Management Information System (MIS) for schools
Expert ideas for a better working life at your school or trust
Category : Blog
As the new school year kicks off let’s take a look back at some of the amazing features we released to Arbor MIS and MAT MIS in the past year! – Rotating meal menus and Parent Portal meal choices. Create menus that rotate on a periodic basis, and allow parents to make meal choices for
As the new school year kicks off let’s take a look back at some of the amazing features we released to Arbor MIS and MAT MIS in the past year!
– Rotating meal menus and Parent Portal meal choices. Create menus that rotate on a periodic basis, and allow parents to make meal choices for their children via the Parent Portal. Learn more here
– Emergency Alert. Get help with the click of a button by sending an instant notification or email to staff who are on call. Plus, report on past alerts and view them on the student profile. Learn more here
– Cohort and Mark Level Analysis. Collate information on every summative assessment mark all from within MAT MIS! Learn more here
– Post-16 Census report. Generate a quick summary report of your Post-16 data to ensure you receive all your funding from the School Census, either for yourself or to send to a third party. Learn more here
– CRB Cunninghams Cashless Catering integration. Integrate with your cashless catering system. Arbor now integrates with CRB Cunninghams, this integration lets you manage cashless catering payments directly from your MIS. Arbor integrates with three cashless catering systems; Civica Cashless Catering, Live Register and CRB Cunninghams. Learn more here
– PowerBI Datasets. Connect more data to your BI tool. New datasets added to our PowerBI connector, including Student Academic Year Enrolments, User Defined Fields (created at both MAT and school level), and User Defined Records. Learn more here
– Live National Benchmarks. See live national data from other Arbor schools in your MIS. See real-time National Average and National Percentile data for attendance data, letting you compare yourself to similar schools and see where you sit. Learn more here
– Calendar update on the Arbor App. Parents and guardians can see exactly where their child is at any point in the current day by viewing their child’s calendar for the whole day on the Arbor App. Learn more here
– Import Assessment Marks in MAT MIS. Roll out assessments to the schools in your trust. Instead of logging into individual school sites or sending assessment data to your school data managers, you can use an import spreadsheet in MAT MIS to input the school data yourself. Learn more here
– Random Student Picker. Engage your students and choose them fairly using the Random Student Picker. The student picker spins to select a random student from your class – perfect for projecting on your board. Learn more here
– School Staff Absence Reporting in MAT MIS. Report on school staff absences from in your MAT MIS, eliminating the need to make a custom report. You can also use bonus fields like Bradford Factor reporting and the option to include only workforce census-eligible staff. Learn more here
– Apple Pay and Google Pay. Give parents the flexibility to pay the way that suits them, with pay by Apple Pay and Google Pay! No more re-entering card details every time on the Arbor App. Learn more here
– School Shop Orders dashboard. See an overview of all your orders, payments and refunds without needing to go into each item individually with our School Shop Dashboard. Learn more here
– Behaviour comms templates. Create SMS and email templates to notify guardians about behaviour incidents or detentions. Add detail with our built-in merge fields, or set different messages for different severity levels. Learn more here
– Bulk Add Assessment Columns. Add columns for Summative or Ad Hoc assessments to a Student Custom Report Writer in one go. Plus, add different components for Summative assessments, such as Baseline, Predicted Mark, and Year Target. Learn more here
– New layout and tools for tables. Introducing our new tabling tool which lets you; rearrange and hide columns, search for data quickly, navigate and enter data using only the keyboard, and much more. Learn more here
– Single Central Record in MAT MIS. Quickly and easily keep staff details up to date across your trust with our updated Single Central Record (SCR) in MAT MIS. Choose which columns you want to see in your SCR, and email staff members directly. Learn more here
– Scheduling Comms. Choose when to send out your emails, SMS and in-app messages with our scheduling comms feature. No more logging in out of hours – you can draft as usual, then just click send later to pick the date and time. Learn more here
– Automated Capita One exports. Automate your Capita One Export. We worked with Capita One to automate the Capita One Export, reducing school workload and improving data quality for your LA. You’ll need to ask your LA to get in touch with us to get this set up. Learn more here
– SMS Subscription. Send SMS with our new annual SMS tariff, that makes it simpler to keep parents in the loop. Pay yearly and get the benefits of an ongoing subscription. Learn more here
– Updates to the sex and gender fields. To align with the DfE, we’ve made some changes to the gender field in Arbor. We’ve relabelled the Gender field in Arbor to Sex to reflect its existing use in the census, and we’ve added a new field on student, guardian and staff profiles for Gender Identity. Learn more here
– KS4 Assessment Analysis. Use the KS4 Assessment Analysis page to track student progress in more detail, plus get a Progress 8 estimate based on last year’s Attainment Band data. Learn more here
– Communications Designer. Format your emails and text exactly the way you want to. Our communications designer tool gives you the flexibility to set your own fonts and colours, undo and redo, and add in tables and merge fields. Plus, it’s all controllable from your keyboard. Learn more here
– DfE Assessments in report cards. Share DfE Assessment results easily with your parents and students. You can add DfE Assessments from any academic year to both long and short report cards. Learn more here
– EYFS Analysis in MAT MIS. See your EYFS DfE Assessments in MAT MIS. Just like on the School MIS, you can now analyse your EYFS DfE Assessments, as well as KS1 and KS2 results all from MAT MIS. Learn more here
– Custom Report Cards. Build report cards tailored to your school’s needs. You can now build a completely customised report card that looks and feels like your school, and pull in the exact data you want, directly from Arbor MIS. Learn more here
– DfE Primary Assessment Benchmarks. See where you sit nationally, where you’re excelling, identify areas for improvement and look back at previous academic years. Arbor shows you the national average and the percentile your school is in for:
Learn more here
– New School Year Setup Audit. Track your school’s new school year setup from your MAT MIS with New School Year Setup Audit. Easily see how all of your schools are progressing with their preparation for the new year, and find out which steps schools have completed and which are outstanding, directly from your MAT MIS. Learn more here
– Custom Behaviour Workflows. Create and assign custom workflows to behaviour types, in addition to the existing automatic workflows based on severity levels. Giving you that extra flexibility to create behaviour workflows bespoke to your needs. Learn more here
– Biometric Login for the Arbor App. Parents can use face, fingerprint recognition, or their device’s pin code to log in without needing to enter their password every time. Learn more here
– Report on Club Attendance. Get better visibility of your attendance data for the clubs that you’re running with our two new ways to report on clubs in the Custom Report Writer. Learn more here
– Ask Arbor. Powered by Microsoft Azure OpenAI, Ask Arbor is your new collaborator and assistant. It’s built seamlessly into Arbor MIS and is designed to turn your words into actions. The first two features, free to all schools that we have released in this suite include:
To keep up-to-date with all our latest releases visit our Change Log or to see what we are working on next and to give feedback visit our Product Roadmap.
Teaching & Learning
According to the latest data (Ipsos 2023), there are approximately 3.09 billion active video gamers worldwide, meaning over 40% of our population actively play games That figure has risen by over 1 billion in just seven years. You might also be surprised to learn that 63% of those gamers report playing casual games, think Candy
According to the latest data (Ipsos 2023), there are approximately 3.09 billion active video gamers worldwide, meaning over 40% of our population actively play games That figure has risen by over 1 billion in just seven years. You might also be surprised to learn that 63% of those gamers report playing casual games, think Candy Crush or Homescapes – the kind you pick up to pass the time while you’re waiting for dinner to cook or your partner to finally finish getting ready for the pub.
The global video game industry is worth an estimated $197.11 billion and there is a reason for that. It’s not necessarily that video games are addictive (although some people do struggle) but that getting lost in a good game is both thoroughly enjoyable and uniquely rewarding to the human brain. They offer an expertly crafted difficulty arc that allows you to learn all of the skills required to get you to the end without ever noticing you’re learning. Games place you in a flow state, which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines as a state in which all worldly matters other than the activity you’re doing seem to dissipate: you are fully in the present. During flow, you pay less attention to outside negative anxieties and stressors as your consciousness is filled entirely with the current activity.
So what is gamified learning? In short, gamified learning is the process of using game elements in non-game contexts, using flow states and familiar gaming strategies to increase intrinsic learner motivation levels, improve knowledge retention and increase engagement through social mechanisms such as leaderboards, badges and points.
Whilst game-based learning has been around in education for an age, this differs from gamification in education. Game-based learning is an active learning technique that uses the games themselves to improve learning. Think card and board games to improve maths skills or typing games to improve keyboard skills. Gamification in learning is different however, by overlaying game mechanics to everyday teaching it has the potential to swap a fear of failure with the feeling that failure is fun and part of the learning process. Levelling up to the next stage of knowledge!
Creating a fun, risk-free environment:
If you’ve ever watched a child playing a video game, you’ll be familiar with their lack of concern at failing at a level, getting wiped out on a tight corner or coming last in an online battle. You can hit start and try again. Contrast that to the child in tears, beating themselves up for being ‘terrible’ at maths because they just ‘don’t get’ long division and it’s easy to see why educators would love to harness that same resilience exhibited during gaming in the classroom. Gamified learning creates a risk-free environment where children not only learn how to apply the skills they have learned, but develop skills such as resilience and an understanding that those same skills take effort to master.
Engagement through excitement:
One of the main benefits of gamification is engagement. By shifting the control to the student and adding game-related elements there is a sense of agency alongside an excitement for learning.
When gamification takes place in a digital environment, the continuous feedback offered allows students to see their progress. They know exactly how they are doing and what they need to improve and advance. Everyone wants to know that they are making progress and getting better at what they are learning. This shifts motivation from extrinsic (externally rewarded) to intrinsic (I’m doing this because I want to improve) and improves engagement along the way.
When learners are more engaged and motivated they will naturally retain more information. The use of game-based mechanics such as leaderboards or points taps into the natural human desire for recognition and competition. When people are incentivised like this they tend to engage more and process the information deeply, resulting in better retention. Knowing the information has a purpose and their ongoing success is their reward.
When we think of gamified learning in the classroom, most peoples’ minds will inevitably jump to apps and games we find in the digital universe. Quiz games like ‘Kahoot’ are an excellent way of not only testing knowledge and introducing an element of competition (either in teams or solo) but can also be set up with learning pathways to easily gamify and scaffold learning for students. They also have added features enabling the download of results so educators can identify trends and knowledge gaps.
But gamification doesn’t only exist in the digital environment. In 2009, Quest to Learn was opened in New York City, a public school with a gamified curriculum where learning happens through the motivation of play. Students are organised into ‘guilds’ or ‘leagues’, choosing their own party members based on the unique skills needed to succeed in ‘quests’ and complete games.
Whilst not every classroom can become fully gamified like Quest to Learn there are lots of applications that can be integrated into the every day curriculum. Introducing digital learning apps that mimic the game mechanics that children know and love is a quick and easy win. Like Quest to Learn, creating teams and adding a structural narrative can increase motivation and retention. Perhaps groups of research mathematicians could investigate and report back on the different methods used around the world for solving mathematical problems (grid method, lattice etc). Adapting the grading structure is another way of adding game mechanics to the classroom. Instead of letters or statements as grades, using a ladder of experience points (XP) shows learners their progress as they climb.
The takeaway is that you don’t need to understand video games or be a gamer to integrate gamification into the classroom. It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure who Mario is or would rather watch paint dry than discuss Fortnite. Thinking about what it is that makes games so successful, enjoyable and engaging and then applying those principles to the classroom is Gamification in its essence.
Although Arbor is consistently rated as the UK’s most-loved and intuitive MIS, we know that learning a whole new system can be daunting. That’s why we thought we’d tap into gamification principles when thinking about how we can make sure our community of schools and partners can get to grips with Arbor as quickly as possible.
The Arbor Training Hub features badges, levels and progress tracking for all of Arbor’s modules. So whether you’re a Data Manager, member of SLT, one of Arbor’s partners looking to get accredited or a member of your school’s back-office, the Training Hub is designed to help you learn everything you need in your role.
If you’re a school or trust using Arbor, click here to get started with the Hub.
Or, if you’re a partner, get in touch with our Partner Success Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether your school is just about to start using Arbor for the first time, or you’ve been using Arbor for years but need a refresh, here are four key things to remember as we get ready for the next academic year. Our Help Centre Arbor is consistently rated as one of the most intuitive school
Whether your school is just about to start using Arbor for the first time, or you’ve been using Arbor for years but need a refresh, here are four key things to remember as we get ready for the next academic year.
Arbor is consistently rated as one of the most intuitive school management information systems in the UK, but if you find yourself stuck, we have a big support team on hand to help.
One of the other ways you can find support is our Help Centre. Packed with thousands of articles, how-tos, top tips and walk-through videos, our Help Centre is full of searchable content, to make sure all the answers to your Arbor related questions are at your fingertips, instantly.
Those who work in schools know how an MIS can help them best – that’s why we actively encourage all of our users to give feedback on how we can improve. We update Arbor fortnightly, listening closely to what you tell us.
Our roadmap is public, so you can upvote and comment on features that you want our team to work on
We host regular feedback forums so that you can work directly with our Product and Engineering teams to implement features that will help you in your role
Just like at ArborFest, we present our roadmap so that schools have transparency over what we’re working on
Our Account Managers regularly liaise with our Product Team, sharing suggestions from their termly reviews and calls with schools and trusts
Over 5,000 schools and trusts use Arbor MIS! It’s important to us that Arbor users get the most out of this community and can learn from others in the network. Make sure to join us at events like ArborFest, where we bring our community together for a day packed with roundtables, panel discussions, thought leadership tasks and networking opportunities.
We also have a big community on LinkedIn and Twitter/X – follow us on here to keep up with the latest news, events and top tips.
It’s always daunting when starting to use a new system, but don’t worry! If you feel like you need a little more help with a particular area of Arbor, we have a Training Hub filled with courses and a Customer Education Team with a 99% satisfaction rating.
Access the Training Hub here or find out more information here.
Arbor MIS | Product release
You should Ask Arbor that We’re super excited to introduce Ask Arbor, powered by Microsoft Azure OpenAI. Following a successful beta programme, we’ve launched our first two Ask Arbor features. Ask Arbor is built seamlessly into Arbor MIS, and is designed to turn your words into actions wherever you see it pop up. Need to
We’re super excited to introduce Ask Arbor, powered by Microsoft Azure OpenAI.
Following a successful beta programme, we’ve launched our first two Ask Arbor features. Ask Arbor is built seamlessly into Arbor MIS, and is designed to turn your words into actions wherever you see it pop up.
Need to draft a new school year email to parents and guardians? Arbor can help. Looking for a quick way to summarise students’ progress? a student report? Arbor can help with that too.
You can Ask Arbor wherever you see the icon below in Arbor MIS.
Visit our Ask Arbor hub to find out more
As Arbor’s Head of Product, I thought I’d share our vision for Ask Arbor and all things AI.
Here are the top three reasons we’ve introduced AI to Arbor MIS:
Ultimately, my aim with Ask Arbor is to help you complete admin tasks quicker. We want Ask Arbor to be an extra pair of hands and support you to get more out of your data, letting you take action quicker. Imagine being able to get better summary-level information for democratising data: Ask Arbor and AI can make that happen.
Plus, this isn’t the end state of Ask Arbor. This is an ongoing project that we will be working on. Watch this space for more updates – we can’t wait to hear what you think.
IT Support | School Operations
With the pressures on schools and trusts across the country, it goes without saying how important it is that School IT Managers are able to save time and drive efficiency across their organisation. Based on our years of experience and conversations with IT Managers at EduLife, we’ve put together some top tips on efficient school
With the pressures on schools and trusts across the country, it goes without saying how important it is that School IT Managers are able to save time and drive efficiency across their organisation. Based on our years of experience and conversations with IT Managers at EduLife, we’ve put together some top tips on efficient school IT administration and how you can save time in your role.
There are many reasons why efficient school IT administration is the backbone of a well-functioning school or multi-academy trust:
Smooth operations: Efficient school IT administration keeps everything running smoothly, from network connectivity to software applications. It means fewer interruptions and more focus on teaching and learning.
Enhanced productivity: Being able to rely on smooth-running systems, means that students can access resources seamlessly and teachers can focus solely on their role in the classroom, thus boosting productivity for everyone involved.
Optimal resource allocation: Efficient IT administration makes sure that resources are used effectively, preventing wasteful spending and allowing for strategic investments in technology infrastructure.
Seamless communication and collaboration: With efficient IT administration, communication channels work seamlessly. Teachers, administrators, students, and parents can connect, collaborate, and share information effortlessly, creating a supportive learning environment.
Data Security and privacy: Efficient IT administration prioritises data security and privacy by implementing robust security measures, updating systems and educating users to protect sensitive information. This means that trust is maintained and compliance with privacy regulations is upheld.
Despite the great importance put on the output of IT Administrators, we know it’s not always plain sailing:
Spinning many plates: From managing networks and systems to troubleshooting tech issues, there’s always a lot to manage in schools.
Keeping up with technological Advancements: Technology moves at lightning speed, and as IT Managers, it can be tough to keep up! New devices, software updates, and emerging trends require continuous learning.
Limited resources and budget: As is often the case in schools, budgets can be tight, meaning teams have to be creative with their investments to make sure they’re as effective as possible.
Balancing security and accessibility: Striking the right balance between security and accessibility is a challenge IT managers know all too well. You want to protect sensitive data and keep networks secure, but you also need to give seamless access to educational resources for students and staff.
User support and training: With varying degrees of technological ability in schools, it can be a challenge to address differing tech skill levels and ensure everyone feels supported.
With all that in mind, here are some strategies and technology-driven solutions to help you overcome those challenges and boost productivity at your school.
Automated provisioning: Invest in tools that integrate various administrative functions like student records, scheduling, communication and classroom set-up. Tools like EduLife’s data synchronisation feature simplify processes and eliminate the need for manual data entry across multiple systems.
Master digital communication: Use instant messaging, collaboration platforms, and email automation to streamline communication among staff, parents, and students. These tools make information sharing quick, reduce delays, and enhance collaboration.
Go cloud-based: Storing your documents and information in the cloudgives you easy access, real-time collaboration, and seamless file sharing – plus, it’s a step closer to going paperless!
Give Users the Power: Empower your users with self-service password reset solutions like LastPass or Azure Password Reset. They can reset their passwords independently, freeing you up for more exciting IT projects.
Let the machines do the heavy lifting: Find those repetitive tasks that zap all your time and automate them. Whether it’s updating software, backing up systems, or managing user accounts, use nifty tools such as EduLife to save yourself some serious time when trying to simplify school management.
Make best use of your MIS: Use data analytics and reporting in Arbor to generate insightful reports and analyse trends in student performance, attendance, or resource allocation. These tools provide quick access to data-driven insights, making decision-making easier and reducing the effort spent on manual data collection.
Keep it organised with a ticketing system: Say goodbye to chaos! Get yourself a cool ticketing system like Zendesk to manage all those support requests. It’ll help you stay on top of things, prioritise tasks, and get stuff done faster. Plus, no more lost sticky notes!
Say goodbye to the mystery of missing equipment: Asset management solutions like Fleet Management are your superhero helpers. They’ll keep track of your Chromebooks. You can easily know what’s where, schedule maintenance tasks, and stay on top of warranties. It’s like having a trusty sidekick that keeps things organised and saves you from endless searching.
Embrace your inner tech wizard: Take advantage of remote management tools like TeamViewer. They’ll give you the power to access and fix devices from afar. No need to teleport to every corner of the school or multi-academy trust for routine tasks or minor issues.
Efficient school administration is the key to optimising resources, boosting productivity, and creating a fantastic learning environment. As an IT manager, you have the power to implement time-saving strategies that empower your team and educators. By embracing technology solutions you can make your school or multi-academy trust more productive and efficient for everyone involved.
Edulife is a dynamic synchronisation engine that automates and maintains user management across Google Workspace for Education, Microsoft Active Directory and Apple School Manager by harmonising and provisioning data from your school MIS.
Culture | Popular
The Arbor team, now over 200 strong, is a diverse mix of of experienced specialists, ex-teachers and Edtech engineers passionate about making a difference to the sector. Ultimately, we’re here to help schools and trusts stress a little less and focus on what matters most – improving the lives of teachers and outcomes of students everywhere.
We sat down with eight ex-teachers who chose to make this move to the technology space and asked them how they found the transition, what top tips they’d give to others looking to change career and their experience of working at Arbor.
Suzanna: My previous job had been quite focussed on Higher Education and I missed working more closely with schools. I was also very aware of the pain of using legacy software as a teacher and so Arbor’s mission and product are important to me too.
Sue: I wanted to work in a product role that would allow me to use what I knew about working in a primary school to make life better for teachers.
Ana: One thing that attracted me to Arbor was their commitment to employee wellbeing and career development, since joining I can definitely see that this is a genuine priority for the company!
Ceara: I used Arbor in my previous school during my last term there. From this, I noticed the impact on workload this was already making and enjoyed how I could use this system with ease.
Robin: I genuinely loved teaching, it was all I wanted to be when I was little, but I just couldn’t love the impact it had on my family. I found that I was using all my “sparkle”, energy and patience during the school day, and had none left at the end for my own kids! I started to look for something with more flexibility and that would give me more headspace to focus on my family, but still made me feel like I was making an impact and had a purpose. When I read into Arbor, I was so excited because it ticked those boxes, without making me feel like I was starting a completely new career where all my years of experience in education would’ve been wasted.
Ashleigh: I love that they really care about their staff and can offer progression within the company as well as support people with CPD.
Suzanna: It was brilliant – one of the best recruitment experiences I’ve had. Sophie and Santino were great at keeping me in-the-loop throughout the process and it always felt friendly and clear.
Ana: The recruitment and onboarding process was incredibly efficient and transparent! I was kept in the loop throughout the recruitment and pre-employment process and was seriously impressed with my onboarding experience! My equipment was sent to my home address prior to my start date with everything set up so that I was ready to go!
Ceara: I was very nervous about venturing into the world outside of the classroom but the recruitment and onboarding process at Arbor was so supportive and I really felt heard. All of my worries were supported and any training I needed for the role was provided. It couldn’t have gone any better!
Juliet: From day one at Arbor, I had such a warm reception and constant support throughout my first few months. I was never made to feel stupid, even when I asked what an acronym stood for a third time…
Ashleigh: Really informative. I felt that questions that I had could be answered. I first applied for a role and was told about an even better suited role coming soon which showed that I had been listened to and recruiting staff cared about my needs and the opportunities for me to be a successful employee.
Jamie: Fantastic – there was always someone there to help and guide, as well as point in the right direction to further develop my learning!
Suzanna: Yes. I often talk with schools about how Arbor has changed the way they work. I’m proud that I can support our customers in making sure they get the most from Arbor, so they can get time back for students and for themselves.
Ana: Absolutely! The data that school staff need to use and analyse is ever increasing, alongside many other parts of their workload! Helping somebody with a task they were really worried about or showing them a more efficient way to do something is something I find incredibly rewarding!
Sue: Yes! Knowing that the work I do is useful to thousands of schools, and the hundreds of thousands of staff and students (not to mention their parents) still blows my mind.
Juliet: Knowing I work for a social impact company, which prioritises students and staff when developing the product means I don’t have the guilt of leaving the classroom. With poor work-life balance being a huge factor in my quitting teaching, I love knowing that we’re improving this for current teachers with our MIS.
Ana: I love that I am still working in a fast paced environment! I really enjoy this aspect of my job and love that I am challenged and learning something new every day!
Robin: Schools are such fast-paced environments, so this is something that I have been accustomed to, but it is fast paced in a different way, so it can take a bit of getting used to. However there are lots of genuinely helpful wellbeing initiatives within Arbor, and when the whole company has such a “mental health friendly” approach, it really does feed into all aspects of the job.
Ashleigh: I love the challenge and look forward to learning from others and keeping up to date with changes. It keeps me engaged in my job role, helps me to learn more and provides a healthy amount of challenge to my days.
Jamie: It suits me perfectly! I like to have priorities, and strive to achieve them in the most efficient way possible.
Suzanna: When you work remotely, make sure you have clear boundaries between home and work. If you have a dedicated working space, that’s ideal, but even just having a good routine can help. For example, I often go for a walk after work to help decompress from the day. When you’re in the office, try to make the most of the in-person time you have with people.
Ana: My top tip is to separate your work and relaxing space if you can, even if it is just a “zone” of a room! I taught from home during the pandemic but did not have a proper set-up for this and working from home feels totally different now that I do.
Juliet: Routine routine routine! Switching from a totally inflexible, rigid timetable as a secondary teacher, it was a huge change for me to manage my own time. By planning out my day every morning, I find my WFH days are much more productive, and I cherish the opportunity to go for a long walk every lunch time rather than stand in the school canteen!
Suzanna: Flexibility. When I first left teaching, the biggest difference was that I mostly chose how to structure my own work for the day. Even with a deadline, I can choose to do big blocks of a particular task or work on a couple of things at once. That’s very different from teaching, when your day is often planned out for you.
Sue: I also continue to be amazed at how much others in the company really value my experiences from the classroom – I’ve been able to offer my perspective on so many different projects (learning packs from The Key, how schools set up, use and share items of IT equipment, dealing with specific situations in a school environment etc.
Ceara: Adapting to new systems and improving my technical knowledge were my biggest challenges but coming from a fast-paced working environment allowed me to be a quick learner and adapt quickly and with ease. The support I received and continue to receive here is excellent! Every day really is like a school day and I am always learning something new and developing my own professional skills.
Robin: Not feeling bad for asking questions or clarification! Schools can be a little isolating at times in terms of speaking to other adults, as it can feel like nobody has any time. Asking questions during a staff meeting or training often felt like a faux pax! At Arbor, I think I apologised at least 50 times within my first week. This is still something I am working on, but my line manager is so patient with me and is always reassuring me when I need it!
Juliet: The biggest surprise to me was the regular words of encouragement, recognition and thanks from colleagues. Teaching was often a thankless job, albeit rewarding, whereas I now feel valued for my efforts!
Jamie: The level of trust put in you at every level. It encourages you to repay that faith and belief by working to the best of your ability, day in, day out.
Suzanna: Absolutely! You’ll have the opportunity to work with interesting people on important projects for a company that really cares about you.
Sue: Yes, definitely! The Arbor team are great colleagues to work with, and I love that the ethos of the whole company is about ensuring schools have the best tools in place to help them focus on the best outcomes for their students.
Ceara: Absolutely – I tell friends/family all of the time what a positive impact Arbor has had as I stepped away from the classroom. They have always been surprised at how many different ways I have used my skills from teaching every single day as an advanced support analyst!
Robin: Without a doubt – I actually already have, multiple times!
Ashleigh: 100% 🙂
Jamie: Absolutely… Arbor has transformed my belief and mindset in the working landscape outside of education as I knew it in the past. And for that, I will forever be grateful.
Are you a teacher looking for a new career but aren’t sure where to start? We’d love to hear from you – check out our careers page to see which roles we’re hiring for.
If you enjoyed this article, we have also sat down with the school governors in our team – read it here!
Case Studies | MATs
Diocese of Chichester Academy Trust (DCAT) is a 19 school mixed phase trust in the South of England with 18 primary schools and one secondary school, with plans to add six more schools by 2025. Founded in 2014, the trust is now home to nearly 6000 students. The trust decided to move all of their
Diocese of Chichester Academy Trust (DCAT) is a 19 school mixed phase trust in the South of England with 18 primary schools and one secondary school, with plans to add six more schools by 2025. Founded in 2014, the trust is now home to nearly 6000 students.
The trust decided to move all of their schools to Arbor MIS and started onboarding in summer 2022. They started using MAT MIS for their Central Team at the same time, making it easier and quicker to work with their schools as one organisation, not many.
Stephen Barrett-Kinsley, COO at DCAT, says that growth is at the heart of the trust’s vision for 2025 and wider strategy, and they are constantly thinking about how to achieve this sustainably without compromising value for their existing schools.
DCAT currently has schools in East Sussex, West Sussex, Bournemouth, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Stephen says that “one of the interesting challenges we have is creating that sense of connectivity and family for what is a remarkably geographically spread group of schools.”
As they expand to 25 schools, it’s increasingly important to be “match-fit” for growth. For DCAT, Stephen describes being match-fit as having a good handle on the trust’s data: “With our old systems, it would have been impossible to intimately know the data or information of 25 schools. Our focus now is on changing the back-end software, systems and processes so that it enables seamless transfer of information and data.”
In 2021, the trust decided to choose a single MIS for all their schools – at the time, three schools were already using Arbor. There were four key things that DCAT wanted from an MIS:
The Central Team felt that Arbor met all of these requirements and also liked that the system is always being updated with new features: “You can demonstrably see a consistent effort to improve.”
When new schools join DCAT, they need to switch to Arbor within their first term. Although the trust isn’t prescriptive when it comes to most software, Stephen highlighted how important it was that all schools in their trust use the same MIS; it means that they can connect with other key trust systems including finance, payroll, safeguarding and assessment. Without joining up these systems, DCAT says that it’s difficult to “integrate [schools] properly into how we’re operating as a trust.”
Another benefit of using Arbor across the trust is ease of reporting. Before moving to Arbor, DCAT’s schools shared data with the Central Team via spreadsheets each term. As well as being a time-consuming process, it left room for human error and inconsistent reporting.
As DCAT grew, it became more important to have “seamless transfer of data, seamless access to data.” With their schools using Arbor MIS, it was a natural choice to use Arbor’s MAT MIS to make reporting more efficient and effective for schools and the Central Team. Data from each school feeds automatically and instantaneously into MAT MIS so that the trust can support their schools in real time, rather than waiting for termly reports.
Stephen recalls introducing Senior Leaders to MAT MIS and showing them, for example, how to see attendance at all their schools in one click. He says: “it was genuinely a life-changing moment” for staff who were used to legacy systems and lengthy workarounds.
Arbor helps DCAT to work together as one organisation as they grow. Despite the distance between schools, standardised reporting helps DCAT to be consistent with how they treat their schools. MAT MIS also gives DCAT the insight to be able to create links between schools with similar demographics. For example, they noticed that two schools had high numbers of looked-after children and were able to make the connection between them so they could share best practices.
DCAT makes the most of using MAT MIS both to drill down into individual school data and look at broader trends. In particular, Stephen feels “the quick dashboards are just exceptionally useful. And being able to quickly drill down into a school’s data by clicking a few buttons.” If they want to find out more, staff “have the ability to log into a school’s MIS so that we can just quickly jump in and find out what’s happening.” A recent example is that a review of staff absence highlighted, on closer inspection, inconsistencies in the use of attendance codes. The trust was able to turn this into a training exercise to support office staff in recording attendance consistently.
Quick access to data is key when working across a growing organisation. Senior Education Leaders regularly meet to review data from across the trust and talk about the best way to improve school performance. They no longer have to wait for information from the school as they can access and analyse data before meeting with the Headteachers. This means that the time they have with them is much more productive and focussed on improvement. What’s more, comparisons can be drawn across schools and connections made to share ideas.
A particular focus at DCAT is attendance and they find it very useful to draw comparisons and set benchmarks for their schools so that they know where to focus. “We can quickly access that data seamlessly, have the conversation, create the links and move forward.”
Today’s guest blog is another from our very own Digital Customer Operations Analyst, Chelsea Hopkins, who was previously an school Attendance Officer. You can read more from Chelsea here, but in this blog, she looks into her top reports she thinks all Attendance Officers will find useful. Now as we know every single staff member
Today’s guest blog is another from our very own Digital Customer Operations Analyst, Chelsea Hopkins, who was previously an school Attendance Officer. You can read more from Chelsea here, but in this blog, she looks into her top reports she thinks all Attendance Officers will find useful.
Now as we know every single staff member that works in a school, only do so for the perks, the salary, job satisfaction, good work-life balance.
I’m smiling as I write that, but apparently, those people exist?!
Joking aside, I think I can confidently say that we all work in a school because for some crazy reason we want to make a real difference in this world and mould the future generation.
I’ve worked alongside many incredible people, who work their magic and are just incredible but they can’t work their magic on those that are simply not there. That’s why keeping an eye on your student’s attendance is crucial in improving the outcomes for our young people!
Now you will be glad to hear that Arbor is full of wonderful built-in Attendance reporting tools and I’m going to explain some really useful ones that can be used on a daily basis and reports that can be shared with others.
So we’ve all taken part in staff meetings, where we sit and learn that Year 11’s have decided that what they are wearing to prom, is far more important than focusing on their GCSEs.
….Or that the Year 8s think that harmlessly flipping bottles onto tables is no longer fun and have now started throwing them from balconies….
In a strange way, I looked forward to the meetings. It was a nice change speaking to actual human beings older than 16 after your day of having conversations with Year 9 students that turning up to school 15 minute late, just really isn’t acceptable.
(Spoiler! They obviously listened and decided to make a change, that change being turning up 30 minutes late instead.)
As an attendance officer, you can sometimes feel like a one-man band, so it’s useful to have an opportunity to share your data/concerns with other members of staff such as Head of Years, Senior Leadership Team, Pastoral staff etc…
I found it useful during my time as an attendance officer, to run reports and distribute the data. I have created an article on our help centre that details all the reports I liked to use, you can find the article here – Common Attendance Reports
Below I have listed the top 4 reports that I found most useful and why:
Attendance breakdown for the week
You can use attendance statistics to get this information. In the article above take a look at the Percentage Attendance Report with steps on how to do this. You will need to amend the dates to show a Monday, then re-run the report with dates for Tuesday etc…
I find this particularly useful as you begin to see if there are any days in which attendance drops.
Students that have been absent this week
You can view this information by the Absentees by date page in Arbor, take a look at the Session absences report in the article above.
As attendance officers our sole purpose is to monitor attendance. Whereas this is not the focus for other members of staff, it is useful for them to be reminded of students that were absent.
Students that have been late to school this week
In the attendance reporting article, take a look at the Minutes Late Report section.
Now ten minutes late here and there, we can overlook and forgive. However if a student is late every school day by 30 minutes, that’s 2.5 hours a week. if this was to continue for a month, that would amount to 10 hours, equivalent to 2 school days. It is useful to monitor this as minutes late, that build up, can amount to a significant amount of missed learning.
List of students that are currently a persistent absentee
To view a list of students that are currently persistent absentees, head to Students > Attendance > Absentees (on the left) > Persistent Absentees
It’s good practice to constantly be familiar with our students that are persistently absent. Even though teachers are incredible at their jobs, ultimately they can’t teach those that are absent. Sharing this data with other members of staff allows you to put in place interventions in a bid to improve attendance.
Arbor Community | School Operations
Today’s guest blog is from Chelsea Hopkins, Arbor’s Digital Customer Operations Analyst and former Attendance Officer, sharing her experience of working in schools. Everybody who has worked in a school knows that no two days are the same. However, my experience of being an Attendance Officer is that we will tend to have a routine/structure
Today’s guest blog is from Chelsea Hopkins, Arbor’s Digital Customer Operations Analyst and former Attendance Officer, sharing her experience of working in schools.
Everybody who has worked in a school knows that no two days are the same. However, my experience of being an Attendance Officer is that we will tend to have a routine/structure to our morning that we try to stick to.
I thought it would be fun to share my experience of being an Attendance Officer and how that would look whilst using Arbor. So here goes…
Let’s set the scene, it’s a dark gloomy winter morning. I’m already late as I didn’t factor in the extra ten minutes to defrost my car. I roll up to the empty car park, usually I was always the first person in!
I unlock my office door and turn on the lights and can see the phone blinking red with the voicemails from my parents. My first port of call – turn the kettle on!
Now armed with caffeine, I start my day.
The majority of Parents & Guardians would contact the school prior to the school day starting. They would get in touch via email, telephone, SMS. I would always add these reasons onto the system. There are a couple of ways you can do this.
First Method – Bulk Edit Marks
This is useful for one-off absences such as a headache or other minor ailments.
Second Method – Record a Planned Absence
This is useful for documenting long-term absences such as an injury where they won’t be back for a week. Or future absences such as a medical appointment or a holiday.
I would then refresh my memory from the day before and see who was absent and who I need to keep an eye on today. You can do this using the Absentee’s by Date page:
Then the school day starts and there is a buzz of chatter that fills the hallway. There is a year 11 student in the corner that is crying because they’ve broken up for the twelfth time this week with their significant other (it’s Tuesday).
Amongst the crowd, you see a student that is radiating a pale green colour and is making a beeline to your office to tell you they do not feel well. You ask the student, “Who’s sent you?”, to which they reply “Miss Smith”. You make a mental note to thank Miss Smith later for sending a student to your shoebox office.
You call home for this student, someone’s on their way to collect them and you ask the student to wait in main reception. You say, “hope you feel better soon” as they are leaving, before lunging for the disinfectant.
Then all went quiet, the students are in lessons, time for the dreaded late duty!
I make a note of all the students coming in late and what time they arrive. I would like to tell you that I was kept entertained by an array of elaborate excuses. Unfortunately, when working in a secondary all you get is “slept in” or “you should be glad I even came” and well, we can’t argue with their honesty!
I then add the late marks via Bulk Edit Marks and I can then monitor/report on these students via Latecomers!
Now that the late duty has been done, time to see who is in and who isn’t!
Of course, Mr Andrews is yet to complete his register, let’s send him his first reminder of the day. (Sending reminders to complete registers or completing them for teachers)
Now to chase all the students that have been marked absent and we don’t know why. In Arbor you can do this on the Absentee’s by Date page:
I tick all the students and then use the Blue Pencil tool and select Follow-up with Guardians.
For most, receiving an SMS/Email will prompt them to call the school and explain the absence. For others, I need to initiate that phone call, so I look back at my list of absent students and identify who will need that phone call.
I can see that Lucy is off today, something is ringing a bell with this student. So, I go to her profile and look at her attendance record. You can do this by:
Looking at the Marks (by Date) section I can see clearly that Lucy has had the last 5 Tuesdays off and that a pattern is forming, I can also see she has double science on a Tuesday afternoon… interesting.
I called home and was told Lucy had a headache, but I also explained my concerns. Feeling rumbled, Lucy made a sudden recovery and will be coming in this afternoon! I also log this telephone call along with all the other calls I made this morning.
Once I’ve followed up with all my guardians, I then like to have a quick skim over my absent students from today regardless of what absence code they have. I can see this overview via the Absentees by date page:
I do this just to ensure that I always have a clear idea of who is absent and make sure I have accounted for everyone. I also like to check my students that are accumulating consecutive days of absence. I can view this from the Continuous Absence page. This will then allow me to identify those who may benefit from a home visit.
Oh and of course, one of the students that lives 5 miles from the school is off today and we have chased a reason for absence, but no joy! Home visit it is.
So, there it is, a morning as an Arbor Attendance Officer! Let me know what you think and what other Attendance topics you would like me to cover.
In recent years, the National Cyber Security Centre has reported an increase in the number of cyber attacks targeting the UK education sector. These attacks target data which they encrypt so that users can no longer access it. Sometimes cyber attackers demand a ransom in exchange for restoring access to the data, which is where
In recent years, the National Cyber Security Centre has reported an increase in the number of cyber attacks targeting the UK education sector. These attacks target data which they encrypt so that users can no longer access it. Sometimes cyber attackers demand a ransom in exchange for restoring access to the data, which is where the term ‘ransomware’ comes from.
Ransomware attacks happen most often through emails which contain malicious links or attached files. They can also happen through ‘phishing’ emails where senders pretend to be an organisation or a person you know. In both cases hackers are trying to steal user credentials, or gain entry to IT systems.
Ransomware typically encrypts data files, then demands payment of a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. There is never any guarantee that the key will work and you only find this out after payment has been made.
The best advice is to stay alert. If an email or advert looks suspicious, don’t click on any links or attachments, and always report it to your IT team or Data Protection Officer. Having strong passwords is also important. Remember that the length of passwords is the single most important factor. Any password less than 10 characters long can be hacked by brute force in under a minute!
Tip: You can edit your school’s password rules in Arbor to make sure your users have strong passwords, and set the frequency that staff need to change them.
Here at Arbor we’re proud to exceed the MIS industry standard when it comes to keeping your data safe. We are accredited by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) – an independent, non-governmental international organisation that ensures the quality and safety of software like Arbor around the world. We are accredited under ISO27001 – the international benchmark for data security.
We also store data on our central cloud-based system rather than on any individual device or server, which means if there’s a security breach at your school, your data is less likely to be lost or compromised. Your data is also backed up daily so we can quickly and easily restore access should you have a security incident. You can read more about how we protect your data in our blog here.
Whilst cyber attacks are very rare, it’s always good to be prepared. Your school or MAT Data Protection Officer should have a wider plan in place for what to do if you get a ransomware attack, but here are some quick and simple steps you can take in Arbor:
The first step we’d recommend is recycling your login information. This will help to make sure that any passwords that have been compromised as part of the ransomware attack no longer work. In Arbor you can either:
If your Data Protection Officer recommends disabling access to systems until the issue is resolved, there are a couple of options in Arbor:
As part of your continuity plans, make sure you’ve developed an internal and external communication strategy. It’s important that the right information reaches the right people at the right time, so that your team knows what’s happening and what they should do next. For steps on sending communications using Arbor, check out our help materials here.
Whilst we hope you never have to deal with a cyber attack, if you do we’ll be here to support you with anything related to accessing your Arbor data.
Today’s blog is an interview with Kirsten Beaven, the School Business Leader at Vaughan Primary School (674) since 2018. The interview was part of a wider research project into how Arbor saves schools money and time. Part of the project involved surveying over 300 SBMs and COOs about how they’re making sure their MIS is
Today’s blog is an interview with Kirsten Beaven, the School Business Leader at Vaughan Primary School (674) since 2018.
The interview was part of a wider research project into how Arbor saves schools money and time. Part of the project involved surveying over 300 SBMs and COOs about how they’re making sure their MIS is doing exactly that – you can download the report for free and hear from more SBMs here.
Arbor’s new report investigating the ROI schools and trusts get from our MIS.
During lockdown, our school realised the underinvestment we’d made into our ICT systems – we were reliant on legacy systems and antiquated manual processes. I was asked to lead a digital transformation project, creating a strategy that overhauled our systems from a core teaching and learning point of view, from an internal systems perspective and how we interface with stakeholders. All of those things that we need to do effectively to continue the popularity of our school, filling our pan and being funded appropriately.
In February 2022, we kickstarted this project and began to do away with the legacy systems and on prem solutions that we had. Servers were taking up lots of room, consuming lots of energy (particularly as kept air conditioned) and didn’t give staff flexibility – I lost count of the number of times I had to come onsite to get access to something stored beyond the system. We carried out detailed system analysis and realised we were buying into an unnecessary amount of additional systems, simply because our previous MIS didn’t support those functions that were necessary to school life: things like assessment of children’s progress, school meals, receiving payments from parents, school club provision etc. Back in February 2022, we were having to interface all these additional apps into our MIS, sometimes having to export and import continually to allow for the most up-to-date information. Not only were the additional subscriptions and applications costly, but also labour intensive from an administrative and organisational point of view.
Another significant cost was the MIS maintenance and support costs which we had to buy into from our Local Authority, when our previous MIS had to be upgraded or tweaked in the form of rolling out patches and updates, in order to support the specialist support team there.
When we looked at what we currently bought into, there was almost £19,000 worth of additional subscriptions and costs that we could effectively eliminate by moving to Arbor.
We did thorough market research, looking at other cloud providers to make sure we found the right fit for our school. What we liked about Arbor was the deep functionality – and that it joined up our processes across the school. Just having those elements talking to each other and connecting the dots is what makes the difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of the school as a whole. It’s logical thinking, and it seems evident, at least to me, that those building the system really understand education in terms of the administrative functions around it and the impact it will have on staff and students.
One good example was a previous pain point of ours, which was parents pre-ordering school meals for their children, but if the student was absent on the day, the kitchen wouldn’t be informed – this led to parents still wanting a refund and food waste, as well as the manual work this creates in order to smooth these external relationships. In Arbor, because the system is interconnected and all the different elements speak to each other, this updates automatically.
We used to spend almost £1000 a year on generating booklets to manage admissions, with parents expected to fill them out, and then our admin team manually inputting this information into the MIS. That process of transposing that information took our office team two weeks in the summer, and had an impact on data accuracy where things weren’t clearly written down. And when September would come around, there would be a mad rush of trying to correct these details when the office is already busy dealing with lots of queries that the new academic year brings.
Not only that, but I previously had to bring in an agency temp to help my office team with a volume of paperwork that was received on the admissions side. We hadn’t received everything we needed, resulting in phonecalls and chasing outstanding paperwork. Now we just click a button and send automatic reminders.
Having the Parent Portal is a massive step forward for us, then, in terms of both cost and time-saving. You’re improving data not only data accuracy, saving paper and the environment, reducing cost and relieving administrative burden on the office staff. The team then has more time to give a more personalised approach for those that do need it that way, e.g. for parents with less digital capability or those with EASL.
Having an MIS with deeper functionality, and connecting those dots across the system, relieves the administrative burden on school staff, which in my opinion, gives staff the capacity to concentrate on those higher value activities. Those things you might not always have the day-to-day bandwidth to support.
For instance, last term, we had an external organisation come in to run some financial management workshops for parents, as we wanted to recognise that some of our families are facing challenges in today’s economic climate and work with them to develop skills which help them back into the workforce or to manage their day-to-day home finances better. In the past, we wouldn’t have necessarily had the time or bandwidth to organise that in terms of administration, marketing, facilitation etc, but now that is a real example where we can say we have made a difference by and added value
We can put more of our energy into doing those kinds of things that benefit our wider community, help our families, or even simple things, like increasing our tours and marketing to make sure we receive the maximum amount of funding that we are eligible for. Because if your numbers are below pan, you’ve still got to staff the same classrooms, which puts the students at a disadvantage. So for me, marketing and lettings and generating additional income to supplement the school budget is critical, because it impacts student outcomes. With the right MIS, you should be able to free up some of the administrative capacity to manage that.
And that’s not only good for budgeting reasons – you also want to keep things interesting for people, which supports staff engagement too. Certain things have to happen at certain times in schools, and some of the more labour intensive work can be more monotonous, which causes peaks and troughs in terms of individual workload, particularly when we were dependent on lots of manual processes. Arbor is helping us to level off those peaks effectively. Of course, we’re still busy, but not to the point where people are completely overwhelmed and where work is more interesting that supports staff development, recruitment and retention.
Third party applications and support contracts: £19,638 annually
Server, warranties and maintenance: £4,000 annually
Other savings e.g. admission booklets: £1,000 annually
Don’t yet use Arbor? Find out more about our school MIS here.
We are excited to announce that Arbor Finance, formerly RM Finance, has recently been chosen by East Sussex Local Authority as the new accounting system for its 111 schools. Arbor Finance was recently brought into the Arbor Education family, home to the UK’s most-loved school software. This fantastic opportunity in East Sussex represents the first
We are excited to announce that Arbor Finance, formerly RM Finance, has recently been chosen by East Sussex Local Authority as the new accounting system for its 111 schools.
Arbor Finance was recently brought into the Arbor Education family, home to the UK’s most-loved school software.
This fantastic opportunity in East Sussex represents the first success of our team working together in the group. We’re looking forward to working with East Sussex Local Authority and rolling this out across their schools, who join the other 1,250 schools across the UK already using Arbor Finance.
Arbor Finance provides simple and affordable cloud-based accounting software designed for maintained schools, with easy-to-use features:
Plus, Arbor Finance has the highest customer satisfaction (CSAT) score amongst Local Authority Maintained schools, as shown by a 2021 survey done on behalf of The Key.
Looking for a new school budgeting and accounting system for your maintained school? Find out more about Arbor Finance here.
How is it the end of June already?! With summer break fast approaching, we’ve been working hard to deliver a host of updates and improvements to get ready for the new school year. What’s new in Arbor MIS At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. Here are
How is it the end of June already?! With summer break fast approaching, we’ve been working hard to deliver a host of updates and improvements to get ready for the new school year.
At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. Here are just some of our recent launches and updates:
Custom Report Cards
Build report cards tailored to your school’s needs. You can now build a completely customised report card that looks and feels like your school, and pull in the exact data you want, directly from Arbor MIS.
DfE Primary Assessment Benchmarks
See where you sit nationally, where you’re excelling, identify areas for improvement and look back at previous academic years. Arbor shows you the national average and the percentile your school is in for:
Statutory Attendance for Schools and MATs
New Statutory Attendance KPI added to your MIS homepage KPIs. You can now see Statutory Attendance for students aged 5-15 who are not enrolled as Guest pupils.
New fields available in Custom Report Writer
We’ve added some great new fields to the Custom Report Writer in the past month, making it easier for you to see and analyse the data you need.
MAT MIS is custom-built for better collaboration across your trust, with tools that make it easy to work together as one organisation.
New School Year Setup Audit
Keep track of your school’s new school year setup from your MAT MIS with New School Year Setup Audit. You can easily see how all of your schools are progressing with their preparation for the new year, and find out which steps schools have completed and which are outstanding, directly from your MAT MIS.
DfE Primary Assessment Benchmarks in MAT MIS
See where your schools sit nationally, where they’re excelling, identify areas for improvement and look back at previous academic years. Arbor shows you the national average for your schools for:
Do you need to look up a specific staff member but can’t remember exactly what school they work in? You can now see a list of all your staff from across your trust, their school and their job role. Click directly through to their staff record from MAT MIS, saving you time and effort.
Across your trust, you want to make sure all your staff are getting the most out of your MIS. In MAT MIS you can now get insight into key user information. Identify staff who are regularly engaging in Arbor MIS, those who may need a gentle reminder to login and any staff who no longer work at your trust and need removing.
Data and Insight | Product release
We’re so excited to announce that we have launched benchmarks for DfE Primary Assessments in Arbor MIS and MAT MIS! No more waiting months to see how your school performed compared to the rest of the country, Arbor’s benchmarks update live as new results get added! With over 3,000 Primary Schools using Arbor, we’ve built
We’re so excited to announce that we have launched benchmarks for DfE Primary Assessments in Arbor MIS and MAT MIS!
No more waiting months to see how your school performed compared to the rest of the country, Arbor’s benchmarks update live as new results get added! With over 3,000 Primary Schools using Arbor, we’ve built a unique, live dataset to help you benchmark your DfE Primary Assessment results today.
Arbor shows you the national average and the percentile your school is in for EYFS Level of development, KS1 Year 1 Phonics Screening Check, KS1 Reading, Writing, Maths, KS2 Reading, Writing, Maths and KS2 Multiplication. See where you sit nationally, where you’re excelling, identify areas for improvement and look back at previous academic years
Give your staff the insight to understand the effectiveness of their teaching, learning and interventions before the next academic year
At Arbor, we pride ourselves on using the latest technology and data available to deliver you the information you need as soon as it’s ready
Primary Assessment Benchmarks are available in the DfE Assessments section of Arbor MIS and in the Assessments – Attainment & Progress section of MAT MIS. Visit our Help Centre for more information.
Arbor’s Live National Benchmarks gives you both a national average and national percentile.
National averages offer you a standardised measure of performance across Arbor Schools. By comparing your students’ achievements to the national average, you gain valuable insights into their overall progress.
National percentiles offer you the context behind the numbers and a powerful tool for self-comparison. By examining a your performance relative to other schools performances, you gain a comprehensive understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
Using both national averages and percentiles, you can pinpoint specific subjects or topics in which your students excel or struggle compared to the wider student population.
Did you know that Arbor also has Live National Benchmarks for Attendance? Arbor’s Live National Attendance Benchmarks give you a snapshot of what is happening across all Arbor schools on that exact day, helping you respond faster and take action straight away.
For more information on our Live National Attendance Benchmarks visit our Help Centre today.
Arbor’s benchmarks use data from Arbor MIS schools only. As the largest cloud MIS provider at Arbor, we’re able to provide nationally representative benchmarks for DfE Primary Assessments. We have validated the quality of our benchmarks against figures published by the DfE for 2021/22 and found that we differ by at most a couple of %. Arbor’s national benchmarks will update in real-time once there is a large enough sample size; over 100 schools with over 100 pupils.
Data and Insight
Welcome to Arbor’s Data Drop. Our philosophy at Arbor is that staff should have direct, easy access to their data – and be able to do something meaningful with it. Our MIS is built on a world-class data platform, which allows us to deliver things like national-level benchmarking to schools and trusts within seconds, rather
Welcome to Arbor’s Data Drop. Our philosophy at Arbor is that staff should have direct, easy access to their data – and be able to do something meaningful with it. Our MIS is built on a world-class data platform, which allows us to deliver things like national-level benchmarking to schools and trusts within seconds, rather than hours or days. And allows schools to make real-time, data-driven decisions.
This series is designed to share insights from our data warehouse (containing the data of c.4000 schools), to shed light on the wider patterns emerging across the education sector.
In this edition of The Data Drop, we’re looking at attendance, specifically for Pupil Premium eligible and SEN students – the data we’re presenting is from 1/09/2022 to 19/05/2023.
Before we look more closely at these categories, it’s worth noting the general trends across Primary and Secondary Schools in this time frame. Overall, attendance is lower in Secondary than in Primary Schools year to date – 90.4% compared to 93.7%. Plus, persistent absenteeism (students with less than 90% attendance) is far higher, with 30.6% of students in Secondary Schools identified as Persistent Absentees, compared with 19.4% in Primary Schools.
We wanted to take a closer look at how attendance patterns varied when separating out the data for Pupil Premium eligible students. In Primary Schools, the percentage of Pupil Premium eligible students who are persistently absent (30.1%) was nearly double that of those students who were not Pupil Premium eligible (15.4%). A similar trend can be seen in Secondary Schools, with 42.2% of Pupil Premium eligible identified as persistent absentees, compared with 23.3% of non-Pupil Premium eligible students.
Overall attendance was also significantly lower for Pupil Premium eligible students across both phases:
Primary Schools: 91.4% vs. 94.6%
Secondary Schools: 86.3% vs 92.3%
Similar patterns also emerged when looking at the data of SEN vs. non-SEN students across both phases (not including Special Schools). In Primary Schools, 28.1% of SEN students are persistently absent, compared with 17.5% amongst non-SEN students. In Secondary Schools, 40% of SEN students are identified as persistent absentees, compared with 25.9% of non-SEN students. Though the difference is not as stark as with Pupil Premium eligible students, there is still a significant gap
The same can be said about overall attendance of SEN students vs. non-SEN students:
Primary Schools: 91.5% for SEN students vs. 94.2% for non-SEN students
Secondary Schools: 86.1% for SEN students vs 91.7% for non-SEN students
Data is taken from 01/09/2022 – 19/05/2023
This data is taken from Arbor’s data warehouse – statistically accurate within 0.01% of the data from the Department of Education.
Present: Percentage of ‘present’ records out of all ‘possible’ records. This conforms to the DfE methodology for calculating attendance in the performance tables. Examples of ‘impossible’ sessions include those where the student is not of compulsory school age or where the school is closed (including for strikes).
Persistent Absenteeism: A student is considered persistently absent if their attendance is under 90%.
At Arbor, we’re on a mission to help schools make the most out of their data. Want to see how your school’s attendance data compares with other schools in the country? Find out more about Arbor’s Live National Benchmarks, built into your school MIS.
What is operational efficiency? Operational efficiency can sometimes feel like a bit of a dirty word. It smacks of budget cuts, of the prioritisation of KPIs over people and of poor quality. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, I argue many of the associations above come from people not taking into
Operational efficiency can sometimes feel like a bit of a dirty word. It smacks of budget cuts, of the prioritisation of KPIs over people and of poor quality.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, I argue many of the associations above come from people not taking into account actual efficiency when making their decisions. If carried out thoughtfully and carefully, a strive for true operational efficiency should result in a happier workforce and a reduced workload.
For me, operation efficiency is defined by the amount of administrative overhead required to carry out your work. In an ideal world, everyone would spend most of their time on their core role, with a small amount of time dedicated to the admin around that. This might seem obvious, but how many of us could truthfully say that we spend less than 10% of our time on admin?
Going from an inefficient workplace to an efficient workplace takes time, investment and people, all of which are usually already earmarked for work that relates more directly to what your workplace does. If you’re a school, that might be teaching, for a company like Arbor, that’s the work of delivering a reliable platform to our customers. Taking time and people away from that work feels incredibly counter-intuitive – after all, it’s already hard enough to get everything done without giving away a load of time to some work on systems and processes.
I love working through systems and reviewing processes to find areas where they’re overcomplicated, but even I’ll admit that most people don’t find that thrilling. That can make it even harder to choose to give your (already stretched) attention to the work needed for a more efficient workplace, when there are so many exciting and new things to be looking at.
I’ve been working in this area for most of my career and I have never considered the time invested in improving efficiency wasted. From halving the workload of an analytics team, thus allowing them to carry out more complex and bespoke analyses, to reducing the errors in school migrations onto our platform by 90%, the results speak for themselves. But the benefits of increased efficiency go beyond simply improving the work produced. I’ve seen happier, more productive teams, better relationships between departments and improved flexibility, as people are able to step away from mundane, repetitive tasks and truly focus on their work.
Before diving into creating a new system or process, it’s always worth a quick sense check to make sure it’s worth the time. Will you be doing this task on a regular basis? How long does it take? How long will it take to automate/create a system? For instance, if the task takes two hours and automating it takes six hours, it’s only worth it if you know you’ll be doing that task at least four times.
A colleague of mine used to say he aimed for ‘minimum viable bureaucracy’ and that’s stuck with me ever since. It can be really tempting to try to address all possible scenarios once you’ve decided to commit to making a large-scale change, but that can slow you up more than it’s worth. While some systems will be difficult to change after the fact (and it’s always worth checking that with the provider), many will be easy to adjust as new circumstances come up.
So many people in my role come in with the view that they know more than the rest of the business about managing their workload. I don’t believe that should ever be the case. At the end of the day, no one knows your workplace better than the people who work there. Before getting into any large change, I do my best to speak to representatives from all areas of the company, so that I can make sure my perception reflects the actual experience of the people working there.
Even bearing all of this in mind, it can feel quite daunting to start a project like this. To help, there are a few exercises I like to go through. Firstly, you’ll need to decide how much resource (time or money) you’re willing to invest. This will help you keep everything on track and on budget as you go. Next, decide on the single biggest outcome you’re hoping for. Once you have that, you can work backwards to understand everything you need to allow you to achieve that outcome. If any external systems are involved in your work, it can be a good idea to speak directly with the providers, as they may be able to help you find the most efficient way to achieve your goals.
Most importantly, don’t forget to keep reminding yourself on why it’s worth it. Keep going back to those key points of why you started your project in the first place, celebrate the small wins, and look forward to a (hopefully!) reduced workload and happier workforce.
At Arbor, we believe your MIS should be doing the heavy lifting for you when it comes to laborious and manual admin. Find out more about our time-saving cloud MIS here so that you can spend your time on what matters most.
I’m thrilled to welcome the schools, platforms and teams behind RM Integris, RM Finance and RM Accounts to The Key Group today. There has been a lot going on in the world of Management Information Systems over the past year; schools have realised that cloud-based systems can open up an entirely new way of more
I’m thrilled to welcome the schools, platforms and teams behind RM Integris, RM Finance and RM Accounts to The Key Group today.
There has been a lot going on in the world of Management Information Systems over the past year; schools have realised that cloud-based systems can open up an entirely new way of more flexible working, and thousands have switched away from legacy systems en masse. It is our belief that this new way of working will be transformational for the sector, allowing schools greater efficiency and flexibility in how they work, giving instant insight into student performance and automating repetitive administrative tasks, all of which will allow teachers to focus on what they do best, teaching.
I’m super excited to welcome a new group of people who share this vision onto the team, as RM Integris, RM Finance and RM Accounts join The Key Group as part of the MIS Division. I thought I’d give a bit more background about how this has come about and what it means for schools.
Combining RM Integris with Arbor and ScholarPack means we now serve over 7,000 schools, and can further increase our investment into product and service to provide outstanding value to our schools. For example, given our scale we can provide live, nationally representative, hyper-personalised benchmarking to the sector. This will allow schools and Trusts to understand their performance in context without having to wait until national data is released on an annual basis.
We have been really impressed when meeting with the team to see how much we’re aligned about wanting to make a lasting, positive impact on the sector. Doing the right thing for customers is absolutely ingrained in what we do, and I’m delighted to be working with such genuinely mission-driven people. You should see this in your interactions with them and us.
RM Integris and RM Finance have one of the highest satisfaction ratings in the sector, second only to Arbor and ScholarPack. There are no current plans to merge or migrate platforms – indeed we will now be able to offer our LA maintained customers RM Finance to bring the same high levels of user experience and flexibility to finance that they currently experience with their MIS.
We will use our increased size and scale to focus on improving product innovation and support across all brands, and customers should see a marked increase in value as they get additional features as part of their existing package.
If you’re an RM Integris, RM Finance, RM Accounts, Arbor or ScholarPack school you don’t need to do anything, but if you have any questions or want to find out more information then please speak with your Account Manager.
Have you Asked Arbor that? Today I’m super excited to introduce Ask Arbor – your new collaborator and assistant in Arbor, powered by OpenAI. Ask Arbor is built seamlessly into Arbor MIS, and is designed to turn your words into actions wherever you see it pop up. Want to know how attendance compares across year
Today I’m super excited to introduce Ask Arbor – your new collaborator and assistant in Arbor, powered by OpenAI.
Ask Arbor is built seamlessly into Arbor MIS, and is designed to turn your words into actions wherever you see it pop up.
Want to know how attendance compares across year groups this term? Ask Arbor. Need to draft a difficult letter to parents and guardians this morning? Ask Arbor. Looking for a quick way to create a student report? You can Ask Arbor that too.
Ask Arbor is designed to reduce busywork, make it simpler to get the data you need, and bring ideas to life. All of which should give you back your time for more strategic work, more time spent making use of your data, and more time with students and staff.
Here’s a sneak preview of what Ask Arbor can do:
Ask Arbor a question, and it will come back with an answer in plain English. Ask Arbor will also show you the data informing its answer as a custom report which you can edit, download, and share with colleagues.
✔ Become a data superuser – Ask Arbor makes it simpler to create reports and find the information you need, especially for staff members who feel less confident with data
✔ Permissioning built-in by default – Because Ask Arbor creates reports in the Custom Report Writer, your Arbor permissions are automatically applied – making sure staff can only see the data they’re allowed to
Tell us the topic you want to write about, or provide a few prompts. Ask Arbor will then create a draft for you to review and send.
✔ Make Arbor into a copywriter! – Not sure how to phrase something? Need some time back this morning? Let Arbor know what your email, letter or SMS is about, tell it the tone of voice you want to adopt, and Ask Arbor will produce a draft in seconds
Ask Arbor to use data in the Student Profile, and your own comments, to make a speedy report card for parents
✔ Save time, without compromising on detail – Ask Arbor will summarise key data points about your students, and combine it with written comments from you, to produce a quick report for parents. It will even add in comments to address your students directly!
I wanted to end by giving some insight into the way we’ve gone about designing and building Ask Arbor. Together with our parent company, The Key Group, we’ve been reflecting on the social and ethical implications of AI, and studying the work of organisations like The Institute for Ethical AI in Education and the Council of Europe.
From this, we have developed five core principles that will underpin our upcoming AI development. Through working closely with our colleagues at The Key Group, our goal is to lead the way in taking an ethical, transparent and school-first approach to implementing AI in our platforms. You can read more about our five core principles here.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that Ask Arbor is an experiment and, like all AI tools, may give inaccurate or inappropriate responses. We’ll be rolling it out (and adding more actions to its repertoire) very soon – your feedback will be critical in helping to make it as useful as possible. Watch this space (and catch our demo at Bett!) – we can’t wait to hear what you think.
On 9th June 2023, we’re celebrating #NationalSBLDay in collaboration with our partners SBS. National School Business Leaders Day celebrates the incredible impact School Business Leaders have in schools and the wider community. Check out the event. Staff in schools working in lots of new ways right now (and harder than ever before), with School Business
On 9th June 2023, we’re celebrating #NationalSBLDay in collaboration with our partners SBS. National School Business Leaders Day celebrates the incredible impact School Business Leaders have in schools and the wider community. Check out the event.
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.
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:
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!
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
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
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.
Case Studies | Migration
Our blog today is an interview with Tim Moore, Data Manager at The Hyndburn Academy. Read a longer version of this interview and hear from more Data Managers in the Arbor community in our free ebook – download your copy here. – How did you become a Data Manager? I started out as a Network
Our blog today is an interview with Tim Moore, Data Manager at The Hyndburn Academy. Read a longer version of this interview and hear from more Data Managers in the Arbor community in our free ebook – download your copy here.
I started out as a Network Manager in a secondary school, and then became a teacher. The Data Manager at one of the schools where I taught left quite suddenly, so I stepped in to help. Over time, I realised I really enjoyed being in and amongst the school data. I’m lucky enough, in my current school, to still have fingers in both pies: I am both the Data Manager and a Computing Teacher, so it’s an unusual one!
We actually used the move as an opportunity to look at our behaviour systems and assessment structures. What we didn’t do, and I think is a pitfall of some, is try to replicate everything that we did in our previous MIS in Arbor. We helped to set the expectation that this was going to be a change for the better, rather than doing exactly the same thing we had done before but in the cloud. It meant we could use the new system to the best of our ability.
The same things that come up in school life will always come up whichever MIS you use: moving children from Set A to B, making timetable changes and setting up mock exams. It’s about having the tools to do those things efficiently and effectively. Census is the best example. In the old days, I would have had a big notice on my door that read, ‘Census – do not disturb’ and spent days sitting through endless lists of problems, frantically searching forums for answers about patches and workarounds. I don’t have to do that anymore. I can just do my job as it’s supposed to be done. Now, much less of my time is spent doing manual tasks, and none of my time is spent worrying about a server. It’s freed up time to focus on more complex data analysis for SLT so that we can actually drill down into issues.
I build trackers for different departments so that our data is healthy as a school, and then I can provide this clean data to SLT so they can make data-driven decisions. Because the data is visible, it means we can have a holistic view of the school and use our data more strategically, so we can better ascertain our impact and plan ahead.
It all comes back to problem-solving. I enjoy solving other people’s problems through data tools that I’ve built and trying to make people’s lives easier, showing them all the cool stuff they can do.
For more interviews, features and insights from Arbor users, read our Data Manager’s Guide to Arbor – download for free here.
Or discover more of our content for Data Managers here.
We know there’s always pressures on schools and trusts to grow, retain staff and improve staff wellbeing and culture. But creating and executing a good people and culture strategy is no mean feat to achieve in the context of the great resignation, cost-of-living crisis and other challenges that schools and trusts face daily. Last year,
We know there’s always pressures on schools and trusts to grow, retain staff and improve staff wellbeing and culture. But creating and executing a good people and culture strategy is no mean feat to achieve in the context of the great resignation, cost-of-living crisis and other challenges that schools and trusts face daily.
Last year, in the context of taking on hundreds of new schools and trusts, we hired 100 new people at Arbor. At the same time, we managed to exceed our retention goal of 80%, maintain our ENPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) at above 40 and sustain a strong company culture! I thought it might therefore be interesting to share my learnings from the past year as Arbor’s Head of People and Culture, to see if any insights might be useful to those also going through rapid growth or taking on new schools.
This first point is the easiest to talk about. A good people plan or strategy is critical, because people are the most important part of any organisation.
What’s slightly harder to answer is what makes a ‘good’ people and culture strategy. I think we have to go back to basics here and make sure every people strategy is people-focused, which sounds obvious, but it can easily be overlooked. There’s a reason at Arbor that we call ourselves the People and Culture team (rather than HR) and it’s because we are always human-first. It’s important that this gets buy-in from the wider team, as a people strategy should align with the general business strategy.
As well as this, a good people strategy will unlock the full potential of our people. I think this is summed up quite well by our unofficial mantra in the People and Culture team: giving people the tools to do their best work, in an engaged and inclusive culture where they can bring their full selves to work.
As much as having your finger on the pulse of things is important just by the ‘feel’ of the company, I really believe in using data to understand where we are as a business and to inform our future strategy. We do this in several ways:
This helps us to anonymously monitor employee engagement, employee feeling, and employee sentiment. Anything above 0 is considered good, but our target is to have our ENPS at about 40, where we have averaged over the past 12 months – which makes me really proud.
We measure ourselves against time to hire, diversity of our recruitment pipeline and the quality of hire (e.g. if individuals make it through their probation period and tracking that everyone is progressing as we would expect them to.)
Last year (2022), over 30% of our employees were either moved or were promoted into a new role, which is way above anything I’ve seen in businesses that I’ve worked in before. Rightfully so, people want to be in roles that they enjoy and where they have a sense of value and self-worth. We’re lucky that by working for Arbor we get to demonstrate real value by improving the education sector, but it’s my job to create an environment where people can feel self worth internally and how they progress. This is reflected in the roles of school staff who do a very ‘rewarding’ job, but it’s important that individuals working in schools feel that their role is fulfilling and that they are progressing. We have a dedicated person who owns learning and development within our teams.
We also encourage employees to use our dedicated tool for anonymous feedback, which goes directly to senior management. We make sure once a week that, as a senior management team, we take the time to respond to these, both privately but also where appropriate in a public setting such as a company-wide town hall. I would recommend setting up monitored and transparent feedback loops and to take them seriously as an organisation. This gives employees a voice and shows that we listen and act, but also gives the space for senior management to respond and explain.
Culture can be actually quite tough to quantify as a lot of it’s quite intangible. It’s the things that you know are there but can’t necessarily explain. Having said that, I do think a good school or company culture should be easy to describe.
At Arbor, we do pulse surveys, welcome interviews and stay interviews, as it’s important to get a measure on how the culture feels to someone who’s just onboarded, as well as someone who has been in the organisation for many years. More importantly, it’s acting on the feedback you receive, especially where you start to see trends.
We do more thorough surveys annually where we encourage every employee to go into detail on areas surrounding leadership, communication, wellness and general culture. Importantly, we have a team of people with the word ‘culture’ in their titles – this shows how much weight we give this in the business. It’s why it’s important to me that my title is ‘Head of People and Culture’, because it comes back to my original point of a people strategy being personal and human-first.
It’s also important to me that CEO, James, is so passionate about our people strategy as he becomes almost an extension of our team. He’s a real driver for people and culture as well, meaning the people agenda is heavily prioritised. Having this buy-in from the business, as well as clear lines of communication, action and accountability, means that our people and culture strategy can be more impactful.
Your people strategy will change based on the phase of the journey that you’re on. So having an organisation in a zero to 50 employee range is going to be very different to when you’re 250 plus. The answer is not to just continue to increase headcount and increase the size of your team.
We’ve obviously scaled massively in the last year and flexibility in our approach has been crucial. You have to drop things and pick things up as and when. But how can you make sure you’re not losing sight of what you’re trying to do but also still tackle some of the more urgent business needs?
A starting point is to clearly define roles and responsibilities within your organisation, as well as assigning clear goals and using a prioritisation framework within that as well. Setting out non-negotiables. Having this framework helps teams to focus on things that are going to continue pushing the business forward, without compromising on business need.
It’s also important to have the right processes and systems in place. These can’t break as you scale, as it’s really difficult to retrospectively fix and mend when your organisation is moving at such a fast pace. To make sure of this, we commit to continuous review of our systems and processes. Typically every process or policy will be reviewed on at least an annual basis – and this review cycle includes getting feedback and input from employees to make sure they continue to be impactful. If you’re able to streamline, then your processes and systems should reduce the amount of manual and administrative work done by your teams, so they have more time to deliver genuine impact.
Because people are the most important part of any organisation, having a clearly defined people and culture strategy is critical. And, hand-in-hand with this, recognising that a people strategy is a vital organisational function.
At Arbor, I’m really proud of the people that we have working for us. I think all of those people are so driven around our mission and focused on improving education that it makes me really energised and really happy to come to work every day.
Whilst I know that Arbor as a business will function inherently differently, I hope some of these insights or principles are useful to those working on HR in schools or trusts. If nothing else, remember to be people-first, always!
With summer fast approaching, we’ve been working hard to deliver a host of updates and improvements before the holidays begin. What’s new in Arbor MIS At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. Here are just some of our recent launches and updates: Communications Designer Format
With summer fast approaching, we’ve been working hard to deliver a host of updates and improvements before the holidays begin.
Format your emails and text exactly the way you want to. Our new designer tool gives you the flexibility to set your own fonts and colours, undo and redo, and add in tables and merge fields. Plus, it’s all controllable from your keyboard.
DfE Assessments in report cards
We’ve made it much easier to share DfE Assessment results with parents and students! No more manual sends, you can now add DfE Assessments from any academic year to both long and short report cards.
Invoice status for parents
Our update to the invoice status on Parent Portal and the Arbor App gives your parents more visibility on the exact status of their invoices, either ‘Paid’, ‘Issued’ or ‘Cancelled’.
Check staff member user access
Want to check which areas of Arbor your staff can access? Now you can easily see whether staff can access a page and the required permissions using the page URL.
Updates to our Exam module
With exam season in full swing, we’ve made some improvements to our Exam module we hope you’ll love from being able to download exam seating plans in all available formats to updates to access arrangements. Visit our Exams section of the Help Centre for more information.
EYFS Analysis in MAT MIS
EYFS DfE Assessments is now in MAT MIS. Just like on the School MIS, you can now analyse your EYFS DfE Assessments, as well as KS1 and KS2 results all from MAT MIS.
Need to bulk copy your setup from the previous year? You can now do this in MAT MIS! We’ve made setting up and copying your Shared Teaching courses and timetable slots much easier, with bulk copy setup.
New BI Connector Datasets
As part of our plan to continue to evolve our BI Connector, we’ve added Ad Hoc Assessments dataset.
cloud | Migration
Over 9,000 schools have already moved to the cloud, with more than 2 in 3 who switch choosing Arbor. But some Data Managers still have concerns about what using a cloud MIS will mean for them and their school. We recently released a guide for School Data Managers who are thinking about moving to a
Over 9,000 schools have already moved to the cloud, with more than 2 in 3 who switch choosing Arbor. But some Data Managers still have concerns about what using a cloud MIS will mean for them and their school.
We recently released a guide for School Data Managers who are thinking about moving to a cloud MIS. Hear from Data Managers who are part of the Arbor Community speaking about their experience of moving MIS and their learnings from switching to the cloud. You can download the ebook for free here.
In the meantime, we’ve put together the top five benefits of the cloud for Data Managers in schools.
Get quick, secure access to all your student and staff data wherever you’re working – all you need is a browser. No need to rely on servers!
If the DfE releases new guidance, Arbor can deploy features to help you within days (sometimes just 24 hours!). We also update Arbor fortnightly with new features and improvements, which you can access as soon as they’re released.
All your data across your MIS is stored in the cloud, so the information you see is a real-time reflection of the students in your school.
Arbor brings key tasks under one roof, including reporting, comms, and managing rotas, timetables and sickness.
Arbor connects to leading secondary school apps like 4Matrix, Edval, Timetabler, CPOMS and Civica. Or you can replace the tools that aren’t working for you with our built-in functionality – we’ve got everything from Cover and Exam Management to Seating Plans.
Thinking about moving MIS but not where to start? We’ve put together a guide to Arbor for Data Managers which you can download for free here. Hear from Data Managers who use Arbor, learn about the features in Arbor designed specifically for your role and discover our community of Data Managers who come together to help us build the best school MIS on the market.
Data and Insight | The Data Drop
Welcome to The Data Drop. Our philosophy at Arbor is that staff should have direct, easy access to their data – and be able to do something meaningful with it. Our MIS is built on a world-class data platform, which allows us to deliver things like national-level benchmarking to schools and trusts within seconds, rather
Welcome to The Data Drop. Our philosophy at Arbor is that staff should have direct, easy access to their data – and be able to do something meaningful with it. Our MIS is built on a world-class data platform, which allows us to deliver things like national-level benchmarking to schools and trusts within seconds, rather than hours or days. And allows schools to make real-time, data-driven decisions.
This new series is designed to share insights from our data warehouse (containing the data of c.4,000 schools), to shed light on the wider patterns emerging across the education sector.
In a post-Covid world, and also in a year marked by strikes and an emphasis on staff wellbeing, we thought we’d use our first blog in our Data Drop series to take a look at staff absence data.
When looking at staff absence data based on the last five academic years between 1st September – 24th April (in order to be comparable to the 22/3 dataset at time of publication), there’s a significant downward trend in regards to sickness-related absences in school staff – but only when it comes to absences that have not been certified.
Only 26.8% of recorded staff absences in the academic year 2022-3 were as a result of sickness (certification unknown), dropping from 37.8% the previous year. This is a further jump from pre-Covid; in the academic year 2018-19, the proportion of working days lost attributed to sickness (certification unknown) was 46.7%.
By contrast, there has been a rise in other types of sickness absence since 2018. This is the case where absence has been medically certified as well as self-certified.
The other absence category which is seeing an unsurprising spike this academic year is absences related to strike action. In 22/23, 2.3% of working days missed were related to strikes. The proportion of working days missed by strikes has sat below 0.1% across the previous four years.
This equates to 41,193 days lost so far (to 24/04/2023) in 22/23 (across 3,631 many schools from where we drew this dataset), compared with a combined total of 260.5 days across the previous four years. Whilst these stats must also take into account the change in number of Arbor’s schools which make up the data, the difference is still notable. You can see more of Arbor’s data around the strikes in our work with SchoolsWeek here.
Periods covered – we’ve chosen to use these dates so that we have a comparable dataset to the 22/23 year at time of writing (May 2023).
22-23: 01/09/2022 – 24/04/2023
21-22: 01/09/2021 – 24/04/2022
20-21: 01/09/2020 – 24/04/2021
19-20: 01/09/2019 – 24/04/2020
18-19: 01/09/2018 – 24/04/2019
Staff absence is recorded using startdate, enddate and working days lost in between. Due to school holidays this is difficult to split days into the correct periods for long-term absence. Startdate has been used as an approximation for the academic year of the absence. The calculations attribute all working days lost to the period the startdate falls into.
The number of schools in our dataset varies year on year, which is why we have drawn on the percentage of days lost rather than number. Below you will find the number of schools in each year’s dataset.
18/19 – 3,385
19/20 – 3,424
20/21 – 3,503
21/22 – 3,611
22/3 – 3,631
This represents approximately 10% of the schools in the UK.
At Arbor, we’re on a mission to help schools make the most out of their data. Not yet using our MIS? Find out more here.
Summer Term is in full swing and the sunshine has started to make an appearance. April saw us make some exciting releases into Arbor MIS and MAT MIS that will help support you, your school and your students. What’s new in Arbor MIS At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work
Summer Term is in full swing and the sunshine has started to make an appearance. April saw us make some exciting releases into Arbor MIS and MAT MIS that will help support you, your school and your students.
Updates to the sex and gender fields
To align with the DfE, we’ve made some changes to the gender field in Arbor. We’ve relabelled the Gender field in Arbor to Sex to reflect its existing use in the census, and we’ve added a new field on student, guardian and staff profiles for Gender Identity.
KS4 Assessment Analysis
Use our new KS4 Assessment Analysis page to track student progress in more detail, plus get a Progress 8 estimate based on last year’s Attainment Band data.
The latest features added to tables
We’ve made some exciting updates in the past month and will continue to make improvements throughout Summer Term.
What’s new in April for tables:
School Staff Absence Reporting improvements
We made some great updates to School Staff Absence Reporting in April following your feedback.
MAT Operations | MATs
We all know the Heraclitus phrase that ‘the only constant in life is change,’ and yet change is also the thing we fear and put off until necessary. The world of education has sometimes been slow to pick up on the great and sweeping changes that we’ve seen in the rest of the public sector,
We all know the Heraclitus phrase that ‘the only constant in life is change,’ and yet change is also the thing we fear and put off until necessary. The world of education has sometimes been slow to pick up on the great and sweeping changes that we’ve seen in the rest of the public sector, particularly when it comes to embracing cloud technology. The reasons for this are understandable: budgets are tight, retention is challenging, and the landscape seems to be constantly shifting. 2022 seemed to epitomise this landscape of change, both politically and also in the sheer numbers of schools who moved to the cloud: in one term alone nearly 1,500 schools alone moved away from legacy software.
Day-to-day, I speak to many MATs who are thinking about moving to the cloud and trying to align their systems, particularly as they look to grow. And what I’ve found is, whether I’m speaking to a newly formed MAT who doesn’t really know why they’re moving to the cloud, or a long-standing MAT with tens of schools, the common pitfalls remain the same, meaning trusts are setting themselves up for a far more challenging journey into cloud-based life than it ought to be.
It all comes down to change management and communication. In Lewin’s original change management model from the 1940s, communication sits as one of the steps in the first phase – long before any kind of implementation or decision-making. Skipping this step is hazardous, but it’s something I see time and time again. From the second your team starts to think about change, be this of an MIS or something entirely different, it needs to be communicated to all those it affects. It needs to be communicated why you are thinking about change, what the impetus was, what benefits you’re aiming for and what the long-term goal is. It’s also worth mentioning that this communication piece doesn’t sit within a single email; it should be an invitation for others to be involved in the conversation.
I’d always recommend starting with a document which clearly defines: what is being changed, who it is going to affect short-term (decision-makers), and who it will affect long-term. I’d also recommend putting together a working party, who are consulted throughout the entire process. Said working party shouldn’t just include directors and the CEO, but should be representative of stakeholders, including a headteacher, perhaps teachers or office managers.
The misconception made here is that communicating a decision is a tickbox exercise of letting those who will be affected, know about the change. Instead, it should be formative and beneficial to the decision-making process itself. The working party should be a broad spectrum of what your trust is all about so that you get different viewpoints and skillsets feeding into the conversation. And, the likelihood is, if you turn to those invested in the ‘old way’, and say, we’re thinking of moving forward with something new, people will come out of the woodwork with crucial expertise on what it is they need to do their jobs well.
What I see far too often are well-meaning and well-researched project leads, who have spanned the entire procurement process, done their research and likely chosen the best system for their trust. And yet, there’s an assumption that all those other stakeholders will automatically reach the same conclusion without the months of context. Instead, it feels like a decision has been made and isn’t to be questioned. Those stakeholders are still at the beginning of the journey, meaning that whilst the project lead is trying to implement the project, they’re simultaneously having to justify and reconvince the trust that this was the right move. Of course, this means implementation itself suffers, training lacks buy-in, and engagement/uptake is low, meaning that even if the system were the perfect fit, nobody is bought in enough to realise the benefits. Day one of the new system becomes a rush to make up for the lack of previous dialogue.
With growth leading as the goal for many trusts, strategic management of such changes becomes increasingly important. It goes without saying that those schools who are yet to academise are increasingly the most reluctant to do so, with a loss of autonomy most often quoted as the biggest reasoning. If MATs are set on growing and retaining schools, in a gradually more competitive landscape, they must caveat these fears with clear communication and an openness of conversation, regardless of whatever change they are making.
The other side of change and moving systems, for example, is not so much managing expectations as to creating expectations. Speaking strictly to MIS, it’s interesting that most trusts (though this will change), have never had to move before and have always used the same system. As a result, the question is often: this is how we did it before, how do we achieve the same thing, but in the cloud? The question should be: how can we do this better, with the support of cloud systems?
‘Cloud’ has been a buzzword for a while; there’s an idea that schools and trusts need to simply shift everything they currently do into the cloud. I would ask those that still buy into this philosophy why they want to directly replicate something which they are actively moving away from? Instead, why not acknowledge you want change and pick strategic tools that can make a measurable difference to the way your organisation runs? Improve your workflows, improve your processes, let the technology be part of your culture and vision rather than a tickbox, consider how it can be part of your school improvement plan, think how you could reduce workload or boost wellbeing. A change of this kind should be exactly that… a change.
What it all comes back to is that initial impetus to change, when the decision is made to think about something new. That’s when the real change starts to happen, and in order for it to be successful, central teams must have their change management and communication piece secure from the beginning, so that everybody knows exactly where you are going, why you’re going there, and how it’s going to transform the way you work for the better.
Since we started with a quote, it seems like a good idea to end on one too, this time from author and thought leader Lisa Bodell:
“”Change cannot be put on people. The best way to instill change is to do it with them. Create it with them.”
Matt’s article appears in our free ebook for MAT leaders, all about creating a cohesive trust, which you can download here.
Or, discover more of our content for MATs here.
Parents & Guardians
It goes without saying just how important parent engagement is in schools. What many schools are finding is that communicating with parents via SMS/text is an effective and efficient way of notifying guardians with urgency and encouraging two-way communication. – But how exactly can using text messages improve your parent engagement strategy? Reduce admin –
It goes without saying just how important parent engagement is in schools. What many schools are finding is that communicating with parents via SMS/text is an effective and efficient way of notifying guardians with urgency and encouraging two-way communication.
Read here for some top tips on how to make your parent communication strategy even more effective across all mediums.
If you use Arbor MIS, your school will also be able to use our built-in SMS service for parent comms, making parent engagement:
We’re excited to introduce our new annual SMS tariff, making it simpler to kleep parents in the loop. Our Subscription SMS is ideal for schools who regularly send SMS. Pay yearly and get the benefits of an ongoing subscription:
To find out more about SMS Subscription speak to you Account Manager today.
Not yet using Arbor MIS? We’d love to hear from you – get in touch with our friendly team here.
And that’s a wrap for Spring Term! As you start to relax and enjoy your Easter break, we take a look back on some of the exciting releases to Arbor MIS and Arbor MAT MIS over the past term that will help support you, your school and your students. – What’s new for schools At
And that’s a wrap for Spring Term! As you start to relax and enjoy your Easter break, we take a look back on some of the exciting releases to Arbor MIS and Arbor MAT MIS over the past term that will help support you, your school and your students.
No more logging in out of hours – you can now choose when to send out your emails, SMS and in-app messages! Draft as usual, then just click Send later to pick the date and time. Learn more here.
Automated Capita One exports
We’ve worked with Capita One to automate the Capita One Export, reducing school workload and improving data quality for your LA. You’ll need to ask your LA to get in touch with us to get this set up. Learn more here.
SMS Subscription is here
Our new annual SMS tariff makes it simpler to keep parents in the loop. SMS Subscription is perfect for schools who regularly send SMS messages. Pay yearly and get the benefits of an ongoing subscription. Learn more here.
Apple Pay and Google Pay are here
If your school has our Payments Plus module, you can now give parents the flexibility to pay the way that suits them! No more re-entering card details every time on the Arbor App. Learn more here.
School Shop Orders dashboard
Our new School Shop dashboard gives you an overview of orders, payments and refunds without needing to go into each item individually. Plus we’ve added a new School Shop: Administer permission. Learn more here.
Behaviour comms templates
Create SMS and email templates to notify guardians about behaviour incidents or detentions. Add detail with our built-in merge fields, or set different messages for different severity levels. Learn more here.
Random Student Picker
There is always that activity in the classroom where you need to choose a student at random. You now can with the new Student Picker. Engage your students and choose them fairly, the student picker spins to select a random student from your class – perfect for projecting on the board. Learn more here.
Bulk Add Assessment Columns in the Custom Report Writer
Want to add columns for Summative or Ad Hoc assessments to a Student Custom Report Writer in one go? You now can! Plus, add different components for Summative assessments, such as Baseline, Predicted Mark, and Year Target. Learn more here.
New layout and tools for tables
We’re very excited about the new tables in Arbor! The new tables are much more than just a visual change, they’re a whole new tabling tool. We’ve made some exciting updates in the past term and will continue to make improvements throughout Summer Term.
What’s new in Spring Term for tables:
Learn more here.
School Staff Absence Reporting
School staff are now included in Staff Absence reporting in MAT MIS, eliminating the need to make a custom report. We’ve also added some extra bonus fields like Bradford Factor reporting and the option to include only workforce census-eligible staff. Learn more here.
New and improved Single Central Record
We’ve made some updates to Single Central Record (SCR) so you can easily and quickly keep staff details up to date across your trust. Choose which columns you want to see in your SCR, and email staff members directly. Plus a small change we know will have a big impact, we’ve added the category of Business Role to the filter options! Learn more here.
New Microsoft Power BI Datasets
As part of our commitment to make sure we’re providing you with the best data possible, we’ve added a number of datasets to our Microsoft Power BI connector this year, including:
Arbor Education is today launching a new partnership with the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) to help schools and trusts transform the way they work, maximise the power of data, and ultimately help to improve education. The Confederation of School Trusts (CST) is the national organisation and sector body for school trusts in England advocating
Arbor Education is today launching a new partnership with the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) to help schools and trusts transform the way they work, maximise the power of data, and ultimately help to improve education.
The Confederation of School Trusts (CST) is the national organisation and sector body for school trusts in England advocating for, connecting and supporting executive and governance leaders.
The new partnership is part of the Confederation’s Platinum Partner scheme, which brings together leading companies within the industry and CST’s members, who together are responsible for the education of more than three million young people.
Arbor chief executive James Weatherill said: “We’re thrilled to be announcing our partnership with the Confederation of Schools Trusts today.
“At Arbor, our mission is to transform the way schools and trusts work. We’re delighted to partner with an organisation committed to doing the same, and are looking forward to working on projects and events together which show our commitment to working with trust leaders on improving operational, data and growth challenges and helping them to operate as one trust, not multiple schools.
“We’re looking forward to supporting our customers through the CST network, and to meeting other trust leaders interested in the ways that Arbor can help as you scale your data and operations.”
We will be working on exciting projects and events with CST in the months to come, so watch this space!
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, to think more about what it means to be women in tech. Sophie, Arbor’s Talent Acquisition Manager, interviews four of our female leaders at Arbor below. 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, to think more about what it means to be women in tech. Sophie, Arbor’s Talent Acquisition Manager, interviews four 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.
I’m very proud to say that Arbor Education is leading the way – six out of ten 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 four of our female leaders at Arbor to discuss their career and experiences.
I’ve pulled out some highlights from the interviews below.
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!”
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!”
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.”
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.
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We’re proud that Arbor and ScholarPack share the top spot as England’s most-loved MIS, according to a recent survey by The Key. But what is it about our MIS that schools and trusts alike enjoy? This Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be nice to share a handful of the lovely things that have been
We’re proud that Arbor and ScholarPack share the top spot as England’s most-loved MIS, according to a recent survey by The Key.
But what is it about our MIS that schools and trusts alike enjoy? This Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be nice to share a handful of the lovely things that have been said about us by individuals in the Arbor community.
Win a box of our famous brownies by sharing what you love about our MIS on Twitter and LinkedIn – make sure to tag us so we can see your entry!
Not yet using Arbor but want an MIS that all your staff can fall in love with? Get in touch with us at email@example.com
And just like that, it’s the end of January and 2023 has officially started. No time for any January blues here, we’ve released some very exciting features that we can’t wait to share with you! What’s new for schools At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better.
And just like that, it’s the end of January and 2023 has officially started. No time for any January blues here, we’ve released some very exciting features that we can’t wait to share with you!
If your school has our Payments Plus module, you can now give parents the flexibility to pay the way that suits them! No more re-entering card details every time on the Arbor App. Learn more here
Our new School Shop dashboard gives you an overview of orders, payments and refunds without needing to go into each item individually. Plus we’ve added a new School Shop: Administer permission. Learn more here
Create SMS and email templates to notify guardians about behaviour incidents or detentions. Add detail with our built-in merge fields, or set different messages for different severity levels. Learn more here
There is always that activity in the classroom where you need to choose a student at random. You now can with the new Student Picker. Engage your students and choose them fairly, the student picker spins to select a random student from your class – perfect for projecting on the board. Learn more here
School staff are now included in Staff Absence reporting in MAT MIS, eliminating the need to make a custom report. We’ve also added some extra bonus fields like Bradford Factor reporting and the option to include only workforce census-eligible staff. Learn more here
Also this January, we welcomed hundreds of schools to #ArborFest, where our Head of Product, Hilary Aylesworth, took us through what was coming up next in the Arbor roadmap.
Keep an eye on our Twitter and LinkedIn for insights from the day!
Arbor Updates | BETT 2021
We’re thrilled to invite you to join us at BETT 2023. Taking place from the 29th-31st March at the ExCel Centre, we’re excited to be back and can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on at Arbor, especially as this year, we are one of the finalists for BETT’s Company of the Year.
As in 2022, we’re delighted to be sharing our stand (Stand SF30) with our sister company, ScholarPack, so make sure to come by and say hello.
This year, there are several ways you can meet us:
We’re pleased to share that our Leaders’ Lounge is back by popular demand. We’ll be at Tapa Tapa (outside the ExCeL Centre) from Wednesday until Friday. Open to everyone, no matter how much or little you know about us – look out for an invite in your email inbox!
This is the perfect chance to find out how Arbor is helping schools and MATs to transform the way they work. Hear directly from several of over 4,000 schools that have already switched to using our MIS.
If you’re more of a morning person, you’re welcome to join us for a pastry and tea or coffee at our Breakfast Briefings in the Leaders’ Lounge to kickstart each day of the event. Keep an eye out for details soon!
We’ll also be at stand SF30 in the main BETT arena. Come by for a demo, chat to our friendly team, or join our Arbor classroom where we’ll be showcasing Arbor’s features.
Want to see how Arbor could transform the way you work? Join us at the Tech in Action theatre to see our very own Tim Ward will be presenting five ways that Arbor can make a measurable difference to your school or trust.
You can also book in to meet us as part of Bett’s new meeting system, Connect @ BETT, for a chat about how Arbor could transform your school or trust.
We’re looking forward to seeing many of you across the event!
Arbor Community | ArborFest
We were delighted to recently welcome hundreds of school leaders to King’s Place and via livestream to our biggest in-person customer conference to date! ArborFest 2023 was a day packed with inspiring talks and workshops – all exploring the theme “Transforming the way schools work.” With schools and trusts facing squeezed budgets, the challenge of
We were delighted to recently welcome hundreds of school leaders to King’s Place and via livestream to our biggest in-person customer conference to date!
ArborFest 2023 was a day packed with inspiring talks and workshops – all exploring the theme “Transforming the way schools work.”
With schools and trusts facing squeezed budgets, the challenge of Covid catch-up, and rapidly evolving policies, there has never been a more important time to explore the different ways schools can innovate to support students, staff, and their wider communities.
Our exciting programme took a look at the ways schools can drive positive change both using Arbor and in their broader day-to-day.
We kickstarted the day with a welcome address from our CEO, James, and our Chief of Customer Success, Sonia. Our Head of Engineering, Damien, and Head of Product, Hilary, also took to the Main Stage to speak on Arbor’s vision and roadmap.
Also on the Main Stage, we welcomed David Jones, Head of Personal Development at Saracens Rugby Club, who shared how to build a resilient team in tough times. And our keynote speaker, Laura McInerney, CEO of TeacherTapp, presented her three key methods of influencing change across the education sector.
Over on our Data Stage, our Lead Sponsors HfL Education discussed the importance of democratising your data – we’ll be posting more about what they had to say on our blog, so keep this page bookmarked!
Luke Mulhall and Chris Berry of GFMAT spoke on how they have used Arbor to create a data-first culture across their trust, and the Department of Education gave an in-depth talk on the importance of national benchmarking, and the data they have available to help schools.
We had two exciting panels during ArborFest 2023. In the first, James spoke to three school leaders about how Arbor has helped to transform the way they work. In the second, Phillippa, our CRO, spoke to three MAT leaders on how they are handling the cost-of-living crisis across their trusts.
There was lots more MAT content on our dedicated MAT stage, where trust leaders gathered to watch Louisa Mason speak on how and why she centralised systems across her trust. Mark Greatrex, CEO at BPET, also gave a well-received talk on why autonomy always wins – if you missed Mark’s talk, you can download his written piece for free in the third instalment of our Cohesive Trust series.
As ever, we wanted to use ArborFest as an opportunity to encourage the Arbor Community to network, share best practices and give suggestions for the future of our MIS. We hosted feedback forums, customer roundtable discussions and a Genius Bar where school leaders and staff could meet, mingle and chat with the Arbor Team!
And most importantly, it was great to see Arbor users coming together and enjoying the day – we hope you had as much fun and learned as much as we did!
If you missed out on tickets to the event, don’t worry! We’ll be sharing highlights, insights and write-ups of lots of the talks over the coming term. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to make sure you don’t miss out.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
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; studies have found
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; 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.
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.
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 return. 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 burnout prevention strategies 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.
Heavy workloads, constant change, admin pressure on teachers and staff at every level… sometimes it feels like this is just part and parcel of school life today. But it doesn’t have to be that way. At Arbor, we passionately believe that there’s a better way to work. And it starts by giving everyone the right tools and technology for the job.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you found this blog useful, you can see more of our mental health and wellbeing content for school staff here.
To round off autumn, we’re highlighting some of the most exciting updates we’ve released this past term. We update Arbor fortnightly, listening closely and responding to what you tell us. What we released for schools Rotating meal menus and Parent Portal meal choices Payments Plus got even better this term with the ability to
To round off autumn, we’re highlighting some of the most exciting updates we’ve released this past term. We update Arbor fortnightly, listening closely and responding to what you tell us.
Rotating meal menus and Parent Portal meal choices
Payments Plus got even better this term with the ability to create menus that rotate on a periodic basis, and allow parents to make meal choices for their children via the Parent Portal. Learn more.
Get help with the click of a button by sending an instant notification or email to staff who are on call. Plus, report on past alerts and view them on the student profile. Learn more.
Calendar update on the Arbor App
Parents can now see their child’s calendar for the whole day on the Arbor App! Parents and guardians can see exactly where their child is at any point in the current day, rather than just the lesson before and after. Learn more.
CRB Cunninghams Cashless Catering integration
Arbor integrates with CRB Cunninghams! Our cashless catering integrations let you manage cashless catering payments directly from your MIS – without needing a separate payments system as well. The integration is included in our MIS Payments module, and is also part of our Arbor Perform package. Learn more.
Live National Benchmarks
See live national data from other Arbor schools in your MIS. Starting with attendance data, you can see real-time National Average and National Percentile data so you can compare yourself to similar schools and see where you sit. Learn more.
School staff are now included in Staff Absence reporting, eliminating the need to make a custom report. We’ve also added some extra bonus fields like Bradford Factor reporting and the option to include only workforce census eligible staff. Learn more.
National Arbor Average benchmark
We’ve added a new benchmark in MAT MIS to Whole School Attendance, Authorised Absence and Unauthorised Absence KPIs. It’ll show you how your schools compare with other schools using Arbor. Learn more.
New PowerBI Datasets
This term we’ve added lots of new datasets to our PowerBI connector to give you more bespoke reporting options. You can now analyse Academic Units, Timetable Slots, Student Academic Year Enrolments, User Defined Fields and more! Learn more.
Import Assessment Marks
Have you rolled out assessments to the schools in your trust? Instead of logging into individual school sites or sending assessment data to your school data managers, you can now use an import spreadsheet in MAT MIS to input the school data yourself. Learn more.
Get help with the click of a button by sending an instant notification or email to staff who are on call. Plus, report on past alerts and view them on the student profile. Learn more.
Your schools can now see live national data from other Arbor schools in their MIS. Starting with attendance data, you can see real-time National Average and National Percentile data so you can compare yourself to similar schools and see where you sit. Learn more.
Don’t forget to visit the Arbor Change Log for all things new in the MIS. Make sure to bookmark the page for easy access!
If you haven’t already, book your free ticket to join us at ArborFest 2023 – our biggest in-person customer conference to date! Meet school and trust leaders from across the Arbor Community for a day packed with inspiring talks and workshops – all exploring the theme “Transforming the way schools work.”
If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email email@example.com and one of our team will be in contact.
MAT Operations | School Operations
What is Search Engine Optimisation? Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of making your website appear further up the page when people search terms into Google, or another search engine. This helps to get more organic traffic through your website… for free! Your website probably ranks highly when people know what they’re looking for,
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of making your website appear further up the page when people search terms into Google, or another search engine. This helps to get more organic traffic through your website… for free!
Your website probably ranks highly when people know what they’re looking for, such as when somebody types in your exact school name or location. But what about when prospective parents or students search for ‘best schools in my area’ or ‘top schools near me for sports’?
SEO is all about helping to boost your website so that it’s easy to find, even when people don’t know exactly what they’re looking for.
It’s not often that schools and trusts have the capacity for a marketing team, which means your website is often your main marketing tool. It’s the place people come to when they’re browsing schools in the local area and wondering which is the best fit for their child.
If your website is difficult to find, and prospective parents or students have to try harder to find out the information they need, then there’s a high chance that this will influence their decision-making process. It’s important that your school website is easily accessible and navigable.
For trusts in particular, your website also plays a key role in your brand as an organisation. A high-performing website, where all the information people need is at their fingertips, can give greater integrity to your brand and make your offer more attractive to schools and pupils.
Keywords are phrases that are commonly searched for on Google, Bing or other search engines. Despite the name, they can be single words, such as ‘school’, or phrases, like ‘schools rated good by Ofsted in London.’
Threading the keywords which are important to your school (by thinking about how you want to be found online!) is a key part of SEO. You can then build these throughout the wording across your website. You can use a keyword checker to see the popularity of the terms you choose, and what your competition is like. In an ideal world, the terms you choose would have a high search count with minimal competition.
It’s important to use these in your headings, subheadings and alt. text for pictures, as well as your main bodies of text.
Hyperlinks can help to boost your website’s performance in a number of ways and come in different forms.
All the links on your site help search engines to see you as an authority in your area, so make sure they are relevant, easy to navigate and give the user exactly what they are looking for.
Backlinks can be particularly useful in boosting your website performance, as they indicate to search engines that you are trusted and give your website authenticity. When it comes to backlinks, quality or quantity is key, look for links from websites that are closely aligned with your own and have a high authority. Don’t fall into the trap of buying backlinks! Not only can this can lead to you being penalised by the search engine, but there are plenty of organic ways to gain backlinks too. These include:
It’s super important that your website is easy to navigate, and isn’t filled with clunky, unnecessary information. This is even more significant given that the majority of internet traffic is via mobile.
The main thing to remember is to always have the user experience front of mind when thinking about SEO. You don’t want to make it difficult for users to find the information you’d like them to see!
In other words, there’s no point ranking highly if your website isn’t serving its original purpose. Whilst keywords and hyperlinks are good for boosting performance, stuffing them throughout your website in order to trick the search engine into ranking your website higher will be a short-lived win. Search engines will often penalise websites that attempt to use these ‘black hat tactics.’ Investing in a good quality website with useful content will always win in the long run.
We post our blogs weekly on Twitter and LinkedIn – follow us for more useful tips and tricks for your school or trust.
If you’re a trust thinking about your digital strategy, download our free ebook here, which features articles from MAT experts on how to perfect this in your organisation.
Not yet using Arbor? Find out more about us here.
And just like that, it’s the end of November and the holiday season is approaching. We released some very exciting features in November that we can’t wait to share with you! What’s new for schools At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. Here are just some of
And just like that, it’s the end of November and the holiday season is approaching. We released some very exciting features in November that we can’t wait to share with you!
Live National Benchmarks are here
You can now see live national data from other Arbor schools in your MIS. Starting with attendance data, you’ll be able to see real-time National Average and National Percentile data so you can compare yourself to similar schools and see where you sit. Learn more here
Parents can now see their child’s calendar for the whole day on the Arbor App! Parents and guardians can see exactly where their child is at any point in the current day, rather than just the lesson before and after. Learn more here
New Marksheet Analysis Fields
We’ve added new marksheet fields so you can see student progress at a glance, including:
Import Assessment Marks in MAT MIS
Roll out assessments to the schools in your trust. Instead of logging into individual school sites or sending assessment data to your school data managers, you can now use an import spreadsheet in MAT MIS to input the school data yourself. Learn more here
New Power BI Datasets
In November we added even more datasets to our Power BI connector to give you more bespoke reporting options. You can now analyse Academic Units, Academic Unit Enrolments, Timetable Slots and Timetable Slot Staff. Learn more here
Thinking about your multi-academy trust growth strategy? Read the full version of this article in our free ebook, ‘Creating a Cohesive Trust, Part 3’. In March 2022, the government released the schools white paper, which revealed plans for all schools to be part of “strong” multi-academy trusts (MATs) by 2030. Recent political change means the
Thinking about your multi-academy trust growth strategy? Read the full version of this article in our free ebook, ‘Creating a Cohesive Trust, Part 3’.
In March 2022, the government released the schools white paper, which revealed plans for all schools to be part of “strong” multi-academy trusts (MATs) by 2030. Recent political change means the bill has now taken a back seat, but with many MATs already intending to grow, the scene has been set for a critical few years in the academisation journey.
With many trusts now set on growth, we wanted to explore if the expectations of MAT leaders aligned with the sentiment of LA maintained schools.
In September 2022, we surveyed 108 trust leaders and 244 members of SLT in LA maintained schools from around the country.
We found that less than half of all LA Maintained schools expected to be part of a MAT by 2030. Many cited political uncertainty, though the majority of respondents said their negative feelings towards academisation were focused on loss of autonomy, community and identity. Schools also quoted their lack of need for support, especially when they were already ”‘economically viable and have good results.” Those that do expect to join a MAT were still largely negative about the prospect, with many simply saying “we have no choice.”
Despite this response from schools, not one respondent in our survey of MAT leaders thought that their trust would add zero schools in the next three years. Most respondents expected to grow by either 4-6 schools (33%), 7-10 schools (22%) or 1-3 schools (22%). 2% of respondents expected to grow by over 31 schools. This was matched by the general consensus that “schools joining is always positive”, with many participants referring to how growth would allow their trust to “make a difference to as many lives as possible.”
The discrepancy between the way schools and trust leaders view academisation is clear. With the majority (59%) of respondents in our survey of MAT leaders saying that their preferred method of growth was through acquiring new schools, there is work to be done on changing the perception of what joining a MAT can truly mean. This is especially pertinent for MATs who want to make sure they grow as a cohesive trust with a strong culture, rather than taking on schools simply to remain financially viable.
Political uncertainty aside, how can MAT leaders win over schools who are reluctant to academise? And, as trusts grow, how can they make sure that they do so sustainably and as one organisation, not many?
We’ve put together an ebook for MAT leaders, where we hope you will find some answers to these questions. It features the thoughts of six MAT leaders and experts on growth:
We’ve also put together some of the comments and perspectives from the respondents of both of our surveys.
Download your free copy here!
We’d love to see where you stand in this discussion – join the debate on social media using the hashtag #CohesiveMATs.
Discover more of our content for multi-academy trusts here.
Join us at ArborFest 2023 – our biggest in-person customer conference to date! This year’s ArborFest explores different facets of the theme “Transforming the way schools work.” With schools and trusts facing squeezed budgets, the challenge of Covid catch-up, and rapidly evolving policies, there has never been a more important time to explore the different
Join us at ArborFest 2023 – our biggest in-person customer conference to date!
This year’s ArborFest explores different facets of the theme “Transforming the way schools work.” With schools and trusts facing squeezed budgets, the challenge of Covid catch-up, and rapidly evolving policies, there has never been a more important time to explore the different ways schools can innovate to support students, staff, and their wider communities.
ArborFest will bring 400 Arbor customers together at Kings Place, London on 26th January 2023 to do just that. Our exciting programme will look at the ways schools can drive positive change both using Arbor and in their broader day-to-day.
Plus, it’s all completely free! Sign up for your free spot here.
The day will be packed with inspiring talks from both experts within the education sector and school staff using Arbor. Explore everything we have on stage by stage.
Plus, Laura McInerney will be giving a keynote speech on how we can all create meaningful change across the education sector – including what makes a powerful message, which messages get through to the DfE, which get lost, and what you can do to change it.
By popular demand, we’ve combined our best-selling MAT Conference series with ArborFest with a dedicated MAT stage full of thought leadership talks from experienced MAT leaders from across the country.
You’ll leave with clear, actionable insights you can bring back to your trust and implement, all focused on growth, sustainability, and creating a cohesive MAT.
This year, we’re inviting our customers to three roundtables on integrations and Behaviour.
You’ll leave with new ideas to take back to your school, based on other Arbor schools’ tips and advice. Perfect for schools looking to share best practice, or who want to learn from others.
At Arbor, we’re always looking for new ways to help schools work better. It’s essential to us that we create our Roadmap by working hand-in-hand with our schools. Our termly Feedback Forums are one of the key ways we ask for your feedback and thoughts.
Come along to one of our feedback forums on Assessments, Innovation and Parental Engagement to have your say on what our Product and Engineering Team should focus on next.
Arbor customers will receive their ticket in their email inbox!
What will I get with my ticket?
Can’t make it in-person? We’re live streaming the day too – keep your eyes peeled for the first release of our virtual tickets.
What will I get with my online-only ticket?
We can’t wait to see you there! Look out for updates across our Twitter and LinkedIn, and share your experience using #ArborFest.
We can’t wait to see you there! Look out for updates across our Twitter and LinkedIn, and share your experience using #ArborFest.
Product release | School Improvement
What data can schools benchmark? Up until recently, schools have been able to compare their performance data with schools in similar circumstances, using the tables that were published annually by the Department of Education. – What are the benefits of benchmarking for schools? There are many benefits to benchmarking for schools, particularly in a post-Covid
Up until recently, schools have been able to compare their performance data with schools in similar circumstances, using the tables that were published annually by the Department of Education.
There are many benefits to benchmarking for schools, particularly in a post-Covid era, when many schools are playing catch-up and trying to return to ‘normal.’
Benchmarking against the national picture reveals to schools where they are performing well and should feel reassured in their performance, whether it be across specific demographics, like Pupil Premium students, or across whole school Assessment performance. On the flip side, it can also help schools to illuminate those areas where they are not performing at the national average, so that they can drive resources to where they are best spent.
It’s important for schools to have this information, as it means that SLT and governors can drive resources to where they are best spent – even more important when budgets are being squeezed.
With over 3,500 schools live on Arbor, we’ve built the first statistically relevant live national benchmarks for schools – giving you a unique way to compare your performance to schools across the country.
School leaders often tell us that waiting for annual performance tables makes it hard to plan proactively. Our Live National Benchmarks give you a snapshot of what is happening across all Arbor schools on that exact day, helping you respond faster and take action straight away.
Built into our MIS, these benchmarks are more than just an average and are intended to give you more meaning to your performance. See which percentile your school sits in, and set stretch goals to improve and close any gaps.
We’re launching Live National Benchmarks for Attendance data only to start with. We’ll then roll this functionality out across the MIS throughout the year.
Visit our Help Centre for more information
– At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. And it starts by giving everyone the right tools and technology for the job. We’re constantly evolving and looking at the different ways we can help support schools and MATs to thrive. In the Summer Term, we released: 42
At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. And it starts by giving everyone the right tools and technology for the job.
We’re constantly evolving and looking at the different ways we can help support schools and MATs to thrive. In the Summer Term, we released:
Click here to find out exactly what these features included.
In a recent survey carried out by The Key, Arbor has the highest percentage of customers saying they are “extremely satisfied” with their MIS functionality. View full report here.
Our product vision at Arbor is to ‘Give school leaders, teachers, admin staff and parents the tools they need to work faster and smarter – together’. This vision sits across our three development themes for Autumn Term:
The data that sits in your MIS is a powerful resource. We want schools and MATs to have this data at their fingertips, so that they can make data-driven decisions quickly and easily. To do this, data needs to be consistent, efficient and actionable.
Here’s three key releases due in the coming months, which will help you make actionable decisions from your data:
It’s not worth having an MIS packed with brilliant features if they are difficult to find or use. Our second theme is all about making sure Arbor continues to be the UK’s most intuitive MIS, for both staff and parents.
Here’s my top three features to look out for which will make our MIS even easier to use:
Collaboration is key to any school or trust, whether you’re joining up processes across your team or streamlining communication with parents.
With so many exciting new features to come under this theme, I’ve given you my top five to keep an eye out for:
If you have an improvement or an idea for a new feature we should develop, we’d love to hear it. There are four ways you can share it with us:
I’m looking forward to hearing all your thoughts and suggestions so we can continue to make Arbor the best it can be for our schools! And I hope you are as excited about our Autumn Roadmap as I am.
View the recording of our Autumn Product Roadmap Reveal webinar here.
Welcome back from Half Term! We hope you had a restful break – we’ve got lots of treats for you in this month’s blog. – What’s new for schools At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better. Here are just some of our recent launches and updates: Product
Welcome back from Half Term! We hope you had a restful break – we’ve got lots of treats for you in this month’s blog.
Product Roadmap Reveal webinar
We’re excited to share Arbor’s product roadmap for Autumn Term! On Wednesday 9th November, Hilary (Head of Product at Arbor) will take you through our vision for Arbor and the themes we’re focusing on this term for product improvements and new features. Book your free spot here
Post-16 Census report
You can now generate a quick summary report of your Post-16 data to ensure you receive all your funding from the School Census, either for yourself or to send to a third party. Learn more here
CRB Cunninghams Cashless Catering integration
Arbor now integrates with CRB Cunninghams! Our cashless catering integrations let you manage cashless catering payments directly from your MIS – without needing a separate payments system as well. The integration is included in our MIS Payments module, and is also part of our Arbor Perform package. Learn more here
Manage school events in bulk
We’ve added two new pages to manage events more easily. Go to School > Timetable > School Events to update staff, location, and cover requirements in bulk. Learn more here
New PowerBI Datasets
Another month and another group of datasets have been added to our PowerBI connector. You can now analyse Student Academic Year Enrolments, User Defined Fields (created at both MAT and school level), and User Defined Records. Learn more here
If you haven’t already, we’d love for you to join in the #WhyMySchoolSwitched campaign and share your “switch stories” with us on social media!
As always, Autumn Term is packed full of exciting events for those who work in the education space. So, whether you’ve never heard of Arbor before or have been using our MIS for years, we’ve put together this quick guide of all the events our team will be attending so that you can meet us
As always, Autumn Term is packed full of exciting events for those who work in the education space. So, whether you’ve never heard of Arbor before or have been using our MIS for years, we’ve put together this quick guide of all the events our team will be attending so that you can meet us in person over the coming months.
When: 10 November 2022
Where: The Kent Event Centre, Stand 409
The Education People Show is full of interactive workshops, exciting keynotes and a comprehensive exhibition of innovative products and services which help schools, which is where you’ll find us! Register for free here.
When: 22 & 23 November 2022
Where: Radisson Blu Heathrow Hotel, London
Multi-Academy Trust Partnership Network is a unique event for senior leaders in MATs to meet the sector’s most transformational suppliers and network with other trusts. You’ll be able to meet two of Arbor’s senior team and learn about how our MIS is designed to transform the way you work across your MAT. Reserve your spot here.
When: 17 November 2022
Where: Birmingham NEC, Stand F10
With over 3000 attendees, SAAS is a great opportunity to network, hear from inspirational speakers and discover exciting education suppliers like Arbor. Click here to book your free spot.
When: 22 November 2022
Where: Eastwood Hall, NG16 3SS
This conference, from the Association of Business Leaders in Education, features insightful keynote speakers, workshops and exhibitions. Find out more and get your tickets here.
Where: Miriam Lord Primary School, Bradford, BD8 8RG
Headteacher Bryan Harrison will be taking schools through an in-person Arbor demo. This is a great opportunity to see Arbor in action, as presented by somebody who uses Arbor every day. Keep an eye on our socials for the sign-up link, coming soon!
If you can’t make any of these events, or would prefer to chat over the phone, watch an Arbor demo here or click here to get in touch with our friendly team, who will be happy to answer any questions you have.
Before Arbor, our secondary school was already using a cloud MIS, but our MAT wanted all of their schools to be on the same system. We took it as an opportunity to make real change in the way we work, as we felt restricted by what our previous MIS could do. For context, Hinchingbrooke is
Before Arbor, our secondary school was already using a cloud MIS, but our MAT wanted all of their schools to be on the same system. We took it as an opportunity to make real change in the way we work, as we felt restricted by what our previous MIS could do.
For context, Hinchingbrooke is a large comprehensive secondary school with 2000 students. Comprehensive is the perfect word for it – we have a range of students from all socio-economic backgrounds.
As the only secondary school in the MAT, we had a big voice in the decision when it came to choosing an MIS, especially because of the frustrations our staff had felt with our previous cloud system. We were well aware how critical an MIS could be, because it underpins everything, from basics like registers through to safeguarding and interventions. It’s almost the heart of the school.
Of course, its importance means changing MIS, as with any big system change, brings with it a level of anxiety. That’s why research and communication are key to making sure the change is a long-term success. My personal experience and advice to any school thinking of moving to a new MIS would be to sit down and plan what your long-term goals are as a school and how moving MIS fits into this.
We were never bothered about the name of the MIS – but what we did know was exactly what our strategic aims of the system change would be, which in our case was to simplify our processes in order to save time. There will always be people who are resistant to change, or want as little change as possible – such as wanting to replicate everything that the school previously did, but in the cloud. Having moved from one cloud system to another, I can safely say there is much more that changing MIS can do for a school.
You’ve got to challenge those people who are adamant on sticking and ask ‘why.’ Being able to present the case for change, with school improvement at its heart, will make these conversations easier, and will get the team on one page before you decide to make the switch.
The best example I have is the fact I’ve always had an iPhone. I like Apple and I’m used to the system. But I might not know that a Samsung does everything just as well, and even has some features that might be better suited to what I use my phone for. If everyone starts moving to Samsung, you have to question why. Don’t get married to an idea or a principle of a product.
Again, it all comes back to the big picture and seeing the long-term goals, not just switching for a tickbox exercise and trying to replicate everything you did in the previous MIS. Your MIS should be a vehicle for your strategic aims rather than the other way around.
Drawing on my experience across both cloud and legacy MIS, I can’t think of an MIS that’s going to be better than Arbor. To anyone not sure about switching, I’d always say go in with an open mind and let the system and features speak for itself.
Click here to read our case study with Hinchingbrooke School and find out the features they use most.
Want to see how Arbor could transform your secondary school? Book a call with one of our friendly team here and they will walk you through the process.
What is an MIS? An school MIS, or management information system, is a piece of software which brings together data into one place, and helps organisations make decisions, from daily tasks through to top-level strategy. Every school in the UK has to have an MIS, which manages data around all aspects of school life. A
An school MIS, or management information system, is a piece of software which brings together data into one place, and helps organisations make decisions, from daily tasks through to top-level strategy.
Every school in the UK has to have an MIS, which manages data around all aspects of school life. A school MIS is used by the teachers to take the register or log behaviour incidents, by the headteacher to see cross-school statistics, and the office staff and data team to analyse information and contact parents.
Each school can pick their MIS based around their own unique needs. Over the past five years, more and more schools are moving away from legacy, server-based MIS and are instead choosing to go with cloud-based MIS. In Autumn of 2021, over 1,400 schools moved to the cloud in one term alone.
Cloud-based systems can help consolidate all core student and staff data, including attainment, progress, behaviour, payments and messages into one system, improving reporting and giving schools a truly holistic view of their organisation.
Cloud MIS allow school staff to work from anywhere, a benefit realised by many of those already with cloud systems during the pandemic. But there are plenty of other benefits too, including the ability to have a far more holistic view of your school or trust, and cost-saving.
Having a good MIS is essential for effective governance in any school or trust. To be able to challenge a school or trust’s performance, or to have a true understanding of what is going on in your organisation, having up-to-date information that can be interrogated easily is crucial.
Often, governing boards have to rely on reports being manually number-crunched, meaning the data can lag behind real time events by the time their meetings take place. Without an MIS that allows you to have a live feed of data, it’s impossible to accurately understand what is going on in a school.
Cost-savings are also a critical part of moving to cloud MIS, particularly with many schools reviewing their budgets as a result of the cost of living crisis. Cloud-based MIS systems are typically 20%-30% cheaper in terms of license fees and support. They also help reduce the number of systems you need in your school, as functionality isn’t modular and comes as standard (e.g. SMS, online payments, parent evening booking etc). This is important as budgets are tight.
Hannah Stolton, CEO of governor and trustee recruitment charity ‘Governors for Schools’, sees the effective use of a MIS as important for all governors. ‘A key element of a governor’s role is to provide effective and robust challenge to school leaders. Data is a key form of evidence that governors can use to help with their questioning. From attendance, attainment, and monitoring trends, access to up-to-date information is vital to enable governors to perform this function effectively.
Arbor is a cloud-based MIS, helping schools of all sizes work more easily and collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference. With over 3,500 schools and trusts, we are the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community.
In Arbor, governors can use tools such as Custom Report Writer to build out a report unique to their school, and live feed this report into Google or Power BI. Governors can look at this information any time and know that their live dashboard is up-to-date and truly reflects what is going on in their school. This could be for when governors want to see a statistical average for Pupil Premium attainment, or the attendance for a particular demographic in one year group – any kind of information that needs to be investigated.
Arbor are also proud to have a team made up of ex-teachers and school staff, many of whom continue to be governors. Click here to hear more from our school governors and trustees.
If you think your school or trust would benefit from reviewing their MIS, we’d be happy to talk through your options with you, to help you find the right fit. Click here to get in touch with one of our friendly team.
Integrations | School Operations
Arbor integrates with CRB Cunninghams Cashless Catering, Civica Cashless Catering and Live Register. We know that going fully cashless is a priority for many schools, and that a cashless catering system is a core part of that transition. For any school, but particularly for Secondaries, cashless catering is an essential part of improving the student
Arbor integrates with CRB Cunninghams Cashless Catering, Civica Cashless Catering and Live Register.
We know that going fully cashless is a priority for many schools, and that a cashless catering system is a core part of that transition. For any school, but particularly for Secondaries, cashless catering is an essential part of improving the student experience and becoming a modern and efficient school.
We wanted to make the cashless catering process even better for staff, students and parents, which is why we now integrate with CRB Cunnighams Cashless Catering, Civica Cashless Catering and Live Register.
Arbor’s integrations mean you’ll no longer need an additional payments system on top of your cashless catering provider. By connecting Arbor directly with your cashless catering provider, we’ve removed the need to login to multiple systems and accounts, saving you time and money. Instead, the integration means that all your payments information can be managed directly in your Arbor MIS.
It’s important for both staff and parents to be able to access payments information easily and in one central location. The integration means that meal selection and payment information automatically syncs between Arbor and your catering provider, giving parents and staff full visibility over a child’s meal activity. Parents can also top up their child’s account directly in the Arbor Parent Portal or app, making the Parent Portal a single point of access for guardians for all information on their child.
Having a cashless catering system is great, but it’s even more powerful when you can combine its insights with the data already in your MIS. By using Arbor’s built-in reporting tools, you can analyse meal preferences and spending patterns, or report on the success of health initiatives in a specific group of students. By having all payments information in one place, you get a comprehensive view of parent and student spending across all school activities.
Welcome back to another school year, and a big hello to all the new faces that have joined us this September! There’s now one central place you can visit to find out what’s new in your MIS – the Arbor Change Log. Make sure to bookmark the page for easy access! – What’s new for
Welcome back to another school year, and a big hello to all the new faces that have joined us this September!
There’s now one central place you can visit to find out what’s new in your MIS – the Arbor Change Log. Make sure to bookmark the page for easy access!
Rotating meal menus and Parent Portal meal choices
Payments Plus has just gotten even better – you can now create menus that rotate on a periodic basis, and allow parents to make meal choices for their children via the Parent Portal. Learn more here
Get help with the click of a button by sending an instant notification or email to staff who are on call. Plus, report on past alerts and view them on the student profile. Learn more here
We’ve added a new marksheet field called ‘Current vs Baseline’ so you can see student progress at a glance. The field takes the statistical value of an assessment period mark and subtracts it from the statistical value of the baseline. Learn more here
Fix timetabling clashes
With our new Clashing Lessons functionality, you can exclude certain students from certain Timetable slots without removing them from the whole course, or adding them to individual lessons. Learn more here
Cohort and Mark Level Analysis
You no longer have to get data from your individual schools, and can now collate information on every summative assessment mark all from within MAT MIS! Learn more here
National Arbor Average benchmark
We’ve added a new benchmark in MAT MIS to Whole School Attendance, Authorised Absence and Unauthorised Absence KPIs. It’ll show you how your schools compare with other schools using Arbor. Learn more here
We’ve added SEN Statuses and registration form membership data for students to our PowerBI connector. Learn more here
Arbor Community | Customer Support
We’re proud to take part in National Customer Service Week (NCSW), run by the Institute of Customer Service. NCSW is a week-long celebration of all the great things that teams across the country do in order to make the customer experience as positive as possible. At Arbor, we are committed to making sure schools thrive,
We’re proud to take part in National Customer Service Week (NCSW), run by the Institute of Customer Service. NCSW is a week-long celebration of all the great things that teams across the country do in order to make the customer experience as positive as possible.
At Arbor, we are committed to making sure schools thrive, which means providing school staff with plenty of avenues of support so that they can get the most out of our cloud MIS. To make this mission possible, we have lots of different teams in place.
Each day in National Customer Service Week is dedicated to a different aspect of customer service. We spoke to different people across Arbor’s Customer Team to see what these days mean for them in their roles, giving you an opportunity to meet some of the fantastic people behind Arbor’s top-rated support system for schools.
Our Help Centre is packed with articles, videos and how-tos, providing Arbor customers with a detailed online library for all their questions and queries.
To make sure schools are getting the best use of their MIS and to guide them along the way, we have a dedicated Account Management team.
Arbor’s ever-evolving Training Team is committed to providing top quality training to our schools and trusts. The team is always expanding their knowledge and offering, to make sure that schools and trusts can easily pick up all of Arbor’s best bits.
Whether schools are in the process of moving to Arbor, or have been using our cloud MIS for years, our MIS support and project teams are there to guide schools, help them overcome any obstacles they come across and answer all their questions.
There are now over 100 individuals in our Customer Team, made up of trainers, project and programme managers, 2nd and 1st line support staff, success analysts, administrators… and more! The whole team works hard to make sure that every school and trust is thriving with Arbor.
We’ll be celebrating Customer Service Week across our Twitter and LinkedIn – keep an eye out there for more!
If you liked hearing about who we have in our team, you might be interested in this blog, where we speak to Arbor team members about their role as school governors.
Not yet an Arbor customer? Get in touch with us here to find out how our MIS could transform the way your school or trust works.
Case Studies | Local Authorities | Migration
We sat down with Jenny Collins, MIS Programme Manager at Hampshire County Council to talk about how she and her team are helping schools with their move to a cloud-based MIS. Jenny, alongside representatives from Herts for Learning and Amazon Web Services, will be talking through Hampshire County Council’s process and answering your questions in
We sat down with Jenny Collins, MIS Programme Manager at Hampshire County Council to talk about how she and her team are helping schools with their move to a cloud-based MIS.
Jenny, alongside representatives from Herts for Learning and Amazon Web Services, will be talking through Hampshire County Council’s process and answering your questions in our fireside chat on the 18th October. Sign up for free here.
We’re always looking at how we offer the best support for the schools in our area. Over the past two years, we’ve seen a steady decline
in the number of schools using SIMS, with the majority moving to Arbor. We lost approximately 25% of our customer base, so it was no longer financially viable to carry on with our hosted environment. In March 2022, as part of the review of our service, we decided that Arbor was the leading challenger in the market and that we should offer support for their MIS as well. Schools always have a choice about which providers they use, so it was about us responding to where the volumes were moving.
The main concern from the team was around our ability to maintain quality of service while staff were taken off the support rota to undertake accreditation. Communication is key during a time of significant change – staff were briefed about the reasons for the change, and the support team leader provided encouragement on a one-to-one basis. The team were included in detailed planning activities, ensuring their buy-in. Also, the team could see the market changing, and knew that this was a good opportunity for both themselves and the schools.
Management approval was our first big blocker – but the figures spoke for themselves once the decision paper was compiled. There was also a nervousness from our team about their ability to succeed, particularly in the accreditation tests. Arbor’s partnership team was very supportive, with regular progress checkpoints to maintain focus, as well as being quick to respond to ad hoc questions.
Our measure of success is ultimately the feedback from schools. There’s no denying that it’s extra work for a small team, but schools are finding the new system far more intuitive to use. It’s easier for the teachers to get what information they want out of it. Schools like the way Arbor reacts to feedback and the way you can vote for changes or join working groups.
It’s been good for us as an organisation as we can now bring a bit more pressure to bear on things that are Hampshire-specific, such as our own assessment model; we’re working with Arbor to fine-tune this to make use of assessment material better for our schools.
Some schools have told us that the decision to choose Arbor was based on the fact that we were now providing the support service, which is great to hear. We differ from many support partners in our pricing approach, which is flat rather than per pupil. What’s been interesting is that we’ve had schools sign up to our service– even where we’re more expensive for them – because they value the personal service we provide. The schools have also understood that this is a journey for us as an organisation – there’s a recognition that we are all in this to ensure the best outcomes for the children in the county. One of my colleagues recently said, “our schools are being really nice and understanding that we are on this journey together.”
We’re still aiming to provide the same valued service, irrespective of the MIS used by schools. We provide a personal one-to-one service, talking our customers through the resolution of their queries. We have a continuous service improvement ethos, meaning we regularly review our procedures and gain feedback from our schools. We consider customer feedback crucial, and we use multiple channels to make sure our message gets out, and their responses can get back to us, be this through surveys, headteacher strategy groups or conferences.
If you’d like to read the full report, written in partnership with Socitm, click here.
Or, you can find out more about how we work with with Socitm here.
I’ve always believed in leading with a strong moral purpose, supported by the idea of servant leadership. The simple values that we learn in everyday life, like treating others how you like to be treated, are ones that should be brought into your organisation. And I take that with me when thinking about culture. Whether
I’ve always believed in leading with a strong moral purpose, supported by the idea of servant leadership. The simple values that we learn in everyday life, like treating others how you like to be treated, are ones that should be brought into your organisation.
And I take that with me when thinking about culture. Whether it be in a classroom, a corridor or on the playground, I’m always thinking, would I be happy for my child to be involved in an interaction like that? Once you start viewing things through this lens, you can be guided by your moral purpose.
A great deal of our work as a trust has been around schools in special measures. When I get asked why I focus on vulnerable schools, I often reply, ‘Why not?’ It’s who we are and what we do. Many teachers get into the profession to make a difference, and I’m no exception. Certainly in the early years, it wasn’t even a consideration to turn down a school who would ask for help. You learn along the way about pinch points within your own organisation and the risk, then, that comes with this approach. Over time, you find the balance of helping others without negatively impacting what you’ve already established. However, I certainly don’t think trusts should have a blanket approach of not taking on vulnerable schools. It’s got to be an informed choice.
It’s also key to acknowledge when thinking about this choice, that taking on a vulnerable school can be brutal, both physically and emotionally. You have to unearth the challenges which have led that school to where it currently stands, which can mean uprooting safeguarding policies and having to look face-on at the harm that the previous ineffectiveness of the policy may have caused to children. That’s difficult, even when you know you are there to fix it. At the same time, there will be people who aren’t yet onboard with their school joining the trust, which can lead to further difficult conversations. Not to mention that trusts aren’t awash with extra capacity given the challenges of funding over the last ten years. You’ve got to have a really good process for identifying what that capacity is going to be, so that you can get that transfer of resource right.
That’s why due diligence is absolutely essential. You need to make sure that the infrastructure is there, so that teachers are able to get on with their job. You can’t have out-of-date servers or significant HR issues – you need to set up the conditions for them to succeed first. Often, people are drawn immediately to focus on the quality of education, particularly in schools that Ofsted would define as ‘failing’, though I’m never comfortable with the term ‘failing school’. That’s undoubtedly important, but you have to get the infrastructure of the school right first. HR, finance, safeguarding… all of those structural things that enable you to focus on education. If you don’t fix those, they’ll keep coming back and knocking you off course. In that sense, the due diligence in those areas is far more important than what’s going on in the classroom.
When it comes to changing the culture, the way I like to think of it is that we are all there for the same ‘why’, as dubbed by Simon Sinek. What people begin to understand is the reason they’re in the school is exactly the same as yours – to provide the best possible education for the students in that school. It’s important to communicate that, especially when talking to those who have been through the emotional toll of going into special measures. This way, you can be sure that, whatever comes next, your moral purpose and values are aligned. The next step is convincing them that they’re part of the solution, and not part of the problem. For a long time, staff would have been told they’re part of the problem. Their understanding of the weight of responsibility they take is disproportionate to the impact they’ve had. Often they’re the people who have tried everything to help that school, but the conditions haven’t been there for them to have the impact they want to have.
When we take on a new school, we do this by getting everybody together. Every single member of staff, be that the caretaker, office manager, through to the head, comes together so we tell them exactly why we’re there. More importantly, we show that we’re there to listen and to stay for the long-term. It’s an open-door policy. We’ve done it quite formally too, where in some cases I’ve met with every single member of staff individually. I would ask them what they feel are the problems and what they think is to come, unpicking how they feel about their situation. That’s really good intelligence to unlock.
The same goes for parents, as creating that external culture is important too, especially where they’ve lost confidence in the school. If parents are angry or uncertain, the answer is also an open-door policy – let’s get them into the school and allow them to get it all off their chest. Let’s convince them that we’re in this together.
What it comes back to is that acid test of, would this be good enough for my own child? That’s the ultimate measure of success, in my opinion. It’s an indescribable feeling when you are walking through a school that was a huge challenge, and teachers are teaching, children are learning. Or even seeing a particular child who has had some real difficulty making progress, however small the steps are.
A longer version of Sajid’s article appears in our free ebook, alongside four articles from other key MAT leaders. Download your copy here.
Discover more of our content for groups and trusts here.
At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting MAT and school data. We’ve put together this short blog to explain what we do in a little more detail. – 1)
At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting MAT and school data. We’ve put together this short blog to explain what we do in a little more detail.
The security of every Arbor office is maintained by formal security inspections and risk assessments. Access to our offices is restricted with secure keys, CCTV, 24/7 security personnel and secure perimeter doors.
When protecting your school data, it’s important that you follow data security best practice to make sure data does not fall into the wrong hands.
Here are some key things you can keep in mind:
If you’d like to find out more about how our cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your school works, we’d love to hear from you.
Or, if you’d like to find out more about how we look after school data, you can do so here.
Over the past year, we’ve added lots of exciting new features and integrations into our cloud MIS! We update Arbor fortnightly, listening closely and responding to what you tell us. Below are just some of our top picks of everything our team have been working hard on for the past year. Advanced Report Calculations Approve
Over the past year, we’ve added lots of exciting new features and integrations into our cloud MIS!
We update Arbor fortnightly, listening closely and responding to what you tell us. Below are just some of our top picks of everything our team have been working hard on for the past year.
Advanced Report Calculations
Approve and lock assessment marks in bulk
Improved keyboard accessibility
Wraparound Care Clubs
Bulk copy Assessment marks
New MAT MIS homepage
Improvements to Contributing EEP Hours
Attainment Over Time in MAT MIS
Prevent Attendance from being overwritten
Bulk update Core Learning Aims
Share report cards with students
User Defined Fields (UDFs)
School-led tutoring hours
External report cards
Guardians of applicants can access Parent Portal
Clickable hyperlinks in In-App Messages
Custom Group Alerts
Attendance KPIs in MAT MIS
Pay by childcare voucher
Show RANK order on Marksheets
Track Learner Engagement
Send emails via bulk action in MAT MIS
Civica cashless catering integration
Census Audit in MAT MIS
Creating templates for In-App Messages
Live Register cashless catering integration
Automatic Assessment target-setting
Ad Hoc permissions in MAT MIS
Options import from TimeTabler
Have your say in where we go next and help us shape the UK’s most-loved school MIS by adding to our roadmap.
Want to stay in the loop of all our new features? Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn where we post the link to our monthly updates.
Governance | School Operations
Many individuals in the Arbor team have a background in education, be it as a MAT leader, school teacher or even as a free school founder. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that we also have many school governors in our midst. We sat down with four of our team to ask them about the role
Many individuals in the Arbor team have a background in education, be it as a MAT leader, school teacher or even as a free school founder. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that we also have many school governors in our midst. We sat down with four of our team to ask them about the role of school governors, how they became governors, and why they decided to commit to taking on the responsibilities of this important position.
Rebecca: I wanted to give back to my local community, especially during a time when I knew schools were struggling during Covid. I love the area I live in North West London and wanted to feel more involved in what’s happening around me. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to gain board experience at a young age.
Andrew: I initially became a Parent Governor initially because I wanted to make sure that my child was getting the best education possible. I’ve now matured in that view and realised that this was a very one-dimensional approach. What I like about my role as a governor now is that I’m helping to shape the opportunities and life chances of young people that I’ll likely never meet.
Dan: Prior to working for Arbor, I was a teacher and senior leader in secondary schools for 13 years. The insights I gained from working on the front line of education for so long have helped to shape the work I have done with Arbor ever since. My understanding of school life in 2016 only helps so much though, and keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of education is extremely important in order to fully understand all of the challenges schools face. Becoming a governor provided the perfect opportunity for me to continue to learn in this way. To start with, I chaired the Teaching and Learning Committee for a federation of special schools and then after a few years made the transition to my current role as a trustee in a MAT, where I chair the Pay, Performance and Personnel Committee. This is a step away from my previous expertise, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn new skills.
Beth: At first, I thought I might be too young, or have too little experience and expertise to be a governor, but a colleague encouraged me to think about it. I made myself a profile on Inspiring Governance, which links people who want to be governors with schools that need them. I had a chat with the Head and had a virtual tour of the school, and after a few months, they needed a new Chair. So it was a bit of a baptism of fire. What I learned is that it’s not about expertise as such; it’s more important to be present and have the right attitude. If you’re passionate about education and have the time to offer, then that’s brilliant.
Rebecca: I’m a co-opted governor, which means I’m somebody from the local community that the governing board chooses. I applied to three governing recruitment websites, which have lots of resources about what it means to be a governor and where you can upload your application and be found by schools looking for governors. Someone reached out to me, I had an initial screening with the Chair of Governors and then was invited to go to the school to meet the Headteacher and SLT.
Beth: As Chair, I manage the meetings, try to keep things to time and make sure that everybody has the chance to input. I also have a fortnightly catch-up with the Head, which could be about safeguarding issues, a school trip that’s gone well or something that she needs approval from the governors. Governors are also there as an alternative point of contact for parents.
Rebecca: My role as a Co-opted Governor is to read the data and information packs that the SLT provides each month, which include everything from attendance and attainment statistics to safeguarding issues, budgets and anything noteworthy that’s happened in the school. We then ask questions to ensure the headteacher and SLT have thought about different options and that they know how they will monitor progress. We push them to think about all the decisions they’re making and give them advice. We’re also a sounding board for anything that arises in the school, which could be anything to do with the staff, pupils, parents and guardians or building and maintenance.
Andrew: The responsibilities of a school governor are very nuanced, because every time you look upon the student body, you realise you are personally accountable for the life chances of all these young people. We have to scrutinise the tracking data and the performance of the students, but also have to scrutinise resource allocations to ensure we’re spending against the right priorities. Ultimately, the role of a governor is about the infrastructure and fabric of the school. School governors are responsible for resource decisions, policies, attainment, and physical safety of the students. There’ll be a subcommittee that looks at achievements, standards, behaviour, exclusion, remuneration, premises etc. – but we are all accountable in one way or another.
Dan: Governing bodies exist to provide both strategic steer and accountability to schools over the educational performance of its pupils and the way in which its budgets of public money are spent. We do this by analysing performance data, evaluating action plans and asking school leaders challenging questions. A good governing body should be made up of different people from across a local community so that scrutiny can come from a variety of perspectives. Having a governing body also provides schools with an opportunity to draw from knowledge and expertise from different sectors and industries in shaping school and MAT policies.
Beth: Curiosity and integrity. There’s a tension in the role of governor because you’re setting the direction for the school, but you’re not making the everyday decisions. You are there to set a vision and make sure standards are high. To do that, you need to ask lots of questions and genuinely want to know the answers. As for integrity, you need to be able to ask tricky and important questions while also being able to understand the difference between your role as a parent or local businessperson and your role as a governor.
Rebecca: To be a governor, you don’t necessarily need to have prior experience in schools or education, but you need to be well-informed on what makes a good school and what Ofsted considers to be “Good” and “Outstanding”. It also takes someone who can listen carefully, ask good questions, and not be afraid to challenge the Headteacher, whilst being supportive. You’re not there to oppose, you’re there to help and advise. I also think it’s helpful to have people that have worked in diverse roles to bring different experiences and viewpoints into the board; for example on our board we have a policewoman, a lawyer and I’m a marketer.
Beth: I love seeing the impact that the school has on the students. Working in EdTech, we are all here ultimately for the same reason: the students. Being a governor, I feel a much greater connection to that. The challenging side to the role is that sometimes there are problems that we as governors can’t solve – sometimes you can only sympathise. I find that quite hard as a solution-driven person.
Rebecca: I love the feeling that I’m helping young people get the best start in life. There are a lot of refugees and Pupil Premium pupils in our school and it’s an important opportunity to help give them the tools and support to become whoever they want to be. Something I find more challenging is being able to really question and help with decisions the school needs to make, especially when it’s with a situation that’s more nuanced. When meetings move back to being in-person I think this will allow conversations to flow more easily.
Andrew: I feel that education has been good to me, having provided me with a career, and many wonderful opportunities in this country and abroad. So it sounds a bit passe, but it really is an opportunity to give something back. My own education was quite poor in many respects, and so the opportunity to ensure that children don’t have to overcome the obstacles that I did, makes me feel as though I’m adding value.
Dan: For me, being a trustee provides me with a great way to continue to have direct involvement in education. Our decision-making shapes the policies that influence the way in which people work within the schools. Having been a teacher, I know how hard-working people in schools are and how tough a job it can be at times, so I like to think that I can be a voice for teacher and staff wellbeing on the board. Sometimes difficult decisions need to be made and one of the hardest parts of the job for me is getting involved in official disciplinary procedures for staff members or exclusion panels for students and having to weigh up what the right thing to do is in each situation.
Beth: I actually witnessed my school move from SIMS to Arbor. Now, the data is so much easier to interpret, especially with the Assessment data out of Arbor, especially for those who are less confident in this area.
Andrew: Having a good MIS is essential to effective governance. I need to be able to see that the decisions we endorse genuinely add value to the learning journey. We’ve always been given high-quality information, but the issue was that it took a long time to get to us because it had to be manually number-crunched, so sometimes the data was half a term behind our meeting sequence.
Dan: To be effective in challenging a school or MAT’s performance, it is necessary to have current data available that can be interrogated easily. However, in my experience as a governor, the MIS has often held things back. I’m often presented with quite two-dimensional and sometimes out-of-date data that merely reflects a snapshot in time – like a statistical average for Pupil Premium attainment. Without an MIS that allows you to do so, it’s impossible to actually explore the variables that might be driving the statistics presented. Arbor helps governing bodies actually drill down into this information to a much greater depth and makes it far easier to collate across multiple schools. Take Custom Report Writer, for example, which can be live fed into Google or Power BI, giving trustees or governors a live dashboard of current data. They can look at this any time, easily drill down and truly investigate the information.
Beth asked one of the children in a Reception class what they thought the Governing Board does at the school. This is what they said:
“Who is that? We don’t know what that means. Is it just a person or a box or is it you? Or are you talking about our board or your board? There’s two boards in here.”
Apply online at Governors for Schools and they’ll match your skills to a local school in need. Find out more about the role here.
At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work for the better, which is why we think it’s key that so many of our team have previously worked in and continue to support schools.
You can find more about our story and mission here, or keep up with us on Twitter and LinkedIn to find out more about how we are having an impact on education.
EdTech | Migration
As part of our partnership with Amazon Web Services, we interviewed Andrew Proctor, Executive Lead for Education, about how schools should be thinking about migration to the cloud. You can read a shorter version of this article in our joint whitepaper with Socitm. – How has the move to the cloud looked across other parts
As part of our partnership with Amazon Web Services, we interviewed Andrew Proctor, Executive Lead for Education, about how schools should be thinking about migration to the cloud. You can read a shorter version of this article in our joint whitepaper with Socitm.
I think it’s taken a number of different shapes and forms across different sectors, but I also think it’s important to draw a distinction between those organisations and companies that are born in the cloud and those that are not. Cloud-borne companies can scale rapidly, because they already have a cloud way of thinking and doing. This is more the case for the private sector, where companies are often driven by the need for a competitive edge.
Traditionally, I think the public sector has looked at digital transformation as a set of projects to implement new technologies, rather than an embedded cultural change. For those that have made the move to the cloud, they are able to see past technology as something that simply keeps the lights on. It has accelerated and de-risked innovation.
What we’ve seen over the past two years is evolution and adaptation in the education sector, rather than true transformation and reinvention. An example would be moving lessons online. This is in no way to dismiss the incredible work that the public sector has had to do in a very short amount of time, but it demonstrates that they’ve been limited to almost reproducing what they’ve already been doing via different methods, rather than reinventing and improving them.
The adoption of a cloud mindset should be central to any plans for transformation – viewing cloud as something that can help your team focus on your end-users.
When I was first at Staffordshire University, there were monthly management meetings. The different teams would come in and talk about patches to the infrastructure, uptime and availability. By moving to the cloud, one of the cultural things I was able to do was shift the focus of those meetings away from maintenance of the system and through to telling us what problems they’d solved, what new functionality and new services they’d designed and delivered to help staff and students. Ultimately, cloud was a springboard for a much more user-centric approach.
I also think it’s important to know that you don’t need to boil the ocean and seek perfection. Public sector governance doesn’t often align with digital and agile ways of operating. There’s a tendency towards multi-year business plans where every detail must be nailed down. Teams need to accept that traditional governance and its rigidity may not always be conducive to the benefits of the cloud.
Look at digital transformation as a way of being and doing – not the shift to a different piece of technology. You need to be user-obsessed and focused. My advice would therefore be to start by putting some of the cultural building blocks in place and thinking of the bigger picture.
Don’t try to reproduce what you’ve already done but in the cloud. Of course, you can make cost efficiencies and savings by getting rid of a data centre. But the real advantage of cloud is the ability to be innovative and agile.
I’d also say that you should look to the huge community of support that’s out there for help. You don’t have to do it all alone. Many organisations, sectors, and industries have reinvented themselves and are willing to offer a helping hand. Look to partners as well.
To see other case studies like Andrew’s, click on the image above
Whatever the sector, organisations face some barriers, but many of these are actually just perceived barriers, particularly around security and skills.
The security of the cloud is one such perceived barrier. There’s a trust and comfort to having something under physical lock and key in a data centre in your building. Cloud doesn’t remove locks and keys, it just does them in a better and different way. You still get 100% control over who has access to your data and applications. If you take Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example, we have over one million monthly active customers, across every vertical, including policing and security services around the globe. So our infrastructure is designed around the most stringent of security requirements from around the world – and each customer benefits from that. If you’re a school, you’re benefiting from infrastructure that’s been designed for a much higher tier of security than you actually need.
Another concern is around skills. Some organisations worry that they haven’t got the internal skills for digital transformation or cloud adoption. There’s also a natural concern within individuals that they don’t have the skills required. So there’s a fear about making sure transformation is sustainable, because it has the right people moving it along. These concerns have solutions. You can train and develop your internal team where appropriate, rely on partners and also look to grow teams where necessary. In such a fast-paced environment as is the world of IT, the ability to upskill is viewed as an exciting opportunity for internal teams. It’s a positive thing.
The vast majority of projects that are deemed to be large-scale can and should be broken down into manageable chunks. It’s very difficult to produce this perfect, accurately timed and costed multi-year project plan sat at a desk in a room before you’re actually faced with reality. But we still seem wedded to doing that in the public sector.
It’s much better to adopt, again, a sort of cloud mindset, by listening to what end-users need and want. And be prepared to change and adapt where needed.
It’s healthy to think big, but start small. This big idea that all schools will move to the cloud is absolutely right and proper, but the key is to start small, learn some lessons and demonstrate both success and value. Start by migrating those systems that aren’t complex to do so.
In terms of practical advice, the establishment of some core tenets for the project is very important. What are the key things that are driving the initiative? A really rough idea of a tenet could be that you will always prioritise the security of people’s data, so when you come to some difficult or challenging decisions that you need to communicate to everyone, you can refer back to those tenets as well to make sure that you’re staying true to what was agreed upfront. This can help defuse some of the conflict and tension, because you’ve got that established guidance to refer back to. So setting, agreeing and communicating those key tenets to the broader school community can be very helpful.
And again, take digital ethos and approach. It could be moving a single school or a single application or service to the cloud. Take stock, learn some lessons and then progress from there and be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.
Finally, I think it’s important to advocate for the fact that even though there may be some initial trade-offs, as we’ve discussed with the needs of users, going back to one of the core benefits of a cloud mindset is that ultimately you become much more customer-centric and you get much more time and resource to invest back into your end-users as well. Advocating that to the user community is really important. Naturally, there will be some friction and surprises, but just make sure you’ve got some resources ready to communicate to teams and keep them informed.
I would add that there is a lot in the public sector and education sector to celebrate. There is plenty of opportunity for them in terms of digital transformation, but I think they should take a sense of pride in just how important they’ve been, how important they will remain to be and what they have done during a challenging few years.
It’s been a very challenging environment for universities and schools. Lots of noise in the media and press, lots of pressure politically. But they have absolutely done everyone in the country proud in terms of the service that they provided. If you look at them being able to provide new mental health services at universities and schools and the adoption of those, I think we should all be proud of what the education sector has been able to achieve, and we should all advocate for the many opportunities that are still ahead of them.
A shorter version of this article appears in our whitepaper with Socitm, which also features interviews with Hampshire County Council and Herts for Learning about how and why they are offering schools in their area the choice of a cloud MIS. Click here for your free copy of the whitepaper.
Migration | Partners
We’re excited to launch our latest whitepaper, in partnership with Socitm, about how three organisations are helping schools think about a move to the cloud. As the Management Information System (MIS) market shifts, more and more councils are embracing changing technology. But for many, change presents concerns around capacity, impact on internal structures and getting
We’re excited to launch our latest whitepaper, in partnership with Socitm, about how three organisations are helping schools think about a move to the cloud.
As the Management Information System (MIS) market shifts, more and more councils are embracing changing technology. But for many, change presents concerns around capacity, impact on internal structures and getting to grips with new systems. With many councils wanting to provide choice to their schools and follow the lead of those who are already seeking to harness modern technology, including cloud-based MIS, knowing where to start can be a daunting prospect.
Hampshire County Council and Herts for Learning are two organisations that have already embraced a move to the cloud when it comes to school MIS. In this whitepaper, hear from both organisations on how they managed this project internally, advice they would give to others, and what it was that encouraged them to take action.
We also spoke with Amazon Web Services about the trends they’ve seen across the public sector, and how Local Authorities across the UK can take advice from, and be encouraged by, others who have managed similar projects.
Download your free copy of the whitepaper here to read these three case studies.
All three of our contributors will be joining Phillippa D’Ath, CRO at Arbor Education, for a fireside chat on their schools’ experience with a move to the cloud. Sign up to the free webinar, taking place on 18th October at 1pm, by clicking here.
You can find out more about our partnership with Socitm here.
With summer holidays on the horizon, now is the perfect time to reflect, learn and start putting plans in place for the new school year. We’ve been working hard on updates to make your new year set-up as seamless as possible, especially in Assessments – we hope you find them helpful. – What’s new for
With summer holidays on the horizon, now is the perfect time to reflect, learn and start putting plans in place for the new school year. We’ve been working hard on updates to make your new year set-up as seamless as possible, especially in Assessments – we hope you find them helpful.
New Assessments marksheets are here
Our new marksheets are jam-packed with features to make data entry as quick as possible. Say hello to Excel-like functionality, including keyboard entry, custom filters, copy and paste and much more. Learn more here
Copy your Annual Assessment Policy
You can now quickly copy over your assessments to the next academic year. Our setup wizard can pre-fill student groups, Baselines and Targets for maximum time-saving. Learn more here
SUM calculations in Assessment
By using a SUM calculation, you can now recreate things like AQA Maths or Question Level Analysis (QLA) within Arbor. This means that all your Assessment data can be in one place, rather than spread across different Excel spreadsheets. Learn more here
Cashless catering integrations with Civica Cashless Catering and Live Register
We wanted to make the cashless catering process even better for staff, students and parents, which is why we now integrate with Civica Cashless Catering and Live Register. You can now manage cashless catering payments directly from your MIS – without needing a separate payments system as well. The integration is included in our MIS Payments module, and is also part of our Arbor Perform package. Learn more here
In-App message templates
You can now create templates for frequently sent in-app messages, such as a PE kit reminder. In-app templates are loaded in the same way as Email, SMS and Letter templates. Learn more here
MAT MIS calculated fields
Just like on the School MIS, you can now use custom calculated formula fields in the MAT MIS Custom Report Writer. Learn more here
New PowerBI Datasets
We’ve added new datasets to our PowerBI connector to give you more bespoke reporting options. Now you can analyse Staff Absence, Staff Contracts, Staff Salaries, Staff Positions, Staff DfE Position information, and Behaviour Incident Narrative. Learn more here
Assessments | Product updates
With summer holidays on the horizon, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can get the most out of Assessments in Arbor, ready for the new school year. We know how important it is to get Assessments right, so we’ve put together our five favourite tips to help make the process
With summer holidays on the horizon, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can get the most out of Assessments in Arbor, ready for the new school year.
We know how important it is to get Assessments right, so we’ve put together our five favourite tips to help make the process a little easier. Keep an eye out for some of the exciting features that we’ve added this year!
Say hello to super speedy data entry in Arbor’s marksheets. Our marksheets have Excel-like functionality, including keyboard entry, custom filters, and copy and paste, making life quicker and easier for staff.
Find out more here.
Schools can easily spend hours in the initial setup of Assessments creating baselines and entering targets. With our Copy Annual Policy feature, schools can quickly copy the previous years’ data, including student groups, Baselines and Targets for maximum time-saving.
Find out more here.
By using a SUM calculation, schools can recreate things like AQA Maths or Question Level Analysis (QLA) within Arbor. This means that all your Assessment data can be in one place, rather than spread across different Excel spreadsheets.
Report cards are a key link between students, parents and your school’s Assessment system. In Arbor, you can use a report card template to set up your reports and then copy over the information you need when setting up for the following term. This means you can complete Spring and Summer reports in less than 10 minutes and easily share them with guardians.
Want to use your own report card design and layout? Use Arbor’s ‘External Report Card’ feature to bulk upload report cards generated elsewhere, such as Microsoft Word, and easily share them with guardians and students.
We’ve made it easier to create broadsheets with Assessment data in Arbor’s Custom Report Writer! Use our simple slide-overs to bulk add Summative and Ad Hoc Assessment columns to your reports.
Every school’s Assessment model is different, so take advantage of the features and training that will most help your school. But don’t take it from us… hear from Kate Ferris, Data Analyst at Baxter College, about how their adoption of Formative Tracking transformed the way their school thinks about Assessment.
Click here to find out more about Assessments training, or to discuss how it can benefit your school, please contact your Account Manager.
Looking for more tips and tricks? Keep an eye out for our #ArborSpotlight series on Twitter and LinkedIn. for weekly pointers on how to make the most out of our cloud MIS.
Culture | MAT Operations
In February 2022, we surveyed 164 MAT leaders about how they were thinking about culture in their trust. One of the interesting things that came out of this debate was the question of whether schools in a MAT should be close together, and how much this had an impact on the sense of community and
In February 2022, we surveyed 164 MAT leaders about how they were thinking about culture in their trust. One of the interesting things that came out of this debate was the question of whether schools in a MAT should be close together, and how much this had an impact on the sense of community and belonging.
Interestingly, less than 10% of respondents thought that all schools in a MAT had to be in the same area. There were a variety of reasons to justify this response, such as the importance of joint school activities and the equity of treatment from governors who understand the local area.
On the flip side, 26% of respondents said that it was of no importance that all schools in a MAT were in the same area. This was largely put down to the ability of technology to supplement where face-to-face isn’t possible. One respondent also made the point that geographic distance should not be a barrier to taking on schools that are well-suited to the MAT or are in need of assistance which a MAT further away can offer.
Ultimately, the middle ground was popular, with 62% of respondents agreeing that they would want at least clusters of their schools to be near each other for practical reasons like sharing teachers and resources.
Despite this fairly mixed response, the reaction changed when we asked our participants to consider the effect of geography on MAT culture, rather than just the logistics or practicalities of running a MAT. 75% of participants actually agreed that culture can be sustained even when schools within a trust are not geographically close, which was generally justified by the notion that, “technology can link schools that are not geographically close.” This marks a definite shift in attitude, as pre-Covid, MAT leaders were much more likely to state that having a smaller geographical footprint helped to maintain a tight culture.
In fact, nearly 1 in 3 participants felt that having the same systems was one of the most important factors when thinking about how to work together as one organisation, as summarised by one respondent who added, “divergent technology platforms create a barrier for communications and make it much more challenging to operate as a single organisation.” 88% of our participants agreed that, in an ideal world, all of their schools would share the same Management Information System in order to work better together.
It’s certainly an interesting take that, while many seemed to agree that nothing beats face-to-face communication, a shared culture could be sustained through technology.
We put this dilemma to Laura Gregory, Director of Education at Bellevue Place Education Trust. Her piece on the MAT distance debate is one of five articles in our ebook for MAT leaders. Creating a Cohesive Trust also includes our other survey results, insights and a discussion guide. You can download your free copy here.
Keep up with our other blog and ebook releases on Twitter and LinkedIn.
New to Arbor’s content? Click here for more MAT blogs and case studies.
Arbor Community | Case Studies
Last month we introduced our Pay-for-One Promise – giving schools locked into paying for SIMS until 2025 a way to switch to Arbor now without double-paying for their MIS. But we know that deciding to change MIS isn’t just about budget, which is why the Pay-for-One Promise isn’t the only commitment we’ll make to your
Last month we introduced our Pay-for-One Promise – giving schools locked into paying for SIMS until 2025 a way to switch to Arbor now without double-paying for their MIS.
But we know that deciding to change MIS isn’t just about budget, which is why the Pay-for-One Promise isn’t the only commitment we’ll make to your school. We believe passionately that a good MIS is one which is also committed to transforming the way schools work for the better.
So, we asked our schools to tell us #WhyMySchoolSwitched. Hear below how Arbor is making their lives easier and why it’s worth switching to Arbor before your SIMS licence is up.
Use the Pay-for-One Promise to move to Arbor in 2022/23, even if you’re locked into a SIMS contract
Switching MIS isn’t just a system change – it’s a real opportunity to change the way you work for the better. And given the impact switching MIS can have – on everything from workload, to staff happiness, parental engagement and school collaboration – you shouldn’t be prevented from switching by your budget.
The Pay-for-One Promise is our commitment that your school should only pay for one MIS at a time. Put simply: if you’re locked into paying for SIMS, we won’t ask you to pay for your core Arbor license until that contract ends. You get all the benefits of switching to the UK’s leading cloud MIS, but don’t have to worry about double-paying in the process.
Find out more about the Pay-for-One Promise here.
We’re excited to launch part two of our ebook for MAT staff – click here to download your free copy! In our last book for MAT staff, we explored whether trusts could and should create a shared culture. This is now more relevant than ever, spurred on by the government’s statement that all schools should
We’re excited to launch part two of our ebook for MAT staff – click here to download your free copy!
In our last book for MAT staff, we explored whether trusts could and should create a shared culture. This is now more relevant than ever, spurred on by the government’s statement that all schools should belong to ‘strong’ MATs by 2030. We wanted to take another look at what having a strong and cohesive MAT really means and as part of this, how every school could benefit from being in a trust.
In February 2022, we conducted a survey of 164 MAT leaders and discovered that nearly 1 in 5 respondents did not feel that their trust had a cohesive culture which all their schools felt part of.
When we asked participants about the factors they felt best contributed to a shared culture, our survey also revealed that MAT leaders were not drawn to surface-level factors, such as having the same uniform or a standardised curriculum. Instead, respondents were more focused on having shared opportunities for staff and students, and shared vision and values. This seems to direct us towards what having a cohesive trust truly means: sharing, not sameness.
Hear from five MAT leaders
To look further into what it takes to create a cohesive trust, we invited five different MAT leaders to write about what they thought helped build cohesion and resilience in their trusts.
Our book opens with the importance of communication at Learning For Life Education Trust, and the resulting cross-trust oracy programme. You’ll then hear why Wellspring Academy Trust has committed to 125-year plans for all their schools, and how The Learning For Life Partnership shares best practice both within and beyond their own schools. The fourth piece in our book features interviews with three key trust leaders from across the country, exploring how sharing courses between their schools has benefited their students. This is followed by The Kemnal Academy Trust’s unique approach to trust-wide staff retention and opportunities. Our book closes with a look into moral leadership at Prince Albert Community Trust and how this has helped transform a number of vulnerable schools.
The ebook is free to download for anybody interested in helping their trust work together as one organisation, not many schools. We hope you gain some inspiration on how to make sure that every school, and every student, is benefiting from everything your trust has to offer.
Click here to download your copy.
If you missed the first part of our Cohesive Trust series, you can download it for free here.
To keep up with all our other exciting new content and news, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
What is staff wellbeing and why does it matter? Sometimes, we need to take a step back and focus on the small things that really matter. In schools, we’re really good at the big statements and big ideas. But this can often overshadow our own experiences, our lives and our work, made up of smaller
Sometimes, we need to take a step back and focus on the small things that really matter. In schools, we’re really good at the big statements and big ideas. But this can often overshadow our own experiences, our lives and our work, made up of smaller interactions and moments – which are what we need to focus on.
This isn’t to say that we need to make sweeping changes or do compulsory yoga on a Friday. Staff wellbeing is about the fabric and culture of the places we work in. We can draw on something as well-known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – there are fundamentals in place that we need to fulfil to function effectively. We need to make sure the infrastructure is in place to function as human beings first, and teachers or SBMs or office staff second.
It’s easy to throw the word wellbeing around. It crept into the Ofsted framework a few years ago and suddenly everyone was posing the question: ‘what are we doing about staff wellbeing?’ But even when retention is good, what you want to find out is whether people know what to do in a crisis, or if they’re struggling. It’s not just about keeping your head above the water or managing to swim against the tide, but that we actually have a right to be happy.
Wellbeing is a worthy investment of the self. Working extra hours is simply not sustainable, for example. The truth is that the education sector is in need of staff, and so sustainability and retention must be at the heart of strategy, and the core of our own personal outlooks. And that comes back to wellbeing.
Our profession attracts perfectionists. It attracts people who are susceptible to guilt. In my work on teaching and parenthood, I once heard from a young mother who’d left teaching after teaching for just a few months because she ‘got sick of letting everybody down all the time.’ We go into schools to make a difference and to make society a better place than when we found it, and we have drive, and a spark. That means that we want to give, because giving makes us feel good. So we keep giving and giving, until we suddenly realise we’ve worked an 80 hour week or that someone we love is trying to talk to us and we’re just not listening. We’re physically there, but we’re not mentally or emotionally present at all. Suddenly we start to negate that very energy, that very sense of moral purpose. That very spark that brought us into the profession in the first place starts to suffer, and it means our giving isn’t sustainable.
So what we need to remember is that we are not irreplaceable.
That does not mean what we do isn’t precious. When a student contacts you years later and you can see that you have contributed in some way to their lives, it goes to show how valuable of a role we play as individuals. What it does mean is that we cannot be martyrs to the profession, or our own wellbeing will suffer.
As part of my research, I asked education professionals to tell me the small things that ruin their day. You’ve probably experienced these before: broken photocopiers, anything to do with glue sticks, dirty mugs in the sink, meetings where children aren’t mentioned once. It comes down to inefficiency, sometimes collective and sometimes individual. I tried to take these and think how we can move forward and make minor or significant tweaks for ourselves individually and for our organisations to really think about wellbeing in a meaningful way.
So not the compulsory yoga, not the free post-it notes, not the chocolate on Friday, although that always has its value. It’s about being able to say thank you, or sorry, or good morning, or ask how people genuinely are. This creates a more open space where talk is encouraged and individuals understand what the other does. Ultimately, our attention is finite and a gift, so it’s about knowing where to allocate it, both in terms of time management and emotions.
I also asked educators what made them feel good. Answers ranged from seeing a child write their name for the first time, or someone bringing them a cup of tea on a bad day. Most people don’t need big, public thank yous in staff briefings. Schools should instead be focused on making sure everyone drinks enough water, or that the toilets are nice to use, or taking a walk for some alone time. Essentially, that the fundamentals and infrastructure are there, both physically and emotionally.
One thing that was particularly transformative for me was writing down, or recording in some way, three good things that have happened to me each day, be it on a post-it note or in a journal or an Excel spreadsheet. It’s great to look back at what you’ve achieved, but it also creates an artificial barrier in that spill-over between work and life, drawing a line underneath it. There are other ways to create this barrier – whatever works for you. It could be locking the school gates, saying goodbye to the caretaker, or pulling up in your driveway.
It ultimately comes down to this – we are all giving people and that’s why we’re working in schools. But if we give too much, we can’t give anymore. So we must sometimes work against this selfless impulse to give in order to make sure our generosity, drive, wellbeing and our love for our roles are sustainable.
Want to learn more? You can read Emma’s blog and see more of her work by clicking here.
Or, click here to read our other articles on staff wellbeing.
Happy Half Term and welcome to our May product release summary! It’s been a bumper month for new launches. We’ve released brand new modules – Payments Plus and Shared Teaching – along with a range of other updates to help you, your school and your trust. – What’s new for schools At Arbor, we’re on
Happy Half Term and welcome to our May product release summary! It’s been a bumper month for new launches. We’ve released brand new modules – Payments Plus and Shared Teaching – along with a range of other updates to help you, your school and your trust.
The end-to-end payments system from Arbor
You can now manage meal choices, create your school shop and take payments the way you want to, with our new Payments module – Payments Plus. School Shop is the first feature, with Advanced Meals and additional Payment Methods functionality coming soon. Learn more here
Share students and courses across multiple schools
Sharing courses and teaching resources across schools is a fantastic way to widen your curriculum and give your students more choice. Shared Teaching takes the heavy lifting out of shared course set up and administration, letting you share courses across schools with ease. Learn more here
Set up and mark End of Key Stage 1 assessments
You can now use a new assessment template called ‘End of Key Stage 1 – Test Results’ to input data for a wide range of DfE assessments, saving you time and allowing for marks to be exported in Common Transfer Files (CTFs). Learn more here
Track census completion at MAT level
As part of our mission to help MAT central teams support their schools, we’ve added an overview of census completion to the MAT MIS. It gives you a summary of the status of each Census for each school and each academic year letting you be sure everyone is compliant with both DfE and Trust level reporting. For more information on how to access Census Audit in your MAT MIS please contact your Account Manager.
MAT MIS Custom Report Writer Superuser is here
You fed back and we listened. You told us how useful you found the Custom Report Writer superuser permission functionality in School MIS and how useful it would be to have the same in MAT MIS, so we built it! This permission allows superusers to view and edit all custom reports created on MAT MIS. Log in to MAT MIS
Arbor is always evolving, hand-in-hand with Schools and MATs. We update Arbor fortnightly, listening closely and responding to what you tell us. View our roadmap and have your say in where we go next, helping us shape the UK’s most transformative MIS.
Payments | Product release
We’re excited to announce the launch of our new Payments Plus module! Payments Plus is the end-to-end payments system within your MIS your parents will love. Say goodbye to logging in to multiple places to complete different payment tasks. Manage meal choices, create your shop and take payments at your school the way you want
Payments Plus is the end-to-end payments system within your MIS your parents will love. Say goodbye to logging in to multiple places to complete different payment tasks. Manage meal choices, create your shop and take payments at your school the way you want to – all from within Arbor.
Payments Plus means you can make payments self-service, and ultimately become a cashless school. Parents no longer have to travel into school to make payments, and you don’t need to go to the bank to deposit cash or cheques, saving time and effort for everyone.
This exciting new module is an extension to Arbor Payments Core, our current Payments features. It gives you greater flexibility on meal choices, more payment options including Apple Pay and Google Pay, and access to a School Shop.
Works seamlessly with your student data
Payments Plus has been built within Arbor to work hand-in-hand with your student data and communication tools – no need to import data into a third party tool.
Gives your parents one easy-to-use system
Parents login to just one place for all tasks, from booking and paying for trips, to paying for items, to reading school comms. Fewer questions and frustrations from parents means more time back for you!
Payment methods to fit every lifestyle
Payments Plus gives you the freedom to tailor payments to your school needs. Give parents the flexibility to pay the way that suits them, whether that’s by card, Apple Pay or Google Pay.
We’re launching features within Payments Plus over the next few months. School Shop is already up and running, with Advanced Meals and additional Payment Methods functionality coming soon.
For more information about Payments Plus, view our website or speak to your Account Manager.
I’ve never written an open letter before, but I think it’s fair to say that the past few months have seen a lot of “firsts” in the Management Information System (MIS) space…! You’ll probably know by now that back in November SIMS announced it would only offer 3 year contracts to schools. Whilst thousands of
I’ve never written an open letter before, but I think it’s fair to say that the past few months have seen a lot of “firsts” in the Management Information System (MIS) space…!
You’ll probably know by now that back in November SIMS announced it would only offer 3 year contracts to schools. Whilst thousands of schools used this as an opportunity to switch, many more felt they didn’t have time to make the change, so renewed their contracts until 2025.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. At Arbor we believe passionately that switching MIS is a real opportunity to change the way all your staff work for the better. And given the immediate and positive impact switching MIS can have on everything from workload, to staff happiness, parental engagement and school collaboration, we believe you shouldn’t be prevented from switching by your supplier.
That’s why we’re launching our Pay-for-One Promise today.
The Pay-for-One Promise is our commitment that a school should only pay for one MIS at a time. Put simply, if you’re locked into paying for SIMS, we won’t ask you to pay for your core Arbor MIS or payment license until that contract ends. You get all the benefits of switching to the UK’s leading cloud MIS, but don’t have to worry about double-paying, or being out of pocket. In fact, by switching now and replacing multiple other systems such as payments, you’ll actually save money (as well as loads of time).
You can learn more about the Pay-for-One Promise here or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
We feel strongly that this is the right thing to do to help your school, trust or LA keep its options open and make the best decision possible. We look forward to hearing your feedback.
Arbor MIS | New Release
At Arbor, our MIS is designed to champion new and different ways of working across communities, schools and trusts. That’s why we are excited to launch our brand new module, Shared Teaching! Sharing courses and teaching resources across secondary schools and sixth forms is a fantastic way to widen your curriculum and give your students
At Arbor, our MIS is designed to champion new and different ways of working across communities, schools and trusts. That’s why we are excited to launch our brand new module, Shared Teaching!
Sharing courses and teaching resources across secondary schools and sixth forms is a fantastic way to widen your curriculum and give your students more choice. Whether it’s about increasing access to specialist subjects like art or music, or having to decide which course to run where budgets are tight – increasing the learning opportunities offered to students can make an incredible difference to their experience and future careers.
“We have a real message of equity and parity and making sure that if a student can do one thing in one school, they should be able to do it in another school. The fact they live five miles away shouldn’t restrict students when it comes to making important choices about their future. Where it has the most impact is with minority courses like drama, economics, and languages – which we just wouldn’t be able to run if we didn’t do shared teaching.”
Tom Hill, The Olympus Academy Trust
But, we know that sharing teaching can be a very time consuming and manual process for staff – which is why we’ve built the Shared Teaching module. It’s designed to take the heavy lifting out of shared course set up and administration, letting you share courses across schools with ease.
Removing the burden of admin
Manual data inputting, constant emailing back and forth between schools, and complicated spreadsheets have defined the shared teaching experience for many school administrators and timetablers. Instead, our new module reduces the amount of manual process by letting schools manage timetabling and enrolment directly in their MIS. Only one person in the group has to set up the courses, and the classes will be pushed to all schools in the partnership.
Shared, but secure data
When schools are sharing students, it’s essential that they have a secure record of information to hand. Teachers need to be able to see important details such as medical needs or dietary requirements for all of their students, and in one place. With Shared Teaching, schools get an accurate, up-to-date record of shared students in their own MIS. Teachers can record attendance and assessment data for every student and it will instantly sync between their home and partner schools.
Insights for every school
We know from speaking to schools who share courses that it can have a real, positive effect on students’ lives, so it’s important that schools can track and monitor the progress of their shared courses with reliable data. With this module, schools and MATs can run reports about shared courses at the course and student level, and for courses taught at both home and partner schools. No siloed data means all schools sharing courses together get comprehensive data and insights, such as progress or attainment.
For more information about Shared Teaching, view our handy guide or speak to your Account Manager.
There are countless ways we could show you how we’re the UK’s number 1 when it comes to being the most-loved MIS. But we figured that this Arbor by numbers blog would be a good starting point. More of a words person? You can read what our customers have to say about us here. Follow
There are countless ways we could show you how we’re the UK’s number 1 when it comes to being the most-loved MIS. But we figured that this Arbor by numbers blog would be a good starting point.
More of a words person? You can read what our customers have to say about us here.
Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for more insights and weekly customer testimonials.
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. Whether this be to help reduce exam stress or as part of the school’s Covid recovery plan. To help you in shaping your school wellbeing programme, we’ve tracked down
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. Whether this be to help reduce exam stress or as part of the school’s Covid recovery plan.
To help you in shaping your school wellbeing programme, we’ve tracked down seven of the top school wellbeing initiatives you could consider for your school.
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.
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.
If a whole week doesn’t work for your school, why not hold termly workshops with a focus on mental health and wellbeing. Developing a partnership with a specialist charity like Young Minds can support with this.
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.
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.
There are lots of ways you can introduce a focus on wellbeing into lessons across the curriculum, especially in Drama, English or Art. These subjects in particular can be useful to process their emotions and experiences through creating personal projects or pieces of work.
Another great way to spread awareness of wellbeing and mental health around school is through physical or virtual noticeboards, where students can share posters with their wellbeing tips. You’ll also find some great visuals online like this one from the Anna Freud Centre.
Mindfulness is proven to have a profound impact on our overall wellbeing, with studies showing the positive effects of meditation such as reduced stress and anxiety, improved memory and focus, better relationships and reduced emotional and physical pain. There is now growing awareness of the benefits of practicing mindfulness in schools to help students build attention span, emotional regulation and resilience. Why not introduce a five minute mindfulness session during assemblies, or to begin or round off the school day?
As many schools have found during the pandemic, students are coming to school with difficult experiences that they haven’t been able to process. It’s important to carve out some dedicated time once a week during form or tutor groups for “circle time”, which creates a safe space for students to share what they’re going through. Give each student the opportunity to share either a word or a sentence that describes how they are that day, and create a culture of no judgement from their peers.
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!
Wellbeing initiatives are great, but making sure staff are happy and healthy to support them has to come first. Promoting a culture of staff wellbeing is essential to a healthy school. Supporting staff and building trust leads to a happier team, higher performance, better retention and a motivated environment.
Check out why nurturing staff wellbeing is so important at Woodland Academy Trust from CEO, Dan Marrow
Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:
For more ideas and resources check out the following websites:
If you’d like to find out more about how our cloud-based MIS could transform the way you work, join one of our free webinars.
If you’re not already part of the online community, sign up here for free to share best practice, tips and tricks with fellow Arbor schools.
Or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for more insights and weekly customer testimonials.
As you may have heard, we’re doing ArborFest a little differently this term. ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on 5th May, will focus on all of the exciting new releases we’ve recently launched and give you a sneak peek of what’s coming up over the next two terms. Whether you’re new to
As you may have heard, we’re doing ArborFest a little differently this term.
ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on 5th May, will focus on all of the exciting new releases we’ve recently launched and give you a sneak peek of what’s coming up over the next two terms.
Whether you’re new to the Arbor Community, or you’ve been using our MIS for years, this is the perfect opportunity to discover more about how your school could be using Arbor MIS to transform the way you work. Our support and API partners are also invited to join any of the sessions which take their interest.
You can view the full schedule by clicking here, but we’ve put together a few sessions you won’t want to miss below…
As usual, we’ll be kicking the day off with a welcome talk from our CEO and co-founder, James Weatherill. Alongside our Chief of Customer Success and Head of Product, James will be revealing what’s coming up for Arbor MIS and sharing insights on the education sector!
We have a number of exciting announcements, as well as a deeper look into some of our recent releases.
Who better to learn from than school staff who use Arbor every day?
At Arbor, we champion the feedback from our customers. If you’d like to have your say in the future of our MIS, come along to one of our interactive feedback forums.
To create a safe and open space, these sessions are just for customers. We’re looking forward to hearing all your opinions and ideas.
All the information you need about ArborFest, including the full schedule, can be found here.
We can’t wait to see you there! Make sure to keep an eye out for and get involved with our ArborFest competition on Twitter or LinkedIn.
School Improvement | Sustainability
This year, many people will be thinking hard about how they can make their school greener. But how can a school MIS improve sustainability in schools? There will always be an argument that cloud-based technology is simply better for the environment than going server-based. But we wanted to explore more into the tips and tricks
This year, many people will be thinking hard about how they can make their school greener. But how can a school MIS improve sustainability in schools?
There will always be an argument that cloud-based technology is simply better for the environment than going server-based. But we wanted to explore more into the tips and tricks within your MIS that can help you reach your school’s sustainability goals.
Cloud-based MIS are designed to bring together policies, people and processes, meaning workflows become more automated. This should displace the need for the exchange of information on scraps of paper, or save energy and time spent manually setting up and sending a spreadsheet by email.
One of the clearest ways that schools can reduce wasting paper is in their communication with parents. Your MIS should enable you to communicate entirely through app or browser, particularly for things like consents and permissions, paying for trips or setting up parents evenings online. In Arbor, this can all be done through the Parent Portal without any need for extra slips and letters.
However, what is clear in many schools is that they are doubling up this process and still sending paper copies to parents, just in case. Interestingly, only 2% of households in the UK do not have a mobile phone, and only 3% have no access to the Internet. One way schools could move forward would be to run an internal audit and find out how many parents would be happy to be contacted by app or browser alone.
Having a walk-to-school week, running an initiative to save water at school, or only offering vegan meal choices on certain days? There are lots of different ways to think about sustainability in schools, but make sure to take advantage of User-Defined Fields to help you keep track of which student has done what. At the end of your sustainability initiative, you’ll have exciting data to present to the students and you’ll easily be able to spot and reward those who have, for example, taken part every day. This could be an especially useful tool for Trusts who want to push down a UDF to all their schools or run an inter-school competition.
You could even take the information you collect one step further, by comparing the dataset with attainment. Some interesting patterns could be spotted here: does walking to school improve attendance, or does eating vegan food improve Attitude to Learning grades after lunch? This could transform the way your school thinks about sustainability as something that not only helps the environment, but has a positive impact on students’ learning too.
If you’re a school looking for sustainability or after school club ideas, it could be a good initiative to combine the two. Be it planting trees or making artwork for the school from recycled bottle caps, sustainability clubs are a great way to bring students together, spend time outside and learn about saving the planet. Clubs are designed to be easy in Arbor – you can manage consents, club size, length and schedule sessions all from one place.
Make sure to tag us on Twitter or LinkedIn if you’ve used Arbor in your sustainability initiative!
Want to see how our cloud MIS could transform your school? Meet us at the Schools & Academies Show!
If you’re an Arbor customer with great ideas about sustainability in schools, we’d love to hear from you! Have your say in the future of MIS on our product board.
School Improvement | Vulnerable Students
Having a successful Pupil Premium strategy is key in any school, especially in a post-Covid world. With remote learning having a big impact on pupils across the country, schools are now not only trying to close the attainment gap academically, but on a wellbeing level too. There are many creative and successful Pupil Premium strategies
Having a successful Pupil Premium strategy is key in any school, especially in a post-Covid world. With remote learning having a big impact on pupils across the country, schools are now not only trying to close the attainment gap academically, but on a wellbeing level too.
There are many creative and successful Pupil Premium strategies out there, which help to hone in on each Pupil Premium Eligible student in a school and help to narrow the gap with their peers. In today’s blog, we wanted to show you a few ways Arbor can help with some of the heavy lifting when it comes to making sure these strategies are effective.
Arbor automatically calculates PP Eligibility for current pupils and applicants, based on Free School Meals, In Care and Service Child Status, meaning staff don’t have to enter this data manually. You can also import Pupil Premium Recipient data from the DfE; Pupil Premium Recipients are marked with a clear tag in the MIS, so that staff can spot and organise their information with ease.
In addition, wherever you search for students, staff can immediately see and organise by each student’s demographic, including Pupil Premium and not Pupil Premium. This includes being built into our homepage analysis, so it’s easily accessible for all the right people in your school, meaning you don’t have to rely on others to make the reports for you. We wanted to make sure that Pupil Premium students were really easy to identify, so that nothing slips between the cracks.
With shared data, workflows, comms and information, it’s easy for your staff to work together and spot patterns, solve issues and plan ahead. Our custom reports are designed to help you spot these patterns, such as between Free School Meal eligible students and low attendance.
Once these are set up, with any configuration of data that your school wants to track, Arbor helps you take immediate action by automatically adding students that join the group into an intervention of your choice. This means that your school can take a proactive approach and make sure that no child is left behind.
Our custom group alerts also help to join up people and processes. When setting up a custom group, staff can create membership criteria, such as ‘students who are Pupil Premium, with low attainment and attendance.’ Arbor users can then set up alerts for any staff member, including by relationship to a student (e.g. their Form Tutor), when said student joins or leaves a custom group, based on the criteria. These can be communicated by email or as an alert on the homepage.
When it comes to Pupil Premium funding, we make this process easier by integrating with SBS Budgets. Using SBS, you can upload and tag the official PP recipients each financial year, taken from the Official DfE files received from Key to Success.
As Pupil Premium status is allocated from the DfE after each Census, the Key 2 Success Report is correct. If any changes are made, you can reimport the report from them or await the new data from the DfE after your next Census. This will allow you to see the “Pupil Premium Recipient” badge against a pupil on their student profile.
If you’d like to find out other ways Arbor could transform your school, book a call with one of our friendly team.
Already an Arbor customer? You can find lots more information about the contents of this article on our help centre.
Join us on the 27th April for the Schools & Academies Show 2022, taking place in the Excel Centre. We are excited to join the biggest names in education in what has become the UK’s largest education policy event, attracting over 8,000 attendees from schools, academies, MATs, LAs and government. Sign-up to the event for
Join us on the 27th April for the Schools & Academies Show 2022, taking place in the Excel Centre.
We are excited to join the biggest names in education in what has become the UK’s largest education policy event, attracting over 8,000 attendees from schools, academies, MATs, LAs and government. Sign-up to the event for free here!
If you’re thinking about switching to a cloud-based MIS, come and visit us at stand G10. You’ll have the chance to meet our friendly team and ask any questions you might have about making the move to cloud-based technology. You’ll also be able to see our MIS in action through a live demo, and see why over 3,000 schools and MATs have already joined the Arbor community.
Already an Arbor customer? Come along to ArborFest: The New Features Edition, our virtual conference on May 5th where we’ll be looking at all the exciting new features in our MIS. Perfect whether you are a long-standing user of Arbor or have only just joined the community! With a programme designed to spark ideas about the different ways you could be using Arbor at your school, you should leave with plenty of inspiration and practical steps to start using the new features we’ve released this year – plus, it’s free!
You can also stay in the loop with us on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Arbor Updates | Mental Health and Wellbeing
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 think about stress management 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
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 think about stress management and allow yourself to enjoy some well-deserved rest.
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:
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.
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.
Spending time in nature has a range of positive impacts to our overall wellbeing and is a great first step to stress management. 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:
Check out this article from Mind for more information and ideas for how to feel the benefits of nature.
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. 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.
Why not extend your stress management 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.
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 email@example.com, or call 0208 050 1028.
Arbor MIS | Partners
Click here to read our first whitepaper with Socitm. We are delighted to have joined forces with the Society for Innovation Technology and Modernisation (Socitm). Socitm is a leading membership organisation of more than 2,500 professionals, which is dedicated to inspiring change and progress throughout the public sector. Through events, publications and programmes, Socitm’s mission
Click here to read our first whitepaper with Socitm.
We are delighted to have joined forces with the Society for Innovation Technology and Modernisation (Socitm).
Socitm is a leading membership organisation of more than 2,500 professionals, which is dedicated to inspiring change and progress throughout the public sector. Through events, publications and programmes, Socitm’s mission is to help maximise the effective use of technologies and data across public service organisations and communities to improve outcomes for the public benefit.
This goes hand in hand with Arbor’s mission to transform the way schools work through our cloud-based MIS (Management Information System). As the fastest-growing MIS community in the UK, and a dedication to changing the way schools work for the better through the technology we provide, it seemed fitting to work with Socitm on a number of projects throughout the coming year.
Our joint commitment to driving digital transformation in the public sector led us to writing our first whitepaper together, called Transforming Education. The paper tackles many of the myths and concerns local authorities may face when embarking on large-scale digital change. You can read the paper here.
We thought this was an especially pertinent topic given the changes in the MIS market, as well as our partnership with the Herts for Learning framework (HfL.) Over 200 schools in Hertfordshire were able to smoothly transition to Arbor’s cloud-based MIS through this framework, bringing their technology into the 21st century and helping the Local Authority to meet the needs of students, parents, teachers and school staff across their community. You can read about this partnership and hear from organisations about their move to the cloud here.
If you’re thinking about making the switch to a cloud-based MIS and would like to hear how we can make that process less daunting, read our whitepaper here.
Or, if you’re part of a Local Authority and would like to speak to us, click here to book a call with one of our friendly team members.
We’re excited to announce the latest ArborFest, our twice-yearly conference for the Arbor Community, taking place on Thursday 5th May 2022. This ArborFest, we’re focusing on all of the exciting new releases we’ve recently launched and giving you a sneak peek of what’s to come over the next two terms. ArborFest: The New Features Edition
We’re excited to announce the latest ArborFest, our twice-yearly conference for the Arbor Community, taking place on Thursday 5th May 2022.
This ArborFest, we’re focusing on all of the exciting new releases we’ve recently launched and giving you a sneak peek of what’s to come over the next two terms.
ArborFest: The New Features Edition is designed to spark ideas about the different ways you could be using Arbor at your school. We’ll be shining a spotlight on the latest releases in our MIS, talking about where the system is headed next, and hosting forums for you to share your views.
After the success of our last three virtual conferences, we’ll be going fully digital again for this special edition of ArborFest. Join us from your office, playground or home to get the inside scoop on everything new in Arbor MIS.
See the full programme and book your free tickets here: https://sites.google.com/arbor-education.com/arborfest-may-2022/schedule
Whether you’ve just joined Arbor, been using it for years or just want to get a behind the scenes look, you should leave ArborFest with plenty of inspiration and practical steps to start using the new features we’ve released this year. We can’t wait to see you there!
All you need to do to join is:
How can I keep in touch?
Arbor Community | Arbor MIS
Introducing Creating a Joined-Up School, our brand new ebook for secondary school staff. Collaboration is often talked about as one of the key elements of a successful secondary school. But legacy IT systems and processes can make it hard for teams to work together seamlessly. Accessing data is difficult, reporting is complex and over-customisable, and
Collaboration is often talked about as one of the key elements of a successful secondary school. But legacy IT systems and processes can make it hard for teams to work together seamlessly. Accessing data is difficult, reporting is complex and over-customisable, and student data is spread across multiple systems instead of being in one place. All of this leads to high workload and unnecessary stress, with roles becoming isolated, and staff singing from different hymn sheets. Crucially that means important information about students falls between the cracks.
At Arbor, we believe that your MIS should help your team work more efficiently and effectively together in a more “joined up way”. Our philosophy is that an MIS should be built to be used and loved by all staff – from office staff, to teachers and senior leaders – giving schools one shared workspace to support each other and encourage collaboration.
Diving into the benefits of a shared workspace
We wanted to dig deeper into exactly how our MIS is helping secondary school staff work better, together. In February 2022, we spoke to four pairs of secondary school staff to find out how they are making the most of Arbor to work more efficiently, effectively and collaboratively.
Each of our interviewees emphasised that one key benefit of having a shared workspace was having visibility and transparency over every student, at all times. As well as this, having all changes made by any member of staff automatically update across the MIS, meaning every staff member is kept in the loop and information is always up to date. These benefits were felt across the range of roles we interviewed, including Headteachers, Data Managers, Exams Officers and SEN Admins.
Our exciting ebook for secondary schools
We’ve compiled all of these interviews into a brand new Arbor ebook, featuring staff from Baxter College, Ralph Thoresby School, Droitwich Spa High School and The Grove School, part of Marches Academy Trust. The book explores what it means to have a joined-up secondary school, and how your MIS should encourage collaboration across all roles in your school.
Each of these stories is intended to shine a light on why schools work better when they have access to a shared workspace – something that’s become all the more important in a post-Covid world.
You can download Creating a Joined-Up Secondary School for free by clicking here.
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Another year, another amazing BETT show! It was great to catch up with so many of our existing 3000 customers, as well as meeting lots of new schools and trusts – we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. This time the event took place in March, meaning that we were able to
Another year, another amazing BETT show! It was great to catch up with so many of our existing 3000 customers, as well as meeting lots of new schools and trusts – we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. This time the event took place in March, meaning that we were able to enjoy the sunshine at the same time.
It was a pleasure to exhibit alongside ScholarPack for the first time at our shared stand, as the two most-loved MIS providers in the UK.. We also added a new Arbor classroom to our stand this year, meaning visitors could sit down and join demos run by our team as they highlighted some of Arbor’s best bits.
For the 6th year in a row, we took over Tapa Tapa restaurant to meet our customers, partners, and new faces over lunch, drinks and breakfast. Our Product Team also ran two interactive roadmap sessions to showcase some of the exciting developments we’ve got coming up for our secondary and MAT MIS, and to get feedback from Arbor users. If you missed the session, you can see what’s coming up on our roadmap (and add your own suggestions) here. If you’re not already using Arbor, but want to see how Arbor could work at your school or MAT, click here to watch a demo of our MIS.
Former primary Headteacher (and now Senior Partnership Manager at Arbor) Tim Ward gave a talk at the Tech in Action Theatre on five ways Arbor helps schools transform the way they work. He focused on ease of data analysis, integrated communications, how to automate time-consuming tasks, the importance of support and how Arbor is built with all staff in mind.
We had the excitement of launching not one, but two pieces of new content at BETT.
Our first piece – titled Creating a Joined-Up Secondary School – explores how a shared workspace encourages collaboration across different roles. We interviewed four pairs of secondary school staff from different schools about how they are using their MIS to work better together and to reduce their workload. Click here to receive your free copy.
Our second new book is for MAT leaders – titled Creating a Cohesive Trust – and looks into how to make sure all schools in a Trust are working well as one organisation and with a shared culture. We interviewed MAT leaders from across the country, and put our findings together with five interviews from key Trust voices, (including Bellevue Place Education Trust and The Birmingham Diocesan Multi-Academy Trust) to dive into what culture really means and what Trusts are doing to achieve cohesion. Click here to receive your free copy.
Of course, our favourite moments of every BETT come when we are able to meet customers, prospects and partners. We held breakfasts, lunches and drinks each day in the Tapa Tapa restaurant, and were fortunate enough to be joined by lots of our brilliant Arbor ambassadors.
As you can see, it’s been a very busy BETT for us – we’re already looking forward to next year!
Culture | MAT Operations | MATs
Click here to read our latest ebook, exploring how different trusts are building a shared culture. The debate around autonomy vs. alignment for schools in Trusts has been animated over the past few years, with some MATs giving their schools independence over their policies and others preferring a more centralised approach. If we accept that
Click here to read our latest ebook, exploring how different trusts are building a shared culture.
The debate around autonomy vs. alignment for schools in Trusts has been animated over the past few years, with some MATs giving their schools independence over their policies and others preferring a more centralised approach.
If we accept that trusts will always differ on how centralised to be, perhaps the more interesting question becomes: how do you create a trust which works really well together as one organisation, regardless of where you sit on that scale?
What are the factors which create a successful, shared culture in a MAT? And how do you make sure the academies in your trust benefit from being part of a greater whole?
To get a sense of the national picture, in February 2022 we surveyed 164 trust leaders from around the country. 94% of respondents agreed it’s important all schools in a MAT feel part of the same culture. In fact, many indicated that having a shared culture was fundamental to a MAT’s purpose; one respondent wrote, ‘I would wonder what ‘the point in being a trust would be if there was no sense of a shared culture.”
Having said this, nearly 1 in 5 respondents said that their trust did not have one cohesive culture which all schools feel part of, with many emphasising that this was an ongoing journey for their MAT.
One participant put this down to “each school [being] reluctant to take on ideas and processes the other schools use”, whilst another explained that “we have not had time to build a common ethos beyond our founders’ vision which was entrepreneurial.” For some MAT leaders, a shared culture is simply “a difficult thing to achieve when you are a big, mixed-phase MAT across different authorities.”
We asked those who felt they had already achieved a strong culture in their MAT about what they thought were the main factors that had led to this success. 78% of respondents to this question said that having a shared vision and values were the most important, with having clear leadership and shared staff opportunities also proving to be popular choices. One participant explained that, “shared vision and joined-up leadership are a precursor to successfully implementing any other measures.”
This speaks to a wider trend, where respondents seemed to value structural, trust-level factors over teaching and learning or pupil-driven factors, such as having a standardised curriculum, sharing the same visual identity (e.g. uniforms) and having shared opportunities for pupils across the trust.
With nearly 1 in 5 respondents saying they were yet to achieve a shared culture in their trust, we wanted to explore what some MAT leaders felt were the key drivers and best practices when it came to meaningful cultural change. To do this, we’ve compiled leaders’ viewpoints from five MATs across the country and put them together with our survey insights to create our latest ebook for MAT leaders, called Creating a Cohesive Trust. As well as our survey results and a question guide, hear from MAT leaders on how their trusts work together as one organisation, including discussions on:
Click here to download the full ebook.
Want to read more MAT content? Get stuck in with our MAT MIS series, perfect for MAT Central Teams.
MAT MIS Series | MAT Operations | MATs
Why is a good communication strategy important for your MAT? Your communications strategy should help give all your staff visibility around key information, data and policies at your trust. In turn, it should help staff feel supported and like they have access to the information they need. As important as this is, your communications strategy
Your communications strategy should help give all your staff visibility around key information, data and policies at your trust. In turn, it should help staff feel supported and like they have access to the information they need.
As important as this is, your communications strategy isn’t limited to staff only. It should also encompass students and guardians, making sure that everybody is in the loop when it comes to your trust. Plus, centralisation shouldn’t only promote a trust-down approach. Your academies want to be assured that what’s happening at school-level is being fed upwards and informing the trust’s direction. Information and actions should flow both ways: school-up and trust-down.
A great comms strategy should support two-way communication, while also helping to reduce unnecessary back and forth. We’ve put together three top tips on how your MIS can help to streamline comms at your MAT.
Centralisation is the first step towards an effective communications strategy, as it helps to move work from your schools to your central team.
Having one place to communicate with pupils, parents and staff across your trust helps to dramatically reduce staff admin. At the same time, centralisation means your comms are consistent, building on the sense of a shared culture within your trust.
In Arbor, you can send comms to any selected group, from guardians to a set group of staff or a particular group of students. For example, at the push of a button you could let all your NQTs across your trust know about an upcoming training day.
You should aim to make it easy for your central team to act on data within the system for fast, contextualised decision-making. Your MIS can – and should – do most of the heavy lifting for you, by showing you the live data you need without the hassle.
If your trust is using Arbor MAT MIS, you won’t need to login to individual schools to see your data. This means your team doesn’t have to waste time looking for the information they need or sending multiple batches of comms to different schools.
You also don’t have to log into individual school MIS to send comms. For example, in Arbor, schools can move the task of following up with absent students from individual schools to the central team. This means that all absent students across the trust on a given day are accounted for through one set of comms, reducing workload at individual school level.
Running your trust as one cohesive unit can feel challenging, but having a consistent voice from your central team is essential. This helps create a shared sense of belonging among students and staff.
Plus, sending comms out centrally means workload isn’t being unnecessarily duplicated across your schools.
For instance, if you need to send an urgent message to all your staff or guardians, Arbor allows you to quickly build, write and send an email from your central team. This means that individual schools don’t have to worry about sending their version of the comms.
Ultimately, centralising your communications should help you work as one organisation, and not many. Arbor’s MAT MIS is designed to be a mission control for your central team so that you can streamline processes and reduce unnecessary admin within all your schools.
Already using Arbor? Get started with using our centralised comms features right away – login to MAT MIS here.
Not yet using Arbor MAT MIS across your trust? Click here to book a call with our team of multi-academy trust experts and get started.
Arbor MIS | Parents & Guardians
Why is communicating with parents so important? Having good communication between parents and schools can make a big difference to a child’s education. When parents are more involved, students are often better-behaved, have higher attendance rates and a lower risk of exclusion. In turn, this leads to better results. Support from home has become even
Having good communication between parents and schools can make a big difference to a child’s education. When parents are more involved, students are often better-behaved, have higher attendance rates and a lower risk of exclusion. In turn, this leads to better results.
Support from home has become even more important given the impact of Covid on schools. With students across the country attending school virtually during lockdown, communication with parents needed to be more consistent than ever to make sure that no students were left behind.
The introduction of Ofsted’s ‘Parent View’ questionnaire and similar inspection tools is further proof of the importance of involving parents in their children’s education.
Many things can get in the way of effective communication between parents and schools. It can also be challenging for schools when they don’t have a system in place that allows parents to communicate back to them easily.
It’s time to say goodbye to paper slips and letters. With a cloud-based MIS, you can send emails, SMS messages or in-app messages to parents in bulk, or to certain groups. This not only saves time – and the environment! – but also means parents are notified of any new comms on-the-go and on their mobile phones, which encourages quicker responses and supports two-way interaction.
With Arbor, you can send out messages to parents in bulk, to certain groups or to individuals. For example, you can text all the parents whose children are late on a specific day with just the click of a button, which makes life easier for office staff and means parents are notified in a timely way.
And it works the other way, too. Parents can also ask questions on the Arbor App (if your school has enabled this setting) or the Arbor Parent Portal, without needing to have received a message from the school first.This means two-way communication can be effectively supported, and parents and guardians can feel listened to.
Helping parents to feel involved in their child’s education can feel tricky, as you don’t want to overload guardians with information, or not be able to keep track of who has been sent what. The Parent Portal keeps everything in one place, so parents can check in on their child’s attendance, behaviour and academic progress, as well as accessing past and current report cards. In Arbor MIS, you can also see a full parent communication log, so that you know who has been sent what, and when.
Giving parents this visibility over their child means they can become more involved where needed, and are kept in the loop when things aren’t going as well as they should be.
As well as giving parents an overview of their child’s data, the Parent Portal is also the place where schools can ask parents to take action. This could be asking for permissions, payments or registering their child for clubs and trips. Another popular use of the app is as a guardian consultation/parents evening booking system, which makes it easy and less stressful for both the parents and the school staff.
By having everything in one place, both parents and schools can feel more confident that everyone has access to the data they need.
At the heart of any effective communications strategy is making sure that both parties feel listened to and have visibility over the right information. And where time is short in schools, it’s important that your technology is helping to make your strategy as time-saving and efficient as possible. At Arbor, we believe switching MIS is an opportunity to transform the way you work for the better, in that case helping to engage parents and transform the lives of students.
If you’re not already using Arbor, and want to see how it could transform how you engage with parents at your school, get in touch with our friendly team today. Call us on 0208 050 1028 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
Already an Arbor customer and want to learn more about how to make the most out of your Arbor App? Read our Help Centre for more tips and tricks.
Arbor Updates | Partners
We’re delighted to announce that Arbor is now a Premier Partner of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). ASCL is the leading professional association and trade union for all school, college and trust leaders. They support over 21,500 members across primary, secondary and post-16 education, who in turn are responsible for more than
We’re delighted to announce that Arbor is now a Premier Partner of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
ASCL is the leading professional association and trade union for all school, college and trust leaders. They support over 21,500 members across primary, secondary and post-16 education, who in turn are responsible for more than four million children and young people.
Arbor’s cloud-based MIS gives schools and MATs of all sizes the tools they need to work better today and be ready for tomorrow. Free staff from busywork, work more collaboratively and stay connected on the cloud – so your whole team has a shared view of what’s going on, even if you’re not together. With over 4,000 primary, secondary and special schools and 380 MATs, Arbor is the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community today.
Our partnership with ASCL will bring together two companies who want to support schools across the country. Arbor is the MIS that brings everyone together, supporting all your staff to measurably improve the way your school works. ASCL’s purpose is to support members in becoming more effective leaders and raising student achievement.
Our team will be working on this exciting new partnership throughout 2022 and 2023 – keep an eye out for all the exciting things to come as a result! You can also contact us on 0208 050 1028 or email email@example.com to learn more about how we can support your school or MAT.
If you’d like to see what benefits being a member of ASCL could do for you as school staff, click here.
With SIMS only giving schools the option to renew their contracts for 3 years, many schools have told us they’re trying to work out whether they can switch MIS quickly before their SIMS license ends. To help, we’ve created a dedicated “fast track” programme so you can make a decision about your MIS quickly and
With SIMS only giving schools the option to renew their contracts for 3 years, many schools have told us they’re trying to work out whether they can switch MIS quickly before their SIMS license ends.
To help, we’ve created a dedicated “fast track” programme so you can make a decision about your MIS quickly and confidently. You can then choose to move by 1st April or 1st September 2022.
We’ve outlined the steps you’ll need to take as part of the programme, which differ based on whether your school is primary, secondary or special, or if you’re part of a trust. If you have any questions about the programme, or about moving to Arbor, feel free to give us a call on 0208 050 1028 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You could be up and running on Arbor by 1st April 2022: If you want to switch MIS before your current SIMS contract ends, our Primary School Fast Track Programme makes it quick and easy to see demos, ask questions, and involve your team
Or buy yourself time and move over Summer: Don’t think you can make a decision before Half Term? You can use the SIMS break clause to buy yourself extra time, take a look at other MIS systems, and choose the best fit for your school in the Summer Term. The first step is to join our primary school product demo – click here to book your space
You now have more time to review your MIS options: If you’re not keen on using SIMS for another 3 years, this break clause gives you the chance to explore other MIS systems over Summer Term. You can request the break clause even if you’ve already signed up for the new 3 year contract
We can get you up and running on Arbor by 1st September 2022: With SIMS offering this extra time, we’re re-opening our dedicated Fast Track Programme to help secondary schools see Arbor quickly and easily before making the switch in Summer. The first step is to join our secondary school product demo – click here to book your space
You could be up and running on Arbor by 1st April 2022: If you want to switch MIS before your current SIMS contract ends, our Special School Fast Track Programme makes it quick and easy to see demos, ask questions, and involve your team
Or buy yourself time and move over Summer: Don’t think you can make a decision before Half Term? You can use the SIMS break clause to buy yourself extra time, take a look at other MIS systems, and choose the best fit for your school in the Summer Term. The first step is to join our secondary school product demo – click here to book your space
Your primary schools could be up and running on Arbor by 1st April 2022: If you want to switch MIS before your schools’ current SIMS contracts end, our Fast Track Programme makes it quick and easy to see demos, ask questions, and involve your team
Or buy yourself time and move all your schools over Summer: Don’t think you can make a decision before Half Term? Buy yourself extra time with the break clauses, take a look at other MIS systems, and choose the best fit for your trust in the Summer Term. The first step is to join an Arbor product demo for MATs – click here to book your spot at an upcoming session
As a MAT central team, it can be difficult to make sure you are getting the most out of your data and making data-driven decisions. Whether you have many or fewer schools, making sure you have the right data to hand without the right tools in place can often be manual and time-consuming. We’ve put
As a MAT central team, it can be difficult to make sure you are getting the most out of your data and making data-driven decisions. Whether you have many or fewer schools, making sure you have the right data to hand without the right tools in place can often be manual and time-consuming. We’ve put together five top tips on how to make the most of your data using your MIS, without the hassle of having to do everything manually.
Once you’ve identified this, map out which systems the data sits in, how you get it out to analyse, and how often you want to do this.
MATs using Arbor can see this kind of data immediately on login, no fiddly setup required. Our dashboards are designed so that you can monitor your KPIs and see them in context.
This live overview is designed to give you the most important data at-a-glance, where you can benchmark phases, demographics and individual schools against one another.
As soon as you login, you’ll be able to see:
As a MAT central team, sharing data with governors and stakeholders is a key part of your strategy – but it is often challenging to gather this data easily and quickly. Your MIS should help rather than hinder you with this process, as well as complementing your favourite integrations.
All your at-a-glance updates are available on your Arbor dashboard, but for instances where you need to create in-depth reports to show to the board, there’s plenty more in your toolkit as you explore your data further.
Arbor’s Custom Report Builder, for example, is designed so that you can make in-depth reports in minutes. The end results are easy to read and share with governors or stakeholders, and you can schedule them to send weekly, monthly or termly.
For more bespoke analysis, use the software you already know and love – such as Microsoft Power BI, Excel and Google Data Studio. If you’re using Arbor, our Built-In Live Feeds allow you to export your data to all these integrations.
It can be challenging to zero in on individual pupils within your MAT, but this doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Having a holistic view over all your schools is crucial to the overall strategy of your MAT, but it’s equally vital that any blips at a student-level don’t get lost in the system.
Did you know that, with Arbor, you can see every assessment mark for each student in your trust over time? This is designed so that you can quickly identify any actions you need to take, be it trust-wide or student level, giving you just one example of how your MIS helps you to zoom in and out of the data you need.
Trying to compare data when individual schools are measuring themselves against different benchmarks is a challenge.
Encourage your schools to think as a consistent unit. You can help to lead this way of thinking by creating consistency in reporting. By setting up user defined fields (UDFs) that are unique to your trust, you can push down standard ways of reporting across each of your schools.
If, for instance, you wanted to know how many students across your whole trust walk to school or have a personal laptop, you can set these up as a unique field in Arbor MIS. All of these details will then show up on each student profile, letting you see and compare responses across all your schools.
In short, your MIS is a powerful system – let it do the heavy lifting for you!
We believe your MIS should be a mission control for your MAT, with all the data you need at your fingertips. Making the most of what your MIS has to offer means you can easily act on the data points that will help your overall trust improvement plan, be it preparing for the next Ofsted inspection or to help rethink your internal policies.
Arbor’s MAT MIS is designed to be intuitive, so that nothing has to stand between you and your data. We take pride in making sure our software works around your MAT. It actively helps you work towards your goals, giving you the right data when you need it.
Get started with using some of these exciting features for your data-driven strategy right away – login to MAT MIS here.
Not yet using Arbor MIS across your trust? Click here to learn more.
EdTech | Partners
Close watchers of the Management Information System (MIS) sector often look to the MIS switching decisions of large MATs when trying to work out the direction of the market. However, activity at Local Authority level is growing, especially the rising number of frameworks with a cloud focus. This development could, in the longer term, have
Close watchers of the Management Information System (MIS) sector often look to the MIS switching decisions of large MATs when trying to work out the direction of the market.
However, activity at Local Authority level is growing, especially the rising number of frameworks with a cloud focus. This development could, in the longer term, have a more significant impact on the MIS market as a whole.
But what role do frameworks play? Moving MIS can seem like a daunting task, particularly as many schools only have experience of their current system. It’s easy to be put off by all the consideration that changing a critical piece of software brings with it, even when the change can often be much easier than imagined. There’s a need to consider timing, statutory compliance, GDPR and security before you even start to think about how easy the software is to use or how particular features will benefit your school in the long run.
Frameworks help to take away a lot of this heavy lifting, as the framework provider conducts all the necessary due diligence on behalf of the schools. Value has already been determined and price lists set.
Launched in September this year, Herts for Learning’s (HfL’s) MIS framework is one such example – and it’s rapidly being embraced by local schools.
As Catherine Tallis, Director of Business Services at Herts for Learning, explains:
We have seen first-hand, that when offered choice and value for money, schools, settings and trusts embrace the opportunity.
We’re proud at Arbor to be the first-ranked MIS provider in HfL’s cloud-based lots. This partnership means that, working alongside the HfL team, Arbor will be supporting over 200 HfL schools and trusts move to a cloud-based MIS, which can transform the way they work.
With current changes in the market, it’s likely that the importance of frameworks will continue to grow. This could be in the form of other Local Authorities creating their own versions to best meet the needs of their schools. Or alternatively (and more cost-effectively) using existing frameworks, such as HfL’s MIS Framework (which is designed for national as well as local use), to procure in a compliant and time-efficient way for their schools.
On a personal note, I’m very proud of the relationship that has been built between Arbor and the HfL team. It’s exciting to be playing even a small part in the changes taking place in the MIS market right now.
If you’d like to find out more about Arbor and the different frameworks we are part of, please get in touch. You can email us at email@example.com
If you’d like to find out more about HfL’s new Framework, you can contact them at misFramework@hertsforlearning.co.uk.
Arbor MIS | Arbor Updates
One of the questions we get asked most by secondary schools is how can they manage their timetabling in Arbor. So we’re excited to announce that we integrate with two of the best independent timetabling products in the world, TimeTabler and Edval! Build your robust timetables using your timetable software of choice. Then if you
One of the questions we get asked most by secondary schools is how can they manage their timetabling in Arbor. So we’re excited to announce that we integrate with two of the best independent timetabling products in the world, TimeTabler and Edval!
Build your robust timetables using your timetable software of choice. Then if you need to make any small changes throughout the year, you can tweak your timetable directly in Arbor MIS.
Arbor’s integrations with TimeTabler and Edval create a connection between your student and staff data in Arbor and your timetabling data. Build reports, collect data and gain new and valuable insights, such as how timetabling methods impact your students and staff.
For example, you might notice that you’ve a number of students in one class who are below average with their grades compared to other classes. In Arbor you can easily see if your timetable could be impacting grades. Are students who have the same class earlier in the day getting better results, could small timetable changes make a difference? Our integration makes it quick and easy to make any necessary changes to your timetable midway through the year.
Want to hear more about how you can integrate Arbor with timetable software? Contact us today.
Mental Health and Wellbeing | Popular
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 and managing stress. 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
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 and managing stress. 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, as well as having an MA in Drama Therapy from University of Roehampton, so we’re really excited to share her tips with you.
The past two years have had an effect on the wellbeing of school staff and students up and down the country. You might have had to adapt to the uncertainty of remote working or take on more work at a moment’s notice due to staff absences in schools.
Whatever your situation, you’ve probably been going at full tilt, without having the time to step back and focus on your own feelings. We therefore wanted to share ways of understanding and managing some of the difficult emotions you might experiencing.
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 emotions. 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 how future restrictions might effect education or how your school is going to make sure students are able to catch-up.
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.
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 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
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!
Stay connected – Even if it’s a few phone calls a week, sending a funny video, or doing an organised activity like a quiz, connecting with others can remind us we’re all in this together
Stay hydrated – You might usually be really good at remembering to drink, but this can easily be forgotten when our normal routines are disrupted. Don’t forget to keep hydrated to at least cut down on unnecessary headaches
Structure your day – Routine helps us feel secure and is a great start to managing stress. 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 – When you are tasked with taking on more work, it can be easy to allow yourself to work into your breaks. Try and take a moment to yourself where you can, such as with a short evening walk 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
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.
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:
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.
For anybody who would like to take some time out for themselves or discover other tips for managing stress, you can watch my mindfulness session that took place at ArborFest. Available to watch for free here. We’ve also got plenty of other blogs that can help you with different aspects of wellbeing and mental health in schools during Covid – you can view them all here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028.
Arbor Insight | School Operations
With budget deficits affecting more than one in four schools in England this year, it’s especially important to have good visibility over your spending and income. We know every extra minute you have to build next year’s school budget will be crucial, so we’ve built the School’s Financial Benchmarking Report, an all-in-one PDF report, especially
With budget deficits affecting more than one in four schools in England this year, it’s especially important to have good visibility over your spending and income. We know every extra minute you have to build next year’s school budget will be crucial, so we’ve built the School’s Financial Benchmarking Report, an all-in-one PDF report, especially for your school.
Using your latest 2020/21 financial data from the DfE, your report gives you a ready-made analysis of your income and expenditure patterns over the last 3 years – so you can 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.
With colour-coded graphs and expert analysis on each page, it’s ready to share in your next governor or staff meeting. It’s perfectly digestible for everyone in the room, so you’ll have time to explain your next steps in more detail.
Great this term to…
The benchmarking data in your report can help you make better budgeting decisions, especially given the effect of Covid on schools in the past year. Your Governors will be interested to know how and why your financial approach to this disruption differs to similar schools, and how you plan to redirect your resources to support better outcomes for students.
Why not present a benchmarking report to your Governors at the next meeting?
For an even more in-depth review of how to make the most of your report, read our guide to schools’ financial benchmarking.
Arbor’s cloud-based Management Information System (MIS) can give you even greater insight over your performance and finance data. With live, role-specific dashboards and classroom management tools, your staff can get the data they need at their fingertips.
Watch a free demo here to see how Arbor can transform the way your school works.
Don’t forget to sign up (for free) to Arbor Insight where you’ll be able to purchase your School’s Financial Benchmarking report, as well as download your school’s free ASP report from 2019.
Sign up here: 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 email@example.com or by calling us on 0207 043 1830.
If you’d like to find out how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work for the better, we’d love to see you at BETT (taking place 23rd-25th of March 2022)! Register here to meet us over lunch or tea and coffee.
Arbor Updates | MATs
The wait is over – our biggest ever release for MATs is here! When we launched our group-level MIS a few years ago, we knew that we wanted to give trusts and other central teams clear visibility into their schools, an easy way to manage reporting, and a seamless login to school MIS experience. Today
When we launched our group-level MIS a few years ago, we knew that we wanted to give trusts and other central teams clear visibility into their schools, an easy way to manage reporting, and a seamless login to school MIS experience.
Today we’re excited to release the next wave of features to build on that goal. We’ve listened to your feedback and have been busy over the past few months. We have re-shaped our vision and built out new features to make MAT MIS a true mission control for your central team.
Rather than just helping you to see and share your data, our updated MAT MIS is now built to help you run your trust as one cohesive unit, take context-driven actions, and support your central team in adding value to your schools.
We know that MATs handle assessments in lots of different ways – some prefer to standardise their approach, whilst others let individual schools decide.
Previously, MAT MIS let you see summative assessment data across your trust. In this new version, we’ve added the tools to help you create and roll out your assessment policy centrally. What’s more, we’ve added a range of detailed assessment analysis charts too, making MAT MIS perfect for both managing and reporting on assessments across your schools.
You can now create assessment policies at a trust level and push these down to your schools, to give you a joined up assessment offering. The new Mark and Cohort Level Analysis lets you see every assessment mark for every student in your trust, view the raw data and live feed it out for further analysis. View assessment marks over time for every student, plot their progress and identify any actions you need to take.
We’ve also introduced Attainment Over Time reports. Compare grades across schools and filter by year group, demographic, ethnicity or gender instantly. Compare over time and drill down to Student Profiles to take action.
Your central team now have a dedicated space for their staff records! MAT MIS now uniquely includes simple HR features alongside your MIS and Assessment data. Say goodbye to spreadsheets: you can now access your Single Central Record and manage staff records, contracts and checks, all together.
When it comes to creating reports, our Custom Report Writer has always been there to give you lots of flexibility. But we know that sometimes you just want to create standard reports quickly and easily.
To take Custom Report Writer to the next level we’ve added templates for key student and staff data sets, making it faster to get going with the reports you want. Use our report templates as your starting point and customise based on your needs.
Need to report on something unique to your trust? Now you can – you can now create user defined fields (UDFs) in MAT MIS unique to your trust and push down to your schools to give consistency across reports.
Need to send an urgent message to all your staff or parents? Want to move absence follow ups to your central team? Do you have a centralised comms strategy but no easy way to deliver it? MAT MIS is here to help.
We’re excited to announce that we’ve added centralised email to MAT MIS – giving you one place to communicate with all your contacts across your trust. You can email specific schools, year groups or staff roles, and target the messaging for each.
And because we all want to know if someone actually received our emails or not, you can check what’s been sent and when, and be reassured your emails have successfully been delivered.
We always wanted MAT MIS to give your team a clear view of your schools’ data on login – no fiddly setup required. But we knew that the dashboards on your homepage needed a bit of an upgrade to make them easier to use. It might look and feel similar, but your new homepage has just become a lot more powerful!
You can now filter by school or cluster, and with sticky filters you can create a filter and it will stay there until you change it. You can then share with colleagues by copying and pasting the unique filter URL.
See the schools associated with you in the new My Schools section – letting you focus on what needs your attention most.
We’re excited to launch this new feature set, and hope they’re a real game changer when it comes to managing your trust and collaborating with your schools.
If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our lovely team will be in contact.
Already using our MIS and want to get started? You can do so by reading our Help Centre articles or speaking to your Account Manager.
We look forward to hearing your feedback.
If you’d like to read more blogs perfect for MAT staff, get stuck in with our MAT MIS series.
P.S. You may know MAT MIS as Group MIS. New name, same vision but with added features!
Arbor Community | Arbor Updates
Click here to find out about ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on May 5th, 2022. It’s not too late to get your tickets to ArborFest, which is now just days away! We’re looking forward to bringing leading schools and MATs from across the country together, with the shared goal of transforming the
Click here to find out about ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on May 5th, 2022.
It’s not too late to get your tickets to ArborFest, which is now just days away! We’re looking forward to bringing leading schools and MATs from across the country together, with the shared goal of transforming the way we work.
This year, we have six different (virtual!) stages, each packed with talks, workshops, and masterclasses on both the 2nd and 3rd of December.
Browse and book your free tickets by stage below or click here to see our full programme.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, with partner talks and a brilliant mindfulness workshop by our very own Danielle Arkwright making up some of the other must-see moments within ArborFest.
Stay in the loop by following us on Twitter or LinkedIn.
And if you haven’t already, join the Arbor Community – your online space to ask questions, share best practice and learn from, and support, fellow Arbor schools and MATs.
Look forward to seeing you soon!
I’ve never written a blog about a competitor before – I’m of the belief that you should just let your good work speak for itself. However, last week we became aware through public forums that ESS SIMS and ParentPay have written to schools and will be changing their contracts from an annual renewal to a
I’ve never written a blog about a competitor before – I’m of the belief that you should just let your good work speak for itself. However, last week we became aware through public forums that ESS SIMS and ParentPay have written to schools and will be changing their contracts from an annual renewal to a 3 year renewal, effective from 1st April 2022. This means however good our MIS system may be, schools would not be able to choose an alternative to SIMS until 2025….
This news has come very late in an already busy school term, and we have already been contacted by a large number of schools who want to know what their choices are. So rather than give my opinion on SIMS, I wanted to dispel a few myths and highlight what options schools have:
At Arbor and ScholarPack, we’re proud to be the UK’s most-loved MIS providers – giving schools a choice of systems which are easier to use, offer fully integrated modules, and save you 30% on average price-wise compared to SIMS.
To support schools who would like to move MIS by Easter, we’ve put together a dedicated “fast track” programme – designed to give you and your team everything you need to decide whether Arbor or ScholarPack is right for you before the holidays.
If you want to speak to me about any of the above, you can reach me anytime at email@example.com. Happy to chat through in more detail!
A few clarifications
Click here to find out about ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on May 5th, 2022. We’re extremely excited to introduce the latest edition of Arbor’s bi-annual conference, ArborFest! ArborFest is your chance to meet (online!) the growing community of over 2,000 schools and 200 MATs using Arbor to transform the way they
ArborFest is your chance to meet (online!) the growing community of over 2,000 schools and 200 MATs using Arbor to transform the way they work.
On 2nd and 3rd December, discover six stages packed with sessions designed for schools and MATs of all sizes. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re already using Arbor or just want to get a behind-the scenes look.
Join us for masterclass sessions, where you’ll learn new tips and tricks on specific Arbor modules, an interactive workshop on mindfulness, and feedback forums where you can help shape our roadmaps!
For the first time we’ll be combining our best-selling, MAT Conference series, “Building a Resilient Trust” with ArborFest. In the next couple of weeks we’ll be launching a dedicated MAT stage at ArborFest, full of thought leadership talks from experienced MAT leaders from across the country. Keep an eye out in your inbox for your special invite to this.
Plus, Dr Emma Kell will be giving a keynote speech on building resilience and creating a sustainable work-life balance, there are talks from Arbor’s CEO and Chief of Customer Success, and the best thing is – it’s completely free!
Click here to see the full programme and book your free tickets!
This year we’ve got sessions including:
Sign up for the keynote speech from Dr Emma Kell here – everyone is welcome!
Who should come?
ArborFest is open to all schools and trusts – whether you already use Arbor MIS, or are interested in learning more about us. We’ve also curated special sessions for the partners we work with.
How can I join ArborFest?
ArborFest is completely free to attend. All you need to do is:
What do I need to join ArborFest?
All you need to join a session at ArborFest is a computer, laptop or tablet, and a good internet connection. If you’re joining a Feedback Forum, you’ll also need a microphone and video camera so you can share your ideas with the group.
Stay in the loop by following us on Twitter or LinkedIn!
Look forward to seeing you in December!
We’re proud to announce that Academies Enterprise Trust, one of the largest mixed-phase academy trusts in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 57 schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the three largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK! AET’s schools will join our growing
We’re proud to announce that Academies Enterprise Trust, one of the largest mixed-phase academy trusts in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 57 schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the three largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK!
AET’s schools will join our growing community of over 2,000 schools and 200 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, and United Learning who moved in 2020.
James Browning, CIO at Acadmies Enterprise Trust said:
“We are delighted that our schools will soon be able to benefit from the partnership we have formed with Arbor. As a trust we are striving to provide the best possible data and technology services to schools and Arbor MIS will form a critical part of these services.
We recognise the strategic importance of a partner too; one that can support our ambitions in using technology to support brave data led decisions and ultimately help launch children into remarkable lives, and Arbor have proven themselves to be fully aligned to this vision.”
James Weatherill, CEO at Arbor, said: “We are incredibly excited to be working with James and the team at AET to use Arbor to help schools transform the way they work and make a lasting positive impact to outcomes for their students. We’re proud that Arbor is now the MIS of choice for the largest mixed-phase MATs with secondary schools and can provide the infrastructure to help trusts scale sustainably from start-up to scale-up and beyond.”
For MATs: Arbor’s MAT 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 allows 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 out-of-the-box Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards, or securely export your data to external analysis tools like PowerBI, 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.
Academies Enterprise Trust is the latest MAT to choose Arbor – joining trusts like United Learning, 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.
Over 1,000 schools, and 100 trusts, are likely to switch MIS this year. See why more choose Arbor than any other provider at: www.arbor-education.com
If you’d like to read more of our content for MAT leaders, get stuck in with our MAT MIS series, or our latest ebook on how to create a cohesive culture across your trust.
We’re delighted to announce that Scomis is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS! Scomis is a leading specialist in school support services, working with over 810 schools and MATS across England in 53 local authorities. Scomis pride themselves on providing the highest levels of service which empower everyone at all levels within a
Scomis is a leading specialist in school support services, working with over 810 schools and MATS across England in 53 local authorities.
Scomis pride themselves on providing the highest levels of service which empower everyone at all levels within a school or multi academy trust – from teachers to administrative staff and senior leadership teams. They have already ensured that their team is accredited to advanced level to support and train Arbor schools which really highlights their commitment to making sure their schools have outstanding support from the get-go.
Arbor MIS (Management Information System) is the hassle-free way for schools and trusts to get work done.
Whether you’re a primary, secondary or MAT, Arbor helps make your essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful – so everyone from your back office to your SLT can get on and focus where it matters most.
We’ve already helped more than 1900 schools and 200 MATs make the switch to our smarter cloud-based MIS.
We’re thrilled to say we are now working together to give schools the option to switch to Arbor MIS and take their support from a trusted educational ICT partner.
Working with Arbor and Scomis together gives your school or trust:
1. A cloud-based MIS which makes your essential admin and day-to-day work hassle-free
2. Access to the right data at the right time through our built-in live dashboards and custom report builder
3. Peace of mind that systems and processes are running as they should be, so that you can concentrate on teaching
4. An MIS Support Team who will help you save time on data management, help you embed your MIS and use it effectively to deliver improved outcomes
5. Direct, fast and responsive access to support experts who’ll be on hand whenever you need- Scomis has specialised in MIS support for over 40 years and is committed to delivering service excellence.
Part of Devon County Council, Scomis has traded as a not-for-profit organisation for 40 years. Any small surpluses they make are reinvested to the benefit of the public sector so that they can continue to go above and beyond for their schools. What’s more, their services are not limited to schools within the Devon area only.
To find out more about switching to Arbor with Scomis contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 01392 385 300
Arbor Updates | EdTech
What is the EdTech Demonstrator Programme? If you’ve not heard of it, the EdTech Demonstrator Programme provides publicly-funded schools and colleges in England with access to free, tailored, peer-led advice and guidance to help develop their use of technology in support of effective teaching and learning. This follows on from 4,000 schools and colleges benefitting
If you’ve not heard of it, the EdTech Demonstrator Programme provides publicly-funded schools and colleges in England with access to free, tailored, peer-led advice and guidance to help develop their use of technology in support of effective teaching and learning.
This follows on from 4,000 schools and colleges benefitting from the programme in 2020-21, which launched shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic enforced an extended period of remote teaching and learning.
The programme provides peer-led support via a network of over 40 EdTech Demonstrators across England. The EdTech Demonstrators have shown they use technology effectively and have the capacity to help other schools and colleges do the same. The peer-led approach delivers the sharing of learning, upskilling of staff and encourages continuous development for all involved.
The programme offers help on a range of topics, including:
Sign-up to any of the below sessions to get a feel for for the programme and how it can help your school
Strategic Leadership and Creating Change
When developing your digital strategy, teaching and learning should be at the centre of your thinking. In this webinar Edtech Demonstrators will discuss the activities a senior leadership team can do to identify the teaching and learning foci for the implementation of technology.
Effective Use of Technology to Support the Processes of Teaching and Learning
Technology plays a key role in our leisure, work and education, whether we are adults or still in school or college. This webinar will showcase the work being done by some of the EdTech Demonstrators to support their communities – staff, students, pupils and parents – to develop strategies to improve their digital wellbeing.
Making teaching as impactful as possible when using technology requires 3 key ingredients – appropriate classroom technology, pupil access beyond school, and very clever tools. The EdTech Demonstrators will discuss how they have brought these 3 elements together to gain the most benefit for their staff and pupils/students.
Technology Solutions; Platform Functionality
Five Edtech demonstrators will pitch their choice of the most effective KS2 learning applications to those on the webinar. The audience will then have an opportunity to vote, allowing the winner to further demonstrate how the tool supports effective teaching and learning in the classroom.
If you’d like to find out more or would like to access support from the programme you can register your interest here.
Staff in schools are under a lot of pressure. With regular inspections, reporting requirements and funding cuts, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. Overload and burnout are common problems, as a large proportion of staff time is taken up with admin tasks, data analysis and additional duties. According to the DfE’s
Staff in schools are under a lot of pressure. With regular inspections, reporting requirements and funding cuts, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. Overload and burnout are common problems, as a large proportion of staff time is taken up with admin tasks, data analysis and additional duties.
According to the DfE’s 2016 Teacher Workload Survey, staff spend approximately eight hours a week on administration, much of which is taken up by behaviour management and escalation, and a further 3.8 hours on parent and guardian interaction. Senior Leaders spend around 4.4 hours a week on data analysis alone.
Teachers, for whom more than half of their time is spent on non-teaching tasks, cite workload as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. 1 in 5 Teachers said in 2016 that they intend to leave their job because they feel overworked. In the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), 59% described their workload as unmanageable.
Data collection and data management are two of the key areas that can cause excess workload in schools. Staff are spending more of their time collecting, entering, updating, analysing and making sense of students’ data than with the students themselves.
The reason that data tasks are so time-consuming is often due to schools having many competing systems which don’t connect easily to each other. This means they have to enter the same data into multiple places to keep everything up to date. This leads to greater chance of duplication, inaccuracy and inconsistency of data.
If you’re using different systems to manage behaviour, assessments, attendance, HR and communications, it’s also difficult to get a clear overview of what’s happening across your school, or Multi-Academy Trust.
A high data workload can also mean that you’re simply collecting too much data without a clear purpose. It might be that there are unclear roles and responsibilities around the data staff are supposed to collect, or that there wasn’t a strategy in the first place for exactly why each data set was required. Having too much data leads to “data fatigue”, where the likelihood is that most data collected never actually gets analysed to good effect.
Schools can also find themselves in a situation where the data expertise sits with only a few members of staff, such as the Data Manager or someone in the Office. These staff members can get inundated with requests from colleagues to generate reports for them whenever they need to find out even the smallest of data points. As a result, reporting in schools can be slow and admin-heavy. It can also mean that staff are less likely to question or improve the processes they’re following because they’ve been using them for years.
If departmental Leads, pastoral Heads and Teachers, being able to readily access and make sense of data themselves, without having to rely on other colleagues, they’d be able to spot when something doesn’t look right faster, and intervene straight away.
Check out how SENCOs can make the most of their time and data with Arbor
During the pandemic, schools have had to pivot their plans, processes and arrangements dramatically – sometimes responding to changes to government regulations overnight. This has resulted in a huge burden of extra work for staff and even longer hours.
In Autumn Term 2020, TES reported that 84% of teachers felt stressed, whilst according to The Key, 48% of Business Managers reported an increased workload during 2020.
For many schools, their IT systems were part of the problem. As staff needed to work in flexible new ways remotely, older technology that only worked on the school’s on-site server simply couldn’t keep up, making it very difficult for staff to work remotely from home if they had to isolate. As a result, 2020 saw a huge wave of schools moving to cloud-based MIS (Management Information systems) to allow them the flexibility they needed.
Read how Orwell MAT switched MIS during covid
Governing bodies have been aware of excess workload in schools for some time. In their 2018 letter to School Leaders, the DfE, Ofsted and several prominent teaching unions gave three main recommendations for how to reduce staff workload:
The DfE also brought out a School Workload Reduction Toolkit which contains practical tools and materials that School Leaders can use address workload.
Given the significant proportion of staff time spent on data management, the DfE dedicates a section of the School Workload Reduction Toolkit to reducing data workload. The Teacher Workload Review Group also has some useful advice for managing data more efficiently in schools. We’ve broken this advice down into a six-step checklist for Senior Leaders:
Read how LEO Academies Trust launched a brand new digital strategy
Once you’ve completed a systems audit, you should discover that you can cut down the amount of systems your school uses and replace them with one MIS that can do it all.
A smart, cloud-based MIS not only saves you paying for multiple subscriptions; the right one can (and should) help you to work faster, smarter and collaborate more across your school.
Here are the three main ways a good MIS can support staff and reduce workload burden – access, automatic actions and alignment:
As school staff are having to work more flexibly, across multiple sites, and sometimes remotely, cloud-based systems allow them to do their work and access the data they need from wherever they are.
The best MIS systems not only make data available remotely but also give staff access to the right data at the right time. If staff have in-built, easy-to-understand dashboards that give them instant reports, they can integrate reporting into their everyday routines, rather than having to wait for a spreadsheet to come from the Office.
Access to the right data also makes it easy for staff to pull together a rounded picture of their students, with data from all areas of school life. By looking at academic progress and attainment data alongside patterns in behaviour, attendance and pastoral information all in one place, staff can get to the root cause of performance faster, so they can support students sooner.
Discover effective strategies for tracking pupil progress at your primary school
Since time in schools invariably gets sucked away by “busywork” (or time-consuming admin), having a good MIS that automates key tasks can save staff hours every week.
Sending communications home is one of the most essential and most time-consuming tasks in schools. It might seem impossible to automate, but the best MIS systems give staff the option to send different types of communications wherever they are in the system, which saves them time jumping over to an external app. For example, from a daily whole-school attendance report, they could filter for absences with No Reason, and send emails to the parents of those students in a few clicks.
Having a specialised Parent Portal or App is another great way to save time on your communications. Even better are MIS systems that give you the option to share information or reports automatically with targeted groups of parents. With communications built into your MIS, you’ll also have all your contextual information at your fingertips, you’ll be able to target your communications to the most hard-to-reach families. This also makes it easier to track, and improve parental engagement over time.
Find out why 73% of staff at The Parks Academies Trust say communication has improved throughout Covid-19 thanks to Arbor
When something happens in the classroom like a negative behaviour incident, Teachers need to act fast, such as scheduling a detention. But often they end up with limited time between lessons to follow up on their admin. MIS systems that can automate escalation actions, such as assigning detentions or notifying senior staff when certain behaviours are recorded, can save staff lots of time. At scale, automatic escalations can allow MATs to make sure their schools are adhering to consistent behaviour policies.
Having a system that allows you to take bulk actions (doing the same task like adding information for multiple students at a time) is also a massive time-saver. Think about how much faster your follow-ups would be if you could do these things in bulk:
You can save hours of reporting time by setting up recurring reports which generate themselves automatically on a given basis and at a given frequency. This cuts down on the time you would spend manually gathering data and creating the report each week. The best MIS systems will also allow you to schedule your reports to be sent out to key stakeholders. For example, you could schedule a weekly attendance report to all SLT showing students with < 90% attendance.
If you rely on other staff to send you information on a regular basis, having a system that can automatically chase those colleagues without you even thinking about it, can be a huge help to your workload, too.
Check out how you can use Arbor’s Microsoft Power BI Connector to visualise your MIS in brand new ways
For Central Teams in Multi-Academy Trusts, a lot of their time is spent gathering data from all their schools so they can put together a clear picture of how their initiatives and processes are working. But setting targets, analysing performance and communicating across a MAT are difficult without centralised tools. Different ways of working and disconnected systems can also pose barriers to schools working together as one.
As MATs grow, many move towards centralising and standardising key processes and policies in order to work in the most efficient way. Having an MIS that’s designed for MATs allows you to truly work as one organisation. Setting common expectations and procedures around behaviour, attendance and assessment helps you to bring everyone onto the same page, and makes reporting and decision making quicker, too.
Find out more about Arbor MIS – the only true MIS for MATs
Arbor MIS is designed to make a measurable improvement to the way schools of all sizes work. Arbor’s intuitive tools free staff from busywork and help them work more easily and collaboratively. With over 1,900 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community.
One of our impact goals (which we analyse each year for all the schools we work with) is to reduce staff workload to free them up to focus on their students. In fact, 92% users save time with Arbor compared to their previous system. 92% say Arbor has changed the way they work for the better and 81% say Arbor has improved how they analyse and understand data.
We’d love to show you how Arbor could transform the way your school or MAT works. Get in touch with us at email@example.com or 0208 050 1028. Or arrange a personalised demo today.
In our recent blog, we took a behind-the-scenes look at the role of the School Data Manager – a hugely important role that contributes to key decision making in schools. It’s also a position that looks quite different from school to school, depending on its size, phase and priorities. This week, we spoke to Tom Kedie,
In our recent blog, we took a behind-the-scenes look at the role of the School Data Manager – a hugely important role that contributes to key decision making in schools. It’s also a position that looks quite different from school to school, depending on its size, phase and priorities.
This week, we spoke to Tom Kedie, IT Lead at The Open Thinking Partnership, to find out about the particular challenges and responsibilities involved in his role. Read his interview with Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager, Daniel, below.
The Open Thinking Partnership is a Multi-Academy Trust serving three special schools (Dorothy Goodman School, Cleveland House, The Fusion Academy) in Leicestershire. The trust’s Executive Headteacher, Janet Thompson, was a member of the group behind The Rochford Review, a pioneering 2016 report that made recommendations to the Government about assessment for SEN students at primary level.
Because we’re a relatively small trust, my role tends to be a “Jack of all trades”. A typical day sees me doing everything from replacing a printer cartridge, to resetting passwords, to working on our five-year IT strategy. I do have a part-time helper and the plan as we scale is for them to handle more of the administrative tasks in order to free me up to focus solely on strategic planning.
As a SEN trust, we find that the goals of standardisation that many trusts are pursuing, don’t always apply to us. For some trusts, for example, it might make sense to roll out a standard policy or IT system across the trust (such as everyone to use Chromebooks) but for us, it’s unlikely that one decision will accommodate the unique and varied set of requirements our students have. So we usually have to tailor plans and be a lot more flexible.
We had an original plan to replace Microsoft Office with Google platforms across the board, but we have to keep the flexibility of sometimes using a hybrid. For example, most of our educational work is done on Google, with our more administrational work done on Office.
I see the purpose of my role as finding ways of making staff lives as straightforward and efficient as possible through technology. I look at ways staff are working and perhaps what they’re struggling with, and reflect on better solutions. For example, when I joined, the school office was using a physical diary for events, which I knew immediately we could improve by moving online.
One of the next things we’re launching is a new Intranet using Google Sites, which will bring everything that staff have to access day to day together into one place.
Cloud-based systems give us the flexibility to allow staff access to everything they need no matter where they’re working from. Being online also means we save staff needless, time-consuming admin such as updating hard copy forms and spreadsheets, because everything is kept up-to-date automatically in systems like Arbor.
One of the main reasons we moved to Arbor was so staff could access school information without having to be physically at school. We had brought forward our Arbor implementation date to Easter 2020 which was timely just as the pandemic hit, and meant that staff could perform all their essential daily tasks (like processing payments and managing attendance) at home right away. I don’t know how this would have been possible with our previous MIS (Management Information System), which was only accessible via the school servers.
We’re also going to look into Arbor’s Single Sign On functionality which will allow staff to log into Arbor and all our Google or Microsoft apps with the same username and password, saving lots of time.
Moving to Arbor has made a huge difference to how we operate. It has not only given us more flexible and remote ways of accessing information, it’s helped us save money by getting rid of all the systems we used to use for things which you can do in Arbor.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule; some specialist systems are worth keeping alongside your MIS. But if you’re paying a lot for multiple systems to fill the gaps that your MIS can’t fill, you should question the value for money you’re getting.
The next thing we’re considering using in Arbor is the Interventions module which will allow us to create and cost specific provisions for their SEN students much more easily.
The nature of our work means our staff have to complete a high number of specialist qualifications as part of their roles. In our previous system it was near impossible to get a record of which staff had completed which training, and when they had to complete it by. Now, using Arbor means we can set up automatic checks which make it much easier to keep track of training for all staff. We’re also making use of Live Feeds to take reports out of Arbor into Google Sheets, and use conditional formatting to show us when training is due in less than three months.
Because information is much more easily accessible in Arbor, staff across the trust, including Teachers and Middle Leaders, do not have to rely on the school office when they have to get hold of contact information or other key student data. This speeds things up whenever they have to make a quick phone call to a parent, for example. Parents can update their own information via Arbor’s Parent Portal, such as when they move to a new address, and all the school office need to do is approve it, which saves them lots of time.
Arbor saves huge amounts of staff time on admin, which all adds up and frees them up to focus on more valuable tasks. The lasting impact of staff having access to Arbor remotely will also be that we can work towards having fewer site-dependent roles, and more staff who can perform tasks for the whole trust, such as routine data entry or census.
“Arbor listen, adapt and help so our school management information system is efficient and effective. We are only at the start of what we can do with Arbor and already our administration has improved considerably. It is so easy to input, access or analyse data, send information or messages to parents or staff. The visual appearance of information is clear with easy to set permissions so that security is strong.
The reporting function is very flexible, we are easily able to customise our own reports. The support and training available is very high quality, with many easy-to-follow help guides supplemented by highly effective personalised online training.”
– Janet Thompson, Headteacher, Dorothy Goodman School
If you’d like to find out how Arbor could transform the way you work, come along to our free webinars to see the system in action. You can also arrange a personalised demo here or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 050 1028.
We’ve love to hear how Arbor is helping your special school improve the way you work. Why not add a comment to the Arbor Community forum of 2,378 members? Join the online Community forum today.
Tom Kedie comes from Ekte, a leading provider of Managed IT Services and an Arbor Partner. To find out more about Ekte and how they could help your school or MAT, click here.
School Improvement | School Operations
Schools are used to change. New students come in, classes rotate and cohorts move on. Leadership changes, each coming in with a new vision for how to run the school. Schools also need to react to changes in requirements, regulation and funding imposed by the Government, Ofsted and their Local Authority. Recently the Covid-19 pandemic
Schools are used to change. New students come in, classes rotate and cohorts move on. Leadership changes, each coming in with a new vision for how to run the school.
Schools also need to react to changes in requirements, regulation and funding imposed by the Government, Ofsted and their Local Authority. Recently the Covid-19 pandemic has given schools perhaps the most changes they’ve had to deal with in years, often having to adapt overnight.
Schools may well be used to changes on a daily basis, but when it comes to implementing changes to technology, ways of working and culture, schools can learn a lot from the change management principles used in industries like tech and business to make sure changes are successful and have a lasting positive impact.
Each term and each year, staff work to cycles of continual improvement with the objective to provide the best quality of education and care to their students. From updating textbooks and materials, to adjusting teaching and assessment strategies, to training and upskilling staff, to procuring new systems (like an MIS, or piece of online learning software) – schools are always looking for ways to improve their provision, to ultimately improve student outcomes.
When changes are managed well, they can be transformational. The most successful changes have a positive impact on both students and staff, bringing everyone together in the shared goal of working in new and better ways.
Changing a system, or a way of working, doesn’t automatically bring improvement. Changes need all staff behind them if they’re going to work. Often when Leadership introduces something new, some staff are not brought into the change in the right way, they may think the change is being done to them – mandated from the top. This might mean they’re either confused or sceptical, and the change therefore might not have the desired effect.
In busy schools, one of the central concerns of introducing new ways of working is the impact on staff’s already high workload and the highly time-pressured environment they work in. Staff can be reluctant to change ways of working that they’ve been familiar with for years, fearing that learning new processes will impact their ability to do their job to their best standards.
“People should come before systems… In any systems change, if people don’t have a sense of ownership or the right skills, this simply creates an added challenge.” – Jason Brown, CFO at Bath and Wells Multi-Academy Trust
Since March 2020, schools have had to deal with rapid changes to regulations, online teaching and learning, as well as changes to student and staff personal situations, their wellbeing and vulnerability. Very quickly, schools have had to get used to totally new ways of working internally, with parents, and with other services in their local area.
As with any crisis, humans tend to react and adapt to change in a curve – which starts with panic but ultimately results in finding new ways of operating under the “new normal”.
As the dust settles a little with the pandemic, schools have started to take a step back and reflect on the lessons they’ve learned over the last year, and changes they can make to prepare themselves for the future.
Hear how six MAT Leaders have coped with the pandemic, and how they’re creating sustainable plans for the future in our new free ebook for MAT leaders.
At the top of Leaders’ minds is asking themselves whether the systems they have in place can cope with flexible ways of working going forward.
Check out advice from Rachel Coldicutt, expert on tech and social impact, on how to reflect on the rapid technological changes that have happened during the pandemic, and how to plan for the future.
One of the most important changes that many schools have undertaken is to move to cloud-based systems like Arbor MIS (Management Information System), to give them more flexibility in the way they run their school. Did you know that almost 1 in 5 schools are predicted to switch to a new MIS in the next year?
At Arbor, we’re experts in change management. We’ve worked with over 1,890 schools and MATs to roll out Arbor MIS successfully to make a measurable improvement to the way they work.
In fact, 92% staff say Arbor has changed the way they work for the better. 81% say Arbor has improved how they analyse and understand data, and 92% say they save time with Arbor compared to their previous MIS.
Any big change that you introduce at your school should be planned and implemented using change management principles to make sure the change is manageable and impactful for staff. Effective change only happens when people change their habits, which is when they are adequately prepared and buy into how the change will benefit them.
“When we bring in change, it’s not mandated from the top-down; it’s based on research and best practice – for example, when we see something working well or we see a strength that we want to embed across the cluster.” – Nick Cross, CEO at Kings Group Academies
Here are our top five change management principles from our in-house experts to bear in mind when making any large scale change at your school:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
“If you know you need to make a change that’s important to the direction for the trust you want to set, have confidence. Managing ‘through’ people is too problematic, and the pace and direction of change is not guaranteed.” – Nick Cross, CEO at Kings Group Academies
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 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’re considering moving to a cloud-based MIS at your school, we’d love to walk you through the tried-and-tested approach we take to making the move manageable and tailored to every school, with support from us every step of the way.
We work with school teams throughout the year to move them to Arbor’s cloud-based MIS (check out our blog on how to work out the best time in the year to switch). We can also manage the whole process 100% remotely – we’ve moved over 700 schools to Arbor since the pandemic began!
To learn more about Arbor MIS, arrange a personalised demo for your school here, or get in touch at email@example.com | 0208 050 1028.
If you’ve recently made the move to Arbor, why not share how it went for you on the Arbor Community forum (of over 2370 users!).
The way each primary school tracks the progress of their pupils through school varies considerably depending on the pupils in their care; their needs and learning styles. The areas schools choose to focus on will also be a reflection of their philosophy and ethos. How do primary schools assess their pupils? Primary schools must report
The way each primary school tracks the progress of their pupils through school varies considerably depending on the pupils in their care; their needs and learning styles. The areas schools choose to focus on will also be a reflection of their philosophy and ethos.
Primary schools must report on their pupils’ progress to the DfE via three statutory assessments and one Teacher assessment:
Apart from these tests, schools are free to track progress and attainment using their own methods, without direction from the DfE. In fact, Ofsted’s 2021 directive states that “Inspectors will not expect or accept internal data from schools either instead of or in addition to published data.”
Many use pre-made frameworks from third party suppliers such as RS assessments (PIRA/PUMA), NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research) tests and the DfE’s EYFS Development Matters framework.
Given that Ofsted does not inspect primary schools’ progress data, Headteachers may well be asking themselves, what is the purpose of assessment and why do we spend so much focused time on managing and presenting it?
It’s important to remember that when assessments are managed effectively, and in such a way that conclusions can be drawn clearly from the data, this can have a huge impact on improving pupil outcomes.
Although they don’t look at the data itself, Ofsted explains in it’s 2021 framework that “Inspectors will ask schools to explain why they have decided to collect whatever assessment data they collect, what they are drawing from their data and how that informs their curriculum and teaching.”
Since the introduction of the “Assessment Without Levels” approach in 2014, there has been little guidance for primary schools on how they should assess. As a result, many schools have a sense of working in isolation without measures of best practice. The ways that schools are held accountable has also changed, with less intervention from Local Authorities and many schools transitioning to academies within a MAT.
For many primary schools, “Life without Levels” has prompted them to rethink the methods and systems they use for tracking pupil progress, and whether they’re suited to their needs.
The stages of a school’s yearly assessment cycle – setting up, collecting, adding and analysing data, as well as actioning interventions – increase staff workload, whilst they’re juggling lots of competing responsibilities across school.
With admin tasks taking up a shockingly large amount of time for Teachers and Middle Leaders (4.2 and 5.7 hours a week respectively*), many find they don’t have time for formative assessments at all.
*GSR Teacher workload survey 2016.
Check out our tips for saving hours a week on admin here.
The majority of primary schools tend to rely on manual methods of tracking progress, such as spreadsheets or even paper! These methods may have been used for years, but are very time-consuming to enter, check and analyse data. They’re also much more prone to human error and bias.
Some schools subscribe to online progress trackers which give them a wide range of frameworks to choose from, and crunch the data for them. The downside of this method is that schools’ data is not linked to all the other data that they hold about each pupil in their MIS (Management Information System), which makes it difficult to understand the wider context of factors behind pupils’ attainment.
See our guide to finding the right system for tracking pupil progress below.
The pandemic and the restrictions that have come with it, have not only put an added strain on staff time, they’ve also raised new concerns for pupils’ wellbeing and set some pupils back in their academic progress. Staff and pupils have had to adapt to online or blended teaching and learning – which will be here to stay for many classrooms going forward.
Covid also made schools re-evaluate and reflect on how they measure and track pupil progress, with questions such as:
When the assessment cycle goes smoothly, staff at all levels have quick and easy access to the data they need to really understand which pupils are on track, and take the right action straight away to support those who are struggling.
When planning your next year’s assessment cycle, here are some of the most important things to remember, put together by former Arbor Assessment Trainers Jackie Gazeley and Patricia Beechey. Check out their bios below.
It might seem like you’ve always done assessments in the same way – either using trusty spreadsheets or a subscription to an online tracker. But have you ever thought about how much time it takes to input or upload assessment data manually every cycle?
The analysis reports might be just what you need, but do they give you the fullest picture of how pupils are doing across their whole life at school – including pastorally, in behaviour and attendance?
Using the Assessment feature within your MIS might well be the answer. Here’s our comparison of assessment solutions so you can see what we mean:
It’s also worth bearing in mind the benefits of a cloud-based system (rather than a system that stores your school data on a server). Check out our blog for more info.
When choosing the framework you’re going to use to track pupil attainment, you should gear it to the way you visualise progress at your school. There’s no right or wrong way to track, but watch out – some assessment tracker products give you tons of choice which can leave you not knowing where to start.
From our work with schools, we’ve actually found that the foundation of most approaches are either a Flat or Rising grade scale. Find out how to work out which is right for your school with our handy quiz. Here’s a quick comparison to get you thinking:
From September 2021, the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) framework and Development Matters guidance are changing. Find out more from the DfE here.
Find out how Arbor can help with the new framework, whether you’re an early adopter of the new framework or will change over in September.
It’s important to make sure you establish a way of working in assessment that makes it as easy as possible for staff to input and access the data they need, and to cut down on the number of steps it takes to act on the results (e.g. to follow up with parents, or to set up an intervention).
Here’s a few more tips to cut down staff workload:
When it comes to analysing your assessment data, it’s good practice to make sure there’s a closed feedback loop which makes clear how you’ll adapt provision, teaching methods or whole school initiatives based on the findings of your results.
As Ofsted states, its “Inspectors will be interested in the conclusions drawn and actions taken from any internal assessment information, but they will not examine or verify that information first hand.”
Make sure it’s clear to key members of the school community the next steps you’re putting in place to support pupils and groups of pupils, staff and whole school development. Everyone has a role to play:
Jackie has been working with schools as an Arbor Trainer since Autumn 2017 specialising in assessment. Before Arbor, she was a Teacher for 32 years in a range of schools, a SENCO and Behaviour Lead in three different schools, and then a Headteacher for 12 years in two inner-city Primaries.
Patricia has more than 40 years of experience in education. As a teacher she has both taught in and worked with, a wide range of schools across the UK and internationally. Her roles within schools have been varied, but include 17 years as a Headteacher, leading an outstanding primary school. Since leaving Headship, Patricia has continued to work as a freelance Education Consultant for both the International Values Education Trust and Arbor Education.
Arbor Assessments for Primary Schools is more than a tracker – it’s an integral part of your MIS. Capture pupil progress alongside attendance and behaviour, and build a rounded view of your pupils from Early Years to Year 6 – at last.
Understand your data using familiar Arbor tools, and create interventions or follow up straight from your Assessment data. Plus, because Arbor has in-built communications, it’s easy to keep colleagues and parents in the loop.
“It is both clear and detailed. Arbor assessment has completely changed how we report to both children and parents as they are able to see what progress has been made both in a granular way and in broader terms.”
– Anthony David, Executive Headteacher, St Paul’s Church of England Primary School and Monken Hadley School
Already using Arbor? Find out how easy it is to set up and use our built-in Assessments feature – including ready-to-go assessment approaches. Get in touch with your Account Manager today at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New to Arbor? We’d love to show you how Arbor could not only transform the way you manage assessments, but could make a measurable improvement to the way your primary or secondary school works more widely. Get in touch to book a personalised demo today.
Case Studies | MAT Operations
As part of our popular webinar series for MAT Leaders – “Building a Resilient Trust” – Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill spoke to Anna Hennell James, CEO of Orwell MAT about her strategies for guiding her trust successfully through Covid-19, as well as how to plan for the future. Anna talked specifically about her decision to
As part of our popular webinar series for MAT Leaders – “Building a Resilient Trust” – Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill spoke to Anna Hennell James, CEO of Orwell MAT about her strategies for guiding her trust successfully through Covid-19, as well as how to plan for the future.
Anna talked specifically about her decision to move Orwell to a new cloud-based MIS in order to work more effectively as a Central Team during the pandemic and going forward.
You can catch up on Anna’s interview, which took place on 24th February 2021, below. If you’re a fellow MAT Leader, it has some great practical tips on that you can take back and reflect on for how to lead your own trust through this next stage of the pandemic.
You can also catch up on key interviews from the rest of the series in our exciting new ebook. Download your copy of the free ebook for MAT leaders here.
Orwell Multi Academy Trust was founded in 2017 and is made up of six primary schools in Suffolk. Several of the schools are in areas of high deprivation, with high rates of free school meals and pupil premium. One of the schools is currently being sponsored. Prior to being CEO, Anna Hennell James was a Headteacher at one of the schools in the trust. She’s worked in education for her whole professional life. Orwell MAT switched from SIMS to Arbor’s cloud MIS in September 2020.
We chose to change our MIS system for a variety of reasons, and we carried on with the decision even when the pandemic hit. When we formed the trust, we shouldn’t have been quite so reluctant to maintain the status quo. Having seen the impact of changing systems, the only thing I’d say in retrospect is that I wish we’d done it sooner!
The biggest driver was the frustration of staff who work centrally. We’re a relatively small trust and a pretty small team, so we don’t have huge capacity. Any time we wanted any information around employees and staffing, or pupil data and attendance, I had to contact each school separately.
To start with, we felt that was something we could live with, but it soon became frustrating. If trustees asked us for information, it was a pain to have to ask busy schools to send it over. I’d then have to collate it and pull it together myself. It became quickly apparent that we needed something that did this for us, and could show us all schools at once. We needed a cloud-based system.
We involved quite a lot of people in the decision, but on a manageable scale. In January of 2020, I attended BETT (British Educational Training and Technology Show) with our CFO, a couple of Headteachers, plus a couple of Teachers. I thought it was important for people who would be using the system to come along to see what was on offer.
After having narrowed it down a bit, we arranged demonstrations and, by the time they all happened, everything had moved online. At the demonstration stage, we involved all of the Headteachers and Office Managers. Because we had so many different stakeholders involved in the decision, we managed to cover all aspects, and it meant we were confident in making the right decision for everyone. That’s the approach we take on any kind of change that we’re going through. If we’re looking for a new system or a new project, we always hunt in a pack.
When we first started looking for a new system, we hadn’t planned to roll it out as quickly as we did. When we realised it could be relatively straightforward, we brought the switch forward. One of the things that helped us was a basic Excel spreadsheet, a bit like a Gantt chart which had all the things that were going on across the trust. When we started looking at making the change, we plotted it in and we could see what else was happening and where pinch points might be.
We made the decision to switch on 1st September 2020 and gave ourselves the Summer Term to get trained and ready. Starting the new school year on a new system was great because it meant no one could procrastinate. It was actually a very smooth process.
To be honest, not very. I think that’s because, although people were very familiar and comfortable with the systems they were using, they recognised that they weren’t the most efficient and that it was quite difficult to get the information they wanted out. Once people had seen the demonstrations of Arbor and could see what it could do, they were positive about the change.
We also had a couple of eager Headteachers who wanted to start even sooner and were asking if there was a test site to practise on, which there was. That was really helpful because people felt they could go in in their own time and have a play around. This built confidence and, once those Headteachers started sharing what they found, the excitement rippled out and encouraged more people to start getting involved. By the time we actually hit the date to press the button and switch, people were already feeling confident and were ready to make the move over.
I don’t think we’ve been disadvantaged at all by the training not happening in person. In fact, I think people preferred it because some Office Managers chose to do the online training from home so they weren’t getting interruptions in the office. We were able to offer adjusted timings for training, and the beauty of it was that it was all recorded and sent out straight after each live session.
Arbor also provides very comprehensive workbooks and instructions and the Help Centre is really intuitively organised. Our team felt they could help themselves and get ready for the change. Plus, they had the option to speak to somebody if they needed to, so people felt there was a lot of support around it. It has made us discuss the other sorts of training we do at Orwell, because whilst we all miss being in the same room as each other, it’s definitely the most efficient and effective option.
I don’t think anything went hugely wrong. One thing that happened was we ended up with four schools going live on 1st September and two going live on 1st November. In hindsight it would have been better to have everyone go live at the same time. From 1st of November, we’ve had everybody using the system and that’s been when we’ve seen the real impact of it.
Any fears about losing data or children disappearing off the system, never materialised. There were only a few little issues around historical data that were transferred in, but this was due to mistakes in the old system and it was fixed very quickly.
When we were looking, we wanted to be sure the other systems we use would sync with the MIS. For example, we use CPOMS across all of the schools for recording safeguarding and Inventory for door systems, which all sync with Arbor.
The move to Arbor is causing us to reflect on our culture and our approach, as well as the systems we’re using. It highlighted the fact that, although we mostly leave our schools to do what they do best, there are times when it could be beneficial to have more consistency and alignment. For example, as a trust we’ve never imposed a particular way of doing assessments. Assessment data that comes to me is always summative, and the formative process that people go through in schools is up to them. We’re now realising that if we can have a singular system that everyone is putting data into, it would be transformative. We now have an assessment working party who have had training from Arbor on the Assessment module and we’re getting a few bits personalised. This will help us become more of a joined-up trust with more robust discussion and moderation because we’ll be comparing like for like.
I don’t think we would have changed anything because the process was well managed and there was a lot of hand-holding throughout. Everybody was given a really clear timeline of dates and deadlines and I had weekly meetings with the schools to check in and receive feedback on any issues that might be cropping up. The Arbor team is clearly very experienced at doing the process.
It’s made a huge difference and made our lives a lot easier. We get an overview of the trust as soon as we log into the Group MIS dashboard, and we can also drop into individual institutions to get things. I have absolutely loved the Covid-19 attendance dashboard for each school because when I’m reporting to trustees or to the RSC on attendance, or the proportion of our students with EHCPs or FSM, it’s all there for me. I just love it.
It’s also been great in terms of openness between the trust team and the schools because the schools know that we’re working in the same system. We don’t have permission to change anything, but they know what we can see. This has led to discussions around more open sharing of other things.
There’s so much you can do in Arbor that we’re not necessarily doing. One of our schools that is keen to use Arbor to its full capacity is using it as the place to record all their staff performance management. The Headteacher has given me access to that so I can go in and get a sense of what’s being worked on across the whole school and how that compares to the other schools. It’s generating conversations around the commonality of need for CPD in particular areas such as leadership development. It’s changing our way of thinking about a lot of things and we’re only at the very early stages of using it.
I’d say if you’re going to change MIS, make sure you include the right people in the decision making process.
It’s also not as scary as you think. You can often delay these things if you think it’s not the right time. But honestly, our move was incredibly smooth. It was a really tight, well managed process with clear systems, clear lines of communication, good contact and support for everyone involved. This has carried on once we moved over. I think if you can pick the right system with the right support, you can feel confident that even if there are some glitches, they’ll be managed quickly. If we’d had done it four years ago it would have made our life so much easier.
Data and Insight | School Operations
School Data Managers play a vital role in how schools run, yet they can sometimes get forgotten. Doing everything from resetting passwords, to churning out graphs and spreadsheets – it’s a really varied role. Often as one of the only members of staff with highly technical skills, it can sometimes seem like magic how Data
School Data Managers play a vital role in how schools run, yet they can sometimes get forgotten. Doing everything from resetting passwords, to churning out graphs and spreadsheets – it’s a really varied role.
Often as one of the only members of staff with highly technical skills, it can sometimes seem like magic how Data Managers are able to transform data into something understandable for other staff. But behind the scenes there’s a lot of (usually manual) work involved.
Arbor Key Account Manager, Leanne, who worked as a Data Manager for almost 12 years, mostly for large secondaries in London, shares her insights into what this important role involves day to day.
“Being a Data Manager is a really rewarding role, especially in the right school and I am lucky to have worked in some of them. I loved my job, loved helping people and seeing small things I did have big ripple effects on the staff and students I worked with.”
The role of Data Managers is varied and complex, with the results of their work driving a lot of the decisions made in schools. Depending on the school, the Data Manager will either be relatively specialised on data analysis or perform quite a generalist role, covering IT and systems admin. Some Data Managers are responsible for exams and timetabling, whilst some schools have separate Exams Officers and Timetablers. Schools also usually have a separate Attendance officer who handles attendance data.
The general areas of oversight for a Data Manager are usually managing the core systems of the school, including the MIS (Management Information System), collecting data from Teachers, generating key reports for SLT and Heads of Department, and managing statutory reporting and census.
Data Managers are expected to be the expert on everything about all software in the school. A large part of the role is therefore training colleagues on how to use new systems, as well as supporting them on how to manipulate and learn from data.
In busy schools, staff roles often include lots of other responsibilities around school, and the Data Manager is no different. They will commonly have lunch or break duties, and will often help colleagues out with general daily tasks like answering calls, covering reception, post, collecting students from classrooms and taking them to reception.
Data Managers often have to also respond to urgent queries or requests from colleagues that could come at any time, sometimes when they’re halfway through doing something else. The most time is usually taken up with working out exactly what the staff member is looking for, for instance what they want to use that piece of data or report for, before they can work out a solution.
Data analysis and reporting
Statutory reporting and census
Arbor’s built-in data dashboards give staff at all levels accessible data they can understand and act on day to day. In fact, 81% of Arbor users say Arbor has improved how they understand and analyse their data.
Data Managers say this helps reduce their workload as staff can complete their routine reporting without having to go to their Data Manager for every small request. Instead, Data Managers have more time to get on with the deeper, more satisfying analysis that they love. Our Microsoft Power BI Connector, for example, makes it easy to explore Arbor data in the popular analytics tool, Power BI.
Read more about Arbor’s Microsoft Power BI Connector here. If you’re an Arbor school and you’d like to get started with our Microsoft Power BI Connector, get in touch with your Account Manager at email@example.com .
Discover 5 ways Data Managers are using Microsoft Power BI today
Hear more from Kate Ferris, Data and Systems Analyst at Baxter College, about how using Arbor has transformed how she works with her colleagues.
If you’d like to find out how Arbor could transform the way you work, come along to our free webinars to see the system in action. You can also arrange a personalised demo here or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 050 1028.
You can also download our guide to Arbor for Data Managers for free here.
Last term, we launched Part Two of our popular webinar series for MAT Leaders – “Building a Resilient Trust”. In each webinar, Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill spoke to MAT leaders and industry experts about their strategies for running a trust successfully during Covid-19 and beyond. The series explored different facets of “resilience”, including culture, change
Last term, we launched Part Two of our popular webinar series for MAT Leaders – “Building a Resilient Trust”. In each webinar, Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill spoke to MAT leaders and industry experts about their strategies for running a trust successfully during Covid-19 and beyond.
The series explored different facets of “resilience”, including culture, change management, school improvement, and finance, and gave MAT leaders the chance to hear from peers, share ideas and leave with practical tips to take back to their own trust.
In case you missed the series, don’t worry! We’ve written up all the talks in an exciting new ebook. Download your copy of the free ebook for MAT leaders here.
In your ebook, you’ll find interviews with established MAT leaders (from Ormiston Academies Trust, Academy Transformation Trust, Romero Catholic Academy Trust and more) as well as industry experts, sharing all the lessons they’ve learned from the past 12 months. They also share their advice for how to rewrite your five-year trust development plans with new, more ambitious goals.
You’ll discover how to manage change more effectively, hear ideas on what assessment can and should look like in the future, as well as the steps to making your trust more financially sustainable.
You’ll find yourself reflecting on how to prioritise the things that have the greatest impact at your trust, like how to create a culture of learning to attract and retain the best staff.
Here are the interviews you’ve got in store:
Fill in your details on this page and we’ll email you a PDF copy of this new ebook, for free. We’ll also include “Building a Resilient Trust” Part One, so you can read how another group of MAT leaders navigated the first wave of the pandemic.
Our “Building a Resilient Trust” webinar series is part of our wider MAT events programme, attended by over 600 trust leaders this year so far. We’ve got lots of other great events coming up this term with spaces still available.
On 1st and 8th July, we’re holding two intimate and interactive roundtables online (limited to 12 places each) on scaling, systems and leading successful change at your trust. The discussion will be led by our co-hosts Owen McColgan, CEO of Howard Trust and Nick Doy, Head of Data Quality at Nicholas Postgate, who’ll share how they approached a recent trust-wide systems change.
Read the full agenda and book your free spot at a roundtable here.
If you’re starting to think about a move to the cloud but don’t know where to start, our Switching Made Simple webinars are perfect for you. We’ll talk you through the process from start to finish so you can see what’s really involved in switching MIS and what the next steps would be for you. Perfect for your school level staff.
Click the links to book your spot below:
5 Ways Arbor Will Transform the Way That you Work
Wednesday 30th June, 10am; Thursday 8th July, 2pm
Switching MIS Made Simple for Primary Schools
Tuesday 29th June, 2pm; Wednesday 7th July, 10am
Switching MIS Made Simple for Secondary Schools
Tuesday 29th June, 10am; Tuesday 6th July, 2pm
At Arbor we pride ourselves on working closely with school staff across the country to help us develop the tools that will make the biggest improvement to the way they work. 92% of school staff say Arbor has changed the way they work for the better. 81% say Arbor has improved how they analyse and
At Arbor we pride ourselves on working closely with school staff across the country to help us develop the tools that will make the biggest improvement to the way they work.
92% of school staff say Arbor has changed the way they work for the better.
81% say Arbor has improved how they analyse and understand data.
92% save time with Arbor compared to their previous MIS.
It’s also important to us to hire former educators and education experts on our staff. With over 15 former teachers and many more who know schools inside out, we live and breathe school life!
We recently asked four of our former Teachers to share a little bit about their experience working for Arbor. They’ve also got some tips for current Teachers looking to brand into EdTech, too. Watch their interviews below.
We asked Joe: How do you feel your school/teaching experience has allowed you to add value and become a success at Arbor?
We asked Stephen: What steps did you need to put in place to move into the business sector and what advice would you give someone wanting to make the move?
We asked Chris: How has your school experience allowed you to be a success at Arbor and do you also get the same satisfaction after moving over to the business/MIS side?
We asked Maggie: What were the main challenges for you moving to the business side and how did you overcome them?
Discover the live roles we’re hiring for today! https://careers.arbor-education.com/
With students at different levels, with different learning styles, behaviours and personal issues, classrooms can be hugely diverse and fast-paced environments where Teachers have a lot to juggle. Whilst keeping everyone to task, Teachers also have their own list of admin tasks to think about, technology to navigate, as well as incidents and distractions to
With students at different levels, with different learning styles, behaviours and personal issues, classrooms can be hugely diverse and fast-paced environments where Teachers have a lot to juggle. Whilst keeping everyone to task, Teachers also have their own list of admin tasks to think about, technology to navigate, as well as incidents and distractions to deal with during the lesson.
When social distancing, staggered start times and other covid restrictions are added to the mix, keeping the classroom a balanced and supportive environment has been harder than ever in recent months.
With over 15 former educators here at Arbor, we’ve put our heads together and boiled down our top ten tips for successful classroom management – from building relationships, to encouraging cooperation, to the theory behind the best seating plans. Let us know what you think on Twitter #BetterWorkingLife.
We also want to tell you about Arbor’s My Classroom – our all-in-one tool that combines seating plans, registers, behaviour management and now attainment data, to take the hassle out of admin in the classroom. Jump down to find out more.
The first tip (from Arbor Partnership Manager, Daniel) is to get to know your students as early as possible in the year. It might sound obvious, but knowing the names and a few personal details about the students in front of you helps you build their respect by showing them you care. It’s also helpful to be able to direct questions at individuals to keep everyone engaged.
It’s handy if you have a system in front of you (like Arbor’s My Classroom) that shows you at a glance your students’ names, photos, SEN status, pastoral notes, their behaviour and how they’re doing against their targets – all on your seating plan. This is particularly useful for Teachers in secondary schools who have lots of faces to remember!
The second tip (from Arbor’s Head of Training, Rebekah) is to adapt your teaching style to the space you’re in. Perhaps especially important if you’re teaching in non-traditional layouts like theatre or art rooms, knowing the types of activities that will work best in your space is key to keeping your class on task. Be aware of challenges that the space might pose, like curtains or beams that students might be tempted to play with, or corners where not everyone can see you.
To make the best use of your classroom space, it’s also vital to arrange your students in a way they’ll work at their best. Make sure you have as much information as possible about your students to hand when creating your seating plan – from demographic and pastoral information, to behaviour patterns, to academic ability, as well as your own knowledge of their learning styles and personalities. This will help you make sure they influence their neighbours positively – either challenging or supporting each other. Stay flexible, too. Be prepared to switch around combinations of students to try a better arrangement if it’s not working.
As all Teachers know, the best lessons involve less Teacher talk and more student-led learning. Arbor Partnership Manager, Andrew, recommends the best way to achieve student engagement is through cooperative learning. His top tips are to make sure group activities involve clear instructions and differentiated roles for students roles (e.g. spokesperson, reporter, researcher) to allow for different strengths and learning styles. It’s good to have a variety of tasks available to allow for students’ different starting points, and to make sure the learning is accessible and suitably challenging for everyone.
Cooperative learning approaches give students the chance to take ownership of what they’re learning. Students can also build skills in decision-making, communication, and gain self-confidence. Take a look at these cooperative learning strategies you could put in place in your classroom – from “Think, pair, share” to “Corners”.
AfL (Assessment for Learning) is all about making sure you have ways of knowing how well your students are grasping what they’re learning, so you can adapt and improve your teaching methods. The best Teachers build AfL into their lessons as a natural part of what they do. For example, to find out if the class is with you, ask an open question or, better yet, ask them to give an example, rather than asking them “do you understand?” which they can respond yes or no to.
Arbor’s Head of Partnerships, David, says AfL is also about allowing students to become more independent learners. When students are encouraged to take an active role in their learning, they can see clearly how they’re doing, where they’re going and what they need to do to get there. You can achieve this by giving students the chance to demonstrate how they’re doing themselves. For example, ask students to go to a certain corner of the room in response to a multiple-choice question, or to put their work in a colour-coded drawer as they leave to indicate how they think they did.
A recent survey of adults showed that 89% of people remember not what they were taught but how they were treated by their Teachers. Arbor’s Product Manager, Stephen, says building relationships with students was the most important technique he implemented as a Teacher. The key is knowing what each of your students respond well to, and adapting your approach to make sure you connect to them on their level.
For example, for some students who are used to a lot of shouting at home, it’s unlikely that raising your voice in a classroom will help with behaviour management. For students who don’t get any praise at home, praise will work as a motivational tool in the classroom. However, this might not work for other students who might respond better to fair, directed feedback.
The best piece of advice Arbor’s Key Account Manager, Maggie, has to share is to always follow through with what you say. This shows your students they can rely on you and is key to earning their respect. If you say you’ll help them with their homework, arrange a time and do it. If you say you’d love to watch them play football, go and watch them.
Being consistent is also central to managing behaviour. Be consistent with how you react and respond to certain behaviours and set clear expectations for all your lessons. If you say students have to stay during break time for one minute in silence, time one minute visibly and if there isn’t silence, start again. Students will always notice if there seems to be one rule for some and one for others. And remember, if you make a mistake, own up to it.
Our next tip comes from Arbor’s Software Trainer, Zuhal, who explains the importance of keeping lines of communication open with families, and remembering to emphasise the positives as much as the negatives. Sometimes it can be easy to always phone home about causes of concern. But making sure you also take the time to talk through what students are doing well (not just at Parents’ Evenings) helps build a positive relationship with parents and guardians, which will filter down to the students, too.
You should find that creating this atmosphere makes families more confident to reach out to the school for support, especially if their child isn’t showing the same behaviour at home as they do at school. Zuhal found this particularly helpful with SEN students.
When it comes to managing behaviour, Arbor’s Head of Product, Hilary, says your starting point should be that no child is simply misbehaving for the sake of it. Rather, their behaviour is as a result of a range of factors – from something that happened at home the night before, to their relationship with other students, to their emotional needs and struggles. Hilary used the iceberg model to explain this to colleagues and families – the tip of the iceberg above the water is the behaviour you can see, and under the surface is what the child is going through.
Understanding why young people are behaving a certain way will help you to look past any stereotypes or biases you might have built, such as those you might label “the trouble maker”. Allowing for what students are dealing with will help you build a better rapport and encourage students to open up and participate in class.
Get advice from Educational Psychologist Dr Rob Long on how to understand and better manage “difficult” behaviour in the classroom.
Arbor Software Trainer, Joe, shares the success he found implementing a “growth mindset” with his classes. This approach can apply both to the way you present learning material and to the language you use in the classroom, and is all about emphasising that students are on a journey of development. Instead of talking in terms of things students can or can’t do, it’s about emphasising that they’re things they can’t do yet. The main thing is to show students it’s okay to not quite get things right at first – and that actually this is the point!
Another aspect to developing a growth mindset is encouraging regular reflection on learning. Carve out time for “DIRT” (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time), where the class looks through the week’s learning and the feedback they’ve received, respond to it and set targets for the following week. Make sure these sessions are open, honest and optimistic – allowing students to learn from and support each other.
So many things can crop up when you’re trying to keep your class engaged, not to mention the long list of admin tasks to take care of at some point during the lesson. From announcements to give, to behaviour points to award, to homework to collect, to safeguarding concerns to note. With all this on your mind, it’s best to have a tool in the classroom (like Arbor’s My Classroom) that makes admin tasks quick and easy so they don’t have to disrupt the flow of the lesson.
The former Teachers at Arbor have also been hard at work this past year developing teacher-focused features in Arbor MIS. My Classroom is our popular, all-in-one classroom management tool designed to help you organise your lessons and manage your class seamlessly – giving you your time back to focus on teaching and learning instead.
My Classroom brings seating plans, registers, behaviour management and attainment into one place for the first time. Create your seating plans using easy drag-and-drop blocks, take the register and record behaviour points directly onto your plan throughout the lesson – either on your tablet or desktop.
See key information about each of your students directly on your seating plan, including student photos, demographic data, plus how your students are doing against key targets. With all this information to hand, My Classroom helps you arrange your students in a way you know they’ll learn best.
The best part is that My Classroom is powered by Arbor MIS, which means you can follow up on absences or behaviour straight from your seating plan, without switching screens. Plus, everything you capture in My Classroom shows up on students’ profiles, helping you share information with staff across school.
If you’re new to Arbor, our Partnership Managers would love to show you how Arbor’s intuitive tools could help you transform how your school or MAT works. Get in touch to book a free demo here.
If you’re already part of the Arbor community but don’t have My Classroom, get in touch with your Account Manager to learn more at email@example.com
Popular | School Improvement
School staff work hard every day to improve standards and student outcomes. But it’s the responsibility of School Leaders to bring staff, parents and the wider school community together behind core values and objectives which focus their attention and efforts. As students’ circumstances have changed during the pandemic, schools have had to be flexible with
School staff work hard every day to improve standards and student outcomes. But it’s the responsibility of School Leaders to bring staff, parents and the wider school community together behind core values and objectives which focus their attention and efforts.
As students’ circumstances have changed during the pandemic, schools have had to be flexible with their resources, making quick decisions in order to prioritise what’s best for students. In many cases, schools have made vast improvements to the way they work, faster than they would have before. More students now have access to devices at home, staff have gained extra digital skills, and school communities have been brought closer together.
Above all, Covid-19 has brought to light the students who need the most support, and schools now have the opportunity now to put objectives in place that will really help them long term.
The School Improvement Plan or School Development Plan (SDP) is the central document in which School Leaders map out their strategic plans for the development of their school. Based around the school’s established values, it sets out the actions and resources needed to achieve priority objectives. It is often shared with Governors and published on the school’s website.
All other key plans, such as staff appraisal objectives and CPD programmes tie back to the SDP. The school’s strategic financial plan will also link closely to the strategic improvement objectives, in order to plan sufficient funding to achieve them.
Every school’s SDP will look different, but the most important thing about an SDP is that it’s developed based on evidence of where the school is at, and what it can realistically achieve in order to best support its students. It is also a living document that’s reviewed and updated in an ongoing cycle.
When you come to write your SDP, there are several resources you can draw on. First, refer to your four-year strategic plan which will provide the foundation of your key aims. Second, return to last year’s plan to assess what you’ve achieved and how your priorities might have changed. Third, your strategic financial plan (usually written in January) will show you where you’ve committed spending, and what still needs to be addressed as part of your four-year plan.
Next, remember you’ll need to back up each of your objectives with evidence showing why you’ve identified each focus area, and what your actions will achieve. For this, you’ll need to first carry out a school self-evaluation (SSE) which will help you judge your school’s past performance, strengths and areas for improvement. Your SDP should then align with each of the points in your SSE report.
Check out guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation on how to create school plans this year.
The first (and arguably most important) step in creating an effective SDP is to really understand your school’s performance in depth, including the attainment gaps between different student groups and the factors that cause them. You should look at both summative and internal assessment data in order to build a full picture of how students have been doing this year compared to previous years.
Discover how Arbor’s free Insight performance reports could help you prepare your SDP.
In combination with your past performance data, you can also look at data from other sources, such as:
Look critically at your performance data before writing up your SSE report. Ask questions like “Why did these trends happen?” and “Are they typical of our school?” These will help to make sure your judgments are not based on any bias or previous assumptions.
The best way to make informed judgments about your school’s performance is to benchmark against schools like you nationally and in your LA (local authority). Arbor Insight reports will help you with this, by showing you:
But you still might not know:
You can take two approaches to help answer these questions:
1. The Socratic approach – Think about your data from various angles (e.g. “Do boys underperform in reading in all year groups?”, “How does this affect SEN pupils?”, “Should we look for another reason for this?”) to uncover any hidden assumptions you might have before taking action
2. Ask “why” 5 times – This single, repetitive question is a really useful way to dig deeper into the context behind your results and again, challenge your assumptions
A big focus of most SDPs 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, you might have carried out various baseline tests, and compared these results with where students were at before lockdown. 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.
Think about other areas that have been impacted by the pandemic, such as students’ mental health and wellbeing. Find out how The Mead Academy Trust investigated how students’ vulnerability, educational needs and wellbeing had changed as a result of Covid-19, and the interventions they’re putting in place to support students.
Similarly, hear how Aspirations Academies Trust are banning the terms “catch-up” and “behind”, to focus on positive recovery.
Schools should structure their School Improvement Plans (or School Development Plans) around Ofsted’s four inspection categories:
1. Quality of education
2. Behaviour and attitudes
3. Personal development
4. Leadership and management
Under each category, you should map out your key objectives with actions and targets associated with each of them. A good model to use is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-framed), which means making clear the associated costs, timescales and resourcing needed to achieve each of your objectives.
Get advice from education advisor, writer and speaker, Mary Myatt on how to carve out time for satisfying work on curriculum improvement.
Check out these helpful articles in Schools Week about how to improve sectors of your curriculum: Science, Maths, RE.
If you’re a new Headteacher, it can be really useful to have a look at example SDPs from other schools, particularly those with similar sizes, cohorts, or in your geographical area.
The Key for School Leaders has some great guidance and resources on creating your SDP, including a school improvement plan (SIP) template and checklists to help you implement and evaluate your SIP.
As you’re writing your plan, it’s important to share your findings, judgments and reasoning with your Governors and staff, so you can work together to perfect it. Governors will especially have an eye on how you plan to close certain high-profile gaps in attainment such as disadvantaged students.
As the school year goes on, the needs of your students may change (the world they live in certainly will!). That’s why your school improvement planning should be done in cycles; with ongoing evaluation throughout the year to help you figure out what’s working.
If the objectives you set in your SDP are measurable, you’ll know what evidence you need to look at to work out if you’re on track. The most effective way to track the impact of your school improvement initiatives is in your MIS. Systems like Arbor give you a clear, visual view of how your students are doing at school or MAT level across behaviour, attendance and attainment. It’s then easy to problem-solve your student performance and understand the root factors using relevant information such as students’ background and personal circumstances.
This evidence will show you where you might need to tweak the focus of your objectives so they have a more meaningful impact.
Got a question about how to write an effective School Development Plan? Why not ask fellow schools in the Arbor Community of over 1,800 schools? Join the online Community forum today.
Want to find out how our schools use Arbor to work faster, smarter and collaborate more? Listen to our case studies here.
2020-21 was one of the most challenging years on record 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
2020-21 was one of the most challenging years on record 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.
Next 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. Over 600 schools have moved to Arbor since March 2020.
Check out The Arbor Guide to managing your school during Covid-19 – based on the learnings we’ve gathered from schools and MATs during the pandemic.
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…
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.
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.
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:
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 600 schools!
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.
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People buy and sell every day, and schools are no exception. As a product manager developing payment systems, the main ‘use cases’ I consider when thinking about school payments include school meals, paid clubs, and field trips. There are a lot of other use cases depending on what kind of additional services the school provides,
People buy and sell every day, and schools are no exception. As a product manager developing payment systems, the main ‘use cases’ I consider when thinking about school payments include school meals, paid clubs, and field trips. There are a lot of other use cases depending on what kind of additional services the school provides, such as selling snacks, school uniform, items in the school shop, books, tickets for school events, and more.
The most popular ways to process payments from parents and guardians are:
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each of these methods!
On the school’s side, cash has the major benefit of no processing or transaction fees. Parents at many schools may also prefer to use cash to pay for activities and meals – this is generally a question of demographics, as lower-income families are less likely to use cheques or have credit/debit cards as their main form of payment.
Cash does have its downsides though, from the stress of counting bags of coins and banknotes, to the security required to safely store them in school and take them to a bank at least several times per week (hello, staff time and safety).
Cheques are another way of accepting payments that mostly have similar pros and cons to cash. The specific downsides of cheques, however, are that there is a longer lag time between the parent making the payment and the school being able to cash it. This can cause problems with, for instance, having the money you need for a trip in time for every child to go, or even with cheques bouncing altogether.
It’s probably fair to say that in a lot of places this way of accepting payments is slowly dying out because of its inefficiency, and the long time needed to process money. A lot of people these days simply don’t use cheques, or even own a chequebook.
This payment method doesn’t involve dealing with banknotes and papers, everything is in one place on the screen, and the accounting is so much easier. However, this payment method is not as popular at schools because it tends to be very time-inefficient when it comes to making frequent, smaller payments of different sizes – as you do with school meals. The time that it costs to make a bank transfer is worth more than the £2.40 you’re actually sending.
Research shows that most people prefer using card payments when they can. From the parents’ point of view, card payments provide several incentives to pay reliably and on time: it’s fast and easy, refunds are simple, and they can track their payments in their account or on their phone.
Schools must always consider the fee that comes with each payment and understand whether this is feasible for them to use (remember, that lots of providers don’t use a flat fee and usually charge some percentage plus a couple of pence, which become super expensive for micro-payments that are most common in schools). However, sometimes it’s better to lose a small percentage on a transaction fee, rather than losing 100% of a payment when a parent says that they don’t have enough cash with them!
All these considerations are why we take a holistic approach to school payments and have given our MIS the ability to log cash, cheque, bank transfer, and online card payments. Arbor provides a sophisticated solution for managing school payments via the MIS and our Parent Portal. Together with taking payments for school meals, trips and clubs, it gives flexible possibilities for setting up and accepting payments for bespoke accounts, such as for books or uniforms. You can also use Arbor to audit and report on all these transactions and accounts.
This is up to you, but on balance out of all four options, it’s no secret that going cashless is the current trend in today’s world. The United Kingdom had the highest revenue rate in cashless payments among all EU countries in 2017 – more than 100 trillion pounds. More and more schools are joining this trend and deciding to opt for a cashless payment system (or mostly cashless), for simple reasons:
A payments system like Arbor will help you go cashless in a format designed for schools and integrated with all your other MIS modules.
Image 1: A screenshot of the Arbor App
The benefits of card payments in Arbor: