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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!

Maddie Kilminster - 29 June, 2020

Category : Blog

New webinar announcement! In conversation with Baxter College: Adapting to change during Covid-19 and beyond

There’s a lot of uncertainty around what school life will look like in September. We’ve been speaking to lots of schools recently who are planning a move to a cloud-based MIS ahead of September, in order to future-proof themselves for whatever changes they need to adapt to. When you’re thinking about implementing a new MIS

There’s a lot of uncertainty around what school life will look like in September. We’ve been speaking to lots of schools recently who are planning a move to a cloud-based MIS ahead of September, in order to future-proof themselves for whatever changes they need to adapt to.

When you’re thinking about implementing a new MIS system, it can be really helpful to hear from other schools who’ve gone through a similar process, as well as some of the differences it’s made to the way they run their school. 

That’s why we’ve invited Baxter College, a secondary academy of 865 students in Kidderminster and part of Severn Academies Educational Trust, to give a special webinar about how their school life has changed for the better since they moved to Arbor. 

On Wednesday 1st July at 11am, Kate Ferris, Data Systems Analyst at Baxter College, and Tim Morton, Strategic Lead for IT at Severn Academies Educational Trust, will discuss how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS has helped support them through the last few months, and how they’re planning ahead for a socially distanced return to school in September. 

The session will be in the format of an open discussion led by Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill, giving you some practical, implementable tips to take back to your own school on how to stay flexible over the coming months. There’ll be plenty of time for questions and a more general discussion at the end. Just click on the link below to book your place. 

Click here to sign up for our webinar with Baxter on how Arbor is helping them adapt to change

It’s worth signing up even if you can’t make the session, as you’ll receive a copy of the recording in your inbox once the webinar is over. You can also read a recent case study we did with Baxter College on our blog, or sign up for any of our other webinars on this page of our website.

If you’re planning to switch MIS soon, and you’d like to speak to someone about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you future-proof your school during Covid-19, request one of our brochures or book a call with one of our friendly team of experts. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Hope to see you at one of our webinars soon!

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

Over the past few months, in our webinar series “Adapting to Change”, we’ve been speaking to leaders of Multi-Academy Trusts about how they’ve been adapting to lockdown.  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 –

Over the past few months, in our webinar series “Adapting to Change”, we’ve been speaking to leaders of Multi-Academy Trusts about how they’ve been adapting to lockdown. 

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.

 

The next webinar in our series “Adapting to Change” is coming up on 12th June. James will be talking to Derek Hills, Head of Data, and Andy Meighen, IT Director at Harris Federation, about how to monitor and enable online learning across a MAT. Sign up for free to hear how Harris Federation rolled out their online learning to over 36,000 pupils during lockdown, and what they’ve learned from looking at their data.

12th June, 11-11:45am
“How to monitor and enable online learning” – In Conversation with Harris Federation
Click here to sign up for free

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.

Maddie Kilminster - 12 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Get early access to Arbor’s new Understanding Your MAT Report

We’re excited to announce our new, free report for Multi-Academy Trust leaders – the Understanding Your MAT Report is coming out this month! Launching soon to MAT leaders across the country, the Understanding Your MAT Report will allow you to see your trust in a new light. The report brings together key measures like your

We’re excited to announce our new, free report for Multi-Academy Trust leaders – the Understanding Your MAT Report is coming out this month!

Launching soon to MAT leaders across the country, the Understanding Your MAT Report will allow you to see your trust in a new light. The 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. 

Want to see your personalised report before the rest of the country? Click here to join the waiting list

Your report will give you the metrics and benchmarks at your fingertips to see your MAT’s specific strengths and challenges, without waiting on spreadsheets or trawling through online tables.

Created in partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth (CFEY), the report helps you put your performance in perspective. In one, easy-to-read report, you’ll have for the first time:

  • Your schools’ DfE performance data, benchmarked against each other and the national average
  • GIAS (Get Information About Schools) data showing your MAT’s size and growth relative to other trusts
  • ONS area classifications showing the demographic spread across schools in your trust

With clear, visual charts and expert analysis, the Understanding Your MAT Report is perfect to share with your key stakeholders. Shape smart strategy and find new ways to improve results for staff and students today!

Danielle Arkwright - 29 April, 2020

Category : Blog

Top tips for managing stress during lockdown and beyond

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.

So, it’s week 6 of lockdown and it might seem like everyone around you has either perfected Michelin level cooking, learned to knit or can now do every yoga pose in the book. You might feel that everyone is expecting you to emerge from this crisis a better, more beautiful and more productive version of yourself. If you’ve managed any of the above things, brilliant. But as admirable as all that sounds, some of us might not be finding ourselves quite as productive – and that’s okay.

If you or your partner are working remotely, your home life has probably changed quite dramatically recently. Whatever your situation – whether you’re spending your non-work hours running around after kids, or facing a stale sense of boredom – we’re all coping with a time when our normal boundaries have shifted. We recently shared some tips for working remotely, but today I wanted to talk about how to manage the difficult emotions we 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 - 29 April, 2020

Category : Blog

How we’ve used a cloud-based MIS to manage our schools during Covid-19 with Hoyland Common Academy Trust: New webinar

We recently launched a new series of webinars to show schools and MATs how a cloud-based MIS like Arbor could help support you and your team through Covid-19. We’ve already had some great sessions (attended by over 30 schools!), so we’re expanding our repertoire with some more helpful topics over the next few weeks. Next

We recently launched a new series of webinars to show schools and MATs how a cloud-based MIS like Arbor could help support you and your team through Covid-19. We’ve already had some great sessions (attended by over 30 schools!), so we’re expanding our repertoire with some more helpful topics over the next few weeks.

Next up in our webinar series, we’re teaming up with Hoyland Common Academy Trust (HCAT), who’ll share how they’ve been using Arbor to help their 4 primaries and 1 secondary make the transition to fully managing their students, staff and wider communities from home. 

Join Vicky Harrison, COO, along with one of HCAT’s Headteachers, on Monday 4th May, as they discuss some of the ways a cloud-based MIS like Arbor has been invaluable in supporting them as they navigate this unfamiliar landscape. From being able to easily stay in touch with parents, staff and students, manage new attendance codes and spreadsheet registers, to monitoring staff sickness/absence and seeing which staff are in school or working remotely, Vicky told us that having a cloud-based MIS like Arbor has been “a godsend” since Covid-19 hit. 

As well as hearing from Vicky, we’ll also demo some of the features we’ve added to make managing your school remotely that bit easier. If you’re not already using Arbor, this is a great chance to see if our system could be a good fit for your school, and to hear first hand how it compares to HCAT’s previous, server-based system. If you’re already using Arbor, you’re also more than welcome to come along – we’d love to hear some of the ways you’ve been using Arbor since you’ve been working remotely! 

Click here to book your free place at our upcoming webinar with HCAT

There’ll be plenty of time for discussion at the end of the session, so it would be great to hear about any obstacles you’ve come up against whilst managing your school or MAT remotely, or any successes you’ve had that you think others might benefit from.

Hope to see you there! 

If you can’t make Monday’s session, you can click here to see our full list of upcoming webinars – they’re all free, so bring a member of your team to see if Arbor could be a good fit for you school

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

Maddie Kilminster - 6 April, 2020

Category : Blog

Hear from MAT Leaders about how they’re adapting to change

Sign up to our upcoming webinar with Jonathan Bishop CEO and Executive Head Teacher at Cornerstone Academy Trust There’s been a lot of change in the education sector over the last three years, but a huge amount of change in the last two weeks. With continued change set to stretch further into the summer, we’re all

Sign up to our upcoming webinar with Jonathan Bishop
CEO and Executive Head Teacher at Cornerstone Academy Trust

There’s been a lot of change in the education sector over the last three years, but a huge amount of change in the last two weeks. With continued change set to stretch further into the summer, we’re all going to have to get better at adapting to it.

So far in our webinar programme “Adapting to Change”, we’ve heard from MAT CEOs, COOs, Trustees and sector experts sharing their strategies for coping with this challenging time. We’ve been discussing leading in a crisis, digitally transforming your trust, staff mental wellbeing and managing a trust that is geographically dispersed. 

Next up in the programme, we’re excited to be launching a series of interviews between MAT Leaders and Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill. These “In Conversation With” talks are bite-size webinars where James will be discussing with trust leaders what remote management means to them and the strategies they’re putting in place to manage constant change.

These conversations are a great opportunity to get an insight into how fellow trusts are adapting. You’ll take away new ideas, processes and leadership styles that you can implement in your own trust. It’s also your chance to ask questions and share your own ideas, too.

If you’re a MAT Leader, this could be a perfect time to take a pause, consider and share ideas, then go back, hopefully with a little bit more knowledge and a preparedness for the next term and beyond.

Click the links below to sign up for our next session on Friday 15th May. Look out for more webinars over the next few weeks.

Friday 15th May, 11-11:45am
“Adapting to Change: Don’t Compromise on Quality – how to make online education successful”In Conversation With Jonathan Bishop
CEO and Executive Head Teacher at Cornerstone Academy Trust

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

Maddie Kilminster - 3 April, 2020

Category : Blog

Managing your school remotely with Arbor MIS: our new series of webinars

Whether you work at a school or a MAT, you’ll likely have made some big adjustments lately as your school opens partially rather than fully, some or all of your staff work remotely, and students learn from home during Coronavirus. There’s a lot of new complexity to deal with, which is where having a set

Whether you work at a school or a MAT, you’ll likely have made some big adjustments lately as your school opens partially rather than fully, some or all of your staff work remotely, and students learn from home during Coronavirus.

There’s a lot of new complexity to deal with, which is where having a set of good core systems in place could help – 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. A reliable, cloud-based MIS should be able to help you get the information you need quickly, wherever you’re working from. 

We’ve designed our new webinar programme to help explain how a cloud-based MIS could make managing your school (or schools, if you’re a MAT) that bit easier whilst you’re working remotely. Just click on any of the sessions below to book your spot – hope to see you at a webinar soon! 

Session title

Date

Time

Perfect for

Managing your primary school remotely with Arbor MIS June: 3rd, 10th, 17th

July: 1st, 8th, 15th

10am-10:30am Primary schools

Headteachers, SLT, Admins

Managing your secondary school remotely with Arbor MIS June: 11th, 25th

July: 9th

10am-10:30am Secondary schools

Headteachers, SLT, Admins

Primary School Assessments in Arbor MIS

2nd June 10am-10:30am Primary schools

Headteachers, SLT, Teachers

How to manage your schools remotely with Arbor’s Group MIS for MATs

June: 4th, 19th

July: 2nd

10am-10:30am MAT Central Team

CEO, COO, CFO

Managing your special school remotely with Arbor MIS

June: 8th

July: 7th

10am-10:30am Special schools

Headteachers, SLT, Admins

Secondary School Assessments in Arbor MIS

9th June 10am-10:30am Secondary schools

Headteacher, SLT, Teachers

Managing behaviour in Arbor MIS 16th June 10am-10:30am Secondary schools

Headteachers, SLT, Admins

Managing payments, meals, clubs and trips in Arbor MIS 18th June 10am-10:30am Primary, secondary

SBM, Admin

Moving your primary school to Arbor: From migration to implementation 26th June 10am-10:30am Primary schools

Headteacher, SLT, Admin

Moving your secondary school to Arbor: From migration to implementation 30th June 10am-10:30am Secondary schools

Headteacher, SLT, Admin

Managing timetabling in Arbor MIS

3rd July 10am-10:30am Secondary schools

Data Manager, IT Lead

Using Arbor MIS to run an effective remote school office 10th July 10am-10:30am Primary, secondary

SBM, Admin

Increasing Parental Engagement with Arbor MIS 16th July 10am-10:30am Primary, secondary

Headteacher, SLT, Admin

 

Our free webinar programme

Our new programme of free webinars will give schools and trusts a comprehensive overview of how Arbor can help you better manage your school remotely, whether you’re a primary, secondary, special school or MAT. Our aim is to answer the questions we’ve received from schools about how a cloud-based MIS could help all staff operate remotely. The sessions should also give you an introduction to our system’s core functionality to help you decide whether it’s the right fit for your school.

The webinars will feature a short demo of a specific part of Arbor followed by a live Q&A, information on how we can migrate, implement and train you remotely, and stories from some of the schools already using Arbor. We’ve added a list of our upcoming webinars below – to sign up, just click the link of the session you’d like to attend. You’ll be redirected to a sign up page, where you can pick which date you’d like to book.

We’ll be announcing more webinars over the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out on the blog for updates! Hope to see you online soon.

If you can’t make a webinar, but would still like to talk to someone about moving to Arbor, you can give us a call on 0208 050 1028, or email us at tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Maddie Kilminster - 31 March, 2020

Category : Blog

Adapting to Change: more webinars added to our programme for MAT Leaders

“Adapting to Change: Managing Schools and Staff Remotely” is our new series of webinars for MAT Leaders. Hear trust leaders from across the country discuss strategies and share advice for running Multi-Academy Trusts in a time of frequent change and uncertainty Schools and MATs across the country have had to adapt their ways of working almost

“Adapting to Change: Managing Schools and Staff Remotely” is our new series of webinars for MAT Leaders. Hear trust leaders from across the country discuss strategies and share advice for running Multi-Academy Trusts in a time of frequent change and uncertainty

Schools and MATs across the country have had to adapt their ways of working almost every day for the past few weeks, which makes it an important time for colleagues to work together and share best practice. That’s why we’ve launched our webinar programme – “Adapting to Change: Managing Schools and Staff Remotely” – for MAT Leaders to share their strategies for coping in this crisis, as well as principles for running a successful trust going forward.

The first two webinars last Friday covered “Managing a Trust that is Geographically Dispersed”, given by Mark Greatrex, CEO of Bellevue Place Education Trust, and “Nurturing Staff Wellbeing and Mental Health”, by Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust. Look out for the blogs about these sessions that we’ll be sharing soon.

Following their success, we’re excited to announce two additions to the webinar programme this Friday, focusing on leadership strategies and rolling out digital tools across your trust. Each session will have two co-hosts sharing the stage, which should encourage some really interesting questions and discussion. You can sign up for your free spot at one or both of the sessions below! 

Webinar Programme – Friday 3rd April (click to sign up):

10:00am-10:45am
How do you Lead in a Crisis?
Sarah Pittam, DfE External Expert, Trustee of Bourne Education Trust and Adviser to the sector and Ann Mee, Trustee at E21C Trust and Chairman of the Audit Committee 

1-1:45pm
How to Digitally Transform your Trust (The LEO Story)
Nicky Gillhespy, COO and Graham Macaulay, Director of Technology, LEO Academy Trust

We’re hosting lots more webinars in this programme over the next few weeks, so watch this space for more announcements!

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

Maddie Kilminster - 24 March, 2020

Category : Blog

Adapting to Change: Managing Schools and Staff Remotely – Our new webinar programme

We’re running a series of online webinars – “Adapting to Change: Remotely Managing your Schools and Staff” – for MAT Leaders to share ideas and advice for running their trusts during the Covid-19 outbreak  As this difficult time unfolds, the challenge for trust leaders is how to remotely manage their network of schools – each

We’re running a series of online webinars – “Adapting to Change: Remotely Managing your Schools and Staff” – for MAT Leaders to share ideas and advice for running their trusts during the Covid-19 outbreak 

As this difficult time unfolds, the challenge for trust leaders is how to remotely manage their network of schools – each with its own challenges, shaken-up timetables and staff working from lots of different locations. 

With that in mind, we wanted to create a space for MAT teams to learn from each other during this tricky period. Sharing ideas and advice is more important than ever right now, so we’ve decided to convert our bi-annual conference for MAT Leaders into a series of webinars called “Adapting to Change: Managing Schools and Staff Remotely”.

Kicking off from this Friday (27th March), the webinars are an opportunity to hear from MAT CEOs and COOs from across the country about how they’re dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak as it develops.

Our first two webinars will focus on topics at the forefront of MAT Leaders’ minds at the moment – coordinating trusts remotely and looking out for staff wellbeing. If you’re interested in joining, you can sign up for one or both of the sessions below.

Webinar Programme – Friday 27th March (click to sign up):

10:00am-10:45am
Managing a trust that is geographically dispersed
Mark Greatrex, CEO, Bellevue Place Education Trust

1:00pm-1:45pm
Nurturing staff wellbeing and mental health
Dan Morrow, CEO, Woodland Academy Trust

We hope you can join us on Friday but if not, look out for more webinars with our other conference speakers in the next few weeks. 

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!

Cosima Baring - 10 January, 2020

Category : Blog

Where to meet Arbor at BETT 2020

As many of you will know, BETT, the Europe’s largest annual EdTech exhibition, is taking place at the ExCel centre from 22nd-25th January 2020! Taking place over four days, BETT is a great chance to get up to date with all the current trends and offerings in the EdTech sector, as well as to meet

As many of you will know, BETT, the Europe’s largest annual EdTech exhibition, is taking place at the ExCel centre from 22nd-25th January 2020! Taking place over four days, BETT is a great chance to get up to date with all the current trends and offerings in the EdTech sector, as well as to meet and chat with like-minded education leaders. If you’ve never been to BETT, you can read more about it here.

The team at Arbor HQ always look forward to BETT, as we get to catch up with schools and MATs using Arbor, meet new and existing partners, and talk to schools and MATs thinking of switching MIS about how Arbor could help take the hassle out of daily school admin for their staff. We’ve got a lot going on this year at the show, so we’ve written this quick round-up of where you can meet us – hope to see you at one of our events!

Come and have lunch on us
We’re taking over Tapa Tapa Restaurant (just outside the main BETT entrance), where we’ll be serving tea and coffee from 11am, and lunch and a glass of wine from 11:30 each day. It’s all on us, so whether you already use Arbor, or are looking to switch to a more modern, user-friendly system, it’s a great chance to meet us and learn more about our cloud-based MIS for schools and trusts. Our team of experts will be on hand to answer any of your questions, and they’ll be joined by a few trusts and primary, secondary and special schools using Arbor, so you can ask them about why they decided to make the switch. Just click here to book your free spot – hope you can make it!


Come to one of our User Groups
From 10am-11am each morning, we’re running a series of Arbor User Groups. During these sessions, we’ll be sharing all the latest developments in Arbor, so come along to find out what we’ve got coming up in 2020 and catch up with some of our team. The programme is below:

Wednesday 22nd January: How to use Arbor to strengthen parental engagement at your school (including getting the most out of the Arbor App!)
Thursday 23rd January: Best practice on managing assessments in Arbor Friday 24th January: What’s coming up on Arbor’s 2020 Roadmap

You can click here to book your free spot at any of our User Groups. If you don’t use Arbor but you’d like to learn more about how our system could transform the way you work at school, please feel free to come along!

See Arbor’s cloud-based MIS in action
As well as Tapa Tapa, you can also find us at stand NM30 inside the main BETT arena. The Arbor team will be giving demos of our cloud-based MIS throughout the show, so feel free to come along and see our product in action and watch how it could take the stress out of daily school management for your staff. If there’s a particular part of the system that you’d like to see, just let us know and we can show you!

Come to our Tech in Action talk
 Join former school leaders Tim (Senior Partnership Manager at Arbor) and Stephen (Product Lead at Arbor) on Thursday 23rd January in the Tech in Action Theatre at 13:45 talking about how Arbor MIS could transform the way you run your school. They’ll be explaining how our cloud-based MIS makes your essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful – so everyone from your back office to your SLT can get on and focus their time where it matters most. In particular, Tim and Stephen will show you how the core functions of Arbor work – including how to manage attendance, behaviour, assessments, interventions and communications all in one place – helping you to reduce staff workload and understand your school better.

Find out more about becoming an Arbor partner
From 2:30pm-4pm each day at Tapa Tapa, we’re inviting all of our partners to drop in and have a glass of wine on us. Beth and David from our Partner Team will be at the restaurant each afternoon to meet both existing and new partners, so if you’re looking to find out more about how you could work with Arbor, come and say hello – we’d love to meet you. Just click here to book your free spot at our BETT Partner Lounge.

Finally, we’re incredibly excited to announce that we’ve been nominated for a BETT Award in the Company of the Year category! We’re really proud to have helped more than 800 schools and 80 MATs make the switch to our smarter cloud-based MIS, and we’re delighted to have been recognised by the BETT Awards panel. Winners are announced on Wednesday 23rd January, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

Can’t make it to BETT but still want to find out more about Arbor’s cloud-based MIS for schools and MATs? Give us a call on 0208 050 1028 or get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com to book a free, in-person demo for your school or trust this term 

 

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: An interview with Suzanne Pike

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!

Harriet Cheng - 16 December, 2019

Category : Blog

You’re invited to ArborFest!

We’re very excited to announce ArborFest, our first ever conference dedicated to schools using Arbor. ArborFest is your chance to meet the growing community of over 800 schools using our MIS to transform the way they work. Share best practice with fellow Senior Leaders and Administrative Staff, learn from other Arbor schools, see what’s coming

We’re very excited to announce ArborFest, our first ever conference dedicated to schools using Arbor.

ArborFest is your chance to meet the growing community of over 800 schools using our MIS to transform the way they work. Share best practice with fellow Senior Leaders and Administrative Staff, learn from other Arbor schools, see what’s coming up on our roadmap, feed back on our ideas, and hear from leading speakers from the wider world of education. And the best thing is – it’s completely free!

What can I expect?

  • Meet the Arbor Team – hear about the long term vision for schools using Arbor
  • Breakout sessions – choose 4 sessions on Arbor best practice led by fellow Arbor users and the Arbor Team
  • Keynote speaker – hear from a respected speaker from the wider world of education (more to be announced soon)
  • 2020 Roadmap Reveal – be the first to hear about the exciting changes coming up in Arbor next year!
  • Networking breaks – spend the day with Arbor schools from across the country
  • Arbor Partner Marketplace – meet some of the support and app partners we work with
  • Arbor Surgery – get 1on1 help from our expert customer team
  • Lunch included – have a very nice lunch on us in a beautiful venue in Kings Cross, London!

Who should come?

Places are limited, so book your place soon! As a quick note, we particularly recommend ArborFest for members of your SLT or Administrative Team as we’ve designed the programme with these staff members in mind. 

How do I sign up?

Book your free tickets at: https://arborfest2020.eventbrite.com/

What’s the full programme?

9am: ArborFest doors open!

9am-9.45am: Sign up for your Breakout Sessions and breakfast with the Arbor Team

9.45am-10.30am: Welcome from James Weatherill (CEO) and Sonia Leighton (Chief Customer Officer)

10.30am-11.30am: Morning Breakout Sessions

Choose two from:

  • Primary Assessments
  • Secondary Assessments
  • Making the most of Arbor’s behaviour module
  • Increasing parental engagement

11:30pm-12.15pm: Keynote speaker (TBA)

12.15pm-1.15pm: Lunch

  • Arbor Partner Marketplace
  • Arbor Surgery

1.15pm-2pm: 2020 Roadmap Reveal

2pm-3pm: Afternoon Breakout Sessions 

Choose two from:

  • Primary Assessments
  • Secondary Assessments
  • The effective school office – making the most of Arbor
  • Making the most of Arbor’s behaviour module

3pm-3:30pm: Closing talk

3.30-5pm: Networking drinks

Got any questions?

Ask your Arbor Account Manager or Customer Success Manager. We hope to see you there!

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 really a problem?  Perhaps not. After all, a skilful teacher or leader often draws on years of experiential learning of what works well.  High performing professionals are known to work in a constant loop of self-feedback that informs future practice.

On the other hand – maybe this is a problem.  Those of you who are familiar with the work of John Hattie will know that his research into the impact of what strategies truly improve learning can be very insightful. For example, his work highlights the relatively small impact of class size on outcomes – yet many still believe this is crucial. 

Before we make changes, we need to be sure we are making decisions based on sound evidence.

Which brings me to my main point: all schools should be actively researching and monitoring  the impact of their curriculum design. If you are about to spend significant time building a change to your curriculum, training teachers and updating documents, then you need to know this change will make a meaningful impact.

During my time working with Computing At School, I saw what I believed to be evidence that computational thinking had a positive impact in other areas of the curriculum, with a focus on problem-solving, decomposition of problems and self-evaluation of solutions.  But how could I be sure?

This is where we need to design a process that tests the theory by providing clear evidence of impact; this means building in a way to make the important measurable (as opposed to making the measurable important).

In my example, I may believe that pupils who are better at problem-solving perform better across the curriculum.  I might decide, therefore, to explicitly teach problem-solving. In order to effectively judge whether I am right, I need to know two things: which pupils are good at problem solving and does this correlate with other educational outcomes?

Time, then, for some active research. Using a rubric, I could evaluate pupils’ problem-solving skills.

(Image 1: A table taken from Livingstone Academies part of the Aspirations Academies Trust – Copyright 2016)

 

I could then cross-reference this to academic outcomes in English and Mathematics.  If a strong correlation exists, then it will be worthwhile integrating the teaching of problem-solving into my curriculum.

As ever though – this can be time-consuming work.  If schools are to engage in research like this, they need a hassle-free way to get it done.  They need a tool that can bring together what you already know about your pupils, such as their background and current academic grades, and your research evidence.

Luckily for Arbor schools, it’s very easy to make a rubric for assessing almost anything, such as the problem-solving example above.  Once this has been used, clear analytics can then be used to determine if a strong correlation exists.

Research like this needs to be a continual process, as the needs of your pupils may change; the world they live in certainly will! So, having the tools to make the process easy and hassle-free should be a high priority.

In summary:

1. When you review curriculum design, look for opportunities that improve outcomes across all subjects

2. Beware of falling back on assumed knowledge of “what works well”

3. Instead, find ways to make what you believe to be important measurable and generate your own research data

4. Use this data to make evidentially driven changes to secure maximum impact on pupil learning

5. Don’t start work without having the right tools at your disposal that will make the process hassle-free and help you get the work done quickly. 

 

If you’d like to find out why Arbor is the MIS schools love to use, why not contact us? You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

 

Rebecca Watkins - 25 November, 2019

Category : Blog

KS4 Performance Data Analysis: Now available on Arbor Insight

We’re really pleased to announce that your latest KS4 data is now available on Arbor Insight!  We’ve been hard at work crunching all of your 2018/19 ASP data, so you can spend more time focusing on how findings from your performance data will inform your school improvement planning.  We’ve produced 7 premium PDF reports, which

We’re really pleased to announce that your latest KS4 data is now available on Arbor Insight! 

We’ve been hard at work crunching all of your 2018/19 ASP data, so you can spend more time focusing on how findings from your performance data will inform your school improvement planning. 

We’ve produced 7 premium PDF reports, which benchmark your school against similar schools and top performing schools, as well as the national average. You can quickly and easily share these reports with your team, governors and even parents. We’ve also created free performance dashboards for every school in the country, where you can look at all of your headline measures and drill down into your data to see your strengths and weaknesses and where your biggest gaps are in attainment and progress. Adjust filters to change the year, demographic group and benchmarks; this makes your analysis quick, simple and highly effective.  

(Fig. 1 Key Findings page from an example Understanding Your School Report)

 

The percentage of pupils entered into the EBacc increased this year by 1.6% from 2018; this is the highest entry rate since the introduction of the Ebacc in 2010. Both Humanities and Foreign Languages subjects had increased entry rates this year compared with last, which contributes to this increased entry rate. However, this increase is not across the board, The Department for Education has stated that this year 58.4% of pupils with high prior attainment entered the EBacc, compared with 30% of pupils who have middle attainment and just 9.4% who have low attainment. 

There is also a lot of variation in terms of what subjects students choose across these 3 attainment groups. We’ve created a curriculum summary in the “Understanding Your School Report”, so you can see what subjects your low, middle and high attainment pupils have taken this year and a separate summary for the subjects your FSM pupils have entered. Our Understanding Your School report also shows you the subjects your disadvantaged students have entered into in comparison with their peers, so you can see whether there are issues with access to different areas of learning between different pupil groups.

(Fig2. Curriculum Summary focus on disadvantaged from an example Understanding Your School Report)

 

Another feature of the “Understanding Your School Report” is our “Schools Like You” benchmark, which is hugely effective in demonstrating how the specific demographic context of your school affects pupil attainment. This is something that the Progress 8 measure cannot show by itself and it’s useful to know how similar schools are performing, so you can use this as a realistic benchmark. Our “Schools Like You” benchmark shows an average figure of all schools that have a similar demographic intake to yours. We’ve used the methodology of the Education Endowment Foundation for the weighting of demographics in this benchmark, which is: average prior attainment (40%), variance prior attainment (5%), FSM 6 (25%), EAL (20%) and IDACI – Income Deprivation Affecting Children (10%).

(Fig. 3 Maths attainment page showing an example of the “Schools Like You” benchmark from the Understanding Your School Report)

 

Researchers at the Centre for Multilevel Modelling, Bristol University, compared the current Progress 8 measure with an “adjusted” measure that also accounted for pupil criteria such as gender, age, ethnicity, residential deprivation, Free School Meals, English as an Additional Language and Special Educational Needs. Adjusting the Progress 8 measure to include background factors like these meant that, in national rankings based on accountability measures, 20% of schools would change by over 500 places. 

Exam results can also be disproportionately affected by social and geographical context. You can see how the area your school is in has impacted your pupils’ outcomes in our “Understanding Your School Report”, which features our new Area Type Comparison graph. This graph brings ONS area classification data together with your ASP attainment data – something entirely unique to Arbor Insight. The ONS has classified every LA in the country into 8 “supergroups”, which share characteristics, based on socio-economic and demographic data from the national census. Our graph explains which supergroup (or area type) your school is in, and shows how your performance compares to schools in areas with similar socio-economic characteristics, helping you to examine patterns between your student intake and attainment.

(fig. 4 Area Type Graph of a school in “Affluent England” taken from an example Understanding Your School Report)

 

Arbor Insight is our industry-leading benchmarking tool for every school and MAT in the country. It’s free for everyone! If you haven’t already, sign up today in just 1 minute: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register

If you already have an account, log in to see your updated performance dashboards: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login

 

Over 80 secondary schools have Arbor MIS and if you want to know why they love using Arbor, then take a look at the product here: https://arbor-education.com/products/school-mis/. Get in touch by phone on 020 8050 1028 or email hello@arbor-education.com -we’d love to hear from you!

Andrew Mackereth - 20 November, 2019

Category : Blog

A day in the life

I read the news today, oh boy.  Unfortunately, I’m not going on to talk about the lucky man that made the grade in the famous song by The Beatles; instead I’m talking about the story that appeared on BBC News with the caption: “I had an interest in school – but zero help.”  I felt

I read the news today, oh boy. 

Unfortunately, I’m not going on to talk about the lucky man that made the grade in the famous song by The Beatles; instead I’m talking about the story that appeared on BBC News with the caption: “I had an interest in school – but zero help.” 

I felt profoundly sad for the families and their unmet needs but as a former Headteacher, I also felt for the schools as they seemed to be taking the presenting issues extremely seriously but their “help” wasn’t helping. 

Thinking back to situations I had managed in my schools, I remembered the round-robin reports that regularly hit my desk about the progress, behaviour and attendance of pupils causing concern. This was our way of capturing the presenting issues in order to formulate a plan.

The sort of report I’m talking about is the kind that is being generated right now by teachers and pastoral leads across the country (and across the world) to explore concerns, or support meaningful meetings with parents. Every school seems to have their own template and completes in a way that meets their specific circumstances. However good I thought our report templates were, there was always some information that we hadn’t captured to complete the picture of the child. It’s only since I’ve been working with Arbor MIS that I realised just how poorly set up my schools were to surface student-level information quickly due to the limitations of our previous MIS. To compound the problem, my teams could only access the information when on site, which put an added burden on working parents and carers. 

Our weekly student focus meetings brought together progress, educational support, welfare and attendance leads to discuss current and emerging issues. A typical action arising from the meeting would be for a key worker (in this instance: me) to make contact with home to request a meeting. 

For the purpose of this blog, I am going to walk through a typical “student of concern” scenario but in this instance, the fictional student is Kimberly Adams, a Year 10 student at Pinewood Secondary School. As Head, I’m collating information ahead of a meeting with her parents. The meeting is therefore at our request because, as I shall explain, her name had cropped up in a number of progress and well-being meetings recently and we want to engage with home at the earliest opportunity. I want to get a comprehensive picture of the student using Arbor MIS.

The following picture begins to emerge:

Kimberly appears to like school; her attendance is currently 96%+ and this is an improvement on last year. She has regular planned absences for medical appointments due to a long-standing medical condition: the result of a head injury that causes a lack of focus. She has the highest attendance in her Tutor Group.

(Image 1: Screenshot of Attendance in Arbor broken down into different groups) 

 

Unfortunately, since the start of Year 10 she has begun to arrive at school late. There is no particular pattern to her lateness to school but she is frequently late to Pd3 which follows break. This is an area to investigate.

(Image 2: Screenshot of Attendance in Arbor broken down into time of day) 

 

Her behaviour is generally good but September the 18th was an uncharacteristically bad day. Kimberly didn’t suggest a reason as to why she had such a bad day but perhaps her parents can offer some context that would explain it. This is an area to investigate.

(Image 3: Screenshot of Behaviour in Arbor broken down into time of day) 

 

It seems that Kimberly does not adapt well to temporary teachers and, looking at her behaviour log in more depth, there seems to be a correlation between her incidents of misbehaviour and supply teachers. As a side issue, I can see that she had eight lessons where her regular teacher has been absent which is potentially having a de-stabilising effect. This is an area to investigate. 

(Image 4: Screenshot of student cover statistics in Arbor) 

 

Academically, she is performing fairly well. She is a low prior attainer but she has a flair for Maths and English. It would be useful to explore the issues around English and the relative underachievement in Computer Science and Textiles from her perspective.

(Image 5: Screenshot of assessment and progress statistics in Arbor) 

 

Kimberly has not signed up for any trips or visits this academic year but she is a member of the Eco Club. Her form tutor, Ms Kelly runs the Eco Club and this seems to have sparked her interest somewhat. Ms Kelly fears she may be bullied by some of the other girls in the tutor group but Kimberly has always denied this. This is an area to investigate. 

Neither parent has logged into the parent portal, so may be missing vital communications from school about events, achievement and progress. I should offer to reset their password or resend the joining instructions if required. 

I am confident that I can approach the meeting with some good evidence to back up my concerns and steer the conversation to cover the areas for further investigation. 

Meetings like this one will happen everyday in schools for a myriad of reasons. I’m fortunate that, because Arbor is designed to turn insight into action, I have all of my information on students at-risk together in one place – and not all over the place.

 

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.

Rebecca Watkins - 19 November, 2019

Category : Blog

Budget Planning with your Schools Financial Benchmarking Report

We are 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 income and expenditure is hugely important in order to understand your school’s financial allocations, like where you may be lacking

We are 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 income and expenditure is hugely important in order to understand your school’s financial allocations, like where you may be lacking in funding and areas you might be overspending in. 

We have created a Schools Financial Benchmarking report (SFB) for every state school in England, which displays all of your income and expenditure in a clear, easy-to-read PDF report. Over 1,000 schools have used their Arbor Insight Financial Benchmarking report since we launched it in 2015; sharing it with governors, using it as evidence in internal and external meetings and using it to inform their budget planning.

(Image 1: A screenshot of Grant Funding as presented in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking Report)

 

Your school budget should reflect 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 SFB report with clear trends shown in line graphs and 3-year rolling averages 
  • Pupil 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. You can use your free Attainment and Progress dashboards or Premium Performance Reports- available to purchase from your Arbor Insight portal or Staffing requirements, including updated pay scales.
  • 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. In your SFB report, you will see all expenditure and income sections 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 pupil in your school. 

(Image 2: A screenshot of total spend as presented in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking Report)

 

Arbor’s Schools Financial Benchmarking report is a useful resource for school budgeters, as you can see how much schools in your local authority spend on resources, such as classroom assistants, catering, building maintenance and so on. We also benchmark you school against other schools that have a similar demographic cohort of pupils to you, weighted by percentage of prior attainment, FSM and EAL pupils. If you have a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils, or perhaps pupils with low prior attainment, it’s important to see whether similar schools have comparable spending patterns – or if being benchmarked against these schools 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 how your finances have shaped up over the last 3 years with our line graphs that include trend figures. We also show the last 3 years of finances for each resource compared with that of the national average, schools in your LA and schools like you. Our 3-year rolling average for each expenditure and income resource can help you predict and plan your future 3 year expenditure planning. 

(Image 3: A screenshot of Premises as presented in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking Report)

 

How to present this data to other key stakeholders:

Now you’ve got to break down the school budget for the governors. Come with easy-to-understand, clear budget reporting sheets, such as your Schools Financial Benchmarking report and 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.

 

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 pupils. 

 

Haven’t yet signed up to your Arbor Insight portal? No problem! Sign up here in seconds: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register

Already signed up? Just log in here: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login

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

 

Arbor Insight is a free tool we offer alongside our hassle-free MIS that schools and MATs love to use. If you’re interested in learning more about how our MIS can make daily school admin easier and your data more useful, book a free demo here or call our MIS Demo Team on 0208 050 1028.

Cosima Baring - 17 November, 2019

Category : Blog

Why 72 MATs have chosen to move all their schools to Arbor

Now that 72 MATs are using Arbor’s MIS to manage and collaborate more efficiently with their schools, we looked at the 4 key reasons MATs decide to switch to us.  Stay connected to all your schools Arbor MIS for MATs brings all your schools’ data together so you can instantly see how your students are

Now that 72 MATs are using Arbor’s MIS to manage and collaborate more efficiently with their schools, we looked at the 4 key reasons MATs decide to switch to us. 

Stay connected to all your schools

Arbor MIS for MATs brings all your schools’ data together so you can instantly see how your students are getting on, and jump in if you need to. Act on everything important, fast – and all from just one system, so you and your staff can get on with focusing on what matters most.

Follow up centrally

Arbor lets you log into your schools’ MIS systems in one click, meaning jobs like chasing absent students, following up on behaviour incidents and investigating overdue marks are simple, painless, and take far less time.  You can even set up escalations and workflows to get things done automatically, and track progress using standardised or non-standardised assessment frameworks.

Never ask for data again

Reporting in Arbor is as painless as it should be. Use our Report Builder to create reports for stakeholders in minutes (not days!) and send them out daily, weekly or termly to suit the needs of your Central Team. Stakeholders have the information they need without having to ask all the time, and can make better-informed decisions as a result.

A smooth transition with human support at every step

Having helped over 72 MATs and over 800 schools make the switch, we understand the importance of making sure your new MIS is a success for your schools and your Central Team. We’re on hand to answer questions every step of the way, and our phone lines are open 8am-5pm every day of the week.

“Arbor’s simple interface is easy to use, and we love the MAT reporting tool – the ability to see MAT data in one place without having to contact all schools individually has saved us so much time!”

Lisa Sarikaya, Deputy CEO at St Bart’s Multi-academy Trust

 

Join our Community of MATs

Over the course of this year, we’re bringing MATs from across the country together to discuss how to successfully centralise data and operations – we’d love to see you at an upcoming event!

Image 1: The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, where our fourth conference will be held 

 

8th November 2019 

Scaling Sustainably: Our fourth MAT Leaders Conference

See the full agenda and sign up for your free ticket here: https://scaling-your-mat-sustainably-19.eventbrite.com

 

13-14th November 2019

Schools & Academies Show Birmingham

Visit us at stand F30 for a chat and a free demo to see if Arbor’s cloud-based MAT MIS could be the right fit for your trust. Don’t miss our live session on day 2 in the Business & Finance Theatre on Arbor’s free dashboards, which give you clear, aggregated, out-of-the-box analysis of your schools’ latest performance data.

 

31st December 2019

Give your MIS provider notice if you want to switch

If you’re planning to move all your schools to a cloud-based MIS like Arbor, most MIS providers (e.g. SIMS) need at least three months notice if you want to switch this school year.

 

22-25th January 2020

BETT 2020 at The ExCel

We’ll be at stand NM30 in the main area from Wednesday through Saturday! Drop by to see our MIS in action, come watch our talk at the Tech in Action arena or join us at Tapa Tapa restaurant for a free lunch & glass of wine each day.

 

27th March 2020

Arbor’s Spring MAT Conference

We’re holding our 5th MAT conference at Kings Place,  a ten minute walk from London Kings Cross Station. Put the date in your diary, and stay tuned for more details from us soon.

 

If you’d like to find out more about Arbor’s MIS for MATs, these events are all great opportunities to see if Arbor could be a good fit for your trust. Don’t forget, we also come to you – email us at tellmemore@arboreducation.com or call us on 0208 050 1028 to arrange a free demo.

 

Sophie Elms - 15 November, 2019

Category : Blog

Who is Arbor?

What we do and why… At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with smarter, hassle-free tools teachers love to use.  You’ve seen the headlines. Sadly, the mess and stress of data and admin is a major source of unhappiness in our schools. 60% of a teacher’s time is spent on

What we do and why…

At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with smarter, hassle-free tools teachers love to use. 

You’ve seen the headlines. Sadly, the mess and stress of data and admin is a major source of unhappiness in our schools. 60% of a teacher’s time is spent on admin related work, 53% agree that it contributes to stress and it’s only getting worse every year. 

So, at Arbor we put everything we have into building hassle-free school technology, like our MIS (Management Information System), that’s as powerful and intelligent as it is easy to use. 

Ultimately, we’re here to help make our schools and trusts stress a little less, and focus on what matters most – improving the lives of teachers and outcomes of students everywhere! 

So, who are we? 

We’re a diverse team of ex-teachers, education enthusiasts and motivated people who are all working towards the same goal: to help schools stress less and focus on what matters! Our interview process includes specific questions to make sure candidates’ values are aligned with our own.

(Image 1: A diagram showing Arbor’s core company values)

Finding people who share the same passion for our social impact not only makes our company an amazing place to work, it gives our customers a consistent, 5* service that sets us apart from our competitors.

Why working at Arbor was the right move for me

I joined Arbor in July 2019, with little knowledge of the EdTech market, but with a passion for helping people and finding great talent, which aligned well with Arbor’s mission. It was refreshing to join a company that cares just as much about values and cultural fit as experience and a CV. 

Arbor also aligns its values with the benefits offered to its employees, including a volunteering day with a cause/charity of your choice, flexible working, half day Fridays during the summer, personal and professional development training budgets – and much more! 

Arbor’s values aren’t just something we promote on our website; people say them out loud in the office; people live them day in, day out – internally with teams and externally with our customers.

(Image 2: A photograph of the Arbor team)

 

Hear it from our schools…

“Working with Arbor is a pleasure in every way. It is an exceptional tool but the people make the real difference with their friendly but professional manner, clear knowledge of the system, and most of all a strong passion and desire for delivering the desired outcomes and improving features and functionality.” – Stephanie Bass, Business Manager at Bridge Schools Trust

“We genuinely love the Arbor system and the team behind it who seem to just want the whole system to succeed at the Lakes. There’s always a bit of heart in the mouth when you instigate such change in a school and I would just like to say a huge thank you to yourself and your team, who really have looked after us and who have wholeheartedly helped us confirm that the decision to change to Arbor was the right one.” – Andy Cunningham, Headteacher at The Lakes Secondary School

 

Hear it from our Arborians…

 

Emma Sharples, Head of Professional Services

“Employee number 35 and number 4 on the ground in Leeds. I started Arbor as an Engagement Manager, working on special projects and building our implementation models for future onboarding.

After approximately 1090 working days, onboarding over 600 schools, supporting nearly 40 MATs, I’ve had a fantastic opportunity to help shape the customer team! My own career development has gone from strength to strength, from engagement manager to programme manager, to building out the Secondary Support Team as we took on the world of Secondary, to now Head of Professional Services!”

Stephen Higgins, Lead Product Manager

“I left a 6 year career in Teaching to join Arbor. Initially I was worried if I could “make the jump” to a new career and a new city, with a new set of colleagues. 

My first experience of the Arbor family was to join the company at their annual winter conference in Belgrade. After spending a few hours with the team, I realised that my fears were completely unfounded. Everyone was so friendly, smart and passionate about solving problems in education, and they instantly made me feel like one of the team. 

Since that first day, I have learnt so much about myself, about business and about my new profession. It was hard work and challenging at times, but I’ve never looked back!”

 

If you’d like to find out why Arbor is the MIS schools love to use, why not contact us? You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Hannah McGreevy - 13 November, 2019

Category : Blog

10 question topics that are likely to come up for MAT leaders in Ofsted inspections this year

This September, Ofsted’s new inspection framework came into effect, putting more of an emphasis on curriculum as opposed to just academic results with their new “quality of education” grade. A consistent theme in teachers’ feedback to inspections so far seems to be that Ofsted have become more rigorous; rather than settling for a surface level

This September, Ofsted’s new inspection framework came into effect, putting more of an emphasis on curriculum as opposed to just academic results with their new “quality of education” grade. A consistent theme in teachers’ feedback to inspections so far seems to be that Ofsted have become more rigorous; rather than settling for a surface level view, they now want to dig a little deeper into how schools and trust operate and why. 

According to Tes, some leadership and teachers have described these new inspections as intense and stressful, while others say it provides a fairer, more balanced view of how you work. Either way, we can safely say that it definitely wouldn’t hurt to prepare to tackle some tough questions about your MAT. 

To help you prepare, we’ve put together this useful list of questions that you might be asked during an Ofsted inspection this year. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but acts as more of a checklist for you and other MAT leaders to read ahead of any upcoming inspections. 

Questions are based on inspections that other schools have experienced this year. Many of these questions can be credited to governingmatters.wordpress.com who posted this useful article to help governors prepare for Ofsted inspections. 

 

1. MAT structure and values

Ofsted are very likely to ask you at least one question about your MAT’s values and the aims that you have for your pupils. Consider why your trust operates the way that it does and how you think this will help to shape your students’ education overall. 

A. How is your MAT structured and why? 

B. What are your priorities for your schools?

C. What are your ambitions for your children?

 

2. Governors

You’ll be expected to provide some information on your governors, including their training and the role they play. Think about how you can show that your governors are adequately trained and appropriately contributing to how your MAT is run. 

A. How does the MAT board work with Local Governing Bodies?

B. What role do your governors play in school leadership? How do you recruit new governors?

C. What training do your governors receive?

 

3. Headteachers and SLT

Have a think about how often you hold your headteachers and SLT members to account for how their schools are performing. Be sure to have some proof that you can present to Ofsted ahead of your inspection! In Group MIS, it’s easy to check how your different schools are performing by looking at your data dashboards when you first log in to your portal.

A. How do you hold your headteachers and SLT to account?

B. How do you ensure that you are not just relying on information provided by the head? 

C. Can you give an example of how you challenged the head and brought about a change? 

Image 1: A screenshot of the main Dashboard when you log into Arbor Group MIS


4. Staff performance and wellbeing 

Be ready to provide examples of how you handle both positive and negative staff performance, as well as how you make sure the staff across your MAT are well looked after and happy. In Arbor MIS, you can use our Staff Development function to track staff appraisals and training. 

A. How do you ensure staff wellbeing? Can you give any examples?

B. What is the link between teacher appraisal and pay?

C. How is teacher underperformance dealt with in your trust?


5. Measuring progress and school improvement 

Think about how you’ve analysed your KS1 & KS2 performance data so far and whether you’ve effectively pinpointed where your MAT is performing well and where it could be doing better – click here to find out how you can do this using our free Group Insight reports and dashboards.

A. What do your schools do best and what could they do better?

B. How do you contribute to and monitor your school improvement plan?

C. Please describe the MAT’s journey since the last inspection. Have you made an effort to fix issues that were picked up last time?


6. Curriculum planning and tracking 

Ofsted is putting more emphasis on the curriculum than ever before with their new inspection framework. Use Arbor’s curriculum tracker to manage the way you deliver the curriculum across your MAT, and our analytics to inform your methodology. You can also read our helpful blog on curriculum planning and improving student outcomes. 

A. How do you monitor your schools’ curriculum and how do you know it matches the national curriculum?

B. How do your students do in foundation subjects? 

C. How do leaders discuss the sequencing of curriculum development? How do your teachers know what to teach?


7. Education equality 

Consider the provisions you have in place for your disadvantaged pupils and how you make sure they have as many opportunities as their fellow students and that they are treated equally. Remember – you should be able to show how you measure the impact of these provisions! In our Group MIS, you can use our “By Demographic” function to keep track of disadvantaged students and work out where to intervene; you can also use our Interventions tracker to monitor any progress made. 

A. How do you meet the equalities act? How do you know diversity is being taught in your schools?

B. What do you know about the performance of your SEN/EAL/disadvantaged pupils?

C. How do you use Pupil Premium and Sports Premium monies and what impact has this had? How are pupil premium children progressing and what do you have in place to ensure higher attaining Pupil Premium students are challenged?

Image 2: A screenshot of attendance by demographic in Arbor’s Group MIS


8. Data monitoring 

It’s possible that Ofsted will also ask you about the way you monitor and measure the data you receive from schools across your MAT. You need to be prepared for questions about the accuracy of this data; do this by collecting tangible evidence ahead of time. In, you can use our helpful data dashboards to diagnose any potential errors before your inspection. 

A. How do you know that the data you get from your schools is accurate?

B. How do you measure pupil attendance in your schools?

C. How do you monitor pupil behaviour in your schools?


9. Safety and GDPR

We’re pretty confident that you’ll be asked about the level of safety in schools across your MAT. Make sure you have evidence to show that you’re compliant with GDPR regulations and that you have all the necessary procedures in place to keep your students safe. Visit our website to see how you can keep your data safe with Arbor. 

A. Are children safe in your schools?

B. Do you have safeguarding training? Are safeguarding audits carried out regularly

C. Are you aware of and happy with the lockdown procedure in your schools


10. Parental engagement 

Finally, you may be asked about your schools’ relationship with parents and how this relationship is maintained. You might want to check out our blog on “5 ways to boost parental engagement at your school” to see how you can effectively keep in touch with your parents. 

A. How do you communicate with parents?

B. Are parents supportive of the schools in your trust?

C. Can you tell me more about your parent questionnaires?

As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, our new “Understanding Your School Report” will help you prepare for the new Ofsted inspection framework by allowing you to benchmark your schools’ performance data against the national average, top quintile, and schools with a similar demographic intake. Download our new report to help your schools prepare for the next inspection: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register

Hope you find the list helpful!

 

Arbor MIS for MATs brings all your schools together so you can instantly see how everyone’s getting on, and jump in if you need to. To find out more about Group MIS, get in touch via the contact form on our website, email us at tellmemore@arbor-education.com or give us a call on 0208 050 1028.

 

Hannah McGreevy - 12 November, 2019

Category : Blog

Your latest Academy Financial Benchmarking report is now available for free on Arbor Insight!

Your academy’s free Financial Benchmarking report for 2017-2018 is now available on your Arbor Insight portal. The report was prepared by Arbor Education Partners using your most recent Schools Financial Benchmarking data from the Department for Education. The aim of these reports is to help you with benchmarking your income and expenditure, as well as

Your academy’s free Financial Benchmarking report for 2017-2018 is now available on your Arbor Insight portal. The report was prepared by Arbor Education Partners using your most recent Schools Financial Benchmarking data from the Department for Education. The aim of these reports is to help you with benchmarking your income and expenditure, as well as helping you to plan your budget effectively.

What is Arbor Insight?

Arbor Insight is our industry-leading benchmarking tool for every school and MAT in the country. It’s free for everyone! See your school’s performance on all your key measures from the DfE – including comparisons with similar, national, local and top quintile schools – in easy to read reports you can share with your whole team. We also give you personalised recommendations for your school, so you can understand exactly where to focus. 

Why create a report?

Our reports have been created just for your to help you see the power information can have when intelligently analysed, and intuitively presented. It also acts as a small introduction to what Arbor can do! While this data may be from last year, it is also totally free as part of our mission to help schools stress a little less and focus on what matters most – use our data to help drive your school improvement for the coming year.

Fig 1: Screenshot showing how total spend is broken down in your Financial Benchmarking report

 

How did you get the data? 

This report has been created using Academies’ Financial Benchmarking Data from 2017/2018 as released for the first time in October 2019. We combined this with data sourced from the Department for Education which our clever data scientists then imported into Arbor’s Adaptive Management System for analysis and output. The result is an individual academies’ financial budget report unique to each academy.

 

What’s included? 

Your Financial Benchmarking report will contain an overview of funding and spending across your academy from the years 2017-2018. We have also compared your data with schools like you, schools in your local Authority and the national average. Quickly spot trends and anomalies in your finance data with our easy-to-read graphs, and see how your income and spending has changed over time with our 3-year rolling averages. 

Income

See how much funding your school received last academic year broken down into percentages and compared to schools like your, Local Authority schools and the national average.

Find out what percentage of grant funding you were given, across: direct grants, community grants and targeted grants.

Fig 2: Screenshot showing a Grant Funding breakdown in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking report

 

See what percentage of self-generated funding you had, taking into account: community-focused school facilities, income from facilities and services, income from catering, receipts from insurance claims, donations and more!

Fig 3: Screenshot showing Self-generated Funding in our Financial Benchmarking report

 

Spend 

See how much your schools spent in the years 2017-2018 broken down into percentages and compared to schools like your, Local Authority schools and the national average.

Find out what percentage of staff spend there was, across: teaching staff, supply staff, education support staff and administrative staff.

Fig 4: Screenshot showing a Staff Spending breakdown in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking report

 

See what percentage of income was spent on the school premises, including: premises staff, cleaning and maintenance.   

Fig 5: Screenshot showing a premises spending breakdown in our Financial Benchmarking report

 

Have a look at your spending on different occupations, including: energy, water and sewage and catering expenditure. 

Fig 6: Screenshot showing occupations spending in our Financial Benchmarking report

 

See what your academy spends on supplies and services, taking into account: administrative supplies, educational supplies and bought-in professional services. 

Fig 7: Screenshot showing supplies and services spending in our Financial Benchmarking report

 

How do I get my hands on a free report?

It’s super easy for you to download your academy’s free, personalised financial benchmarking report. Just log in to your Arbor Insight portal here: https://login.arbor.sc/

I haven’t used Arbor Insight before – how do I sign up?

Click here to sign up to your academy’s free Arbor Insight portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register

You haven’t answered my questions! Can I contact you for help?

Absolutely. You can reach the Arbor team at tellmemore@arbor-education.com or by calling us on 020 8050 1028.

 

Arbor Insight is a free tool we offer alongside our hassle-free MIS that schools and MATs love to use. If you’re interested in learning more about how our MIS can make daily school admin easier and your data more useful, book a free demo here or call our MIS Demo Team on 0208 050 1028.

Arbor - 21 October, 2019

Category : Blog

800 schools & MATs are now using Arbor MIS!

Last week, we reached an exciting milestone – over 800 schools have now switched MIS to Arbor to transform the way they work! Of this 800, we have 620+ primary schools, 80+ secondary schools and 100+  special schools using Arbor. We also work with 71 MATs, including Bridge Multi-Academy Trust, United Learning, and REAch2, the

Last week, we reached an exciting milestone – over 800 schools have now switched MIS to Arbor to transform the way they work! Of this 800, we have 620+ primary schools, 80+ secondary schools and 100+  special schools using Arbor. We also work with 71 MATs, including Bridge Multi-Academy Trust, United Learning, and REAch2, the largest primary MAT in the UK.   

Schools normally decide to switch to Arbor’s smart, cloud-based MIS to bring all of their data into one place, which not only saves money on server costs & licensing fees, but gives teachers their time back in the classroom to concentrate on their pupils.  

To celebrate our 800th school, we thought you might like to hear a few of our favourite stories that have been sent in to us by schools using Arbor. From saving hours of time per week following up on absent students, to being able to spot trends more quickly & improve student outcomes, read on to find out how our schools are using Arbor to improve the way they work.

How Arbor saved Parkroyal School £10,000 on server costs

Parkroyal’s admin server was coming up for renewal a couple of years ago, and they were quoted around £10,000 to replace it. Instead of paying this fee, they decided to move everything onto the cloud. They put their curriculum into Google, switched MIS to Arbor, and their finance system to SAGE. They invested in Chromebooks for the staff. They now have only one server on-site and it’s not out of choice – they have to use it to interact with the Local Authority Child Services system, which can only be done through the LA intranet. They were really glad they made the decision to switch to Arbor when the school needed to carry out building works on the school office in 2017. Previously, it would have cost thousands of pounds to move and safely rewire the servers into the temporary portacabin, but because they’d moved everything to the cloud, all they had to do was carry their desks and laptops downstairs, connect to wifi and log in to Arbor!

How Arbor transformed parent communications at Castle Hill St Philip’s

Castle Hill had a couple of issues with parent comms before they moved to Arbor, because almost everything was based on paper. When children showed good or bad behaviour, teachers would write a note in the student’s planner, which the child would then take home for parents to check. However, children couldn’t always be relied upon to take their planners home with them – especially if they’d been given a negative behaviour note from their teacher! Now they’ve switched to Arbor, the staff at Castle Hill log behaviour points in the system, which automatically sends an email to the relevant guardians. Parents can also log into their Parent Portal for a live update on how their children are doing. Children are now better behaved because they know that their parents know what they’ve been up to, and the school has less paperwork to get through!

How Arbor streamlined assessments at St Paul’s CofE Primary School

At St Paul’s, teachers used to use “Key Performance Indicator” tick-sheets in every child’s book, that they would mark every time a student met an objective. Each term, this handwritten data was inputted into Target Tracker, which the Headteacher, Anthony David, would then export into Excel for analysis. This resulted in a high paper burden, and if a child lost their book, a lot of data would disappear along with it. It became difficult to keep track. Since moving to Arbor, St Paul’s have been using our Curriculum Tracker to track children’s KPIs. This feeds straight through into our Summative Tracker, so that rather than manually inputting it, teachers can see pupil progress analysis automatically. They then use this data to create automatic intervention groups for children who are struggling.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how Arbor could transform the way your school operates, get in touch! You can request a free demo and a chat with your local Partnership Manager anytime through the contact form on our website, or by emailing tellmemore@arbor-education.com or calling 0208 050 1028.

Hannah McGreevy - 18 October, 2019

Category : Blog

KS1 & KS2 data for your MAT is now available in Group Insight!

We’re excited to let you know that all your KS1, KS2 and Phonics Analyse School Performance (ASP) data has been added to your Group Insight portal. We’ve crunched your schools’ 2019 data ahead of the DfE and used it to build free, interactive dashboards which you can use to explore aggregated statistics for all your

We’re excited to let you know that all your KS1, KS2 and Phonics Analyse School Performance (ASP) data has been added to your Group Insight portal. We’ve crunched your schools’ 2019 data ahead of the DfE and used it to build free, interactive dashboards which you can use to explore aggregated statistics for all your schools. Keep reading to find out more about Group Insight and how you can use it to plan your MAT’s improvement approach for next year. 

What is Group Insight? 

Group Insight is a free performance analysis tool for MATs to help you analyse your schools’ latest Analyse School Performance (ASP) data. We automatically analyse your MAT’s latest school performance data and present it back to you in easy-to-understand PDF reports and personalised dashboards, so you don’t have to spend hours aggregating and analysing the raw data yourself. 

Fig 1.: A screenshot of a Group Insight dashboard displaying KS2 data across a MAT

 

How do you present my schools’ KS1 & KS2 data? 

Your dashboards are great for helping you spot trends over the past three years, identifying which schools are driving over (or under) performance, and benchmarking your academies against national and top quintile averages. You can also use them to view each of your schools’ outcomes side by side, drill down into individual school outcomes and show impact over time when reporting to trustees.

Fig 2.: A screenshot of a Group Insight comparing a MATs school results by cluster 

 

We’ve also updated our popular pre-paid PDF reports analysing your schools’ attainment and progress, highlighting areas to close the gap, and exploring patterns between your trust’s outcomes and the context of your unique demographic intake in our new Understanding Your School Report, which you can download via your portal. 

 

Click here to log in & access your 2019 reports and dashboards: https://login.arbor.sc 

 

Fig 3.: A screenshot of a Group Insight comparing a MATs results by demographic 

 

“Clear, saves us time, available sooner than DfE MAT data, and is extremely well presented, making reporting to Trustees very straight forward” 

– Paul James, Chief Executive Officer at River Learning Trust 

 

How do I sign up?

Click here to sign up to your MAT’s free Arbor Insight portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/group-register

When will you add KS4 data to my portal?

We expect to receive your 2018/2019 KS4 data from the DfE very soon – so watch this space! If you’re already signed up, we’ll email you automatically to let you know when this happens.

Do you offer training on how my schools can use their Arbor Insight portal?

Yes! We run a free Arbor Insight Roadshow each Autumn Term offering free, in-person training to help your schools’ central teams to get the most out of Arbor Insight. Click here to sign up

Where can I hear more about Group Insight? 

You can hear our CRO, Phillippa De’Ath, talk about how you can use your ASP data to drive school improvement across your MAT at the Schools & Academies Show in Birmingham. She’ll be speaking in the Business & Finance Theatre from 10:10-10:30 on 14th November 2019. 

Can I use Group Insight alongside the DfE’s ASP service?

Yes! Arbor is an accredited supplier of ASP data, which means we receive secure, early access to all your school performance data from the DfE as soon as it’s released. So far over 10,000 schools have signed up to use us. Lots of schools and MATs use us instead of the DfE’s ASP service, but you can also use our reports and dashboards as a companion to the DfE’s analysis.

You haven’t answered my questions! Can I contact you for help?

Absolutely. You can reach the Arbor team at tellmemore@arbor-education.com or by calling us on 020 8050 1028.

 

This November, we’re also holding another of our popular MAT Conferences in Manchester. Over 80 MAT leaders from over 50 MATs have already signed up! Click here to book your free place before they sell out

Cosima Baring - 13 October, 2019

Category : Blog

Next Arbor MAT Conference announced

Following three sold out conferences in London and Manchester last year – attended by over 200 MAT leaders representing 157 trusts – we’re very excited to announce that the fourth conference in our popular series will take place on Friday 8th November in Manchester!   Fig 1.: The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, where our fourth conference

Following three sold out conferences in London and Manchester last year – attended by over 200 MAT leaders representing 157 trusts – we’re very excited to announce that the fourth conference in our popular series will take place on Friday 8th November in Manchester!

 

Fig 1.: The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, where our fourth conference will be held 

 

Our fourth conference will bring together MAT CEOs, COOs, and CFOs at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall to discuss different strategies for scaling sustainably. Our speakers will share practical advice (based on their own experiences as CEOs) on how best to scale central team processes, governance, reporting, culture and more – to help you plan for the growth of your own trust. 

 

We currently have 6 speakers confirmed, with more to be announced soon:

 

Speaker 1: Lauren Thorpe

Job title: Head of Data & Systems Strategy at Ark

MAT: Ark Schools 

 

  • Lauren has spent almost a decade working in schools and is the Head of Data & Systems Strategy at Ark. Prior to joining Ark, Lauren was most recently the Principal of a secondary free school in central London. 
  • Before this, Lauren was the Research and Corporate Partnership Director of Reform, a Westminster think tank, where she led on research and policy ideas covering the education sector, business environment and infrastructure. 
  • Lauren holds a master’s degree in ‘ICT in Education’ from UCL’s Institute of Education, and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Durham.
  • On top of her responsibilities at Ark, she also sits on a number of advisory boards for organisations supporting technology and innovation, and was a member of the DfE Workload Advisory Group that published the report, ‘Making Data Work’.

 

Lauren will speak about: How Ark manages the spread of data managers across its schools

 

Speaker 2: Ian Hunt

Job title: Director of Education Standards & Effectiveness

MAT: St Barts Multi Academy Trust

 

  • Ian is the Director of School Effectiveness for the St. Bart’s Academy Trust. Ian has an MBA in Education Management and has worked in Education for over 26 years in 6 different schools, encompassing international, inner city and leafy borough environments. 
  • As well as his current position at St. Bart’s, Ian is also Deputy Director of BTSA, leading on School to School Support.
  • Ian has been an executive, substantive and acting headteacher in four different schools and has taught pupils from ages 3 through to 13. He has recently qualified as a Pupil Premium Reviewer, and is also a member of the St. Bart’s Academy Trust Executive Management Board.
  • In his spare time, Ian is a Derby County season ticket holder and a keen diver. He is married with one son and lives in Derbyshire.

 

Ian will speak about: Scaling reporting to a MAT board

 

Speaker 3: Richard Sherrif

Job title: CEO

MAT: Red Kite Learning Trust

 

  • Richard started his teaching career in Leicester before moving to Leeds as a Head of Department. Having worked as a Deputy Headteacher in a Bradford school he took up his first Headship in Leeds in 2001, before joining Harrogate Grammar School as Headteacher in 2006. Richard is a National Leader of Education and until recently an Ofsted inspector. He is now CEO of Red Kite Learning Trust. 

 

Richard will speak about: Communicating change to your schools

 

Speaker 4: Tom Banham

Job title: CEO

MAT: Hoyland Common Academy Trust

 

  • Tom is an experienced NLE and provides school-to-school support to schools in a variety of different contexts. He is a lead facilitator on the NPQH Programme and is the Chair of the South Yorkshire Teaching School Hub and represents South Yorkshire Teaching Schools at the EMSYH Regional Summit and Local Area SRIB. 
  • Alongside this he is also a member of the Barnsley Alliance Board that facilitates the strategic sector led school improvement of Barnsley Schools. He also is a representative of the Barnsley Formula Funding review Group for the Local Authority. 
  • This network of support enables him to access an array of specialist knowledge and expertise from a diverse pool of system leaders ranging from NLES, LLES, Consultant Heads, SLES and other field experts across the whole of the Education Sector and beyond.

 

Tom will speak about: How to make sure each of your schools remain sensitive to their local context

 

Speaker 5: Debbie Clinton

Job title: CEO

MAT: Academies Transformation Trust

 

  • Debbie is the CEO of the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT). Prior to this, she was the Deputy CEO and Acting CEO at the Diverse Academies Learning Partnership (DALP), based in the East Midlands.
  • Debbie is a former HMI and Principal of Nunthorpe Academy in Middlesbrough – a high performing 11-19 converter academy judged outstanding by Ofsted in all S5 aspects. 
  • She’s been a qualified teacher for over 31 years, working in a range of schools and organisations across a number of local authorities.  She has wide regional and national experience in leadership development and school to school improvement, and has supported national projects and conferences for the DfE, the Institute of Education (London) and Roehampton.
  • Finally, Debbie is a former recent board member of FASNA – the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association. In this capacity, she has worked with DfE teams in various guises including developing National Funding Formula and SEN/High Needs Funding for schools.

 

Debbie will speak about: TBC

 

We’ll be confirming our final 3 speakers and the topics of their presentations soon! In addition to our main speakers, there will also be an open roundtable discussion between MAT COOs, free breakfast & lunch, and plenty of networking breaks during which we’ll match you up with similar sized MATs to help you learn from each other and exchange best practice.

 

Click here to sign up for your free place for you and a member of your SLT: scaling-your-mat-sustainably-19.eventbrite.com

 

Hope to see you there! 

 

Want to move your schools to a cloud-based MIS? Click here to learn more about how Arbor’s Group MIS could help to transform the way you work with your schools

 

Rebecca Watkins - 10 October, 2019

Category : Blog

KS1 & Phonics data released on Arbor Insight!

We’re very pleased to announce that we have now updated your Arbor Insight reports and dashboards with your 2019 KS1 & Phonics data!  As an accredited supplier of ASP data, you can get early access to your school’s performance data in your free Arbor Insight portal, where we have done the work for you in

We’re very pleased to announce that we have now updated your Arbor Insight reports and dashboards with your 2019 KS1 & Phonics data! 

As an accredited supplier of ASP data, you can get early access to your school’s performance data in your free Arbor Insight portal, where we have done the work for you in analysing your performance data! Now you can view your Phonics, KS1 and KS2 (including disadvantaged) data in your Arbor Insight portal.

We’ve used your data to build free interactive dashboards and 7 premium performance reports, which show your attainment & progress over time, identify gaps between different student groups and explain your performance in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. Over 10,000 schools are now using Arbor Insight to benchmark their performance, so if you’re thinking of signing up, you’ll be in good company!

Just sign up here to your free portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register

Or if you already have an account, log in here: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login

You will find your latest KS1 data in our popular premium reports:

Fig 1.: Screenshots of Arbor’s popular premium reports

NEW Understanding Your School report

Our new report is designed to help you analyse your outcomes in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. It benchmarks you against similar schools, the top quintile & the national average, and helps you explore patterns between the socio-economic makeup of your local area, deprivation and attainment. Use this report to help inform your school improvement strategy. 

Closing the Gap Reports x5

Focus on:

  • SEN
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Disadvantaged
  • Prior Attainment

The Gap reports are a set of 5 reports showing attainment & attendance gaps between different student groups at your school. The government wants schools to focus, not only on overall attainment, but on narrowing these achievement gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils. There does not appear to be a direct relationship between increased school funding and increased pupil attainment – what matters most is how schools can effectively and efficiently use the resources they have (both financial and human) for maximum impact. You first need to see where these gaps appear in your school in order to focus your attention and resources – and these reports do the job for you!

Attainment & Progress Report

The Attainment & Progress reports analyse the attainment and progress of different demographic groups at your school. Use them to help identify where you could be making more progress. We benchmark each subject against the performance of all other subjects combined and against the national average of each subject and all other subjects combined. 

You will also find your KS1 & Phonics data in your FREE performance dashboards -find them on the left hand side of your portal and start analysing your performance data now! 

Don’t forget, you’re invited to free Insight Training sessions this Autumn! Learn how you can use your Arbor Insight reports and dashboards to dig deeper into the trends behind your benchmarking data, understand how to determine whether your results are typical, quickly identify your school’s strengths & weaknesses and take part in workshops about how you can write specific, measurable objectives for your School Improvement Plan. 

Spaces are limited, so click here to reserve your free spot at a training session near you!

Get in touch if you have any questions or would like help signing up, using your dashboards, purchasing reports or anything else! We’re always here to help. Just email insight@arbor-education.com or call us on 0207 043 1830.

Arbor Insight is a free tool we offer alongside our simple, smart, cloud-based MIS. If you’re interested in learning more about how our MIS could help to transform the way you work, book a free demo here or call our MIS Demo Team on 0208 050 1028. 

Beth Mokrini - 25 September, 2019

Category : Blog

3 Reasons SIMS Support Units are teaming up with Arbor

This blog was written by Beth Mokrini, Partner Manager at Arbor Education. Click here to discover Beth’s Top 10 must-have cloud systems for your school.    Two years ago, my job didn’t exist.  That’s because two years ago, most schools used on-premise SIMS as their Management Information System, supported by a local IT support desk known

This blog was written by Beth Mokrini, Partner Manager at Arbor Education. Click here to discover Beth’s Top 10 must-have cloud systems for your school. 

 

Two years ago, my job didn’t exist. 

That’s because two years ago, most schools used on-premise SIMS as their Management Information System, supported by a local IT support desk known as a SIMS Support Unit (SSU). Meanwhile, the growing number of schools using Arbor MIS came to us directly for support and training. Although we sometimes collaborated to help a school switch, in general, there wasn’t much opportunity for SSUs to team up with Arbor. 

Fast forward to September 2019, and Arbor is now closely partnered with 19 SSUs of various shapes and sizes, based everywhere from Oldham to Cornwall. I have the exciting full-time job of managing Arbor’s partner program, which means leading on the development of new partnerships, helping SSUs earn their Arbor accreditation, and spreading the word to schools!

 

Image 1: A collection of just some of Arbor’s partners 

 

We’re not the only ones making moves in this direction – most cloud based MIS providers now offer a partner program, though the costs and benefits vary widely. Like us, they’re responding to demand from support units who’ve been working with SIMS for decades, but who are now keen to diversify. Everyone is adapting to the new reality of the school MIS market: SIMS has lost 7% market share since 2016, while alternative MIS vendors have picked up over 5000 schools and continue to grow.

 

Image 2: A graph showing how school cloud MIS usage is increasing over time

 

Schools now have a wider choice of MIS provider and (quite rightly) they want a wider choice of support options too. Many SSUs are taking the opportunity to form new partnerships, develop new skills and ride the wave of schools moving to the cloud (rather than being swept away!). 

We asked our three biggest support partners what they thought was behind this significant shift, and they gave three key reasons: 

 

1.  “We’re listening to our schools.”

A quarter of all primary schools and 1 in 14 secondaries have now moved to a cloud-based MIS. The pace of switching is accelerating year on year, as more schools realise the benefits of a cloud-based MIS in terms of saving time, reducing costs and enabling more flexible working. 

Just because schools want to switch MIS, doesn’t mean they want to switch their support too. Many SSUs have been working with their schools for 15+ years and they’ve built up a strong relationship, which neither party wants to lose. But the challenge that’s emerging for schools is that when their support provider only works with Capita SIMS, moving to the cloud means they’ve no choice but to leave them behind. 

This may put some off switching MIS for a year or two – but eventually the benefits of the cloud become too hard to ignore. This is especially true for MATs, who are faced with the challenge of aggregating and analysing data from multiple schools on a regular basis. Too often with on-premise SIMS, this means physically driving from school to school to download reports, then manually combining them in excel. For academy trusts, moving to a cloud MIS puts data at their fingertips so they can concentrate on improving outcomes for students. In fact, over half of the largest MATs have already moved to a cloud based MIS, according to a recent blog on MIS market stats by the director of the analytics platform Assembly Education. 

School leaders too, previously cautious about leaving SIMS, are now more likely than ever to know another school that’s already done it. As the school market dares to become excited about the alternatives to SIMS, SSUs are listening and welcoming partnerships with  cloud-based MIS providers. 

 

2. “We don’t know when ‘SIMS8’ will be ready.” 

We posted a year ago about the delays to Capita’s new cloud based product ‘SIMS8’, and not much has changed since then. It’s still live in fewer than 50 schools, only suitable for primaries and behind in the development of complex areas like reporting and integrations. 

Meanwhile, there’s no sign of schools & MATs waiting around for Capita to release their cloud-based offering. Around 1,200 schools are thought to have switched MIS in the last academic year, including many Local Authority maintained schools. Although academies have so far been switching from SIMS in greater numbers, maintained schools are increasingly challenging the assumption that they should all use Capita software – especially when doing so prevents them from taking advantage of user-friendly, cost effective systems.  

Unfortunately, until SIMS can meet schools’ demand for a smarter, cloud-based MIS, neither can SIMS Support Units. That’s why, to fill the gap left by SIMS8, many SSUs have differentiated their provision and developed partnerships with existing cloud MIS providers instead. This in turn is stoking up a measure of healthy competition between the leading cloud-based MIS providers, all of whom want to be chosen as the SSU’s preferred alternative to SIMS.

 

3. “Arbor is the leading alternative to SIMS.”

Arbor is now the 4th biggest MIS provider in England by school numbers, having grown by over 100% this academic year. We cater to all phases – primaries, secondaries, special schools and MATs. Of all the schools who left SIMS in the last year, more switched to Arbor than to any other provider. 

We’ve also invested in our partner program to make sure we’re not only the leading alternative for schools, but for SSUs too. Our Partner program is completely free – there’s no cost for training & support, no fee for our accreditation test and no annual charge to remain on the program. We believe schools should have the widest possible choice of support as well as MIS, so we’ve removed the barriers to becoming an Arbor partner.

We also offer a referral scheme, so instead of losing money when a school moves to the cloud, Arbor support partners receive a bonus! This has helped the SSUs we work with to see their partnership with Arbor as a growth opportunity, rather than simply a way of minimising disruption to their business. Schools can switch to the MIS of their choice without losing their trusted local support provider, and SSUs can continue to provide outstanding support, but now to a wider customer base. 

It’s fair to say a lot has changed in the last two years at Arbor (and not just in my job). We look forward to seeing what the next two will bring! 

 

If you’re a SIMS Support Unit and interested in becoming a partner, I’d love to have a chat – please email me to set up a phone call.

If you’re a school and would like to know more about our MIS or our support partners, contact us today. 

For a list of our current support partners, click here

Hannah McGreevy - 23 September, 2019

Category : Blog

The Understanding Your School Report is here!

As I’m sure you’ve read, the new Ofsted Inspection Framework has now come into effect. Central to the new framework is the idea that there isn’t a “correct” way for schools to do things – whereas the old framework encouraged inspectors to look at your school’s results and use data for accountability purposes, the new

As I’m sure you’ve read, the new Ofsted Inspection Framework has now come into effect. Central to the new framework is the idea that there isn’t a “correct” way for schools to do things – whereas the old framework encouraged inspectors to look at your school’s results and use data for accountability purposes, the new one focuses on the context of your school and the ways in which this has shaped your curriculum and the “quality of education” available (you can see a summary of the other changes in our blog here).

After reviewing the new framework with our partner LKMCo, we decided that we wanted to help schools make the most of this less prescriptive approach from Ofsted. So we’re excited to announce that we’ve upgraded and enhanced our old Ofsted Readiness Report, converting it into a report which is focused on helping schools to plan around and respond to their specific context, rather than on whether things are being done in a particular way. The old name didn’t make much sense any more, so we’ve renamed it the Understanding Your School Report

The Understanding Your School Report combines your latest DfE performance data (ASP) with ONS area classifications, families of schools, and top quintile benchmarks to give you the most complete picture of your outcomes in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. Our aim is to bring a range of data sources together to give you a balanced and nuanced picture of your school to help inform your school improvement approach. We’ve summarised some of the new report’s features below.

 

What can I do with the new Understanding Your School Report? 

The main data source in the report is still Analyse School Performance (ASP). Whilst ASP is helpful for getting a basic overview of your performance, it’s often hard to use, so we wanted our new report to be a useful companion to the DfE’s service as well as a helpful tool in its own right:

 

1. Understand your school’s performance & outcomes in the context of its demographics

Exam results can be disproportionately affected by social and geographical context, but it’s time-consuming to bring these data sets together. Services like ASP don’t show any contextual data alongside your performance out-of-the-box. 

To help you see how the area your school is in has impacted outcomes, the Understanding Your School Report features our new Area Type Comparison graph, which uniquely brings ONS area classification data together with your ASP attainment data for the first time. The ONS has classified every LA in the country into 8 “supergroups” which share characteristics, based on socio-economic and demographic data from the national census. Our graph explains which supergroup (or area type) your school is in, and shows how your performance compares to schools in areas with similar socio-economic characteristics, helping you to examine patterns between your student intake and attainment.

Image 1: A screenshot of the Area Type Comparison graph from Arbor’s Understanding Your School Report 

 

2. Get meaningful benchmarks beyond just comparing to the national average

ASP only benchmarks your school against the national average. Whilst this is helpful, the national average isn’t always the most meaningful benchmark (for example, as a small rural primary school you might feel it’s not relevant to compare yourself to large primary schools based in a city because their intake will be so different). The Understanding Your School Report still shows how you’ve performed compared to the national average, but it also introduces 2 new benchmarks as well.

Our new schools “Like You” benchmark uses EEF “Families of Schools” methodology to compare your performance to similar schools based on four factors:

  • Prior Attainment
  • % FSM
  • % EAL
  • IDACI

This benchmark helps you to compare your performance with other schools with similar pupil characteristics, in similar contexts. 

The Understanding Your School also gives you a “Top Quintile” benchmark, which compares you to the top 20% of schools for each measure – this provides your school with a useful stretch target to work towards. 

Image 2: A screenshot showing the different benchmarks available in The Understanding Your School Report 

 

3. Understand how consistent your performance has been over time

It can be hard to visualise progress over time using the tables and bar charts provided in ASP. Our new Understanding Your School Report helps you see how your performance has changed over time by presenting Trend over Time line graphs, and showing 3 year rolling averages next to key headline figures. This gives you a broader picture of your performance, meaning you can quickly spot any inconsistencies and identify anomalies (for example, is this cohort’s performance consistent with your school, or is it atypical? If so, why?).

Image 3: A screenshot of the Trend over Time line graph in The Understanding Your School Report 

 

4. Easily visualise gaps and work out where to target interventions

Whilst ASP breaks down your performance by pupil characteristics, it does this in tables – which means it can be time consuming to spot gaps, making it very hard to tell at a glance how well different groups are performing. 

The Understanding Your School Report has a dedicated Closing the Gap section which helps you to benchmark different school groups such as SEN or Pupil Premium against each other. We express gaps as numbers of pupils rather than % to help make your SIP more meaningful.  

Meanwhile, the new Curriculum Summary section for secondary schools helps leaders see how different student groups have chosen to take exams, so that they can identify whether there are issues with access to different areas of learning between groups of pupils. 

 

5. View meaningful analysis of your data presented in easy-to-understand charts 

With its clear, visual designs, simple bar charts and callouts in plain English, the Understanding Your School Report does all your performance analysis for you. Instantly see headline measures on the Key Findings page, as well as key areas to work on. This means you can get on with using your data to drive school improvement instead of wading through tables in ASP.

Image 4: A screenshot of the Key Findings page in The Understanding Your School Report 

 

We hope that the Understanding Your School Report becomes an essential part of your school improvement cycle. If you’re interested in hearing more about the report, as well as about what our other Insight reports can do for you, why not come along to one of our free Insight Training Sessions this Autumn? 

 

Sign up to Arbor Insight here to purchase your own Understanding Your School Report, and to view other popular reports that we offer. For more information about Arbor Insight, email insight@arbor-education.com or call 02070431830.

Daniel Giardiello - 21 September, 2019

Category : Blog

How Arbor can help you to proactively identify and help students at risk of exclusion

In May, the DfE published the findings from the much anticipated Timpson Review, which recommends that schools be supported to reduce the number of exclusions they make by focussing in on early intervention and quality Alternative Provision. In this blog, I will explore the implications of this on schools and discuss how Arbor MIS can

In May, the DfE published the findings from the much anticipated Timpson Review, which recommends that schools be supported to reduce the number of exclusions they make by focussing in on early intervention and quality Alternative Provision. In this blog, I will explore the implications of this on schools and discuss how Arbor MIS can help schools to use data to intervene proactively with students and better understand their holistic needs, before they reach the point of being an exclusion risk.

 

Are current intervention strategies timely enough?

Prior to working with Arbor, my 13 years as a teacher and senior leader were spent both in Mainstream Secondary and in Specialist Education for Behaviourally Challenging students, so I have seen both the before and after stories of mainstream exclusions. 

When a child comes into a full time AP or SEMH school, it’s often the case that they have been excluded, not just once but many times, and are trapped in an ongoing, negative spiral of:

Image 1: A diagram showing a child’s negative behaviour cycle 

Trying to re-instill a sense of self-worth and value for learning into individuals who seem almost broken by this experience is very difficult at the post-exclusion stage. We succeeded with many, but not with all. 

For those with whom we didn’t, I often wonder… Could it have been a different story if during their more formative stages in education, greater focus had been placed on developing their necessary dispositions for learning, rather than hammering home a nearly entirely academic curriculum? For students who are more resilient and better at regulating their emotions , this is ok; but for those who aren’t, early subjection to repeat experiences of failure will trigger innate safety behaviours such as escape and avoidance, which in the classroom context will display as refusal to work and disruption to lessons.

This opens up a broader debate about the appropriateness of the curriculum we deliver and whether we are assessing the right things for these individuals – something I discussed in my previous blog which focussed on SEN Assessment. Whilst there will never be a silver bullet answer to the “what to do?” question for all children (this will differ depending on context), my overriding feeling regarding “when to do it?” is that, in nearly all cases, it could have been earlier in the story and not at the point where behaviour had already become unmanageable. But how do we know when is best to take a different approach? That’s where the effective use of data comes in! 

 

Data driven intervention

During my time in schools, I have seen and implemented a fair share of behavioural initiatives and policies, some of which were successful and others less so, but in every instance their success was dependent on the quality of information that fed into them. Data-wise, the two most important questions to ask are:

  • Is the data gathered in a timely enough way for the actions it informs to actually have an impact?
  • Is the data telling us something we don’t already know?

Unfortunately, the answer to these questions isn’t always “yes”. In many schools, it’s hard to act on data in a timely way, as there’s usually a heavy reliance on the manual collation and analysis of it in order to find meaning. Therefore, intervention is often carried out at the point where behaviour is so severe or prevalent that you don’t even need data to tell you there’s something to do. So, you become a reactive culture. 

Negative behaviour doesn’t occur in isolation; it’s often linked to other factors, such as home-life, literacy, attendance and pastoral issues. But due to the siloed nature of data in schools (as illustrated in the systems diagram below) it is also difficult to combine different measures into simple, quick analysis, or to easily know what’s been going on with a child. 

Image 2: A diagram showing the siloed nature of data in schools  

Arbor MIS makes it easy to input and analyse all your core data in one system. With all student data brought together on simple profile pages, it’s easy for staff to get the holistic overview of a student that’s needed in order to plan more specifically for their needs. This is something that’s crucial to Liam Dowling, and the staff of Hinderton School, an Outstanding Cheshire SEN school who specialise in supporting students with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) and social communication difficulties from a young age. 

Image 3: A diagram showing the way school data can be brought together  

Hinderton’s short inspection letter from June 2017 praised the school on the interconnectedness of it’s systems, meaning that all stakeholders have easy access to the data they need:

“Your online systems, which work seamlessly together, make sure that senior leaders, staff and parents all have the information they need at their fingertips. As a result, you have streamlined and improved all aspects of information relating to pupils.”

Hinderton’s short inspection letter – OFSTED June 2017

Hinderton are one of nearly 800 schools who benefit from Arbor MIS’ ability to:

Give staff easy access to the full story of a child to enable better understanding of needs

Image 4: A demonstration of how Arbor MIS gives you the full story of a child

With appropriate permissions, all information ranging from communications with parents, attendance, behaviour and SEN history is visible in one place. Understanding what has gone on with a disaffected child is crucial to knowing how best to work with them and Arbor makes finding this information as easy as possible.

 

Automate behaviour action and analysis

Image 5: A demonstration of how you can automate behaviour action in Arbor MIS

Arbor’s automatic workflows within the behaviour module ensure that students who exhibit persistent low level behaviour across multiple lessons are always identified and action is taken without an administrative burden to staff. This helps schools to ensure that negative behaviour is appropriately challenged in all instances and isn’t allowed to snowball to the point of being unmanageable. 

 

Link Interventions to Data

Image 6: A demonstration of how you can plan interventions with Arbor MIS

Arbor allows you to create interventions with Participant and Outcome criteria that pull data in from anywhere in the MIS. Therefore, students could be recommended for a Behaviour for Learning intervention following a slight change in behavioural patterns at an earlier point in time than when it becomes prevalent and significantly disruptive to others.

 

Customise Assessment frameworks to target specific needs

Image 7: An example of how to customise assessment frameworks in Arbor MIS

The Springwell Special Academy are an Outstanding SEMH school who make full use of Arbor’s flexible Assessment system to host specific frameworks that fit their students’ needs. This enables them to focus on social and emotional development, resilience and student wellbeing as well as tracking academic progress. The image above shows the input page of a framework they have developed called the SEMH tracker. 

In conclusion, the Timpson review has brought about a greater emphasis on schools to develop strategies to help students whom they may otherwise exclude. The four tools above are just a few examples of how Arbor could help schools in collecting more specifically focussed data to use in a more timely and targeted way in order to help improve the holistic outcomes of these vulnerable students. We recognise that the challenge isn’t easy and the “what to do” expertise lies with the people who know the students best – a piece of software isn’t going to be the solution but could play a significant part in the data strategy that drives the change! 

 

If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your school uses interventions, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

 

 

Cosima Baring - 19 September, 2019

Category : Blog

Why have 5,000+ schools moved their MIS to the cloud?

Last year, over 1,000 schools moved their MIS to the cloud –  the highest number of schools ever to have moved in the space of a year! That means 1 in 4 schools have now left SIMS in favour of easier-to-use cloud-based systems like Arbor. We’re really excited that more and more schools are realising

Last year, over 1,000 schools moved their MIS to the cloud –  the highest number of schools ever to have moved in the space of a year! That means 1 in 4 schools have now left SIMS in favour of easier-to-use cloud-based systems like Arbor. We’re really excited that more and more schools are realising the benefits of the cloud; after all, we’ve been talking about it since we were first founded!

We’ve spoken to lots of Headteachers and SLT recently who want to move MIS, but who are nervous about the pain of switching out-weighing the gain of a new system. With that in mind, we’ve to put together a helpful guide on moving your MIS to the cloud (scroll to the bottom of this page to read), which we’ve written based on our experience of helping over 800 schools make the switch. 

We’ve answered some of the most common questions we get asked, including how secure the cloud really is, how much it costs, and how cloud-based systems differ to SIMS. You’ll also find some first-hand switching stories from schools & MATs who use Arbor – we hope it helps make switching MIS seem a little less stressful than it might feel right now.

Moving their MIS to the cloud hasn’t just helped the 600 primary schools, 77 secondary schools and 101 special schools using Arbor save time and money – it’s also helped them transform the way they run their school. Arbor MIS acts as the central system at your school to help you get work done, replacing any clunky, third-party apps that don’t speak to each other. Teachers and SLT can now follow up with absent students, write report cards and prepare for census in just a few clicks – meaning they no longer have to switch between paper, spreadsheets and different systems to get the information they need about their students! 

If you’re planning your own move to the cloud, have a read of our guide on Moving to the Cloud by clicking on the link below: 

Why have 5,000+ schools moved to a cloud-based MIS? ~ powered by Arbor

Hope you find it helpful!

If you’d like to learn more about how Arbor could help you transform the way your school operates, get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education, or give us a quick call on 020 8 050 1028

Chris Taylor - 17 September, 2019

Category : Blog

Education and modern technology: is a change of attitude needed?

Being born in the early 90’s and receiving my first computer as a gift in December of 1999 turned out to be not only a brilliant idea (thanks mum & dad!), but for many reasons, also quite profound in the way that this beige PC tower ended up shaping not just my life, but also

Being born in the early 90’s and receiving my first computer as a gift in December of 1999 turned out to be not only a brilliant idea (thanks mum & dad!), but for many reasons, also quite profound in the way that this beige PC tower ended up shaping not just my life, but also the lives of an entire generation. 

It’s almost impossible to imagine today’s world without the advent of the technology that has shaped our lives so dramatically. Even as a young boy, while I would spend countless hours playing around with this marvellous box of tricks (Windows 98 seems so archaic by today’s standards), I was amazed by what it could do and saw no limit to what was possible. 

Suddenly, I could (willingly) do my homework on-screen and at the press of a button it would be spat out by the enormous printer to the left of the big-back monitor. I’m sure you can imagine my utter delight when I figured out how to access the internet through dial-up (and my hopeless despair when I’d spent 10 minutes trying to download an image, only for the phone to ring half way through and kill my connection). 

Picture 1: A comparison of a computer from 1984 and a computer from 2019

Fast forward 20 years and I still find myself astounded with all the technological advancements of the modern world. My smartphone can do everything and more that my first computer could and all the time we’re finding new and clever ways to apply all of this technology to a variety of different situations, problems and sectors to make our lives easier.

However, this isn’t always the case. When I think about how we use technology to supplement educational outcomes and improve the effectiveness of our schools in general, I have mixed feelings. In some cases schools are embracing tech with great results (putting iPads in the classroom being an example) but in other areas, schools are being left behind. 

 

The (not so) looming crisis

In 2019, schools are under scrutiny and pressure like never before. The education system is ever evolving and adapting to address its own challenges whilst trying to find new ways to teach the next generation so they’re set up for life in an ever more competitive and challenging world. Despite this, it’s failing to adequately address an ever progressing crisis: teachers leaving the profession at an unprecedented rate.

Among others, one of the most commonly cited reasons for the staffing crisis in the UK is the increasing demand and workload placed upon school staff as a whole, not just teachers. When I meet with school leaders in the North of England this is a question which is raised almost every single time – ‘how can I improve the efficiency and outcomes of my school whilst also reducing my staff’s workload?’ and my answer is always the same: try to see technology as an assistant and a driver for positive change and not a means to an end. It should help, not hinder you. 

In most elements of our lives we embrace the latest and greatest in tech and no longer do we settle for the sub-standard; take mobile phones as an example. On average, most people change their smartphone every 2-3 years and sometimes even more frequently. If the device doesn’t do what we want or expect it to, or even if we just find it a bit difficult to use, what do we do? We replace it without hesitation and try another brand entirely. 

I really like this attitude to tech; it serves to ensure that vendors are always striving to find new and innovative ways to make our lives easier, always one step ahead of us and improving on things that we never even thought were a problem, until we’re handed the solution. Of course, we know what happens when they don’t move with the times. More so, it stops vendors becoming complacent. 

Having seen the internals of education and technology for myself, I firmly believe schools should think of their systems like most of us do a mobile phone; a really useful tool to help us out on a day to day basis, but something we can easily swap and move away from if it no longer serves its purpose. It’s for this reason that we encourage schools we meet with to do a systems audit, which helps determine if the technology they’re paying for has become outdated or no longer fits with the day-to-day running of the school.

Picture 2: An example of mobile phones from the 1980s and a mobile phone in 2019

In a school, the MIS is one of the key pieces of tech which has the capacity to vastly reduce staff workload, increase the efficiency of the school and improve pupil outcomes at large. Despite this, many schools across the country are still using clunky, out-of-date systems that are time consuming and difficult to use, yet some appear to accept this because they’re perhaps unaware just how much of a difference a modern MIS could make to their work, and their school as a whole.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who’s not happy with the technology that’s supposed to assist them and make their life easier, it would be to explore alternatives and try and find a system that fits the ethos of your school, and that enhances the livelihoods of its staff and the outcomes of its pupils. 

Sometimes, we’re unaware that there are better ways to do things until we’re presented with a new idea. Try to look for a solution to your problems in a proactive manner – technology is there to help you and when it no longer does, it effectively becomes surplus to requirements. 

If you’re unhappy with your MIS and school systems in general, it could be that they’re no longer fit for purpose and you should start exploring alternatives. It’s your duty to ensure your school has the best outcomes and your staff are as happy as they can be.

Remember, a change of attitude is all that’s necessary. 

 

 

 

 

Hannah McGreevy - 15 September, 2019

Category : Blog

2019 KS2 Data is now available in Arbor Insight!

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just added 2019 KS2 data to Arbor Insight. We’ve crunched your data ahead of the DfE to give you a head start analysing your latest SATs results, making Arbor one of the first places you can see your latest data! We’ve been busy updating your dashboards, readying your reports

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just added 2019 KS2 data to Arbor Insight. We’ve crunched your data ahead of the DfE to give you a head start analysing your latest SATs results, making Arbor one of the first places you can see your latest data!

We’ve been busy updating your dashboards, readying your reports (and even adding a whole new report!) to analyse your performance data for you so you can get on with using it to plan your school improvement approach. Keep reading to find out more about Arbor Insight, what’s changed and how our reports can help.

What is Arbor Insight? 

Arbor Insight is a free performance analysis tool for schools & MATs to help you analyse your latest Analyse School Performance (ASP) and finance data. We automatically analyse your latest school performance data and present it back to you in easy-to-understand PDF reports and interactive dashboards, so you don’t have to spend hours analysing the raw data yourself. It’s free to sign up for your school’s interactive dashboards and portal, and we charge a small amount for our premium, in-depth reports (as they take a bit more work to build).

Can I use Arbor Insight alongside the DfE’s ASP service?

Yes! Arbor is an accredited supplier of ASP data, which means we receive secure, early access to all your school performance data from the DfE as soon as it’s released. So far over 10,000 schools have signed up to use us. Lots of schools use us instead of the DfE’s ASP service, but you can also use our reports and dashboards as a companion to the DfE’s analysis.

How do you present my KS2 data? 

Your school’s Arbor Insight portal contains free interactive dashboards benchmarking your performance against the national average, as well as against schools “Like You” and “Top Quintile” schools. Click on any measure to drill down and see which demographic groups are driving over or underperformance.

 

Image 1: A screenshot of one of Arbor’s free interactive dashboards

 

You can also dig deeper into your KS2 data with our popular paid-for PDF reports:

  • Attainment & Progress Report: Analyse the attainment and progress of different demographic groups at your school over the last 3 years. Use this report to identify where you could be making more progress
  • Gap Reports: See the gaps between different student groups across attendance and attainment. Get individual reports on Prior Attainment, Ethnicity, Disadvantage, Gender and SEN. Use them to identify which areas in your school to focus on and why

What’s the new report you mentioned?

This year we’ve released our brand new Understanding Your School Report, which helps you understand your performance in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. See your performance benchmarked against similar, top 20% & national averages, and explore patterns between the socio-economic makeup of your local area, deprivation and attainment.

Image 2: A screenshot of Arbor’s new Understanding Your School Report

 

How do I sign up?

Click here to sign up to your school’s free Arbor Insight portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register 

When will you add KS1 & KS4 data to my portal?

We expect to receive your 2018/2019 KS1 data in October and your KS4 data in November – so watch this space! If you’re already signed up, we’ll email you automatically to let you know when this happens.

Do you offer training on using my school’s Arbor Insight portal?

Yes! We run a free Arbor Insight Roadshow each Autumn Term to help you get the most out of your school’s dashboards and reports. Click here to sign up for your slot

You haven’t answered my questions! Can I contact you for help?

Absolutely. You can reach our Arbor Insight Team on insight@arbor-education.com or by calling 0207 043 1830.

 

Arbor Insight is a free tool we offer alongside our simple, smart, cloud-based MIS. If you’re interested in learning more about how our MIS could help to transform the way you work, book a free demo here or call our MIS Demo Team on 0208 050 1028. 

Nataliia Semenenko - 21 August, 2019

Category : Blog

What are Strong Customer Authentication regulations and how will they impact school payments?

School payments happen every day: parents pay for school lunches, clubs and trips all the time. Studies have shown that the number of cashless transactions is constantly increasing, with  more and more of these parents choosing to use online payments to purchase goods and services from schools.  It’s not a secret that online payments are

School payments happen every day: parents pay for school lunches, clubs and trips all the time. Studies have shown that the number of cashless transactions is constantly increasing, with  more and more of these parents choosing to use online payments to purchase goods and services from schools. 

It’s not a secret that online payments are susceptible to fraud (we’ve all heard stories about stolen credit cards and phishing sites that steal your details), so making online payments as safe as possible is a challenge for organisations all around the globe. As they became more aware of these risks, governments and financial authorities decided to take action by making payments more secure and protecting consumers when they pay online. They introduced the Payment Services Directive (PSD) in 2007 to regulate online payments in the EU and EEA, and in 2015 the updated directive –  second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) – was released. This introduced even more regulations, including Strong Customer Authentication.

What are Strong Customer Authentication regulations?

It was initially put forward that on 14th September 2019, new requirements for authenticating online payments will be introduced in Europe as part of PSD2. When you make an online payment, SCA requires you to use at least two of the following 3 elements:

  • Something the payer knows (e.g. password or PIN)
  • Something the payer has (e.g. mobile phone or hardware token)
  • Something the payer is (e.g. fingerprint or face recognition)

Update: UK Finance are now recommending an 18-month delay to the introduction of Secure Customer Authentication rules in the UK to give companies more time to prepare. While this might mean that SCA regulations are postponed, there is no guarantee, which is why we have made sure we are compliant. Arbor is set up for all eventualities so that your school won’t face any problems now, or in the future. Our updates to your system also means that school payments will be protected from fraudulent transactions, which is an added bonus!

From when SCA comes into action, banks will decline payments that require SCA and that don’t meet this authentication criteria (if you would like to read the original SCA requirements, they’re set out in this Regulatory Technical Standards document). These regulations will apply to British banks as well, as they are not dependant on any Brexit decisions. 

Authentication is typically added in as an extra step after checkout, where the cardholder is prompted by their bank to provide additional information to complete a payment (this could be a code sent to their phone or fingerprint authentication through their mobile banking app).

Under this new regulation, specific types of low-risk payments may be exempt from Strong Customer Authentication. Payment providers will be able to request these exemptions when processing a payment. The cardholder’s bank will then receive the request, assess the risk level of the transaction, and ultimately decide whether to approve the exemption or whether authentication is still necessary. Usually, transactions lower that £30 will be considered as low-risk and, in most cases, will not require any authentication.

How will this impact school payments?

SCA regulations will introduce small changes to the way people make card payments to school:

  • Initiating the payment: when the payer decides what they want to pay for (e.g. a school trip) and starts making the payment, they will be prompted to fill in their card details and to then initiate the payment.

Image 1: A screenshot showing you how to enter your card details into Arbor

  • Triggering dynamic authentication: it will be automatically detected whether authentication is needed for the payment to take place. If required, the payer will be prompted to authenticate the payment using an SMS code, bank mobile app or other element, depending on what their bank supports.

 

  • Completing the payment: Once the payer’s identity is successfully confirmed, the payment will be completed and their card will be charged. 

Image e: A screenshot showing a successful payment in Arbor

At Arbor, we’ve introduced changes to the way we process card payments to become 100% compliant with the new regulations, which means your school won’t face any problems when Strong Customer Authentication comes into practice. You also won’t need to make any changes if you use the card payment functionality in Arbor – we’ve taken care of all that for you already! 

 

If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your school handles payments, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

 

Rebecca Watkins - 15 July, 2019

Category : Blog

Arbor Insight Training Roadshow is back – sign up for free now!

At Arbor, we don’t just provide free ASP and finance data benchmarking tools for every school in the country; we also want to make sure that each one is analysing their data effectively, and knows how best to use that analysis to drive their school improvement plan. That’s why, for the last 3 years, we’ve

At Arbor, we don’t just provide free ASP and finance data benchmarking tools for every school in the country; we also want to make sure that each one is analysing their data effectively, and knows how best to use that analysis to drive their school improvement plan. That’s why, for the last 3 years, we’ve been running free Insight Training sessions throughout the UK, with new and improved content each year! 

 

Each session lasts between 90 – 120 minutes, and will cover:

 

1. Benchmarking Reports & Dashboards: 

We’ll demonstrate how to use Arbor’s reports and dashboards to quickly identify strengths & weaknesses and make effective interventions to improve outcomes in your school. Digging deeper into the trends behind your benchmarking data, we’ll investigate whether this year’s results are typical for your school, or specific to one cohort. 

Plus, you’ll get the first training on our new ‘Understanding your School’ report, released this Autumn! This Report combines your latest DfE performance data with ONS area classifications, families of schools, and top quintile benchmarks to give you the most complete picture of your outcomes in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. 

 

2. School Improvement Workshop: 

See how your performance data can feed into planning & writing specific, measurable objectives for your School Improvement Plan. You will work through practical scenarios with colleagues and take home solutions, tools and top tips, to apply in your own school.

 

3. Arbor Management Information System:

If you would like to stay for an extra 15 minutes at the end, you can watch a demo of Arbor’s smart, simple, cloud-based MIS. 

 

This year, we’re teaming up with some of our valued partners to deliver content that’s tailored to the schools in specific areas of the country. Just click the link below to book your free place!

Click here to sign up for a free training session near you: https://arbor-insight-training-2019.eventbrite.com

 

Everyone is welcome at these sessions, and if you’re not yet using your Insight portal – don’t worry! It only takes a minute to sign up for free, but you can attend these sessions without having used your Insight portal before.

 

Can’t see a session near you? Just get in touch to let us know you want the Insight Training Roadshow to come to you! Give us a call on 0207 043 1830, or drop us an email at insight@arbor-education.com.

Stephen Higgins - 13 July, 2019

Category : Blog

Preparing for Exams Results Day

A-Level and GCSE results days are amongst the busiest days in any school’s calendar. We’ve compiled this guide and checklist to help the day go as smoothly as possible.  1. Import results files Results files can either be downloaded from the awarding organisation’s online portal or automatically received using the A2C transport application. Once you

A-Level and GCSE results days are amongst the busiest days in any school’s calendar. We’ve compiled this guide and checklist to help the day go as smoothly as possible. 

1. Import results files

Results files can either be downloaded from the awarding organisation’s online portal or automatically received using the A2C transport application. Once you have received your results files, it’s then a case of importing them into your MIS. 

Arbor’s MIS makes this process very easy by automatically identifying any problems when you upload your results files. Don’t worry about importing QN (Qualification Number) files, creating grade sets, or entering discount codes; because Arbor MIS is in the cloud, this is all done for you. 

Image 1: A screenshot showing how results files are imported onto Arbor MIS

2. Set embargo date/times

The JCQ stipulates that only the school’s Exams Officer, Senior Leadership and other selected members of staff can have access to results before the official publication date. To ensure that this happens, it is essential that an “embargo date” is set in your MIS. The embargo date ensures that results can only be viewed by other members of staff, students and parents the day after results are published. 

Setting an embargo is straightforward in Arbor. When you upload results files, you’ll be asked to enter an embargo date. Arbor automatically assumes that the Examinations Officer and Head Teacher will have access to results files before the embargo date, but it’s really simple to add more staff members as “pre-embargo” viewers if you’d like. 

Image 2: A screenshot showing how to set an embargo date in Arbor MIS

3. Manually enter the results for any non-EDI qualifications

In the case of qualifications that don’t support EDI results files, results need to be manually added into your MIS. Non-EDI results can be viewed and downloaded from the awarding organisation’s secure portal. 

Arbor’s Exams module supports all Ofqual recognised qualifications. Non-EDI qualifications can be easily added to your centre’s qualification offering. Arbor manges all the information for non-EDI qualifications centrally, so there’s no need to manually add information such as award and/or learning unit names and combinations.

Image 3: A screenshot showing where to enter non-EDI qualifications in Arbor MIS

4. Export results to a data analysis application

There are a number of excellent and intuitive third party data analysis tools available to schools (some schools have their own Excel templates, or prefer to use an analysis tool such as SISRA, 4Matrix or ALPS Connect for this purpose). After all the candidates’ results have been loaded into your MIS, the next step is to export them for analysis. To get the most out of your exams day data analysis, you should have exported assessment data at selected periods (“data drops”) throughout the year; this will allow your school’s Data Manager and Heads of Department to analyse student’s progress throughout the year.

Importing data into a third party data analysis tool can either be done from within the application itself, or by creating a marksheet with the relevant student and exam result that can be re-imported into the application. 

We know that creating marksheets to export exam data is incredibly time-consuming – that’s why Arbor’s Exams module has multiple, powerful out-of-the-box reporting tools that allow you to export candidates’ results in a few clicks. If you want more flexibility to create your own reports, you can also use Arbor’s Custom Report Writer which lets you quickly and easily compile custom marksheets that contain any data point from your MIS.   

Image 4: A screenshot showing how export candidate results from Arbor MIS

5. Print candidate’s Statement of Results

After you have completed your results analysis, it’s advisable to print out paper copies of candidates’ Statement of Results. Remember, only the relevant members of staff should be able to see these results before the release date. This means that all printed content should only be handled by theses members of staff. When the Statement of Results have been printed, they must be stored in a safe and secure place until the following day. 

Image 5: A screenshot of how candidates’ Statement of Results appear in Arbor

6. Electronically share results with parents and guardians

The nervous thrill of opening your exam result is something that none of us ever forget. Opening the envelope is usually followed by a phone call home to tell loved ones. Students will be making plans for college, university and the rest of their lives; teachers will be on hand to offer congratulations, advice and support. 

It’s not always possible for parents, guardians and students to be in school on results day, and amidst all the excitement, it’s not uncommon for Statements of Results to get spoilt or lost! With this in mind, it’s wise to share students’ exam results with their parents and guardians electronically too. Your MIS provider should give you the option to do this.

If your school is using the Arbor App, parents will be able to see their child’s exam results by selecting ‘Examinations’ in the menu. Parents can view a list of their child’s exam results or download a printable PDF. If you don’t want to share students’ exam results with parents via the Arbor App, or you would like to wait until after results day, all of this can be managed in Arbor MIS.

Image 6: A screenshot of how examination results appear in the Arbor App

Using Arbor MIS? Need help on Results Day? 

We have a comprehensive online help guide that addresses all the questions that you may have. Still stuck? Our customer team will be on hand to help you! 

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. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Beth Mokrini - 12 July, 2019

Category : Blog

Top 10 must-have cloud systems for your school

Thousands of schools have now joined the cashless and paperless revolution, from the cosiest rural primary to the biggest inner-city sixth form college. This has led to an explosion in the Edtech sector, with hundreds of useful apps and dashboards now available to manage your school or MAT more efficiently. This is great news for

Thousands of schools have now joined the cashless and paperless revolution, from the cosiest rural primary to the biggest inner-city sixth form college. This has led to an explosion in the Edtech sector, with hundreds of useful apps and dashboards now available to manage your school or MAT more efficiently. This is great news for schools, but the choice can be bewildering. 

 

To combat the flow of paper slips, cash and cheques that once flooded the office, many schools have now armed themselves with an array of new technologies. This can lead to soaring IT budgets and “login fatigue” (a feeling of exhaustion caused by typing in multiple usernames and passwords to complete one simple task!).  

 

That’s why we thought we’d help you narrow down the field, by compiling our top 10 cloud systems to help schools work more efficiently. These systems are all best-of-breed in their own right, and what’s more, they integrate smoothly with Arbor’s smart, simple, cloud based MIS! 

cpoms | CPOMS

 

Banishing paper logbooks and filing cabinets from 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. 

Basic student and staff data already syncs from Arbor to CPOMS, allowing our customers to operate seamlessly between the two systems. We’re now working together on a deeper integration, which we hope will allow teachers to get a single clear picture of their student’s pastoral and education data. 

Related image | G Suite for Education 

 

Google offers its much-loved set of apps (including Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Hangouts) to schools for free, including extra features to make for smooth collaboration between students and staff. You can link Arbor MIS to Google so that you only have to set up accounts for your staff and students once, and your timetables in Arbor will automatically show in your Google Calendar, keeping your MIS as the single source of truth. 

| InVentry

 

InVentry’s popular Sign In tools help schools securely monitor staff, students and visitors, while speeding up the sign in process. They also provide a user-friendly Audit & Compliance app, to simplify the management of assets. InVentry has set up read/write integrations with Arbor and other leading MIS providers, so you can relax knowing your crucial attendance and security data is accurate to the minute.

 

Image result for sisra | SISRA and 4Matrix  |

Although SISRA have recently branched out into lesson observations and CPD with their new product, SISRA Observe, they’re probably best known for their outstanding secondary data analysis tool, SISRA Analytics. Highlights include bespoke grading so you can use your own scales and language, and out-of-the-box performance reports to save you time on exam results day. 

Similarly, 4Matrix is well loved by secondary schools for its management of school performance data. The app produces quick, in-depth reports on exam results day, meaning you won’t need to sift through spreadsheets to show progress for different student groups. 4Matrix also supports the design and assessment of a curriculum “without levels” for KS3. 

Both systems help you create neat, visual representations of your key performance data. You can easily sync achievement and contextual data from Arbor marksheets to either 4Matrix or SISRA, meaning there’s no need for dual entry, and your MIS remains the single source of truth.

RS Assessment from Hodder Education | RS Assessments

 

RS Assessment’s standardised tests PIRA and PUMA are a key component of many primary school improvement strategies, helping Senior Leaders track in-year pupil progress and benchmark against age-related expectations. What’s more, you can use the tests in conjunction with MARK (My Assessment and Reporting Kit) online, to get time-saving analysis of test results. 

Arbor has partnered with RS Assessments to feed test results from PIRA and PUMA into our smart, simple MIS, so there’s no need for dual data entry. For MAT Leaders, the same data will aggregate up to your MAT MIS to give you a single overview of your schools. Read more about this integration here! 

Image result for parentpay logo | ParentPay

 

ParentPay is an easy-to-use online payments service used by over 9,000 schools in the UK. It allows cashless income collection and financial reporting for everything from clubs and trips, to dinners and uniforms. ParentPay comes with in-built email and SMS functionality too, so you can manage payments and communicate with parents in the same place. Arbor MIS includes a built-in payment and communications service, but we also integrate directly with ParentPay, giving schools the flexibility to choose the best solution for them. 

 

Assembly logo | Assembly

 

Assembly offers school data integration and Multi Academy Trust analytics. You can use their innovative dashboards to connect your MIS to a wide range of third-party applications, and also to populate Assembly Analytics (Assembly’s MAT Analytics tool) with a live feed of you school’s data. Arbor is one of six leading MIS providers to integrate with Assembly, so it’s a great option for MATs who aren’t ready to move all their schools onto the same MIS. 

For MATs looking to find economies of scale by centralising MIS across their schools, Arbor’s MIS for Groups and MATs allows you to transform the way you work, by reporting and taking action centrally.

 

Image result for wonde | Wonde and Groupcall  | Image result for groupcall

 

Wonde and Groupcall are two of the UK’s most popular “data providers” for Education, which means they can connect your MIS with hundreds more apps and make it easy to control data sharing. You can share data from your MIS with 3rd party apps through their platform, with user friendly dashboards to help you see what data is shared with whom. Arbor MIS (along with many other cloud based providers) integrates with both Wonde and Groupcall, meaning any of the apps on their platforms are open to Arbor schools. 

So there you have it: our pick of the top 10 apps for schools and MATs looking to go cashless and paperless. Powerful on their own, they all integrate with Arbor’s cloud-based MIS to help you save even more time and get deeper insight into your data. We’re not stopping there though – our API team is constantly expanding the range of integrations available to our customers. We’re currently working on a deeper sync with the market-leading Cunninghams Catering app, so watch this space! 

 

Andrew Mackereth - 10 July, 2019

Category : Blog

Is your curriculum planning improving outcomes for your students?

I used to marvel at the mystery and complexity that always seemed to surround the world of the Curriculum Deputy. When I eventually became one, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormous privilege but enormous responsibility I had to create the perfect curriculum model – taking into account the latest thinking on curriculum design and

I used to marvel at the mystery and complexity that always seemed to surround the world of the Curriculum Deputy. When I eventually became one, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormous privilege but enormous responsibility I had to create the perfect curriculum model – taking into account the latest thinking on curriculum design and implementation. As I became more experienced, I began to make increasingly bold moves to build the curriculum around the needs of learners and not just the constraints of the budget.

My first mentor was a retired (and fabulously wise) Curriculum Deputy who stressed that planning the curriculum was a whole-year job. When I became a Headteacher, I continued working and planning in this way and valued the support of some really creative thinkers on my leadership teams. It was a special day indeed when Ofsted visited one such school and judged leadership, management and the curriculum as outstanding.Sadly, that framework and financial climate are a thing of the past now!

In more recent times, the Leadership Team started to consider in depth the outcomes for pupils after each set of summer results and would use this to interrogate the merits of our curriculum plan. Once or twice we did withdraw a course in September if student numbers didn’t justify it, or a staffing crisis necessitated it, but generally,  once a commitment had been made to students that a course would run, we honoured it for the full two years.

Whatever our staff/student profile looked like, our first priority  was to ensure that students had access to a broad, balanced, relevant curriculum. Our most recent challenges included:

  • Pressure to increase curriculum time for maths and English
  • Pressure to create additional time for science in KS4 to cope with the demands of the new syllabus
  • Our wish to make explicit provision for wellness and mental health first aid within the curriculum

Working to a timetable of 30 periods a week meant an inevitable squeeze on option choices, reducing the number of subjects students could choose from four to three in one case, and removing PSHCE/RE as subjects and mapping the provision across the curriculum. None of these decisions were easy to make or sat particularly well with me, but as the saying goes; something’s got to give.

My mentor, Bob, helped me plan my staffing requirements and showed me how many staff periods I needed to cover my commitments. Not only did this give me the opportunity to examine my current staffing needs, I could also begin to plan ahead – particularly if it meant recruiting a double specialist like a French/Spanish teacher or an RM/Textiles teacher. This was hugely helpful in feeding into the budget planning cycle and supporting my requests for additional funding for staffing.

We rarely carried any slack in our curriculum model. This inevitably meant that SLT members would also have to pick up subjects outside of their discipline and teachers that didn’t have a full timetable of classes were used as additional support with key groups and interventions. In reality, our staffing model would have to change incrementally throughout the year if the staffing profile suddenly changed, or if it was clear from our in-year tracking that students were not making sufficient progress. 

One strength of our curriculum was that we could plan our interventions so well that we could provide extra lessons and tailor the curriculum for individuals and groups. We would do this by taking them out of some lessons where they were performing well to give them additional support in subjects where they were performing less well. We were blessed with a dedicated team of teachers and TA’s, some of whom would run sessions before and after school, others during registration and others during gained time or non-contact time.

If, like we did, you believe the curriculum is the dominant driver for boosting student outcomes and life chances, you will face constant budgetary pressures with very few variables to play with. We explored:

  •   Increasing teacher contact ratios
  •   Increasing class sizes
  •   Imposing strict enrolment quotas (that placed Arts subjects and languages in particular jeopardy)
  •   Increasing the classroom contact time of SLT
  •   Doubling-up or co-teaching Y12/13 classes in minority subjects
  •   Considering some subjects as extra-curricular offerings only

As a direct consequence, we found ourselves increasingly offering shorter contracts, reducing the size of the SLT and going without certain associate staff roles like a PA – just to balance the books. After all, it’s about delivering the most effective curriculum possible with your current staff and budget!

We used an approach we called “active vacancy management” that ensured that each time a post became vacant we didn’t simply fill it. First of all, we decided if we needed to replace the post, assessed whether it would be a like-for-like replacement or in some reduced capacity and analysed current staff deployments in detail, before considering placing an advert.

Increasingly, we looked beyond our own staff and worked closely with neighbouring schools to share teachers and other support roles. This is not without its complications, but it makes the process of appointing one full-time English teacher that works on two sites marginally easier than appointing two.

I am heartened by news of courageous schools and Trusts that break the mould and shape their curricula around the needs of their students by considering the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to be happy, resilient and independent learners.

Maintaining the intent and moral purpose of the curriculum is challenging, but the rewards for young people make it worth every minute.

“When we’re talking about intent, we’re talking about how ambitious, coherently planned and sequenced, how broad and balanced and inclusive the curriculum is.”

Heather Fearn – Ofsted

Hannah McGreevy - 5 July, 2019

Category : Blog

How to reduce data entry at your school

Data entry is a daunting prospect for most teachers. With the amount of data they are expected to record, it can often take up a large portion of their daily workload, and workload is listed as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. The good news is it doesn’t have to be

Data entry is a daunting prospect for most teachers. With the amount of data they are expected to record, it can often take up a large portion of their daily workload, and workload is listed as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way – keep reading to see how you can transform the way your school deals with data entry. 

Making data work

In November 2018, the Teacher Workload Advisory Group released a report called “Making Data Work”. The report reveals that teachers consider unnecessary tasks around recording, monitoring and analysing data to be notably time-consuming, with data entry highlighted as the biggest problem. The Teacher Workload Advisory Group set out a number of suggestions for the DfE to consider. These included:

  • Making sure schools are using cloud-based products which help to minimise workload by allowing teachers to access the MIS from anywhere at any time – the same isn’t possible from a desktop computer 
  • Promoting the use of education technology to “improve the collection, monitoring and analysis of attainment data” 
  • Encouraging parental engagement through the use of technology – for example, the Arbor App keeps parents up to date with school trips and parents evenings, meaning teachers spend less time chasing up on emails 

So what’s the best way to reduce data entry at your school? Try following these simple steps:

Part 1: Streamline your systems

Before you do anything else, you need to ask yourself if all the third-party systems you’re currently using still work for your school. Are they up to date? Do you need all of them? Do staff engage with them regularly? 

Find out by running a systems audit. It’s easy to do – just follow the instructions in our blog on how to audit your school or MAT’s IT systems. By running a systems audit, you can reduce the number of places you have to enter data. Goodbye, multiple logins! Your staff will have fewer systems and apps to keep track of, which will considerably reduce their administrative workload. 

An IT systems audit

Image 1: How we encourage schools to approach an IT systems audit

Part 2: Make sure any extra systems you’re using are integrated with your MIS

Over the years, your school has probably invested in lots of different systems that were useful at the time, but which don’t integrate with your current MIS. This can make everyday tasks like following up with detentions and creating meal plans much more complicated and time-consuming than they need to be, as you have to visit external apps in order to properly record all of the data. Using systems that integrate with your MIS can make admin a lot simpler. For example, Arbor’s integrations with apps like CPOMS and Inventry means that you only have to enter student data once and it will update automatically in these apps. 

The “Making Data Work” report also advises that schools should “minimise or eliminate the number of pieces of information teachers are expected to compile.” Ensuring your systems integrate with your MIS will mean that you can access all your data in one place, which means you won’t have to spend time transferring it from one system to another. 

Image 2: How parents can view all payments and invoices from Arbor’s Parent Portal 

Part 3: Set up a system to suit your school

It’s important to think about how your MIS can best serve your school. For example, the report advises that schools should have simple systems that allow behaviour incidents to be logged during lesson time, rather than at break or lunch. In Arbor, you can set up incident workflows that track negative and positive behaviour (e.g. a Level 2 incident could automatically create a lunchtime detention). Automating workflows in this way means that teachers don’t have to add this information manually, which will save them a significant amount of time. 

Your MIS can also help to reduce data with quick group selection. For example, in Arbor you can select absentees from your register and instantly send emails to their primary guardians with the help of our mail merge tool. You can even use a pre-made message template so you won’t have to type a single word! 

Image 3: How you can follow up on students registered absent in Arbor

Not only will reducing data entry help to improve workloads, it will make your staff happier too. So – streamline your systems, make sure they integrate with your MIS, and set it all up to suit your school. If you’d like to hear more about how Arbor could help you reduce data entry at your school, why not drop us a message here?

Paul West - 24 June, 2019

Category : Blog

The strategy behind a successful MAT merger

At our most recent MAT conference, Paul West, Chief Executive Officer at Spencer Academies Trust, shared his experience of the trust’s recent merger with Trent Academies Group, and how other trusts considering a similar move can make sure they’re doing it right. Check out his presentation below to see how Spencer Academies Trust navigated this

At our most recent MAT conference, Paul West, Chief Executive Officer at Spencer Academies Trust, shared his experience of the trust’s recent merger with Trent Academies Group, and how other trusts considering a similar move can make sure they’re doing it right. Check out his presentation below to see how Spencer Academies Trust navigated this important process:

Fig. 1: Click on the the arrows to flip through Paul’s presentation

Paul James - 20 June, 2019

Category : Blog

Navigating the complexities of centralised and school-led leadership in a MAT

At our latest MAT conference in London, Paul James, Chief Executive of River Learning Trust, talked to us about the importance of “working together to achieve excellence in education”. His presentation, which you can view below, explores different approaches to leadership and emphasises the necessity of teamwork.  Fig. 1: Click on the the arrows to

At our latest MAT conference in London, Paul James, Chief Executive of River Learning Trust, talked to us about the importance of “working together to achieve excellence in education”. His presentation, which you can view below, explores different approaches to leadership and emphasises the necessity of teamwork. 

Fig. 1: Click on the the arrows to flick through Paul’s slides from the day

Will Smith - 19 June, 2019

Category : Blog

How Greenshaw Learning Trust uses the lighthouse model when working with schools

At our recent MAT conference in London, Will Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Greenshaw Learning Trust, spoke about the importance of defining your Trust and how building strong foundations and principals is key to running a successful organisation. We’ve transcribed the beginning of his presentation below. What do we mean by “Trust”? A couple of

At our recent MAT conference in London, Will Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Greenshaw Learning Trust, spoke about the importance of defining your Trust and how building strong foundations and principals is key to running a successful organisation. We’ve transcribed the beginning of his presentation below.

What do we mean by “Trust”? A couple of years ago, as I walked around schools and spoke to my relatively small central team, I would hear things like “the Trust are coming in; the Trust have asked for this information.” We seemed to exist in some ivory tower headed up by me in some sort of draconian dark suit wielding some sceptre of power that was “the Trust”. We needed to bust that myth.

We moved away from the notion of “the Trust is coming in”. I went round and made it our number 1 performance managing objective to get it clear to local governing bodies and head teachers that “The Trust” is everyone. We challenge people when they refer to the Trust central team as “The Trust”. They are included in that Trust. 

This has created an understanding of who we are as an organisation and has allowed me to develop true school-to-school collaboration, because we are all in one Trust and that’s been a massive thing for us. That’s why I focus very much on defining that Trust.

Click on the slides below to learn about Greenshaw Learning Trust’s strategy in more detail:

Martin Holyoak - 18 June, 2019

Category : Blog

The benefits of scaling your MAT with the help of technology

At our latest MAT Conference in London, Martin Holyoak, Education Product Specialist at PS Financials, spoke about the benefits of standardising systems across your MAT as you scale. Read what he had to say below. Let’s talk about using technology to strengthen your position when centralising. When we read into the whole centralising process, there’s a

At our latest MAT Conference in London, Martin Holyoak, Education Product Specialist at PS Financials, spoke about the benefits of standardising systems across your MAT as you scale. Read what he had to say below.

Let’s talk about using technology to strengthen your position when centralising. When we read into the whole centralising process, there’s a lot to consider. One of the first considerations should be the technology we use. What you should try to do is to use 1 product across all the schools in your Trust. When some schools first join the Trust, they try to take their systems with them. They can use anything up to 15 different systems – just for the basics. It’s actually more cost-effective when you start breaking contracts and just using one system.

Fig. 1: Click on the the arrows to flick through Martin’s slides from the day

Looking at accounting, HR, procurement, communications – whatever it may be; if you have multiple sets of software that don’t work with each other, it’s not helpful. If you just use these spreadsheets and systems, making an error could mean that hundreds of messages could be lost. You’re not going to see the full picture with these spreadsheets – and it’s a lot of work as well! So, if you can have 1 of everything, that will strengthen your Trust’s position and help you with scaling up as new schools join.

Where do you sit?

This brings me to your centralisation journey, wherever you are on it: 

1. Autonomy: we work autonomously at first, holding only ourselves accountable and hiring who we want 

2. Standardisation: when I look at the information in my Trust, I see differences without seeing lots of processes – standardisation is the next step

3. Centralisation: once everyone is doing step 2, it’s easier to put everything into a central site

But with centralisation, there are quite a lot of issues. I have seen schools in Trusts for years that are still autonomous; they all do their own payrolls, hire who they want, run their own bank accounts. I’ve seen a lot of centralising as well, but you do have 2 separate directions to choose from. Ours is more controlled. By controlled, I mean we have a core team of specialists. Every MAT central team should have a core that covers finance, Hr, IT – to name just a few. They work together, not across business units, but across all schools. This way, you are getting efficiency and uniformity, which will help you to scale up when new schools join the Trust.

What are the positives of going central?

It’s very, very efficient. Let’s look at an individual business unit like the finance function, for example. When running a 10-school trust, that’s 10 banknotes, 10 payment runs – it all takes time. Or we could just have 1 of everything. That seems a lot easier, doesn’t it? Improving financial reporting also really needs core specialists. We get what we can out of the system and all the schools in the Trust get included.

And that’s just in finance. Let’s look at HR: people are always the most expensive part of your budget and that will never change. It’s also the place with the least visibility in all the schools I’ve been to. We’ve introduced our core specialists to HR to control and harmonise processes across our schools. We can onboard people quickly and capture their data.

If we’re going to scale up, it comes down to 3 things and the main thing is people. Getting the right technology is also really important, but it’s about process as well. You can have the most sophisticated software in the land – but if you use it incorrectly, what’s the point?

How does GAG Pooling fit in?

I will bring up GAG pooling, although I have no opinion on the matter. With many Trusts, even centralised Trusts, their schools manage their own premises, IT, administration and much more. The Trust then covers a small margin that handles things like legal, overheads and whatever else. The idea of GAG pooling is that the opposite would happen – the Trust would manage the majority of these school operations. All the ethical stuff, contracts and the like would be taken care of by a core team of specialists. This leaves the school to come back to their main focus: education. That’s something you can do with the right technology.

Is it right for your audience?

One of the concerns you have with centralising is your audience. We all crave reports. I know you’ve got governor reports, trustees, SLT and everything else. There’s lots of reports to produce. With the right technology in the hands of the right people, you can turn great looking things into something tangible. Fantastic work, but is it right for your audience? Again, the right people in the right positions in the central team working together can produce information that is going to make a difference moving forward.

Gwyn Mabo - 17 June, 2019

Category : Blog

5 ways to boost parental engagement at your school

As a former Maths teacher at an Alternative Provision in Leeds, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of students and parents reluctant to get involved in school life. Here are the top five methods I found worked to encourage active engagement between your school and parents. Focus on the Positives At a school where

As a former Maths teacher at an Alternative Provision in Leeds, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of students and parents reluctant to get involved in school life. Here are the top five methods I found worked to encourage active engagement between your school and parents.

Focus on the Positives

At a school where most students had already been excluded, parents were used to receiving nothing but negative news. But effective parental engagement doesn’t mean only speaking when things go wrong. Tell parents about positive events too, with greater frequency. At the Alternative Provision, we’d send a quick text for positive events. If a student had a really good day, we’d use a phone call. Track what’s been said by keeping a communications log.

Set Regular Reviews

Parents Evenings aren’t just for telling parents about their child’s grades. They can also be an opportunity to talk about their social development, friendships, career goals, attitude and behaviour, and agree an action plan of how to support the child at home and at school. To increase the number of parents who attend, stop relying on sending kids home with sign-up sheets and use an online booking system, letting parents book slots whenever they want. 

Image 1: A screenshot of the Arbor MIS Guardian Consultations feature 

Get parents and students to work together

Education has changed so much since parents were in school, they may have no idea what their children are studying. Keep parents engaged by assigning homework that they can help their children complete. For primary school students, try giving tasks to read aloud. For secondary schools, let parents know what assignments their child has to complete and if it’s been submitted on time using a student or guardian portal.

Be open to feedback

Parents are most likely to get involved if they feel like they can make a real difference. Whenever parents visit or contact you, be willing to listen to their responses, answer their questions, and make them feel their contribution is welcomed. Make sure parents feel they can come to you if they have questions about how your school works, and let them know which person they should contact about certain issues.

Give them what they want

Despite your best efforts, there will always be some parents who won’t respond to a text, email or letter. You also can’t rely on students to pass on information. Maybe they’ll forget to mention something, or they simply don’t have a good relationship. To overcome this, give parents all the information they need in the palm of their hand by using an App. Not only does this notify parents instantly, but they can also refer back to it later if they forget.

      

Image 2: A screenshot of Arbor’s new in-app messaging feature 

At Arbor, we’re always trying to improve how we can support schools to take parental engagement to the next level. We’ve recently introduced an in-app messaging feature that allows fast, free communication between schools and parents – take a look at this article to see how else you can use our new Arbor App!

Hannah McGreevy - 6 June, 2019

Category : Blog

The Arbor App is here

What’s the best way for your school to engage with parents? Far too often we’ve seen schools struggle with a mixture of asking parents to check letters, forms, payment systems, booking systems, and report cards. This causes too much manual work for schools, and makes it hard for parents to keep on top of everything.

What’s the best way for your school to engage with parents? Far too often we’ve seen schools struggle with a mixture of asking parents to check letters, forms, payment systems, booking systems, and report cards. This causes too much manual work for schools, and makes it hard for parents to keep on top of everything.

That’s why today we’re thrilled to launch the new Arbor App for iOS & Android. Say goodbye to paper slips and emails – our new App lets parents register their child for a club or trip, book parents evening slots, and manage payments all from their phone. Parents can also use the App to check in on their child’s attendance, behaviour and progress.

What’s more, the App will let you communicate with parents for free using our new In-App Messaging feature.

Image 1: Arbor have launched a simple, smart app for parents and guardians

How will parents benefit?

  • Check on your child from anywhere: With the Arbor App, you can check in on your children from anywhere – all you need is a phone
  • Access important information about your child in one place: See your child’s attendance, behaviour and progress this week as well as for the year so far. You can also see upcoming homework and download report cards for your child
  • Get updates from school via push notifications: Get notified when your school sends out a new message via the App
  • Make payments on the goManage tasks like making payments and booking trips or parents’ evenings 

How will your school benefit?

  • Quick communication: Get in touch instantly with busy parents on the move
  • Less paperwork: Eliminate the need for paper communication with In-App Messaging and Live Updates – helping to improve security & reduce the administrative burden
  • Easy engagement: Track parental engagement with the App & remind parents to log in, sign up for activities or parents’ evenings, and make payments

How to get set up

The Arbor App is for parents at schools who already use the Arbor MIS. To get your school set up, contact your Account Manager or email myteam@arbor-education.com.  

Not using Arbor yet? If you’re interested in finding out more about how Arbor MIS and the new Arbor App could transform the way your school works, get in touch! You can request a free demo and a chat with your local Partnership Manager anytime through the contact form on our website, by emailing tellmemore@arbor-education.com or calling 0208 050 1028.

Sue Northend - 3 June, 2019

Category : Blog

How REAch2 use touchstones to unite their organisation

Today I will share with you the principles that keep REAch2 together. We call them our touchstones. These are the things that are common and that are important for us as an organisation. We call them touchstones because a touchstone 500 years ago was a measure of quality. It’s a standard by which we are judged.

Today I will share with you the principles that keep REAch2 together. We call them our touchstones. These are the things that are common and that are important for us as an organisation. We call them touchstones because a touchstone 500 years ago was a measure of quality. It’s a standard by which we are judged. Hence, their importance can be felt across our organisation.

They’re also a barometer of how we’re doing. As a director of HR, I can assure you: when we have challenging conversations, this is what we come back to. As I’ve said before, REAch2 isn’t a Starbucks where every coffee shop is the same. We’re the equivalent of a bespoke coffee shop, where quality is absolutely paramount. No teacher is the same; no two schools are the same, but we share these guiding principles.

So what does this mean in practice?

Let me give you some good examples:

  • The head teacher of one demanding school with some serious challenges decided, rather than excluding pupils, to convert the old caretaker’s house into a centre with specialised provision for children who needed it. Pupils don’t leave school; they stay in the grounds and they’re still part of the community.
  • In an East Anglia school, our staff came in during the summer holidays to provide lunch to children who probably wouldn’t get 3 meals a day otherwise.

We make time to meet. If you take everything else away, apart from aligning with your culture and your purpose, this is paramount. It’s the easiest thing to disappear out of your calendars. We enjoy working together. We are vibrant when we work together.

We don’t have head office, so we’re all in lots of different locations. We’ve gotten really good at Zoom or Skype calls and work hard at making it feel like we’re all in one room. Making time together is really important. That’s the senior leadership team, head teachers and teachers.

You’ll see on the website that we talk about the REAch2 family. That may sound corny to some, but we mean it. Being a family means that we actually hold each other to account. We have a chart that reminds us of who’s responsible for what: how central team is going to work with schools, what support they’re going to get. We challenge each other when things aren’t going so well.

One of the things we remind our headteachers and SLT about is “raise extra purpose”. We have to ensure that everyone understands why we do what we do. If you go onto our website, then you’ll see our 5 year strategy document, which outlines that REAch2 stands for ‘reaching educational attainment’. Under that, we’ve got 3 headings:

  • Truly exceptional performance: this isn’t just about Ofsted, but other things that our schools achieve.
  • Distinctive contribution: what makes our education different and purposeful for every pupil?
  • Enjoying impact: this includes pupils, parents, and governors alike.  

Image 1: REAch2 uses touchstones to stay focused on their guiding principles when on-boarding new schools to the MAT

Another key element: people. When I first joined REAch 2, I was clearly the executive. My focus would be leadership, leadership, leadership coupled with location, location, location. You can imagine that, having 60 schools, we’re not looking for the same head teacher for every single one. Our smallest school in East Anglia has 75 pupils, while our largest in London has over 1000. We’ve appointed every single one of our head teachers apart from 3. It’s not a ruthless statistic: it’s the results of painstaking clarity in what we’re about and what works.

When you think about it, it’s not difficult. Know what you’re looking for when you interview. Our first questions are about the ‘REAch2 fit’, not about experience. Our on-boarding plan for every single person on the central team is 6 months. It’s very specific, it’s very clear and the line manager takes ownership of it. We have an induction event, which is not just for head teachers, but for any of their SLT whom they wish to bring along. We have 3 regional teaching conferences a year, and we have one larger headteacher conference where everybody comes together.

It’s important to get people together to reinforce messages. When it comes to leadership and culture:

  • You are strategic, not operational. Doing what we’ve always done will get us nowhere apart from where we are today. Take time to think. Have clarity of vision – at trust level and at school level. Communicate the route for others.
  • Leadership is a moral activity. You do the right thing because you know that it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether anyone’s looking or not.
  • REAch2 is about transformational improvement. We’re not scared of doing things differently. We all make mistakes, but fundamental change doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve just embarked on a structural reshuffle of our whole organisation. 
  • Personal learning is very important. Be a role model to others. Learn from your network. Don’t stand still.
  • It’s not all about you. A leader in REAch2 seeks to develop the collective capacity of their team.
  • Relationships. They require investment both in and out of the organisation.
  • The touchstones. Live them so you can believe them. Set standards and welcome the bar being raised. Seek to work with others and be prepared to have challenging conversations.

Practice is important. If our touchstones are non-negotiable and we’re clear about our mission, then actually it takes practice. Communicating something via a poster or on a website and doing it once won’t accomplish anything. It’s about reinforcing it on a daily basis. Over the last 6 months we’ve been looking at our own growth to make sure we maintain our purpose and principles when we add more schools. We’re not standing still.

One of the reasons why REAch2 is really keen to be at Arbor’s conference today is because our sector is still relatively new. This is a good reason to support each other. Don’t forget that whilst we’re all working on our own individual culture, people outside our sector will be looking at us. They will say: ‘what’s it like working there?’ So, your culture (our culture) is important. It will define us as a good place to work: a sector for a career and a sector which means business.

Sue Northend - 28 May, 2019

Category : Blog

How REAch2 use the wisdom of Dr Seuss to introduce new schools to the trust

Today I’m going to talk about how to scale culture across your MAT whilst giving schools individual identity. I’m Sue Northend, Head of HR at REAch2, and I wanted to start by telling you a little bit about the trust and the journey we’ve been on so far. REAch2 is the largest primary academy trust

Today I’m going to talk about how to scale culture across your MAT whilst giving schools individual identity. I’m Sue Northend, Head of HR at REAch2, and I wanted to start by telling you a little bit about the trust and the journey we’ve been on so far.

REAch2 is the largest primary academy trust in England, and we have 60 schools scattered across 200 miles of geography. Our schools tend to fall into one of two specific categories; they’re either rural and coastal, which has its own set of challenges, or they’re in central towns and cities. Part of REAch2’s DNA is taking on schools that are in particular situations where there is a lot of social deprivation.

82% of our academies were sponsored when they came to us with severe issues of performance. We’ve got 20,000 children and 4,000 staff, and of the 60 schools we’ve got today, 17% of them were in special measures when they came to the trust. I’m really delighted to be able to say that 6 years later, 82% of our schools are now rated “Good” or above. There’s no doubt that it’s a journey, and part of the culture that we embed in our schools is to make sure that they know that we’re not looking for results over a 12-month period, because we want those results to be sustainable.

My background is in finance, so coming into education was a learning curve for me! Despite this, I think I bought some fresh thinking to REAch2 when I arrived. Really, any organization in the commercial sector that is growing in the way REAch2 has done (which is about 50% in three years!) would think it was utter madness. But what we’ve learnt along the way is that we don’t get it right all the time, and I think we as a central team have had to accept that it is a learning journey. What I want to share with you today is a bit about where we are, what our culture looks like, and how we reinforce it.

First of all, let’s take a look at what it takes to create and organise a culture.

One of our first steps when taking on a new school is to do what we call “facilitating a path”. When a MAT is small, alignment is easy – after a few conversations by the water cooler, a decision is made, steps are agreed, and we’re on the same page. As the MAT grows, that gets more difficult. It becomes all the more important to be clear and consistent, and to communicate what it is we do & what we’re about on a daily basis. So when a school joins the trust, we clear the path for the REAch2 culture, and some of this is really practical, as you might expect. We look at things like structure, accountability, and whether the school has the right talent (although we don’t sack the headteacher!). We have conversations with all the teachers about what REAch2 is about, and our CEO, Deputy CEO, COO & Leadership team make time to go out and spend time in the school so that the teachers can ask us questions and can see that we really care about the path that we’re clearing.

There are a lot of CEOs, COOs and CFOs here today, and make no mistake – culture is your responsibility. It has to start at the top. When we clear the path, we focus on supporting the school leadership by balancing what’s core and consistent across all our schools, with what’s individual to that specific school. I think that’s one of the attractions of REAch2 to all the primary schools that join us – we don’t insist that all schools have the same vision. We don’t impose a curriculum or a uniform – headteachers are headteachers because they enjoy the leadership, the ownership and the success that they bring to their own schools. We understand that.

So we’re very careful about what is core and what’s not. We’re not the Starbucks of the education world, and not every latte, frappuccino or mocha is the same. We see the trust and central team as being the enabler and the empowerer, facilitating and supporting change or improvement.

In order that we can understand what needs to change, we hold inductions. And during that induction, we introduce our Headteachers to “Oh, the places you will go”, by Dr Seuss (one of my favourite philosophers!). It’s a simple book, but it’s got some fantastic philosophy in there. When you first join the trust, it feels like this line in the book:

“You’ll be on your way up. You’ll be seeing great sights. You’ll join the high flyers who soar at great heights.”

However, we’re really clear about this to the Headteachers in our senior leadership team – for all of us there will be times when, as Dr Seuss says:

When you’re alone, there’s a good chance you’ll meet some things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some down the road between hither and yon, that will scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

Image 1: REAch2 use The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss to onboard new schools joining the MAT

For me, part of the culture of REAch2 is making sure that all of our schools know that we are there when things are going well and when the chips are down. And, let’s be realistic – that can be a daily occurrence.

Before I talk more specifically about REAch2’s culture, I’m going to talk a little bit about what the word culture actually means. We tend to our schools in the same way that a farmer might tend to a field, or a parent might tend to a child. We’re there through the good weather and the bad weather, thick and thin, and no matter what the time is; I’ve been supporting teachers with cases over the weekend and during the evening. It’s important that they know we are there. Every school is individual – not only because of the location – but because no two pupils are the same. So why would our schools be the same? The DNA may be alike, but they’re more like siblings, not clones. Most importantly, the culture spans across all aspects of the organisation, from our trustees to our governors, our headteachers to our pupils, and we share our vision with parents. We tend to our staff through CPD, and coaching is available to all leaders, without restriction. For pupils, our Eleven Before Eleven programme means that children from disadvantaged backgrounds get to cook a meal together, sleep out under the stars, or travel on the train – things they’ve never had the chance to do before.

These are the kind of things that excite us. These are the kind of things that mean the curriculum is not core – it’s differentiated for school to school. So before I talk specifically about REAch2, I’m going to ask you a really easy question. Grab a pen and paper off the table, and I want you to score yourself in answer to these two questions (top marks is 10, and 1 is really low):

  • Could you personally describe the culture of your organisation?
  • Could you describe the purpose of your organisation?

You should have found those questions easy to answer. Now I’m going to move onto a harder question.

  • If you were sitting around a table today with your leadership team today, and you had to write down the purpose of the organisation, would you all write the same thing?

My guess is probably not (unless you’ve just done a session on this exact topic). But this is the work that you need to do, because those words will affect the way you’re behaving. No matter if your senior leadership team is 3 of you, 10 or 15 of you – if your behaviour is reinforcing different cultures, different words and a different purpose, you can imagine how your sphere of influence will dissipate as the organisation grows.

Cosima Baring - 3 May, 2019

Category : Blog

How and why Ofsted created MAT Summary Evalutations

On Thursday 2nd May, we bought together 68 MATs for our third sold out MAT Conference in London. Matthew Haynes, SHMI and the designer of MAT summary evaluations, was among our speakers, and took to the stage to talk us through what Ofsted hope to achieve through the new approach to inspecting multi-academy trusts. You can

On Thursday 2nd May, we bought together 68 MATs for our third sold out MAT Conference in London. Matthew Haynes, SHMI and the designer of MAT summary evaluations, was among our speakers, and took to the stage to talk us through what Ofsted hope to achieve through the new approach to inspecting multi-academy trusts. You can flick through his informative slides below:

We’ll be posting the rest of the presentations from our MAT conference in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on the blog for more updates!

Nataliia Semenenko - 11 April, 2019

Category : Blog

Are you using the best payment method for your school?

People buy and sell every day, and schools are no exception. As a product manager developing payment systems, the main ‘use cases’ I consider when thinking about school payments include school meals, paid clubs, and field trips. There are a lot of other use cases depending on what kind of additional services the school provides,

People buy and sell every day, and schools are no exception. As a product manager developing payment systems, the main ‘use cases’ I consider when thinking about school payments include school meals, paid clubs, and field trips. There are a lot of other use cases depending on what kind of additional services the school provides, such as selling snacks, school uniform, items in the school shop, books, tickets for school events, and more.

The most popular ways to process payments from parents and guardians are:

  • Cash
  • Cheque
  • Bank transfer
  • Credit or debit card

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each of these methods!

Cash payments

On the school’s side, cash has the major benefit of no processing or transaction fees. Parents at many schools may also prefer to use cash to pay for activities and meals – this is generally a question of demographics, as lower income families are less likely to use cheques or have credit/debit cards as their main form of payment. 

Cash does have it’s downsides though, from the stress of counting bags of coins and banknotes, to the security required to safely store them in school and take them to a bank at least several times per week (hello, staff time and safety).

Cheque payments

Cheques are another way of accepting payments that mostly have similar pros and cons to cash. The specific downsides of cheques, however, are that there is a longer lag time between the parent making the payment and the school being able to cash it. This can cause problems with, for instance, having the money you need for a trip in time for every child to go, or even with cheques bouncing altogether.

It’s probably fair to say that in a lot of places this way of accepting payments is slowly dying out because of its inefficiency, and the long time needed to process money. A lot of people these days simply don’t use cheques, or even own a chequebook.

Bank transfers

This payment method doesn’t involve dealing with banknotes and papers, everything is in one place on the screen, and the accounting is so much easier. However, this payment method is not as popular at schools because it tends to be very time-inefficient when it comes to making frequent, smaller payments of different sizes – like you do with school meals. The time that it costs to make a bank transfer is worth more than the £2.40 you’re actually sending.

Card payments

Research shows that most people prefer using card payments when they can. From the parents’ point of view, card payments provide several incentives to pay reliably and on time: its fast and easy, refunds are simple, and they can track their payments in their account or on their phone.

Schools must always consider the fee that comes with each payment and understand whether this is feasible for them to use (remember, that lots of providers don’t use a flat fee and usually charge some percentage plus a couple of pence, which become super expensive for micro-payments that are most common in schools). However, sometimes it’s better to lose a small percentage on a transaction fee, rather than losing 100% of a payment when a parent says that they don’t have enough cash with them!

All these considerations are why we take a holistic approach to school payments, and have given our MIS the ability to log cash, cheque, bank transfer, and online card payments. Arbor provides a sophisticated solution for managing school payments via the MIS and our Parent Portal. Together with taking payments for school meals, trips and clubs, it gives flexible possibilities for setting up and accepting payments for bespoke accounts, such as for books or uniforms. You can also use Arbor to audit and report on all these transactions and accounts.

So, what’s the best method for your school?

This is up to you, but on balance out of all four options, it’s no secret that going cashless is the current trend in today’s world. The United Kingdom had the highest revenue rate in cashless payments among all EU countries in 2017 – more than 100 trillion pounds. More and more schools are joining this trend and deciding to go cashless (or mostly cashless), for simple reasons:

  • It is not particularly safe for kids to bring money to school
  • It is also not very safe to keep money in school
  • It involves either school staff time spent to take money to the bank, or spending money on services that would bank money for you
  • Going cashless eases accounting workloads

A card payments system like Arbor will help you go cashless in a format designed for schools and integrated with all your other MIS modules.

Image 1: A screenshot of the Arbor App 

The benefits of card payments in Arbor:

  • A flat transaction fee of 1.275% (cheaper than most providers). Schools that often process micropayments (for instance for school meals) don’t have to worry about a high add-on price, since Arbor takes only a flat fee with no hidden costs or additional service charges per payment.
  • Everything is in one place – in Arbor – so there is no need for schools to maintain different systems to run the MIS and accept card payments. It’s easier and time efficient for school staff. And it’s great and easy for parents as well – they log in once to their Parent Portal in which they can not only see their kids results and information, but pay for their meals, clubs, trips etc.
  • Arbor supports paying out money to different bank accounts (for instance, when there is a need to pay out collected money to a caterer to a different bank account). You can also find the detailed breakdown of each payout per transaction basis.
  • All reports, VAT invoices etc. are accessible in Arbor MIS, saving time otherwise used on maintaining and using more than one system.

We are at the beginning of a fascinating journey for different ways of accepting payments, and the future may bring even more developments, from mobile and biometric payments, to things like cryptocurrencies. If your school trip funds are still tied up in a lockbox in reception though, a decent card payments system may just be the best place to start.

If you’re an Arbor customer, you can talk to your Account Manager about getting started on Arbor Payments and Parent Portal in your MIS. If you’re not yet an Arbor school, and would like to find out more, get in touch via our contact form or on 0207 043 0470.

Jem Jones - 11 April, 2019

Category : Blog

How to set S.M.A.R.T staff objectives

We recently talked about the importance of an aligned staff development framework in your school or Trust, and our first point was to make sure your objectives are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. SMART objectives are a common project management tool, and can be set for an individual staff member, for a

We recently talked about the importance of an aligned staff development framework in your school or Trust, and our first point was to make sure your objectives are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. SMART objectives are a common project management tool, and can be set for an individual staff member, for a department, a school, or even as a vision for an entire Trust. So, what are the benefits of SMART objectives for staff management, and how do you make sure you’re getting them?

(You can also click here to read & download a handy PDF checklist for SMART objectives)

Specific

Specificity is important because it means your staff will always have a clear sense of direction. Wanting to improve attendance may be your overarching goal, but your staff will be listless and their attempts to do so may rub up against one another if they each have that as their own personal objective. A more specific school objective would be “improve on last year’s attendance across the board in every year group”. Then, your Heads of Year would have even more specific attendance objectives such as “meet with the parents of every persistent absentee in Year 5, to create personal attendance strategies“.

In this way, your staff all know how they’re contributing to your targets. This will give their daily tasks a sense of genuine purpose, and help them prioritise their time. To check if your staff objectives are specific enough, ask yourself; is this objective focused on this one person’s role in the school? Am I confident this objective won’t be misconstrued?

Measurable

Measurability is important to consider for practical reasons. You need to know if your efforts are effective so that you can build on them next term or next year, and you can’t know that unless you’re somehow measuring them. When you set a staff member’s objective, consider how it will be reviewed in three months time. Try not to set objectives that will require a significant admin burden to measure – it’s best to use metrics which are already recorded by the tools at your disposal. For instance, the Head of Year target above, to meet with the parents of every persistent absentee in Year 5, would be very difficult if you didn’t already have a way of reporting on persistent absentees by year group and easily making their meeting records.

Remember that ‘measurable’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘measured by hard data’. A classroom teacher, for instance, might have a target of achieving positive feedback in every lesson observation that year. If you decide how you’re going to measure your targets up front, you remove any disputes and headaches from the performance review process, and ensure that staff members always know how well they’re doing.

Attainable

It’s important to make sure your objectives are challenging, yet realistic. Give your staff members something aim for, but make sure the target is within range. Getting to a 97% attendance average this term is a very specific and measurable goal for your school, but could end up being pretty demoralising if your current attendance is 85%. If a goal is overwhelmingly optimistic, it’s harder to work out where to start, and stressful to invest energy into any one approach.

Individual staff abilities should also be considered – do they have enough training in their role to complete this objective? Will they need any help? Do they feel confident that they can succeed, and if not then how can you as a manager instill that confidence in them?

Relevant

Making sure your objectives are relevant has obvious surface level benefits – there’s no point telling your staff to do something that has nothing to do with the school or its students. Relevance has a more refined meaning though; individual staff objectives should be relevant to their team’s current objective, which should be relevant to the school’s current overarching objectives, and so on. At the top level, creating a very clear improvement plan will help all of your school or Trust’s line managers to set relevant individual goals for their staff.

If staff goals are all very relevant, the right person will always be completing the right task. Relevant objectives also help staff improve their skills in their chosen career. To test whether an objective is relevant enough, ask yourself if it’s contributing both to the goals of the school and the purpose of that individual’s job role.

Timely

Every objective should be time bound, both to make sure there’s a defined end or review date, and to make sure your staff member is performing tasks at a relevant time in relation to their context. In a school or Trust context, this generally means binding objectives to the academic year. You should be able to decide whether an objective is a short term goal which should be finished by the end of term, such as to support students in achieving their mock exam target marks, or whether an objective is a longer term project that could take all academic year with termly check ins, such as to improve homework submission rates across a department.

The benefit of this is that your staff member will have the time they need to achieve their objective and will be achieving them in time to contribute to your broader goals for the school. To check if an objective is timely, ask yourself; is this the right time of year to attempt this objective? Have I provided enough time to succeed? Will it be complete in time to fit in with our overall improvement plan?

However you track your staff performance, whether through Arbor MIS or any other system, SMART is a useful framework to keep in mind. The best performance objectives will instill a sense of purpose, make task prioritisation easy, and give your staff a clear direction for the year ahead. Download a PDF checklist of this advice here, or read more advice on improving school and Trust operations here.

Cosima Baring - 1 April, 2019

Category : Blog

7 things to see at the Schools & Academies Show 2019

Fig. 1: The ExCel Centre, where the Schools & Academies Show will be held this year  With just a couple of days to go until the Schools & Academies Show 2019, we’ve rounded up 7 things we’ll be going to see at this year’s show. 3rd April 2019: Day 1 What: Ministerial Keynote Address When

Fig. 1: The ExCel Centre, where the Schools & Academies Show will be held this year 

With just a couple of days to go until the Schools & Academies Show 2019, we’ve rounded up 7 things we’ll be going to see at this year’s show.

3rd April 2019: Day 1

What: Ministerial Keynote Address

When & where: Main Stage, 9:40-9:50am

Who: The Rt Hon. Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education

Interesting for: Everyone! This is a great chance to learn what the DfE’s been up to & hear about future plans from the Secretary of State for Education himself. In this short slot, he’ll no doubt discuss the DfE’s recent push to reduce teacher workload (including more details about the Early Career Framework), as well as how they plan to help schools reduce cost pressures and free up resources to reinvest back into the classroom.

What: Is Your Trust Board Future Proof?

Where & when: MAT Summit, 9:55-10:25am

Who: Leora Cruddas (CEO, Confederation of School Trusts)

Interesting for: MATs that are growing. A former director of education at two London local authorities and now CEO of Confederation of School Trusts, Leora will draw on her experience of working with MATs & their boards to evaluate what constitutes effective, accountable and ethical governance. She’ll also talk about the importance of “Horizon gazing” and keeping agile for young, growing MATs.

What: Launching a Digital Revolution in Schools

Who: Nancy Wilkinson (Programme Manager, Education, Nesta)

When & where: Technology & Educational Resources, 2:00-2:20pm

Interesting for: School IT Managers, Data Managers & CIOs. Nancy Wilkinson, Education Programme Manager for innovation charity Nesta, will talk about how to overcome barriers to the adoption of technology in schools, including how to create a digital strategy, build the necessary infrastructure and ensure that all staff have adequate training. She’ll also discuss how technology should be used to support teaching and learning, not replace it.

What: Case Study Session: Academy Conversion – from the Perspective of a MAT

When & where: Main Stage, 2:10-2:30pm

Who: Adrian Ball, COO, Inspiration Trust

Interesting for: Any schools that are considering becoming an academy and/or joining a MAT. In this session, Adrian will explain the challenges of converting and what schools should expect once they’ve converted, as well as the technicalities of becoming an academy (e.g. changes to staffing, financial & procurement processes within your school). He’ll also cover the key things to consider when joining (or starting) a MAT. This is a good chance to hear from an experienced COO who’s ‘been there, done that’ – don’t miss it!

4th April 2019: Day 2

What: Case Study: ATT: You Have to be Strategic, You Have to be Bold, You Have to be Brave – Can it Work?

When & where: School Improvement Summit, 9:00-9:45am

Who: Debbie Clinton (CEO, Academy Transformation Trust) & Amy Bills (Executive Principal, Caldmore Primary and North Walsall Primary Academies)

Interesting for: MAT CEOs & Senior Leaders (or anyone thinking of starting their own MAT). During this session, Debbie and Amy will talk through how ATT (a 21 school mixed-phase MAT) has succeeded in delivering effective school improvement across 10 LA areas since it was founded in 2012. They will also discuss the importance of the back office, and what’s it like to be a Principal in a large, national MAT.

What: Keynote Address: Summary Evaluations of MATs

When & where: MAT Summit, 11:50-12:20pm

Who: Neil Redmond-King (Principal Officer, Schools, Ofsted) & Matthew Purves (Deputy Director for Schools, Ofsted)

Interesting for: MAT CEOs & Senior Leaders. As MAT summary evaluations are something that we still know relatively little about, this talk is a great chance to hear an overview from the experts about what they’ll mean for MATs and what their findings have demonstrated to date. There will be an open Q&A session at the end of this talk, so it’s also a good opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the process and where Ofsted plans to take it in the future – make sure you come prepared with some questions!

Both days:

What: Arbor at stand 709!

Who: The Arbor team

When & where: All day on 3rd & 4th April

Don’t forget to come and visit the Arbor stand (stand 709) over the two days to learn more about how our simple, smart, cloud-based MIS could transform the way your school or MAT operates. We’ll be giving one-to-one demos throughout the day that we can personalise to the exact needs of your school or MAT, and our team will be at the stand to answer any questions you have about the process of moving MIS. To quote longtime Arbor user Julie Rush, PA to the Headteacher at Parkroyal Community School; “it’s good to look round and see what there is, but before you launch into buying a particular product or a system that you think you might need for your school, I’d recommend talking to Arbor first because the system can probably do it!”

Look forward to seeing you there!

Tim Ward - 28 March, 2019

Category : Blog

Why you should be using standardised assessments at your school or MAT

A number of factors are making schools and MATs look again at the data they gather and use around pupil attainment and progress. These include, but are not limited to: Reducing teacher workload The proposed new, less data reliant, Ofsted Framework The challenge of standardising teacher assessments Balancing the autonomy that schools require to meet

A number of factors are making schools and MATs look again at the data they gather and use around pupil attainment and progress. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Reducing teacher workload
  • The proposed new, less data reliant, Ofsted Framework
  • The challenge of standardising teacher assessments
  • Balancing the autonomy that schools require to meet the needs of their unique context vs. the MAT’s need for reliable performance data

The traditional model in schools has, for some time, been a combination of formative assessment and summative teacher assessment.

Tracking formative assessment takes many forms, from simple notes against lesson plans to more formal ‘rubrics’ where banks of statements are ‘ticked off’. Whatever level of recording is used by schools, this is the main vehicle for improvement in student achievement as it’s ongoing and informs future provision.

Since the removal of ‘levels’, there’s been a huge amount of time spent by schools coming up with alternative summative assessment models. A lot of these ended up looking very much like the levels they were supposed to replace!

Whatever the summative model, the greatest challenges of a teacher-determined summative judgement have remained the same; ensuring consistency and validity of these judgements, and managing the workload caused by creating, moderating and collating judgements (let alone analysing the outcomes!)

There is also clear pressure from Ofsted to stop using flight paths to judge whether pupils’ progress is as desired. Only this weekend, Sean Harford (HMI and Ofsted’s National Director for Education) made it clear that this approach to target setting is, in his opinion, potentially demotivating. Flight paths are intrinsically linked to the use of summative teacher assessment scales – each implies the other is a valid approach.

In summary; schools and MATs face a real challenge. It’s essential for leaders to know the success, or otherwise, of their provision. This is particularly difficult for MATs as they scale and begin to cover a wider geographical area (and manage ever higher pupil and school numbers). Without attainment data then desktop surveys of the success, or otherwise, of schools and teachers is not possible.

What is needed is a method of providing the data required whilst reducing teacher workload, ensuring consistency of judgement and, depending on your approach, moving away from flight-paths.

This is where commercial standardised testing comes in. It solves many of the problems associated with summative teacher judgement:

  • It’s time efficient – teachers don’t need to keep excessive records or sit through long moderation meetings. Results are available for review more quickly than if moderation is necessary – giving more time for planning better provision.
  • Consistency is determined through the mark scheme for the test and developed and refined by the results from a very large sample of the pupil population nationally (much larger than most schools and all but the biggest MATs can provide).
  • Tests designed to give a ‘point in time’ measurement reduce the reliance on the flight path model through a focus on outcomes relative to the academic year.

The final piece of the jigsaw in getting standardised testing to work in your school or MAT is making sure you have analytics that are informative and easily aggregated.

Some MIS systems should be able to do this for you. For example, Arbor’s integration with RS Assessments’ PiRA and PUMA testing aggregates all of your test outcome data into the school and MAT MIS, with no extra data downloads and uploads, for easy and insightful analytics. Teachers can use the strand level analysis provided by RS Assessments to more accurately plan future curriculum content to meet the needs of the pupils. Senior leaders at schools and MATs can also use Arbor MIS to take action on their results – for example, by setting up intervention groups, or by building custom reports combining data from their PiRA and PUMA test results and Arbor MIS. If you don’t have access to this kind of analysis, many standardised test providers will offer their own dashboards or reporting services.

Fig 1.: Using Arbor’s integration with PiRA & PUMA tests in Arbor MIS

By adopting standardised assessments in place of teacher determined summative judgements, the time saved can be put back into planning and delivering great learning experiences for pupils whilst ensuring school and MAT leaders can still evaluate the outcomes achieved.

Get in touch to book a free demo to find out how Arbor MIS and RS Assessments from Hodder Education could transform your school or MAT, call us on 0208 050 1028  or email us at tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

For current customers: contact your Arbor Customer Success Manager or Account Manager to get this integration set up!

Carly McCulloch - 25 March, 2019

Category : Blog

How to use Arbor to track homework in your school

Over the past few months we’ve been giving our Assignments a fresh lick of paint, so that what used to be a minor feature on the lesson dashboard is now a full blown module schools can use as an electronic homework solution. Teachers have always been able to set students work directly from the lesson

Over the past few months we’ve been giving our Assignments a fresh lick of paint, so that what used to be a minor feature on the lesson dashboard is now a full blown module schools can use as an electronic homework solution. Teachers have always been able to set students work directly from the lesson dashboard, which will appear in their Student Portal so they can submit their work online, but we’ve made some big improvements to what you can then do with the data this generates. School leaders can now analyse how much work is being set in each subject, which teachers are setting the most work, and more!

We asked Carly McCulloch, Arbor Product Manager, to go over some of these features for you in a bit more detail:

We’ve made some improvements to the workflows for creating assignments, and tracking the submissions of assignments within Arbor for you and your teaching staff. These new additions to the assignment module have been developed based on feedback from school senior leadership, who wanted a way to see the submission statistics for assignments in their school, and check the quantity and quality of homework set by teaching staff. We take suggestions from schools very seriously, so please keep them coming!

Improvements to homework tracking include:

  • In the “Overview by Courses” section, you can see the number of assignments created and the submission statistics for each course in your school by month, term or academic year. Based on what you want to look at in more detail, or if there are any areas you want to follow up on, you can drill down to see the number of assignments created and the submissions statistics for each year group and each class within that year group. You can also see the assignment submissions for specific students in a class and across all their classes with the grades and/or comments for each assignment they submitted.

Fig. 1 – The Overview by Courses page showing automatically calculated stats for the number of assignments set and their submission rates

  • In the “Overview by Staff” section, you can see the number of assignments created by each member of staff per month, term and academic year. You can easily drill down from this view to see the assignment details as well as the submission rates in the markbook. This gives you a clear view of the amount of homework being set according to your schools’ homework policy, and gives you a deeper insight into the quality of assignments your teaching staff are creating for students.

We’ve also not forgotten about our company mission to save teachers time. A lot of the new features should help teachers set and mark Assignments more easily, incentivising use of the system and streamlining workflows in your school:

  • You now have the ability to create an assignment for multiple classes, saving you the hassle of re-creating the assignment for each class you need to assign it to. This is particularly helpful for members of your team who may need to create an assignment like a coursework deadline for all classes across a department or faculty.
  • You can create an assignment that doesn’t need to be marked by selecting ‘No mark’, giving you and your teaching staff more flexibility to track the submission of every kind of work. You can track submissions for assignments that do require marking by selecting ‘Grade’, ‘Number’, ‘Percentage’, or ‘Comment only’. Alternatively, you can simply input a grade and/or a comment into the markbook, which will automatically update the submission status.

Fig. 2 – A Student Marks Chart automatically generated for a marked assignment in Arbor MIS – the colour splits the marks down the median, the blue line shows the mean, and hovering over each bar shows further student level information

  • You can track the submission of all assignments, whether they are submitted via Arbor through the Student Portal or physically in school. Teachers can update the status to ‘Submitted’, ‘Not submitted’, ‘Submitted late’, and ‘Waiting for a student to submit’. If students submit work via their Student Portal, it will automatically show as ‘Submitted’ and will be ready to mark.

Fig. 3 – A teacher marking a grade-based English assignment, submitted by students online

We hope this module can help you to track assignment submissions, make them easier for students and teachers to manage, and ultimately improve the effectiveness of assignments in your school.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS system could transform the way your school or MAT works, save your staff time and improve student outcomes, get in touch via the contact form on our website

Fiona Rose - 20 March, 2019

Category : Blog

A data manager’s guide to analysing your Key Stage 4 data

The educational landscape is constantly changing, not least the way in which student and school performance is measured. While working in my previous role as a secondary school data manager we still had Levels, GCSEs graded A* to G and RAISEonline. Now we have Progress 8 and Attainment 8 as the headline measures used to

The educational landscape is constantly changing, not least the way in which student and school performance is measured.

While working in my previous role as a secondary school data manager we still had Levels, GCSEs graded A* to G and RAISEonline. Now we have Progress 8 and Attainment 8 as the headline measures used to measure school performance, along with the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) average point score, and the proportion of pupils attaining English and Maths at a grade 5 or above.

Fig 1.: Your free Arbor Insight dashboards analyse trends over the past three years and benchmark you against local, national and “Schools like you” measures

Arbor Insight is all you need to analyse past performance and view trends, but how can you estimate your accountability measures for your current Year 11 cohort?

First, some quick definitions:

Attainment 8 for each student is simply the sum of values of the highest GCSEs within four “buckets”: Maths, English, EBAcc and Open (other subjects). Maths is double-weighted. The highest of English Language and English Literature is placed in the English bucket and is also double-weighted, provided that the student takes both. Some non-GCSE qualifications can count towards the ‘Open’ slots.

Progress 8 for each student is one tenth of the difference between the student’s predicted Attainment 8, and the expected Attainment 8 score, based on their KS2 Prior Attainment. Both measures are calculated after the Key Stage 4 results are released each year, because they’re based on the actual average results achieved by students.

The first and easiest way to analyse your Key Stage 4 performance is to check the features available in your MIS or assessments system. Your MIS may provide estimates for Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Arbor does this within the Progress 8 Analysis dashboard. This automatically uses the complex DfE methodology and will give you a useful overview of your estimated measures. The estimates for each student can be downloaded or sent to a live feed:

Fig. 2.: Arbor uses DfE methodology to calculate estimates for Progress 8 & Attainment 8

What can you do if your MIS doesn’t provide this analysis?

You can calculate your Progress 8 measures within a spreadsheet. You’ll need to start by calculating the KS2 prior attainment for each student. For details of how the DfE calculate the KS2 Prior Attainment you should refer to the Secondary accountability measures document published by the Department for Education. It’s currently the rounded average of the fine scores for Reading and Maths. Below is an example of how the fine scores can be calculated within a spreadsheet – feel free to copy my work!

You can use lookups on the test marks to find the fine score for each student. Then average the two marks and round to one decimal place:

You then need to download the grades for English, Maths, Ebacc and Open from your MIS. To calculate the Attainment 8 convert these grades to values and sum, doubling the value for Maths and English (providing students are taking both English Literature and English Language).

The Secondary accountability measures document provides Attainment 8 and “bucket” averages from the previous year. These can be copied into your spreadsheet.

Use this data to calculate the expected Attainment 8 score and marks for each student. The KS2 Prior Attainment for the student is used to lookup the average marks for Attainment 8 and for the English, Maths, EBacc and Open subjects. The average marks for Maths and English need to be divided by 2 to give the expected marks for these subjects; the EBacc and Open marks need to be divided by 3.

The Progress 8 for each student can be found by subtracting the expected Attainment 8 score from the predicted Attainment 8 score for each student and dividing by 10:

To calculate the overall school Progress 8, find the average of all the students’ Progress 8:

Finally, you can refer to columns from the different sheets and use conditional formatting to analyse your data further:

I hope these tips have been useful for new data managers, as well as those who still aren’t quite comfortable with the new system. If you’d like to find out how you can perform your Progress 8 or Attainment 8 analysis in Arbor instead, do get in touch here!

 

Rebecca Watkins - 14 March, 2019

Category : Blog

KS1 & KS2 disadvantaged data is now available in Arbor Insight!

We’ve just updated our KS1 and KS2 free dashboards and premium Insight reports with the latest ASP disadvantaged data! This means that our Ofsted Readiness, Attainment & Progress and Closing the Gap reports all now include validated & disadvantaged KS2 data and disadvantaged data & phonics KS1 results. With the release of this new disadvantaged

We’ve just updated our KS1 and KS2 free dashboards and premium Insight reports with the latest ASP disadvantaged data!

This means that our Ofsted Readiness, Attainment & Progress and Closing the Gap reports all now include validated & disadvantaged KS2 data and disadvantaged data & phonics KS1 results.

With the release of this new disadvantaged data, the Department for Education has published new analysis about the disadvantage gap in UK schools. Looking at provisional phonics data from 2018, 70% of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) met the expected standard in phonics in year 1, compared to 84% of all other pupils. The gap between pupils eligible for FSM and all other pupils is 14 percentage points, and remains the same compared to 2017.

The gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged KS2 pupils (measured using the disadvantage gap index) has decreased in each of the last seven years, narrowing by 3% in the latest year and 13.2% since 2011.

If you’d like to know how your disadvantaged pupils have performed relative to national averages and other pupils within your school, you can find all the information you need in your Insight reports, which are available to view in your Arbor Insight portal. If you’ve already got an account, you can click here to log in, or click here to create an account for your school or MAT.

A closer look at what’s new in our Insight reports:

Since we imported this new data, we’ve made a few changes to your Arbor Insight reports. We’ve outlined the most important changes below.

1. Ofsted Readiness report

In the KS1 section of this report, we’ve added disadvantage cohort benchmarks to the Working at Expected Standard measures for Reading, Writing and Maths. For KS2, this added benchmark can be found in Averaged Scaled Score and Overall Progress Score for Reading, Writing and Maths.

Fig. 1: The bar graphs above show your school’s average as a benchmark against each demographic group, helping you to quickly see which cohorts are under-performing or exceeding the school average

Fig. 2: A screenshot of our Ofsted Readiness report

You may have also noticed changes in the condensed Closing the Gap section in our Ofsted Readiness report for both KS1 and KS2 data (see above image). For KS1, Working at the Expected Standard for Reading, Writing and Maths now has added disadvantaged measures. For KS2, this measure has been added under Averaged Scale Score in Reading and Maths. The text callout for these measures contain useful calculations which explain your data in plain english & calculate the percentage by which the gap for each measure has widened or narrowed in your school.

2. Attainment & Progress report:

The KS1 & KS2 Attainment and Progress reports also now contain disadvantaged benchmarks and cohort data for 2017/18, allowing you to benchmark this cohort against all other demographic groupings in your school. For KS1, this chart can be found in measures, Achieving Expected Standard: Y1 Phonics, Achieving Expected Standard and Working at Greater Depth within the Expected Standard for Reading, Writing and Maths. For KS2, this graph appears in Overall Progress Score for Reading, Writing and Maths.

Fig. 3: A screenshot of our Attainment & Progress report

3. Closing the Gap report: Focus on Disadvantage

This particular report is part of a series of 5 reports which help to identify the gaps between student groups, showing which groups are under or over performing relative to the school, group and national averages.

At the beginning of this report there is a star chart which shows the gaps between disadvantaged and EAL pupils compared to the rest of the school. For KS1, the measures shown in this graph are attendance and attainment, and for KS2 they are attendance, attainment and progress measures. This star chart is colour coded to help you identify any areas that need your attention (or indeed any areas that should be shouted about because there is no gap!); for example, a green star indicates there is no gap between the group and the school average, whilst an orange star indicates the group has performed below the school and national averages. A yellow star indicates the group has performed between them.

Fig. 4: A screenshot of the star chart at the beginning of the Closing the Gap report

Your reports clearly display the cohort size for each measure, so you know how much statistical significance each outcome has. This can help you know which areas you should be prioritising.

Finally, KS4 validated and disadvantaged data will be released in the next few weeks. Once it’s released, Arbor Insight portals & reports will be automatically updated.

As one of only a few accredited suppliers, we receive all of our data for Arbor Insight reports and dashboards directly from the DfE. Over 10,000 schools are now using Arbor Insight to benchmark their performance, so if you’re thinking of signing up, you’ll be in good company!

 

 

Cosima Baring - 12 March, 2019

Category : Blog

Scaling your MAT sustainably: How, when & if to centralise

We’re excited to announce that on 2nd May 2019, Arbor & PS Financials are bringing together MAT CEOs and senior leaders from across the country for the third installment of our MAT conference series! The conference will build on the success of our MAT conferences in London and Manchester last year, attended by over 200

We’re excited to announce that on 2nd May 2019, Arbor & PS Financials are bringing together MAT CEOs and senior leaders from across the country for the third installment of our MAT conference series! The conference will build on the success of our MAT conferences in London and Manchester last year, attended by over 200 Executive Leaders representing 150 MATs nationally.

Image 1: Kings Place, Kings Cross, where this year’s conference will take place

Entitled Scaling sustainably: How, when and if to centralise, the conference will cover various different strategies for achieving sustainable growth. Delegates will hear from established MAT CEOs & Senior Leaders about how they’ve scaled their strategy, operations, central team process, systems, reporting, governance & culture. You can read about some of of our speakers below:

Cathie Paine, Deputy CEO, REAch2:
Appointed in 1998 to her first headship in a large and socially deprived school in “special measures”, Cathie was at the time the youngest headteacher in England and led the school to become “Good” in just four terms. Cathie’s headship career went on to span 15 years across three key stages and schools in a variety of challenging circumstances across the 3-11 age range. As Deputy CEO of REAch2, the largest primary MAT in the country, her vision is the belief that school leadership at its heart is about transforming lives. Cathie will share her advice on how to scale culture across a MAT whilst giving schools individual identity.

Will Smith, CEO, Greenshaw Learning Trust:
Will is judged by Ofsted to be an outstanding and inspirational school leader. He has worked as a senior school leader for over 15 years and was a national leader in education as leader of the PiXL network, supporting half of the secondary schools in England and Wales. Will was headteacher at Greenshaw High School for five years where he oversaw improvement in outcomes at GCSE and A level. His talk will draw on his experience of scaling from 1-13 schools in 3 years, and will include practical and implementable tips for MATS at a similar stage of growth.

Claire-Marie Cuthbert, CEO, The Evolve Trust:
Claire-Maire has over 15 years of leadership experience in some of the country’s most challenging schools including both primary and secondary contexts. Awarded Advanced Skills Teacher status in 2002, from there Claire-Marie became a trouble shooter for failing schools and departments across the region and also advised the DfE and QCDA on innovative curriculum models and personalised pathways for students. She has been recognised nationally by TES Teaching Awards for her outstanding contribution to challenging urban education, and has recently been awarded the prestigious EMWA award for outstanding contribution to public life and exceptional leadership. During her presentation, Claire-Marie will talk about how to improve collaboration within your MAT and across school phases.

Paul West, CEO, Spencer Academies Trust:
Paul West is a teacher, school leader and National Leader of Education with twenty-five years of experience in schools, and a ten-year record of outstanding leadership in first tier education trusts and corporates. Paul has worked across maintained and independent schools and has led at both primary and secondary level, and his leadership has been judged as outstanding in successive Ofsted inspections. He has practical experience of developing rapid school improvement strategy, opening start-up Academies, establishing Free Schools, Additional Provision Schools, and managing significant change, and will draw on this experience to talk about what to do right and what to avoid when merging MATs.

Paul James, CEO, River Learning Trust:
Paul James is a qualified teacher with over 20 years of experience in schools, including in senior leadership roles in a range of secondary education settings, and as a primary school governor and IEB member. Until recently he was a Headteacher of a comprehensive school of over 1800 students, which is a National Teaching School. He is currently a National Leader of Education alongside being Chief Executive of the River Learning Trust.  Paul will discuss how to define non-negotiables across your trust whilst building in agency for your headteachers.

 

In addition to the speakers and talks listed above, there will also be an open, round-table discussion between MAT COOs about how they’re scaling different sized MATs, including any challenges they’ve come up against in the process and anything that’s worked particularly well. You’ll leave with lots of ideas and tips to take back to your MAT to help you as you scale.

Similarly to our previous conferences, we’ve scheduled various breaks throughout the day, during which we encourage delegates to network, exchange stories about scaling, and share good practice with one another. There will also be breakfast pastries on arrival, free lunch served, and tea & coffee throughout the day. Hope to see you there!

Click here to sign up for your free ticket to Arbor’s MAT Conference: https://scaling-your-MAT-sustainably-2019.eventbrite.com

To get an idea of the sorts of topics we’ll be covering on the day, why not have a look back at the presentations from previous MAT conferences that we posted on our blog? Click here to read them

Jem Jones - 7 March, 2019

Category : Blog

The pros and cons of automating school communication

More and more software on the market offers ways of moving beyond the classic time saving tools of mail merges and reporting templates, into the realm of fully automated workflows. As with all new technologies, this offers opportunities to improve the way we work, as well as potential pitfalls, depending on how you use them.

More and more software on the market offers ways of moving beyond the classic time saving tools of mail merges and reporting templates, into the realm of fully automated workflows. As with all new technologies, this offers opportunities to improve the way we work, as well as potential pitfalls, depending on how you use them.

What do we mean by ‘automated workflows’?

An automated workflow is essentially one in which a single input from a user can trigger several resulting actions. This reduces the amount of data that needs to be entered and screens that need to be clicked through to achieve a desired result.

 

Diagram: an example of an automated behaviour workflow

Every step in the process achieving the outputs above is one that would have to be performed manually by a staff member if they did not have automated workflows, and which can be performed in moments by automated computer software with access to accurate school records.

Some common examples of automated workflows in school software include:

  • Parent Portals which automatically show a level of live processed data about a student to their guardian, for instance to indicate what homework they have been assigned and which assignments are now overdue
  • Reports which automatically generate according to templates written by the school, and send at scheduled times for specified staff members to view
  • Behaviour workflows that can automatically email/text individuals, schedule disciplinary actions, or assign behaviour points, according to a negative or positive incident that has been recorded

The argument against

The most obvious concern when setting up these workflows is human error. If a serious behaviour incident were to be incorrectly logged against the wrong student, that could result in a confused or upset parent on the phone to the school office that afternoon (not to mention the unearned earful the unsuspecting student could be in for when they got home). If you’re interested in automated workflows but your staff are not yet very technologically literate, it might be better to set up semi-automated systems with stopgaps for admins to approve comms before they’re sent out, before trialling full automation.

The root of this concern is the level of training required for all the individuals using the system. If inappropriately knowledgeable about the level of information that a parent portal shares, for example, a staff member may end up disseminating more of their personal opinions to parents than they would like. Similarly, if a workflow is inexpertly set up, the administrator may cause far too much or too little information to be transferred, to the extent that notifications become either irritating or simply not useful. This is why it’s absolutely vital to have excellent support and training resources from your software provider when setting up automated workflows, and why you should choose software which clearly outlines to administrators which workflows they have set up and how they can be edited. If there’s no way to work out what your outputs will be, don’t use that automated process – regroup, reconfigure, and retrain.

The argument in favour

Even if you only implement semi-automation, and only for your most repetitive admin tasks, this can pay big dividends for staff time. This should give them more time to spend working with students. The best version of an automated workflow is one which removes the burden of data collection and processing from your staff, and lets you prioritise actually dealing with what the data tells you.

Automation also lends a degree of consistency to your policies, as the same results will always be generated from the same input, and staff don’t have to remember exact data processes perfectly every time themselves. While human error can lead to incorrect outputs, there’s far more chance for human error to creep in throughout systems which are entirely manual and paper based. We’ve seen firsthand how setting up consistent and reliable automated communications can have a big impact on parental engagement and school processes, particularly within behaviour workflows where consistency of both rules and rewards is really vital.

Case Study

Castle Hill had a couple of issues with parent comms before they moved to Arbor MIS, because almost everything was based on paper. When children showed good or bad behaviour, teachers would write a note in the student’s planner, which the child would then take home for parents to check. However, children couldn’t always be relied upon to take their planners home with them – especially if they’d been given a negative behaviour note from their teacher! Now they’ve switched to Arbor, the staff at Castle Hill log behaviour points in the system, which automatically sends an email to the relevant guardians. Parents can also log into their Parent Portal for a live update on how their children are doing. Children are now better behaved because they know that their parents know what they’ve been up to, and the school has less paperwork to get through.

Overall, like any tool in education, the effectiveness of automation depends entirely on how you can use it. If you are going to set up automation, it needs to be in such a way that it demonstrably responds to your specific challenges, and can provide the maximum possible impact to the time constraints currently affecting your staff and the outcomes of your students.

If you’re a current Arbor MIS or Group MIS customer interested in setting up more of your automated features, get in touch with your Account Manager or email myteam@arbor-education.com. If you don’t use Arbor yet and would like to find out more about how we can automate repetitive tasks to save teacher time, get in touch on 0207 043 0470, hello@arbor-education.com, or via our contact form.

 

Jem Jones - 5 March, 2019

Category : Blog

How to buy Arbor for your school or Trust

More and more schools and MATs are choosing to move MIS, with 1,000+ schools and MATs predicted to switch this year, and we’ve definitely noticed interest in our own products and services increasing. We now work with over 600 schools spread across hundreds of MATs and Local Authorities, driven by a desire to transform the

More and more schools and MATs are choosing to move MIS, with 1,000+ schools and MATs predicted to switch this year, and we’ve definitely noticed interest in our own products and services increasing. We now work with over 600 schools spread across hundreds of MATs and Local Authorities, driven by a desire to transform the way they work, save teachers time, and improve outcomes. However, while it seems ever clearer why you might want to move to simpler, smarter, cloud based systems, we still often hear from schools wondering exactly how they buy something as complex as a Management Information System.

Arbor's leaflets at our BETT 2019 stand

Get in touch! 

This is always the first step! Email tellmemore@arbor-education.com or call us on 0208 050 1028 and we’ll connect you with your local Arbor Partnership Manager. Your Partnership Manager will come and visit you to learn more about your requirements and give you a demo of our MIS. They’ll also answer any of your questions while you decide when you’ll switch, including a written proposal so you can feel confident in your decision and share it among other stakeholders.

When you’ve had time to evaluate your options and decide which package suits you best, they’ll send your contract and introduce you to your dedicated Customer Success Manager, who will personally walk you through your kick-off plan and data migration. This is definitely the simplest way to get started on Arbor MIS, and is perfect for customers from individual schools to smaller and medium sized trusts.

Buy through a framework

You can also buy Arbor through several trusted frameworks, giving you the peace of mind that due diligence checks have already been made on our product and company. Arbor is a member of the government’s G-Cloud 10 framework for approved cloud suppliers, and the ThinkIT framework.

To use a public framework, check their website carefully as the rules for each are different. Generally you’ll be able to send us your requirements and have a demo, before signing using the framework’s contract template.

For example, for G-Cloud 10, a standard process would be:

  • Internally confirm your requirements for an MIS
  • Keyword search in G-Cloud 10 with a relevant term that will turn up results specific to you, such as ‘Primary MIS’, ‘Secondary MIS’, or ‘MAT MIS’, to find the list of relevant suppliers (download this list for your audit trail)
  • Read each supplier’s product and pricing information
  • Send any clarification questions to these suppliers or host a demo day to confirm which supplier best meets your needs
  • Award your contract using the G-Cloud contract template

Both of these frameworks are suitable for customers of all sizes, and allow you to buy direct without running your own process, though they do provide you with a little less flexibility than coming to us directly (see above), or going to tender (see below).

A search for Primary MIS in G-Cloud's Cloud Software framework

Go to tender

If you’re a medium/large MAT or a larger school with more complex needs, you might want to take the time to write a tender outlining your requirements. We can still give you a demo whilst you work out your requirements, and once you go to tender we’ll respond to all your questions and outline the contract we think will be right for your school or Trust.

When writing your requirements, it can help to think about what you need your system to do, rather than just listing specific technical features you like the look of, as different MIS providers may have different solutions to the same problem. So long as you follow this rule of thumb, functions over features, tendering doesn’t have to be intimidating – you know what your school or Trust needs, and it’s up to suppliers to prove how they can provide that for you. You can find lots of great procurement advice online from the Crown Commercial Service, including a list of MIS functions you might want to ask about in your tender. Click here to see their list of suggested areas to consider.

If you think your MIS lifetime contract value will go over £181,302 you’ll need to run a formal public tender, which comes with its own set of rules and guidelines – tender expert John Leonard has written a blog that thoroughly outlines this process. Otherwise, just make sure your questions are clear, that you’ve outlined how you’ll be scoring products and pricing, and that you’ve given a reasonable amount of time for suppliers to respond to you. Don’t forget to give yourself enough time to properly evaluate the systems, as well – it’s better to tender sooner rather than later.

 

All this is especially important to consider at this point in the financial year, as some of your contracts may be coming up for extension. The DfE has confirmed in recent advice that moving to a cloud based product should be considered enough of a contract change to run a new procurement exercise, even if the new product is with the same provider. If you’d like to see what else is out there and look into Arbor MIS or Group MIS for your school or Trust, you can fill out our contact form, email tellmemore@arbor-education.com, or call us on 0208 050 1028 to get in touch!

Jem Jones - 28 February, 2019

Category : Blog

Could the right behaviour climate improve outcomes at your school?

Every teacher knows that good behaviour in the classroom is fundamental to learning. This isn’t just anecdotal; we’ve had the data to back this up since 2009, when the University of Nottingham surveyed hundreds of head teachers in school improvement groups whose schools had sustained improvement over three years. One of the most highly rated

Every teacher knows that good behaviour in the classroom is fundamental to learning. This isn’t just anecdotal; we’ve had the data to back this up since 2009, when the University of Nottingham surveyed hundreds of head teachers in school improvement groups whose schools had sustained improvement over three years. One of the most highly rated factors in their improved outcomes was an ‘improved behaviour climate’, an effect felt through all phases but most strongly in Primary schools (see below). Critically, the lower a school’s performance was at the start of the improvement process, the higher the impact they were likely to report behaviour climate having.

Graph: the impact of improved behaviour on Primary outcomes

Fig. 1 – The number of schools in each improvement group and the impact Head Teachers stated behaviour climate had on that improvement

So what ‘behaviour climate’ is best for your school?

The obvious question then, is what does an ‘improved behaviour climate’ mean? And how can you create one in your school? In the home, the generally accepted theory for how adult attitudes can affect children’s behaviour are Baumrind’s ‘four styles of parenting’:

Infographic: Baumrind's four parenting styles

  • ‘Neglectful’ (considered least effective) – structured rules are not provided for the child and their needs are treated with indifference.
  • ‘Permissive’ – rules and structure are still not enforced, but children’s needs are tended to, actions are supported, and desires are indulged.
  • ‘Authoritarian’ – rules and structure are heavily enforced, with the expectation of blind obedience, and without consideration for the child’s perspective or developmental stage.
  • ‘Authoritative’ (considered most effective) – rules are clear, reasoned, and enforced, and expectations are high, but the parent still responds to the child’s needs and supports them in becoming independent.

An authoritative style can also be adopted in the school. Creating an authoritative behaviour climate requires both structure and responsiveness.

For structure, behaviour policies must be clear and understood by all staff and students for them to be effective. When a student misbehaves, they should know in advance exactly what the consequences will be, and they should see these consequences being consistently applied. If discipline is capricious and random, or depends on which teachers are around and what their personal policies are, both staff and students can never feel certain that they are doing the right thing at any given moment.

For responsiveness, there should still be some room in your policy for mitigating case by case circumstances, and considered communication between students and staff. Listening to students to find out their side of the story, or letting them know when their voices will be heard regarding the matter, can be a key part of developing their understanding of what went wrong. If students feel unfairly treated, ignored, and confused about why a rule even exists, they are unlikely to follow the rule again next time – they’ll just try slightly harder not to get caught.

Choose systems which will keep your policies in line for you

One of the most important factors in authoritative parenting, or authoritative school operations, is having a consistently applied policy. There are plenty of ways to encourage consistency in your school. Posters of your behaviour policy in classrooms, introductory assemblies for new students and parents, and one on one explanations of rules when students have questions are all great ways to get your policy across. We also suggest using an electronic system to log your behaviour incidents, which will allow you to analyse behaviour across the school over time and improve your policies to target any problem areas.

Trying to remember by heart a complete, in depth set of behaviour policies can increase both staff workloads and inconsistency, achieving the opposite of your aim. If you have a clear, user-friendly behaviour system, ideally one that can automate repetitive admin work for you, you can make sure everyone who needs to be is kept in the loop. Using modern technology, it is possible to create a central repository for all your policies and information, so disciplinary action can only be applied with the proper incident or reasoning behind it.

Infographic: a behaviour workflow in Arbor MIS

Fig 3 – The automatic behaviour workflows in our MIS can be customised to trigger any communication or escalation based on your policy – e.g. issuing an after school detention that will appear in the relevant staff and student calendars, and emailing primary guardians, if a serious incident is recorded.

With ‘behaviour and attitudes’ staying a key part of the proposed new Ofsted framework, it could be time to review your behaviour systems and processes to create an ‘authoritative’ structured & responsive style. Overall, the exact policies that will be best for your school depend heavily on your specific situation and challenges, but making sure those policies are highly consistent and make sense to students and staff alike is one of the key ways to improve behaviour climates, and ultimately student outcomes.

Click here to read more of our blogs about preparing for the judgements in the new Ofsted framework

Maggie Fidler - 27 February, 2019

Category : Blog

How to take the stress out of organising cover

During the winter, we had some lovely crisp mornings and could enjoy the heating coming on in the classrooms. We’re also inevitably faced with colds, flu, sickness bugs and travel delays! For the person responsible for arranging cover, this can be an incredibly stressful time of year (trust me, as cover co-ordinator and examinations manager

During the winter, we had some lovely crisp mornings and could enjoy the heating coming on in the classrooms. We’re also inevitably faced with colds, flu, sickness bugs and travel delays!

For the person responsible for arranging cover, this can be an incredibly stressful time of year (trust me, as cover co-ordinator and examinations manager for 18 months in a 15 year teaching career, I’ve been there!). For me, arranging cover was never just about getting a body into the room for supervision – I always wanted to allocate the most appropriate person for that particular lesson. In a secondary school, I needed to know the teachers that normally taught each subject, in order to avoid things like a French teacher covering a Maths lesson whilst a Maths teacher covered a Language lesson. I wanted the best people in front of the kids to reduce the impact on learning and minimise the workload stress on the staff. As the timetabler, this knowledge was ingrained in my mind, but for anyone stepping in to make cover arrangements in my absence, the task became almost impossible.

To mitigate against situations like this, in Arbor, we show not just available staff, but who is also a teacher of the same subject to actively support you in minimising the impact staff absence has on learning.

Image 1: Arranging cover in Arbor

Not only can you see which teacher is available that teaches the same subject, you can also request their agreement if you want to (this is always a useful feature when senior staff may have meetings booked!). You can, of course, still bulk select all of the lessons from a staff member to allocate as in house cover supervisor or supply in one go – meaning no more clicking into each lesson instance to add the same arrangements.

The first task of the day for any timetabler is to take a deep breath and open the schools’ emails whilst listening to the answer machine messages for staff absence. Within Arbor, you can mark multiple staff as absent either one at a time or all in one go, and you can also differentiate between a full day of sickness absence, or a 1 hour off-site meeting.

Image 2: Entering the details of a staff absence

Arbor’s ability to add attachments to staff absences (e.g. medical documents or a screenshot of a sick note) without separately logging into the HR module would have saved some of my finance colleagues from premature greyness!

Whilst teachers love the sight of a supply teacher (as they are then less likely to be needed for cover), this was one of my biggest nightmares. I could happily allocate them to the classes and print off cover slips, but then came the dreaded registers (I’ve sat at my desk for hours clicking into each individual class in order to print a register!). There was also the issue of wanting two copies: one to return to the office and one for the supply teacher to keep in class for reference. This either required a trip to the photocopier, or the time-consuming task of having to press print twice because no matter what settings I’d select, the MIS just would not let me have two copies.

In between this joyous process of printing and copying, another person would inevitably call in sick or have an emergency to tend to. I would then have to go back to my computer and close the screen I was using in order to start the process again for the newly absent person. Because Arbor is a cloud-based system, it can be open in more than one window (just like when you’re browsing the internet looking for information and open another ‘tab’ to look for something else), which saves you from repeating the same process time and time again.

In Arbor, it takes just a few seconds to download all of the registers you’ve selected, and then all you need to do is to hit the print button, choosing as many copies as you require. For a wet Wednesday during flu season and a full moon (we’ve all had those days!), I’d have saved hours if I’d been using Arbor instead of the other MIS I was using.

Image 3: An overview of staff absence, which lessons are being covered that day and by which teacher

With all the information you need in one place, Arbor gives you an overview of what’s going on in school that day, helping you to stay on top of what who’s covering what lesson and when. The green ‘cover slips’ button in the screenshot above allows you to print you a concise summary of cover staff for the staffroom notice board, as well as personalised slips for each teacher (with page breaks, so you haven’t got to get to the guillotine or scissors!).

So, if you were rushing around arranging cover for hours on end this winter, maybe it’s time to investigate a smarter, time-saving option. Get in touch with us via the contact form on our website to find out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS could transform the way you operate your school!

Phoebe McLaughlin - 25 February, 2019

Category : Blog

How to audit your school or MAT’s IT systems

Why run a systems audit in the first place? Over the years, many schools accumulate a variety of IT systems or software. These systems were initially installed to help make things run more smoothly across the school but, over time, they’ve inevitably become outdated and no longer fit with the day-to-day running of the school.

Why run a systems audit in the first place?

Over the years, many schools accumulate a variety of IT systems or software. These systems were initially installed to help make things run more smoothly across the school but, over time, they’ve inevitably become outdated and no longer fit with the day-to-day running of the school. In many cases, school leaders can forget to question whether a piece of software is continuing to help improve the school, or whether it’s there simply because it worked in the past.

The Audit Theory

When a school or trust tells us about all the third party products they use, we always like to ask why they chose that particular system:

  • What does it do that no one else can?
  • What about it specifically do they like and not like?
  • Is staff engagement with that system high and if not, why?

For example, a school may have been using a behaviour tracking software outside of their MIS for many years and are happy with how it charts points over time, but they don’t use any of the other features that the software offers. In cases like this, and with many other systems that are an added cost, it’s worth questioning if there are alternative ways of working within one system to consolidate both time and funds.

We encourage schools to create a side-by-side price comparison of the cost of each third party product to prompt an internal conversation about the practicalities and usefulness of each system, and whether it can be replaced by a new system altogether. This practice promotes the importance of an audit in deciding if there are added benefits to keeping a specific system, or if it’s time to part ways.

An IT systems audit

Image 1: How we encourage schools to approach an IT systems audit

This is how we would recommend running an IT systems audit:

1. Ask members of staff from all areas of the school when running your audit – don’t assume that one person will know everything that everyone is using!

2. Start by listing out all the systems people use for the core functions in your school, like attendance, assessment, behaviour and communications, and how much you pay for them annually

3. Move on to listing the rest of your systems and costs – if you don’t have to pay for something annually and you already have it, you can mark the cost as £0

4. Make sure to list separate software products from the same company as being separate – one might be more useful than the other

5. Then 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 module and feature in it

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

This value judgement can’t entirely be based on price, although that is important – you also have to 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? Does it save your teachers a lot of time? Will you really get the best deal just by picking between these two programs, or if you’re switching anyway should you choose an entirely new system altogether?

The Outcome

It’s quite possible that with a change in mindset, cutting down your third party systems may open more doors than it closes, and create opportunities to improve how you work.

We understand that this takes time, but we’ve also seen first hand how many schools love the fact that Arbor can bring all of their data and systems into one central system, meaning that the number of logins (and passwords!) for staff can be cut down. This results in increased productivity as it ultimately saves staff hours of time manually transferring data between systems – because everything you need is all in one place!

If you’re not yet an Arbor MIS customer, you can request a free demo and a chat with your local Partnership Manager anytime through the contact form on our website, or by emailing tellmemore@arbor-education.com or calling 0208 050 1028.

Tim Gray - 6 February, 2019

Category : Blog

How you can track pupil progress in Arbor MIS

As I’m sure you’ve heard, School Pupil Tracker Online (SPTO) will be closing down at the end of this year. If you currently use SPTO, you’ll be looking for something to replace it with the same (if not better!) level of functionality and analysis, so this is a great opportunity to look at how you’re

As I’m sure you’ve heard, School Pupil Tracker Online (SPTO) will be closing down at the end of this year. If you currently use SPTO, you’ll be looking for something to replace it with the same (if not better!) level of functionality and analysis, so this is a great opportunity to look at how you’re using your current MIS system as a whole. To help you, we’ve written this a short blog explaining how schools & MATs use the integrated assessments module of Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS to track, analyse and report on pupil progress.

Let’s start with the basics. Like SPTO, Arbor’s assessments module covers the following:

1. Formative Tracking: In Arbor, teachers can enter marks against curriculum statements and view formative analysis. This helps inform lesson planning and differentiate learning based on students’ understanding of the curriculum. You can either use preset or imported curriculum frameworks, or create your own custom curriculum framework in the system:

 

Image 1: A teacher marking a formative reading assessment

2. Summative Tracking: You can also access marksheets, enter marks for summative & ad hoc assessments, and view and export analysis for summative, ad hoc and 3rd party standardised assessments (such as PiRA and PUMA tests from RS Assessments by Hodder Education)


Image 2: Grade distribution dashboard analysing a summative assessment

Arbor also has some more in-depth, out-of-the-box analysis tools to help you dig deeper into your assessment data:

3a. Attainment over Time allows you to see how many students are achieving each grade during different assessment periods. The date chosen provides a breakdown of the available grades at that given point in time:


Image 3: Measuring Attainment Over Time

You can also choose to group students by demographic, in order to compare grades. For example, you can compare girls to boys and identify that girls currently require more support in this subject:


Image 4: Comparing students by demographic

3b. Below, At or Above: The Below, At or Above page allows schools to see the percentage of children who are below/at/above their targets for each assessment period:

Image 5: Tracking pupil progress using Below, At or Above, and clicking on a record to retrieve a slideover of students

3c. Analysis at MAT level: Some assessments, like PiRA & PUMA, even push up to Arbor’s Group MIS for dashboard analysis across schools:

Image 6: A screenshot of aggregated data in Arbor’s Group MIS

Image 7: A plain-text callout explaining your data

4. Most importantly though, the biggest benefit of using assessments in Arbor MIS is that it’s a fully-integrated module that syncs up with all the other data in your MIS system. This means:

  • Teachers only have one login to perform all their assessment marking, run their classes, take registers, and perform their other daily tasks
  • Our powerful bulk actions can be performed from any table of assessment data, for instance to send a mail merge email directly to your top performing students to congratulate them, or to directly enrol a set of underperforming students in an intervention
  • Assessment trends can easily be compared with trends in behaviour, attendance, and other modules both for groups and for individual students, to create a holistic picture of their progress in all areas through the school

Interested in finding out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS could transform the way your school works? Get in touch with us via the contact form on our website or give us a call on 0208 050 1028

 

Stephen Higgins - 5 February, 2019

Category : Blog

3 stories about how Arbor transforms the way schools operate

At BETT this year, former school leaders Tim Ward & Stephen Higgins took to the stage at the Solutions Den to demonstrate how using Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-base MIS could transform the way your school operates by putting essential data at the fingertips of your senior leaders, teachers & office staff, and by automating and

At BETT this year, former school leaders Tim Ward & Stephen Higgins took to the stage at the Solutions Den to demonstrate how using Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-base MIS could transform the way your school operates by putting essential data at the fingertips of your senior leaders, teachers & office staff, and by automating and simplifying administrative tasks to reduce staff workload. For those of you who missed it, we’ve posted the presentation that they gave below!

A little bit about Arbor

We help schools transform the way they work to save teachers time and improve student outcomes

We’re an education company whose core aim is to improve student outcomes – I imagine that’s the same as your aim! At Arbor, we help you learn from your data, turning it into something that informs you and saving you and all the staff at your school hours of time per week. If we can help you do those two things, we’ll empower you to improve outcomes for your children.

We’re also funded by social investors, which allows us to act differently to other companies in several ways:

  • We limit the amount of profit we make and invest in developing our product instead
  • We offer all our products at an accessible price to save schools money
  • We offer some of our products and training for free – like today’s session!
  • We continually monitor our impact by asking our customers whether we’re saving them time and helping them learn from their data

To give you some context, we’re going to tell you a story of how Arbor’s MIS can transform the way that 3 people in a school work:

The date: January 2019

The location: Sunnyville Through School

The characters:

  • Miss Quill (Headteacher)
  • Mr Gray (Head of Maths and Year 11)
  • Anthony (Year 11 student)

Let’s start with Miss Quill. Miss Quill wants to find out what story the following data is telling her about her pupils at Sunnyville:

  • Attainment
  • Attendance
  • Behaviour

How can she do this? Using her Arbor dashboard, she can quickly review all of these areas in detail to uncover trends and take action (and she doesn’t need to ask anyone to create reports for her!). Watch the video below to see how:

Similarly, Mr Gray, who is Head of Maths, wants to know how can Arbor can help him to create a plan for his students. The questions he wants to answer are as follows:

  • Who are my borderline students?
  • How can I intervene with these students?
  • What was behaviour like in Maths this year?

In this video, watch how Mr Gray is able to quickly select underperforming students and add them to an intervention. He is then able to easily monitor the intervention in order to see which students have met the desired outcomes and which haven’t:

Finally, we have Anthony, who is a Year 11 student. Anthony’s parents have come into school, and want to speak to the pastoral lead about his progress so far this year. In order to have a meeting with Anthony’s parents, his teachers need to know the following:

  • How do we tell Anthony’s story?
  • How can having the “whole picture” of a student lead to a happy ending?

Watch the following video to see how Anthony’s teachers can access all the information they need about him from his student profile, including drilling down into his behaviour to spot trends & comparing his attendance to all students in the school, all students in Year 11 and all students in his form:

To conclude, how have we helped this school find a happy ending?

  • Miss Quill has all the information she needs at her fingertips, saving her and her staff time and reducing workload for all teachers
  • Mr Gray can use Arbor to understand his department and year as a whole and create effective strategies to improve student outcomes
  • With all of his information in one place, Anthony can now be effectively supported by his teachers and parents, who can communicate productively about his progress using the information logged in his student profile on Arbor

To find out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS could reduce workload, save time and improve outcomes at your school, get in touch with us via the contact form of the website, or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com to book a free, personalised demo!

 

Jess Windle - 31 January, 2019

Category : Blog

How to align staff development plans within your multi-academy trust

It may seem like a challenging task, but aligning your multi-academy trust’s staff development processes and policies should be high on your agenda – especially with the DfE’s new teacher retention strategy shining a light on how schools and trusts support their staff. We’re all aware of how effective performance management and staff development can

It may seem like a challenging task, but aligning your multi-academy trust’s staff development processes and policies should be high on your agenda – especially with the DfE’s new teacher retention strategy shining a light on how schools and trusts support their staff. We’re all aware of how effective performance management and staff development can be in not only recognising but encouraging high performance among staff, but also in improving quality of education in the schools across your MAT.

So why does having an aligned policy with set processes in place across your trust matter? You’ll probably be asked why you want to change things which are already working for your individual schools’ current performance/development plans. However, having alignment and a centralised policy is important for a number of reasons:

  • It ensures that all your schools and staff are working towards the same overarching goals
  • It makes it easier for MAT staff to review and compare staff performance at different schools if all processes are on the same page
  • You can share best management and teaching practice between schools

A trust that puts staff development at the heart of what it does should see improvements in teaching and learning as well. In order to do this, you’ll need a reliable system to carry out staff development activities and appraisals, which can help to easily highlight development needs and track performance & growth across staff (and see the impact this is having on student outcomes).

So, what are the first steps to aligning your trusts processes?

1) Make sure all staff have SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant & timely) objectives that are clear and are explicit in what needs to be done to achieve them. Understanding across the trust how objectives should be created, and ensuring that they are SMART, means each staff member’s individual targets will be consistent with the trust’s wider improvement plans or overall trust/school objectives.

Fig. 1 – Setting a staff member’s development objectives in Arbor MIS

2) Set up a regular cycle across the trust that completes the appraisal policy. You should make sure that it is clear:

  • Who can appraise each staff member
  • How each staff member’s objectives will be weighted when they are appraised
  • What evidence should be required in an appraisal
  • How feedback should be dealt with
  • The frequency at which these performance reviews should be happening.

This helps to set the basic foundations of a good appraisal policy and ensures that all staff across the trust always know what they are going to be measured on, and how long they have to achieve their goals.

Fig. 2 – A staff member’s Appraisal page in Arbor MIS

3) Finally, it’s important when aligning your trust’s development processes that you share best practice throughout each school. If staff at one school seem happier with their professional development, find out why and see if you can use that expertise to help you improve the process across all your schools. Running an effective development structure should be an iterative process, and it’s a great chance to learn what works best for your trust and your schools.

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart cloud-based MIS could transform the way you run your MAT, get in touch via the contact form on our website, email us at tellmemore@arbor-education or give us a call on 0208 050 1028.

 

Rebecca Watkins - 29 January, 2019

Category : Blog

Plan your next budget with Arbor’s Schools Financial Benchmarking Report

We’ve just released our 2017/18 Schools Financial Benchmarking report for all schools in England! Like all Arbor Insight reports, Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking report uses colour coding, call-outs written in plain English, and specific benchmarks to give you a clear picture of your spend & income, even for those not used to working with data. Thousands

We’ve just released our 2017/18 Schools Financial Benchmarking report for all schools in England!

Like all Arbor Insight reports, Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking report uses colour coding, call-outs written in plain English, and specific benchmarks to give you a clear picture of your spend & income, even for those not used to working with data. Thousands of schools up and down the country use our Financial Benchmarking report to help plan next year’s budget, and explain their spending to SLT & governors.

The report is broken down into clear sections, with a diagram per measure on spend and income. Trends show how income and spend has changed over time, helping you to plan next year’s budget informed by your school’s data.

As well as showing spend and income as an exact figure, as a percentage of total funds allocated and per pupil, we’ve built specific benchmarks for this report to give your financial data additional context. Along with benchmarking you against the national average, the Financial Benchmarking report also benchmarks each measure against schools in your LA and schools that are ‘like you’.    

How we derived LA and National averages:

Arbor benchmarks your school against a variety of measures, helping you to analyse your budget in a wider context. We’ve only compared your school to the averages for other primary, secondary, or special schools (depending on your school type), to make the comparisons in the report more meaningful. After all, a primary school’s spend is different to that of a secondary school, which will also be different to that of a special school. An average that included all three wouldn’t be accurate!

How we created the ‘schools like you’ benchmark:

We created the ‘schools like you’ measure to give you the most meaningful comparison for your school. First, we filtered by schools of your type (primary, secondary, or special) for the reasons mentioned above. Then, we filtered by schools who were inside/outside London, as this changes your cost structure. Next we filtered by size, ensuring that your school is compared to schools with a similar number of pupils. Finally we took your FSM, SEN and EAL data, weighted them based on the size of the attainment gaps at KS2, and combined them into a baseline score to find schools with similar demographic intakes to your school.

For example, if you’re a large rural secondary school with a lot of FSM students, your spending in each area will be benchmarked against other large rural secondary schools with a lot of FSM students. The schools ‘like you’ measure helps you account for your specific circumstances and understand why your spending might be above or below average.

Image 1: Example page, graphing overall spend

On this page the simple, digestible call outs explain how the school compares to schools like them and the national average on each section of spend at the school.

Image 2: Example Spend page, focusing in on maintenance and improvement

Bar graphs show the spend of each section as a percentage of total spend, while the line graph depicts not only the exact spend figure but how it has changed over 3 years compared with schools like you, schools in your LA and the national average. The grey arrows show the overall calculation of how much this figure has changed.

Image 3: Example Funding page – Grant Funding: Targeted Grants

Funding pages have the same layout as spend pages. Again, colour coding for trends and bar graphs makes your data easy to understand. You can quickly see if your level of funding is in line with what it should be, and if there are any areas of concern that need to be addressed when planning next year’s budget.

If you’re a current user, you can log in to view your updated dashboards and purchase your reports immediately here: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login

If you don’t already use Arbor Insight, click here to sign up & view your performance dashboards and purchase your Financial & ASP reports: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register

Jem Jones - 28 January, 2019

Category : Blog

3 key aims from the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy

With the new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy now published, we’ve boiled down its many new ideas and policies into 3 of the core goals the DfE want to accomplish. Improve early career support Attracting people to the profession in the first place is a big part of increasing teacher numbers, and to this end

With the new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy now published, we’ve boiled down its many new ideas and policies into 3 of the core goals the DfE want to accomplish.

Improve early career support

Attracting people to the profession in the first place is a big part of increasing teacher numbers, and to this end a ‘one stop system’ for teacher training is being piloted to make the process simpler. For increased recruitment to benefit student outcomes on a long term basis, these new teachers also need better career support to make sure they have time to develop, instead of becoming overwhelmed and dropping out of the sector.

The ‘Early Career Framework’, a