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blank Danielle Arkwright - 31 March, 2021

Category : Blog

5 ways to unwind and de-stress this Easter break 

As schools end a hugely busy term, Arbor’s HR and Office Manager and trained Emotional Literacy Support Assistant, Danielle has put together some guidance on how to ease into the Easter break and allow yourself to enjoy some well-deserved rest.  1. Laugh Everyone has heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” but did you

As schools end a hugely busy term, Arbor’s HR and Office Manager and trained Emotional Literacy Support Assistant, Danielle has put together some guidance on how to ease into the Easter break and allow yourself to enjoy some well-deserved rest. 

1. Laugh

Everyone has heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” but did you know that over the past few years there has been growing research to back this up? There is now a proven link between reduced stress and laughter. A good laugh has been proven to:

  • Stimulate our organs
  • Activate and relieve our stress response
  • Soothe tension
  • Boost the immune system

So my first piece of advice is to make sure you find time over Easter to speak to a friend or family member who never fails to crack you up. Failing that, be sure to watch a funny film or some stand-up from your favourite comedian. 

If you really want to integrate a good laugh into your wellbeing routine, why not follow in the footsteps of This Morning’s Phillip and Holly and try out laughter yoga.  

2. Make time to connect with others

Bonding with loved ones, either through touch, conversation or a shared hobby, can increase our feelings of trust, calm and safety. These help to alleviate the body’s stress responses which can improve both our mental and physical health. 

Things as basic as a small gesture of kindness, a longer than usual hug or taking a walk with someone close to you can have a profound effect on how easy you find it to cope with life’s stressors. 

3. Nature 

Spending time in nature has a range of positive impacts to our overall wellbeing.  Getting in touch with nature will look different for everyone and doesn’t need to be time consuming or require you to travel. If you’re a city dweller, your local park counts!

To reconnect with your natural surroundings, you could:

  • Take a walk in the park
  • Try cloud-watching or find a local viewpoint
  • Take photos of beautiful scenery and make them your phone or computer background
  • Listen to recordings of natural sounds such as rain before bed
  • Buy flowers or house plants to bring nature indoors 

Check out this article from Mind for more information and ideas for how to feel the benefits of nature. 

4. Learn to say no 

This might be one that some of us (myself included) find very difficult. But therapists and other mental health practitioners advise that the practice of saying no and setting firm boundaries are crucial parts of self care. 

You may be tempted to agree to lots of “Rule of Six” walks over the Easter break which, if you’re in the mood for them, will be great! But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of lots of socialising for the first time in a few months, consider how might be better for you to spend your time to feel your best.

There’s no right way to spend a vacation – the ultimate purpose should be to leave you feeling de-stressed and ready to face the new term. Remember – this isn’t selfish. Managing our own stress levels and maintaining healthy boundaries will ultimately have a positive impact on our relationships too. 

5. Try a stress-reduction challenge 

Why not extend your stress-reduction efforts to after the Easter break, as well? Throughout April people across the country are getting involved in Stress Awareness Month. The way to take part in the 30 day challenge is to pick one action you can take for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and to do these every day. 

It takes 30 days to turn actions into habits, so this 30-day challenge will maximise your chances of turning useful wellbeing techniques into long-lasting behavioural change. 

I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing Easter break and look forward to welcoming you back to summer term.

Want to learn more about Arbor MIS? 

We’d love to show your school or MAT how Arbor could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more. Arrange a free demo here, get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com, or call 0208 050 1028. 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 31 March, 2021

Category : Blog

Back On Track – Fewer Things, Greater Depth with Mary Myatt

We were honoured to welcome education advisor, writer and speaker, Mary Myatt, to give the keynote speech at this term’s ArborFest – our two-day virtual festival exploring innovative ways of working with Arbor MIS.  Mary gave a brilliant talk about how schools can carve out time for satisfying work on the curriculum by focusing on

We were honoured to welcome education advisor, writer and speaker, Mary Myatt, to give the keynote speech at this term’s ArborFest – our two-day virtual festival exploring innovative ways of working with Arbor MIS. 

Mary gave a brilliant talk about how schools can carve out time for satisfying work on the curriculum by focusing on fewer things in greater depth. You can read her talk below – or catch the recording here.

Taking care of ourselves first

You don’t need me to tell you how demanding, exhilarating, exciting and exhausting it is in schools, even in normal times (and it has been that to the power of ten recently). So while there’s nothing we can do about what’s happening in the wider world, I think there are some things we do have control over.

I often hear staff in schools complaining that they’re not as far ahead as they’d like to be in certain areas such as curriculum or school improvement. But what I encourage them to recognise is that they only have so much bandwidth. Sometimes we must accept how things are and not beat ourselves up.

On flights when they give out the health and safety instructions, they say that in the case of an emergency, if we’re travelling with someone vulnerable or a young child, we must put our own masks on first. Why is that? Because we can’t look after other people unless we’re safe and sound ourselves.

Greg McKeown talks about rest as a responsibility. It’s not a luxury. It’s really important, for example, that we eat proper food on a regular basis, that we get a bit of fresh air every day and that we go to bed at a reasonable time.

The disciplined pursuit of less

Trying to do everything is a problem for us as a sector. We want the best for our children and our communities, but we simply can’t do everything. 

A real mantra of Greg McKeown’s work is the need to cut back in order to set clearer prioritie that are likely to make the biggest difference. And in the context of education, priorities need to be framed around a focus on what is likely to make the greatest difference to children’s learning. As McKeown says, if we have too many priorities, we’re simply not going to do anything really well. 

Pareto’s 80/20 rule is also worth remembering. In Italy in the 1890s, Pareto found that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. What has emerged from this insight is that across many sectors, a relatively small amount of input has a disproportionate impact. And this broad 80/20 rule also applies to schools. If we cut out some of the processes and resources we use, for example in the curriculum, that have less impact, we’ll be able to focus on the things that make the greatest difference.  

How do you ensure quality in the curriculum?

There is overwhelming evidence from all quarters, not just my own work, that it’s the quality of the curriculum that makes the greatest difference for the greatest number of children. The quality of the curriculum has certainly gone up the agenda recently  since the addition of the “quality of education” judgement to the latest Ofsted framework in 2019. 

There are eight main things we need to get right when thinking about quality education:

1. Realign priorities

Both my work and Ofsted’s research have found that in some schools, priorities have become distorted. In some primaries, for example, in order for children to do well in their SATs, they are given a diet of SATs in the mistaken belief that that will produce better results. But if you look at the scores for the children who didn’t do so well in the reading papers for 2019, it was because of a lack of vocabulary. So how do we develop children’s vocabulary? Through a broad and balanced curriculum, not just a list of spelling. 

2. Address curriculum misconceptions

I notice some misconceptions around the curriculum, such as focusing on skills and thinking of them as “cross transferable”. Just because a child can evaluate and dissect something really well in geography doesn’t mean to say they can do the same in history if they don’t know any history. We need to think of skills and knowledge as being like conjoined twins; through rich exposure to and engagement with the curriculum, skills develop. 

3. Remember children’s entitlement

It’s also important to consider the idea of entitlement. What I’ve found is that some children who need additional support get so many interventions that they actually miss out on the wider curriculum with their peers. Interventions are important but they need to be bespoke and have impact as quickly as possible, so that children can rejoin their peers. 

4. Be more ambitious

For the first time, the Ofsted framework now has a discussion of ambition. We should be asking to what extent the curriculum is ambitious for all our pupils, regardless of their starting points, and what the children themselves are saying about it. Pupil voice is a strong thread in my research, and I’ve found that at the heart of it, children want more demanding work.

5. High challenge, low threat

According to Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, “human beings are curious, but thinking is hard”. If we make things too easy, then the learning is likely not to be so secure. We should therefore not dumb things down for our children. 

About 18 months ago I was working in a school in London with some students who were identified as high priority but underachieving. They said the only lesson they engaged with was geography because the teacher gave them really difficult, demanding stuff to do, such as articles from National Geographic. The teacher would say “You’re not going to understand it all, but that’s alright.”

When I looked at the results for geography in that school, these students were the highest by a margin. The teacher wasn’t giving those students work that was above their “pay grade” in order to get great results; the great results followed from the students relishing the high challenge that was accompanied by low threat. 

6. Be prepared to be surprised

One of the most worrying results of our current system is the reading deficit. In 2019, over a quarter of our children did not reach the expected standard. Research a few years ago found that only about 30% of children are read to on a daily basis, and in 2018 Teacher Tapp found that only 15% of all children are read to in class every day.

Research from Sussex University found that simply reading challenging, complex novels aloud at a fast pace in each lesson repositions poorer readers as good readers, giving them a more engaged, uninterrupted reading experience over a sustained period. The teachers were actually surprised at what the students achieved. 

7. Underpin learning with high quality texts

When introducing new units over time, we should underpin them with high quality texts. Why? Books contain complex ideas and sentences of greater lexical depth and complexity which enrich children’s vocabulary. Through rich resources we’re able to draw out the important vocabulary we want our children to be fluent in by the end of the unit.

For example, a high quality text to support the Year 6 science unit about the theory of evolution and inheritance could be Sabina Radeva’s “The Origin of Species”. Sabina trained as a scientist and then she retrained as an artist, which gives the book two threads: high quality information and beautiful imagery. 

For more examples of high quality texts to use across the curriculum, see the recording of Mary’s talk here

8. Use meeting time to talk about books

So what should we be cutting in order to find time for these marvellous resources? Firstly, we should think about how we use staff meetings. There are plenty that could be handled in an email or just a brief summary. Instead we should turn our meeting time into opportunities to discuss the books and reading we’re going to do with children. 

Six keys to success

Harvard professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter talks about the six keys to doing good work in any organisation. I think these are useful when thinking about curriculum work:

  1. Show up – Ask, are you bringing your complete self to work? 
  2. Speak up – We all have the right to have our voices and ideas heard
  3. Look up – Remind yourself why you’re doing this work
  4. Team up – Remember that greater outcomes come when we’re in it together
  5. Never give up – Even if it doesn’t always feel like you’re succeeding
  6. Lift others up – One of the greatest gifts we can give to one another is to encourage them

As a final note, let’s remember that we’re human beings first and we’re professionals second. The young people we work with are human beings first and they’re learners second. 

If you enjoyed Mary’s talk, make sure you download her further reading list to learn more.

Want to learn more about Arbor MIS? 

We’d love to show your school or MAT how Arbor could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more. Arrange a free demo here, get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com, or call 0208 050 1028. 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 22 March, 2021

Category : Blog

What you missed at ArborFest

Last Thursday and Friday (18th-19th March), we were delighted to host the third ever ArborFest – a two-day virtual festival with talks, workshops and forums exploring innovative ways of working with Arbor MIS. A huge thank you to our sponsors 4Matrix, MyConcern, SchoolsICT and The Key for helping to make the event such a success.

Last Thursday and Friday (18th-19th March), we were delighted to host the third ever ArborFest – a two-day virtual festival with talks, workshops and forums exploring innovative ways of working with Arbor MIS.

A huge thank you to our sponsors 4Matrix, MyConcern, SchoolsICT and The Key for helping to make the event such a success.

The dynamic programme was a real showcase of the completely new ways in which schools have been working, especially over the past year, with topics ranging from data analysis, to assessment, to MAT expansion. 

There was a real energy across the sessions, with everyone leaving with ideas for how they could work in new ways to improve how they support students, and create a better working culture for staff too.

Who was there?

1,300 people including SLT, Teachers, Admin Staff from 700 schools, MATs and partner organisations joined our 31 talks happening across five event stages!

For Arbor schools and MATs, it was a chance to network with fellow staff across the country, and to share tips and tricks for getting the most out of Arbor MIS. 

For schools who are only just hearing about us, it was an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes insight into what it means to be part of the Arbor community of over 1,600 schools, and how moving to Arbor could transform the way they work. 

What you missed… on the main stage

Arbor’s CEO, James, and Chief of Customer Success, Sonia, kicked off the festival with a welcome address, setting the tone with an analogy of schools in 2021 like playing table tennis with a quick-fire machine (compared to the dodgeball metaphor in his welcome talk at ArborFest in November 2020!).

As James said, “the pace of change is changing. There are still lots of balls being thrown at us but we’ve coped with more change than we thought was possible.”

James also shared some of the recent developments at Arbor, including our growth to 1,600 schools and our joining of The Key Group. Sonia demonstrated some of the ways we’ve been supporting schools to adapt to the new government guidelines and work flexibly over the past year, having moved over 600 schools over to Arbor 100% remotely, with a customer satisfaction score of 98%. 

Catch up on James and Sonia’s welcome address here

Keynote speech

Education advisor, writer and speaker, Mary Myatt, gave a brilliant keynote address on how schools can carve out time for satisfying work on the curriculum by focusing on fewer things in greater depth. And it created a lot of conversation on Twitter! If you enjoyed Mary’s talk, make sure you download her further reading list to learn more.

Guest talk from The Key

Caroline Doherty, Head of Education Strategy at The Key, was joined by Mark Talbot, Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese of Chichester Academy Trust, and Matt Crawford, CEO of Embark Federation, for a great discussion around both the opportunities, and the challenges of expanding a trust.

There were some excellent talks led by our partners MyConcern, 4Matrix and SchoolsICT on safeguarding, managing a summer without exams, and blended learning. We also had 70 school staff join us for a relaxing Mindfulness Workshop at lunch.

…on the “Why Arbor?” Stage

We had an all-star cast of Arbor schools and MATs including Watergrove Trust, Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust, Glenmoor & Winton Academies, Hyndburn Academy, Red Kite Learning Trust and Northlands Wood Primary Academy, each sharing how moving to Arbor MIS has helped them work in new and flexible ways. 

We also had a special appearance by Kirsty Woolls, HR Director at Academy Transformation Trust, and Abby Brayford, Director of ATT Institute, who shared what people development (rather than CPD!) means for them. Abby Brayford said, “change is relational. To effect change and drive improvement you have to think about people’s values.”

…on the Masterclass stage

The Arbor Team led some deep-dive sessions showcasing tips and tricks for a range of Arbor modules. They also launched some brand new features including:

  • Assessment updates in Arbor’s Group MIS helping you standardise how you manage assessments across your MAT
  • New integrations with Google Classroom and Microsoft Office 365 helping you sync data securely to your digital learning platform
  • Our new Microsoft Power BI Connector, allowing you to visualise your Arbor data in creative new ways
  • A new integration with Access Education Budgets (coming soon!) saving you time on your school budgeting with up-to-date staff data at your fingertips – part of our exciting partnership with The Access Group
  • My Classroom – our all-in-one classroom management tool that brings all your admin into one place, saving teachers time

…on the Workshop stage

Our Product team led a series of Feedback Forums which were a great opportunity to gather feedback from Arbor users to help us shape the future of our MIS. Find out more about how we use schools’ feedback to inform our Product Roadmap.

Hear from attendees

“I was inspired by the attitude of the team and the drive and dedication that came across, ethos can only work when it comes from the top and is intrinsic throughout the leadership team. This was evident throughout.” A primary school customer

“it was useful to hear some of the roadmap items, and helpful to have our say in suggested improvements for the future.” A MAT customer

“Sessions were appropriate and interesting. The online nature (and recordings) meant I could fit it around work commitments”. A secondary school customer

“Just wanted to say thank you I will have to leave early as I have another meeting, however it was very interesting and a very nice layout, user friendly etc. Something definitely worth us looking at taking on for our school in the future. Look forward to seeing the last bit on the recording.” A prospective special school

Sad you missed ArborFest? Find out more

New to Arbor?

If you want to discover how Arbor MIS could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more, get in touch to arrange a free online demo for your school or MAT. Alternatively, you can email tellmemore@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Already using Arbor?

If you’d like more information on any of the new features showcased at ArborFest – or if you need some support – get in touch with your Account Manager or contact accountmanagers@arbor-education.com.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 19 March, 2021

Category : Blog

How Arbor has made our secondary school more solutions-focused

As part of our continual work to improve and expand Arbor MIS, we work hand-in-hand with our secondary schools to understand the features we should develop that will best support staff in their everyday roles.  We spoke to Rebecca Pickles, Deputy Headteacher at Beacon Academy, about the successes they’ve experienced since moving to Arbor remotely

As part of our continual work to improve and expand Arbor MIS, we work hand-in-hand with our secondary schools to understand the features we should develop that will best support staff in their everyday roles. 

We spoke to Rebecca Pickles, Deputy Headteacher at Beacon Academy, about the successes they’ve experienced since moving to Arbor remotely during the pandemic. Rebecca talks about how Arbor has supported their goals to work more efficiently as a school by giving staff the data they need so they’re not reliant on others. Rebecca says she was surprised how straightforward it was to switch systems remotely, and encourages other schools to be open to changing the ways they’ve been used to doing things in order to improve their working culture.

 

What motivated Beacon Academy to move to a cloud-based MIS?

We were already partly cloud-based with our previous MIS, but the hosted model was fraught with issues when trying to use it quickly and efficiently. The hosted platform often failed during work and it was slow. Moving to a fully cloud-based MIS means that we can access all the functionality wherever we choose to work that has an internet connection.

Cloud-based data storage assures us that we’re not dependent on hardware in school, backups don’t have to be assured and we can work with Arbor to ensure that we’re securely meeting all legal and security requirements in law. It’s a cleaner system and much easier to manage for all users.

 

Did you or your staff have any concerns before making the change?

There were no concerns that weren’t easy to address. The only major stumbling block is for those high-level MIS users having to ‘get used to’ a new system. This was something that took some time to work through but concerns around this were easily dealt with and supported by our team at Arbor (a level of support we hadn’t experienced when migrating to our previous MIS!). 

Arbor provided a wealth of information and the migration process was well planned to ensure we were all ready when our site went live. Because the MIS is so easy to navigate, it didn’t take long for people to realise what we’d missed for so long; something intuitive that just does what we want it to do!

Beacon-academy-quote-1

 

Why did you choose Arbor MIS? What did you want to achieve by moving to Arbor?

We were encouraged to try Arbor when we joined our trust (Wellspring Academy Trust). We understood the benefits of being in a group of schools who could support us on our journey and there were lots of very experienced people that could can help us out. 

That being said, Arbor for us was also a journey into working with a company whose ethos and approaches to school support aligned with our working model. From the first meeting we realised that the MIS and the development behind it was invested in improving the functionality and making school data management as efficient and user-friendly as possible. The MIS seemed intuitive, built for school use everyday and was built for power and simplicity! 

Irrespective of whether the trust was part of the system already, the move was motivated primarily by making our day-to-day MIS lives more efficient, paperless and usable by all. Our previous MIS was clunky, difficult to navigate, and setting up day-to-day functions for efficient processes required many hours of work and was not easy to access by all users in the Academy. We needed a change!

Beacon-academy-quote-2

 

How did implementing Arbor go remotely?

The process of implementing Arbor remotely was actually a lot easier than I’d anticipated. I actually think that remote working was a better method as it allowed more people to join in, we could keep recordings for training purposes and it allowed things to happen more quickly i.e. we didn’t have to arrange meetings, rooms, people being on site together etc. I would highly recommend it as a way of going into the migration process.

 

How is Arbor transforming the way your school works? 

There are a number of benefits that we have seen in the short time we’ve been on board:

  • Less time required for me to work through requests; staff can do things by themselves
  • Data analysis is simple but powerful. I only see what I need to see and setting up bespoke analysis systems are easy to do with very little support needed
  • The support we’ve received has been outstanding. When we need help, we’re told firstly whether it’s possible. This sounds negative but actually it’s a huge positive. We have adapted our working practices to question and justify why we want the MIS to do something specifically and take advice from the team at Arbor before considering the validity of requests. It’s a mindset shift that has encouraged everyone to alter their practices and consider why we do things a certain way with attendance, data etc. If Arbor can do it then it’s usually something straightforward that, with support, we can figure out. If there are limitations then the team is able to work with us for a suitable solution or we have to consider why we need the data or admin task and whether it’s meaningful as an activity. Arbor has made us more solutions-focused to our everyday practice. No more requests for random and meaningless data! This has been a culture shift for some, but it’s a worthwhile journey to go on.
  • Every day admin is intuitive, and I need to support very little in the work we do.  The Arbor help centre has been invaluable to support our admin team to achieve everyday tasks without relying on other school staff. There’s very little that can’t be done in a couple of clicks, and the day-to-day tasks are very easy to complete with all the information usually on a handy dashboard!
  • Improving efficiency and time management, making users more independent and going paperless are our objectives as we start to develop the MIS. Arbor has definitely supported us to achieve this. I can wholeheartedly say that we have never looked back, nor uttered the dreaded phrase “well our old MIS would have done that”!

Beacon-academy-quote-3

 

How has Arbor helped during Covid-19?

Arbor has been particularly useful for us in the following ways:

  • Very quick product developments that have supported with attendance taking and DfE returns. This made our attendance lives a lot easier  
  • Communications from the Arbor team about all the updates and support sometimes on a daily basis explaining what the product could do to help us record elements of required data and statutory returns
  • Consent for testing logs and recording consent returns for staff and students were developed quickly and before we needed them i.e., we didn’t have to create our own documentation to use whilst waiting for a response from Arbor. Very efficient
  • Key worker identification fields were created very quickly
  • The team at Arbor has been very attuned to the needs of our school during the pandemic. They have developed and tweaked the existing product to gather data relating to the ever-changing requirements of the Government and supported us in our efforts to track all data points from consent to attendance specific to the pandemic situation. A very impressive and supportive model

 

Beacon-academy-quote-1Beacon-academy-quote-4

What do you hope Arbor will help you achieve in the longer term?

The objective for Beacon Academy was to automate and create efficiency. It was to reduce our environmental impact (particularly around the use of paper communications) and be able to share the system with wider stakeholders to allow for transparency and support in our day-to-day business. This has been evident in its infancy as our new MIS and I’m constantly impressed with different developments and features that I believe will contribute to our overall goals.

We hope that in the long term the power of Arbor for our school will continue to amaze as it has so far. We’ve never looked back and are always surprised and pleased with new product developments and the Arbor Product Roadmap. A real MIS gift that keeps on giving!

 

Want to find out more?

Discover how Arbor could transform the way you work with a free online demo for your school. Get in touch here, or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Emma Sharples - 11 March, 2021

Category : Blog

How to make big changes successfully at your school or MAT

For over a year, schools and MATs have been dealing with continual changes to the way they work. One of the most important changes that many schools have undertaken is to move to cloud-based systems to give them more flexibility in the way they run their school. We work with school teams throughout the year

For over a year, schools and MATs have been dealing with continual changes to the way they work. One of the most important changes that many schools have undertaken is to move to cloud-based systems to give them more flexibility in the way they run their school.

We work with school teams throughout the year to move them to Arbor’s cloud-based MIS – last year over 400 schools moved to Arbor 100% remotely! We know it can seem like a daunting task, but that’s why our tried-and-tested approach helps schools manage the change in a way that’s right for them, with support from us every step of the way. 

Whatever change you’re managing at your school or MAT, our in-house experts in change management have put together five simple things to bear in to make successful changes. 

 

 

1. Establish your need for change

The first things to think about when you’re starting a project are why you need to make the change and what you want to achieve over the long term. 

The reasons you need to make the change will have a lot to do with:

  • Your baseline: the ways you’re working right now 
  • Your target: the ways you’d like to be working in the future

Once you know where you want to be, you can break down your vision into manageable steps you need to go through to get there. You’ll then be able to track the progress you make from your baseline towards your target.

Our teams at Arbor have found some great free online tools for planning, for example Miro the smart whiteboard tool.

 

2. Create a change network

When you start your project it’s important to work out which of your staff will be directly involved in or impacted by the change. Putting in place roles and responsibilities across your team will help you assign clear owners for every stage in your project.

Staff who have a positive attitude towards the project will make great advocates to promote it to others. It’s often worth nominating one of these people to be your official Change Manager (or a few), who will be responsible for leading the project. 

Change Managers can work closely with other staff in a “change network” in order to coordinate communication, respond to feedback, provide support and report on progress.

When schools move to Arbor nominating a Change Manager (called an Arbor Champion!) is a really useful part of the process. 

 

3. Communicate

When you’re undergoing a big change at your school or organisation, the easiest thing to do (but most often forgotten) is to talk to each other. When you’re coordinating the priorities of different staff members, communication can be challenging, but keeping everyone motivated and on the same page is one of the most important aspects of successful change management.

However you create your communication strategy, remember these two top tips:

  • Have regular “stand-up” meetings to check in with key project stakeholders 
  • Create a forum for staff to share updates and resources (we love using Google Docs and Slack at Arbor)

 

4. Be prepared for resistance 

It’s inevitable that some colleagues will be resistant to changing the way they work. It’s a good idea to ask them to explain why they view the change as a challenge. It could be that they’re worried their job is at risk or that they lack the right skill set.

We recommend involving everyone who is going to be impacted by the change in meetings and decisions right from the start. It’s also important to make sure there are channels for staff to give feedback throughout your project. When schools switch to a new MIS, for example, we encourage them to bring staff into demo meetings with us early on to make sure they understand how the system will impact their day-to-day work, and they can voice any concerns.

 

5. Track progress and celebrate successes

Finally, when a project comes to a close, too often we think about the problems that came up along the way, rather than celebrating what went well. Marking key milestones and successes helps demonstrate the progress that your team has made together and gives due credit to everyone who has given time to the project. It also validates your reason for the change and keeps everyone on track to achieve the longer term goals of the project.

 

We’re here to support your school to switch MIS

We hope our change management tips have given you some useful food for thought when you come to lead change successfully at your school or MAT. 

If you’d like to find out more about how we support schools to switch to our cloud-based MIS, come along to ArborFest – our virtual conference exploring innovative ways of working with Arbor MIS. On the “Why Arbor?” Stage, you’ll hear from schools and MATs who’ve recently moved to Arbor about what motivated their switch, and the impact Arbor is having so far.

For the full programme of sessions across our five stages, head to http://bit.ly/ArborFest-2021

blank Maddie Kilminster - 4 March, 2021

Category : Blog

How Arbor can support your school as you reopen

As schools return fully this week, we’ve pulled together a list of the main ways Arbor is here to help. From getting your timetable set up to full capacity, to keeping your online learning provision running alongside it, we’ve made it easy to follow the new government guidance, whilst creating a positive working culture for

As schools return fully this week, we’ve pulled together a list of the main ways Arbor is here to help. From getting your timetable set up to full capacity, to keeping your online learning provision running alongside it, we’ve made it easy to follow the new government guidance, whilst creating a positive working culture for your staff.

Check out The Key for School Leaders for further resources to help you plan your reopening here.

1. Set up your timetable flexibly

Following the guidance that schools should return to a full timetable without bubbles or rotas, it’s simple to update your timetable and classes in Arbor in the ways you need to. You can also arrange staggered start and finish times by adjusting your Statutory Roll Call times, as well as kickstarting your Breakfast or After School clubs, all within Arbor. 

Thanks to our integration with TimeTabler, you can also create your timetable with added flexibility, with an instant import straight into Arbor.

As soon as your classes are set up, your Lesson Dashboard will be up to date with all your students’ information. Create your new seating plans with all the demographic information you need to hand in My Classroom, our all-in-one classroom management tool.

2. Track, trace and test your students and staff 

To help you deliver Covid-19 testing for your students and staff, we’ve made it easy to track everything in Arbor with our new Testing Register. Schedule regular tests for staff and students, see who is due for a test each day, manage guardian consents, update test results and log confirmed cases.

What’s more, Arbor’s My Classroom is a really handy way to trace contact between students by using our live seating plans. 

My-Classroom

3. Keep a close eye on attendance

With mandatory attendance back in force, Office Staff need quick access to attendance data at their fingertips. Arbor makes it easy to track all attendance and absence information, including new DfE sub-codes, spot patterns and follow up with guardians straight from built-in attendance dashboards. Plus, staff absences are flagged to everyone who needs to know, making arranging cover simple.

We’ll be sending out some resources soon to support Arbor schools with attendance analysis this term, so watch this space!

4. Complete your DfE form in minutes 

To save you time completing the DfE’s Daily Form, Arbor’s Covid-19 Dashboard crunches the numbers for you, giving you all the student attendance data you need to submit in the form each morning. 

Your Dashboard is up-to-date with the latest attendance codes and categories that the DfE is tracking, including key vulnerable categories and confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19. Click on each category for a breakdown by year group and a full list of students.

For a MAT-level overview, you can use Arbor’s Group MIS for an overview of all your student and staff data. Monitor attendance patterns, student and staff absence, key disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and manage Covid-19 related issues centrally.

covid-dashboard-10th-march

5. Give students and staff access to school at home 

As some students might be isolating or shielding, you’ll need to ensure they can still access learning from home. Thanks to Arbor’s integration with Google Classroom™, all your student and staff information syncs automatically into your Google Classroom™ account, saving you any manual data entry. What’s more, once you’re set-up, data syncs every 24 hours, meaning your information is always up-to-date.

Because Arbor MIS is cloud-based, all school data can be accessed securely away from the school site, which means there won’t be any disruption to daily tasks and admin if a member of staff has to work from home.

6. Get your meals back up and running

With your kitchens reopening, it’s easy to restart your meals provision in Arbor. Either align your meal sittings with your new timetable or create different meal times for groups of students.

If you need to arrange meals for FSM students who are still at home, Arbor generates all the information you need to submit to your voucher service.

7. Support your vulnerable students

In Arbor, it’s easy to pull together custom reports on key demographic groups, including children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers at school or MAT level. Given that Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) staff and students have been told to shield at home, you’ll easily be able to track their attendance, send out communications or add them to an intervention in Arbor.

Arbor’s in-built safeguarding features also help you keep on top of any changes to your students’ circumstances – from automatic notifications on the Homepage when any student records change, to medical notes and key pastoral information flagged on every Lesson Dashboard.  

Check out our most popular blogs on supporting vulnerable students:

8. Communicate clearly with your school community

Forget switching between systems or uploading or downloading contact lists, in Arbor you can follow up with parents, students or other staff members as soon as you spot something important, from wherever you are in the system. Simply choose the method that’s best for your message – from an email, an SMS, a mail merge letter or an Arbor App message.

Click here to see how Arbor’s communications allowed The Parks Academies Trust to improve the way they contacted hard-to-reach students during the pandemic. Check out three top tips for communicating with your staff, parents and guardians from our Head of Support, Emily, here.

We’re here to help

During all the change over the next few weeks, don’t forget the Arbor Team is here to support you.

  • Check out the Help Centre – We’ve put together a page dedicated to everything you need to manage your school during Covid-19 with Arbor
  • Join us live – We’re hosting a range of webinars this term, including sessions with tips and tricks for Arbor users, and sessions open to everyone to learn more about Arbor. Check out what’s coming up here
  • Join the community – If you’re an Arbor user, join the Arbor Community of fellow schools where you can share advice, best practice and learn from each other
  • Get in touch: Our Support Team are here from 8:00am-5:00pm Monday to Friday on email, phone and webchat, or you can book a 1:1 15-minute Support Slot

You’re invited to ArborFest!

Whether you’re already using Arbor, or if you’re hearing about us for the first time, everyone is invited to ArborFest – our virtual conference on 18-19th March! From workshops and talks to an exciting keynote speech by Mary Myatt – we’ve got tons of sessions all dedicated to exploring innovative ways of working with Arbor MIS.   

If you’re new to us, there are also lots of opportunities to discover how schools and trusts like you are transforming the way they work with Arbor MIS. 

Find out what’s on and book your spot here. 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 25 February, 2021

Category : Blog

5 ways School Data Managers are using Microsoft Power BI

By School Improvement Consultant, Ed Cadwallader   Since I started my career as a School Data Manager nearly 20 years ago, I’ve seen a lot of EdTech come and go. In some areas there have been impressive advances – Arbor MIS, for example, has analytics features that are light years ahead of anything SIMS could

By School Improvement Consultant, Ed Cadwallader

 

Since I started my career as a School Data Manager nearly 20 years ago, I’ve seen a lot of EdTech come and go. In some areas there have been impressive advances – Arbor MIS, for example, has analytics features that are light years ahead of anything SIMS could offer. 

Luckily though, Management Information Systems (MIS) haven’t just been improving their in-built analysis tools, the best ones are also opening up secure data feeds to allow you to export your MIS data and analyse and share it exactly how you want to.

 

What is Power BI?

Arbor users can connect secure, customisable data feeds to visualisation tools including Excel, Google Data Studio or, my favourite, Microsoft Power BI. Power BI is enterprise grade business intelligence (BI) software that lets you combine and analyse data from multiple sources to create interactive dashboards and apps.

Of course, as a busy Data Manager or School Leader, you don’t have bags of free time to learn new software, so I’ve put together five of the top things you can do in Power BI so you can see if it’s for you.

 

Top 5 ways to use Power BI

 

1. Customise! (without the pitfalls of Excel)

As a Data Manager, I used to share screenshots of reports with SLT, but I would often get asked lots of basic questions, such as “who is this 20% of Year 9?” I would reply with a static student list that was accurate on that day but would soon be out of date.

You could solve this by using Excel, but this comes with a host of other problems, such as users typing over formulas, changing underlying data and sharing outdated versions.

Microsoft Power BI gives you all the benefits of Excel without the drawbacks. You can combine data from your MIS, online assessment tools and spreadsheets to produce the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that matter most right now. For example, if you’ve got an initiative around punctuality, you could add the start date onto a graph of lates to see if it made an impact.

attendance-Power-BI

Link your data analysis to your interventions

 

 

2. Focus on what matters

The best MIS systems or analysis tools give you an overview of the big picture while also allowing you to zero-in on the key data points and see the students behind the numbers.

Power BI lets you do just this. You can arrange multiple tables, KPI index cards and charts on a single page, then “drill down” into any of them to see the list of students behind the data. Hovering over a chart will also give you useful context, helping you take the best course of action.

If you spot a problem in a particular year or class group, clicking on that data point will filter the rest of the page by that group’s data. This would allow you to see, for example, if a spike in behaviour incidents within a year group has led to an uptick in exclusions.

 

tooltips-power-bi

Tooltips give additional information and context

 

3. Take action

Unlike Arbor, many MIS systems don’t allow you to take action directly from your analysis. This means you might be carrying out your analysis and communicating your plans via different channels which can lead to people misinterpreting information and a lack of shared purpose between staff.

Power BI’s web portal gives you a shared online space where your stakeholders can analyse, plan actions and carry out on-going reviews of interventions, all in one place. You can comment on specific pages and tag colleagues to bring data points to their attention.

Alternatively, you can share a dashboard in a Microsoft Teams chat so that a group of staff who are working towards a specific school improvement goal could use live data to inform their efforts.

 

microsoft-teams-Power-BI

Make data informed decisions using Comments and Chat in Teams

 

4. Empower SLT to explore data themselves

Not everybody can work with a big table of unstructured data. But when you turn raw records into visuals, you might inadvertently present the problem in a biased way. For example, if your school has seen a spike in behaviour incidents, breaking the data down by either year group, subject or time of day might imply one of these factors is behind it.

Power BI’s “Decomposition Tree” is an elegant solution to this problem. This visual allows you to choose from a list of factors that might affect a measure (such as number of negative behaviour incidents). You can change the order and number of break-downs, either choosing a specific category or one that Power BI has calculated to have a large effect. If a line of investigation leads to a dead end, you can remove, rearrange and look at your data in a new way.

You can also cross-highlight; in the example below, where the user has chosen to break the data down by year, subject and Teacher, selecting “Mr M Parting” shows you that his incidents are resolved slightly faster than the overall average but that a far higher proportion of them are negative compared to the school as a whole (1:1 when the overall ratio is 1:4).

 

decomposition-tree-power-bi

Empower leaders to explore the data themselves with the decomposition tree

 

5. See your data in new ways

The flexibility of Power BI allows you to explore data from your MIS in different contexts. For example, using the map visual, you can plot your students by their home postcode to see if their location correlates with attendance or punctuality issues. You could also create a heat map showing days of the week and AM/PM sessions to see if particular times in the week see higher or lower attendance.

This is another way you can tailor your data analysis to your top priorities, which is more important than ever during Covid-19. With so much disruption to accountability measures because of missed exams, being able to bring in other data sources into your analysis allows you to stay flexible and self-sufficient when it comes to monitoring your school’s performance. 

demographics-power-bi

Analyse student locations and journeys with the map visual

 

 


Getting started with Microsoft Power BI

The most important thing to remember about Power BI is that it’s a tool not a solution. While licences are cheap at around £20 per year, the platform isn’t pre-programmed to cater to all of your data needs, you need to create your own data model and dashboards. This requires a considerable investment of time, both to learn the program and create the content. 

The good news is there’s a friendly and growing community of school-based BI developers on Twitter, free tutorials on YouTube and a dedicated blog, Power BI for Schools.

 

Seamless connection between Arbor and Power BI

Arbor gives you sophisticated out-of-the-box dashboards and easy custom reports at school and MAT level, designed to give staff at all levels a shared view of progress.

Arbor has also created a Power BI Connector and five report templates helping you to visualise Arbor data any way you want to.

To find out more, join me for a Power BI masterclass webinar during ArborFest – Arbor’s virtual conference exploring innovative ways of working 18-19th March.

Power BI Masterclass, 18th March, 2pm
Book your free spot 

power-bi-arborfest

blank Maddie Kilminster - 23 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Spring term update: Connect more tools to Arbor

Since the pandemic began, schools have had to rapidly change the way they manage their lessons, communications and admin. This has meant using technology in lots of new ways to keep lessons going, and smarter ways of using data to understand students’ changing needs.  At Arbor, we’ve been developing new tools to support leaders and

Since the pandemic began, schools have had to rapidly change the way they manage their lessons, communications and admin. This has meant using technology in lots of new ways to keep lessons going, and smarter ways of using data to understand students’ changing needs. 

At Arbor, we’ve been developing new tools to support leaders and Admin Staff manage the challenges of Covid-19. 

Today, we’re excited to launch brand new integrations with Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Power BI, designed to help you save time and manage your school data in the ways you need to.

Sync data securely between Arbor and Google Classroom™ 

As schools have been ramping up their use of digital learning platforms for remote or blended learning, we’ve built an integration with Google Classroom™. Arbor automatically syncs your student and staff information into Google Classroom™ so you don’t have to enter any data manually. What’s more, once you’re set-up, data syncs every 24 hours, meaning your information is always up-to-date.

We’ll also partner you with a Google accredited support team who’ll give you tailored support to get your integration set-up. They’ll also be your port of call if you need any help along the way.

What does this mean for you? 

  • Save time: Your data syncs automatically to Google Classroom, saving you hours of manual data entry and updating if your classes change
  • Future-proof solution: Once set-up, it’s easy to return to remote teaching and learning whenever you need to 
  • In-depth support: If you run into any problems with your integration, our trusted Google support partners are on-hand to support you

google-classroom

Coming soon:

We’re working on a similar integration with Microsoft Office 365 and are looking for Arbor schools to take part in our free pilot scheme. If you’d like to take part, let us know here.

Check out The Key for School Leaders for some great guidance on getting the most out of a digital learning platform. 

Visualise data any way you want to with our Microsoft Power BI Connector

Arbor MIS gives staff at all levels a shared view of progress, with accessible, out-of-the-box dashboards and quick custom reports. But we know that you might sometimes want an even more customised approach to reporting. 

That’s why we’re excited to launch our brand new Microsoft Power BI Connector. The Connector pre-loads your key Arbor data into Power BI, allowing you to visualise it in creative new ways.

We’ve also created five ready-to-go template dashboards which will save you hours of manual set-up, and allow you to dig into key factors behind your school or MAT’s performance. Plus, they’re fully customisable, giving you the freedom to present your data how you need to.

What does it mean for you? 

  • Instant data: Your Arbor data is ready-to-go in Microsoft Power BI whenever you need, with no manual export
  • Save time with our five ready-to-go dashboard templates 
  • Customisation and control: Edit and customise your report templates however you want to
  • Bring in other data sources: Look at your Arbor data in meaningful contexts e.g. Google Maps, Deprivation index

BI-dashboard

Find out more about these integrations

Already using Arbor MIS?

Get in touch with your Account Manager to get started with Google Classroom or Microsoft Power BI at accountmanagers@arbor-education.com, or come to our webinar at 11am on 11th March to learn more about how our integrations could help you. Book your free spot here.


New to Arbor? 

We’d love to show you how Arbor could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more across your school or MAT. Come along to a free webinar to Arbor MIS in action, or book a free personalised demo here.

Christie Tulloch - 17 February, 2021

Category : Blog

How we’re designing Arbor MIS with inclusivity in mind

Alongside our focus on encouraging diversity and inclusion in the Arbor team, our Product Designer, Christie, wanted to shine a light on the work that our new Front-End development and User Experience (UX) team have been doing to integrate inclusivity into the design of Arbor MIS our products. Our mission is to transform the way

Alongside our focus on encouraging diversity and inclusion in the Arbor team, our Product Designer, Christie, wanted to shine a light on the work that our new Front-End development and User Experience (UX) team have been doing to integrate inclusivity into the design of Arbor MIS our products.

Our mission is to transform the way schools work for the better, with people-friendly tools, designed to make a difference. With over 1,500 schools using Arbor MIS (that’s over 200,000 users!), we want our platform to be usable, navigable and accessible for everyone. 

What is accessibility? 

When you think about making technology accessible, you might think about a sub-menu of your phone settings with features you can turn on or off, but it’s much more integrated into our daily lives than you might think.

If you’ve used Siri, Face-ID, captions on a YouTube video or put dark mode on any of your devices – you’ve been using technology that was originally designed for people with disabilities. This shows that a focus on accessibility not only benefits disabled users but can improve the user experience for everyone.

More people live with a disability than you might think with 18% of the UK working age population defined as disabled by the Equality Act 2010. This doesn’t take into account the effects of ageing, for our ability to use websites decreases by 0.8% every year after our 25th birthday. This means that every decade that passes makes us 8% less capable of using software.

The need for inclusive design is something that will eventually apply to all of us at one point or another.

 

What we’re doing at Arbor

1. Keyboard navigation

We’re committed to making all our new product features accessible by keyboard.  Not all users have the ability to use a mouse, so we’re making all new pages accessible by using a combination of ‘arrow’, ‘tab’, ‘enter’, ‘space’ and ‘escape’ keys.

We’re working on rolling out keyboard accessibility across the whole of Arbor; so far, we’ve introduced this on the homepage. This works by a blue focus style that highlights what you’ve selected, showing you where you are on the page. This not only improves the experience for users who don’t have the ability to use the mouse, but it also speeds up navigation for everyone helping you quickly move up and down a drop-down menu by using the arrow keys or selecting a tag with the ‘enter’ key.

Keyboard-controls

Keyboard controls in Arbor

2. Use of colour

When our Front-End and UX team consider accessibility at the design stage, we also think about colour. We now run checks on the contrast ratio of background colour to text colour before we release any new feature of Arbor.

Right now, we’re creating a new, expanded colour palette that works for users who are vision impaired or suffer from colour blindness. 

Colour-Palette

Development of our new colour palette (in progress)

These innovations are some first steps in a long journey to make Arbor MIS inclusive for everyone. We’d love to hear from Arbor schools any suggestions you have to help improve the Arbor user experience. 

If you’ve got a suggestion, you can join our UX User Group along with fellow school staff in various roles. You’ll help us test out our latest ideas and play an important role in helping to shape the future of Arbor MIS. If you’re interested, please register here and one of the team will invite you to our next feedback forum.

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more at your school, come along to a free webinar to see the system in action. Alternatively book a personalised demo or get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Maddie Kilminster - 17 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Choosing the right technology to support your special school

Interview with Sir Peter Birkett, Founder of Highgate Hill House School With more and more special schools moving to cloud-based systems to transform the ways they work, we spoke to Highgate Hill House School, an independent co-educational special school in Devon, to hear about the role that digital technology plays in their strategy. Founder and

Interview with Sir Peter Birkett, Founder of Highgate Hill House School

With more and more special schools moving to cloud-based systems to transform the ways they work, we spoke to Highgate Hill House School, an independent co-educational special school in Devon, to hear about the role that digital technology plays in their strategy.

Founder and ambassador of the school, Sir Peter Birkett, shares how the school is using SENDit and Arbor MIS to record and monitor their students’ progress throughout  school, and to further their school improvement initiatives. Sir Peter also has some great advice for fellow schools in how to get staff onboard with new technology.

Could you explain a bit about your role at Highgate Hill House School?

In January 2016 I founded Highgate Hill House School in Devon – since that point the school has grown, developed significantly and is currently flourishing. This is largely due to our team working approach and commitment to providing personalized learning programmes for every child in our school. My internal role is to ensure this happens by encouraging innovation, creativity and activities that excites the children and allows them to work at a pace that best suits them.

My role as an ambassador includes raising the profile of the school through national awards, inspections, securing quality standards award (e.g., IIP) speaking at events, press releases, blogs, networking events and the usual social media activities.

 

What is the school’s digital strategy? How does this link with the school’s broader goals? 

Highgate Hill House is in the process of refining its ICT strategy with a company called Academia. Our strategy will focus our meeting our Vision, Mission, Values and Strategic objectives – we will adopt wherever possible technology that is proven to work including virtual reality, simulators and drones.

We see the use of IT as crucial in enhancing and accelerating learning and building on our blended learning approach that has advanced more rapidly because of the pandemic.  

Highgate-hill-house-school

What has been challenging during Covid-19 and how has technology helped? 

As we are a school for vulnerable children with special educational needs, we have remained open throughout all periods of lockdown.

A challenge for us like any other school was planning online delivery almost overnight.   Not only the infrastructure, equipment, staffing and parental/carer support but also creating a system that the children would enjoy and quickly get used to.

For those attending school, we had all the social distancing and change of habit challenges to overcome health and safety issues as well associated with the use of IT equipment. 

We have learned much from the pandemic and will now have certain aspects of the school curriculum delivered via online home learning. 

How can technology be best used by schools to contribute to school improvement? 

Technology supports our school by making learning interesting. We tailor each child/young person’s learning to their individual interests and technology means that we can access resources that inspire them.

Technology used intelligently will not only excite and motivate many students it will also support, enhance and accelerate the learning process. 

Technology during the pandemic has also been used for staff development and team building that also included sharing of new learning and teaching material produced. 

Why did you choose to use Arbor MIS and SENDit? What did you want to achieve? 

We chose these companies because they share our passion towards educational excellence, they have the technology that will enable us to record and monitor a child’s progress throughout their time in the school. This will provide the school, the child, parents/carers, inspectors and other key stakeholders with individualised pupil information that will enable us to provide personalised learning and intervention strategies for every child in the school.

How have Arbor MIS and SENDit transformed the way your school and staff work?  

It is still early days but we are delighted with the progress seen to date – we are already seeing the points raised above being met.  

How did system implementation go? 

Very well, we are pleased with the ongoing support from both companies. 

What advice would you have for other schools who are looking to improve the ways they use technology?

Identify a champion, engage all staff by developing a shared plan with phased timeframes and review dates, allow staff time to experience the benefits of the learning platform or portal. Some find it straightforward while others find it daunting, however, once they feel confident their creativity and ideas begin to flow.

What are your goals for the future? 

To meet our vision and, in partnership with both SENDit and Arbor, build on the work already undertaken. Our aim is to use the technology available intelligently so that we can create a recording, monitoring and learning approach that ensures all children are “happy, successful and able to reach their full potential”.

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could transform the way your school works, join a free webinar or arrange a personalised demo here. Alternatively, get in touch with us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com or 0208 050 1028.

blank Beth Mokrini - 12 February, 2021

Category : Blog

We now partner with over 100 apps – here’s why

At Arbor we know that every school and MAT is different, and that every school has different needs when it comes to choosing the right set of technology.  That’s why we work with a growing network of apps – to make sure our schools can connect the specialist systems they rely on everyday with Arbor

At Arbor we know that every school and MAT is different, and that every school has different needs when it comes to choosing the right set of technology. 

That’s why we work with a growing network of apps – to make sure our schools can connect the specialist systems they rely on everyday with Arbor MIS, helping them to manage their school data the way they need to.

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We partner with specialist providers to give schools choice

We believe that when school technology companies pull together, the impact can be huge. It’s been difficult for technology providers to integrate with server-based MIS systems in the past. However, as more and more schools have been switching to a cloud-based MIS over the last few years, providers have built MIS integrations much more easily. This means schools have the freedom to continue using the tools they love, connected seamlessly to their MIS.

Connect your specialist tools to Arbor easily

At Arbor, we’ve partnered with over 100 organisations across the country who provide specialist systems and support to schools. We believe that instead of a “one stop shop” approach, where schools can only use Arbor for everything, we want to make it easy for schools to use specialist systems for things like safeguarding, timetabling and assessment if they want to, connected seamlessly to Arbor. 

We collaborate with the best in EdTech

Working with specialist organisations across the country gives us the opportunity to collaborate and provide the best possible service to schools.

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We want to make it easier than ever for partners of all types to give schools the largest possible choice. We’re doing that in three key ways: 

1. We’ve made it easy to integrate with Arbor

As Arbor’s community of schools grows (now over 1,500!), we want to make it cheaper and easier to plug third party systems into Arbor. This means that our list of integrations is constantly growing too.

We also want to make it easy to share ideas between schools, Arbor and our partners. For example, we have an online Developer Portal, where companies who want to integrate with Arbor can sign up for free and access all our documentation (with support for free too!). We’ve also built an online Community forum where our schools and partners can easily swap tips and best practice for getting the most out of Arbor. 

2. We’re building deeper integrations

We’re also working with key partners on exciting deeper integrations that give schools joined-up insight and seamless workflows. For example, schools using PUMA and PIRA tests from RS Assessment can sync marks straight into Arbor and analyse the results alongside demographic information, attendance and behaviour.

3. We’re supporting schools in new ways

With schools working in totally different ways right now and managing constant change, they’re finding the IT support they need has changed. They need access to information fast – regardless of which system it’s in. Our friendly support team at Arbor provides free support for schools, but we’ve also teamed up with support providers all over the country so schools can choose to get help with Arbor from their local team if they want to.

Our accredited Arbor Support Partners go through in-depth training to help schools get the most value out of Arbor. With skills in business intelligence (BI) and analytics, they can also work with schools and MATs to help them get even greater insight into their data.

Discover Arbor MIS for your school or MAT

To find out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could transform the way your school or MAT works, get in touch to book a demo or join a free webinar to see the system in action. 

Looking to integrate or partner with Arbor?

We’re always looking to invest in new partnerships, so that schools can choose the systems that work best for them and benefit from the power of collaboration. If you want to find out more, get in touch at: api@arbor-education.com

blank Beth Mokrini - 11 February, 2021

Category : Blog

How to switch MIS with support from a local team

Interview with Paula Harris, Business Manager at Lacewood Primary School, Barnsley  At Arbor, we think schools should be able to choose the support that works for them. That’s why we’ve built a network of over 50 support partners across the country. In this interview, I spoke to Paula Harris, the School Business Manager at Lacewood

Interview with Paula Harris, Business Manager at Lacewood Primary School, Barnsley 

At Arbor, we think schools should be able to choose the support that works for them. That’s why we’ve built a network of over 50 support partners across the country. In this interview, I spoke to Paula Harris, the School Business Manager at Lacewood Primary School in Barnsley, about how they recently moved to Arbor with the support of our accredited Support Partner AdEPT Education

Find out what motivated Lacewood Primary’s move to the cloud, their relationship with AdEPT Education, and how they’re transforming the way they work for the better – from sharing visibility of data to all staff (not just the Business Manager), to engaging parents in more cost-effective ways.

When did you go live with Arbor?

We started looking at Arbor in April and went live in September, so we had a few things to do over the summer holidays to get it set-up but it wasn’t too much work. There are always a few teething issues with new systems but it was quite straightforward really, the staff were surprised how easy it was! 

What motivated your decision to move to Arbor?

We’d been thinking about switching for a while, but it was a bit tricky to get some members of staff to change because they were so used to the old system. Some people were quite apprehensive but I was quite excited about using a more modern system. Our previous MIS was quite old and the look of it hadn’t been updated in a long time. Reporting was quite complicated and our support team had to help us generate any additional reports that we wanted. It wasn’t very user-friendly and it wasn’t easy to interact with parents either, because they didn’t have visibility of their children’s data. The final straw was when we moved to a new support provider, which meant we had to buy our MIS license directly rather than from our LA, and the cost shot up to over £10k. 

I’m part of a local School Business Managers’ forum, so I asked questions there about what other MIS other people were using and there was a lot of interest in Arbor. It gave me confidence that others were already using it and recommending it, so I thought “why not?” 

Lacewood-primary-quote-1

How has Arbor MIS transformed the way you work so far? What do you hope to get out of Arbor in the long term?

1. User-friendly

Arbor is much more user-friendly. When you go to a student profile, it’s a lot clearer and all the information you need is there, rather than having to scroll through. You can also pin things to the top of the child’s record so you can access it more easily. 

2. Sharing the burden of census

The most recent workforce census was the easiest census I have ever done. The data quality dashboard in Arbor allows you to look at anything that’s been duplicated, so you can deal with things as and when on a day-to-day basis, rather than waiting for the census dry run. On census day it’s always down to the Business Manager to complete everything, but if you’ve got the data quality dashboard, you can involve the admin team too and give them little bits to look at and fix. Obviously that shares out the workload, but it also means the office staff understand what the census is about and why it’s so important that children’s data is correct. Everyone can take responsibility for the data rather than just the Business Manager. 

3. Engaging parents

Parents can log in to the Parent Portal to see their children’s details and request that we amend them, whereas with the previous system they couldn’t do that. It’s much more interactive for them and we’re also using the free in-app messaging system so we save money on texting. 

4. Bringing systems together

We also use the payments functionality in Arbor, so it’s meant we have been able to bring a lot of systems into one – we used to use a separate communication tool and a separate payments provider, but now everything’s come together in Arbor so it’s cost effective and much easier to manage. Payments are really easy to reconcile in Arbor too, much more straightforward than the system we used to use.

Teachers have said it’s easier now because the dinner register is on the same system as the attendance register, so they don’t have to open another screen. We’re looking at the assessment side of things now on Arbor too and we’re going to have a demo in the New Year. 

How did you find the implementation process?

During the implementation, you have a dedicated person at Arbor who you can contact at all times and they ring every week to check how you’re progressing. They send you lots of links to training webinars and resources too, which I used and shared with the admin team, so by the time we migrated over, we were all ready!

Lacewood-primary-quote-2

How have you found working with AdEPT to support you with Arbor MIS?

The support from AdEPT is really good. It’s been a learning curve for both of us as AdEPT are fairly new to providing support for Arbor’s MIS, but that’s meant we’ve had a really close relationship with them as we’ve been getting to grips with Arbor. We’ve found it really easy working with Mandy and the team.

How has the support of your local partner helped you switch MIS?

It definitely makes a difference working with a team that’s local and that I already have a relationship with. They know what I’m like – I’m not technical! For me to be able to get on with a new system, it had to be well supported and easy for me to understand. 

What advice would you give schools like you who are thinking about moving to a cloud-based MIS?

I’d advise them to come and have a look! Visit a school that’s already up-and-running to see how easy it is to use. One of our office staff had been at the school for 27 years and was quite apprehensive, but even she adapted really quickly and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was. When she retired recently, we had a new Attendance Officer join the school and she was up-and-running with Arbor within a day. So my advice would be, just come and visit!

Are you considering moving your school to the cloud?

Join a free webinar to see how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could transform the way you work. From tailored sessions for secondary, primary, special schools and MATs, find out what’s on and sign up today. Alternatively, book a 1:1 demo here

Are you an IT support team?

If you want to find out more about partnering with us, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch here. Find out more about how we work with specialist providers here.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 9 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Top tips for managing your workload from School Business Leaders

Staff in schools working in lots of new ways right now (and harder than ever before), with School Business Managers and Leaders especially feeling the strain. The upside is that we’re seeing more and more awareness of wellbeing and ways to prevent overload. Last week we asked School Business Leaders within the SBL Connect network

Staff in schools working in lots of new ways right now (and harder than ever before), with School Business Managers and Leaders especially feeling the strain. The upside is that we’re seeing more and more awareness of wellbeing and ways to prevent overload.

Last week we asked School Business Leaders within the SBL Connect network to share their top three tips for managing their workload on Twitter. There were some fantastic pieces of advice around reducing screen time, prioritising tasks and delegating to colleagues. 

We’ve gathered some of the best tips below but you can check out all the activity on #WorkloadTopTips @ArborEdu.

Star advice: Clare Payne, SBM at South Lake Primary

1. monthly tasks as soon as possible, leaving the rest of the month for project work
2. Set specific times of the day for emails and try to ignore them the rest of the time
3. Set two tasks that will be completed each day, and make sure they (even if nothing else) get done

We thought Clare Payne’s top three tips were pretty smart and practical, so we awarded her first place in our competition and sent her some brownies to share with her colleagues!

Rebecca Goddard, SBM at single form entry primary school in Swindon

1. Keep a to do list
2. Know when you contracts are up for renewal so you have time to look around for new ones
3. Keep talking to your HT/colleagues and let them know if it’s all becoming too much

Jonny Coates, SBL and Business and Finance Director in MAT

1. Empower your teams through delegation, trust and saying thanks!
2. Use digital technologies to unlock efficiencies to YOUR time
3. Shift your mindset. Prioritise key deadlines first. Take the time to do things in a considered way

@SBMWestSussex, Primary School Business Manager

1. Automate emails as much as you can to save time and move from your inbox to a task list
2. Take a break. Coming back fresh is more productive than just slogging away
3. Prioritise and ditch non-essentials if necessary

How do you manage your workload? We’d love to hear from you – join the conversation: #WorkloadTopTips

If you’d like to discover how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could transform the way you work and reduce your workload, why not join a free webinar. With sessions tailored to primary, secondary, special schools and MATs, find out what’s on and book your place here.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 9 February, 2021

Category : Blog

We’re back for the next instalment of the webinar series for MAT Leaders: “Building a Resilient Trust”

After the success of our last two MAT Conference webinar series, we’re excited to announce the next instalment of “Building a Resilient Trust”, and you’re invited! With the vaccine rollout pushing on and the date for schools to return set at 8th March, trust leaders are having to shift from leading in a reactive way,

After the success of our last two MAT Conference webinar series, we’re excited to announce the next instalment of “Building a Resilient Trust”, and you’re invited!

With the vaccine rollout pushing on and the date for schools to return set at 8th March, trust leaders are having to shift from leading in a reactive way, to being proactive and building a plan for the future. Join our webinar series this term to take practical ideas and strategies to your own trust to help support your schools and staff now and over the long term.

In our new webinar series launching Weds 10th March, you’ll hear from established trust leaders from the likes of Academy Transformation Trust, Ormiston Academies Trust and The Romero Catholic Academy Trust, discussing topics such as building a sustainable work culture, measuring success in light of a second summer without exams and how to become more financially stable as a trust. Each 45-minute webinar will help MAT leaders like yourself prepare for the future and build a strong and versatile trust. 

Sign up for the MAT Conference Webinar Series here and get exclusive access to all of the webinars and the recordings.

To sign up for individual webinars, or to see what’s coming up, click on the links below. 

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Top Strategies for Delivering Consistent Online Learning Across your Primary Schools

Wednesday 10th February, 10am 

In conversation with: Peter Bradburn, Director of IT and Communications, and Giles Hill, Digital Learning Lead, at Aspire Academy Trust.

With remote learning likely to continue into the coming months, join Peter Bradburn and Giles Hill as they share some of the tips, strategies and insights that Aspire Academy Trust has implemented to make remote learning as effective as possible.  

Sign up for free here

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Managing Change in a Crisis: Why Orwell MAT Switched MIS During Covid

Wednesday 24th February, 10am 

In conversation with: Anna Hennell James, CEO of Orwell MAT.

Rolling out a new MIS (Management Information System) across your trust can feel like a daunting task – and doing it remotely can make it seem even harder. Anna Hennell James, CEO of Orwell MAT, is here to share why it’s not as challenging as it may seem, especially when you factor in the benefits your new MIS can bring.

Whether you’re thinking of centralising your systems soon, or you’re only just starting to research what’s out there, this webinar is a great opportunity to hear from a trust who have made the switch recently. 

Sign up for free here

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The Road to Financial Sustainability as a Trust

Wednesday 3rd March, 10am 

In conversation with: Patrick Taggart, Director of Operations at Romero Catholic Academy Trust, and Mark Tadman, CEO of Schools Business Services (SBS).

With tougher financial checks coming into place and the fallout from covid being readily felt, how can trusts emerge from this period more financially stable?

Hear from Patrick Taggart, Director of Operations at Romero Catholic Academy Trust, on how they’re budgeting to emerge from COVID and how he’s balancing reactive responses to short-term pressures with longer-term planning. Mark Tadman will share advice on how best to plan budgets and share resources across your trust to save you time and money.

Sign up for free here

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The Future of Assessment: How Ormiston is Capturing More than Grades

Wednesday 17th March, 11am 

In conversation with: Nick Hudson, CEO of Ormiston Academies Trust.

With almost 12 months of blended or fully remote learning, a second summer without exams and a broadening disadvantage gap, what does the future look like for assessment?

Nick Hudson, CEO of Ormiston, a 40-school MAT, will be discussing how he intends to broaden the concept of assessments at Ormiston and beyond. With funding from the National Lottery, assessment at Ormiston will soon include the tracking of soft skills and qualities students gain through school experiences, such as leadership from being a prefect, teamwork from sports, and cooperation from community volunteering.

Sign up for free here

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How Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) Created a Culture of People Development

Friday 19th March, 11am (Part of ArborFest – See what else is on at ArborFest here)

In conversation with Kirsty Woolls, HR Director at Academy Transformation Trust (ATT), and Abby Brayford, Director of ATT Institute.

Creating a culture of professional development and learning within schools and trusts is hugely important, especially for retaining and attracting the best talent. Join this special webinar with Kirsty Woolls, HR Director at Academy Transformation Trust (ATT), and Abby Brayford, Director of ATT Institute, where they discuss how their People Development Programme has created a sustainable work culture at ATT.

Sign up for free here

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Want to see some of the topics covered and the lessons learnt from our last MAT Conference Series? We’ve put together an ebook of the last MAT Conference Series, which includes six interviews with MAT leaders and industry experts sharing best practice for staying agile and adapting to change. Get your copy here!

“Building a Resilient Trust” is brought to you by Arbor Education. Used by over 1,500 schools and 130 MATs, we’re the UK’s fastest growing cloud-based Management Information System (MIS) today. Our mission is to transform the way schools work for the better, and we host this webinar series termly to explore different aspects of building a better working life with trust leaders.

If you’d like to hear about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could help you and your schools work better today and be ready for tomorrow, join us for an MIS demo webinar.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 5 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Simplify your school budget planning with Arbor’s new Financial Benchmarking Report

Schools have had to be particularly resourceful with budgets this year. With that in mind, it’s especially important to have visibility over how this year’s spend compares to previous years, and to other schools, so you can plan an effective budget going forwards.  To help save you time when planning your annual budget and present

Schools have had to be particularly resourceful with budgets this year. With that in mind, it’s especially important to have visibility over how this year’s spend compares to previous years, and to other schools, so you can plan an effective budget going forwards. 

To help save you time when planning your annual budget and present clear analysis to your governors and key stakeholders, we’ve created a personalised School’s Financial Benchmarking (SFB) Report for every school in the country. Just log into your free Insight portal to get yours now. 

Using your latest 2019/20 financial data (just released this week by the DfE!) your report gives you a ready-made analysis of your income and expenditure patterns over the last three years in a clear, easy-to-read PDF report, helping you see the impact of Covid-19 straight away. It also shows you how your finances compare against schools like you nationally, locally and within your Local Authority. 

Your report is waiting for you in your Arbor Insight portal – get your hands on it now! 

SFB-report

 

What can you do with your Schools’ Financial Benchmarking (SFB) Report?

Analyse per-student spend

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

Benchmark your school

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

Use past trends to plan forward

Your report will show you how your finances have shaped up over the last three years with colour-coded line graphs that include trend figures. We also show the last three years of finances for each resource compared with that of the national average for schools and schools like you. Our three-year rolling average for each expenditure and income resource can help you predict and plan your future three-year expenditure planning. 

 

Special offer: Get free ASP performance reports with your finance report 

Due to the disruption to learning and assessment as a result of the pandemic, you won’t have all the usual attainment data at your fingertips. To support you, we’ve made our popular Arbor Insight ASP reports free this year to help you get a clearer picture of your past performance.

This bundle of five reports (worth £330)* includes: 

  • 2019 The Understanding Your School Report 
  • 2019 Attainment and Progress Report
  • 2019 Closing the Gap Reports (5 individual reports!) 

We hope using your SFB report in combination with your ASP reports will help you set targets and direct your resources in the best way to start next financial year in a strong position.

Download your performance reports for free from your Arbor Insight account now!

 

Next steps

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

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

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

 

If you’re looking to keep your cost low and give next year’s budget a little wiggle room, find out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could transform the way you work, helping you focus on what matters most – your students. 

Find out more with a personalised demo or join a free webinar.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 3 February, 2021

Category : Blog

How to Build a Resilient Trust: Interviews with MAT leaders and industry experts

In our popular “Building a Resilient Trust” webinar series last term, we invited MAT leaders and experts working with schools and trusts to share how they were adapting to the challenges of Covid-19, whilst developing sustainable strategies for the future. We’ve collated six of the best interviews into a special ebook which we hope will

In our popular “Building a Resilient Trust” webinar series last term, we invited MAT leaders and experts working with schools and trusts to share how they were adapting to the challenges of Covid-19, whilst developing sustainable strategies for the future.

We’ve collated six of the best interviews into a special ebook which we hope will help you reflect on your own trust, and leadership strategies you could put in place to guide your schools through the next stage of the pandemic and beyond.

Download your copy of our new ebook for MAT leaders here 

What’s inside?

You’ll hear practical insights from fellow CEOs, MAT leaders and industry experts on topics such as turning around schools during times of turbulence, and how centralisation of finance and budgeting can ensure a sustainable way of working beyond Covid. You’ll see how to procure technology quickly and compliantly, and techniques you can use to plan better during uncertainty. In our final articles, you might find yourself reflecting on your approach to leading through a crisis and how to keep your staff engaged, motivated and connected.

A sneak preview of the contents: 

1. Turning Round Schools in a Time of Turbulence By Nick Cross, CEO at Kings Group Academies

2. How to Build a Centralised Approach to Financial Management that will Outlast Covid-19 By Jason Brown, CFO at Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust and Will Jordan, Co-Founder of IMP Software

3. Is Blended Learning the Future of Education? By Giles Hill, Digital Learning Lead at Aspire Academy Trust

4. Lessons Learnt From Procuring Systems During Covid-19 By Jim Farquhar, COO at Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust

5. Leading Through a Crisis: How to Keep your Staff Engaged, Motivated and Connected By Andy Buck, CEO of Leadership Matters

6. How to Reflect on Rapid Change and Plan for the Future By Rachel Coldicutt, Expert in technology and social impact

Join the next series of “Building a Resilient Trust”

This month we’re launching the next instalment of our popular webinar series for MAT

Leaders. Each session, our CEO James will talk to MAT CEOs, COOs, CFOs and  industry experts about their strategies for running a trust successfully during Covid-19 and beyond.

The series explores different facets of “resilience”, including culture, change management, school improvement, and finance, with talks by:

  • Peter Bradburn, Director of IT and Communications and Giles Hill, Digital Learning Lead at Aspire Academy Trust
  • Nick Hudson, CEO at Ormiston Academies Trust
  • Anna Hennell James, CEO of Orwell MAT
  • Patrick Taggart, Director of Operations at Romero Catholic Academy and Mark Tadman, CEO of Schools Business Services (SBS)

See what’s on and book your free spot today 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 2 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Announcing the second virtual ArborFest!

In just two weeks’ time, we’re hosting the second ever virtual ArborFest – a two-day festival dedicated to discovering new ways of working with Arbor MIS.  ArborFest is your chance to meet (online!) the growing community of over 1,500 schools and 130 MATs using Arbor MIS to transform the way they work.  Following our popular

In just two weeks’ time, we’re hosting the second ever virtual ArborFest – a two-day festival dedicated to discovering new ways of working with Arbor MIS. 

ArborFest is your chance to meet (online!) the growing community of over 1,500 schools and 130 MATs using Arbor MIS to transform the way they work. 

Following our popular festival in November 2020, where we were joined by over 700 staff from 400 schools, we’d love to invite you to the next instalment of our popular community event for school leaders, teachers and support staff.

ArborFest

Exploring innovative ways of working

The theme this Spring is all about exploring innovative ways of working at school. We’ve designed a programme of talks, workshops and feedback forums to show you how using Arbor can change the way your school works for the better – whether you’re already a customer, thinking about switching, or a partner of ours. There’s sure to be a session in the programme for everyone – from your SLT to your Support Team. And the best thing is it’s completely free!

Already use our MIS? With sessions designed to help make sure you’re getting the most from Arbor, you’ll have opportunities to learn new tips and tricks, share best practice with other schools, and attend masterclasses on areas like data analysis and PowerBI. 

New to Arbor? ArborFest is your unique chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Arbor works from schools and MATs who have recently made the switch. With a range of talks and workshops to choose from, it’s the perfect way to get an informal feel for whether Arbor is the right fit for you.

Plus, there’s a keynote speaker, a mindfulness workshop, and opportunities to network with fellow schools. 

What’s on the programme?

Click here to see the full programme and book your tickets 

ArborFest will run across five virtual “stages”, each hosting multiple talks across the two days. Click the link above to see the full programme and book into the sessions you’d like to join: 

  • Main Stage – Join Arbor’s CEO to open and close the festival, and see and our guest Keynote Speaker, Mary Myatt
  • The Masterclass Stage – The Arbor Team lead sessions showcasing tips and tricks for a range of Arbor modules
  • The Workshop Stage – Join Feedback Forums with fellow Arbor users to shape the future of our MIS
  • The Partner Stage – Special sessions for our support and integration partners
  • The “Why Arbor?” Stage – Sessions designed for schools thinking of moving to Arbor, led by schools who use us already

Announcing our Keynote Speaker

We’re excited to announce a very special keynote speaker for ArborFest – Mary Myatt. Mary is an education adviser, writer and speaker who will be sharing insights and advice from her latest book, “Back on track: Fewer things, greater depth.” Mary will dig into why there might be redundant processes in schools, and uses Greg McKeown’s ‘disciplined pursuit of less’ to help school leaders and teachers create time and space to do deep, satisfying work on the curriculum.  

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

Re-live when ArborFest was in-person!

Watch our video showcasing our in-person ArborFest back in February 2020. Take a look and see what ArborFest means to us: 


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

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

Can’t wait until ArborFest? 

We’ve got lots of free webinars in the run-up to ArborFest designed to show you how Arbor MIS works. Find out what’s on here and book your spot.

Alternatively, get in touch here to arrange a personalised demo.

blank Andrew Mackereth - 26 January, 2021

Category : Blog

Curriculum Led Financial Planning in a crisis

Former Secondary School Headteacher and Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager, Andrew, speaks to Steve Gibson, Deputy Headteacher at Berwick Academy   In my first article on the subject of curriculum led financial planning (CLFP), I asked: Is your Curriculum planning improving outcomes for your students? In this article, I discussed with a secondary Senior Leader how

Former Secondary School Headteacher and Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager, Andrew, speaks to Steve Gibson, Deputy Headteacher at Berwick Academy

 

In my first article on the subject of curriculum led financial planning (CLFP), I asked: Is your Curriculum planning improving outcomes for your students? In this article, I discussed with a secondary Senior Leader how schools are addressing CLFP mid-pandemic, including how to juggle the challenges of budgeting whilst addressing gaps in curriculum and learning, and planning for the future.

Steve Gibson is Deputy Headteacher at Berwick Academy, a small community high school and sixth form in Northumberland that aims to improve skills, knowledge, understanding and values through friendship, learning and respect. Balancing the budget in a small, rural school is not a science but an art form, as Steve discusses the challenges he faces with outdated building stock, rural isolation and difficulties around recruiting and retaining quality staff. 

You can read our conversation below. 

 

Andrew: How much medium-term and long-term financial planning are you doing at the moment? 

Steve: Obviously, the main focus is on ‘the now’ but as we have funding challenges anyway, our eye constantly has to be on the budget. We have had the support of external resource advisors but sometimes they lack school operational experience and don’t appreciate the complexities of providing a balanced curriculum when numbers on roll are below average, or that by reducing staffing to any great extent we wouldn’t be able to function. We have implemented many suggestions, but some of their suggestions would be detrimental to our curriculum and the way we operate.

We have an old school building which has been well looked-after, but it’s fair to say that some parts of our site are in a poor condition and the costs associated with operating our ten buildings are high. This is a costly site and needs a lot of upkeep. As part of our Covid response and financial prudence, we have reduced movement between buildings to maintain heat and minimise student contact but the buildings are not large but do house specialist facilities. We are not able to consider any major capital projects at the moment. 

 

A: What priorities have you identified?

S: Suddenly we find we need more people on duty and more people at the gate without any additional funding, and while this is built into our contact time allocations, changes like this rely on a lot of goodwill. We have already had to change the structure of the school day to make the site Covid safe and currently operate a three lesson day.

With the reduced movement of students, we found this approach had a positive effect on behaviour and when all students return, the reduced timetable may remain in some form. We like it because it maximises learning time as students settle more quickly. In effect, we exploded our one week timetable over two weeks so you get a good chunk of curriculum time. The curriculum is therefore protected but some subjects may only see classes once per fortnight.

Attendance follow up will be a priority when students return and we are buying a day of Education Welfare Officer time to help us get students back and engaging with learning. We’ve also maintained our EWO contract throughout lockdown last year and again this year in order to help us to reach out to some of the more difficult to engage families.

Mental health and wellbeing have emerged as strong priorities and our Pastoral Team have really stepped up in this respect to ensure that there is a wellbeing helpline, regular catch-up calls and home visits when appropriate, and support for families where we, or they, identify a need.

 

A: Have you been able to collate and track all of your teaching and non-teaching costs?

S: It hasn’t been easy as the information is held in a number of different places. What we do know is that staffing costs are high and recruitment is difficult, and therefore staff are expensive. We have built a planning model that shows how much each subject costs and can even demonstrate what each lesson costs.

We have found that some of our activities are cost-negative. Things like our “On Call” rotas are mostly made up of the Senior Leadership team and that’s predictably an expensive use of their time. We have used some classroom management software to analyse how often Senior Leadership have been called to assist in classroom difficulties as the basis for some calculations, and as a way of identifying trends and training requirements.

 

A: What impact has your financial situation had on your curriculum?

S: We have had to reduce the range of options subjects for Year 10 whilst trying to keep a broad curriculum. We have had to limit the options for students by grouping similar subjects such as graphics and design technology into a single subject offer. We only have one MFL teacher so all students study French and this is our only language GCSE in order to meet students’ language acquisition aspirations and the requirements of the EBacc.

We offer a broadly traditional curriculum, but are evaluating it annually with the needs of each cohort in mind. We have also reduced the offer in the sixth form to those subjects we know we can deliver well as we understand that it is reliant on main school funding to exist. 

 

A: Have you considered taking any drastic measures with your curriculum? 

S: Yes we have. We have considered shutting our sixth form but the nearest alternative is 30 miles away or a difficult journey to attend college in a big city and we feel our community deserves local provision. There are many difficult decisions to make around curriculum and financial planning, but our first priority is always what is right for our students and our community, and then we work hard to make that happen within our financial means.

 

A: Have you seen any positives come out of these unusual circumstances?

S: We have a clear vision for where we need to improve, and we have not allowed the lockdowns to change that course. We have built on CPD for staff, and our teaching and learning strategy has become embedded through our virtual learning to reflect our in-classroom learning.

We are seeing the benefits of increased learning time. Not all subjects are big fans of the longer lessons but we may consider changing our timetable to a 4 period day to maximise the positive effects of fewer lesson transitions and the opportunity to go deeper with students during those longer lessons.  

The forced move to virtual learning to support students at home has not happened in the way we expected, but has followed our intention to move as much home learning as possible to our virtual platforms. A positive outcome of the current situation is that our students and parents are now used to accessing and learning from these platforms. Our staff have also had the opportunity to learn new skills in working remotely, and our ability to offer lessons of quality at home has been developed at breakneck speed.  

 

A: Have you built any ‘what if’ scenarios? 

S: We have, the main one is considering our status as a high school. Our students join us in Year 9 and school funding modelling nationally favours the secondary school model starting at Year 7. The modelling of two additional year groups enables us to demonstrate a balanced budget, and if we continue to believe in the current system, we therefore have to acknowledge that funding should be different for those schools who don’t fit the standard primary-secondary mould. Either changing the model of the school, or changing the funding mechanism for those of us operating in a three-tier system, would make us more financially sustainable.

 

A: Is your curriculum affordable and sustainable? Is there anywhere you could be more efficient?

S: It is just about, because we’ve carefully looked at our Teacher contact ratio and costs per lesson. We know we can’t shave any more of these costs. The challenge for us is to look at efficiencies in our operating costs so we can prioritise the curriculum. For example, when we look at our technology costs we know that on top of our MIS costs we have safeguarding software, a classroom management tool, a parent communication tool and a homework tool. All of these add up and all of them are relied upon by someone to do one specific job. Our homework tool for example has become our main vehicle for managing our online learning. We don’t underestimate the value some of them bring. 

We look for efficiencies all the time, and we are good at repairing before replacing! We look after our buildings to make sure they provide the best environment that they can, and when money needs to be spent on them we make our choices with one eye on today and the other looking to the future.  It’s the same with our curriculum.  We want to offer the widest and most appropriate curriculum we can for our students, but to do that we need to maintain a clear understanding of the cost of any decision we make, and balance that with a clear understanding of the needs and aspirations of our students and our community.

 

Further reading

For more information on a tool and advice on your CLFP, go to: https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/resources-products/how-schools-can-best-implement-curriculum-led-financial-planning/ 

 

Emma Sharples - 20 January, 2021

Category : Blog

What’s the best time in the year to move your secondary to a cloud-based MIS?

Rolling out a new MIS (Management Information System) at your secondary school can feel like a daunting task. That’s why we work hand-in-hand with schools to implement Arbor at the right time and pace. There really is no best time to move – we work with schools throughout the school year and during holidays to

Rolling out a new MIS (Management Information System) at your secondary school can feel like a daunting task. That’s why we work hand-in-hand with schools to implement Arbor at the right time and pace.

There really is no best time to move – we work with schools throughout the school year and during holidays to fit your move to Arbor around your priorities, school calendar and staff commitments. During Covid-19 we’ve moved over 400 schools to Arbor.

You’ll have the support of your Arbor Project Manager who will ensure your staff have the right training they need to use Arbor confidently as soon as the system goes live. Find out more about how we help make Arbor a success at your school here.

If you’re wondering when would be a good time to move systems during the academic year, our Head of Professional Services, Emma, has some handy pointers below to help you decide:

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in September

If you want your Arbor site to go live in September, your implementation will begin after the Easter break.

What to bear in mind in your school calendar:  

  • As September is the new school year, we know you’ll need to set up and be confident to use Arbor from day one, including transitioning to your new school timetable 
  • Staff taking summer leave and having availability to support the roll out
  • August Exam Results Day
  • Any September timetable changes

How Arbor can help:

  • If you already completed your school’s new year setup in your previous MIS, it will migrate automatically to Arbor, including your timetable
  • Training will be available to your staff throughout the term before your ‘Go Live’ date and beyond, so staff won’t have to take time for their valuable holidays
  • We’ll plan for priority operations such as exams, in advance of when you need to use this functionality. You’ll also have the option to use your existing MIS for processing your exam results on results day and add them to Arbor at a later date 
  • We’ll make sure your staff have training on timetable management as a priority to support any amendments to make to classes, rooms, staff or enrolments for September

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in October Half-Term

If you want your Arbor site to go live in October Half-Term, your implementation will begin after May Half-Term.

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • School and Workforce Census 
  • Autumn term priorities, e.g. assessment data drops, parents’ evenings and reports
  • Exams resits 

How Arbor can help:

  • Our data migration process is fully compliant for census, and our data cleansing process will ensure your data is good quality 
  • We run two ‘dummy data’ runs so you can check your data is accurate before Arbor goes live
  • We can tailor your implementation and training plan to meet your school’s needs and availability
  • We’ll plan ahead to make sure you can upload your assessment data into Arbor at the right time
  • Your exam entries will migrate to Arbor and we will be on hand to make sure your Exams Officer has the right training and support during this time

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in January

If you want your Arbor site to go live in January, your implementation will begin in September. 

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • September is a busy time to start onboarding a new system
  • School census
  • In-year assessment data drops
  • School closure over the Christmas break

How Arbor can help:

  • We can tailor your implementation and training plan to meet your school’s needs and availability
  • Our data migration process is fully compliant which ensures you have everything you need to complete your census
  • We’ll plan ahead to make sure you can upload your assessment data into Arbor at the right time

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in February Half-Term

If you want your Arbor site to go live in February Half-Term, your implementation will begin after October Half-Term. 

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • Your in-year assessment data drops
  • Exam entry deadline

How Arbor can help:

  • We’ll plan ahead to make sure you have everything for assessment setup and can upload your assessment data into Arbor at the right time
  • During implementation, we will work with you to identify your priorities such as exams. You have the option to either use Arbor or your previous MIS to complete entries, so you can make the transition in your own time

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in Easter

If you want your Arbor site to go live in Easter, your implementation will begin after Christmas. 

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • Your in-year assessment data drops
  • You’ll have done your exam entries

How Arbor can help:

  • You’ll have nearly two terms’ worth of in-year assessment data to upload to Arbor. We can help plan for this in your implementation plan if you choose to use Arbor for assessments straight away
  • We’ll migrate your exam entries to Arbor and we’ll make sure your team are trained on how to make amendments and complete access requirements/seating plans in Arbor if needed

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in May Half-Term

If you want your Arbor site to go live in May Half-Term, your implementation will begin after February Half-Term. 

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • School census
  • In-year assessment data drops
  • New school year: including timetable and enrolments
  • Exams administration

How Arbor can help:

  • You’ll have nearly three terms’ worth of in-year assessment data to upload to Arbor. We can plan for this in your implementation plan to give you enough time. Alternatively you can continue to use your current assessment tracker until September, transitioning to Arbor gradually
  • We’ll make sure you have enough time to set up your new school year in Arbor. We also have an integration with TimeTabler which allows you to import your timetable. 
  • We’ll make sure your staff have the training they need to administer exams and prepare all access arrangements as required

Want to find out what your implementation journey to Arbor MIS could look like? Join our free webinar on 2nd February at 11am to hear from Rebecca all about the structure and process of moving your secondary school to Arbor’s cloud-based MIS – from data migration, training, to driving long-term improvements to the way you work. Sign up here for free

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Category : Blog

Lessons Learnt From Procuring Systems During Covid-19 – By Jim Farquhar, COO at Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust

In November 2020, we caught up with Jim Farquhar, COO at Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust, about his strategy for systems procurement across a Multi-Academy Trust. Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust is made up of 27 schools across Teesside and North Yorkshire. Formed in 2018 from four smaller MATs and several LA maintained schools, it

In November 2020, we caught up with Jim Farquhar, COO at Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust, about his strategy for systems procurement across a Multi-Academy Trust.

Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust is made up of 27 schools across Teesside and North Yorkshire. Formed in 2018 from four smaller MATs and several LA maintained schools, it now serves approximately 1,300 staff and 9,000 students.

Find out below how Jim led the project to procure a new MIS (Management Information System) for all schools in the trust, driven by the need for a system which could stand up to the challenges of Covid-19. Jim has some great advice for fellow MAT leaders who are considering procuring systems at scale.

What’s your approach to trust centralisation?

Over the last two years our strategy has been moving towards more centralisation for the functions that are best suited to it. We’re quite far along, with central teams for finance, HR, governance, IT, attendance and standards. We are also now looking at our estates functions as a next step.

Our IT strategy going forwards is to consolidate systems, with the goal of only 4 or 5 key systems across the trust. This will allow us to make maintenance and quality assurance of data much more efficient and consistent. 

Why should MATs carefully think through how they procure?

All schools and MATs come from different starting points but in my experience there is often a lot of historic spend that goes unchallenged every year. Central Teams need to question what they’re getting for their money. With LA maintained schools especially, you can often see big contracts continuing on that were originally set up by LA. 

We have found it has been worth hiring a procurement manager in house with experience in the public and private sectors, who will be good at spotting these types of legacy contracts and putting new arrangements in place.

What was your starting point for procuring an MIS? 

Our schools were previously using a mixture of systems, including SIMS, ScholarPack and Bromcom. Because of this, we’d built a reporting process where we were taking data out of schools’ systems and were collating and analysing it using Power BI. This took a great deal of time and resource for the IT team and was not a sustainable solution for moving forward as a trust. As a result, our Head of IT and Head of Data Quality put in a strong case for moving to a cloud-based, multi-phase MIS and their rationale made sense from a number of perspectives. 

How did Covid-19 affect your decision to procure?

As Covid-19 hit, we realised our systems couldn’t stand up to the added challenges such as tracking and supporting staff and students in isolation and in a timely manner. There was a real information vacuum which became a serious issue.

Although the first few weeks were taken up with ‘firefighting’, after about a month once we had procedures up and running, we sat down as a leadership team and weighed up the opportunity that a new MIS would bring. We were conscious that we’d already introduced several new systems since forming as a trust, so we didn’t want to put additional burden on staff. 

But we decided to take the plunge and move to Arbor MIS and were surprised that we were able to procure within one month. Only 6 months later, Arbor is completely implemented and we’re receiving great feedback from staff. The best thing is we now have access to the information we need to make much better decisions as a trust. It also puts us in a much better position to tackle second and potential third waves of the crisis. 

How did you find implementing Arbor MIS 100% remotely?

It’s been a lot easier than I was expecting at the start. The process flowed, we’ve had great support from Arbor, and the system has just worked. There are always challenges with an implementation process but with Arbor they have been totally surmountable. We’ve also had the advantage of a strong project team we put in place – with a combination of teaching and learning, and technical expertise – which has meant we’ve had the right people driving momentum forward and making sure the system works for everyone. 

How did the procurement process go?

We used the DfE’s G-Cloud framework to procure which made it really straightforward as it mapped out the process into stages and milestones, with guidance to follow along the way. It meant that we had documentation at every stage to back up our decision making and it took care of all the heavy lifting for us.

The first thing we did was set out our written strategic intent which detailed what we wanted the system to do. We then looked at the suppliers on G-Cloud to see which would meet our requirements well. This helped us narrow down the choice to two options. We then had demos with each supplier and set up an awarding panel consisting of our project team as well as our leadership team to make the evaluation. 

How did you involve your schools in the process?

It was a ‘soft sell’ at first. We floated the idea of moving MIS without the mention of timescales at first so as not to cause anxiety for staff. We brought them into the process along the way; Headteachers and Business Support Staff joined demos with the two suppliers and also had a play around with the system. We also arranged lots of Q&A sessions for staff to ask any questions and raise any concerns they had about changing systems, which helped dispel any fears.

We had great buy-in from the schools; we offered them a gradual transition plan which would go through to Easter 2021 but all volunteered to come on board straight away. The quality of the Arbor product and the support team helped in reassuring staff and demystifying what could be perceived as a chunky process. Staff were excited that this was a positive step to take the trust forward.

We had the advantage that in the first year as a trust we had put all schools on the same internet and communications platform, which meant that we could engage with school staff directly and much more easily. 

After you awarded your contract did you get challenged by the other supplier? 

Yes, we received 6 or 7 freedom of information requests which got quite vexing. However, we were able to deal with them quickly and in a straightforward fashion  because we had all the documentation, audit trail, timelines, etc. thanks to G-Cloud to evidence our decision. This really highlighted the strength of using a procurement framework as it narrows the potential for challenge in the first place, plus if you’ve followed the steps correctly means you don’t need to panic if you do get challenged. 

For more advice on procuring systems for your school or trust, check out our blog:

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

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Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

 

Find out about Arbor MIS

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

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

 

Join us for afternoon tea!

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Category : Blog

How to find out more about Arbor MIS this term

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3. Hear from fellow MAT leaders 

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

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

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

 

4. Get in touch with us

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

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Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Category : Blog

How to use your MIS to reduce your workload this term

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Automate key tasks so they take up less time

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

4. Make communicating with your school community fast and simple

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

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

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

5. Standardise your operations and ways of working

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

 

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

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Category : Blog

Top 5 ways you can set wellbeing goals this year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Try mindfulness

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

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

 

2. Start a gratitude diary

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

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

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

 

3. Take a break from social media

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

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

 

4. Walk

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

 

5. Tweak your bedtime routine 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Category : Blog

Top tips for managing stress during constant change

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

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

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

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

How are you feeling?

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

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

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

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

What is stress?

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

Is stress bad? 

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

For more info, go to MentalHealth.org

How can we manage stress? 

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

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

Top tips for managing stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Useful links 

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

For coping with the Coronavirus outbreak:

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

General recommendations:

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

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

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 8 December, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

1. First, think teaching and technical

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

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

2. Keep your strategy in mind

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

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

3. Consider using a framework

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

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

4. Get staff on board

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

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

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

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

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

David Norton - 8 December, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Herts for Learning (HfL)

HFL

Why did you choose to partner with Arbor?

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

 

How did the accreditation process go?

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

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

 

How have you found working with Arbor so far?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

   

The City of Bradford (E-ICT Team)

city-of-bradford

 

Why did you choose to partner with Arbor?

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

 

How did the accreditation process go?

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

 

How have you found working with Arbor so far?

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

blank James Weatherill - 2 December, 2020

Category : Blog

The future of Arbor and the MIS market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Transform the ecosystem of apps and support partners

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

2. Provide smarter insight

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

3. Bring school communities together

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

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

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

James

CEO and Co-Founder, Arbor Education

blank Daniel Giardiello - 1 December, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been the benefit of using ImpactEd in particular?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

blank Beth Mokrini - 30 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

What does a Support Partner do?

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

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

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

Arbor-Partners-map

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

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

AdEPT Education – Nationwide

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

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

Agile Technical Solutions – East Anglia

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

Agilisys (Sefton Borough Council) – Sefton

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

Bradford Metropolitan Borough Council E-ICT Team – Bradford

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

Carbon Cloud – Kent

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

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

Code Green (Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council)  – Barnsley

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

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

Cygnet IT Services – Sutton

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

Education Lincs – Lincolnshire

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

Holker IT (formerly PC Edutech) – North West

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


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

Integra Schools (South Gloucestershire Council) – Gloucestershire

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

Interm IT – South of England

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

Itech Support – Hertfordshire

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

JC Comtech – East Anglia

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

Keystone MIS – Yorkshire

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

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

School Care – Hampshire

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

Services 4 SchoolsWolverhampton

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

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

The SCAS Team – West Sussex

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

Trading with Schools (Bristol City Council) – Bristol

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

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

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

Vitalize IT Nationwide

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

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

Enjoying our blog? Why not subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter to get thought leadership, case studies and Arbor updates, straight to your inbox.

Rachel Coldicutt - 27 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid change

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

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

graduation

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

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

rapid-change

No time for reflection

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

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

Building foundations for the future

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

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

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

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

Practical tips for moving forward

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

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

Glimmers-report

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

  • Tracking your change

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

  • Reflection on roles

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

  • Planning for uncertainty

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

Remember, we co-create technology

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

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

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

blank Sophie Elms - 24 November, 2020

Category : Blog

Women in tech leadership

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

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

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

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

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

Women in Tech Leadership at Arbor 

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

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

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

Sonia Leighton – Chief of Customer Success 

Sonia-leighton

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

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

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

Maggie Wright – Finance Director 

Maggie-wright

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

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

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

Hilary Aylesworth – Head of Product

hilary ayelsworth

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

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

Phillippa De’Ath – Chief Revenue Officer

PDA

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

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

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

Harriet Cheng – Head of Marketing

Harriet-cheng

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

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

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

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

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

Tony Phillips - 19 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

10am, Tuesday 24th November 

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

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

Teams-training-1

2. Blended Learning for Primary Schools with Microsoft Teams 

3pm, Tuesday 24 November

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

Teams-training-2

3. Centralising Resources and Reducing Teacher Workload using Microsoft Teams 

1pm on Wednesday 25 November 

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

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

Teams-training-3

 

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

 

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

Sophia Krage - 18 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

My Homepage – your personalised dashboard – Launching today!

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

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

my-homepage

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

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

What are schools saying?

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

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

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

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

blank

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

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

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

my-classroom

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

1. Flexible seating plans

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

2. Take action seamlessly throughout the lesson

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

3. Powered by Arbor MIS

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

What are schools saying?

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

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

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

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

Andy Cunningham, Headteacher at The Lakes School

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

Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead Academy

Want to learn more?

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 17 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

 

Who can sign up?

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

 

Why should I sign up?

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

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

 

How do I sign up?

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

 

How do I book a meeting with Arbor?

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

 

What will I get out of a meeting with Arbor?

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

 

Do I need to prepare anything for the meeting?

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

 

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

 

We look forward to meeting you at the show!

 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 16 November, 2020

Category : Blog

What you missed at ArborFest

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

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

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

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

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

So what happened at ArborFest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing transformative ways of working

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

covid-talk

What’s next in Arbor MIS? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arbor-success

Competition 

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

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

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

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

Want to find out more?

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

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

blank Beth Mokrini - 11 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How Arbor helps you create a more joined-up school

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

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

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

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

1. Keep your school running securely on the cloud

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

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

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

2. Link up your systems securely, with total control 

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

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

3. Explore your data further with Live Feeds

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

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

4. Coming soon: Simplify your remote learning environment

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

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

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

blank Alice Martin-Hawkins - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How to recognise staff burnout and prevent it

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

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

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

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

What is burnout?

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

Some signs you might be experiencing burnout at work: 

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

Potential causes of burnout 

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

Tips to prevent burnout 

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

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

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

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

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

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

blank Danielle Arkwright - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

How to create a culture of wellbeing at your school 

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

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

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

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

Impact on mental health

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

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

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

Create a culture of wellbeing

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

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

same-storm-different-boats

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

Actions schools can take to create a culture of wellbeing 

For Staff…

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

For Students…

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

For more ideas and resources check out the following websites: 

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

Martyn Essery, Chief Operating Officer at The Reach Free School

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

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

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

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

3. Are you concerned at all about Ofsted inspections?

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

4. How will you be preparing for an inspection?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Are you concerned at all about Ofsted inspections?

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

4. How will you be preparing for an inspection?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 3 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 12th November

Morning sessions

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

Best practice and advice from schools and trusts using Arbor MIS

Welcome to ArborFest!

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

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

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

Improving Parental Engagement with Arbor MIS

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

What’s next in Arbor

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

How we Build a School-Centric Roadmap

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

New Feature Reveal: My Classroom and My Homepage

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

Feedback Forum: Navigation and Layout in Arbor

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

(For Arbor customers only)

MAT Feedback Forum: Teaching and Learning in Group MIS

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

(For Arbor customers only)

Afternoon sessions

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

Best practice and advice from schools and trusts using Arbor MIS

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

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

A Deeper Dive: Attendance Analysis and Reporting in Arbor

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

Best Practice: Primary Assessments in Arbor

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

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

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

Teacher Twilight

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

What’s next in Arbor

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

Arbor’s Vision for Assessments

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

Best Practice: Secondary School Assessments in Arbor

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

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

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

MAT Feedback Forum: Back Office

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

(For Arbor customers only)

What’s Next for Group MIS

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

Friday 13th November

Morning sessions

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

Best practice and advice from schools and trusts using Arbor MIS

An Overview of Arbor’s Training and Services

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

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

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

Best Practice: Exam Entries and Seating in Arbor

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

ArborFest Closing Talk

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

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

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

What’s next in Arbor

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

New Feature Reveal: Arbor Enterprise

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

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

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

Otherwise, see you online!

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 29 October, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. How should schools be looking at behaviour?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. How can we support students this term?

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

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

5. What can schools do to support mental health?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Category : Blog

How hundreds of LA maintained schools are moving to the cloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

1. What motivated your move to Arbor MIS? 

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

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

2. Did you have any concerns before moving?

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

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

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

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

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

4. How has Arbor transformed the way you work? 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 29 October, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

1. What motivated your move to Arbor MIS? 

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

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

2. Did you have any concerns before moving?

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

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

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

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

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

5. How is implementation going so far? 

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

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 28 October, 2020

Category : Blog

How to prepare for Ofsted inspections this term

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

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

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

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

 

1. Attendance

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

 

Gather your evidence in Arbor… 

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

attendance-dashboard

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

covid-dashboard

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

MAT-attendance

 

2. Behaviour

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

 

Gather your evidence in Arbor… 

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

behaviour-year-group

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

behaviour-incidents

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

interventions-report

 

3. Safeguarding

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

 

Gather your evidence in Arbor… 

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

homepage

 

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

 

4. Curriculum

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

 

Gather your evidence in Arbor… 

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

formative-assessment

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

covid-groups-assessment

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

interventions-tracking

 

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

 

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 22 October, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

There are two main drivers: 

1. Economies of scale
2. School improvement

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

What should companies do to help? 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Understanding Your MAT Report

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

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

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

Understanding-your-mat-report

How the report can help your trustees

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

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

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

Let’s break that down…

1. Get a clear picture of student performance 

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

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

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

progress-8-report

KS4 Progress 8 score, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020

2. Understand student performance in context

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

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

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

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

area-type-report

Area Type Blend, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020

3. Shape smart strategy 

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

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

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

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

blank Rebecca Watkins - 16 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Introducing: Virtual ArborFest – You’re Invited!

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

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

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

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

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


What’s on the programme?

Click here to see the full programme and book your tickets 

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

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

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

Announcing our keynote speaker

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

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

Re-live the last ArborFest

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 13 October, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Why should you run a systems audit?

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

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

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

What’s the first step in an audit?

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

And more precisely:

What does it do that another system can’t?

Do staff use it frequently? If not, why?

Do staff use every feature of it?

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

How to run a systems audit

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

Systems-audit-example

How you can approach a systems audit

Step 1

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Step 4 

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

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

Next steps

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

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

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

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

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

Tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Maddie Kilminster - 13 October, 2020

Category : Blog

5 ways to cut down census stress with Arbor

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

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

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

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

1. Save hours of manual data entry

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

Census_bulk_updates

Click the pencil to update all students in one click

2. Up-to-date DfE validation forms

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

3. Navigate your data in an easy dashboard

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

Census_see-breakdown-of-students

Click on any category and review which students are listed

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

free-school-meals

Get quick access to demographic information for all students

4. Correct any errors straight away

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

amend-things-fast

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

5. Speed up workforce census with our HR integration

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

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

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

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census-quote-1

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

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Rebecca Watkins - 13 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Building a Resilient Trust: Lessons from leaders 8 months in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up here

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

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

Sign up here

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

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

Sign up here

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

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

Sign up here

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

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

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

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Maddie Kilminster - 12 October, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

How easy is it to switch MIS?  

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

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

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

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

Phase 1: Technical Migration

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

Phase 2: Getting Started

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

Phase 3: Active (long term)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out if Arbor MIS is right for you

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

Hilary Aylesworth - 8 October, 2020

Category : Blog

How we work with schools to shape our product development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How we shape our product roadmap

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

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

How does it work?

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

Here’s how RICE breaks down:

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

The other ways we gather your feedback

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

Termly Feedback Forums

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

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

NPS survey 

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

Last term, our schools told us:

arbor-impact

ArborFest

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

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

Designing for impact

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

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customer-quote-2

Product-quote

Want to find out more about Arbor MIS?

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

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Maddie Kilminster - 6 October, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

For Teaching Staff…

My Classroom (Out now!)

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

my-classroom

My Homepage (Coming in November)

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

my-homepage

For School and Trust Leaders…

Free Arbor Insight reports (Out now!)

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

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

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

Sign up to get your free reports here.

insight-reports

Understanding Your MAT Report (Coming later this month)

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

MAT-report

For MATs and larger schools…

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

Advanced Support (Out now!)

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

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Arbor Enterprise (Coming in February 2021)

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

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

For all staff… 

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

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

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

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

New to Arbor?

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

Already using Arbor?

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

blank Rebecca Watkins - 1 October, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial-benchmarking

Get started with this year’s budget 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial-benchmarking-2

How to present this data to your key stakeholders

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

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

Next steps

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

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

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

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

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

blank Sophie Elms - 30 September, 2020

Category : Blog

Why Diversity & Inclusion is our top priority as we grow

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

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

Striving for a wide range of perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

So what are we doing as a business? 

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

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

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

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

Join the Arbor Team!

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

Here are our current open roles:

Billing Manager – Leeds/London/Remote

Software Trainer – Remote/South

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

Senior Marketing Manager – London

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 29 September, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the G-Cloud framework?

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

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

How does G-Cloud work?

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

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

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

2. Go to “Cloud software” 

3. Search for keywords that are relevant to what you’re looking for, such as ‘Primary MIS’, ‘Secondary MIS’, or ‘MAT MIS’, to find the list of relevant suppliers. Remember to download this list for your audit trail once you’ve found what you’re looking for.

If there are too many results after putting in your keywords through, you can click a filter, e.g. “2-factor authentication” to see the suppliers that provide that feature.

4. Read each supplier’s product and pricing information

5. Send any clarification questions to the suppliers or host a demo day to confirm which supplier best meets your needs

6. Award your contract using the G-Cloud contract template

Why Arbor?

Arbor MIS helps over 1,200 schools and 100 MATs work more easily and collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference. 

Arbor’s Group MIS is the only true MIS for MATs, allowing you to see the bigger picture across your trust. Designed with trusts like yours, Arbor helps you work more collaboratively, with tools that make working together easier at every level. 

100 schools have joined Arbor through G-Cloud so far! You can find us on G-cloud 12 here:

If you want to see Arbor in action you can book a free demo or join a webinar here.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 22 September, 2020

Category : Blog

3 reasons why you should switch to a cloud-based MIS now to future-proof your school

It’s been the most challenging year yet for schools. From navigating changing DfE guidance, to keeping tabs on vulnerable students, staff have had a lot on their plate. On top of all this, leadership teams have had to grapple with legacy, server-based software, which slowed schools down as they adapted the way they work.  This

It’s been the most challenging year yet for schools. From navigating changing DfE guidance, to keeping tabs on vulnerable students, staff have had a lot on their plate.

On top of all this, leadership teams have had to grapple with legacy, server-based software, which slowed schools down as they adapted the way they work. 

This year won’t be without its challenges, so you’ll need smart, flexible systems that can do the heavy lifting for you. 

That’s why hundreds of schools are switching to a cloud-based MIS like Arbor to help them react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing.

Here are three reasons why you should move your school to the cloud this year: 

1. Stay on top of DfE requirements
2. Get the information you need wherever you are
3. Pivot and stay flexible

Let’s break that down…

1. Stay on top of DfE requirements

Having a cloud-based MIS in place makes it easy to adapt to rapid changes in regulation, like socially distanced timetabling, new attendance and absence codes or key worker status. 

Whatever the DfE introduces, Arbor can make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day), meaning you can keep on top of new requirements. No more patches or workarounds!

You’ll also have everything you need to follow the new DfE reporting requirements thanks to Arbor’s Covid-19 dashboard. Every day, Arbor crunches the numbers for you across all the DfE’s categories, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed cases of Covid-19, giving you everything you need to submit the Daily Form each morning. 

covid-19-dashboard

2. Get the information you need wherever you are

Schools are having to work in lots of new ways – some Teachers are moving between classrooms, some staff are quarantining at home, and some schools are going into local lockdown.

In order to keep your school running whatever happens, your staff need access to their student information so they can complete their essential tasks, like tracking attendance, reporting on vulnerable students and following up with parents and guardians – all from wherever they’re working. 

That’s where a cloud-based MIS like Arbor comes in, which gives staff all the data they need wherever they are, without being restricted to school computers or setting up a VPN. Plus, Arbor’s people-friendly dashboards help you get insight from your data and take action in a few clicks. 

3. Pivot and stay flexible 

In an unpredictable term, you might have to change your social distancing arrangements, timetables and staff rotas at short notice. 

Arbor gives you the flexibility to plan or switch up your arrangements whenever you need to. Here are just some of the ways the system will work around you:

  • Flex your timetable – Arrange new bubbles, assign different Teachers to each class, change your start and finish times and much more, all without clashes or gaps
  • Capture changes – It’s quick and easy to update key demographic information for your students so you can capture all the circumstances that might have changed post-lockdown. Creating custom groups will then help you keep tabs on the students you need to
  • Quick actions – Speed up your admin with key timesavers like bulk actions, communications templates and live to-do lists, freeing up your staff to focus on what matters. Find out more about how to save hours a week on admin here
  • Custom reports – Keep track of the student groups and the criteria that’s important to you, and schedule your reports so you’ve always got the most up-to-date data

It’s easy to switch

Because managing your school how you need to right now is so difficult with a server-based system, the question has become not if you should move to the cloud but when

To help, we’ve made the process of moving to Arbor simple and we can get you up and running in a matter of weeks, 100% remotely. From migrating your data to Arbor, to training up your staff to use the system confidently, a dedicated Project Manager will guide you every step of the way.

Read about how Woodland Academy Trust moved to Arbor remotely during lockdown, along with more than 250 schools! 

Arbor-covid-19

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank James Weatherill - 21 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to adapt to constant change and move forward after a crisis 

In our popular “Adapting to Change” webinar series last term, we invited MAT leaders to share how they were adapting their strategies to navigate the Covid-19 crisis as it unfolded. We’ve collated six of the best interviews into a special book which we hope will give MAT leaders useful advice for how to support your

In our popular “Adapting to Change” webinar series last term, we invited MAT leaders to share how they were adapting their strategies to navigate the Covid-19 crisis as it unfolded.

We’ve collated six of the best interviews into a special book which we hope will give MAT leaders useful advice for how to support your schools through constant change and prepare for whatever the future brings.

You can download your copy of the “Adapting to Change” ebook here

Here’s a bit more about the book from Arbor Co-Founder and CEO James:

As MAT leaders there has never been a moment where so much change happened in such a short period of time. In the past six months every trust has been forced to adapt almost all processes overnight to safeguard and support staff, students and the wider community. Whilst this has been an incredibly tough time (I hope you got a break over the summer), it’s also taught us a lot, including how agile, bold and resilient schools could be.

At Arbor we’ve seen a lot of new ideas and practices emerge over the Spring and Summer terms from the 100+ MATs we work with, and have been holding weekly webinars with MAT leaders on strategies they’ve put in place to help adapt to this change.

This book is a concise write-up of practical tips and tactics from MAT CEOs centered on the broad topics of Leadership, Student and Staff Wellbeing and Online Learning. You’ll see how others have wrestled with pivoting their organisations quickly, defining how much autonomy to give to schools, making sure staff don’t burnout and how to ensure quality when teaching online. Hopefully it will stimulate a few new ideas as you look ahead to the future.

I’d like to thank all the authors and those on our webinars for being so open and brave in sharing their experiences as they happened. No one’s pretending they have all the answers, but if there’s ever been a time to experiment with new ways of working it’s now, and I’m encouraged by what I see.

Our mission at Arbor is to help centralise your insight, improve your communications and streamline how you work across your trust. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, please get in touch.

I look forward to seeing you online in our next series of MAT webinars this term, or even one day in person!

James Weatherill

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Joanna Paterson - 18 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to save hours a week of school admin 

At Arbor we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with intuitive, people-friendly tools that help staff work faster, smarter and collaborate more.   With constant new demands on schools right now on reporting, logistics and communications, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. We believe this is preventable. When you’re

At Arbor we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with intuitive, people-friendly tools that help staff work faster, smarter and collaborate more.  

With constant new demands on schools right now on reporting, logistics and communications, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. We believe this is preventable. When you’re stretched to maximum capacity, you should be able to lean on your MIS to pick up the slack. 

Whether you’re part of SLT, or work in the school office, discover below five of the top ways you’ll save you hours of admin each week with Arbor, and accomplish more – put together by Arbor Programme Manager, Joanna. 

1. Save time each day by automating your reports
2. Save duplication across your teams by sharing reports
3. Cut down on repetition with bulk actions
4. Manage data retention and keep GDPR compliant in a couple of clicks
5. Make your communications smoother using templates

​​​​

1. Save time each day by automating your reports 

With Senior Leaders spending around 4.4 hours per week on data analysis, automating their reporting can help give you valuable time back to focus on understanding your data and driving impactful decisions.

In Arbor you can use ready-made reports and schedule them to be sent to your colleagues on a regular basis automatically. For example, you could schedule a weekly attendance report to all SLT showing students with < 90% attendance. This cuts down on the time you would spend manually gathering data and creating the report each week. 

Here’s a few geeky details: 

  • Thanks to the ‘relative dates’ feature in Arbor’s Custom Report Writer, you only have to create a report once, then it automatically refreshes the data each week. You can choose your own relative dates, e.g. “today”, “this week”, “this academic year” etc. 
  • With flexible scheduling options, you can arrange for your report to run at any time and on any basis. For example, every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; or once a week on a Friday lunchtime
  • Embedded communications means you can quickly take action on the basis of your report results (e.g. follow up with parents) directly, without jumping between systems 
  • We’ve got lots of report templates to get you started, including some you might need right now, such as Mode of Travel, Native Language Numbers and Attendance for 1st September 2019 – 20th March 2020

Discover more ways Arbor’s automation will help you streamline routine processes, reduce errors and mean you spend less time on repetitive tasks here.

2. Save duplication across your teams by sharing reports

Arbor is designed to make it easier to collaborate with colleagues, and to give everyone a shared view of progress and purpose. Built-in dashboards give staff at all levels quick access to the information they need, but it’s also quick and easy to share custom reports you’ve made with other colleagues at your school or schools within your wider trust.

The ins and outs: 

  • Choose from a range of options to share your report with a colleague – either within Arbor, where it will get added to their list of reports or externally by SMS, letter or email (we do not recommend this if the report contains sensitive information)
  • You can also notify other staff members that you’ve sent out the report to keep them in the loop
  • In Arbor everyone has a business role, so if you share a report with someone who has left the school, it will automatically reach their replacement 
  • Once you’ve scheduled a regular report, you can make changes to the frequency or staff members at any time

Thanks to Arbor’s link to Microsoft Power BI and other BI tools, you can also export your reports if you want to customise how you look at your data. Read our five steps to creating your own BI dashboard here.

3. Cut down on repetition with bulk actions

Bulk actions in Arbor allow you to perform actions or add information for multiple students or staff at a time. It’s amazing how much time this can save! 

Here are just some of the tasks made much easier using bulk actions:

  • Assigning students to interventions – Wherever you are in the system, whether you’re in an attendance report, or a marksheet, you can select a group of students and add them to an intervention in bulk
  • Sending communications – From any dashboard, such as a list of persistent absentees, or a list of students with balances due for a club or trip, you can select students you want to follow up with and take action right away, such as emailing their parent
  • Chase meal balances – See all the monies owed to you and ask parents to top up, all from the same screen
  • Assign candidates to exam seats – When you’re arranging large exam sittings and complex schedules, spot quickly which students need to be seated and assign the missing places in bulk
  • Resolve behaviour incidents – Check through the behaviour incidents assigned to you and click to clear the resolved ones all in one go
  • Replace academic leads – When a staff leaves, reassign their course to the new Teacher in bulk
  • Creating custom groups – This is where automation meets bulk actions. Set criteria, for example “more than four behaviour incidents in a week”, which automatically puts students who fit into a custom group. This means you’ll be able to report on and follow up with this group of students all in one go

manage-attendance

4. Manage data retention and keep GDPR compliant in a couple of clicks 

Keeping on top of GDPR regulations for the data you keep on students and staff can be time-consuming and cause a lot of worry for Admin Staff. In Arbor, we take the hassle out of data retention with an automatic dashboard for both students and staff. Arbor will flag for you which records have passed the recommended retention time. You can then select and delete them safely in bulk.  

manage-GDPR

5. Make your communications smoother using templates

Do you send out the same communications to parents at regular intervals? Maybe it’s a weekly newsletter or a regular bulletin to parents whose children are missing lessons. With Arbor’s built-in communication templates, you can have SMS, letters or emails saved and ready to go when you need them. We’ve created a bank of typical templates but it’s also easy to make your own!

If you want to be even smarter, you can set up your communications templates to automatically include data from a report you’ve created. For example, you could send an email to the parents of Year 5 EAL boys whose attendance is below 90%. Arbor will automatically send the right attendance figure to the right parent.

Choose a better way to work

We know it can sometimes feel daunting to change the ways you’ve been used to working for a long time. But as Arbor schools tell us, switching your mind set to more efficient processes can save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run. 

Hear it from Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead Academy:

“I’d been working with our old MIS system both in support roles and as the Data Manager here for over 20 years, so I think everyone was really surprised at how I embraced the change to Arbor, but I could see at an early stage of the implementation process that it had some really powerful and easy to use features for creating custom groups and sending out communications for all the curriculum groups as well as the custom groups. I thought I would need to create lots of custom reports, but most places where the information is displayed you can just use the download button instead. I really wouldn’t want to go back to the old system.” 

And Julie Smith, PA to Headteacher at Parkroyal Community School: 

“The first word that comes to mind [when describing Arbor] is ‘simplicity’. It’s easy to grasp, and new users can quickly work their way around the system’s functions – you don’t feel like you need hours of training, as you do with other systems. Something I love about Arbor is the fact that it’s multi-functional across the school. By that I mean that most areas of the school use Arbor, whereas with our previous MIS provider, we found that it was only really the School Office staff that were using it – classroom teachers were using it to take the register in their classes, but that was about it! Now everyone in school knows how to use it. Arbor is a school-wide tool, not an office-based MIS System” 

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Maddie Kilminster - 14 September, 2020

Category : Blog

The only 3 apps you need to manage your class

Great lessons don’t necessarily call for cutting-edge technology. Teachers make great lessons, not apps.  What teachers do best is motivating their learners and creating a safe, engaging environment in the classroom. But sadly, time-consuming admin and clunky systems are holding them back from time with their students. We believe great tech can actually help teachers

Great lessons don’t necessarily call for cutting-edge technology. Teachers make great lessons, not apps. 

What teachers do best is motivating their learners and creating a safe, engaging environment in the classroom. But sadly, time-consuming admin and clunky systems are holding them back from time with their students.

We believe great tech can actually help teachers in the classroom. The right tools take the hassle out of your daily tasks, freeing you up to get back to what matters: delivering great lessons.

With lots of new challenges in the classroom this term, we’ve put together a list of three intuitive, people-friendly apps that will help simplify how you manage safeguarding, behaviour, attendance, seating plans and blended learning: 

For Safeguarding: CPOMS 

Banishing paper logbooks and filing cabinets from over 13,000 schools all over the country, CPOMS is an intuitive app for monitoring child protection, safeguarding and pastoral issues. It cuts down paperwork for staff, while ensuring incidents are properly reported, details are shared securely and students are kept safe. 

Arbor MIS integrates seamlessly with CPOMS, so you won’t have to worry about transferring data between the two systems to keep them up-to-date. Your sensitive data will be safe and secure in CPOMS, while Arbor looks after the rest. 

For behaviour management, taking attendance and seating plans: My Classroom 

My-Classroom

Take the hassle out of organising your lessons with My Classroom from Arbor. Our new all-in-one classroom management tool has been designed by teachers, for teachers to help you manage your class seamlessly – giving you your time back to focus on teaching and learning instead. 

My Classroom brings seating plans, registers and behaviour management into one place for the first time. Create interactive seating plans using easy drag-and-drop blocks, then add attendance and behaviour points directly onto your plan throughout your lesson on your tablet or desktop. You can share your plans with colleagues too!

The best thing about My Classroom is that it’s powered by Arbor MIS, so you’ll automatically see photos and contextual data about each of your students on your seating plans. Plus, everything you capture in My Classroom shows up on each student’s profile, helping you to tell the full story of each of your pupils lesson-to-lesson.

For blended learning: VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)

Many schools in the Arbor Community are planning to continue with a blended learning approach going forward, even when most teaching has returned to the physical classroom. Making lessons available online means students can catch up or reinforce their learning remotely outside of school. Using a virtual learning environment such as G-suite or Office 365 is also a great way to encourage sharing of resources between staff.

The DfE are providing funding for all UK state schools to get G-suite or Office 365 set up and get ongoing support for free. Arbor is working with 14 of the Government’s accredited suppliers on the scheme – for a full list and more information on the scheme, check out our blog!

Of course, technology can only go so far – the real challenge this term is how to support both students to adjust to new routines and rules, and process some of the difficult experiences they might have had during lockdown. 

To discuss this in more detail and share some practical advice, we’re bringing together an expert panel for a webinar on “Best Practice: Classroom Management Post-Lockdown” on Thursday 24th September at 11am. For more information and to book your place, click here.

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Maddie Kilminster - 14 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to use your past performance data to kickstart your school improvement plan

The start of this academic year presents a lot of immediate challenges for students and staff – from new routines, to catching up on lost learning and recovering emotionally from lockdown. Looking beyond September towards setting school improvement objectives for the whole year, School Leaders are also faced with a challenge. With a six month

The start of this academic year presents a lot of immediate challenges for students and staff – from new routines, to catching up on lost learning and recovering emotionally from lockdown.

Looking beyond September towards setting school improvement objectives for the whole year, School Leaders are also faced with a challenge. With a six month gap in reliable attainment data, there’s less evidence to help identify areas for improvement.

So how can you use the data you do have to inform your school improvement plan this term? 

Gathering evidence

Like any other year, the first (and arguably most important) step in creating an effective school improvement plan is to really understand your school’s performance in depth, including the attainment gaps between different student groups and the factors that cause them. 

This year, without performance tables, ASP data from the DfE or consistent assessment data from last term, a good idea is to look back at your prior attainment data (averages over three years are ideal) as a starting point.  

For a full picture of your school’s attainment from the last three years, we’re releasing a bundle of our popular Arbor Insight reports exclusively for free. Find out more below or go straight to download your reports here.

In combination with your past performance data, you can look at data from other sources, such as:

  • Any Teacher assessments during lockdown 
  • Centre-assessed teacher predictions for GCSE and A Level
  • School context and demographic information (e.g numbers of Pupil Premium, Free School Meals and Disadvantaged students) 
  • Outcomes of your previous school improvement plans 
  • Previous self evaluations 
  • Findings from any surveys to students during lockdown (e.g. how they experienced working from home). This could provide you with some useful qualitative data on the wellbeing of your students. Wellbeing surveys are working well for The Mead Educational Trust 

Discovering the impact of Covid-19

A big focus of most school improvement plans this year will be how to get students back on track after lockdown. Your Governors will need to understand the impact of partial school closures on students’ learning and wellbeing to help them review your plans for recovery.

To understand the impact of Covid-19 on your students’ attainment, most schools will be performing a new set of baseline tests with students in the first few weeks of term, then comparing these results with where students were at before lockdown. This is where a full and broad evidence of students’ prior performance will help you reliably understand what has changed and set the most effective goals for how to get students back on track.

How Arbor Insight reports can help

Gathering full and reliable prior attainment data could mean lengthy searching through DfE performance tables, and pulling together internal spreadsheets and student records. 

To save you time this term and help you kickstart your school improvement planning, we’re releasing a bundle of our most popular Arbor Insight reports (usually worth £300-400) – exclusively for free.

Created especially for your school, your reports will show you the full picture of your students’ progress and attainment over the last three years, giving you the context you need to see where to focus your efforts this year. 

You can download your reports from your free benchmarking portal – Arbor Insight – used by over 10,000 schools in the UK to dig deeper into their results and benchmark their performance.

Here’s what the reports will help you to achieve:

  • Visualise your students’ progress – Using three-year rolling averages, your reports will help you understand how consistent your performance has been over time and quickly spot any inconsistencies and identify anomalies 
  • Instantly spot attainment gaps – Your reports will help you understand how gaps have emerged between your key demographic groups (such as SEN, Pupil Premium, disadvantaged & EAL) and the school & national averages, so you can better support your most at-risk students post-lockdown
  • Understand the impact of socio-economic factors – Using contextual information about the area your school is in, your reports will help you look at all the factors affecting your students’ attainment 
  • Benchmark your school against others – Your reports benchmark your headline measures against other schools nationally, your LA, Top Quintile schools and similar schools to you, allowing you to put your school’s performance in its wider context 
  • Give your Governors the background they need – Saving you time gathering data, your reports are also presented in easy-to-understand PDFs with colour-coded charts and expert analysis, ready to share at your next Governor meeting

Your reports are waiting for you in your free Arbor Insight benchmarking portal – sign up here and download them today!

Here’s some more detail about each of your reports: 

school-report

progress-report

attainment-gap-report

Next steps

We hope your Arbor Insight reports are helpful in giving you the context you need to get started on your school improvement plan. 

Make sure you look critically at your data in the reports, and ask questions like “Why did these trends happen?” and “Are they typical of our school?” This will help to make sure your decisions are not based on any bias or previous assumptions. Check out our earlier blog for two approaches you can use to challenge your assumptions – 1) the Socratic Approach and 2) Asking “why?” 5 times.

As you move onto drafting your in-year priorities and objectives, question where you are in your current 3-5 year rolling plan: What have you achieved? What’s changed? 

Take a look at some guidance we’ve gathered below on writing an effective plan: 

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Daniel Giardiello - 9 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to assess the impact of Covid-19 on your vulnerable students – An interview with Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at The Mead Educational Trust 

The Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is made up of ten primary and secondary academies in Leicestershire. In the first week of Autumn Term, Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager Daniel Giardiello spoke to Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at TMET, to find out how they’re addressing the post-lockdown learning gap, particularly for their most vulnerable

The Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is made up of ten primary and secondary academies in Leicestershire. In the first week of Autumn Term, Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager Daniel Giardiello spoke to Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at TMET, to find out how they’re addressing the post-lockdown learning gap, particularly for their most vulnerable students.

How are you going to assess the impact of Covid-19 on your students’ progress this term?

In the first few weeks of term, we’re going to re-baseline students using assessments that are very similar to what they took last February. From this, we’ll be able to assess if there has been lost learning, and if so, we’ll restart the curriculum from the point that they need us to, and ensure that deep learning is still able to take place. This is going to be particularly important in the formative primary years.

In order to chart the impact of Covid-19, we’re going to use a “vulnerability index” which, rather than assessing age-appropriate attainment, looks at where each student is compared to where we expected them to be, so we can plan best how to get them back on track. This term we’re applying it to all students so we can gather more information about the situation for each individual. Once each student catches up to where we expect them to be, we’ll move them back onto the usual way of reporting. 

We’re also going to use the Covid-19 Wellbeing Questionnaire from ImpactEd to ask KS2+ students across trust what their experiences were during lockdown, with a focus on wellbeing. Using this structured, universal method will allow us to test the temperature of the whole trust, and gather more reliable data than what Teachers could observe in the classroom. The first questionnaire will happen in the first few weeks back, followed by a second in early October. The second point of assessment will give us our first real data drop of academic attainment, which we’ll be able to compare with the wellbeing assessment at the beginning of term. 

This combination should begin to show us the impact of Covid-19 because it could reveal sets of students who have become vulnerable whom we might not have known about. 

interventions-assessment

Interventions Assessment: Assessing students’ circumstances

Could Covid-19 have caused more students to fall under the “vulnerable/disadvantaged” categories?

Yes, we’re predicting that Covid-19 will have created a new set of vulnerable students who, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t have been considered vulnerable. Due to having lost six months without the rigour and routine of regular schooling and socialisation with peers, gaps will appear across the board. 

It’s important that we don’t start term with assumptions of who our “disadvantaged” and “vulnerable” students are, but we work out who is vulnerable now. Those who are already acknowledged as vulnerable are at an advantage in some ways because we already know about them and they’ve had tailored support throughout lockdown.

What is likely to be the effect of Covid-19 on your most vulnerable students?

During school closures, the vast majority of our SEND children were coming in – for our schools in very disadvantaged areas, this was a large number of pupils who needed wrap-around family support. In many ways our relationships with these pupils has strengthened as a result, and we hope to use this to our advantage when closing the attainment gap.

First and foremost, we need to assess the wellbeing of our SEND cohorts –  particularly how they’re feeling being part of their class. Although they might not feel vulnerable in the first few weeks, if their classmates are able to catch up faster than them, they may begin to struggle. To combat this, we’ve employed an educational psychologist to come in two days a week to help properly diagnose what our students are going through, such as digging into difficulties at home. We’re also putting our most vulnerable students into smaller “mini” bubbles to make sure they don’t get excluded or marginalised from their wider classes if they present new challenging behaviour. 

How are you adjusting the curriculum to get students back on track?

In KS1, we’re planning an in-depth focus on the formative skills such as literacy and maths in order to make sure they have strong foundations to progress through the rest of school. We’ve also hired an SEMH Primary Intervention Teacher to work with rolling carousels of children on social and communication skills, so as to quickly fill the gaps that could have developed.

What role did technology play at your trust during lockdown, and what role will it play going forwards? 

Going into lockdown, we have a well-developed blended learning policy but what we realised was that not all children’s homes were equipped. We first sent a questionnaire home to assess the access to devices, making sure that we were clear of what we expected, for example “has access to a laptop for at least two hours each day” rather than simply “has access to a device” which could have meant borrowing a parent’s smartphone.

We bought 1,200 Chromebooks and distributed them across the trust. We also invested in a Microsoft learning platform and appointed digital champions to help roll it out. We plan to keep our online learning programme going post-Covid-19 as a means of aiding progress. It will allow students to do extra learning remotely outside of school. Our wide-ranging intervention strategies and expert teaching has been further invested in, and will be the key to ensuring a secure and successful start in our primary schools, and to helping Year 6s transition to Year 7. 

What lessons have you learned from Covid-19 as a trust?

Covid-19 has forced us to collaborate and think more as a trust. For example, it’s given us the opportunity to improve how we transition students between year groups and between schools, particularly from Year 6 to 7. Our Primary and Secondary Leads have been working effectively together and by recognising the strength in each other’s practice, have been able to influence trust improvement plans even further. 

For our most vulnerable students, we’ve learned that this transition needs to be even more personalised, recognising that the effects of lockdown could be far reaching and impact their wellbeing for a sustained period of time. We know that happy schools with meaningful relationships will underpin our approach to intervention in ensuring successful pupil returns. 

We’re going to be catching up again with Mark Oldman in October to see how his recovery and catch-up strategies are working out. Watch this space!

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Maddie Kilminster - 7 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to be prepared for anything this term with Arbor MIS

As we enter a new term with lots of new regulations and routines, we’re working closely with school staff to make sure they’ve got the tools they need to react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing.  To support you with your big new challenges this term – from new DfE reporting,

As we enter a new term with lots of new regulations and routines, we’re working closely with school staff to make sure they’ve got the tools they need to react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing. 

To support you with your big new challenges this term – from new DfE reporting, to remote learning, to monitoring your vulnerable students – we’ve added some new features to Arbor which take the hassle out of your essential admin.

Whatever the next few months bring, here are some of the ways Arbor can help you focus on what matters – supporting your students:

1. Track attendance & absence without the stress
2. Look out for your vulnerable students
3. Report to the DfE with peace of mind
4. Create flexible timetables that work for everyone
5. Communicate with everyone from one place
6. Pivot your plans when you need to

Let’s break that down …

1. Track attendance & absence without the stress

 With students adjusting to full-time school, joining new classes and following new timetables, managing attendance is going to be a little more complex this term. 

In Arbor, School Office Staff can instantly pull together the attendance data they need, spot patterns and follow up with guardians straight from built-in attendance dashboards. 

Plus, we’ve created a range of new codes to make it simple to record attendance and absence in line with the new DfE guidelines:

  • SI – Self-isolating due to exposure to Covid-19 
  • Sym – Suspected case of Covid-19 
  • Cov – Confirmed case of Covid-19

These codes automatically map to the DfE “I” and “X” codes, so your CTFs and census returns will always be accurate.

You can also record staff absence categories to help you keep accurate, detailed records: 

  • Suspected case of Covid-19 and self-isolating 
  • Confirmed case of Covid-19
  • Self-isolating due to underlying health conditions
  • Member of their household is sick
  • Travelled somewhere that puts them at risk 

Staff absences are flagged in Arbor to everyone who needs to know, making arranging cover simple.

2. Look out for your vulnerable students

After a long time away from school, students in some vulnerable categories will need extra support to recover and catch up. To provide the best care for these students, School Leaders will need to keep a close eye on their progress across attainment, behaviour and attainment.  

Arbor makes it easy to pull reports on your key vulnerable demographic groups in a few clicks, or you can schedule reports to notify key staff members regularly. Compare each groups’ performance with the school average, spot trends and set up interventions to help them get back on track. 

3. Report to the DfE with peace of mind 

To save you time completing the DfE’s Daily Form, Arbor’s Covid-19 Dashboard crunches the numbers for you, giving you everything you need to submit the form each morning. 

We’ve just updated the Dashboard with the latest categories the DfE is tracking, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19. Click on each category for a breakdown by year group and a full list of students.

For a MAT-level overview, you can use Arbor’s Group MIS to get data at your fingertips about all your students and staff. Monitor attendance patterns, student & staff absence, track key disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and manage Covid-19 related issues centrally.

4. Create flexible timetables that work for everyone

Depending on your space, staff numbers, and the needs of your students, you’ll need to set up your new timetable in your own unique way. That’s why we’ve built flexibility into Arbor to help you schedule your classes however you need to. 

  • Create bubbles: Once you’ve divided your students into cohorts, you can easily edit your existing timetables and add extra slots for the same lesson, add or change the Teacher, and stagger the start and finish times
  • Stagger registration: If you need some students to arrive at school at different times, it’s easy to adjust your Statutory Roll Call times in Arbor
  • Check for clashes: Make sure your new timetable works for everyone with Arbor’s handy dashboard alerting you to any clashes or gaps you need to resolve
  • Design it your way: Thanks to our integration with TimeTabler, you can create your timetable there then import it straight into Arbor

Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here.

5. Communicate with everyone from one place

Forget switching between systems or uploading/downloading contact lists, in Arbor you can follow up with parents, students or other staff members as soon as you spot something important, from wherever you are in the system. Simply choose the method that’s best for your message – from an email, an SMS, a mail merge letter or an Arbor App alert.

Click here to see how Arbor’s communications allowed The Parks Academies Trust to improve the way they contacted hard-to-reach students during the crisis.

6. Pivot your plans when you need to 

If your school goes into local lockdown, and you have to move back to partial school closures, remote working and virtual learning, Arbor can help you make sure you’re fully prepared to make that transition a smooth one.

Because Arbor is cloud-based, you can manage your school with more flexibility, accessing what you need to do your job from wherever you’re working. 

Plus, if the DfE brings out any new guidelines, we make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day!) to help you keep up to date.

We’re here to help

During this difficult term, don’t forget the Arbor Team is here to support you with any questions you have.

  • Check out the Help Centre – We’ve put together a page dedicated to everything you need to know about reopening your school with Arbor
  • Join us live – We’re hosting a range of webinars this term, both sessions with tips and tricks for Arbor users, and sessions open to everyone to learn more about Arbor. Check out what’s coming up here
  • Join the community – If you’re an Arbor user, join the Arbor Community of fellow schools where you can share advice, best practice and learn from each other
  • Get in touch: Our Support Team are here from 8:00am-5:00pm every day on email, phone and webchat

Choose a better way to work 

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Alice Martin-Hawkins - 7 September, 2020

Category : Blog

Top 3 wellbeing initiatives for schools

Wellbeing and mental health are big priorities for us at Arbor, and we’re pleased to see these issues becoming more and more important for schools, too. In support of Youth Mental Health Day today, Arbor Wellbeing Champion Alice has some advice for how you can look out for your mental health and wellbeing at your

Wellbeing and mental health are big priorities for us at Arbor, and we’re pleased to see these issues becoming more and more important for schools, too. In support of Youth Mental Health Day today, Arbor Wellbeing Champion Alice has some advice for how you can look out for your mental health and wellbeing at your school.

I’ve been a Wellbeing Champion at Arbor for a year now. We started off as a team of two and have grown to a team of six, with representatives across our London, Leeds and Belgrade offices. At Arbor, Wellbeing Champions have three main objectives:

1. Promoting positive wellbeing at work
2. Organising wellbeing initiatives and activities
3. Being there to listen if anyone needs to talk

This year we’ve had the added challenge of supporting staff wellbeing whilst working remotely. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s taught us that small gestures like checking in on a colleague can go a long way. We’ve been hosting regular mindfulness Zoom calls, and at the beginning of lockdown, we sent everyone in the company a packet of sunflower seeds to start growing. This was a big hit and created a real sense of community. 

Recently, we’ve been seeing Arbor schools and MATs bringing student and staff wellbeing to the top of their agendas. Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, shared with us how they’ve been using Wellbeing Dogs to lift the spirits of students and staff. And Mark Lacey, CEO of The Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, says every catch-up call he has with his Headteachers starts with a check-in with their wellbeing. 

This term, as schools return after months of disruption, both students and staff may find it challenging to adjust. Now more than ever it’s vital that schools and trusts build initiatives into their strategy to support the wellbeing and mental health of the whole school. 

To help you in shaping your school wellbeing programme, we’ve tracked down three of the top school wellbeing initiatives you could consider for your school. 

1. Plan a Wellbeing Week

Organising a Wellbeing Week at your school is a great way to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing, and gives students the resources to help them support their own mental health. The Mental Health Foundation has created a free downloadable pack to help you plan the week based around the 5 Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, Get Active, Be Mindful, Keep Learning and Give to Others.  

2. Appoint Wellbeing Ambassadors 

Embedding a whole-school culture of wellbeing doesn’t happen overnight, but a good basis to start from is building supportive and respectful relationships between students, teachers and parents. A great way to do this is by appointing student and staff Wellbeing Ambassadors to create a supportive environment where students can talk openly about how they are feeling. Worth-it provides training for Wellbeing Ambassadors to equip them with approaches and strategies to support the wellbeing of their peers as well as their own. 

3. Encourage Mental health literacy 

Mental health is often not talked about enough in schools because of the stigma around it. One of the best ways to combat some of the misconceptions around mental health is through education. Stem4 offers free teaching resources for Key Stages 3 and 4 that cover topics such as anxiety, stress and depression to empower students with knowledge about mental health.

And remember .. don’t forget your staff wellbeing!

Something that we always tell ourselves in the Arbor Wellbeing team is that if you look after your own wellbeing first, you’ll be in the best position to look out for others. This is something that Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary at the National Education Union, also advises for schools.

This term is going to be especially challenging for staff, so make sure you’re supporting your colleagues when they need it. Arbor HR Manager,  Danielle, has some useful advice for understanding more about stress and how to manage it in her blog for some tips for managing stress. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup! 

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or contact us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 3 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How The Parks Academies Trust stayed flexible in the face of change 

With constant changes to Government guidance, family situations and the wider national picture, schools and trusts certainly learned a great deal last term. Where there were huge challenges that meant working in totally new ways, schools has also taken some positive lessons from the crisis. It gave schools the opportunity to pivot fast to work

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With constant changes to Government guidance, family situations and the wider national picture, schools and trusts certainly learned a great deal last term. Where there were huge challenges that meant working in totally new ways, schools has also taken some positive lessons from the crisis.

It gave schools the opportunity to pivot fast to work more efficiently and find new ways to reach out to parents and guardians. It also put the spotlight on student and staff wellbeing issues, bringing them top of the agenda.

We recently caught up with Jon Ward from The Parks Academies Trust who told us about the ways he and his staff adapted their ways of working during the crisis. Moving their secondary schools to Arbor MIS in April – right in the middle of partial school closures – meant they saw right away the new and better ways of working with a cloud-based MIS. 

Staff across the trust felt Arbor allowed them to collaborate and align over their work. Plus, it took the hassle out of important Covid-19 related tasks like tracking attendance and following up with hard-to-reach families.

To read more about the measurable differences Jon and his team have measured since moving MIS during Covid-19, download their full case study here along with other feedback we’ve received from schools during Covid-19 crisis.

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference. 

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 1 September, 2020

Category : Blog

4 things to think about as your school re-opens

Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch

Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch them up on lost learning.

However the “new normal” is going to look for your school this term, we’ve put together a list of the most important things you should be thinking about this week:

1. Go through your social distancing checklist

2. Prepare communications your parent and guardian community

3. Evaluate your catch up plan for students

4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing 

Let’s break that down…

1. Go through your social distancing checklist

Depending on the size and layout of your school, and staff capacity, there’s no one solution to keeping students apart. Here are some top tips to consider:

Staggering

  • Stagger start and finish times for each bubble 
  • Create separate entrances/exits to school for each bubble
  • Discourage parents gathering outside school gates
  • Stagger lunch and break times or divide your dining hall into sections
  • Introduce a one-way system around school 

Timetabling

  • Leave gaps between lessons for cleaning
  • Can your students stay in one room and teachers move around?
  • Think about keeping seating plans consistent
  • Increase time spent outdoors. Can some lessons be outside?
  • Instead of gathering for assembly, live-stream to each classroom!

Hygiene

  • Encourage a routine of hand washing. Make it fun for younger children by giving them a stamp card!
  • Hand out hygiene packs containing sanitiser and essentials
  • Do you have an isolation room for anyone showing symptoms? 

Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here. Arbor schools – check out our Help Centre for lots of guidance on setting up flexible timetabling arrangements.

2. Prepare communications to your parent and guardian community

At the start of term, you’ll be sending your parents lots of updates on the new protocols you’re putting in place. But you should also think about how you can start strengthening relationships with your parents and guardians after their children have been at home for so long. Here are some more top tips:

  • Think about your tone of voice: Help parents feel secure that you’ve got things under control. Balance your practical updates with more positive, upbeat notices. For families who are anxious about the return to school, the NSPCC has some useful resources 
  • Choose the right communication method: A long email is not the best way to communicate everything. Think about using texts, social media, a virtual noticeboard or the Arbor App for different messages
  • Put together a clear communications plan: A comms calendar will help make sure parents get the info at the right time, plus your staff can plan their workload around it
  • Make sure you’ve got up-to-date contact details: Check you’ve got the right contact details for all your parents and guardians. Many schools find it helpful to send out a Google Form for parents to submit their contact information straight to the office

3. Evaluate your catch up plans for students

After months of disrupted learning, students’ progress is likely to be set back, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students hit the hardest. Getting learning back on track will be a big challenge, but here are some suggested first steps: 

a) Assess where students are at: You might want to run low-stakes assessments to identify gaps in students’ knowledge this term. The Key has some useful guidance on this and there’s a good school case study here

b) Compare with past performance: Once you have a baseline of performance post-lockdown, comparing this with prior attainment will give you a better sense of how students’ progress has been affected.

To save you time pulling together data, we’re giving schools free access to Arbor Insight reports this term, which will give you a full picture of your students’ progress over the last three years. The reports will be out soon but join the waiting list to be the first to get yours!

c) Identify your most at-risk students: In order to use the Government’s catch-up fund most effectively, it’s important to assess which of your students will benefit from it the most, such as vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category might include more students now as situations have changed. 

Arbor’s built-in reporting will allow you to quickly analyse the attainment of your key student groups across subjects, and instantly spot the biggest gaps. Our free performance reports will also help you understand how these attainment gaps have changed over time and the impact of socio-economic factors on your attainment.

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4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing 

It’s likely that students will be dealing with some difficult emotions when they return this term. Teachers might see some new and challenging behaviour in the classroom, but as Educational psychologist, Dr Rob Long, explains, it’s important to understand the anxiety causing the behaviour so they can best manage it. SecEd Magazine has some great guidance on how to support students’ mental health and wellbeing this term. 

Remember not to overlook your staff wellbeing; they’ll need support adjusting to the new term as well. Check in with your staff at the beginning of term and think about ways to allow staff to collaborate with and support each other. 

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or contact us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 10 August, 2020

Category : Blog

Manage your Exam Results Day flexibly with Arbor

GCSE and A-Level Results Days are going to look a little different this year. Some schools will be sharing results with students in-person in bubbles, while others will be managing the whole process remotely.  However you need to run your Results Days this year, we know your top priorities will be making sure the day

GCSE and A-Level Results Days are going to look a little different this year. Some schools will be sharing results with students in-person in bubbles, while others will be managing the whole process remotely. 

However you need to run your Results Days this year, we know your top priorities will be making sure the day goes smoothly, the results get to the right people at the right time, and students get the support they need.

That’s why we’ve made it simple and straightforward to import, share and analyse your results with Arbor. Check out our overview below of all the ways we’re supporting you this year to manage your Results Day successfully.

 

We’re here to help

Our Support Team is full of secondary and exam specialists who will be on hand throughout both Results Days, as well as the days before, on phone, webchat and email. This year, they’ll also be available from 6.30am on 19th August to give you extra support with preparing your GCSE results.

Exam Results Day Support Hours Linkedin

We’ve added lots of materials on our Help Centre to support you with preparing, organising, sharing and analysing your results. We also hosted a webinar last week walking you through the basics – you can catch the recording here.

The Arbor Community is always buzzing around Results Day with Exams Officers, Office Managers and SLT sharing tips and best practice. If you haven’t already, join the forum for free today!

 

Get your ducks in a row

As soon as results are available, importing them into Arbor is quick and easy. Your results dashboard will flag any errors in your data so you can resolve them straight away. Plus, you can also reverse the results import if you need to.

 

Dig into your results

We’ve teamed up with industry-leading analytics tools that schools love, including 4Matrix, SISRA and ALPS Connect, to make it easy for you to analyse your results in depth. Simply export your results from Arbor into a spreadsheet for quick upload into your chosen platform.

 

Share results with the right people 

When it comes to releasing results to staff, you can easily set up your embargo time and date, and control who has access to results before and after this time.

On Results Day, you can choose from lots of different options for sharing results with parents. You can download results both in bulk and as individual PDFs, which you could either print out and distribute in person, or share electronically (note, we’d advise adding password protection to each student’s PDF statement). Share your results in a way that’s right for you:

  • Use Arbor’s Parent Portal to make results available to parents at a selected time
  • Add each statement of results to each student’s shared drive (e.g. Microsoft Sharepoint, GDrive or Dropbox)
  • Send each student their results in bulk using a “mail merge” email 

 

Keep a record 

Since there may be a mixture of some students collecting their results remotely and some in-person at staggered times, it could be a challenge to make sure every student gets the right support from staff on the day. To help you keep track of the contact students receive and the follow up needed, we recommend setting up a log sheet in Excel/Google Sheets to record key points of contact and resolutions on the day. This will also be a useful reference if you have to process any appeals. 

Add key student details (e.g. name, SEN, PP, EAL, CLA), then add columns for the milestones you want to record, for example if the student has had communication from staff and how (e.g. email/telephone), if they have requested their teacher-assessed grades and if a follow-up is needed.

Here’s an example of what this log sheet could look like:

tracker

Top tips: 

  • You can export all the student data you want to track from Arbor in one go using Custom Report Writer
  • Use “conditional formatting” to automatically colour-code your Yes/No fields so you can spot any issues at a glance
  • Create drop-downs for set options such as “email”, “telephone” or “in-person” using the “data validation” menu, then add your options in another tab
  • Schedule your follow-up meetings in Arbor to give your pastoral leads and other relevant staff the visibility they need

 

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work, our team would be happy to show you around in a virtual demo – simply book here. Alternatively, give us a call on 0208 050 1028 or email hello@arbor-education.com.

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Category : Blog

United Learning chooses Arbor MIS for all 72 of its state schools

We’re proud to announce that United Learning, the largest mixed-phase MAT in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 72 state schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the two largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK! From Autumn Term 2020, 34 secondary schools and 23

We’re proud to announce that United Learning, the largest mixed-phase MAT in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 72 state schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the two largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK!

From Autumn Term 2020, 34 secondary schools and 23 primary schools in United Learning will move to Arbor – joining the 15 United Learning schools who already use us. Together they’ll join our growing community of over 1,000 schools and 100 MATs who have all chosen Arbor to help transform the way they work – including REAch2, the largest primary school MAT, who moved to Arbor in 2018.

The MIS of choice for schools across all phases:

As a large mixed-phased trust, United Learning chose Arbor to help them analyse information across all their schools simply and effectively, automate repetitive administrative tasks and operate remotely at scale all from one system. 

Dominic Norrish, Chief Operating Officer at United Learning said: “United Learning are excited to realise the benefits that a modern cloud-based MIS such as Arbor will bring to our schools – resilience, mobility, security and the reduced costs of a single, highly capable tool.”

Arbor's Group MIS

We’ve taken the time to build out features tailored to each school phase:

  • For MATs: Arbor’s Group MIS lets you work across all your schools from one central system, so you can collaborate more easily and really understand what’s going on. Arbor allow’s you to track performance from a distance, compare data across schools, manage your staff, and communicate with everyone centrally.
  • For Secondary Schools: Our MIS for secondaries lets you analyse your data in any way you like. Choose our built-in Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards, or securely export your data to external analysis tools like Power BI, Google Sheets or Excel. Roll out your behaviour policies consistently and automate time-consuming follow-ups such as booking detentions and notifying parents. Arbor also includes end-to-end exams management, cover planning, timetabling, and interventions management.
  • For Primary Schools: With Arbor for primaries, daily jobs like chasing absent students and following up on incidents are simple and painless. Our MIS brings all your student and staff data together so you can easily spot patterns, and get the data you need at your fingertips to tell the full story of each pupil as they progress through school. Our primary schools love our lightning-fast registers and simple census tools, too.

100 MATs have chosen Arbor MIS in the last 3 years…

United Learning is the latest MAT to choose Arbor – joining trusts like REAch2, Aspire, Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, Red Kite, LEO Academy Trust, Wellspring, and Hoyland Common Academy Trust who have all moved to Arbor in recent years. 

…and more schools chose Arbor in 2019 than any other MIS system

320 schools started using Arbor between January-December 2019, joining the growing movement of schools switching to the cloud to transform the way they work. Recently we’ve been focused on helping our schools work flexibly and remotely during Covid-19, with over 250 schools having moved to Arbor during lockdown! We’ve built out our MIS to help schools manage staff rotas, communicate with parents, and set classwork remotely (see more on that here).

You can read more about our cloud-based MIS in our brochures for primary and  secondary schools (click here), and MATs (click here).

Interested to see whether Arbor could be a good fit for your school or trust?

We’d be more than happy to arrange a remote, personalised demo for your team – just click here, or reach us at hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028. 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 16 July, 2020

Category : Blog

How to collaborate and communicate across schools at scale during Covid-19 and beyond with Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust

As part of our “Adapting to Change” webinar series for MAT leaders, Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust, shared with us how the trust have been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. Dave explained the vision he’s building for a centralised and collaborative IT infrastructure across the trust. Embracing new technology has been

As part of our “Adapting to Change” webinar series for MAT leaders, Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust, shared with us how the trust have been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.

Dave explained the vision he’s building for a centralised and collaborative IT infrastructure across the trust. Embracing new technology has been vital in responding to the challenges of the pandemic, from maintaining business critical operations like payroll, to reaching out to vulnerable students, to managing the quality of remote teaching and learning.

Check out Dave’s webinar and presentation below.

 

To find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform how you work at your school or MAT, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 15 July, 2020

Category : Blog

The Arbor Community is here for you over summer

The summer break is usually a chance to step back, reflect on the last Term, and gradually start preparations for Autumn. This year, with so many new timetabling and curriculum arrangements coming in September, there’s likely to be even more planning to do in July and August.  Whilst you’re preparing for the new Term, you

The summer break is usually a chance to step back, reflect on the last Term, and gradually start preparations for Autumn. This year, with so many new timetabling and curriculum arrangements coming in September, there’s likely to be even more planning to do in July and August. 

Whilst you’re preparing for the new Term, you and your staff can access Arbor MIS from home so you can look back at last year’s data, set up your new classes, assessments and registers, and send vital communications to keep parents in the loop

Whenever you need during summer, you and your staff can access our online support resources for a refresher on how key parts of Arbor work. You can also share tips with fellow Arbor users on the Arbor Community. And don’t forget our expert Support Team is on hand to answer questions too!

Find out below more about all the free support you can access over summer.

 

Keep in touch with the Arbor Community

 

Building relationships with colleagues and learning from each other has been especially valuable during the Covid-19 crisis. The Arbor Community has been a great forum for schools and MATs to share their experiences and get advice on the best ways of working.

Over summer, as you prepare for Autumn, you’ll be able to use the Community to chat with colleagues from other schools and compare plans. You’re bound to meet someone who does the same role as you who can show you tips and tricks that you might not have thought of to save you even more time next Term. 

We celebrated the positive impact of the Arbor Community at our first ever ArborFest event earlier this year. 100 School Leaders, Business Managers, Teachers and Admins using Arbor across the country came together for a fantastic day of demonstrations on topics across the school landscape – from assessment, to parental engagement, to running an effective school office.

To mark the success of ArborFest we put together a video of the highlights. We’re planning another virtual ArborFest in Autumn Term so keep an eye out! 

 

Access our free digital support any time

 

Whether you need to complete essential admin tasks to get everything set up for September, or you want to give your staff training resources they can use in their own time, the support resources on our Help Centre and our expert Support Team are here whenever you need them.

  • Want a recap of key parts of the system like assessment or behaviour? Our Help Centre is full of clear, step-by-step guides which break down every part of the Arbor 
  • Get quick answers to technical questions: Our Support Team is available by phone, webchat or email 8am-5pm*, Monday to Friday
  • Want help setting up your new timetable? Check out this section of the Help Centre. You can also book onto one of our free webinars at the beginning of September which will help you get set up for the new Term
  • Have you completed your New Year Setup? Check out the dedicated section in Arbor which walks you through the steps of how to set up everything from your statutory enrolment information to your calendar, courses and assessments
  • Want more in-depth training for your staff? Your Account Manager will help you arrange the best type of session for you. Get in touch at accountmanagers@arbor-education.com. If you’d like to find out more about the training, consultancy and services we offer, sign up here and we’ll send you a brochure
  • Want to train up a new member of staff? The best place for them to start is the eLearning journey which gives them an introduction to the core parts of the system

*Between 24th July and 28th August our Support Team will be available 9am-12pm on Fridays. 

If you’re new to Arbor, you can find out more about how a cloud-based MIS will help you run your school or MAT flexibly next term in a free online demo. Alternatively, get in touch with us at hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028. 

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Category : Blog

Structuring your school timetable for Autumn Term: Tips from Jan Hetherington, Vice-Principal at Wykham Park Academy

With planning arrangements and timetabling at the top of school leaders’ minds right now, we invited expert timetabler and curriculum planner Jan Hetherington to join our webinar series “Adapting to Change” to share her solutions for September.  Jan is Vice Principal and Specialist Leader of Education for Curriculum Leadership at Wykham Park Academy, a secondary

With planning arrangements and timetabling at the top of school leaders’ minds right now, we invited expert timetabler and curriculum planner Jan Hetherington to join our webinar series “Adapting to Change” to share her solutions for September. 

Jan is Vice Principal and Specialist Leader of Education for Curriculum Leadership at Wykham Park Academy, a secondary school which is part of the 15-school Aspirations Academies Trust. As well as developing the timetable for her school, she also coaches senior leaders across other trusts on how to create more effective timetables.

Jan shared with us some of the plans Wykham Park Academy is putting in place to keep students socially-distanced and to help maintain teaching and learning standards in September. She explained that above all, she wants to ensure that the new arrangements don’t sacrifice students’ full learning experience.

You can read Jan’s conversation with Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill below.

 

You’ve said that “Timetabling is more than an annual exercise. It defines the experience students get.” Could you explain that?

What I mean by that is students need a variety of rhythms across the school day and week to get the highest quality experience. The right timetable should put together the right groups of students with the right teachers. Every lesson slot has a currency; some are lower value than others, for example nobody wants Friday Period 5, or Monday Period 1. Staff need to appreciate that if they get any of those lower value slots, they’re going to have different pedagogical challenges. The timetable should also be suited to the age of the students. I worked once with a MAT which completely restructured their day based on teenage sleep patterns with a staggered day. 

 

How did you adjust your timetable and learning provision during Covid-19?

As we went into lockdown, we decided that KS3 would have four lessons a day – English, Maths, Science and Humanities – and Year 10&11’s would have five lessons a day. We didn’t synchronise these in the school timetable, we simply uploaded them onto Google Classroom. Our staff skill set has grown exponentially in terms of using online platforms. We had been using Google Classroom already for about a year for setting homework, but we’ve had to learn rapidly over the last few months how to use it for much more. 

At first, when we didn’t know how long school closures would last, we wanted to keep a normal lesson format as far as possible. But after Half-Term, we shifted to project-based work for KS3. Year 10 moved away from new learning into consolidatary learning, and for Year 11 we put on four lessons a day only to support those students who were at risk of achieving a 4 or above. 

The quality of pre-recorded teaching and learning was mixed at first, so we started to give live lessons to KS5. We chose not to do this for the rest of the school due in part to union advice, plus we wanted to protect staff given potential safeguarding issues and uncertainty around best practice. Instead teachers uploaded pre-recorded lessons – some with audio, some with video. 

 

What are the key lessons you learned about how to engage students with online learning?

A key lesson was wrongly assuming that simply uploading a Powerpoint will do. We quickly realised that students need more support; they need a full learning experience with learning modelled by the teacher. For example, we started to use videos showing the teacher writing or demonstrating. It’s also important in pre-recorded lessons that the teacher still engages with the students personally, for instance calling out student names as though they were live in the classroom. 

 

What are your timetabling plans for September? 

We’re going to use the same lesson timetable we would have used in the normal course of events. The location of lessons might change but the timings won’t. We’re also going to offer a full curriculum. This is because we want to keep things as normal as possible in terms of what is being taught in order to give students’ the richest experience possible. We worry that if they had only a “partial diet” they might easily disengage. We also don’t want to stagger lesson start and end times too much because this would lead to unsupervised time. 

 

How will you keep students apart? 

We’re going to split the student body into different physical zones, with their own entrance exit and toilets. On the Banbury Aspirations Campus (which contains an Academy, a Studio School and a Sixth Form), we have the unique advantage of a massive site with lots of different buildings housing lots of different specialist areas,  so this makes it easier for us to keep students apart. 

We’ve got the potential for three different entrances into the school site. Students will have their own route to their zone, and within the zones, they’ll be able to move around into new spaces in order to maintain a rich and varied school day. KS3 will be kept in a “bubble within a bubble”, having all their lessons in one classroom. They’ll only leave their zone as a class to do specialised activities like Drama. KS4 will be zoned as a Year Group “bubble” so all their lessons will be in that zone unless they move for specialist activities. 

 

How will dining work?

We’re going to have a reduced menu and students will place an order, then pick it up and go. We’ve got two dining room spaces and we’ll have staggered slots so two “bubbles” can use the room but be separated by time slots. We’re going to continue the breakfast clubs we run for disadvantaged students by keeping them in a “bubble” with each other.

 

What about cleaning?

We’re still waiting for advice from the Government on what “enhanced cleaning” means. In the meantime, Headteachers are looking at what pubs and restaurants are doing right now to inform our plans. IT and Food Tech rooms are tricky because they’re used by every Year group and they’re available to book. The plan is to timetable them so there’s at least one lesson period in-between usage so we can clean down surfaces before the next group of students. We’re also going to limit use of those rooms to practical lessons, keeping theory based lessons elsewhere. Cleaning is of course going to be a big expense. We’re looking to the trust to support with that.

 

What about breaks?

Breaks are easier because students will use the outdoor spaces within their zones. We won’t be serving food at break, but students are welcome to bring their own break time food. We will be offering snacks and keeping an eye on known vulnerable students to make sure they are fed.

 

What is your advice to schools that don’t have the capacity or space you do?

I’d recommend staggering lesson times and movement times. Also assess what size of “bubble” you’re comfortable with. Some schools I’ve heard of are doing Key Stage “bubbles” which can include 600 students! Some are using online platforms to teach different lessons to classes that stay in one room. 

 

What’s your attitude to a “catch-up” curriculum?

On his blog recently, James Duran gives a range of options for Teachers to consider to balance “catch-up” content and new material. We’re planning a parallel approach of new learning with some revision along the way. We’ll review the content and progress regularly, and define “threshold” concepts within the curriculum students need to understand to move forward.

 

What are your fallbacks and contingency plans?

We plan to make all lessons digitally accessible if needed, making use of the online platform skills staff have learned. We’ve found pre-recorded videos are not just convenient but have the additional benefit that students can pause and rewind which can actually help to reinforce learning. If there’s another lockdown, we’re going to commit to doing live digital lessons because we don’t want to sacrifice the face-to-face element again going forward. 

 

What does quality online learning look like and how will you guarantee it going forward?

We’re still working out our quality assurance processes. Some schools have been doing live lesson evaluations but we don’t want to do that. In September, we’ll first of all carry out an audit of the technology students have at home to avoid the situation we’ve had where 600 students had to have paper lesson packs because they couldn’t get online. We’ll also do a RAG rating so we’re taking into consideration student preference and learning style. 

We’re going to put a digital learning policy in place so students know what we expect of them. In terms of teaching, we expect the same high quality as in the classroom. We want to maintain the learning structure we use normally, with a balance between guided practice and independent practice. 

The structure will look like this:

1. Live guided practice: 15 mins or more (live or recorded) where teachers model what they want from students. We’ll encourage the use of audio for this, rather than video, because we know that audio doesn’t split students’ attention in the same way video can

2. Live Q&A and dialogue, encouraging peer interactivity,

3. Independent offline practice, then students upload the work they’ve achieved

 

We also want to encourage a variety of different learning experiences (e.g. app-based and flip learning). In terms of assessment, we’re still working this out and looking into a system that allows live online assessment. We’ll definitely be including low stakes testing (e.g. using Kahoot). We’re also looking into functionality which allows students to put their work up on the screen rather than asking the teacher to come over and have a look. 

 

To what extent do you think changes next Term will affect students’ experience? 

If you look at the research after the 2011 earthquake and lockdown in New Zealand, it showed that students did better than expected when they returned. John Hattie (2020) says rather than focusing on “gaps” and content students have “missed”, you should focus rather on what students actually need. 

In this vein, we’re not expecting the new arrangements to have a huge effect on students because they’re going to be in a group that’s good for their learning and they’ll be with the right teacher. The sequence of learning may change over the year but they’ll achieve it all by the end of the year. 

 

If you’re new to Arbor, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 9 July, 2020

Category : Blog

6 steps to prepare your school for September

During Covid-19 and partial school closures, schools have been adjusting their timetables, rules and plans along with rapidly changing DfE guidance. Since there’s now more clarity from the Government about the return to school in September, it’s a little easier to put plans in place for the new Term. There are a lot of things

During Covid-19 and partial school closures, schools have been adjusting their timetables, rules and plans along with rapidly changing DfE guidance. Since there’s now more clarity from the Government about the return to school in September, it’s a little easier to put plans in place for the new Term.

There are a lot of things to consider when planning for September – from how to create a “bubble” timetable, to helping students catch up on lost learning, to drawing up your new school improvement plan. 

With the help of some of the schools, trusts and education experts we work with, we’ve put together a list of six key things you should think about to help you get everything in place for Autumn:

1. Have you planned for different scenarios?
2. Can you quickly adapt if new DfE guidance comes out?
3. Can you communicate easily with your school community?
4. How are you going to support your students and staff?
5. Have you got good online learning tools?
6. Have you set up your systems for next Year?

Let’s break that down… 

 

1. Have you planned for different scenarios?

When you’re writing risk assessments, you should consider a few different scenarios that could happen in September, and make sure you’ve got the resources and policies in place to cope. A we’ve all learned from the past few months, the Covid-19 situation can change suddenly, so you should build flexibility into your plans.

Take a look at this useful example of a “Covid-19 Exit Strategy” document that Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, has helpfully shared with us. It outlines various risks, such as the rate of infection rising or large numbers of students having to work from home, and how the trust would address each of them. 

 

2. Can you quickly adapt if new DfE guidance comes out?

Once you’ve planned for lots of different scenarios, you should also make sure your systems can adapt and support you if the DfE suddenly introduces new guidelines. For example, could you quickly gather key attendance or demographic information to report to the DfE? Could you quickly adjust your timetable if a local lockdown was introduced in your area? Could your staff access the student information they need from home?  

In Arbor, you can log all attendance and absence on your Covid-19 dashboard, and access all the data you need wherever you’re working. You’ll also have key stats to hand, such as everyone who is expected in school that day, and you can directly follow up with any parents/guardians if you need to. Arbor also takes the hassle out of planning staff rotas, creating flexible timetables and arranging classroom layouts for social distancing.

Want more support in creating your September timetable? Join our webinar today (Thurs 9th) at 2pm “Structuring your schools’ timetable: what you need to know as a trust leader for Autumn Term” with Jan Hetherington, Vice-Principal at Wykham Park Academy.

 

3. Can you communicate easily with your school community?

Once you’ve planned your new timetable and daily logistics, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got a cost-effective communications system that can cope with all the various updates you’ll need to send out to parents, staff and students. You might also want to think about innovative and uplifting communications you can send out to motivate your community. We found this great example from Hackney Primary using videos to show students what school will look like when they return. 

In Arbor MIS, you can send emails, texts and Arbor App messages (which are great to share updates with parents directly on their phone) from wherever you are in the system. You can also share information on the Parent Portal or Student Portal that parents and students can log in and see. Check out our top 3 tips for keeping in touch with your school community.

 

4. How are you going to support your students and staff?

As students and staff return from six months of partial lockdown, it’s going to be tricky to adjust to the “new school normal”.  We’ve seen school and MAT leaders bringing wellbeing to the top of their agendas recently, by introducing things like “Wellbeing Days” and appointing new members of Pastoral staff. You can read here how Dan Morrow, CEO at Woodland Academy Trust, nurtures his staff wellbeing. 

When planning how to look out for your most vulnerable families and staff members, bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category may include more people now as situations have changed. In Arbor, you can quickly produce reports on key demographic groups such as children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers at school and MAT level.

 

5. Have you got good online learning tools?

With students coming to school in “bubbles”, you may need to continue a blended approach of face-to-face and remote teaching. During partial school closures, online learning has taken lots of different forms, some using systems like Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to set assignments and hold video lessons. But depending on the technology students had at home and how prepared schools were, remote education has had varying degrees of success. 

Think about what you can learn from this Term and how you can improve your online provision going forward. As The Harris Federation found, it’s a challenge to measure the effectiveness of online learning by just looking at quantitative data, like the number of lessons or assignments. Instead, try gathering feedback from staff and students on how they’ve found remote learning so you can see where to make improvements. 

You should also make sure your staff are confident using online teaching tools. Did you know the Government is offering a grant for support with Office 365 and G Suite? Find out more info here.

 

6. Have you set up your systems for next Year?

Before the Summer Holidays, it’s vital to set up your statutory enrollment information, calendar, courses and assessments in your Management Information System (MIS), so your staff can hit the ground running in the new Term. In Arbor, we have a dedicated section in the system which walks you through the steps you need to complete so Arbor can get everything ready for you when you return.

Don’t forget, over summer you can access all our free support resources in the Help Centre if you want a refresher on parts of the system before September. If you’d like to arrange any training for new members of staff, get in touch with your Account Manager at accountmanagers@arbor-education.com.

 

If you’re new to Arbor, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.

blank Dan Morrow - 8 July, 2020

Category : Blog

Switching MIS during lockdown: How Woodland Academy Trust moved to Arbor 100% remotely

Since the pandemic began and schools have been working flexibly and remotely, we’ve welcomed over 400 schools and MATs to Arbor who we’ve onboarded, migrated and trained 100% remotely. Most of these schools chose to move to Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to replace their server-based system which was preventing them from managing their schools

Since the pandemic began and schools have been working flexibly and remotely, we’ve welcomed over 400 schools and MATs to Arbor who we’ve onboarded, migrated and trained 100% remotely. Most of these schools chose to move to Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to replace their server-based system which was preventing them from managing their schools remotely, and meant they weren’t able to adapt to the new DfE guidelines quickly. 

We use a simple, personalised process to move your data to Arbor and to get staff ready to use the system confidently, with expert guidance every step of the way. If you’d like to see a brochure about the support we offer from signing with Arbor and throughout your journey, leave your details here and we’ll send you a copy

Rather than take our word for it, it’s often most helpful to hear how real schools and MATs have found the experience. Recently we caught up with the team at Woodland Academy Trust, a Primary MAT in Bexley and North Kent, who have moved to Arbor during lockdown. 

You can read our conversation below with Dan Morrow (CEO) Sue Ashton (COO and Deputy CEO) and Yvonne Bruce (School Business Manager).

How have you found the support from Arbor during your move? 

Our MAT Programme Manager Joanna has been very supportive and approachable from the start. She and her colleague Kate have ensured that we have been on target in the run up to the data migration, with regular calls being made to our Arbor Champions and School Business Lead. 

There was a level of nervous excitement during our Discovery Day. Being a SIMS user for so many years, it was difficult feeling 100% about moving to a new system. Again, Joanna was very supportive and explained each step from the Trust & School’s priorities, operational priorities, module role out, training and data migration, going live and third party applications, ensuring that we understood the information we needed to provide.

The Discovery Day was very useful as it allowed us to really look into the applications we were using, and to look at the key successes and challenges we were currently facing when it came to deciding on which applications to migrate over.  

How did the data migration process go? 

The migration was very smooth and lived up to the expectation I had from the seminar I attended, when other users assured me that this process was seamless. The response from other members of our team has been that they were able to find the answer to their queries through your help page and only needed to speak to a trainer on very rare occasions.  

Whilst this is clearly a structured process, there was some clear anxiety from our executives and data users over it. The security and assuredness of the project framing from Arbor’s side ensured that these could be addressed and the actual delivery was without any issue whatsoever.

How have you found the training you’ve had so far? 

The training has been very thorough and relevant to our needs. The trainers have made their way through the areas at a good pace for everyone on the call to take in and understand. They have each encouraged questions and answers after every section to make sure that everyone on the call understands what has been said. The recording of the training sessions has allowed us to reach out to other members of staff to review. 

In a number of our sessions we have had different groups of staff with different focuses and areas of interest. The training has meant that the universal concepts can be delivered and that more bespoke training is then brokered and arranged as needed. The clear respect for people’s time and the subsequent thought and care put into the whole training programme has been a clear win, as it’s meant that our whole team have then engaged with the training. 

Since Arbor has been live in your schools, how has it been received?  

The response from our Office and Business Management teams across the Trust has been very positive; with comments that Arbor is easy to navigate, especially around reports and is a far superior system to what we were using previously. Setting up the new academic year has also had positive responses; with many of the team saying the step-by-step guide was the easiest they’ve come across, that it’s quick and time-saving and the ability to save as you go has ensured confident use of the system. 

Have you had any challenges? 

The permissions around business roles has taken some getting used to as not all roles in Arbor have the permissions for the business roles we are used to, but again, your help centre has been on hand to show that we can add ad hoc permissions to specific roles.

What has it been like making the move during Covid-19? 

I would say this has been the perfect time to move! Firstly, It has allowed more personnel to sit on training sessions than perhaps would have been possible under normal circumstances.  

Equally, to have a positive change project that has been so well scoped and framed has given us a boost to be able to “control the controllable” and see robust and rigorous systems introduced to further underpin the care that our children and communities deserve. 

Is Arbor helping you manage your schools during Covid-19? 

The news bulletins from Arbor have been helpful with regards to tips for setting up the new academic year and the attendance information required by the DfE. 

It has provided a “blank page” to reconsider the way we collect, store, monitor and report our information and at a time when we are looking to reimagine as well as return within education, the timing has been far from a threat; it’s a golden opportunity.

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help you manage your school or trust flexibly next Term, you can book a free online demo or contact tellmemore@arbor-education.com. You can also reach us on 0208 050 1028.

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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!

blank 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

blank 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. 

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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

blank 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

 

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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

blank The Harris Federation - 18 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How The Harris Federation implemented a failsafe online learning strategy – Part 1

Recently we invited Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation – a trust of 48 academies in London and Essex – to talk about how they rolled out an online learning programme for their 36,000+ students.  They explained how when Covid-19 hit, their flexible, cloud-based setup allowed them

Recently we invited Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation – a trust of 48 academies in London and Essex – to talk about how they rolled out an online learning programme for their 36,000+ students. 

They explained how when Covid-19 hit, their flexible, cloud-based setup allowed them to quickly and easily give all students access to online education, which would not have been possible using a legacy, server based system. You can read more below about Harris’s unique IT approach and how they responded to Covid-19.

Check out our next blog to find out how they analysed their online learning data!

Harris’s technical approach

With 4,500 staff and 36,000 students across primary and secondary, Harris uses a centralised and standardised IT set-up designed to give everyone the same experience across the trust. 

The focus of Derek and Andy’s roles is making IT work for everyone across the trust with systems that are as efficient and cost effective as possible. 

The key principles of their IT approach are:

  • Centralise: Keep central control of system setup to reduce the amount of IT support needed at each school site
  • Integrate: Make sure data flows between systems so you don’t have to access everything separately
  • Consolidate: Make sure there is no duplication or errors in the data when it is brought in from different systems 
  • Automate: Make sure workflows and processes are automatic to save staff time and cut down on the number of people needed. This is particularly important when dealing with a large amount of staff and student data 

Using a data warehouse

The IT team at Harris manages data centrally through a combination of their own data warehouse and cloud-based systems. They created a data warehouse so that they could hold all their MIS (Management Information System) data on premises and develop systems on top of it. 

Using a data warehouse also means that when they bring in a new system, for example Microsoft Teams, it can set up user accounts for all students and staff automatically. Admin Staff simply add the student names, then the data warehouse puts them into the right groups, saving the central IT team time. 

Whenever they design new systems or processes, Derek and Andy ensure they can be used across all academies. They want to make sure all staff and students have the same technology options at their fingertips. At the same time, it’s also important to give Teachers the freedom to use digital tools in a way that suits the particular lesson they’re giving. For this reason, the IT team doesn’t advise that staff teach in a certain way, or use a certain VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) such as Google Classroom. From experience, without top-level buy in from trust leadership, initiatives like these are rarely successful.

Harris uses Microsoft systems across the trust which are set up to communicate with their data warehouse. These are some of the key parts of the puzzle that help the systems interact:

  • API: Harris makes sure that systems they integrate with (like their MIS) have a “read” and “write” API which means they can interact with their data warehouse
  • SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services): They use middleware that sits in between systems to connect them and allows IT to tweak the data as it moves between systems
  • MIM (Microsoft Identity Manager): This is a type of middleware they use for integrating with Microsoft Active Directory
  • SDS (School Data Sync) and Microsoft Flow: Allows them to push data up to Office 365 from their data warehouse and create Microsoft Team accounts
  • Microsoft PowerBI: A reporting tool which gives them insights into the information in their data warehouse 

How Harris responded to Covid-19

As schools began to close and remote working became necessary, Harris was able to respond quickly, using lessons they’d learned from a recent snow day. On that day, phone lines couldn’t cope, staff ran out of SMS credits and the web connection crashed. They therefore had already solved these issues, and increased their supply of laptops for students and staff to take home when Covid-19 hit. 

Setting up remote teaching and learning was also a smooth transition because staff were already using Microsoft Teams and Show My Homework to record lessons and set assignments. The only difference was that staff had to adjust to doing much more on Teams such as leading live lessons. The IT team also needed to set up lots more users on Teams – in March alone they set up 20, 000 accounts which took two weeks as Microsoft struggled to cope!

Click here to see the four steps the IT team took to set up users on Microsoft Teams using their data warehouse

Although they were smooth to set up, remote lessons brought some challenges. IT worked quickly with Teachers to adapt the ways students interacted with Microsoft Teams. For example:

  • Behaviour policy: Due to behaviour issues, they had to draw up a new Behaviour Policy and turn off certain capabilities for students, like switching off their cameras or not allowing them to create meetings themselves
  • Meeting formats: They looked at lots of different formats for remote lessons that Teachers could alternate between for best effect, for example a live “webinar” or “meeting”
  • GDPR: They had to navigate GDPR concerns for the recording of lessons, i.e. how long to keep the recordings before deleting
  • Remote support: Microsoft Teams was useful for IT teams to communicate easily with staff and give them support with systems, especially by being able to share their screen

Check out our next blog to find out what Harris has learned about their online learning programme from analysing their data in Microsoft Power BI.

You’re invited to join us for the next webinar in our “Adapting to Change” series tomorrow (Friday 19th) where we’ll be demonstrating how to use benchmarking and performance analysis to drive smart strategy at your trust. Sign up for free with the link below.

Friday June 19th 2020, 11:00am

Using Arbor’s benchmarking and performance analysis to inform data-driven decisions for your trust

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

blank 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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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 plays 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.

blank 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. 

blank 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?

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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

 

blank 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.

 

 

blank 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.

blank 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.

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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 parent