were previously using Capita SIMS but it wasn’t working for us as an expanding trust, so that was the main reason we decided to move to Arbor in February.

What have the biggest challenges been during Covid-19? How has Arbor helped? 

In general, it’s not been about challenges, it’s been about successes. There were a lot of unknowns, so we had to react to the daily information from the Government. We’ve used the central team really well, which has freed up our schools to concentrate on the key worker kids, student wellbeing and chasing up vulnerable children.

Arbor helped us alleviate some of the burden on teachers and admin staff having to create staff rotas and track free school meal pupils, because we could access all the free school meal data via the MIS from our central office, and upload it to the Edenred site. To get the FSM data, I could easily log into everybody’s Arbor and create a simple report with the names of pupils, their contact numbers, addresses and email addresses, then send out a blanket message to them asking them for the supermarket of their choice. We’ve also created a whole raft of letters and emails centrally that we’ve rolled out across the trust. That just wouldn’t have been possible before. 

One of the things we’ve found useful is that Arbor has been very reactive to the situation. You react as soon as something happens, and being a cloud-based system, updates are instantaneous. Like with the free school meals report, for example, it was there ready to go within a day. Also, initially we were doing the registers at a trust level – logging on every day and putting the hashtag code in but Arbor soon created a fix in the system that automatically put in the hashtags, which saved us another thing to think about. 

The ability to use Arbor at home has been especially helpful to our teachers and headteachers. On Capital SIMS, we had to rely on something called Forticlient which teachers had to have installed on their laptops and didn’t always work. With Arbor, teachers have been able to log on at home to contact their class through a safe portal. It’s also been really easy to use for any staff who are “anti-ICT”. 

You moved in February of this year, which was a busy time and overlapped with the start of Covid-19. How did you find juggling a lot of change at the same time? 

It was really seamless. We made the decision to move to Arbor in February because we still had until the end of March with Capita SIMS. This was so if anything had gone wrong, we could still use Capita. Initially I was kind of dreading it. I was thinking all our data was going to be lost, and that we wouldn’t be able to find anything but it’s been really straightforward and simple and really supportive from the Arbor team as well. We were using SchoolComms and Parent Pay and initially planned to roll Arbor out in phases, but because staff found it so easy to use at a school level, we decided to roll with it from day one. Even if you’re not particularly ICT-savvy, it’s so straightforward and you can see where you’ve got to go to get the information you need. If you don’t, Arbor’s live chat and the Arbor Community forum have been really useful. 

How has Arbor changed how you communicate with parents?

When we were using Capita SIMS, we relied on our local authority to write reports because it was so difficult to work out where you needed to go to get the information. Then when we wanted to send a communication to a parent, we had to log into a separate text messaging service and there was no log of communications. With Arbor, staff are able to readily access children’s contacts without having to rely on somebody back at the office. You can track what you’ve sent out (for example the messages to FSM families I’ve sent during Covid-19) and see if they get back to see you – and parents can see too. Then if you do need to chase it up, you can send a text out again.

Part of the reason we designed Arbor was to give school staff more agency so they can get the information they need, communicate and take action. How have you found training your staff on how to use Arbor, since you haven’t been able to see them?

Because the system is so easy to use, they’ve not needed much training. When we first rolled it out, we did initial training on core things like how to take the register, how to manage dinners etc. And they all picked it up. Then we just sent an easy, simple crib sheet to staff with how to contact Arbor if they needed. Prior to school closures, we did a staff briefing on how to contact parents and how to get the information they needed.  

Our associate school is local authority maintained and still on Capita SIMS at the moment but because we’re having to keep contacting them to get all the information we need, we’ve decided to roll out Arbor for them while Covid-19 is going on. So it won’t really be a barrier to rolling out Arbor any further. 

Is there anything over the last couple of months that you’d have done differently?

I don’t think so. If we’d have known about Arbor sooner, we’d have moved sooner! 

Beyond this term, how do you think Arbor is going to change how you work?

At the moment everything is unknown. We don’t know what Boris is going to announce when he does. If he decides, for example, to send back families, Arbor will give us that ability to quickly find out what families we’ve got in school and what year groups they’re in, so we can concentrate on the timetabling. It’ll also mean we can do rotas flexibly, for example if staff are in on odd days. 

If you’d like to hear from more MAT leaders about how they’re managing their schools remotely, we’ve got lots more free webinars coming up. Check out our schedule of remote working webinars here. We’ve got a special webinar this Friday with Jonathan Bishop, CEO at Cornerstone Academy Trust. Jonathan will be discussing how to make online education a success at scale. You can sign up here for Friday. 

 For all the guidance on how to use Arbor during Covid-19, it’s all here.

Rebecca Watkins - 22 April, 2020

Category : Blog

Top 3 tips for working remotely – whatever your role

During this time of constant change for schools and trusts, we want to support schools with practical advice for adapting to new ways of working. Becca Watkins, our Operations Executive, has put together her top 3 tips to bear in mind for working remotely As an EdTech company, with almost a quarter of our employees

During this time of constant change for schools and trusts, we want to support schools with practical advice for adapting to new ways of working. Becca Watkins, our Operations Executive, has put together her top 3 tips to bear in mind for working remotely

As an EdTech company, with almost a quarter of our employees already used to working remotely, we’ve adapted quite well over the past few weeks, all things considered. Many things haven’t changed – our schools and trusts can of course still access Arbor’s cloud-based Management Information System (MIS) from anywhere. And our internal systems at Arbor are no different. 

As we prepare to strap in for another few months of remote working, we’ve been reflecting on lessons we’ve learned so far and how we can keep up momentum and morale. 

Our top 3 tips for remote working

Whatever organisation you work for, whether that’s a school, trust, local authority or private company, you’re probably finding yourself working remotely or in a completely different routine now. From our experience at Arbor, we wanted to share some tips and tricks for working together in this new way. 

Bear in mind – these are not just tips for working remotely – they’re tips for working remotely during a pandemic. There’s a big difference. Situations change daily, so you should allow your outlook and mood to change too. If you take just one tip from this blog – be kind to yourself

My top tips for adapting to your new, virtual workplace are:

  1. Keep communicating with your team
  2. Find balance and remember what’s important
  3. Don’t underestimate laughter

Let’s break that down…

 

1. Keep communicating

 

  • Show your face!
    You may be feeling less well-kempt than usual or slightly embarrassed by the state of your room in the background, however, it’s a good idea to turn your video on for your colleagues, and for them to do the same. Remember, body language constitutes 55% of how we communicate, so it’s easy to misinterpret something someone has said if you can’t see them. Remember, you might not be seeing many human beings at the moment, so the more personal connection you have with your colleagues the better!
  • Begin with hello
    Why not try starting your smaller group meetings with a moment for a personal catch-up. As we’ve said, it’s harder to tell how someone is feeling over video, so make sure you take the time to ask how your colleagues are doing and share how you are, too. It’s also a great idea to plan some non-work related catch-ups with colleagues. At Arbor, we often have “coffee & catch-ups” with different people where we have a laugh and check in to see if anyone needs any support. We’re all in this together and we’ll all need a helping hand at some point.
  • Stand-up
    While adjusting your posture now and then is great, this tip is actually about checking in regularly with your team. A “stand-up” is a type of meeting where originally teams would literally stand up to keep the meeting short and sweet before people got too tired on their feet! Whether you actually stand up in front of your laptop or not, stand-ups are a great way to give a short, efficient status update to your team. We find it really useful to take 15-minutes every morning to keep each other in the loop about what we’re doing.
  • Be a source of truth
    As a leader, the best response to a crisis is to be the source of truth for your employees about what is happening in the world. Transparency is strength – addressing the difficult situation, letting your team know how you’re dealing with it and how it will affect them, will reassure them that you’re representing them in the decisions you make. Even if your policies aren’t set yet – let them know it’s a working process that needs everyone’s input. James, Arbor’s CEO, has been keeping team morale up with daily updates on the developing situation for the country, and what this means for our schools and how we need to work together to adapt.

 

2. Find balance

 

  • Work-life balance
    It’s tough when your home and work life start to merge into one another. But it’s important to find that divide so you can switch off when you’re not working and be really present in your home life. Work-life-balance won’t be the same for everyone – having other commitments outside of work or those you care for might mean different priorities. Continuing to re-evaluate what’s important to you will show you the balance you need to strike. Now is not the time to try to fit a mould or do what others are doing. If you can, find a new schedule that works around you – move your hours a little to give you more breathing space. Breaking just once at lunch time might not be the time off you need!
  • Is it urgent? Is it important?
    As national and local factors are changing all the time, your school, trust or company will be reassessing and re-prioritising objectives and timelines regularly. Try and apply this to your personal workload too. Order your tasks by urgency and importance, so you can work efficiently on the most relevant things – see our handy chart below! 

urgency matrix

3. Don’t underestimate laughter

Something not many companies have faced before is how to keep their employees’ morale high during a time of widespread strain. The key to this is having a strong company culture and great communication. Most importantly, and the easiest thing to introduce, you can’t underestimate the value of having a laugh together. Here are some ideas to bring a little light-hearted relief:

  • Friendly competitions
    One way we’re keeping up our work relationships at Arbor is daily competitions set by our Co-Founder and CEO, James Weatherill. Every day, James sets the whole company a single challenge to post in our team Slack channel. The best have been to take a picture of your home office (check them out on twitter!), share your favourite song of all time, and one of my personal favourites – Renaissance Yourself – which shows how you would look as a Renaissance portrait (go on, try it!). It’s a very fun way of breaking the bounds of remote working and getting to know your colleagues even better. 
  • Quiz time!
    Why not host a quiz for your team and/or company to play together? Quizzes can really engage a team and lift the mood by taking the mind somewhere completely different. You can play at the end of the day or during a lunch break, with a digital platform or good old fashioned pen and paper. We’ve been using Kahoot for our quizzes, great for being quick and interactive. 

Keep sharing

Remote working is a new experience for us all, and being kind and thoughtful will go a long way, whatever your role or company. So take a breath, take a pause, and remember this is temporary. How we adapt to this crisis will serve us not just right now, but in the long term as well. 

If you have any tips to add to Becca’s list, share them with us on social media using #ArborCommunity or on our Community Forum if you’re an Arbor school.

We’re running a webinar programme called “Adapting to Change: Managing Your Schools and Staff Remotely” for MAT Leaders to share strategies during lockdown and beyond. You can sign up for free by clicking the link.

To find out how to manage and report on the Coronavirus situation in Arbor, you can read our blog, or find practical advice on our Help Centre. If you’re new to Arbor, find out if Arbor MIS is for you with an online demo – get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028. 

Dan Morrow - 17 April, 2020

Category : Blog

Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust shares tips for nurturing staff wellbeing and mental health

As part of our programme of webinars – “Adapting to Change: Managing your Schools and Staff Remotely” – we invited Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, to share his strategies for staff mental health and wellbeing across his trust  Dan discussed the responsibility of trust leaders to their staff, particularly during the Coronavirus crisis,

As part of our programme of webinars – “Adapting to Change: Managing your Schools and Staff Remotely” – we invited Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, to share his strategies for staff mental health and wellbeing across his trust 

Dan discussed the responsibility of trust leaders to their staff, particularly during the Coronavirus crisis, and how he’s shaped policies around what makes a real difference to staff. We’ve put together the key takeaways from Dan’s fantastic talk and also included his slides below.

His main tips were:

  • Treat your staff as people – build policies around their reality
  • Listen to staff – send out surveys to find out where they need support
  • Invest in mental health and wellbeing and reap rewards in the long term
  • Check in with staff during this difficult time – have good communication in place

A human approach to leadership

The philosophy that guides Dan’s strategy is that “wellbeing isn’t something you can just tack on – it needs to be based in culture and action”. Since arriving at Woodland Academy Trust, a trust of four Primary schools in North Kent, Dan has brought wellbeing and mental health onto the agenda, replacing the previous “compliance mindset” which he says did not treat staff “as people first”. 

He’s introduced initiatives such as wellbeing dogs, paid wellbeing days and CPD pathways staff can shape themselves, which have  turned around the trust’s previously high level of staff absence, sickness and turnover rate. They’ve achieved this, Dan explains, by shaping wellbeing policies around their staff – which makes them feel heard and creates a reciprocal culture where “people want to get out of bed and come to work every day.” 

“A contract is very important but as you see at the moment, it isn’t a contract that’s driving behaviour – it’s relationship, it’s duty, and it’s need” 

In times of crisis, recognise your staff’s realities

The last few weeks have proven to Dan that the most important thing for his employees is their families and home life. As a leader, he believes you have to work your decisions around the reality of peoples’ lives. “It’s important we understand that sometimes life happens”, Dan says. With this in mind, the trust has re-examined their bank of policies to make them family-friendly and focused on workload. Making these adjustments has cut down on the number of staff calling in sick because of dependency issues or an issue that would have previously forced them to take unpaid leave.

In shaping wellbeing policies across the whole trust, Dan sent out surveys to his staff to make sure they were on board with everything he was proposing. “The worst thing you can do in wellbeing” according to Dan, “is to announce a strategy which you’re effectively doing to your staff and they may not actually want”. The surveys helped Dan’s team understand what would really make a difference to staff. For example, they had proposed wellbeing workshops but staff said the most valuable thing for them was more time. Dan’s team took this and introduced the idea of paid wellbeing days which staff can use for something that’s important to them, whether that’s to “attend weddings, the first day of their children’s school or a spa day with a friend they hadn’t seen for 30 years. Why not?” 

Give staff a voice

An essential part of Dan’s leadership strategy is listening to his staff. When he started as CEO, he met with every member of staff to get to know them as individuals, ask them how they are and what they need. The aim of these conversations was to build the relationship on “a shared sense of culture and vision”. In a trust the size of Woodland, it was possible (and important to Dan) for the Executive Team to hold these conversations, but for larger trusts Dan suggests this may be done on a Division or Director basis. Dan plans to check in with staff in this way again when schools return after the Coronavirus crisis. 

Woodland’s people-first approach extends to staff development, where Dan ensures that initiatives are geared towards what staff actually need and want to work on. Staff can now create their own CPD pathways and take secondments or work experience opportunities, which gives them “a voice in where their development is going”. Staff are also encouraged to take part in networking and to be active in discussions within the education sector on social media. 3 out of 4 of Woodland staff are now involved in Twitter or LinkedIn which, Dan says, demonstrates how staff feel more ownership over their career.

“Being part of a broader narrative of education has been really important for colleagues to find their place within our sector”

Prioritise mental health

As part of the overall strategy at Woodland “WAT CAIRS” (Woodland Academy Trust Care, Aspiration, Inspiration, Respect and Stewardship), they believe that leadership should be “part of the solution to problems” that staff face in their lives. For this reason, a free employee counselling service is available for staff, which has been particularly useful during the difficult few weeks since the Coronavirus outbreak. They also run a wellbeing dogs scheme, which has been incredibly popular, both with children and staff. Initiatives like these are relatively cheap and help to “lift the spirits and make it feel like work has an aspect of care to it.” 

And those costs have paid off. Staff retention has risen to over 95%, saving over £ 300, 000 in recruitment costs over three years. Days lost to sickness has reduced significantly, too, falling from 11% in 2015-16 to 3.1% last year, which has cut the need for external cover. 

Check in with staff during Coronavirus

As a result of the Coronavirus crisis, Woodland Academy Trust has taken many lessons which will inform their wellbeing policy going forward. In this challenging time full of anxiety, Dan’s attitude is “it’s incumbent on us leaders now to ensure that staff understand that their wellbeing is being prioritised.” One of the immediate practical measures he took to put anxiety to rest was to reassure his staff around pay. Communication was also key – teams are encouraged to check in with each other regularly and new protocols and practices have been produced so everyone is comfortable working remotely. They’ve also provided close support for the more vulnerable members of staff.

Dan predicts that following this crisis, wellbeing and mental health are going to be higher on the agenda so leaders should “ensure staff have the professional capabilities, the personal resilience and the team around them to be successful”.

You can look through Dan’s presentation below which includes useful links for teachers to resources, podcasts and blogs to access during lockdown.  

We have lots more webinars coming up in our programme Adapting to Change. The next few will be conversations between MAT Leaders and Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill. For more details on what’s coming up, check out our blog.

If you have any questions about the webinars, or about how Arbor MIS could help your trust, you can get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028. 

To find out how to manage and report on the Coronavirus situation in Arbor, you can read our latest blog, or find practical advice on our Help Centre

James Weatherill - 19 March, 2020

Category : Blog

How to use Arbor during school closures

To all our Arbor schools and MATs, Our priority right now is to help you manage your school during the Coronavirus outbreak To make it as simple as possible for you to get the information you need, we’ve created one central article in our Help Centre with everything you need to know on using Arbor

To all our Arbor schools and MATs,

Our priority right now is to help you manage your school during the Coronavirus outbreak

To make it as simple as possible for you to get the information you need, we’ve created one central article in our Help Centre with everything you need to know on using Arbor to react to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Using Arbor during this period

On our Help Centre, you can find out how to:

  • Record and report on children of key workers, with the ability to bulk update records
  • Produce key demographic reports on: children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM children, and children of key workers at school and MAT level
  • Record, report and update staff and student absence and report the number of students still physically in school
  • Record whole or partial school closures 
  • Report on Y code absences
  • Add a medical condition for students or staff
  • Communicate with students and their guardians during this time

All of these features are live and available to use in Arbor now.

Coming Up
We’re monitoring the news closely, including for any further updates around exams, so we can be responsive to schools’ needs as they arise. Each time we release a new feature we’ll update the same Help Centre page and email you to let you know too.

Support
Our Support Team is available to support you by phone, email and web chat.

In the meantime, I hope you and the staff, students and parents at your school are coping as well as you can. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any help – we’re all in this together.

All the best,

James

James Weatherill
CEO and Co-Founder, Arbor Education
 

Beth Mokrini - 13 March, 2020

Category : Blog

Get the support that works for you with Arbor

We know that moving to the cloud can seem like a big job. The benefits of switching MIS might be hard to picture when you’ve never undergone such a large change at your school. That’s why we want to make sure you have the right support at every step of the way. Getting to know

We know that moving to the cloud can seem like a big job. The benefits of switching MIS might be hard to picture when you’ve never undergone such a large change at your school. That’s why we want to make sure you have the right support at every step of the way.

Getting to know the 1,000 schools who have chosen Arbor has shown us that each school works in a unique way. This is also true of support – different schools will have certain styles that suit them best. The Arbor Support Team of experts and former teachers will guide you through rolling out your new system, getting started with core functions, through to driving impact from Arbor over a longer period of time. However, many schools have an existing relationship with a local support partner and we think it’s important that a move to Arbor doesn’t mean losing these ties. 

To give schools freedom and flexibility, you can either choose our direct support, or from our network of local support partners across the country, including SIMS Support Units, who provide schools with expert training and advice on the use of Arbor. 

Each of the 31 organisations we work with goes through in-depth training to become an accredited Arbor Support Partner. This involves:

Training: 

  • 4-6 months of self-guided training using videos, guides and mock tests
  • Fortnightly call with one of our Customer Support experts
  • Day of shadowing our Customer Support Team (optional) 
  • Day of in-person training (optional) 

Accreditation: 

  • Online exam on Arbor’s core modules
  • Deliver an assessed 1-hour training session
  • Respond to mock support calls and tickets 

We’re thrilled to announce the following 10 Support Partners who have recently gained full accreditation. You might spot one of the providers in your local area!

 

Buckinghamshire County Council

ICT Schools Team, part of The Buckinghamshire Council, became our very first accredited Support Partner in March 2019. They provide telephone support and remote assistance on Arbor, a comprehensive training schedule and consultancy visits, along with technical support on admin and curriculum networks. 

 

iCT4

Glyn pascoe ict4 quoteiCT4 has been providing ICT services to schools since 2002. Originally formed as part of the Cornwall Council Learning Partnership, they now cover all of the UK, delivering full service IT solutions to the education, business and charity sectors. Their aim is to empower users to make the most of ICT.

 

 

OSMIS Education

Dave Cattlin OSMIS quote

OSMIS is based in the North of England and delivers quality training, support and consultancy services to schools, academies, Local Authorities and Multi-Academy Trusts. Their dedicated service desk is staffed by experts with decades of experience of working in schools. OSMIS seeks to work in a genuine partnership to help customers to realise efficiencies and to achieve the very best from their MIS.

 

Orbis

Jason Waring Orbis quoteOrbis is a shared services partnership between Brighton and Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and Surrey County Council. Orbis strives to deliver greater value for their customers by generating efficiencies and exploiting the benefits of sharing resources and technology. 

 

You can read more about our partnership with Orbis in this blog.

 

Connect-Up

Connect-Up Support Services, based in Leeds, have over 25 years’ experience working in the Education sector. They cover a wide range of MIS, Admin office, Curriculum managed services and training for primary schools and trusts in the Yorkshire Region.

 

 

Herts for Learning

Jennie readings herts for learning quote

Herts for Learning (HfL) is the UK’s largest schools-owned company, providing a broad range of education and business services that support schools and educational settings to deliver improved outcomes for children. They work with 99% of Hertfordshire schools and over 3,100 schools and educational settings nationally, deploying 450 staff across all phases. HfL provides training, support and challenge to staff and governors at all levels.

We are working together with Herts for Learning, ICT4, OSMIS and Orbis to launch Arbor Lite – our new, essential MIS package for primary schools.

 

School Business Services (SBS)

Cara Patching SBS quote

SBS is a leading global specialist in providing support services and products to the education sector. They offer consultancy, training, service desks and managed services to schools and academies. Their core specialisms are Finance & Business Management, ICT, Management Information Systems (MIS) and HR Support. 

 

You can read more about our partnership with SBS in this blog.

 

Turn IT on

tom welch turniton quoteWith over 150 years of combined experience in supporting Management Information Systems (MIS), turn IT on provide expert support to help schools use Arbor as effectively as possible. Unlimited telephone and remote support is available, as well as a wide range of on-site consultancy services. 

 

You can read more about our partnership with turn IT on in this blog.

 

Wirral Software Support for Schools

Wirral Council’s Software Support team provides training, support and installations for Management Information Systems (MIS) and software used by schools and academies. Their training programmes are tailored to each school.

 

 

Cantium Business Solutions

mark hodges cantium quote

Cantium Business Solutions works with schools and Multi-Academy Trusts to provide insight-driven solutions and tailored back office support. From integrated HR and Payroll, to innovative ICT solutions, Cantium aims to help schools drive improvements and create efficiencies and savings to transform how they work for the better.

 

If you’re new to Arbor and want to find out more about the support we offer, or about working with one of our Support Partners, get in touch at myteam@arbor-education.com. You can also call 020 8050 2086 if you’re a Primary, or 020 8050 2087 if you’re a Secondary.

To find out more about switching to Arbor MIS, you can arrange a free demo here or call us on 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 11 March, 2020

Category : Blog

Life at Pool Academy: An Interview with Phil Jones

Pool Academy is a secondary school in Cornwall with 650+ students. We caught up with Phil Jones, Head of Academy Services, who told us about some of the ways life at school has changed for the better since they moved to Arbor back in 2018 Can you tell us why you decided to switch to

Pool Academy is a secondary school in Cornwall with 650+ students. We caught up with Phil Jones, Head of Academy Services, who told us about some of the ways life at school has changed for the better since they moved to Arbor back in 2018

Can you tell us why you decided to switch to Arbor? 

  • We were looking to review our MIS system as we weren’t happy with the one we had in place. We’d been using our previous system for years, but no one had ever really questioned it or thought to change it.
  • If it had been any other piece of software or system, we’d have been doing tenders every two or three years to make sure we were getting the best option for our money, but that just wasn’t the culture we were operating in. I felt that needed to change!
  • One of the first things I did when I stepped up to my new role as Head of Academy Services, was to look for a better MIS system. We looked at a few others but Arbor jumped out because it felt a lot more modern; the look and feel was much more up to date, which gave us the confidence that lots was being done in the background. The systems we had grown used to working with looked very dated, so it was great to see something that felt a bit more fresh.

Was having a cloud-based system important for you?

  • The fact that Arbor is web-based was a big pull for us. Now that everything else is moving into the cloud, we wanted that for our MIS too – at Pool, we’re quite IT literate, and staff and students all use iPads and laptops, so we needed accessibility from lots of different devices.
  • I remember once when we were using our previous system there was a sudden blizzard (we don’t get snow often in Cornwall!) and we needed to access parents’ phone numbers at a moment’s notice to let them know. It was a mess because we all had these iPads but only certain people had access to student information, and lots of that information wasn’t up to date. This is when we realised something wasn’t quite right. We also realised that we wanted access to our data in the way that we wanted it, not in the way that someone else had decided to format it, and that we then needed to work around.  

Which area of the system in Arbor has saved you the most time? 

  • We save a lot of time with our day-to-day tasks. Most importantly, it’s the reporting side of things that has really improved. The world is changing all the time and the Ofsted goalposts are always moving around, so we need to be able keep up with the different things we’re required to track, and Arbor has really helped us do this.
  • We were spending a lot of time extracting information out of our old system, just to put into other systems, and then putting that into Excel and running reports. Getting the data out that we needed was really difficult.
  • For example, I used to have to manually run a report for the Vice Principal every Friday, which she then had to manipulate further herself, and it was just a waste of everyone’s time. Now, Pastoral Leads and Heads of Year all receive an automatic report on Friday afternoon, which shows them who performed the best in their year that week, who performed the worst, who had the worst attendance, and here’s who you need to keep an eye on. They then know where they need to focus for the coming week, which is really valuable.
  • Plus, with tools like Live Feeds, the information is always there when we need it. We use a lot of Google apps at Pool – Docs, Sheets etc. – and to be able to feed key information straight into a secure Google Sheet saves us loads of time.
  • We’ve also started to use Arbor to help us engage with parents. The principal has a custom report that feeds into a weekly email for parents, which allows us to send out updates each week with a quick rundown of what’s happened in school for their child. This is really powerful (and helpful for parents whose child might not have mentioned that they’d had a detention that week!). 
  • Lastly, on a slightly more serious level, when you’re looking at attendance and we need to take something to the next level e.g. when we get to the stage where we need to prosecute  – to have that communications log in Arbor is invaluable. We now have an instantly accessible paper trail to show parents that, for example, we’ve been in touch with them every week about their child’s attendance, so it puts us in a stronger position.

How did you find the migration and implementation process?

  • When you undertake a big change, there’s alway resistance from some people! That said it was really crucial that teachers were happy, and that’s taken some time, but it’s people our Data Manager, Exams Manager and our HR Manager who use Arbor all day, every day who really like it and get on very well with it.
  • Before we moved to Arbor it wasn’t in our culture to question the way we were operating – it was more “We do this, we don’t do that”. Arbor has been a really great exercise in stepping back and questioning the ways we were doing things, and asking ourselves: “Why do we do that?” and “Can we do things a different way?”
  • For example, Arbor gave us an opportunity to question how we were running exams at Pool, and if there was a better way we could be doing things. Parents Evenings also used to be this massive deal, but with Arbor it’s now a breeze.
  • At the end of the day, there are people who’ve used SIMS for 15 years at Pool, but they’re slowing being won over! What’s more, things are continually improving with the Arbor product, and things keep changing, which is really exciting. I know my Exams Officer made a couple of suggestions that she’s seen implemented, which has been great. You never feel like you’re shouting into the dark!
  • Having access to the Arbor roadmap is really really helpful – we know where you guys are going, and being able to vote on things makes us feel involved in the conversation and the direction the product is going in. I’m now on the online Arbor community too – and I think as that grows it will be fantastic.

Are there any other aspects of Arbor that you have found particularly useful?

  • Like I said, we love the fact that Arbor is web-based. It’s also invaluable to have so much functionality built into one system.We used to pay for lots of other apps that we needed to sync with our old MIS, but now, having everything in one place makes so much more sense.
  • With our previous system, we spent a lot of time taking information out of it to put into other systems because there were so many things that it wasn’t capable of doing (like parents’ evenings for example) and we needed to buy an add-on. We then had another system to sync, and another system to keep up-to-date, and another system that could go wrong.
  • We were able to drop at least 3, maybe 4 third-party systems when we moved to Arbor – we kept things like SISRA for heavy data (which Arbor integrates with), but lots of the others we were paying for became obsolete.

Do you feel you get the support you need from the Arbor team?

  • Yes – I really like the online help chat tool. Obviously it’s great to be able to call, and every time I’ve called I’ve had my question answered, but there are times when I’m juggling 3 or 4 different things and need a quick answer then and there.
  • What’s great about the online help chat is that I can share the page I’m having a problem with directly with you. Nine times out of ten I get the answer straight away, and then if there’s anything that needs looking into further I get a call back pretty soon after.
  • It’s great to know that the Arbor team can help with even silly little things – and I don’t feel like an idiot!

Would you recommend Arbor?

  • I absolutely would! 
Maddie Kilminster - 4 March, 2020

Category : Blog

The Arbor Community celebrates at ArborFest 2020!

Last week we welcomed 100 School Leaders, Business Managers, Teachers and Admins from schools and MATs using Arbor across the country. It was a fantastic day of keynote speeches, breakout sessions and discussions on topics across the school landscape – from assessment, behaviour and reporting, to parental engagement, managing Ofsted inspections and running an effective

arborfest

Last week we welcomed 100 School Leaders, Business Managers, Teachers and Admins from schools and MATs using Arbor across the country. It was a fantastic day of keynote speeches, breakout sessions and discussions on topics across the school landscape – from assessment, behaviour and reporting, to parental engagement, managing Ofsted inspections and running an effective school office. 

It was brilliant to hear from some of our 1,000 schools (of all shapes and sizes!) about how they are integrating Arbor MIS into all areas of their day-to-day life. Schools had the opportunity to network with staff members in the same roles as them at other schools – and to learn from each other and share best practice. 

Anthony david quote2

Lots of exciting discussions took place throughout the day, and we overheard some fascinating ideas shared about ways schools have transformed key processes (like using automatic interventions and creating custom reports) in Arbor. 

For Lewis Dinsdale, Headteacher at English Martyrs Catholic Primary, Arbor’s Parent Portal has allowed his team to reach out to parents more effectively, as well as better understanding their data. He told us, “we finally have data behind how parents are engaging with our school!” 

Martyn Essery, Deputy Headteacher at The Reach Free School shared how Arbor made managing their Ofsted inspection easy, because he was able to quickly drill down into the data and pull out trends to make useful crib sheets for staff. Martyn says “‪with Arbor we can evidence that we know what’s going on with our students and the impact of what we’re doing.”

For Julie Smith, Senior Administrator and PA to the Headteacher at Park Royal Community Primary, being able to schedule the weekly reports and automatic follow-ups has saved her office a lot of time and hassle.

After the event, our online community forum was buzzing with ideas being shared. If you’re an Arbor user, sign up today for free and learn more from fellow Arbor schools!

It was great to have so many schools together in one room, who all shared a collective passion for improving the lives of students everywhere. We loved meeting so many of our schools and finding out how you’re using Arbor to transform the way you work.

It was also a chance for the Arbor team to hear your feedback and show you some of the exciting new features we’re releasing this year. We had some great feedback on My Classroom, our new all-in-one classroom management tool, which brings seating plans, attendance and behaviour management in one place for the first time. Look out for that later this term!

Hear what a few more of our schools said about the day:Elaine Barber quote

Damon Murphy quote

To find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way your school works, you can arrange a free demo here or call us on 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 24 February, 2020

Category : Blog

How Arbor could transform your secondary school

With large student bodies, hundreds of subject strands and lots of different staff responsibilities, secondary school data can be a complex web. To tackle it, you need a Management Information System (MIS) that gives your staff access to clear, visual data so they can take action instantly. At Arbor, we have a team with deep

With large student bodies, hundreds of subject strands and lots of different staff responsibilities, secondary school data can be a complex web. To tackle it, you need a Management Information System (MIS) that gives your staff access to clear, visual data so they can take action instantly.

At Arbor, we have a team with deep secondary school knowledge who have designed our MIS hand-in-hand with schools. Arbor MIS not only takes the hassle out of daily admin – it can also transform the way you work. The number of secondary schools joining Arbor is growing daily – three times as many switched to us last year compared to 2018. And they’ve joined a growing community of 1,000 schools and MATs who rely on Arbor MIS every day.

We’ve put together the top four things that secondary schools really love about Arbor MIS. Read more below about our BI analytics, behaviour reporting, exam management and interventions.

 

1. We give you the choice to analyse your data any way you like

 

3 in 4 of our schools say Arbor has improved their data analysis

At Arbor we care about democratising data – our MIS gives staff visibility of the data they need every day. We have built “out-of-the-box” BI (Business Intelligence) into the fabric of our MIS which means staff can easily go deep into their data without needing to be a data expert. Through clear, detailed dashboards, Teachers, Heads of Department and Admin Staff can access, analyse and action the data that’s relevant to their role. You can also keep using the BI tools you love by pulling your Arbor data into a password-protected Live Feed that you can upload to another application. You can read more about Arbor’s BI tools in our blog.

2. Implement a consistent behaviour policy across your school

4 in 5 say Arbor has transformed the way they work

Arbor MIS helps you manage behaviour more efficiently, with smarter evidence, and in a way that’s right for your school. You have the flexibility to define behaviour types and frameworks, and to set up automatic actions in response to specific incidents or behaviour types, helping you cut down on workload. 

Thanks to Arbor’s built-in BI, your behaviour data is more powerful. You’ll be able to build up a rounded picture of each student and compare their behaviour with their class, year group or a custom group you’ve created. To find out more about how Arbor can transform behaviour reporting, check out our blog “A day in the life” by our Senior Partnership Manager and former Headteacher, Andrew. 

behaviour

3. End-to-end exam management, from mocks to results day

Managing exams in Arbor MIS is hassle-free every step of the way – from preparation to results day. Unlike other exam management systems, in Arbor there’s no need to search for basedata on exam board websites – we pull it in automatically for you.

Here’s a bit more about how we make exams simple in Arbor:

Exams offering

Set up your exams offering with precise awards and unit codes at the start of the year. This stops any mistakes down the line. You can manage your mock or internal exams in Arbor in exactly the same way as GCSEs or A Levels. 

Entries

Inputting entries is flexible – either the Exams Officer can input directly or Teachers can propose entries. Easily create an EDI Entries file or an EDI Amendments file with any changes. You can also input coursework marks (Centre Assessed Outcomes) and Forecast Grades, and create an EDI Coursework file. 

Candidates & timetabling

Everything you need to set up your candidates for the year is all in one place – from assigning candidate numbers, UCIs, ULNs and Exam Access Arrangements. You can assign candidates to seating plans, allocate them to one or more exam rooms and create candidate timetables. Students can see their timetable in the student and parent portals.

Invigilators

Have visibility over invigilator duties, see how many invigilators are already allocated to each room and assign more if needed, print timetables and easily arrange cover.

Results

Manage your results centrally – simply import your EDI Results files into Arbor and see a dashboard of the results which you can print. You can set an Embargo Period and Embargo Date to release results to staff. Teachers can see results on the student profiles, and students can through the student and parent portals. 

Results analysis

Arbor MIS has built-in analysis of exam results but you can also export your data to an external spreadsheet, or to SISRA and 4Matrix if you want to do your own deeper analysis.

4. Plan, manage, and monitor interventions


3 in 4 say Arbor saves them time

We know how important pastoral and academic interventions are in secondary schools. That’s why we’ve made interventions flexible and easy to use in Arbor MIS. Whether your interventions are ad hoc and informal, or highly formalised and structured, you can build your interventions your way. Arbor MIS allows you to create, track, monitor and cost the breadth and range of your wider curriculum. You’ll always stay on top of your students’ progress, attainment and wellbeing – plus you’ll be able to track where extra attention is needed. 

You can read more about creating interventions in our blog “6 Steps to Create an Effective Interventions Strategy”. To read how Kate Ferris from Baxter College tailored her behaviour interventions in Arbor, check out her case study.

interventions

Our secondaries have been sharing with us why Arbor works for them – read how Suzanne Pike, Vice Principal of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, leads a secondary school with Arbor and hear from Kate Ferris, Data Systems Analyst at Baxter College, about how Arbor has led to a culture shift at their school

To find out why Arbor MIS is perfect for secondary schools like yours, click here to arrange a free demo or call us on 0208 050 1028.

 

 

Maddie Kilminster - 12 February, 2020

Category : Blog

A culture shift at Baxter College with Arbor 

Kate Ferris, Data Systems Analyst at Baxter College, a Secondary Academy of 865 students in Kidderminster, talked to us about how Arbor’s Management Information System (MIS) has not only made admin at her school simpler and easier – it’s transformed the way they work.  Since moving to Arbor MIS almost two years ago, there have

arboreverything

Kate Ferris, Data Systems Analyst at Baxter College, a Secondary Academy of 865 students in Kidderminster, talked to us about how Arbor’s Management Information System (MIS) has not only made admin at her school simpler and easier – it’s transformed the way they work. 

Since moving to Arbor MIS almost two years ago, there have been a lot of changes at Baxter College; but the biggest shift has been much more focus on data. Kate’s role – Data Systems Analyst – has also changed in two years, now being much more focused on the MIS. The school has expanded their IT team in order to work smarter across the trust (Severn Academies Educational Trust) by upgrading systems and creating efficiencies. To support this, Baxter College needed a smarter MIS that gave them access to live, detailed data that could be pulled easily into clear reports. 

Kate shared with us the top four reasons she loves using Arbor MIS at her school:

1. Everyone at Baxter College is now engaging with data

cultureshift

Arbor MIS allows Baxter College to dig into their data and do more with it. Easy-to-use, visual dashboards present relevant data to everyone who needs it across the school. As Data Systems Analyst, Kate has an overview of what’s going on across different classes, pastoral groups and staff teams, which means she has all the information she needs to jump in if necessary. Kate says she’s seen a culture shift at her school – now that the data is easy to understand, teachers are much more enthusiastic about engaging with Arbor MIS than the previous, clunky system.

2. A fresh perspective helps staff spot patterns

thoughtweknew

Seeing their data in new ways has led to new discoveries. According to Kate, Arbor MIS unlocked their behaviour data and helped them to understand trends and patterns for the first time. Arbor has given them a “360 degree view” of behaviour across the school so they can intervene where they need to and never miss anything. The flexibility to tailor interventions is essential for Kate; she can define metrics that are important to her – for example, if a student is late three times, Arbor automatically alerts the right pastoral leads. 

3. Telling the full story of every student

morethangrade

Having attendance, behaviour and progress data all in one place has made a powerful difference to Baxter College. Providing outstanding, all-round care to students is a core part of the school’s mission and having data at their fingertips in Arbor helps them see exactly where extra attention is needed. Staff can now drill down into all the important areas of a student’s school life and take everything into consideration to see how they’re doing. 

4. Bringing parents into the school community

breakdown2

Thanks to communication through the Arbor App, Kate has seen teachers and parents/guardians come closer together. As a large secondary school, Baxter College is keen to keep regular touchpoints with parents (2-3 emails and SMS messages per week) and the Arbor App makes this easy. Setting up automated communications, such as weekly attendance reports, is a great way for staff to let multiple parents know what’s going on with their child without the hassle of sending individual reports to each parent. 

Reaching out like this wasn’t possible before the Arbor App. Getting up-to-date, personalised information to parents was only really possible at parents’ evenings. Parents now have a personal connection to the school and a sense of belonging to the school community. The gap is narrowing – currently 53% of parents at Baxter College have the Arbor App – so Kate’s goal is to encourage more and more parents to engage and feel comfortable contacting the school.

everythingarbororange

As Baxter College has changed, Arbor has adapted to their needs. With the flexibility to add and customise features, they have shaped the MIS into a system that works best for their school. Kate and her fellow staff members have integrated Arbor MIS across their day-to-day life at school and it is now at the heart of what they do. 

To find out why Arbor MIS is perfect for secondary schools like yours, click here to arrange a free demo or call us on 0208 050 1028.

 

 

 

 

 

Maddie Kilminster - 4 February, 2020

Category : Blog

How Arbor keeps your data safe

At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting school and MAT data. We’ve put together this short blog to explain what we do in a little more detail.    1)

At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting school and MAT data. We’ve put together this short blog to explain what we do in a little more detail. 

 

1) We have full data security accreditation

  • ISO 27001  –  We are accredited by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) – an independent, non-governmental international organisation that ensures the quality and safety of software like Arbor around the world. We are accredited under ISO27001 – the international benchmark for data security

 

  • GDPR  –  We meet and exceed the requirements of GDPR, protecting the data we store with a comprehensive Information Security Management System. Arbor MIS gives you enterprise provisioning secure logins (e.g. via Google SSO and 2FA), allows you to retrieve all the data you need for Subject Access Requests (SAR), and helps you monitor and delete data through “out-of-the-box” data retention dashboards

 

  • Cyber Essentials  –  We are certified with Cyber Essentials and are audited annually. This means our IT systems are security approved by an accreditation body selected by the NCSC and we have technical defences in place against cyber threats

 

  • ICO  –  We are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for data protection, the UK’s independent authority that upholds public information rights and controls organisations use of staff or customer data

 

2) Our digital security

  • Protected by the cloud  –  Your school data is stored on our central, cloud-based system, rather than any individual device, which means if there’s a security breach at your school your data is less likely to be lost or compromised. Your data is only accessible with a secure login and the system automatically logs out after a period of inactivity, meaning there’s less chance of it getting into the wrong hands

 

  • Only you can see your data  –  Our database uses bank-grade, end-to-end, 256bit SSL encryption for transmitting data, and AES-256 bit encryption for all stored data, which means only you can see your data. Student data is never shared with third parties without your schools’ consent

 

  • Analyse data securely  –  With our built-in BI analysis, you can go deep into the detail of your data within Arbor MIS. But if you do want to pull data out, you can download it as a file or as a secure “Live Feed” which can be password protected. You can keep central control access to this data and cut the link if necessary

 

  • Your data is secure because our data is secure  –  At Arbor HQ, our data is hosted by Amazon Web Services’ London data centre. Arbor is approved by the DfE list for cloud suppliers and registered on the UK government’s G-Cloud V11 framework, which audits the security of cloud-based providers

 

  • We lock down access to our databases to specific individuals, and only allow access through strict gateways requiring two-factor authentication login and public/private key identification. All logins to Arbor are logged and tracked, and strict policies are enforced which create alerts if breached. Staff passwords are also changed regularly and, since data is kept on our central system, permissions can easily be revoked if needed

 

3)  Our physical security 

The security of every Arbor office is maintained by formal security inspections and risk assessments. Access to our offices is restricted with secure keys, CCTV, 24/7 security personnel and secure perimeter doors.

 

Security top tips !

When protecting data at your school, it’s important that you follow data security best practice to make sure data does not fall into the wrong hands. Here are some key things you can keep in mind: 

security tips

 

If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your secondary school works, contact us

 

Maddie Kilminster - 27 January, 2020

Category : Blog

Arbor in Action in the Classroom

At BETT last week, Tim and Stephen from the Arbor team gave a talk in the Tech In Action theatre about how Arbor MIS can transform the way schools work. We were pleased to see so many new faces in the audience but in case you missed it, you can see their presentation below which

At BETT last week, Tim and Stephen from the Arbor team gave a talk in the Tech In Action theatre about how Arbor MIS can transform the way schools work. We were pleased to see so many new faces in the audience but in case you missed it, you can see their presentation below which includes some handy video demos.

Tim and Stephen talked about how Arbor MIS makes your essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful, so you can get on and focus where it matters most. They went through four key ways Arbor helps teachers in the classroom – these were:

1. Teaching a lesson using My Classroom 

My Classroom is an exciting new feature of Arbor MIS that takes the hassle out of preparing for lessons. With this all-in-one classroom management tool, you can organise your lessons and manage your class seamlessly – giving you time back to focus on teaching and learning.

2. Sending letters home to your students’ parents

Communication with parents is quick, easy and automated in Arbor MIS. For example, if an after-school club has been cancelled, you can send a message to all relevant parents instantly. Parents will get the message on the Arbor App on their phone, which will also let them know if there’s another session they can book  instead.

3. Preparing for a meeting with a parent

Arbor MIS gives you the whole picture for each student in a few clicks. Simply search for a student and you can see a breakdown of their behaviour history, attainment, important medical and pastoral notes, absence patterns and how they compare with their classmates. From clear, visual dashboards, you’ll instantly see the most important areas to focus on in your next meeting with their parent.

4. Reviewing your class at the end of the day

After lessons, data on your whole form or class group is at your fingertips. From the week’s behaviour incidents, to how many students have done their homework, to their attainment over time – you can use data to intervene where needed, like creating a booster group, or emailing parents.

If you’d like to find out more about how our hassle-free, cloud-based MIS could help you act on everything important fast, so you and your staff can focus on what matters most, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

David Norton - 21 January, 2020

Category : Blog

Announcing Arbor Lite

Arbor Lite is our new, essential MIS package for primary schools in partnership with Herts for Learning, iCT4, Orbis and OSMIS. At Arbor, our mission is to transform the way schools work to save teachers time and improve student outcomes. We built Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to make essential daily admin quicker, school data

Arbor Lite is our new, essential MIS package for primary schools in partnership with Herts for Learning, iCT4, Orbis and OSMIS.

At Arbor, our mission is to transform the way schools work to save teachers time and improve student outcomes. We built Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to make essential daily admin quicker, school data more powerful and day-to-day school management less stressful for everyone, so you can get on and focus where it matters most.

Over the past few years we’ve helped over 900 schools of all shapes and sizes make an easy move to our smarter, cloud-based MIS. But we know that for some schools – smaller, LA maintained primary schools in particular – that a move to the cloud has to be a real partnership between their school staff, their new MIS, and their trusted local support partner. We also know that, if you’re a smaller school, moving to a full MIS might feel too complex if you only use your existing system in a light touch way.

That’s why we’re excited to announce Arbor Lite – a new, lightweight version of Arbor MIS. Arbor Lite offers all the key features smaller schools need to save time from day one, like lightning fast digital registers, behaviour logging, communication to parents and everything you need for census. Plus, working in the cloud means Arbor is always up-to-date and you can access what you need securely, from anywhere. 

Crucially, Arbor Lite is only available through our four launch partners – Herts for Learning (HfL), iCT4, Orbis and OSMIS – to ensure your move to the cloud is supported by the partner you already know and work with. If you’re a primary school working with any of these partners already, and you’d like to switch to the cloud, our launch partners will support you along the way, making the switch much easier. Working with your support partner, you can also choose to build on and adapt Arbor Lite as your school’s needs change. 

By launching Arbor Lite in partnership with HfL, iCT4, Orbis and OSMIS, our aim is to bring the benefits of our brilliant, cloud-based MIS to those schools who might have felt a solo move was too complex. If you work with a different support partner, don’t worry – we work with a growing number of support and training providers across England and we plan to extend Arbor Lite further in the future. 

We’d love to tell you more about everything Arbor has to offer this week if you’re attending BETT 2020. Come and see us at stand NM30 to have a chat, or join us for a free lunch and glass of wine at Tapa Tapa restaurant (on the DLR walkway outside the ExCel centre). Sign up for your free spot here

If you’re already an Arbor partner and want to find out more about Arbor Lite – or if you’re a support team and want to know how we work with partners – we’d love to hear from you too! Come along to our BETT Partners’ Lounge this week – you can sign up here. We hope to see you there!

Maddie Kilminster - 21 January, 2020

Category : Blog

What is BI and how can it help my trust?

You might have heard of Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Tableau. But what is Business Intelligence (BI) and what does it mean for schools and MATs? We’ve put together this handy guide to help you navigate all things BI. What is BI? BI stands for “Business Intelligence”. In simple terms, this means the

You might have heard of Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Tableau. But what is Business Intelligence (BI) and what does it mean for schools and MATs? We’ve put together this handy guide to help you navigate all things BI.

What is BI?

BI stands for “Business Intelligence”. In simple terms, this means the technology used by companies (or schools and trusts!) to analyse their data. BI tools are used to do these things: 

  • Collect and store data 
  • Manipulate and process data
  • Represent data in a visual, easy-to-understand way 
  • Take action based on data

How is BI used in schools and MATs?

Schools are swimming in data. But data is only helpful when you can learn from it. Without a way to understand their data so they can turn it into actions, schools can find themselves “drowning in data” (Education Technology). This is where Business Intelligence tools come in – they help SLT monitor the health and progress of their schools (e.g. Which of my schools is performing most highly?), inform strategic decisions (e.g. Which subject should we invest in more next year?) and report to governors, parents and trustees. 

Why are schools using external BI tools?

Schools and MATs are turning to external BI tools more and more in order to analyse their data. This is usually because their management information system (MIS) doesn’t give them an easy way of visualising their data in the way they need. BI tools free schools from having to manually build reports in spreadsheets which is time-consuming and doesn’t present an overall picture. For multi-academy trusts especially, BI dashboards allow them to see a “single source of truth” in order to monitor and assess the performance of all their schools, rather than having to piece together and compare the data themselves. 

The size of your trust will affect the type of data analytics and BI tooling that’s right for you. Larger MATs may have the resources to employ data and software professionals to create a bespoke BI solution. We’ve put together a diagram below showing how the size, degree of centralisation, existing systems and data strategy of a MAT might affect what they need from BI.

MATBI

The problem schools are facing with external BI products is they’re expensive, complex and require setup by trained staff. Many tools don’t work with schools’ existing management information systems, which means it takes a long time for staff to take actions on the data. Plus, as most tools are not suited to groups of schools, MATs have to rely on products such as Microsoft Power BI to bring all their data together. 

Arbor’s BI solution 

At Arbor, we have built “out of the box” Business Intelligence solutions into the fabric of our MIS through clear, detailed and relevant dashboards. This means there’s no need for configuration or setupeveryone working at your school can see and manipulate the data they need in a few clicks. Plus, you can go deep into the detail of your data and take actions without needing to be a data expert or to hire one!

arborbi

What makes Arbor different?

Whilst Arbor provides detailed, powerful, “out of the box” analysis for schools, we also know that you sometimes need to analyse data outside of your MIS. That’s why Arbor MIS supports all major BI providers, giving you the freedom and flexibility to choose and define your own BI approach for your group. It’s easy – using Arbor “Live Feeds”, you can export live data from Arbor MIS into your external BI tool.

We’ve built powerful yet simple Business Intelligence into Arbor MIS, Group MIS and Arbor Insight. You can book a demo today or come and chat to us at BETT – we’re at stand NM30. We’re also hosting lunch (on us!) at Tapa Tapa restaurant (on the DLR walkway outside the ExCel centre) – sign up for your free spot here.

Maddie Kilminster - 15 January, 2020

Category : Blog

Our new partnership with turn IT on

We’re delighted to announce that turn IT on is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS. Turn IT on’s team of experienced experts work in partnership with schools to maximise the potential of ICT for the benefit of pupils, teachers and management groups. Many of their team have been teachers and all of them

We’re delighted to announce that turn IT on is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS.

Turn IT on’s team of experienced experts work in partnership with schools to maximise the potential of ICT for the benefit of pupils, teachers and management groups. Many of their team have been teachers and all of them understand the huge challenges that modern schools meet in the face of an ever-changing landscape.

With over 150 years of combined experience in supporting Management Information Systems, turn IT on can ensure the effective and enhanced use of Arbor to give you peace of mind that your funding is correct, Ofsted data is ready and expert support is on hand whenever you or your team need it.

Turn IT on’s experts know every aspect of Arbor and their support covers key areas including census, attendance, behaviour, admissions, school dashboard, student & staff profiles, assessment & summative tracking, reports & dashboards, custom report writer, communications, teacher app, SEN, timetabling, exams, and cover.

Arbor MIS (Management Information System) is the hassle-free way for schools and trusts to get work done that schools and trusts love to use. 

Whether you’re a primary, secondary or MAT, Arbor helps make your essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful – so everyone from your back office to your SLT can get on and focus where it matters most. 

We’ve already helped more than 900 schools and MATs make the switch to our smarter cloud-based MIS. With human support at every step! 

We completed a full-day accreditation test with turn IT on which included:

  • A 1-hour training assessment to evidence turn IT on’s capability
  • A Service Desk troubleshooting test
  • An inspection of turn IT on’s Service Desk.

Following a successful day, we’re thrilled to say we are now working together to give schools the option to switch to Arbor MIS whilst keeping their trusted support team at turn IT on. Working with Arbor and turn IT on together gives your school:

  • A cloud-based MIS which makes your essential admin and day-to-day work hassle-free
  • Clear MIS data you can use to focus where it matters most
  • An MIS Support Team who will help you get the most out of Arbor
  • Peace of mind that you’re Ofsted-ready
  • A team who are on hand whenever your school needs it.

To find out more about switching to Arbor with the turn IT on MIS team, contact turn IT on through their website, by email to office@turniton.co.uk or call 01865 597620 (option 6).

James Weatherill - 15 January, 2020

Category : Blog

Best-of-Breed vs One-Stop-Shop?

We often get asked by schools and MATs what’s better – choosing several ‘best-of-breed’ software tools, or one tool that promises almost all the functionality you need? Our CEO, James Weatherill, asks, are there any shades of grey in-between? Jack of all trades, master of none When software was in its infancy in the 90’s

We often get asked by schools and MATs what’s better – choosing several ‘best-of-breed’ software tools, or one tool that promises almost all the functionality you need? Our CEO, James Weatherill, asks, are there any shades of grey in-between?

Jack of all trades, master of none

When software was in its infancy in the 90’s and early 00’s, companies and schools tended to choose ‘one-stop-shop’ systems that could do virtually all the tasks a school needed to run itself. The advantage was lower cost, higher central control and simplified management. But this came at a cost of being tied to one supplier, meaning prices often went up with little product improvement, less flexibility and local variation on customisation. There is also the simple adage that whilst big systems have a lot of functionality, they tend to do more things less well than specialist tools. 

Businesses and schools are now generally moving to best-of-breed strategies which pick a few core systems and integrate these with a wider suite of specialist apps, reducing implementation time, giving greater flexibility and higher levels of functionality. This has all been made possible by a shift to the cloud, where integration can be online and seamless (at least in theory). However, as we’ll show, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Your culture and strategy should dictate your systems choice

The answer to what type of system to choose in my view depends on what you want to achieve as a school or MAT, as well as the culture you’ve set. As I’ve written about before, MATs should be intentional about the culture they want to create, as this will often drive how they make decisions. This is no different for schools and how they select systems, as the diagram below shows.

MAT culture

Let’s break that down…

A) Low need for control + Low complexity = define data standards
If you’re a school or small trust that typically gives high agency to staff, then you might not need to standardise much except for how to use the systems you’ve procured and the data you want to get out. Choosing best-of-breed tools that fit the needs of your individual school (or schools) works well here, with the caveat that you’ll need a plan for how all the systems integrate (don’t forget or underestimate this step or you’ll be swimming in a data soup!).

B) Low need for control + High complexity = collectively agree core systems; staff choose bolt-ons
If you’re a large school or trust, you may like to give an element of agency to your staff to choose systems that can be tailored to the local context of the school. Yet, due to your size, a certain amount of system standardisation is important or there would be chaos. For these types of schools or trusts, it works well to clearly define your non-negotiable core systems (often involving many staff in procurement decisions), then delegate non-core systems to staff to allow variation according to need.

C) High need for control + High complexity = several monolithic systems, centrally controlled
If you’re a large school or MAT involving multiple phases spread across many sites or geographies, who needs high control of the systems staff use (perhaps due to cost or culture), you may prefer more monolithic systems. This approach involves selecting fewer, larger applications and perhaps even hosting them on-site.

The advantages of larger systems are simplified vendor management, cost savings, support simplicity and data standardisation. However, this is at the expense of flexibility (being tied to one vendor makes ‘rip-and-replace’ harder), functionality gaps (the vendor is likely to have less product depth in specific workflows) and more difficult implementation (more tools have to be replaced).

D) High need for control + Low complexity = standardised core systems; staff choose bolt-ons
If you’re a school or MAT of medium size and scale, a hybrid approach of leadership works well with core non-negotiable systems being centrally defined and school staff choosing bolt-ons. This preserves an element of standardisation whilst allowing staff agency over the systems that might be more appropriate to their context. The trick is ensuring the core systems chosen (typically MIS, finance, HR, assessment) work well together so you can retain flexibility.

A bit about how Arbor can help…

Arbor MIS can tick all the boxes above, as we have a wide range of functionality that caters to primary, secondary, special schools and MATs of all shapes, sizes and cultures. However, we know that every school and MAT has their preferred and loved applications and we want to play well within that ecosystem.

We believe choosing best-of-breed software beats monolithic tools that are a ‘jack of all trades’ but master of none, so our focus is being the best MIS that provides all staff with smart information so they can make better decisions, whilst reducing unnecessary admin tasks.

To discover the hundreds of software partners we work with click here.
Get in touch and find out how we could help your school or MAT by emailing me at james@arbor-education.com. Look forward to hearing from you!

Rebecca Watkins - 7 January, 2020

Category : Blog , Uncategorized

Free KS2 and KS4 analysis is now available in Arbor Insight!

Download your FREE 2018/19 KS2 and KS4 Performance Summary Report to compare how you’re performing against schools in your LA and schools “Like You”  We know school budgets are getting tighter each year, so we’ve built completely free KS2 and KS4 Performance Summary Reports for every primary and secondary school in the country. We believe

Download your FREE 2018/19 KS2 and KS4 Performance Summary Report to compare how you’re performing against schools in your LA and schools “Like You” 

We know school budgets are getting tighter each year, so we’ve built completely free KS2 and KS4 Performance Summary Reports for every primary and secondary school in the country. We believe fast and effective data analysis should be available to all schools, at a price that won’t break the bank, so you can get on and focus your time where it matters most – supporting your students.

Your reports present your data in a clear, visual graphs and charts, making it easy for you to find the data you need to celebrate successes, prioritise interventions, inform your School Improvement Plan and quickly spot areas to highlight in meetings with governors. Log in or sign up for your free Arbor Insight portal today, and download your school’s unique Performance Summary Report to see your school’s performance over the last 3 years. 

Who is this report for?

Headteachers, SLT, data managers and governors will all find this report useful. You can add as many users as you like to your free Arbor Insight Portal, so everyone can see how your students are getting on. 

What features does this report have?

(i) School context 

See how the proportion of FSM, EAL and SEN has changed over the last three years

 

Fig. 1: The Pupil Context page of your Free Performance Summary Report

(ii) Compare your performance against schools “Like You

We know it’s harder to get students to the expected level if they come from more disadvantaged backgrounds, so your report shows you how schools in the same phase and proportion of Prior Attainment, FSM and EAL are performing in Headline measures

(iii) Compare your performance against schools in your LA

See how all other schools are performing in the same Headline measures in your LA

(iv) Compare your performance against National average

See what the difference is between your school’s average performance in each measure compared with the National Average 

 

Fig. 2: Your report compares your pupils’ performance to the national average in a variety of measures 

(v) 3 year Rolling Average

Find out if this year’s performance is an anomaly or consistent with the last three years

(vi) Focus on “Closing the Gap”

This section of the report helps you focus on closing the gaps in your school for School Improvement Planning, understanding the key areas to prioritise and for working out where to focus interventions. This section of the report looks at the attainment gaps in your school

Fig. 3: Your report shows you where you need to focus in order to close the gaps in your school

FAQs 

How can I get this report?

To download your free 2018/19 Performance Summary Report:

1. Already an Arbor Insight user? Log in here: https://login.arbor.sc
2. If you haven’t logged in before, sign up here for free in 30 seconds: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register
3. Click on the Free tab in the Performance Reports section of your portal
4. Click the green Download button
5. Find your PDF Performance Summary in your downloads folder

What else can I find in my Arbor Insight portal that’s free?

On the left-hand side of your Insight portal, you can find completely free dashboards which show you:

  • School Context
  • Attendance and Behaviour
  • KS1, KS2 and KS4 Attainment and Progress 

All of these dashboards are updated with the latest ASP data as soon as we receive it from the DfE.

If you’re an academy that’s been open since 1st September 2017, we’ve also built a free Academies Financial Benchmarking report for you! To learn more about this report, just click here

What else do you do?

Arbor Insight is a free tool we offer alongside our cloud-based MIS that schools and MATs love to use. If you’re interested in learning more about how our MIS can take the stress out of daily school admin and make your data more powerful, book a free demo here.

I still have a few questions. Can I contact you for help?

Absolutely. You can reach the Arbor team at insight@arbor-education.com or by calling us on 020 7043 1830.

 

James Weatherill - 19 December, 2019

Category : Blog

Getting better at coping with constant change: A presentation by Arbor CEO James Weatherill

Our CEO, James Weatherill, opened our fourth MAT Conference in Manchester by talking about the growing sense of confidence in the MAT sphere as trusts become better at coping with constant change. We’ve transcribed his presentation below! This is the fourth conference in a series we’ve run to try and bring together MAT leaders from

Our CEO, James Weatherill, opened our fourth MAT Conference in Manchester by talking about the growing sense of confidence in the MAT sphere as trusts become better at coping with constant change. We’ve transcribed his presentation below!

This is the fourth conference in a series we’ve run to try and bring together MAT leaders from all around the country to exchange good ideas. Today, we’ll talk about your successes, as well as advice on what to avoid, and you should take home some practical, implementable tips to share with your wider central team. 

The reason why we do this kind of event is this: we’ve been travelling around the country and speaking to each of you, and we kept on finding that we were being asked the same questions. What this generally meant was that people weren’t exchanging ideas between each other. So, we want this to be a safe space for you to come together and hear about what different MATs are doing, both well and not so well, so you can avoid mistakes and exchange good ideas. 

I think in the early formation of any industry, it’s really important that people get together and talk a lot, so that’s the basic format for today. Hopefully you’ll go away having learned something new, having met some peers, having built some good relationships and ultimately having new ideas to take back to help your MAT scale better and more sustainably. That is the goal of today. 

We try and come up with a different theme for each conference, and for this I chose “getting better and coping with constant change” – I’ll run you through my rationale for that. This is a quote I came across that illustrates my point by Dorothy Parker, the American poet and author:

“In youth, it was a way I had,

To do my best to please.

And change, with every passing lad

To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know

And do the things I do,

And if you do not like me so,

To hell, my love, with you.”

What’s nice about this is that I think of multi-academy trusts as a group, and as people we’re still at the start of a journey. I think that journey is now a few years in. The feeling I get from going around and meeting lots of multi-academy trust is that we’re at the end of the youth phase, where perhaps we were all finding our way, listening to what schools had to say and giving quite a lot of autonomy around decision making. I’m sensing a growing confidence in each of you about having tackled the basics. 

We’re now moving on to some perhaps more cultural, personal things that you’re trying to tackle in your trusts – more specific issues. Some of the bigger,systemic problems are being tackled, like: “How do we scale? What  size do I need to be? What do my staffing structures look like?” These issues are broadly being solved (though not completely) and we’re moving on to the second stage where there’s this growing confidence. 

The last line of the Dorothy Parker quote perhaps doesn’t resonate with everyone. You can’t quite be that direct with everyone. And perhaps that’s too much confidence. But, nonetheless, I think we’re somewhere in the middle of those two verses now as trust leaders. 

 

Coping with constant change

The MAT backdrop has been one of massive change, huge change, political change, funding change, technological change – so much more in the last five years than I’ve seen for a very long time. I think as CEOs, you’ve got better at coping with that. You start off with one or two schools, you get better, you get hit by a few problems and your goal is trying to stay on track without falling off (the GIF below illustrates this process quite well!). I think people are steadily getting better at riding that wave of change and pushing through progress in that way.

 

Group MIS:  One system to streamline all data and workflows

So a little bit about Arbor: we’re a Management Information System for schools and trusts. We work with over 800 schools and 75 MATS. We have a group MIS which you can learn about here.

Fig 1: Arbor’s cloud-based MIS for MATs is the hassle free way for trusts to get work done 

 

Our Group MIS pulls all of your data together into one one place and allows you to get a MAT-wide view benchmarked against national data as well. You can drill down all the way from a MAT level. It gives you out of the box analysis on regions, on your primary and secondaries and you can go all the way from MAT level to student level – with no setup required as long as your schools are running our MIS system. It also allows you to work on how you can operate better as a MAT. Group-wide workflows, for example, like setting assessment policy centrally and pushing them down to schools, mean you can get work done without having to go into each individual school’s MIS.

 

School MIS: A hassle-free way to streamline your schools

We also run a school MIS. This is a simple, smart system that brings all of your data together at the school level. This video shows us an overview of behaviour and reform:

Fig 2: Arbor’s cloud-based MIS for schools

 

So, you can start to see your data making sense, both from a student level and on a school level. Again, this comes with out of the box analytics and you can drill down and action things. The goal is about automating all of the admin in your school to save your staff time, bringing all of your data together and pointing your staff to the children who are most in need. 

 

Over 1,000 schools will switch MIS this year

There’s been a lot of schools switching MIS. Over 1000 schools have switched this year. We’re slightly different as a company in that we care about the impact that we have. We have a board and it’s my responsibility to report to them. These are the metrics that matter to them: 

  • How much time are we saving staff? 
  • How much have we transformed schools for the better?
  •  How much better do schools understand their students as a result of having the system in place
  •  Do they like using it?

The answers to all of these questions is shown in the data below, which is taken from the 800+ schools who use Arbor:

Fig 3: At Arbor, we have specific impact metrics that help us make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing 

 

Over 800 schools and 75 MATs have switched to Arbor

We work with lots of different types of MATS:

Fig 4: A slide from James’ presentation showing the different types of MATs Arbor works with 

 

We work with MATs from the very large (over 60 schools) all the way down to the very small (1 or 2 schools). That’s where some of the learnings come from today. At different stages of the journey, you have different problems and there’s different ways of solving it. We’ve seen a lot of it. Take the Isle of Man, for example, which has its own government – they have very different problems. So hopefully, we’ll be able to play back some of these learnings today. 

 

Centralising data and your back office

We also have lots of partners that we work with. We don’t just do the job ourselves:

Fig 5: A slide from James’ presentation showing how we work with our partners

 

We have two sponsors today: P.S. Financials and RS Assessment. We integrate with both and we’ll talk about that today. You’ll find out how you can get a holistic overview of all of your students and how you can see your benchmark assessment data alongside your attendance and behaviour in Arbor. The whole goal is  around centralizing the back office, so that everything works seamlessly. 

 

School Autonomy vs MAT Centralisation

In previous conference, we’ve talked about the general theme of, “Where do you sit on the balance between school autonomy and MAT centralisation?” and a few speakers today will talk about their experiences with this.

Fig 6: A slide from James’ presentation showing school autonomy vs MAT centralisation amongst different MATs

 

We’ve run surveys and some of you will have been called about where you sit on the scale. These green blobs show a sample of where this room sits on each of these different areas. I’ve also highlighted in light green where the moving average is. So, what about MATs across the country? How centralized are they across all of these different things? The picture that’s emerging is that it’s kind of settling down. People know what they know and now they’re moving forward more slowly. 

The first few conferences that we did, when we benchmarked this data, it was all over the place. Some people were more centralized, some people were less. But what we can see now is that assessment models in primaries and curriculum in primary-led MATS are being more centralized.

In secondaries, it’s still a way off. Governance has been pretty highly-centralized across MATS, and there are different models for that. It’s the same with school improvement – sometimes there is a function set up for that centrally. Some MATS around the tables here are doing that particularly well. Pedagogy less so – left up to the schools to a degree. 

But in terms of policy systems and back office, we’re moving towards greater centralization and control at the MAT level. And this is an evolving picture. So we keep on playing this back to the room, but I think the trend has always been more to the right. MATs are taking more ownership of the more non-teaching elements so that schools can focus more on the business of teaching.

 

Beacons of excellence

There are beacons of excellence in this room. A question we tend to ask you is: “What one thing you do particularly well in your MAT, and what one thing could others perhaps learn from?” These are a few snippets from the calls that we had with some of the people sitting here.

Fig 7: Quotes from MATs about what they do well

 

The interesting and quite rewarding thing here was that lots of people are talking about their culture being something that they do particularly well. Another common theme is being confident to share the collective idea of our Trust, not the Trust – a shared, authentic identity across all schools. Safeguarding is another one, and one MAT talks about their approach to people(i.e. how HR and talent management can be a competitive advantage). We’ve also heard about how culture can be used to attract schools. 

 

The Biggest Challenges

So now, onto challenges. And there are loads. That’s also what today is about:

Fig 8: Quotes from MATs about some of the challenges they face 

 

One challenge is around parental engagement amongst vulnerable students. Also systems, and integration in a general sense. Head teachers who are wedded to how things used to be done, rather than how things are done now, perhaps? And finance is an ongoing problem. These are some common challenges that I hope will ring a few bells with a lot of you. That’s why I want to give all of you time throughout the day to explore the challenges that each of you have in your respective trusts. That’s it for me – thanks for listening!

 

If you’d like to find out more about how our hassle-free, cloud-based MIS could help transform your MAT, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

 

Jem Jones - 18 December, 2019

Category : Blog

Leading a secondary school with Arbor: Sir Robert Woodard Academy

Ever wondered what secondary schools like about Arbor? We interviewed Suzanne Pike, Vice Principal of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, to find out why her school chose to switch MIS, and how Arbor helps with the day-to-day running of the school.    What made you choose Arbor? We were previously a SIMS school and it wasn’t

Ever wondered what secondary schools like about Arbor? We interviewed Suzanne Pike, Vice Principal of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, to find out why her school chose to switch MIS, and how Arbor helps with the day-to-day running of the school. 

 

What made you choose Arbor?

We were previously a SIMS school and it wasn’t online; we were constantly running updates, and it was quite clunky – we needed to streamline. It’s fair to say we were a fairly new leadership team, with a big job to do in terms of school improvement. We recognised that although we had a large amount of data, we weren’t using it as smartly, flexibly and efficiently as we could be. It was hard to interrogate. We were trying to set up the processes that really run a school, and those have to be based on data and reliable workflows. We recognised that Arbor could help us achieve that. The big benefit has been being able to hold much more information – around communication, assessments, everything – all in one place, and then being able to cut that data in different ways.

Could you give us a bit of your Trust’s background moving to Arbor?

We’re a part of Woodard Academies Trust – “WAT”. At the moment, two schools are on Arbor. When we moved we had a need to do it and told the Trust we wanted to, and the other school, Polam Hall, also had a need as their contracts were coming to an end. The remaining schools were happier than we were with the legacy system at the time, so we moved first understanding they might move later.

Polam Hall migrated after us, so they were able to come down and do some training with us before they moved. We have contact with them, not on a day to day basis, but there can be similarities and things to compare notes on. Ultimately they’re very different though, as a brand new all-through, so they started a bit smaller in terms of functionality and have been able to set things up in different ways.

We staggered how we adopted our modules to make things easier for staff, and are both now at the point where we’re looking into how we do our assessments and will do some joint training with them around that soon.

What are some of the best features you’ve seen in your time with us?

The App has been very successful. We’re trying to get everyone on board with that as part of our new communications strategy. We love the idea of sending a push notification to a parent’s phone, and if they haven’t checked the App after an hour they automatically get an SMS instead – that’s going to be very useful.

We fully utilise the behaviour system in all its glory – we use all the behaviour workflows, it’s so customisable. We’ve unfortunately had to do a couple of exclusions recently, which is never easy, but is much easier when you have all the right information. It’s also useful having all the information in one place for looked after children, when you’re dealing with so many different authorities.

We have got quite clever with the reports, live-linking them to pivot tables in Google sheets. Certainly in attendance tracking and behaviour we’ve got some funky ways of breaking down the information that’s really pertinent to how we work in our school. We want to get those going with our assessments too – in fact we have a meeting about getting that started later today!

What saves you the most time in your role if you compare it to your previous system?

Communication. Having parents being able to see everything live – report cards, timetables, interventions – makes my job that much easier in terms of raising standards. Now they can be involved as stakeholders in getting their kids to work harder. 

We recently set up all of our extra-curricular clubs and trips on the MIS and that’s been great from the perspective of logistics, with registers and student lists all live on the site, and obviously the communication links as well so that parents can update permissions and know what’s happening. When Year 7 came in with 150 more students this year than last it was going to be a massive workload, but the Parent Portal made it a really smooth transition. No “oh when does sign-up for this open? How does this work?” – they can see everything they need. 

Now we’ve set up academic interventions for year 11s and year 13s, and we’re going to move all our interventions into the MIS, as again, the links with communication are really powerful.

Do you have any advice for similar schools (or MATs with similar schools) who are switching MIS?

I would say map out all your integrations beforehand, and be very mindful of what you spend time on. If the essential functionality you want can be achieved within Arbor, you’re better off moving it in. Arbor can do so much – you should be clear on what you want to achieve, what is essential, and what is desirable. Scaling the system up over time and having waves of project planning was really helpful for us. Over time you can make your system more sophisticated, and Arbor or other schools that use it can help you prioritise. You might say, “I want this third party system; it gives us what we need,” but does it really? 

 

If you’d like to find out more about how our hassle-free, cloud-based MIS could help you act on everything important fast, so you and your staff can focus on what matters most, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Beth Mokrini - 17 December, 2019

Category : Blog

Partner roundup: Autumn term 2019

There’s never a dull moment in Education, but this term really has felt action-packed. So as you settle into the season of Nativities, surrounded by paper cut-out snowflakes and glitter trampled so deep into the carpet it will still be there in June, let us give you a festive roundup of what’s new with Arbor’s

There’s never a dull moment in Education, but this term really has felt action-packed. So as you settle into the season of Nativities, surrounded by paper cut-out snowflakes and glitter trampled so deep into the carpet it will still be there in June, let us give you a festive roundup of what’s new with Arbor’s partner network! 

We’ve got new names to introduce, milestones to celebrate, and a couple of teasers for what’s coming up in 2020. Starting with…

(Image 1: Our new badge for officially accredited Arbor Partners)

 

1. Three new partners became accredited to support Arbor MIS

We’ve been out and about this term, visiting partners from Leeds to Brighton to put their teams through their paces on Arbor MIS. It’s been fantastic to see the level of skill and knowledge they’ve all brought to their accreditation days and unsurprisingly, they all passed first time! Please give a warm Arbor welcome to:

Orbis

The Orbis Partnership is a shared services agreement between Brighton and Hove City Council, and Surrey and East Sussex County Councils. The Orbis team have decades of expertise in finance, business operations, HR and IT – so schools and academies can get all your support from one place. 

School Business Services (SBS)

SBS is a leading specialist in school support services, offering a wide range of MIS services to suit schools’ finances, staff and vision. They work with over 1000 schools across England, with strong hubs in London, the South West and the North.

Connect-Up 

Connect-Up provide a wide range of MIS, Admin and Curriculum managed service support across Yorkshire. Everything from small cabling jobs to total, integrated support for Schools and MATs – and all with a friendly, local approach.

We’ve still got one more accreditation day to squeeze in this week – so good luck to the team at Turn IT on!

 

2. We welcomed 7 new partners on board

Our network is always growing and it’s been great working with so many new partners this term, including: 

Keystone MIS – expert SIMS and Arbor support based in Hull, but with over 200 customers nationally

Education Lincs – Dedicated local IT and MIS support based in Lincolnshire 

Code Green – the fantastic MIS support team working out of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council 

Pennine Education – Expert MIS support and training in Oldham and the North West.

 

3. We started work on deep integrations in areas like Safeguarding, Finance and Budgeting

We’re always looking for ways to make things simpler for schools, which is why we integrate for free with a whole range of well-loved apps, from door entry systems to payments providers (click here for a full list!). This term, we started working on a few new ones – here’s what’s coming up in 2020: 

CPOMS – a user-friendly safeguarding app used by over 10,000 schools in the UK. Basic student and staff data already syncs from Arbor to CPOMS, but we’re now working to sync safeguarding notifications and statistics too. This will give you a single, clear picture of your students’ pastoral and education data.  

PS Financials – the Finance system used by 60% of all Multi Academy Trusts. We’ve partnered successfully with PS Financials to deliver three national MAT conferences and we’re now starting work on a technical partnership too. No spoilers for now, but watch this space! 

SBS online – our partnership with School Business Services got off to a flying start this year – we’ve not only teamed up with their software support team (see above), but we’re also planning to integrate with their intuitive web-based budgeting software used by over 1,000 schools.

 

4. Our partners co-hosted 5 local Arbor MIS events with us, from Kent to the Wirral!

As well as big national conferences like BETT, we also love to come and meet schools in their local area for smaller, more personalised events. For schools new to Arbor, this is a great chance to see a demo of the software, ask questions, meet schools already using it and get advice on switching. 

We try to do this in partnership with local companies who understand what’s important to schools and can advise them impartially. We therefore owe a big thank you to JSPC, Educa IT, Studysafe and Wirral Borough Council for hosting sessions with us this term in West Sussex, Kent, Rotherham and the North West. 

Look out for early 2020 events in East Sussex, Hampshire, Westminster and Northamptonshire.

 

5. We launched our BETT Partner Lounge 

Earlier this week, we opened booking for our annual School and MAT Leaders’ Lounge and our Partners’ Lounge at  BETT 2020. The main arena can be overwhelming, so if you want to have a more relaxed chat about moving to Arbor MIS or partnering with us, the Lounge is the place for you. Drop in for a glass of wine and a bite to eat at Tapa Tapa restaurant, just outside the Western Gateway entrance to the ExCel, from Wednesday 22nd to Friday 24th January. Book your free spot by clicking on either of the links above  – look forward to seeing you there! 

We’re really proud of everything we’ve achieved with our partners this term and look forward to even more exciting projects in 2020. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about any of the partners mentioned, or about becoming a partner yourself. And if you’ve read this far, thanks – treat yourself to a mince pie!

Debbie Clinton - 9 December, 2019

Category : Blog

Turning around a failing MAT: Debbie Clinton & Vince Green share their journey with Academy Transformation Trust (part 2)

At Arbor’s MAT conference on 8th November in Manchester, Debbie Clinton, CEO, and Vince Green, Principal and Regional Director for Education, shared their experiences of turning around Academy Transformation Trust over the past year. To read part 1 of their presentation, click here.  It’s scary, isn’t it? How these edifices can collapse really, really quickly in

At Arbor’s MAT conference on 8th November in Manchester, Debbie Clinton, CEO, and Vince Green, Principal and Regional Director for Education, shared their experiences of turning around Academy Transformation Trust over the past year. To read part 1 of their presentation, click here

It’s scary, isn’t it? How these edifices can collapse really, really quickly in our sector.  So how have we fixed it? What have we actually done? I suppose we’ve done a lot of obvious stuff, really. First, I went on a grand tour – it had to be done. I don’t know how you can do it any other way as a new Chief Executive. You’ve got to get into these academies and get to know them, smell them, breathe them – just to feel what they feel like. 

So I said to the principals, “I’m going to carry out 22 section 8 inspections over a two term period.” That went down well. But it was actually really, really helpful. I did this because, with the absence of effective school improvement strategy and an effective MIS, I didn’t have intelligence I could trust. I didn’t feel that I could trust what I was being told across all 22 academies. On reflection it was useful because you see things that vary in quality from superb to rubbish.

It’s important to decide this: what are our priorities? A delivery plan was absolutely vital, because there was no culture to hold people to account whatsoever. While I am surrounded by lots of talent in the league of Vince, one of the problems that I had was that the absence of effective systems meant that quality assurance just wasn’t happening on a routine basis. 

So the executive leadership team complete an annual delivery plan and decide the following: here’s our strategic priority, here’s what I am going to do and here’s what that will be. Now, if  only getting the structure right led to rapid school improvement – wouldn’t we all be happy? 

I appreciate that I’m now in year two. Year one was spent doing that. And now in year 2, my trustees will say, “Okay then. Let’s see the impact of these significant changes.” It’s a fair enough question. But I hope what you see is a coherence; an approach to regionalisation; an approach to mirroring directorates that look like each other, which helps in terms of becoming one entity.

(Image 1: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing how she will act on her three year strategy to improve Academy Transformation Trust)

People development is perhaps an obvious thing to bring up, as is the urgent need for the assessment of safeguarding and risk. We’ve appointed a Director of Safeguarding because we didn’t have one before. One of our schools went into category last academic year on the back of a very serious safeguarding criminal case. We’ve moved on quite a bit since then, but one of the reasons for it was that we just really weren’t understanding the complexity and the vagaries of safeguarding. I think Ofsted upped their safeguarding game remarkably in the past 12 months (about time, mind) and we don’t always agree with them, but actually, in light of that, it means that someone’s got to be driving safeguarding.

Governance is also really important. Our governance trust board had been radically reformed with the DFE’s involvement before I got there. They’re very impressive. Local academies were all over the place – outstanding through to absent, basically, because there’s no approach to governance. There’s no coherent approach to understanding what governance means in our trust.

We appointed a head of corporate affairs which was crucial. Neutrality is also really important. I know that Andy will happily whistleblow about me at anytime because he’s very clear that he is accountable to the chair of the trust. So, although he’s a salaried employee, he operates in a neutral way. 

We’ve taken a lot of time to think about the style with which we bring about the recovery. This is perhaps a bit blindingly obvious, but actually I’ve inspected too many MATS and schools to know it isn’t always: “What leadership technique and strategy will I use in this meeting, this workshop, this line management, this performance development compensation, etc.?”

(Image 2: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing the style of her three year strategy to improve Academy Transformation Trust)

It’s also important to be humble. Humility: you can’t underestimate that. But you know that already. CEOs are famous for their egos aren’t they? I hope I park it as much as I can. There’s too much ego in our system already. We need to acknowledge that around us, we have so much talent. Tact: I’m mostly tactful, but I also don’t mess around. If someone’s not done a good job, they do know it.

I am patient mostly and ethical always. You can look at my expense plan. You can look at my salary. I’ve worked really hard and I spent a long time with my P.A. and one of our finance team talking about the management of my expenses accounts and how it was going to be; how it would be quality assured.

Then the other stuff is obvious. Communication practices: the most obvious thing. We haven’t got that right. In fact, we’re not very good at that yet. It’s getting better, but we need it. We do need an effective communication strategy. You can’t just by accident run a MAT of our size. You’ve got to be consciously thinking about how you get it all behaving as one entity. How will you constantly revisit what we are and what we say we are?

(Image 3: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing how her strategy has started to improve outcomes for Academy Transformation Trust)

So as you would expect, there are some quantitative and qualitative examples of the impact of all of this activity so far. We ended last year with a £2.9 million deficit. We ended this year in surplus for £2 million. We still have a historic debt, which won’t be settled until summer of 2021. But in a year, we’re down to £2 million. So despite everything, despite ruthless financial leadership, we still did that because we were spending amounts like £200,000 on an army of goodness knows what. I’m out of time now, but I think that the rest speaks for itself.  

 

Debbie Clinton and Vince Green - 5 December, 2019

Category : Blog

Turning around a failing MAT: Debbie Clinton & Vince Green share their journey with Academy Transformation Trust (part 1)

At Arbor’s MAT conference on 8th November in Manchester, Debbie Clinton, CEO, and Vince Green, Principal and Regional Director for Education, shared their experiences of turning around Academy Transformation Trust over the past year. We’ve transcribed part 1 of their presentation below!  Debbie:  I’m Debbie Clinton, the Chief Executive Officer of Academies Transformation Trust and

At Arbor’s MAT conference on 8th November in Manchester, Debbie Clinton, CEO, and Vince Green, Principal and Regional Director for Education, shared their experiences of turning around Academy Transformation Trust over the past year. We’ve transcribed part 1 of their presentation below! 

Debbie: 

I’m Debbie Clinton, the Chief Executive Officer of Academies Transformation Trust and I have been in post since September of 2018. A bit about my background: Secondary headteacher (named in the House of Commons!) and all these accolades that actually were very precious to me at the time. And then I left all of that to join the dark side and become an HMI (forgive me!) but it was very useful. Then I went over to the Diverse Academy Learning Partnership in the East Midlands to be the deputy CEO and then acting CEO of a much smaller trust than the one I work with now. And then, obviously I mentioned that I started at ATT just over a year ago, and I’m loving it. But it’s also a bit loony, which we’ll come to.

Vince: 

I’m Vince Green and I’ve been a principal within the Academy Transformation Trust since 2014. It’s my 6th year with the trust and I’ve really experienced the interesting journey that our trust has been on during the last 5 years – very much ups and downs all along the way. I was principal for 5 years at Bristnall Hall Academy in Sandwell. But this year, I’m in a fortunate position. Having worked with Debbie for just over a year, I’m now Regional Education Director for Secondary West and also Executive Principal over Bristnall Hall and two other academies in the West Midlands. 

Debbie: 

First, we’ll do the boring bit. So this is us. We are big. We have 22 academies, 10 primaries and secondaries, 1 special school and 1 FE College. We operate across 2 regions, 10 local authority areas, 10 lots of schools forums, 10 lots of CED funding models, 10 high-needs funding models. It’s just great. We have a turnover of over 8 million – not enough, but obviously a significant budget to manage. We have 13,000 students and around 2000 colleagues. If I had had my old HMI hat on – and there’s at least one other former HMI in the room – I would have put our multi-academy trust straight into category for all sorts of reasons, and we’ll come to those now. 

(Image 1: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing key stats from the Academy Transformation Trust)

The main reason is actually very simple: the multi-academy trust was not behaving as a multi-academy trust. It was behaving as a set of 22 individual entities, some of whom, like Vince’s old academy, were fairly high-performing and doing quite well. So, they kind of just got on with it and thought “the trust is just a pain so I’ll just park that to one side.” As a formerly strong Head, I would’ve done the same. But others, of course, were desperate for the structure and support and challenge that lies at the heart of an effective multi-academy trust – and they weren’t getting any of that. So, everybody lost.

There’s a theme we hope that you pick up running through our presentation: the need to behave as a trust, but then defining what that actually means. We had the following problems: significant debt, 4 CFOs in as many years, management that wasn’t fit for purpose (I’m not talking about the individuals, actually, because many of them are still with me – which is actually a great testament to how far we’ve come). But the structures were just all over the place. Very poor systems. We’re still unearthing things now that are news to some of my senior leaders. Very poor control. Almost absent control at all levels, actually.

Then there’s risk management. I can say this now, because we’ve got one. We didn’t have a risk register. Can you imagine my reaction when I arrived to that? And the trustees were being told that everything was actually tickety-boo when it certainly wasn’t. Some academies had a risk register, so they were compliant, and in some cases quite good registers. But there wasn’t one in the centre. This was a huge problem.

(Image 2: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing key financial problems within the Academy Transformation Trust)

Vince: 

Can I just add from a principal’s point of view that within our trust during that time, it was quite a strange scenario. About a year in, lots of our academies with financial issues were in positions where there had to be restructures and redundancy processes. We very much did those off our own backs, because we had worked with principals or head teachers before who’d always done the right thing: cut their crop accordingly. If you haven’t got enough money moving forward, you have a redundancy process. But many didn’t, and it wasn’t imposed on them by the Trust at all. 

At times, it would appear to most of us principals that financial people didn’t really know when these problems were coming. So, the only academies that were addressing this were those that had good financial systems and managers within their academy already. We realised this during a major redundancy process at my own academy at the time and I remember turning around to my SLT at one time and saying, “You know what? I reckon today we could go out and spend £100,000 on stuff for this academy and I think we’d get away with it.” Unfortunately, it’s taxpayers’ money, because otherwise it would be great fun. That was the kind of world we lived in at the time. 

Debbie: 

Absolutely. It’s a picture that I recognised from my inspection life as well. With regard to operations, you’ve got to think about the context. 22 academies, 10 local authority areas across East and West regions, massive geographical challenges and a massive geographical understanding that needs to be grasped that wasn’t. So, we’ve done quite a lot with H.R., which is getting there and ICT, which wasn’t regionalised – I mean how do you not regionalise IT and MIS? How can you not actually make sure that the very architecture on which you build your MAT has been properly regionalised? 

We also had poor procurement leadership; there was a Procurement Director. I have no evidence of the impact of that job at all. We had poor MIS leadership – absent, in fact. When you’re looking at areas like risk management and control systems, you need to be really clear on performance with regard to finance, operations and education. We don’t just do education in MATS – of course we don’t. We’re a multi-million pound business! How did we actually know what was going on? Well, we didn’t. And that’s kind of the point. Classic left hand, right hand stuff: too many people. 

If you look at old versions of our website, you will see that there’s all these people employed at the centre doing goodness knows what. And morally, I have an issue with that. So one of the first things we’ve done is try to drive ethical leadership culturally through the organisation. We have to be absolutely clear. What is that job that isn’t either a teacher, head teacher or member of associated support staff? What do they do? What is the point of me? What is the point of a job like this? And how do we continue to evidence the impact of these fairly highly-paid people? 

“What do you do?” That was a question that couldn’t be answered effectively by quite a number of people in those roles. Then there was an equally large problem: no approach to people development. There was no strategic, deep understanding that the most important thing you ever do as a trust – as any large organisation – is look after your people. Develop them. Challenge them. Bring them on. Make them feel like they want to be part of the journey. 

(Image 3: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing key operations problems within the Academy Transformation Trust)

Vince:

I agree. In terms of education, there were some pockets of great practice going on within many of the academies and actually within our central team. We’ve had a lot of different staff that have worked separately for our trust over the 5 years I’ve worked with ATT. We’ve had some great individuals within those groups, but it’s never been joined up. And what it has resulted in is these academies pretty much working in silos, occasionally collaborating with other academies because the principals have taken it upon themselves to do it. But it’s been very much them and us. 

So that brings me on to where we are now. We are one organisation. We are one trust. I think what attracted me initially to work for ATT – to take on my first headship with it – was the fact that I was clearly going to have huge amounts of autonomy, which was very attractive at the time. I could bring in the people I wanted, which was great fun, and so on. And that worked well, even in my environment. I’m not just saying that because it’s me necessarily, because I had a number of other great things in place, but this did not work well in other academies where that wasn’t the case.  

We had, as I’ve said, uncontrolled spending. We had crazy staffing structures in some places and things not driving on educationally as one would want. Another big issue was definitely our people development strategy. In terms of talent mapping, capacity mapping and skill mapping, it was only done well in some academies. In others, we’ve lost some fantastic people along the way and I see them doing great things now in other trusts and in other organisations. And really, you know, our kids are missing out on those people now because it wasn’t mapped out properly at the time. 

Debbie

You know, Sir David Carter, as he left his role as National Schools Commissioner, talked about the spectrum of autonomous alignment and standardisation. What do you tightly control? What do you not really care about and what do you need to make sure you align? We did a lot of work on that, which is nowhere near finished, but we have begun a very important piece of work in our Trust about that. 

One of the things that most fascinated me in my interview for ATT was the total absence of this.  There were about 8 trustees involved in my appointment. During the interview they asked, “Have you got any questions?” And I said, “Talk to me about your school improvement strategy,” and they couldn’t tell me anything. It was disgraceful. 

In fact, the trustees were quite clear that this was one of their main worries that they felt unable to articulate. That classic Ofsted question: “Talk to me about how you improve academies.” What do you do? What’s your model? How do you know it works? 

So defining that was was really, very important indeed. When I arrived, they were spending £185,000 on consultants. So I asked to see the 16 contracts for these 16 consultants. Not a single KPI on any contract. One of them is charging around £800 a day (to fund his villa in Spain, clearly). I could not see any KPIs in any of those contracts, so they’ve all gone. 

(Image 4: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing key education problems within the Academy Transformation Trust)

Vince:

Just to conclude, I mean, we will all be very aware of what’s happened with certain other high-profile MATs that no longer exist. And I think the bottom line was that ATT was in a position which was seen externally as relatively healthy. It was a MAT that had been allowed to grow – in a crazy way, really. If you look at the geography of a lot of our academies, we had at the time very rapidly declined, in a way that could have basically forced us to cease to exist.

Click here to read the next instalment of Debbie and Vince’s presentation, in which they talk about exactly how they approached turning around Academy Transformation Trust. 

Harriet Cheng - 5 December, 2019

Category : Blog

Our new partnership with School Business Services (SBS)

We’re delighted to announce that School Business Services (SBS) is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS. SBS is a leading specialist in school support services, offering a wide range of MIS services to suit schools’ finances, staff and vision. They work with over 1000 schools across England, with strong hubs in London, the

We’re delighted to announce that School Business Services (SBS) is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS.

SBS is a leading specialist in school support services, offering a wide range
of MIS services to suit schools’ finances, staff and vision. They work with
over 1000 schools across England, with strong hubs in London, the South
West and the North.

Consisting of ex-deputy headteachers, teachers and educational
specialists, the SBS MIS team builds trusting relationships with schools,
providing consultancy and training.

In addition to MIS, School Business Services is an onsite, offsite and online
support provider for Finance, HR and ICT. They develop the leading budget
management software SBS Budgets, accessed anywhere via SBS Online.

Arbor MIS (Management Information System) is the hassle-free way for
schools and trusts to get work done.

Whether you’re a primary, secondary or MAT, Arbor helps make your
essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful – so everyone from
your back office to your SLT can get on and focus where it matters most.

We’ve already helped more than 800 schools and MATs make the switch to
our smarter cloud-based MIS. With human support at every step!

We visited the SBS Milton Keynes office recently to complete their
accreditation test.

The full day’s accreditation included:

  • A 1-hour training assessment to evidence SBS’s capability
  • A Service Desk troubleshooting test
  • An onsite inspection to observe SBS’ Service Desk

Following a successful day, we’re thrilled to say we are now working together to give schools the option to switch to Arbor MIS whilst keeping their trusted support team at SBS. Working with Arbor and SBS together gives your school:

1. A cloud-based MIS which makes your essential admin and day-to-day work hassle-free

2. Clear MIS data you can use to focus where it matters most

3. An MIS Support Team who will help you save time on data management

4. Peace of mind for statutory returns

5. A team who will empower your staff to develop skills

To find out more about switching to Arbor with the SBS MIS team contact
0345 222 1551 – Opt 5 or email hello@schoolbusinessservices.co.uk.

Beth Mokrini - 3 December, 2019

Category : Blog

Orbis becomes Arbor-accredited

In my last blog, I explained why SIMS Support Units are teaming up with Arbor right now – and why this is great news for schools. This week, we’re celebrating one of our new partners gaining their Arbor accreditation. Meet Orbis – a collaboration between Brighton & Hove City Council, and Surrey and East Sussex

In my last blog, I explained why SIMS Support Units are teaming up with Arbor right now – and why this is great news for schools. This week, we’re celebrating one of our new partners gaining their Arbor accreditation. Meet Orbis – a collaboration between Brighton & Hove City Council, and Surrey and East Sussex County Councils – who’ve just passed their test with flying colours! 

(Image 1: logo of newly-accredited Arbor Partner, Orbis)

The Orbis Partnership started seven years ago as a way of taking the stress out of procurement and helping schools get the best value for money. In 2017, they teamed up formally sothey could share more services and bring together decades of expertise in finance, business operations, HR and IT.

Orbis are proud of their public sector background and they know how important it is that the technology in your school “just works”. Their passion and experience help them go the extra mile for their schools by:

  • Offering a mix of on-site and remote IT support so you can create a package that suits your needs
  • Helping you keep your data accurate and up-to-date to avoid stress on census day
  • Backing up and restoring your data from a secure remote network
  • Advising you on how to meet Department of Education (DfE) and Ofsted requirements
  • Looking after the core hardware and software that makes your school tick
  • Giving outstanding training and support

(Image 2: The Orbis team explaining how they help schools and MATs)

Orbis chose to work with Arbor after noticing that more and more local schools were switching away from Capita SIMS each year and choosing cloud-based systems instead. SIMS – once the go-to name in schools for all things admin – has had some delays in bringing out a  cloud alternative to their traditionally server-based product. Now, schools and MATs are switching to the cloud in greater numbers than ever before, and are looking for a cloud-based MIS like Arbor that takes the stress out of daily admin and lets them work from anywhere. 

(Image 3: A graph showing the declining number of schools using SIMS and increasing number of schools using a cloud-based MIS)

This has transformed the way thousands of schools work, putting data at the fingertips of every teacher, administrator and senior leader to help them see the big picture and take action. Even so, schools are busy places and people still need human support! A new MIS can often do things they couldn’t have imagined with the old system, and they need training to empower them to use it.

Orbis realised that there was a demand for local, hands-on support and training from the hundreds of schools using Arbor MIS across the South East, so they joined Arbor’s partner program in February 2019. As well as championing the effective use of MIS in schools, they can also help with all aspects of IT within your school as part of their all-inclusive, fully-managed Premier Support Service. They can also advise you on Finance, HR and Payroll, Property and Catering – so you can get all your support from one team. 

The Orbis Partnership is one of 24 brilliant Arbor support units around the country – click here for a full list. If you’re a current Arbor customer and you’d like to switch your support to a local partner, reach out to your Arbor account manager on 020 7043 0470 and they’ll be happy to advise. 

 

If you’re new to Arbor and thinking of switching to our cloud-based MIS, book a demo by calling 020 8050 1028 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.comFor more information on Orbis IT Services you can call them on 01323 463133 or email itd@orbis.services 

 

Tim Ward - 28 November, 2019

Category : Blog

Research Led Curriculum Design

Every school has been working hard on ensuring they have an inspiring, rich and challenging curriculum for the pupils recently.  Whilst a great curriculum has always been at the heart of learning, the extra focus of the updated Ofsted evaluation schedule has led to schools revisiting their curriculum design. Whilst reviewing curriculum design, schools should

Every school has been working hard on ensuring they have an inspiring, rich and challenging curriculum for the pupils recently.  Whilst a great curriculum has always been at the heart of learning, the extra focus of the updated Ofsted evaluation schedule has led to schools revisiting their curriculum design.

Whilst reviewing curriculum design, schools should ask themselves not only what pupils should know, be able to do and understand, but also how these aspects work in a cross-curricular way.  Is there a skill that will help a pupil’s understanding of many subjects? Should we have explicit goals for learning behaviours that will assist learning in a global sense? Many schools will already do this but – when asked why – they often assert that such learning behaviours are impactful -, without being able to reference any real evidence.

Is this