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Anna Christie - 3 October, 2022

Category : Blog

What’s new in September?

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!

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: 

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

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

New Marksheet Analysis Fields 

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

What’s new for MATs

MAT MIS is custom-built for better collaboration across your trust, with tools that make it easy to work together as one organisation.

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

Ne PowerBI Datasets

We’ve added SEN Statuses and registration form membership data for students to our PowerBI connector. 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!

If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email hello@arbor-education.com and one of our team will be in contact.

Amy Underdown - 3 October, 2022

Category : Blog

National Customer Service Week: Hear from our team

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. 

customer service

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. 

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customer service

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. 

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customer service

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

Amy Underdown - 23 September, 2022

Category : Blog

Hampshire County Council: How are they helping schools move to the cloud?

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.

What was the deciding factor when it came to moving away from a partnership with a single supplier?

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.

Did you or your team have any concerns as you moved to work with multiple MIS suppliers?

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.

What were your blockers and how did you overcome them?

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.

Has this move on a vast scale felt successful?

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.”

How has the move to multiple suppliers affected how you work with schools?

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.

 

Sajid Gulzar - 14 September, 2022

Category : Blog

How and why Prince Albert Community Trust takes on vulnerable schools

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

Sajid Gulzar

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. 

Taking on vulnerable schools

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. 

Aligning your MAT’s culture

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. 

vulnerable school

Amy Underdown - 9 September, 2022

Category : Blog

How Arbor keeps your school data safe

At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting 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. 

1) We have full data security accreditation

  • ISO 27001  –  We are accredited by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) . The ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organisation that ensures the quality and safety of software like Arbor around the world. We are accredited under ISO27001, the international benchmark for data security
  • GDPR  –  We meet and exceed the requirements of GDPR, protecting the school data we store with a comprehensive Information Security Management System. Arbor MIS gives you enterprise provisioning secure logins (e.g. via Google SSO and 2FA), allows you to retrieve all the data you need for Subject Access Requests (SAR), and helps you monitor and delete data through “out-of-the-box” data retention dashboards
  • Cyber Essentials  –  We are certified with Cyber Essentials and are audited annually. This means our IT systems are security approved by an accreditation body selected by the NCSC and we have technical defences in place against cyber threats
  • ICO  –  We are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for data protection. The ICO is the UK’s independent authority that upholds public information rights and controls organisations use of staff or customer data

2) Our digital security

  • Protected by the cloud  –  Your school data is stored on our central, cloud-based system, rather than any individual device. This means if there’s a security breach at your school, your data is less likely to be lost or compromised. Your data is only accessible with a secure login and the system automatically logs out after a period of inactivity, meaning there’s less chance of it getting into the wrong hands
  • Only you can see your data  –  Our database uses bank-grade, end-to-end, 256bit SSL encryption for transmitting data, and AES-256 bit encryption for all stored data, which means only you can see your data. Student data is never shared with third parties without your schools’ consent
  • Analyse data securely  –  With our built-in BI analysis, you can go deep into the detail of your data within Arbor MIS. But if you do want to pull data out, you can download it as a file or as a secure “Live Feed” which can be password protected. You can keep central control access to this data and cut the link if necessary
  • Your data is secure because our data is secure  –  At Arbor HQ, our data is hosted by Amazon Web Services’ London data centre. Arbor is approved by the DfE list for cloud suppliers and registered on the UK government’s G-Cloud V11 framework, which audits the security of cloud-based providers
  • We lock down access to our databases to specific individuals, and only allow access through strict gateways requiring two-factor authentication login and public/private key identification. All logins to Arbor are logged and tracked, and strict policies are enforced which create alerts if breached. Staff passwords are also changed regularly and, since data is kept on our central system, permissions can easily be revoked if needed

3)  Our physical security 

The security of every Arbor office is maintained by formal security inspections and risk assessments. Access to our offices is restricted with secure keys, CCTV, 24/7 security personnel and secure perimeter doors.

Security top tips 

When protecting 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: 

contextual safeguarding

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. 

Amy Underdown - 20 July, 2022

Category : Blog

Arbor’s year in review

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.

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Advanced Report Calculations

Approve and lock assessment marks in bulk

Improved keyboard accessibility

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Wraparound Care Clubs

Bulk copy Assessment marks 

New MAT MIS homepage

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Improvements to Contributing EEP Hours

Attainment Over Time in MAT MIS

Prevent Attendance from being overwritten

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Bulk update Core Learning Aims

Share report cards with students

User Defined Fields (UDFs)

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School-led tutoring hours

External report cards

Guardians of applicants can access Parent Portal

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Clickable hyperlinks in In-App Messages

Custom Group Alerts

Attendance KPIs in MAT MIS

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Pay by childcare voucher

Show RANK order on Marksheets

Track Learner Engagement 

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Suspend lessons

Send emails via bulk action in MAT MIS

Civica cashless catering integration

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School Shop

Census Audit in MAT MIS

Shared Teaching

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New Marksheets

Creating templates for In-App Messages

Live Register cashless catering integration

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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.

Amy Underdown - 15 July, 2022

Category : Blog

The role of school governors

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. 

Meet Arbor’s governors:

what do school governors do

Why did you become a school governor?

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.  

How do you become a school governor?

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. 

What is the role of a school governor?

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. 

What makes a good school governor?

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.

What do you love about being a governor and what is more challenging?

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. 

Does having a good MIS help the role of school governors?

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.

What do students have to say?

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.”

Interested in becoming a school governor?

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. 

Amy Underdown - 11 July, 2022

Category : Blog

Migration to the cloud as a mindset – In conversation with AWS

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

migration to the cloud AWS

How has the move to the cloud looked across other parts of the public sector?

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. 

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What learnings could the education sector take to help propel its digital transformation forward? 

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. 

 

What advice would you give to those unsure about how to go about moving to 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. 

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    To see other case studies like Andrew’s, click on the image above

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What barriers have other sectors faced when approaching digital transformation and a move to the cloud?

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. 

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How do other sectors make large-scale projects manageable?

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. 

 

How should the needs of end-users or customers be aligned and managed with a centralised project? 

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. 

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Is there anything you’d like to add?

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.

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More case studies in the cloud

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.

soctim move to the cloud

Amy Underdown - 8 July, 2022

Category : Blog

Three organisations tell us how they help schools move to the cloud

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. 

soctim 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.

Anna Christie - 5 July, 2022

Category : Blog

What’s new in June?

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.

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: 

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

What’s new for MATs

MAT MIS is custom-built for better collaboration across your trust, with tools that make it easy to work together as one organisation.

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

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!

If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email hello@arbor-education.com and one of our team will be in contact.

Amy Underdown - 29 June, 2022

Category : Blog

Top tips for Assessments in Arbor

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!

1. New marksheets

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. 

School Assessment UK

Find out more here.  

2. Copy your Annual Policy

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. 

3. Use a SUM calculation

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. 

SUM calculation

Find out more here. 

4. Report card templates

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. 

Find out more here. 

5. Make Assessment work for your school

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. 

school assessment uk

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.

Amy Underdown - 28 June, 2022

Category : Blog

Should schools in a MAT be close together?

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. 

schools in a MAT

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.

schools in a MAT

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. 

Hear opinions from MAT leaders

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. 

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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. 

Amy Underdown - 22 June, 2022

Category : Blog

“Why my school switched”

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. 

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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

Natasha Cobby - 20 June, 2022

Category : Blog

Cashless catering in one place: Arbor’s integrations with Civica 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

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 Civica Cashless Catering and Live Register.

Streamline your payments systems

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.

Full visibility for staff and parents

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.

Harness your data through cashless catering

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.

Want to switch on the cashless catering integration?

  • Cashless catering integrations are included in our MIS Payments module, and are also part of our Arbor Perform package
  • If you’re already a Perform customer, read our step by step Help Centre articles to switch on the integration
  • Using Arbor Core or Comms and interested in the integration? Speak to your account manager about how to access the integration
  • If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email hello@arbor-education.com and one of our team will be in contact
Amy Underdown - 14 June, 2022

Category : Blog

Our new ebook for MAT staff!

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!

MAT staff

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.

 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 8 June, 2022

Category : Blog

Top tips for managing your workload from School Business Leaders

On 10th June 2022, 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 10th June 2022, 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.

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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 but you can check out all the activity on #WorkloadTopTips @ArborEdu.

Star advice: Clare Payne, SBM at South Lake Primary

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

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

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

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

Jonny Coates, SBL and Business and Finance Director in MAT

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

@SBMWestSussex, Primary School Business Manager

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

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

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

Emma Kell - 7 June, 2022

Category : Blog

Staff wellbeing in schools – the little things that matter

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

staff wellbeing in schools

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 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.  

The paradox of giving 

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. 

It’s the little things

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. 

So what next?

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.

Anna Christie - 31 May, 2022

Category : Blog

What’s new in May?

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.

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: 

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

What’s new for MATs

MAT MIS is custom-built for better collaboration across your trust, with tools that make it easy to work together as one organisation.

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. 

If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email hello@arbor-education.com and one of our team will be in contact.

Anna Christie - 17 May, 2022

Category : Blog

End-to-end payments system within Arbor

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

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 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. 

Three reasons to love Payments Plus

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.

If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email hello@arbor-education.com and one of our team will be in contact.

blank James Weatherill - 13 May, 2022

Category : Blog

An open letter on our Pay-for-One Promise

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 pop@arbor-education.com 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.

James

 

 

Natasha Cobby - 10 May, 2022

Category : Blog

Share courses between schools

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.

If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email hello@arbor-education.com and one of our team will be in contact.

Amy Underdown - 4 May, 2022

Category : Blog

Arbor by numbers

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. 

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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. 

Some of these statistics are from the latest DfE census, as detailed in this blog. 
Other sources include: NPS survey, MIS survey carried out and published by The Key and Finnemore Consulting
blank Maddie Kilminster - 24 April, 2022

Category : Blog

The ultimate guide to wellbeing initiatives in schools

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. 

Mental health and wellbeing in schools

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.

7 top wellbeing initiatives for schools

1. Plan a Wellbeing Week

Organising a “Wellbeing Week” at your school is a great way to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing, and gives students the resources to help them support their own mental health. The Mental Health Foundation has created a free downloadable pack to help you plan the week based around the 5 Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, Get Active, Be Mindful, Keep Learning and Give to Others.

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.

2. Appoint Wellbeing Ambassadors 

Embedding a whole-school culture of wellbeing doesn’t happen overnight, but a good basis to start from is building supportive and respectful relationships between students, teachers and parents. A great way to do this is by appointing student and staff Wellbeing Ambassadors to create a supportive environment where students can talk openly about how they are feeling. Worth-it provides training for Wellbeing Ambassadors to equip them with approaches and strategies to support the wellbeing of their peers as well as their own. 

3. Encourage mental health literacy 

Mental health is often not talked about enough in schools because of the stigma around it. One of the best ways to combat some of the misconceptions around mental health is through education. Stem4 offers free teaching resources for Key Stages 3 and 4 that cover topics such as anxiety, stress and depression to empower students with knowledge about mental health.

4. Create wellbeing lessons and resources

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.

5. Mindfulness-based interventions in the classroom

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?

6. Create safe spaces in school

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.

7. Gratitude Jar

Gratitude practices are proven to boost our moods. All you need is an empty jar, strips of paper, and pens. As part of your tutor morning routine, have students write down something specific that they’re grateful for on a strip of paper and put it in the jar. Towards the end of the week, ask students to come up and read out items from the jar! 

Promoting staff wellbeing in schools

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:

Staff wellbeing ideas:

  • Monthly wellbeing workshops – When school staff have limited time, carving out time for staff to connect with each other whilst doing something different can really boost their mood. Why not arrange a workshop each term such as cooking or meditation?
  • Designated Mental Health Champions – It can be really effective to give selected staff the ownership over promoting mental health to their colleagues. See Mind for guidance on how to appoint “Mental Health Champions” at your school. If staff are nervous about committing, why not have staff rotate every term?
  • Mental health training for staff – Making sure staff have the background knowledge they need to support mental health at school should be a top priority. Place2b and MHFA England both offer excellent Mental Health First Aid courses for school staff
  • A wellbeing noticeboard – Create a go-to space where staff can check out all the wellbeing initiatives that are going on. This could include a “menu” of events and activities, contacts of who your Mental Health Champions or Wellbeing Ambassadors are, and how to sign up for training 
  • Staff Stars – Consider how you show gratitude for each other at your school. Handing out a “Staff Star” award in your weekly staff meeting can be one whimsical but effective idea. Encourage each winner to nominate the next person each week, and explain why

For more ideas and resources check out the following websites: 

Find out more about Arbor 

New to Arbor?

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.

Already using Arbor?

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. 

blank Rebecca Watkins - 22 April, 2022

Category : Blog

ArborFest: The New Features Edition – What’s on?

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

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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…

Hear from Arbor’s CEO and co-founder

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!

Brand new features

We have a number of exciting announcements, as well as a deeper look into some of our recent releases. 

  • Our marksheets have just become even more powerful. Across two sessions (one for primaries and one for secondaries), you’ll see all our recent updates to marksheets as well as insight into what our product team are working on next

  • Join us at 2pm for the big reveal of Payments Plus! Perfect for everyone who would like a look at our new payments module 

Get top Arbor tips from customers

Who better to learn from than school staff who use Arbor every day? 

  • Andy Lowe, IT & Attendance Officer at Marches Academy Trust, will be talking on how he makes the most of data in his Attendance 101 session

  • Jon Brook, Deputy Head at Droitwich Spa High School, will join Lucy, our Senior Product Manager, to give you top tips and tricks on everything timetablingclick here to sign up

Have your say

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.

Amy Underdown - 22 April, 2022

Category : Blog

Sustainability in schools – how can your school MIS help?

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. 

Paperless – how low can you go?

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. 

Make the most of UDFs

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. 

School sustainability clubs

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. 

Amy Underdown - 12 April, 2022

Category : Blog

How an MIS can help close the gap for Pupil Premium 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. 

Easily identify Pupil Premium eligible students

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.  

Custom reports and custom group alerts

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.

Our work with SBS Budgets

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. 

Amy Underdown - 12 April, 2022

Category : Blog

Meet us at the Schools & Academies Show

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.

blank Danielle Arkwright - 11 April, 2022

Category : Blog

5 ways to unwind and de-stress this Easter break 

As schools end a hugely busy term, Arbor’s HR and Office Manager and trained Emotional Literacy Support Assistant, Danielle has put together some guidance on how to 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. 

1. Laugh

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

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

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

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

2. Make time to connect with others

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

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

3. Nature 

Spending time in nature has a range of positive impacts to our overall wellbeing 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:

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

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

4. Learn to say no 

This might be one that some of us (myself included) find very difficult. But therapists and other mental health practitioners advise that the practice of saying no and setting firm boundaries are crucial parts of self care. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of lots of socialising for the first time in a few months, consider how might be better for you to spend your time to feel your best.

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

5. Try a stress reduction challenge 

Why not extend your stress 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.

Want to learn more about Arbor MIS? 

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

Amy Underdown - 5 April, 2022

Category : Blog

Arbor x Socitm – Transforming Education

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. 

blank Rebecca Watkins - 31 March, 2022

Category : Blog

Introducing 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

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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

What’s on this year?

  • Have your say: Get involved with the future of cloud-based MIS by joining one of our interactive forum sessions, covering a variety of topics, from assessment and comms through to our MAT MIS
  • Top tips and tricks: Join a session on attendance, data or comms in MAT MIS to find out how to get the most out of Arbor, with our product managers and fellow Arbor customers.

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:

  • Register for free for the sessions you’d like to join with your work email
  • We’ll send you a confirmation email with your links to join on 5th May
  • Add the sessions to your calendar to block out your time
  • Click on your personalised link to join the sessions on 5th May

How can I keep in touch?

  • Stay in the loop by following us on Twitter or LinkedIn
  • 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
Amy Underdown - 30 March, 2022

Category : Blog

Creating a joined-up secondary school – our brand new ebook!

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

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 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. 

Enjoying our blogs? Get stuck in with more of our content, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn to be the first to know about new articles.

Amy Underdown - 30 March, 2022

Category : Blog

Thanks for joining us at BETT!

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. 

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Just a few of our highlights

Tim’s Tech in Action Talk

 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. 

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Content launch!

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. 

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At Tapa Tapa

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. 

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As you can see, it’s been a very busy BETT for us – we’re already looking forward to next year! 

Amy Underdown - 29 March, 2022

Category : Blog

How to create a shared culture in your Trust

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? 

The importance of creating a shared culture in a MAT

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.”

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What are the foundations for a strong culture?

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. 

 

What does the future of MAT culture look like?

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:

  • How to make meaningful cultural change in a Trust
  • How far is too far when it comes to distance between schools?
  • Why total honesty is the bedrock for a good MAT culture
  • Prioritising pedagogy over Trust culture
  • How to tailor communication and avoid creating a monoculture

Click here to download the full ebook.

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Want to read more MAT content? Get stuck in with our MAT MIS series, perfect for MAT Central Teams.

Amy Underdown - 1 March, 2022

Category : Blog

The MAT MIS series – three top tips for an effective communications strategy

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

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 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.

Getting started with your centralised communications strategy 

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.

1. Create and deliver a centralised communications strategy

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. 

2. Take action within your central team straight away 

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. 

3. Have a consistent voice across all your trust’s schools

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.

Amy Underdown - 1 March, 2022

Category : Blog

The ultimate guide to improving communication with parents

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

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 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. 

Why do some schools struggle with a two-way communication approach?

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. 

Top tips for improving parent interaction using your MIS

1. Go paperless!

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. 

2. Give parents the information they want

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. 

3. Make life easier for parents

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. 

Want to learn more? 

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 hello@arbor-education.com 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.

blank Sophie Elms - 1 March, 2022

Category : Blog

Women in tech leadership

As part of our focus on diversity and inclusion at Arbor, we wanted to shine a spotlight on our leadership team, which is made up of majority women, 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. 

Women in Tech Leadership at Arbor 

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. 

Sonia Leighton – Chief of Customer Success 

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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!”

Hilary Aylesworth – Head of Product

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

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

Phillippa De’Ath – Chief Revenue Officer

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

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

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

Harriet Cheng – Head of Marketing

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

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

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

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

Enjoying our blogs? Get stuck in with more of our content, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn to be the first to know about new articles. 

Amy Underdown - 1 March, 2022

Category : Blog

Arbor is now an ASCL Premier Partner!

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 2,900 primary, secondary and special schools and 300 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 –  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 tellmemore@arbor-education.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.

Amy Underdown - 2 February, 2022

Category : Blog

An introduction to Arbor’s Fast-Track Programme

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 hello@arbor-education.com.

 

If you’re a primary school

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 

 

If you’re a secondary school 

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

 

If you’re a special or AP school

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

 

If you’re a MAT

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

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Amy Underdown - 31 January, 2022

Category : Blog

The MAT MIS series: How to make data-driven decisions for your MAT

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.

 

1. Start with the basics: Identify what data you want to track, and make sure you can track it

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:

  • Attendance data across your trust, meaning you can spot persistent absentees right away. 
  • Behaviour data, such as exclusions information 
  • Assessments data, so that you can instantly recognise which subjects you are still waiting on for assessment marks.  

2. Use the best tools for the job

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. 

3. Take advantage of MAT MIS as your mission control

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.

4. Make sure your reporting is consistent

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. 

5. Leave the hard work to your MIS

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.

David Norton - 28 January, 2022

Category : Blog

The importance of frameworks in the changing MIS market

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 hello@arbor-education.com

If you’d like to find out more about HfL’s new Framework, you can contact them at misFramework@hertsforlearning.co.uk.

Anna Christie - 27 January, 2022

Category : Blog

School timetabling made easy: Arbor’s integrations with Edval and TimeTabler

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.

Why is this great news?

  • Use the power of the best independent timetabling software available to build a timetable that works for your school.
  • View and easily make changes to your timetable throughout the year within Arbor MIS.
  • Get the flexibility you need. For bigger changes, you can still build a new timetable in your preferred timetabling software and push it into Arbor part way through the year.
  • Run reports in your MIS and gain insights based on your timetable data.

Want to hear more about how you can integrate Arbor with timetable software? Contact us today.

  • Arbor is a reseller for TimeTabler and can introduce you to both their and Edval’s sales teams directly
  • If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email hello@arbor-education.com and one of our 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.
  • To see our timetabling roadmap, join us at ArborFest.
blank Danielle Arkwright - 10 January, 2022

Category : Blog

Top tips for managing stress during constant change

As schools and trusts navigate this time of tough challenges and constant change, we want to offer some helpful advice for adapting to new ways of working 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. 

How are you feeling?

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

Firstly, it’s important to say that feeling these things is a perfectly normal response to such an abnormal situation. There will be millions of people across the world experiencing similar 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.

What is stress?

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

Is stress bad? 

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

For more info, go to MentalHealth.org

How can we manage stress? 

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

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

Top tips for managing stress

Stay connected – Even if it’s a few phone calls a week, sending a funny video, or doing 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.

Useful links for managing stress

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

For coping with the Coronavirus outbreak:

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

General recommendations:

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

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

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

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 tellmemore@arbor-education.com, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028. 

Amy Underdown - 6 January, 2022

Category : Blog

The NEW School Financial Benchmarking Report: Making school budget planning easier

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.

How do I get my report?

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How will my report simply school budget planning?

Your report…

  • Saves you the time and hassle of exporting your records from the DfE, by bringing all your financial and student information into one place
  • Compares your costs and expenditure this year to trends over the past three years
  • Helps you identify past over- and under-spends and where you’re getting most value for money
  • Benchmarks your financial performance against schools like you, helping you compare your response to the challenges of Covid
  • Gives you a ready-made report with expert analysis and colour-coded charts that’s perfect for sharing with Governors

Great this term to…

  • Easily compare your Covid spend with previous years so you can set achievable targets for this year
  • Instantly see the financial impact of a full disrupted year compared to the past 3 years, and compared to schools nationally, locally, and in your LA
  • Use in combination with your free ASP performance reports to compare per-student spend with academic achievement
  • Save time collating your data so you can focus on making the most impactful decisions for next year

How can I best use the data in my report?

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.

Want more from your data?

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.

Next steps

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 insight@arbor-education.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.

Amy Underdown - 13 December, 2021

Category : Blog

Join us at BETT

Join us at BETT, from the 23rd-25th of March. We’re thrilled to invite you to join us at BETT 2022. Taking place from the 23rd-25th March at the ExCel Centre, we’re excited to be back after two years and can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on at Arbor. This year, there are

Join us at BETT, from the 23rd-25th of March.

We’re thrilled to invite you to join us at BETT 2022. Taking place from the 23rd-25th March at the ExCel Centre, we’re excited to be back after two years and can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on at Arbor.

This year, there are several ways you can meet us:

1. Join us for lunch at the Arbor Leaders’ Lounge

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 – book your free ticket here.

To find out more about Arbor, join us in the Lounge for lunch between 11.30am and 2:30pm on any day of BETT. You’re also welcome to instead join us for tea, coffee or wine at any point of the day if you can’t make the lunch slot. Open to everyone, no matter how much or little you know about us. 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 3,000 schools that have already switched to using our MIS.

2. Join us for breakfast at the Arbor Leaders’ Lounge

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:

  • MAT Breakfast, Thursday 24th March – our first breakfast session will give you the opportunity to discover the latest Arbor launches and discuss the exciting future of our MAT MIS
  • Secondary School Breakfast, Friday 25th March – whether you are an existing Arbor school or a school thinking about switching MIS, this is a fantastic chance to find out what’s coming up for secondary schools at Arbor. We’ll discuss our roadmap and encourage feedback, so we can make sure we’re prioritising the changes that matter most to you

3. Visit our stand

We’ll also be at stand SK41 in the main BETT arena, where you can meet more of the team and get a system demo so you can see Arbor in action.

How to get tickets

To get your tickets, simply visit our event page, select ‘Register’ and click on which session suits you best. Don’t forget that we’ll also be inside the main arena of BETT for the whole event if you have any questions for our team or would like to see a demo.

If you’re an existing partner of Arbor or would like to speak to someone about becoming one, you can also get tickets to our Partners’ Lounge. We’ll have a dedicated talk from our CEO, James Weatherill, as well as opportunities throughout the day to meet with individuals from the Arbor team over drinks.

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Anna Christie - 7 December, 2021

Category : Blog

Introducing: The new MAT MIS

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

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 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. 

What’s new:

Assessments

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.

People and HR

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.

Reporting

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.

Centralised communications

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. 

Live overview

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 hello@arbor-education.com 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!

Amy Underdown - 26 November, 2021

Category : Blog

What’s on at ArborFest?

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.

  • The “Why Arbor?” Stage – designed for those looking to find out more about our MIS. With a range of fireside chats, this is a great chance to discover more about the community of 2000 schools and 200 MATs who are already using Arbor to innovate their ways of working.
  • The Masterclass Stage – whether it be about preparing for exam season or acing attendance, our masterclasses offer guidance on how to make the most of Arbor. Don’t miss our additional sessions with Microsoft BI and 4Matrix, which will provide tips and tricks on getting the best use out of your data.
  • The MAT Stage – listen to a range of exciting thought leadership talks from experienced MAT leaders, focusing on how to build resilience in times of uncertainty and growth.
  • The Workshop Stage – have your say on the future of school MIS through our feedback forums. Including sessions on accessibility and parent comms, we welcome all teaching staff who use Arbor to help shape our roadmap towards what you believe matters most.
  • The Partner Stage – Join our specially curated Arbor Partner sessions for advice on supporting schools using Arbor, feed into our Spring Term roadmap, or join sessions with our customers to get insights into the way they use Arbor day-to-day.  

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. 

All you need to do to join is:

  • Register for the sessions you’d like to join with your work email
  • We’ll send you a personalised link
  • Add the sessions to your calendar
  • Click on your personalised link to join the sessions on 2nd and 3rd December

How can I keep in touch?

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!

blank James Weatherill - 16 November, 2021

Category : Blog

Options for your upcoming 3 year SIMS renewal

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:

  • You do not have to accept 3 year terms. We also think SIMS is legally not allowed to force this change on you.
  • A 3 year extension counts as a material change of your MIS contract. This means you should get 3 quotes to be compliant with DfE procurement advice. You can get quotes in less than a day using a Framework like G-Cloud 12 or Everything ICT – all the MIS suppliers on them have already been through a competitive tender process, and the Frameworks are designed to help you find value for money 
  • Arbor and ScholarPack have already signed over 4,000 schools from SIMS and other MIS providers, and are ready to help you move in 2022. If you decide you’d like to move to one of our systems we will help you migrate your data in just 24 hours, and get you trained and ready for go-live as soon as Spring Term 2022. Remember you can give notice to SIMS now and still change your mind next term if you want to

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 james@arbor-education.com. Happy to chat through in more detail!

___________

A few clarifications

  1. We said that we understood from public sources that schools who have pushed back on SIMS have been offered 1 year extensions – we had evidence at the time of writing from public and private sources that this was the case, but SIMS has subsequently said in their new FAQs they now only offer 3 year contracts.
  2. We said Arbor and ScholarPack have already migrated over 4,000 schools from SIMS – we should have said Arbor and ScholarPack have already signed 4,000 schools from SIMS and other MIS providers.
blank Cosima Baring - 13 October, 2021

Category : Blog

ArborFest is back – and you’re invited!

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

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 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:

  • Masterclasses – Learn new tips and tricks for getting the most out of a range of Arbor modules
  • Advice from current Arbor schools and trusts – Hear how other leaders, support staff and teachers are using Arbor at their schools and trusts
  • Demos of Arbor MIS – See what how transformative Arbor can be from the schools and MATs using us every day
  • Keynote speaker – Hear from Dr Emma Kell, who will speak on building resilience in education and discuss practical ways to change the way you work for the better
  • Feedback Forums – Share your feedback on Arbor and shape our Spring and Summer Term roadmaps!
  • Mindfulness session – Join Drama Therapist Danielle Arkwright for a session to switch off and take a minute for yourself

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:

  • Register for the sessions you’d like to join with your work email
  • We’ll send you a personalised link
  • Add the sessions to your calendar
  • Click on your personalised link to join the sessions on 2nd and 3rd December

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.

How can I keep in touch?

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 in December!

blank Cosima Baring - 11 October, 2021

Category : Blog

Academies Enterprise Trust chooses Arbor as the MIS for its 57 schools

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.”


Arbor’s cloud-based MIS has designed with features to suit every phase:

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.


300 MATs have chosen Arbor MIS in the last 4 years…

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. 


…and 100 more MATs will switch MIS this school year

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.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 5 October, 2021

Category : Blog

Arbor’s new partnership with Scomis

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

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 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.

Lorum ispum

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.

Lorum ispum

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 scomis@devon.gov.uk / 01392 385 300

blank Maddie Kilminster - 29 September, 2021

Category : Blog

Free EdTech support for schools from the Edtech Demonstrator Programme

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

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 from the programme in 2020-21, which launched shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic enforced an extended period of remote teaching and learning.

What does the programme do?

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:

  • School/college recovery
  • Building an accessible and inclusive curriculum (including pupils with SEND and excluded learners)
  • Improving teacher workload
  • Impacting on your educational improvement plans; better resource management
  • Creating a digital strategy

The EdTech Demonstrator Programme webinar series

Sign-up to any of the below sessions to get a feel for for the programme and how it can help your school

October 5th, 5pm: What should school and college leaders be thinking about when they think about technology?

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.

Sign-up here

October 7th, 4pm: Digital wellbeing for pupils: consuming without being consumed

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.

Sign-up here

October 12th, 5pm: Where can digital technology have the greatest impact for schools or colleges?

Strategic Leadership and Creating Change

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.

Sign-up here

October 14th, 4pm: EdTech Experts’ Choice: decide which are the most impactful pieces of software for use at KS2

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.

Sign-up here

Lorum ispum

If you’d like to find out more or would like to access support from the programme you can register your interest here.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 21 July, 2021

Category : Blog

How your MIS can reduce your staff workload

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

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

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

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

 

What is school data workload? 

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

 

Lack of integrating systems

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

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

 

Data fatigue

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

 

Lack of data skills

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

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

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

 

The impact of covid on workload

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

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

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

Read how Orwell MAT switched MIS during covid

 

How to reduce your staff data workload

 

DfE workload reduction toolkit

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

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

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

 

How to reduce your data workload

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

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

Read how LEO Academies Trust launched a brand new digital strategy

 

How your MIS could cut staff workload

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

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

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

 

1. Access

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

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

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

Discover effective strategies for tracking pupil progress at your primary school

 

2. Automatic actions

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

Communications

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

 

Escalations

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

 

Bulk actions

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

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

 

Reporting

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

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

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

 

3. Alignment

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

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

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

 

Choose a better way to work

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

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

 

Transform the way you work with Arbor 

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 14 July, 2021

Category : Blog

Case study: IT Lead at a SEN Multi-Academy Trust

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.

What’s the remit of your role as IT Lead?

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.

What are the particular challenges you face in your role?

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.

What is your top priority?

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.

Why is working online or on the cloud important for your trust?

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. 

How has Arbor transformed the way your trust works?

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.

What are the three biggest wins of moving to Arbor?

1. Keeping track of staff training 

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. 

2. Allowing staff to be self-sufficient

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.

3. Supporting our growth plans

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

Find out more about Arbor for your special school

New to Arbor?

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 tellmemore@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Already using Arbor?

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.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 8 July, 2021

Category : Blog

The ultimate guide to managing change in schools

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. 

 

Why is change important in education?

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.

 

The challenge of change in schools 

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

 

Changing during a pandemic

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”. 

infographic-change

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.

  • If things change again, do we have a good communications system?
  • If staff have to work remotely again, can they access all the student information they need from home? 
  • Do we have quick ways to track vulnerable students and staff?
  • How quickly would our systems update if the DfE changed guidelines again?

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. 

 

Example of impactful change: Switching MIS

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.

 

Top strategies to implement change

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:

1. Establish your need for change

The first things to think about when you’re starting a project are why you need to make the change and what you want to achieve over the long term. The reasons you need to make the change will have a lot to do with:

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

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

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

 2. Create a change network

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

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

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

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

 3. Communicate

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

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

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

 4. Be prepared for resistance 

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

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

“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

 5. Track progress and celebrate successes

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

 

We’re here to support you to switch MIS

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

If you’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! 

Want to find out more?

To learn more about Arbor MIS, arrange a personalised demo for your school here, or get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028.

Arbor schools – share your experience

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!).

blank Maddie Kilminster - 5 July, 2021

Category : Blog

Effective strategies for tracking pupil progress at your primary school

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. 

How do primary schools assess their pupils? 

Primary schools must report on their pupils’ progress to the DfE via three statutory assessments and one Teacher assessment:

  • End of KS1 (reading, writing, maths and science)
  • End of KS2 (reading, writing, maths and science)
  • KS1 Phonics Screening Check 
  • EYFSP (Early Years Foundation Stage Profile) – 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.

Why do schools assess pupil progress?

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.” 

Objectives of tracking pupil progress 

  • Establish what pupils do and do not know, and check pupils are on track for end of Key Stage assessments
  • Identify where pupils need more support, plan future curriculum content to meet the needs of the pupils
  • Monitor the effectiveness of school initiatives and interventions to improve pupils’ learning
  • Identify priorities for staff development, resources or changes to teaching approaches
  • Make judgements on value for money of provision and consider effective and purposeful use of staff time
  • Report to Governors, Trusts or Directors

Current challenges for primary schools

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. 

High staff workload

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.

Progress trackers create extra work

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 Covid-19 attainment gap

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:

    • What should we do about the missing period of statutory assessment data in 2020?
    • How can a test be standardised when pupils have only covered a portion of the intended curriculum?
    • How will we set targets that are meaningful going forward?
    • How do we effectively establish where each child is after time away from traditional classroom teaching?
    • Have pupils only lost learning or have they gained anything from lockdown?
    • How should we be thinking about “lost learning?” Is that the right language to use?
    • Should we be measuring other non-“academic” skills alongside the curriculum?
    • When should we return to testing as part of the assessment picture?
    • How can I report a “robust” and “honest” reflection of progress to my Governors or Board?

How to manage assessments effectively at your primary school

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.

1. Choose the right assessment system 

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:

Spreadsheets Online pupil tracker MIS
Advantages
  • Customisable
  • Lots of options
  • Online access 
  • Only enter data in one place
  • Analyse assessment data with other key pupil data
  • Take action in same system
  • MAT overview (some MIS)
Disadvantages
  • Time-consuming to collect and collate data
  • Risk of human error
  • You can’t take action
  • Relies on data savvy staff
  • Expensive subscription
  • Data must be manually imported
  • Not connected to your MIS
  • Doesn’t show MAT overview
  • You can’t take action
  • Some MIS providers charge for Assessment module (although this could be offset if you can cancel your subscription to an online tracker)
  • Some MIS providers have only basic assessment analytics

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.

2. Choose the right assessment framework

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:

Rising (or Progress) Scale Flat Scale
Is it right for my school? If in your school you like to think of progress as “moving through the grades” – i.e. you use numbered standards that all pupils should achieve after each year, then Rising (or Progress) Scale would suit you If you track pupils’ progress on an individual basis – i.e how each pupil is performing in relation to the expected standard at their age, then the Flat scale would suit you
Advantages
  • You can see a child moving from grade to grade
  • Underperforming pupils can be tracked precisely against year group expectations
  • Terminology similar to previous National Curriculum which helps parents understand
  • Track SEN progress on same framework
  • Focuses on maintaining or improving attainment
  • Whole school benchmarks
  • Easy to identify underperforming pupils across the school
  • Terminology is easy to explain to parents
Disadvantages
  • Analysis is more complex because of large grade scale
  • Benchmarks are year group specific 
  • More difficult to track SEN progress

New EYFS Statutory Framework 2021

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.

3. Build your assessment process around staff workload

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:

  • Space out data drops to allow time for pupil progress to be visible
  • Record all assessments centrally to remove the need for paper and pencil records
  • Record data that will enable you to track pupil performance and moderate teacher judgements, such as Reading Bands or Standardised Scores 
  • Make sure all staff have access to the data that’s most relevant to their role, without having to request a report from the office

4. Draw conclusions and take action to support pupils

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:

  • Teachers – Monitor and report on pupil and class level progress, update parents and set up interventions
  • Subject Leaders – Identify strengths and weaknesses in pupil knowledge and curriculum delivery across the school
  • SLT – Track the impact of school improvement initiatives within and between pupil groups and across the school. 
  • Governors/Trustees – Review headline data based on strategic key performance indicators
  • Parents – Ideally receive automated reports through a Parent App, with personal comments or contact from their child’s Teacher 

Jackie Gazeley

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 Beechey

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.

How Arbor can help

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. 

Top benefits of managing assessments in Arbor MIS:

  • Track pupil progress across all areas – Compare attainment, behaviour, and attendance to fully understand how your pupils are doing
  • Engage parents in their child’s learning – Easily share updates on pupil progress through the Parent Portal and the Arbor App
  • You don’t have to be an expert – Use our handy guide to choose one of our two assessment approaches, and get going straight away with guided setup. Learn from your data straight away with simple, visual analysis screens
  • The only MIS for managing trust-wide assessments – Finally, the tools you need to roll out assessments across all your schools 

“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

Find out more or get started

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: account.management@arbor-education.com. 

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.

blank Rebecca Watkins - 5 July, 2021

Category : Blog

Switching MIS during the pandemic: Case study with Orwell MAT

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: Fact file

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. 

orwell-MAT

What was the main reason you decided to switch MIS?

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! 

What prompted you to consider switching MIS?

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. 

How did you research the systems available, and who did you involve in the decision? 

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. 

How did you plan for the switch and how did you deal with the extra workload?

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. 

How authoritative did you have to be during the switch?

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. 

Once you’d chosen your new MIS, the country was in lockdown and the training had to be done digitally. How did you find this experience?

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. 

Was there anything that went wrong in the process? 

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.

Did switching MIS cause you to review any other systems or processes at your trust?

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.

Is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now?

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. 

How has Arbor changed the way that you work and what benefits can you already see? 

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. 

What would your advice be to other Trust Leaders who might be thinking about switching MIS? 

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. 

Want a demo of Arbor MIS?

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 tellmemore@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Leanne Gomes - 30 June, 2021

Category : Blog

What does a School Data Manager do?

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 Data Manager’s responsibilities 

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. 

Other school responsibilities

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. 

Daily tasks

System admin 

  • Creating user accounts for students and staff in the MIS and any other systems, such as FFT, ALPS, 4Matrix, SISRA
  • Resetting user passwords
  • Setting up the MIS for the new school year, including adding new students, classes and timetables 

Managing data

  • Keeping accurate records for students and staff
  • Tracking down historical information for students (e.g. through DfE websites or contacting their previous schools)
  • Tidying data to prepare for the the school census
  • Updating any changes to classes and groups
  • Updating Teacher timetables 
  • Searching through historical data for reference requests for ex-students
  • Sending leaver student files (CTFS) to students’ new schools

Data analysis and reporting

  • Meet with SLT, Headteachers and Assessment Leads (weekly or monthly) to understand their reporting requirements, to present analysis, feed into strategy, discuss the impact of any recent updates from the DfE and find what’s coming up to help plan workload
  • Carrying out behaviour analysis for SLT, Heads of Department and Pastoral Leads
  • Carrying out assessment analysis for SLT, Heads of Department and Pastoral Leads (the degree of this can vary by Data Manager; some use external analysis software, others write up headline figures, others present detailed analysis highlighting individual students and subjects where interventions were required) 
  • Carrying out assessment analysis for MAT Central Teams (they will want to see a different picture compared to school level staff)
  • Design and implement target setting policy
  • Create, print and split termly student reports into tutor groups ready to send out, and share digitally with parents and students

Statutory reporting and census

  • Keep up to date with DfE requirements and guidance on how schools should collect or use their data
  • Deal with census errors and queries

Data collection

  • Check and chase Teachers for any missing assessment data due for students’ reports
  • Design and create assessment marksheets for all relevant staff 

IT support

  • Run staff training on how to use school software 
  • Log any faults or issues with software and raise them with the provider
  • Teach yourself skills that will be useful to your role (e.g. Microsoft Power BI, SQL)

General admin 

  • Book rooms for staff (this might be done by the other Office Staff)
  • Design and build next year’s timetable (this usually starts at Easter and finishes in July) 
  • Line-manage your team (if you have one), which can include Data Assistants, Data Officers, Exams Officers/Invigilators

Top tips for School Data Managers

  • At the end of the day, make a note on your to-do list of anything that didn’t get done today for tomorrow (I used to do this in a different colour so it stood out), and any meetings or deadlines tomorrow 
  • It’s good to have a support network and camaraderie from fellow Data Managers, so link up with a group nearby and/or online 
  • The key to working well with other staff members is good communication. You might not understand at first what they’re asking for or needing from a report, so try and gauge how they best explain themselves – I once had a brilliant head of Sixth Form who would draw me rough sketches on post-it notes! 
  • Make sure you have a good relationship with your Attendance Officer who can provide data analysis to add into your wider analysis
  • Learn how to use systems inside out so you can best support colleagues (and have less chance of being caught out) 
  • …However, when your school introduces a new system, don’t jump into learning it in detail right away expecting to have to coach others – sometimes you’ll find that Leadership organise a whole school training session on it later on

What do Data Managers think of Arbor MIS? 

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 account.management@arbor-education.com .

Discover 5 ways Data Managers are using Microsoft Power BI today 

data-manager-quote-1

data-manager-quote-3 data-manager-quote-2Hear more from Kate Ferris, Data and Systems Analyst at Baxter College, about how using Arbor has transformed how she works with her colleagues. 

Want a demo of Arbor MIS?

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 tellmemore@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

blank Rebecca Watkins - 29 June, 2021

Category : Blog

How to build a resilient trust: Interviews with MAT leaders and industry experts

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.

MAT-book

What’s inside?

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:

  • The road to financial sustainability as a trust, with Patrick Taggart, Director of Operations at Romero Catholic Academy and Mark Tadman, CEO of School Business Services (SBS)
  • The future of assessment: How Ormiston Academies Trust is capturing more than grades, with Nick Hudson, CEO of Ormiston Academies Trust
  • Managing change in a crisis — Why Orwell MAT moved MIS during Covid, with Anna Hennell James, CEO of Orwell MAT
  • How Academy Transformation Trust created a culture of people development, with Abby Bayford, Director of ATT Institute and Kirsty Woolls, HR Director at Academy Transformation Trust
  • Back on track: Fewer things, greater depth, with Mary Myatt, Education Adviser, Writer and Speaker

How to get your copy

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.

Future events with Arbor

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. 

Conversations with MAT Leaders: A Roundtable on Scaling, Systems and Change Management

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.

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Switching Made Simple: The benefits of the cloud

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.

switching-simple

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 17 June, 2021

Category : Blog

Hear from our team of educators

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.

 

We’re education experts

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. 

 

Joe Wilson – Former Assistant Headteacher and Arbor Software Trainer

We asked Joe: How do you feel your school/teaching experience has allowed you to add value and become a success at Arbor?

Stephen Higgins – Former Geography Teacher and Arbor Lead Product Manager

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? 

 

Chris Sherwood – Former Teacher/HoD/Department Head and Arbor Product Manager

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?

Maggie Fidler – Former Secondary Teacher and Arbor Key Account Manager

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/

 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 17 June, 2021

Category : Blog

What does successful classroom management look like? 

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. 

Top classroom management tips

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.

1. Know who’s in front of you

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! 

2. Adapt to your space

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.

3. Less teacher talk – more cooperation

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”.

4. Work in AfL techniques

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. 

5. Build strong relationships

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.

6. Always follow through 

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. 

7. Take time for families 

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. 

8. Understand that all behaviour has a root cause 

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.

9. Develop a “growth mindset”

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. 

10. Don’t let admin get in the way 

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 seating plan tool that’s so much more – My Classroom from Arbor

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. 

My-Classroom

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.

Want to find out more about My Classroom? 

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 account.management@arbor-education.com  

blank Maddie Kilminster - 7 June, 2021

Category : Blog

How to write an effective school development plan

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.

What is a school improvement plan?

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.

How to write an effective school development plan

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.  

Step 1: Write a school self-evaluation (SSE) report

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:

  • Centre-assessed GCSE and A Level predictions
  • Progress data during lockdown 
  • School context and demographic information (e.g numbers of Pupil Premium, Free School Meals and Disadvantaged students) 
  • Findings from any surveys to students during lockdown (e.g. how they experienced working from home). This could provide you with some useful qualitative data on the wellbeing of your students. 

Step 2: Challenge your data

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:

  • What happened last year, and in the last 3 years in your school
  • Whether it was typical for your school
  • What happened in schools in the UK, your LA and schools like you, and whether this was typical

But you still might not know:

  • Why it happened
  • Why it’s typical of your school
  • How to address the problems and consolidate the successes

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

Step 3: Consider the impact of Covid-19

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.

What to include in your SIP

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.

School Improvement Plan template

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

Share it for feedback

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.

Track the success of your plan

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.

Arbor is here to help

Already using Arbor?

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.

New to Arbor?

Want to find out how our schools use Arbor to work faster, smarter and collaborate more? Listen to our case studies here.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 1 June, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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.

Top three reasons to move your school to the cloud this year

1. Stay on top of DfE requirements
2. Get the information you need wherever you are
3. Pivot and stay flexible

Let’s break that down…

1. Stay on top of DfE requirements

Having a cloud-based MIS in place makes it easy to adapt to rapid changes in regulation, like socially distanced timetabling, new attendance and absence codes or key worker status. 

Whatever the DfE introduces, Arbor can make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day), meaning you can keep on top of new requirements. No more patches or workarounds!

You’ll also have everything you need to follow the new DfE reporting requirements thanks to Arbor’s Covid-19 dashboard. Every day, Arbor crunches the numbers for you across all the DfE’s categories, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed cases of Covid-19, giving you everything you need to submit the Daily Form each morning. 

covid-19-dashboard

2. Get the information you need wherever you are

Schools are having to work in lots of new ways – some Teachers are moving between classrooms, some staff are quarantining at home, and some schools are going into local lockdown.

In order to keep your school running whatever happens, your staff need access to their student information so they can complete their essential tasks, like tracking attendance, reporting on vulnerable students and following up with parents and guardians – all from wherever they’re working. 

That’s where a cloud-based MIS like Arbor comes in, which gives staff all the data they need wherever they are, without being restricted to school computers or setting up a VPN. Plus, Arbor’s people-friendly dashboards help you get insight from your data and take action in a few clicks. 

3. Pivot and stay flexible 

In an unpredictable term, you might have to change your social distancing arrangements, timetables and staff rotas at short notice. 

Arbor gives you the flexibility to plan or switch up your arrangements whenever you need to. Here are just some of the ways the system will work around you:

  • Flex your timetable – Arrange new bubbles, assign different Teachers to each class, change your start and finish times and much more, all without clashes or gaps
  • Capture changes – It’s quick and easy to update key demographic information for your students so you can capture all the circumstances that might have changed post-lockdown. Creating custom groups will then help you keep tabs on the students you need to
  • Quick actions – Speed up your admin with key timesavers like bulk actions, communications templates and live to-do lists, freeing up your staff to focus on what matters. Find out more about how to save hours a week on admin here
  • Custom reports – Keep track of the student groups and the criteria that’s important to you, and schedule your reports so you’ve always got the most up-to-date data

It’s easy to switch

Because managing your school how you need to right now is so difficult with a server-based system, the question has become not if you should move to the cloud but when

To help, we’ve made the process of moving to Arbor simple and we can get you up and running in a matter of weeks, 100% remotely. From migrating your data to Arbor, to training up your staff to use the system confidently, a dedicated Project Manager will guide you every step of the way.

Read about how Woodland Academy Trust moved to Arbor remotely during lockdown, along with more than 600 schools! 

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

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

blank Nataliia Semenenko - 26 May, 2021

Category : Blog

Are you using the best payment system for your school?

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

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

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

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

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

Cash payments

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

Cash does have 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).

Cheque payments

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

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

Bank transfers

This payment method doesn’t involve dealing with banknotes and papers, everything is in one place on the screen, and the accounting is so much easier. However, this payment method is not as popular at schools because it tends to be very time-inefficient when it comes to making frequent, smaller payments of different sizes – 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.

Card payments

Research shows that most people prefer using card payments when they can. From the parents’ point of view, card payments provide several incentives to pay reliably and on time: 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.

So, what’s the best payment system for your school?

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

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

Choosing a cashless online payment system

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

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Image 1: A screenshot of the Arbor App 

The benefits of card payments in Arbor:

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 24 May, 2021

Category : Blog

How to make the most of your time as a SENCO

Working to meet the needs of a diverse range of students is a universal challenge in schools today. For SENCOs this is even more challenging, given the specific and complex needs of the students they look after. SENCOs also have a lot of student data to manage (and not to mention lots of paperwork).  

Working to meet the needs of a diverse range of students is a universal challenge in schools today. For SENCOs this is even more challenging, given the specific and complex needs of the students they look after. SENCOs also have a lot of student data to manage (and not to mention lots of paperwork).

 

What makes an effective SENCO?

Often with other teaching or wider school responsibilities, SENCOs have limited time in their days. Not only have they got to run effective interventions, they’ve also got to be able to communicate well with their colleagues to recommend the best ways to support SEN students and guardians across the school. 

To be most effective, SENCOs need good data management, organisation and communication. Above all, they need good tools at their disposal that make reporting and communications as quick and easy as possible, so they can make the best use of their time.

 

 

Top 4 tips for school SENCOs

Our in-house SEN expert, Tammy, who has over 30 years experience in working with SEN children from EYFS to Key Stage 5, has put together her top four tips. If you’re a SENCO or staff member with SEN responsibilities, these principles will help you maximise your time.

1. Organise your SEN data

Organising your students’ SEN data in an efficient way is the first thing that will help you quickly access the information you need regularly. It’s best to identify the data you need to cross reference or report on a lot, as well as the SEN information you need to share with Teachers and other staff. Keeping this data together will save you time and effort when it comes to running reports and preparing for meetings.

2. Keep communication consistent

It can be time-consuming to keep staff across the school up to date on critical SEN information. Having a consistent format for communicating information can help your colleagues know what to expect so they can immediately jump to the most important parts.

Find a format that’s easy to produce and to speak to, time after time. Think about sending weekly updates, sharing access to a live document or folder, or setting aside five minutes during staff briefings for SEN announcements. 

3. Connect regularly with parents and guardians

As every SENCO knows, it’s vital that parents and guardians are part of their child’s SEN journey but it can be a challenge to achieve open communication between school and home. Building a rapport with your parents and guardians outside of meetings can help achieve this. 

Look for ways to connect on an informal basis, such as spending a few minutes outside after school to say hello. Think about ways to celebrate students’ successes in the form of a short email, phone call or postcard home. You could even create a termly newsletter providing helpful tips and information for parents.  

4. Use SEN Provision Maps

Provision Maps are great tools for organising your SEN information and monitoring the effectiveness of the support you have in place to meet students’ needs. They’ll also help you target and plan future interventions.

When creating your Provision Map, make sure you include details of the interventions you’re providing, with measurable outcomes and individual students’ aims and strategies. If you’re tracking intervention costs, be sure to add these details as well. Consider including student behaviour and attendance information to help you track student progress. 

 

How Arbor helps with SENCO responsibilities

Arbor MIS is built to make a measurable improvement to the way schools work. It’s intuitive, people-friendly tools free staff from busywork so they can focus where it matters most – on their students.

For SENCOs in particular, here are a few ways Arbor helps you support the students in your care: 

  • Record SEN information consistently on Student Profiles, including medical information, SEN needs and pastoral notes, plus relevant demographic factors
  • No need to pull a report to compare SEN status, SEN Needs and key progress measures thanks to built-in dashboards
  • Get staff on the same page with SEN – Choose how you display SEN information on Teachers’ Lesson Dashboards so everyone’s tracking the same factors. Student information will update automatically whenever there’s a change  
  • Get SEN information at your fingertips by downloading any student list. Add any other key information to the list, such as attendance stats or something unique that you’re tracking such as guardians’ medical conditions, or students’ access to technology at home
  • Take action straight away – As soon as you spot something to follow up on, you can send a communication, schedule a meeting or set up an intervention in a few quick clicks
  • Monitor the effectiveness of your interventions – Built-in Provision Maps and intervention dashboards in Arbor let you run interventions exactly how you need to, and track their success across school

 

SENCO-quote

 

Join our brand new CPD course for SENCOs!

Are you an Arbor user? Do you want to grow and develop in your SENCO role? Our new CPD course – Core Skills for SENCOs – is designed to give you a deeper understanding of your data so you can make the biggest impact for your students. 

Led by our in-house SEN specialist, Tammy Middleton, who has over 30 years experience working with SEN students, this online course shows you the best way to manage your data and take action to support your SEN students.

By the end of this course you’ll be able to:

  • Record key student information
  • Tailor your reporting to target student groups
  • Set up and manage effective interventions
  • Track SEN provision, funding and all performance measures at school level

Perfect for:

  • SENCOs, SEN Support Staff
  • Primary, Secondary, Special schools

Get in touch with your Account Manager to find out more today! Accountmanagers@arbor-education.com 

SEN-CPD-course

blank Maddie Kilminster - 19 May, 2021

Category : Blog

The first step in your school’s move to the cloud

Schools have been adapting and innovating endlessly over the past 12 months. It’s been tough, but it’s also resulted in some innovative, positive changes to how schools work.  To handle these new ways of working, we’ve seen more schools than ever before planning to move to a cloud-based MIS (Management Information System) like Arbor, with

Schools have been adapting and innovating endlessly over the past 12 months. It’s been tough, but it’s also resulted in some innovative, positive changes to how schools work. 

To handle these new ways of working, we’ve seen more schools than ever before planning to move to a cloud-based MIS (Management Information System) like Arbor, with over 900 schools switching fully remotely in 2020.

1 in 5 schools are looking to switch MIS in the next year, so we want to make it as easy as possible for you to get all the information you need to make the right choice.  

Why should you switch to a cloud-based MIS?

Older school systems that rely on servers make it really difficult to run your school flexibly. They also work slowly and put a huge admin burden on staff.

comparison-table

Arbor is people-friendly, giving staff the tools and data they need wherever they’re working from. As a result, Arbor schools work faster, smarter and collaborate more. 

Join a free webinar to find out more

To help demystify the move to a cloud-based MIS, we’re running lots of free webinars this term.

From case studies, to demos, to deeper dives into core parts of the system, our webinars are designed to show you why over 1,700 schools and 180 MATs have joined Arbor – the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. 

Whether you’re uncertain of a system change right now, or you’re struggling to get your team onboard with the decision, these webinars will give you the information and tools you need to take that next step.

Check out our free webinars and events below, and pick the session for you:

1. Switching Made Simple: The benefits of the cloud
2. Discover Arbor MIS: Demos of Arbor MIS
3. Moving to Arbor: How the MIS switch works
4. A Deeper Dive: How Arbor works
5. Hear from real Arbor users: Case studies
6. Virtual Tea and Cake: Personalised demos with tea and cake!

1. Switching Made Simple: The benefits of the cloud

switching-simple

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. Click the links to sign up today!

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

Switching MIS Made Simple: Conversations with MAT Leaders – A roundtable on scaling, systems and change management
CEO Roundtable: Thursday 1st July, 2pm
COO and CIO Roundtable: Thursday 8th July, 10am

2. Discover Arbor MIS: Demos of Arbor MIS

Discover-arbor

As you’re starting the process of moving MIS, it’s a good idea to get an in-depth demo of systems on the market so you can make an informed choice. Our Discover Arbor MIS series will give you a quick introduction to Arbor and how it could transform the way your school or MAT works. It’s also your chance to ask our education experts any questions you might have.

Discover Arbor MIS for Primary Schools (live demo with Q&A) – various dates

Discover Arbor MIS for Secondary Schools (live demo with Q&A) – various dates

Discover Arbor MIS for Special Schools/APs (live demo with Q&A) – various dates

Discover Arbor MIS for MATs (live demo with Q&A) – various dates

3. Moving to Arbor: How the MIS switch works

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We work with school teams throughout the year to move them to Arbor’s cloud-based MIS – last year over 400 schools moved to Arbor 100% remotely! We know it can seem like a daunting task, which is why we’ve designed a tried-and-tested approach to help you manage the change in a way that’s right for your school, with support from us every step of the way. Discover the journey in one of our short webinars:

Moving your Trust to Arbor: From Procurement to Implementation (live webinar with Q&A) – various dates

Moving your Primary School to Arbor: From Migration to Implementation (on-demand webinar) 

Moving your Secondary School to Arbor: From Migration to Implementation (on-demand webinar) 

4. A Deeper Dive: How Arbor works

deep-dive-Arbor

Once you’ve got more of an idea of what you need from your MIS, a more in-depth look at a core area of Arbor – from assessments, to behaviour, to office functions – can be really helpful in seeing if it’s right for you. Come along to one of our live or watch an on-demand webinar in your own time:

Managing Primary Assessments with Arbor (live demo with Q&A) – various dates

Managing Secondary Assessments with Arbor (live demo with Q&A) – various dates

Managing behaviour in Arbor MIS (on-demand webinar) 

Increasing Parental Engagement in Arbor MIS (on-demand webinar)

Running an effective school office with Arbor MIS (on-demand webinar)

Arbor’s Group MIS: The Benefits of moving all of your schools to the cloud (on-demand webinar)

5. Hear from real Arbor users: Case studies

case-studies

If you want to hear how schools and MATs across the country have made the move to Arbor, and how Arbor’s smart, time-saving tools are helping them work better, check out one of our on-demand webinars:

How to move your MAT to a cloud MIS: A panel discussion with Watergrove Trust and Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust (on-demand webinar)

Why Red Kite Trust Moved to Arbor (on-demand webinar)

Why we chose Arbor MIS for Rainbow Education MAT (on-demand webinar)

Why Northlands Wood Primary Academy Moved to Arbor (on-demand webinar)

6. Virtual Tea and Cake: Personalised demos with tea and cake!

virtual-tea-and-cake

Between 10th and 17th June, we’re running Virtual Tea and Cake with Arbor, giving you an informal way to learn about Arbor’s MIS over tea and brownies on us! We’ll walk you through what the process of moving to Arbor could look like for your school, including how we can get you up and running around your time scale, and 100% remotely. Once you book your spot, we’ll send you free tea and brownies in the post to enjoy over a call with a member of our expert team. 

This term’s Virtual Tea and Cake with Arbor is currently sold out this term, but if you join the waiting list we’ll get in touch with you if a spot becomes available.

Get in touch with us 

If you’d like to speak to us directly about how Arbor could make a positive difference to the way you work, we’d love to hear from you. You can send us an email at tellmemore@arbor-education.com, call us on 0208 050 1028, or book a personalised demo here.

blank Gwyn Mabo - 17 May, 2021

Category : Blog

5 ways to boost parental engagement at your school

As a former Maths teacher at an Alternative Provision in Leeds, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of students and parents reluctant to get involved in school life. Here are the top five methods I found worked to increase parental involvement in schools. Why parental engagement in schools is important Parental involvement can have

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

Why parental engagement in schools is important

Parental involvement can have a significant impact on a child’s performance at school. Not only do studies show that good engagement improves their academic success it also helps with behaviour, homework, and a child’s confidence. Teachers and schools need great communication with parents and to establish an environment for collaboration.

Focus on the Positives

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

Set Regular Reviews

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

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

Get parents and students to work together

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

Be open to feedback

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

Give them what they want

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 11 May, 2021

Category : Blog

What’s the best approach to the catch-up curriculum? 

It’s been a tough 12 months for schools across the country, with staff having to learn and adapt week-by-week to the changing situation to best support their students. With concerns around the impact of the past year on creating a “covid generation” who have supposedly fallen behind, schools are feeling the pressure to support students

It’s been a tough 12 months for schools across the country, with staff having to learn and adapt week-by-week to the changing situation to best support their students.

With concerns around the impact of the past year on creating a “covid generation” who have supposedly fallen behind, schools are feeling the pressure to support students to “get back on track”.

But is this the right way of framing the next phase of the pandemic?

The impact of covid-19 on attainment 

For some students, the challenges thrown up by the pandemic and the cycles of lockdown have meant their situation has changed, with many becoming more vulnerable and detached from their learning. For others, the challenging time has exacerbated their existing vulnerabilities.

However, as the 15 schools within the Aspirations Academies Trust have found, the remote learning programme they ran during lockdown was highly effective. Recent assessments have found that the majority of students are where they should be with their learning. What is more of a concern, however, is the impact on their mental health that has suffered from the lengthy time away from school and their friends.

Should we be referring to “lost learning” at all?

We’ve seen a lot of headlines in the media dominated by the terms “catch up”, “lost learning” and “Covid generation”, but many schools are starting to step away from this language, finding it unhelpful in creating the right atmosphere for students to thrive in.

Schools in Aspirations Academies Trust have found that these negative words actually have the effect of reducing students’ self-esteem and giving them the message that they’re the problem and need to change.

Approaches to post-covid recovery

Aspirations Academies Trust are championing new approaches to “catch up”,  by reframing the negative language associated with it and focusing instead on boosting student wellbeing through more creative subjects, extra-curricular clubs, and a Quality First Teaching approach.

Get advice from education advisor, writer and speaker, Mary Myatt, on how to carve out time for satisfying work on the curriculum

Banning “catch-up” language

Since being back at school, Rivers Academy in West London have banned use of any negative language to refer to the “covid generation”, which they’ve found has boosted student happiness. 

Words and phrases such as “catch up”, “what you have missed’’, ‘’you’re behind’’, ‘’we don’t have time to finish the syllabus’’ and “Covid generation’’ were replaced with “Let’s build, strengthen or enhance what we already know”, “map where you are”, “master the skills’’ and “everyone is in the same position”.

The decision was inspired by academic and author Judith E. Glaser who said “words create worlds”.

The Rivers Academy has also seen the benefit of positive language. According to Tim Wormald, the school’s Wellness Lead & Assistant Principal, “We have support zones set up for our pupils where they can come and talk to staff about any concerns they have and they have been quiet. You can see and feel the impact that positive language has had at the academy, it feels settled and the students are happy.’’

rivers-academy

Championing the progress made in lockdown

Plugging the gaps in knowledge has started by acknowledging the effectiveness of the remote learning that was put in place. As Tim Wormald explains, “The kids did make progress during lockdown. The key has been identifying gaps in their knowledge not through testing but discussions. It is their evaluation skills that have suffered because you can’t question and discuss online in the same way that you can in class with face-to-face contact with your peers. Tackling the issue has come not through extra lessons but focussing on Quality First Teaching.’’

Executive Principal at Harriers Academy, Alex Pearson, explains that the vast majority of students at Harriers also engaged well with remote learning during lockdown and are now either where they should be or only just behind. In a survey of their parents, 98.5% rated the remote learning and support provided as good or excellent. 

Focusing on wellbeing

Harriers Academy in Banbury also banned the phrase “catch up”, and instead have put the focus on boosting the wellbeing of students and incorporating “the three M’s”: Measuring, Mapping and Mastering, combined with a focus on Quality First Teaching. 

Alex Pearson explains, “Once our students returned, we introduced daily “calm time” with yoga sessions, mindful colouring or simply time to talk. Each class also has a calm zone where children can go if they feel it’s necessary.”

Harriers-academy

Measuring, mapping and mastering

Alex Pearson explains how they’ve implemented “the three M’s” at Harriers Academy:

  • Measuring the attainment levels of our students through teacher assessments and parental feedback
  • Mapping where they need to be if they are behind and making sure they are given additional support.
  • Mastering the challenges that lie ahead for the students through using a Quality First Teaching approach

‘’We have continued with the curriculum and have ensured the children have exciting topics to keep them motivated and engaged. We have focused on lots of time to play with one another and build precious social interactions with peers.’’ – Alex Pearson, Executive Principal, Harriers Academy

 

Boosting creative subjects

At Park Academy in West London, the focus since returning to school has been on interactive lessons that engage students, and increasing the number of timetabled hours for creative subjects including music, drama and art. 

Principal Juan Delgado said, “Rather than having extra lessons or asking our students to stay late, the focus has been on increasing their love for learning through lessons that are engaging and interactive. We’ve also focused on increasing their passion for reading to help with closing any attainment gaps and also incorporating little “Do Now” activities in their lessons, so it’s low stakes testing. The overall aim is to make sure our students settle back into school life positively without feeling overwhelmed.’’

Park-academy

Increasing the number of hours devoted to PE, Art, Drama and Music for KS3 per week, has had the effect of boosting the mental health and wellbeing of students at Park Academy. According to Principal Delgado, the benefit is that “although the lessons are practical, the students are using their creativity and imagination”.

The school has also introduced an extra-curricular programme of activities which includes a wide variety of sports, such as football and netball, music, art, technology and STEM. These clubs have proven really popular with the students with numbers increasing throughout the term.

Hear how this secondary school is using Curriculum-Led Financial Planning to address gaps in learning during the pandemic

How Arbor can help

Already using Arbor?

For information on how Arbor can support you manage your post-covid challenges, check out our latest blog The Arbor guide to managing your school during Covid-19 

New to Arbor?

If you’d like to find out how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work for the better, join our webinar series, which includes live demos, as well as sessions walking you through how we move schools to Arbor and work with you to drive long term impact. Check out what’s coming up and book your spot.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 6 May, 2021

Category : Blog

Strategies for running a successful parents’ evening

Parents’ evenings are an integral part of the school year. They give parents the chance to feel involved in their child’s education and the school ethos.  With so much to consider – from organising, to making sure parents sign up, to keeping meetings running smoothly – managing successful parents’ evenings can be a stressful process. 

Parents’ evenings are an integral part of the school year. They give parents the chance to feel involved in their child’s education and the school ethos. 

With so much to consider – from organising, to making sure parents sign up, to keeping meetings running smoothly – managing successful parents’ evenings can be a stressful process. 

 

Tips for a successful parents’ evening

At Arbor, we make it easy for you to manage all of your school milestones in one place, and parents’ evening is no exception. Check out our top tips to help make your next parents’ evening a success:

1. Plan around your parents

Busy parents need to know when parents’ evenings are coming up so they can get organised, so it’s good practice to start planning how you’re going to run them early on in the year. To give parents flexibility, you might want to run meetings over multiple dates or at different times of day (some of our schools run them in the early afternoon). Think about how long you want each meeting to last – some parents might benefit from a longer session, or one outside of the timetable you’re offering.

2. Think of your Teachers

Make sure your schedule of meetings is realistic for your Teachers. Assess how many meetings you’ve got in a block and build in at least 15 minute breaks. It’s also a good idea if some Teachers can share the load, particularly those who job-share and might not need to do all of the meetings together. 

3. Make sure you get sign-ups

You might have a perfectly planned programme of parents’ evenings, but making sure parents know about them can be an added challenge. The trick is to make it as simple as possible for parents to find out the details, as well as book onto a session, all in one place. 

Make sure you send out key dates of parents’ evenings well in advance, including links or instructions to book their slot. It’s also a good idea to send out text or email confirmations to parents that they can refer back to, plus reminders in the weeks before.

4. Go virtual

Many schools have been running successful online parents’ evenings during school closures via Google Hangouts, Zoom or other video calling platforms. Many are continuing to run a combination of physical and virtual meetings as a useful way to engage harder-to-reach parents, or as an option for those who are particularly busy. For this to work, make sure your Teachers are comfortable using the video system, and that everyone does a practice run before the day to iron out any technical issues.

5. Have a crib sheet

We’re all human, and sometimes let’s face it, Teachers might struggle to remember the names of every single student and parent in their care. A top tip is to have a list to hand in the meeting of your students’ key information, including their guardians. Before the meeting, it’s also helpful to gather some summary reports of each student’s performance across assessment, behaviour, plus where they compare to other students. You could print out reports from your MIS (management Information System) or show these on a device.

6. Keep to a structure

It’s a good idea to decide as a department or Year group a standard format for your meetings that works best. That way, Teachers have guidance to fall back on and each meeting flows. Consider starting with an overview of the student’s performance this year across attendance, behaviour and assessment. Highlight their strengths first, followed by areas they need to improve.

Some schools find standardised record sheets effective, which Teachers fill out before and during the meeting, in order to make the main points clear for parents, keep terminology consistent, and to bring a sense of mutual accountability.

 

Parents’ evening booking systems

The highlight of a good system for running your parents’ evenings is one that allows you to schedule meetings, communicate information to parents, and for parents to book, all in one place. The best systems also make it easy for Teachers to access all the information they need about their students’ performance at their fingertips.

Arbor MIS brings everything together, so you can manage every stage of your parents’ evenings in one platform, without having to use a separate communications app. 

1. Schedule sessions in the calendar, including video links (if appropriate)
2. Invite parents by email, SMS, letter or via a message in the Arbor App (straight to their phone) including sign-up links
3. Schedule-in breaks in for Teachers in the calendar
4. Arrange custom meetings to suit certain parents
5. Confirm parents’ appointments by email or share via the Parent Portal (they’ll be able to access video links via their calendar)
6. Prepare instant reports for parents on students’ performance across assessment, behaviour and attendance, with comparisons against their class, Year and demographic averages
7. Access or download a timetable of all of your meetings
8. Access or download students’ profile information to have handy

 

Townley Grammar School have recently had success running virtual parents evenings in Arbor MIS. Hear from Louise Maddison, Data & MIS Manager, why it works for them: 

“It’s easy to share the links with Parents and Teachers, making the whole Virtual Parents Evening very slick. No need to email parents links separately; it’s all there for them. Parents can access the booking system through the Parent Portal & App, this is a very easy process for them. They can either download or use our location links live. Teachers see the appointments on their calendar and can access their appointments via the Guardian Consultations screen – very clear.”

 

Find out more about parents’ evenings in Arbor

Already using Arbor?

Head to the Help Centre for everything you need to know about setting up parents’ evenings in Arbor. 

New to Arbor?

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help your school or MAT work faster, smarter and collaborate more, why not arrange a personalised demo. Alternatively, join us at one of our upcoming free webinars

blank Maddie Kilminster - 20 April, 2021

Category : Blog

What does online teaching and learning look like in a post-covid world?

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented changes to how schools run. Throughout phases of partial and full closures and local lockdowns, and government guidelines changing regularly, schools have had to adapt to flexible ways of working. Technology has played an important role in supporting schools to adapt, with cloud-based tech giving them reliable access to

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented changes to how schools run. Throughout phases of partial and full closures and local lockdowns, and government guidelines changing regularly, schools have had to adapt to flexible ways of working.

Technology has played an important role in supporting schools to adapt, with cloud-based tech giving them reliable access to school information away from the physical school site.

Top priorities have been ensuring key processes can continue as usual wherever staff and students are, from attendance admin, to finances, to day-to-day communications, to teaching and learning.

Online learning and the pandemic

As soon as the first lockdown hit, schools had to find a solution to virtual teaching and learning practically overnight. High on the agenda was making sure that students had access to high quality teaching despite classrooms looking quite different.

Many turned to Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Teams, benefiting from procurement and support grants, as well as other tools such as Class Dojo, to hold remote lessons, or to share and collect in class work. Some schools were more prepared than others, and the picture of remote provision started to look very different from school to school.

Even now in a more stable phase of the pandemic when most classes in the UK are back to face-to-face, the impact of the last year is still very clear. The loss of learning as a result of lockdown is a concern, but there are also more positive possibilities that technology has opened up. 

Check out advice from an EdTech expert on how schools can learn from the rapid changes in technology usage since Covid-19

Challenges of online learning

Inequality between schools

The shift to online learning has highlighted vast differences between schools in terms investment and training in digital technology. What’s more, depending on location, demographics and funding, schools have differing challenges and find it difficult to provide the same level of quality when it comes to virtual teaching and learning. Some might have the resources to live-stream a full programme of lessons, whilst others might be limited to uploading worksheets. Of course, every school will find the online learning style that’s best for them; the same approach for a large inner city secondary school will most likely not work for a small rural primary school.

Having a reliable technology setup

Those schools who already used a digital learning platform like Microsoft Office 365 before the pandemic found it much easier to transition to using it full time during the pandemic. For those who didn’t, it meant setting up accounts for students and staff from scratch. Without an integration with their MIS (Management Information System), setting up a new digital learning platform can mean time-consuming manual work entering student and staff data.

See Arbor’s integration with Microsoft Office 365 and Google Classroom™ below. 

The “Digital divide”

Online learning has also drawn attention to the levels of disadvantage that many students across the country are experiencing, which has an impact on how they engage with online learning. From home environments which aren’t fit to study in, to lack of internet or devices, to parents who are less able to support with school work, many schools have found it difficult to reach students remotely. 

Safeguarding issues

As schools have found during the pandemic, online learning can open up new issues around safeguarding. For example, when live-streaming lessons, Teachers have to think about the environment they’re teaching in, as well as what might be going on in the homes students are learning from. Many schools have created new rules and policies for online classes, including camera and microphone usage, uniforms, as well as ways of communicating appropriately. It’s also important to make sure there are clear boundaries between school and private life, as well confidential spaces for students to confide in Teachers outside of lessons. 

Behaviour and mental health

Remote education naturally means it’s harder for Teachers to be in touch with students and to sense how they’re getting on. It’s been clear, though, that some students have had experiences during the past year which have now put them into vulnerable categories which they perhaps weren’t in before, with many feeling the impact of trauma on their mental health. As a result, Teachers have noticed the varying mental states of students as they come back to the classroom bringing with it some new and challenging behaviour to deal with. 

Check out tips from Educational Psychologist, Dr Rob Long, on supporting students’ mental health in the classroom

The post-covid attainment gap

As a result of the challenges of learning from home for many students, schools have found attainment gaps have emerged between particular student groups. It’s now a top priority to identify students who are behind, and to put in place initiatives to get them back on track. However, due to the lack of consistency of provision from the past year, schools have also had absences of student progress data which presents a challenge to analysing their data.

Blended learning – the future of learning

As flexible ways of working are looking like the future of the corporate workplace, new uses of technology could also have a lasting impact on the way teaching and learning is delivered going forwards.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning means a combination of remote and face-to-face teaching and learning activities. This might involve part of the class joining remotely, or could be a mixture of digital and physical resources being used in the classroom.

Providing for learners at home 

During the pandemic, schools have become used to offering blended teaching and learning, having to provide remote education during lockdown, whilst maintaining face-to-face provision for vulnerable and key worker children.

Since the chance of students and staff having to isolate is still a reality, a blended approach to teaching and learning seems to be the new normal, at least for a while. This means it’s more important than ever to have a reliable virtual learning environment that staff are comfortable using alongside normal teaching, which you could also fall back on for full remote provision if you needed to.

The possibilities of EdTech (education technology)

Even though face-to-face teaching looks to be the default again, the investment schools have made in technology has not gone to waste.

EdTech brings lots of opportunities to rethink the format, pace and content of lessons. Research also shows that technology can increase students’ retention of knowledge, and allow for more interaction, creativity, student choice and motivation.

Here are a few ways blended learning can support the classroom:

  • Classroom games – Digital games and quizzes can support students to develop skills such as “fluency” in a range of subjects by providing them with frequent doses of personalised questioning
  • Homework – Setting and marking work digitally can save Teachers’ time, as well as providing new data on how students are engaging at home
  • Discussion – Having an online class forum where work can be shared and discussions outside of the classroom can increase a sense of community and boost confidence   
  • Virtual field trips – Arranging a virtual trip such as a tour of a museum can be a great way to give students the opportunity to have experience places across the world they might not otherwise be able to 

“If implemented in the right way, tech can improve and transform the way schools work so they can weather any storm.”

-Richard Martin, Special Projects Lead at LGFL

Read how LEO Academy Trust rolled our digital technology across their schools 

Discover the vision of Red Kite Learning Trust for a centralised and collaborative IT infrastructure across their trust

The most effective way to use a digital learning platform 

With digital technology here to stay, schools need a platform they can rely on, that not only makes it easy to run blended learning, but will also allow for a pivot to full remote provision at short notice if you need to.

Setting up your courses and classes from scratch in your digital learning platform (e.g. Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams) by manually entering all your student and staff data could take hours or days defending on how big your school is. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to have an integration between your MIS and your digital learning platform, so that your data is synced automatically.

Sync your data automatically with Arbor’s Microsoft and Google integrations

At Arbor, we’ve developed integrations with Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Office 365, which make managing online learning fast and secure for your school. With our integrations, all your student and staff information sync automatically into your Google or Microsoft accounts, saving you any manual data entry. What’s more, once you’re set-up, data syncs every 24 hours, meaning your information is always up-to-date.

Discover more about Arbor MIS

If you’d like to find out how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work for the better, join our webinar series, which includes live demos, as well as sessions walking you through how we move schools to Arbor and work with you to drive long term impact. Check out what’s coming up and book your spot.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 20 April, 2021

Category : Blog

Your guide to schools’ financial benchmarking

What is financial benchmarking? Financial benchmarking means comparing your finances with other schools and academies who have similar characteristics and challenges. Areas that schools often compare are their income, expenditure, balance and workforce with either schools of a similar size or within their Local Authority (LA). Why is financial benchmarking so important for schools? We’re

What is financial benchmarking?

Financial benchmarking means comparing your finances with other schools and academies who have similar characteristics and challenges. Areas that schools often compare are their income, expenditure, balance and workforce with either schools of a similar size or within their Local Authority (LA).

Why is financial benchmarking so important for schools?

We’re all aware of the widespread funding shortfalls in the education sector, and it’s definitely a challenging time to be a budget holder in schools and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). In recent times especially, schools have had to be even more resourceful with their budgets to adapt to the challenges of Covid-19.

Managing the school budget is a balancing act between lots of different factors, with a high level of scrutiny from Governors, the LA, Ofsted and the DfE. To make the right decisions when planning an effective budget, it’s vital to see how this year’s spend not only compares to previous years, but to other schools too, so you can see what’s working and where you could direct your resources more efficiently. 

Financial benchmarking can also help you identify areas where you could cut back on spending (e.g. building improvement) in order to allocate more resources towards your curriculum initiatives or support for students and staff. This kind of analysis will be useful in shaping your school development plan.

How to benchmark your school’s financial data

First, for financial benchmarking to be most effective, make sure you comparing against schools that are in either the same geographical area as you, are a similar size (in terms of staff and students), have a similar demographic cohort of students (e.g. proportion of FSM, Pupil Premium and EAL), as well as student attainment. This level of comparison gives you the best chance of learning from how these schools are managing their finances. 

Second, when you look at your data, bear in mind some key questions: 

  • If your expenditure differs compared to other schools, in what areas?
  • In what other areas do you differ that could account for this difference? 
  • Is there a similar trend year on year? If not, why not?
  • What does the comparison tell you about your differences in approach or spending priorities?
  • What can you learn from other schools’ approaches? 

The DfE’s schools financial benchmarking service compares the spending, staffing structures and performance of all schools in England each year. You can identify schools like you, then reach out to them for advice via their websites.

How should you use your data?

Once you’ve looked into your benchmarking data, you should evaluate how this data will help you make the best budgeting decisions. Your Governors will be interested to know how and why your financial approach 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? Some Management Information Systems (MIS) like Arbor MIS have a benchmarking portal, which allows you to compare your school’s behaviour, attendance, attainment and school context data to national averages at key points in the year. This gives you useful context to support your budgeting decisions.

Financial benchmarking reports from Arbor

At Arbor, we create Financial Benchmarking Reports each year for every school and academy in England. The reports give you an overview of all your income and expenditure over the past three years, with comparisons against national financial results, schools like you and others in your local area.

Arbor Financial Benchmarking reports are visual and easy-to-read PDFs, with helpful commentary and colour-coded stats, giving you reliable evidence needed to drive forward budget planning decisions. Perfect for presenting at Governor meetings.

Simply sign into your free Arbor Insight portal to download your copy of your latest report:

  • Schools Financial Benchmarking (SFB) Report – with latest 2019/20 data
  • Academies Financial Benchmarking (AFB) Report – with latest 2019/20 data*

*Out soon! Watch this space

Over 10,000 schools and 300 trusts have been using Arbor Insight over the last four years to benchmark their performance, dig deeper into their results and shape school improvement. Arbor Insight helps you focus on what matters, with intelligent dashboards showing your attainment, attendance, behaviour and school context data from the last 5 years. And it’s free!

We update your dashboards every academic year with your latest ASP data from the DfE. As soon as you log in you’ll see your headline performance measures benchmarked against your student groups, national averages and local schools. Click on any measure to uncover which student groups are driving over or underperformance.

Discover more about Arbor MIS

If you’d like to find out how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work for the better, join our webinar series, which includes live demos, as well as sessions walking you through how we move schools to Arbor and work with you to drive long term impact. Check out what’s coming up and book your spot.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 20 April, 2021

Category : Blog

The Arbor guide to managing your school during covid-19

Since the pandemic began over a year ago, schools have been working in lots of new ways, adapting sometimes week by week to changing guidelines from the Government.  At Arbor, we’ve worked with our community of over 1,600 primary, secondary, special schools and MATs to develop new product features which support you with the new

Since the pandemic began over a year ago, schools have been working in lots of new ways, adapting sometimes week by week to changing guidelines from the Government

At Arbor, we’ve worked with our community of over 1,600 primary, secondary, special schools and MATs to develop new product features which support you with the new challenges – from remote teaching and learning, to reporting to the DfE, to rolling out covid testing. During this time, we’ve also moved over 600 schools to Arbor during 100% remotely.

How Arbor can help you run your school this term

1. Close the post-covid attainment gap

Since the Government introduced Catch-Up Premium funding, it’s been important for schools to identify where the attainment gaps have opened up across their student groups as a result of lockdown disruption, and the “catch-up” initiatives that will support students the most.

Arbor can support you with closing your attainment gaps at each step of the way:

  • Identify students who have fallen behind with our built-in analysis screens – Compare students’ progress against expectations across multiple assessment periods, filter by key demographic groups and drill down to see the students behind the trends
  • Run a personalised report in a few clicks to see the impact of other school factors on students’ attainment, including demographics, behaviour and attendance. Schedule reports to notify key staff members regularly 
  • Add students to interventions as soon as you spot a concern, or set criteria for students to get added automatically. Track the costs and outcomes of your initiatives, and keep parents in the loop along the way

Read an interview with the Director of Inclusion and SEND at The Mead Educational Trust about how their “catch-up” strategy is going

Interventions-covid-19

2. Track, trace and test your students and staff 

To help you deliver Covid-19 testing, we’ve made it easy to track everything in Arbor with our new Testing Register. Schedule regular tests for staff and students, see who is due for a test each day, manage guardian consents, update test results and log confirmed cases. Parents can also instantly log covid test results for their children on their Arbor App. What’s more, Arbor’s My Classroom is a really handy way to trace contact between students by using our live seating plans. 

 

3. Manage attendance, absence and cover

To save you time completing the DfE’s Daily Form, Arbor’s Covid-19 Dashboard crunches the numbers for you, giving you all the student attendance data you need to submit in the form each morning. Plus, staff absences are flagged to everyone who needs to know, making arranging cover simple.

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

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

Check out our latest community article about how Arbor can support you as an Attendance Officer.

Covid-19-attendance

4. Share information and important messages

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

Find out how Arbor’s communications allowed The Parks Academies Trust to improve the way they contacted hard-to-reach students during the pandemic.

Check out three top tips for communicating with your staff, parents and guardians from our Head of Support, Emily.

5. Build a timetable around your school

Depending on the various year groups, bubble classes, plus a range of clubs, trips and activities, your timetable is probably quite the balancing act. Arbor makes it easy to design exactly the right timetable for your school, with an easy integration with TimeTabler if you need to build something particularly advanced. Stagger your start and end times, meal times, and keep tabs on where everyone is with a live central calendar.

Plus, Arbor is designed to be flexible, making it easy to adjust and change your timetable whenever you need to – which has come in handy throughout the changes in government regulations over the past year. 

6. Manage virtual and blended learning provision

It’s now important to have a reliable virtual learning environment so that you can continue provision for students who are isolating at home. Having everything set up also means you’ll be able pivot to remove provision at short notice if you need to.

Since schools started to offer virtual teaching and learning, we’ve developed integrations with Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Office 365, which makes managing online learning fast and secure. With our integrations, all your student and staff information sync automatically into your Google or Microsoft accounts, saving you any manual data entry. What’s more, once you’re set-up, data syncs every 24 hours, meaning your information is always up-to-date.

7. Support your vulnerable students

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

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

Check out our most popular blogs on supporting vulnerable students:

8. Plan an effective school budget

At this time in the year when School Budgeters are looking ahead to next year and how they can use school resources best to support students. It’s also a time when there will be a lot of reflection on the extreme and challenging year it’s been since Covid-19 began. 

Using your latest financial data from the DfE combined with expert analysis, we’ve created Financial Benchmarking Reports for every school and academy in England. The reports give you an overview of all your income and expenditure over the past three years, with comparisons against national financial results, schools like you and others in your local area.

Arbor Financial Benchmarking reports are visual and easy-to-read PDFs, with helpful commentary and colour-coded stats, giving you reliable evidence needed to drive forward budget planning decisions. Perfect for presenting at Governor meetings.

Simply sign into your free Arbor Insight portal to download your copy of your latest report:

  • Schools Financial Benchmarking (SFB) Report – with latest 2019/20 data
  • Academies Financial Benchmarking (AFB) Report – with latest 2019/20 data

Find out more about schools’ financial benchmarking in our guide.

9. Look out for student and staff wellbeing

As we’ve been working with school staff closely this past year, we’ve learnt a lot about the impressive job everyone has been doing, as well as the enormous pressure you’ve been under. Mental wellbeing is really important to us at Arbor, and our in-house wellbeing experts have been putting together tips and advice for how you can encourage positive wellness at your school. Discover the latest blogs:

We’re here to help

Because Arbor is cloud-based, you can manage your school with more flexibility, accessing what you need to do your job from wherever you’re working. Plus, if the DfE brings out any new guidelines, we make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day!) to help you keep up to date.

Don’t forget the Arbor Team is here to support you whenever you need us.

Discover more about Arbor MIS

If you’d like to find out how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work for the better, join our webinar series, which includes live demos, as well as sessions walking you through how we move schools to Arbor and work with you to drive long term impact. Check out what’s coming up and book your spot.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 31 March, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

Taking care of ourselves first

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

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

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

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

The disciplined pursuit of less

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

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

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

How do you ensure quality in the curriculum?

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

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

1. Realign priorities

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

2. Address curriculum misconceptions

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

3. Remember children’s entitlement

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

4. Be more ambitious

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

5. High challenge, low threat

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

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

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

6. Be prepared to be surprised

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

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

7. Underpin learning with high quality texts

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

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

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

8. Use meeting time to talk about books

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

Six keys to success

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

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

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

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

Want to learn more about Arbor MIS? 

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 22 March, 2021

Category : Blog

What you missed at ArborFest

Click here to find out about ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on May 5th, 2022. Last Thursday and Friday (18th-19th March), we were delighted to host the third ever ArborFest – a two-day virtual festival with talks, workshops and forums exploring innovative ways of working with Arbor MIS. A huge thank you

Click here to find out about ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on May 5th, 2022.

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

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

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

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

Who was there?

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

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

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

What you missed… on the main stage

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

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

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

Catch up on James and Sonia’s welcome address here

Keynote speech

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

Guest talk from The Key

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

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

…on the “Why Arbor?” Stage

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

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

…on the Masterclass stage

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

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

…on the Workshop stage

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

Hear from attendees

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

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

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

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

Sad you missed ArborFest? Find out more

New to Arbor?

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

Already using Arbor?

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 19 March, 2021

Category : Blog

How Arbor has made our secondary school more solutions-focused

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Beacon-academy-quote-1

 

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

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

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

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

Beacon-academy-quote-2

 

How did implementing Arbor go remotely?

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

 

How is Arbor transforming the way your school works? 

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

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

Beacon-academy-quote-3

 

How has Arbor helped during Covid-19?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Want to find out more?

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

Emma Sharples - 11 March, 2021

Category : Blog

How to make big changes successfully at your school or MAT

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

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

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

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

 

 

1. Establish your need for change

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Create a change network

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

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

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

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

 

3. Communicate

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

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

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

 

4. Be prepared for resistance 

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

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

 

5. Track progress and celebrate successes

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

 

We’re here to support your school to switch MIS

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

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

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

blank Tim Ward - 28 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Research Led Curriculum Design

Every school has been working hard on ensuring they have an inspiring, rich and challenging curriculum for the pupils recently.  Whilst a great curriculum has always been at the heart of learning, the extra focus of the updated Ofsted evaluation schedule has led to schools revisiting their curriculum design. Reviewing Curriculum Design Whilst reviewing curriculum

Every school has been working hard on ensuring they have an inspiring, rich and challenging curriculum for the pupils recently.  Whilst a great curriculum has always been at the heart of learning, the extra focus of the updated Ofsted evaluation schedule has led to schools revisiting their curriculum design.

Reviewing Curriculum Design

Whilst reviewing curriculum design, schools should ask themselves not only what pupils should know, be able to do and understand, but also how these aspects work in a cross-curricular way.  Is there a skill that will help a pupil’s understanding of many subjects? Should we have explicit goals for learning behaviours that will assist learning in a global sense? Many schools will already do this but – when asked why – they often assert that such learning behaviours are impactful -, without being able to reference any real evidence.

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

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

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

Using Research in Curriculum Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curriculum Design Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 25 February, 2021

Category : Blog

5 ways School Data Managers are using Microsoft Power BI

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

By School Improvement Consultant, Ed Cadwallader

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

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

What is Power BI?

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

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

Top 5 ways to use Power BI

1. Customise! (without the pitfalls of Excel)

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

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

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

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Link your data analysis to your interventions

2. Focus on what matters

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

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

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

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Tooltips give additional information and context

 

3. Take action

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

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

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

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Make data informed decisions using Comments and Chat in Teams

4. Empower SLT to explore data themselves

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

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

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

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Empower leaders to explore the data themselves with the decomposition tree

5. See your data in new ways

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

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

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Analyse student locations and journeys with the map visual


Getting started with Microsoft Power BI

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

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

Seamless connection between Arbor and Power BI

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

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

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

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

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blank Maddie Kilminster - 23 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Spring term update: Connect more tools to Arbor

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

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

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

Today, we’re excited to launch brand new integrations with Google Classroom™, Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Power BI, designed to help you save time and manage your school data in the ways you need to.

Sync data securely between Arbor, Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Office 365

As schools have been ramping up their use of digital learning platforms for remote or blended learning, we’ve built an integration with Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Office 365. Arbor automatically syncs your student and staff information into Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Office 365 so you don’t have to enter any data manually. What’s more, once you’re set-up, data syncs every 24 hours, meaning your information is always up-to-date.

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

What does this mean for you? 

  • Save time: Your data syncs automatically to Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Office 365, saving you hours of manual data entry and updating if your classes change
  • Future-proof solution: Once set-up, it’s easy to return to remote teaching and learning whenever you need to 
  • In-depth support: If you run into any problems with your integration, our trusted Google support partners are on-hand to support you

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean for you? 

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

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Find out more about these integrations

Already using Arbor MIS?

Get in touch with your Account Manager to get started with Google Classroom™, Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft Power BI at accountmanagers@arbor-education.com.


New to Arbor? 

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

Christie Tulloch - 17 February, 2021

Category : Blog

How we’re designing Arbor MIS with inclusivity in mind

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

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

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

What is accessibility? 

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

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

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

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

 

What we’re doing at Arbor

1. Keyboard navigation

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

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

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Keyboard controls in Arbor

2. Use of colour

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

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

Colour-Palette

Development of our new colour palette (in progress)

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 17 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Choosing the right technology to support your special school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did system implementation go? 

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

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

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

What are your goals for the future? 

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

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

blank Beth Mokrini - 12 February, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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We partner with specialist providers to give schools choice

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

Connect your specialist tools to Arbor easily

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

We collaborate with the best in EdTech

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

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

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

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

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

2. We’re building deeper integrations

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

3. We’re supporting schools in new ways

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

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

Discover Arbor MIS for your school or MAT

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

Looking to integrate or partner with Arbor?

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

blank Beth Mokrini - 11 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Case Study: How to switch MIS with support from a local IT provider

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

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

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

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

When did you go live with Arbor?

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

What motivated your decision to move to Arbor?

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

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

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

1. User-friendly

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

2. Sharing the burden of census

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

3. Engaging parents

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

4. Bringing systems together

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

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

How did you find the implementation process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you considering moving your school to the cloud?

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

Are you an IT support team?

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 9 February, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Top Strategies for Delivering Consistent Online Learning Across your Primary Schools

Wednesday 10th February, 10am 

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

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

Sign up for free here

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

Wednesday 24th February, 10am 

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

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

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

Sign up for free here

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The Road to Financial Sustainability as a Trust

Wednesday 3rd March, 10am 

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

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

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

Sign up for free here

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

Wednesday 17th March, 11am 

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

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

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

Sign up for free here

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

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

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

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

Sign up for free here

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 5 February, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

SFB-report

 

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

Analyse per-student spend

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

Benchmark your school

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

Use past trends to plan forward

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Next steps

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

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

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

 

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 3 February, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

Download your copy of our new ebook for MAT leaders here 

What’s inside?

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

A sneak preview of the contents: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join the next series of “Building a Resilient Trust”

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

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

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

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

See what’s on and book your free spot today 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 2 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Announcing the second virtual ArborFest!

Click here to find out about ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on May 5th, 2022. In just two weeks’ time, we’re hosting the second ever virtual ArborFest – a two-day festival dedicated to discovering new ways of working with Arbor MIS.  ArborFest is your chance to meet (online!) the growing community of

Click here to find out about ArborFest: The New Features Edition, taking place virtually on May 5th, 2022.

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

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

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

ArborFest

Exploring innovative ways of working

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

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

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

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

What’s on the programme?

Click here to see the full programme and book your tickets 

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

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

Announcing our Keynote Speaker

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

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

Re-live when ArborFest was in-person!

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


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

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

Can’t wait until ArborFest? 

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

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

blank Andrew Mackereth - 26 January, 2021

Category : Blog

Curriculum Led Financial Planning in a crisis

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

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

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

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

You can read our conversation below. 

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

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

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

A: What priorities have you identified?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

Emma Sharples - 20 January, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in September

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

What to bear in mind in your school calendar:  

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

How Arbor can help:

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

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

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

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

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

How Arbor can help:

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

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in January

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

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

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

How Arbor can help:

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

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

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

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

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

How Arbor can help:

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

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in Easter

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

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

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

How Arbor can help:

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

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

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

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

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

How Arbor can help:

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 18 January, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your approach to trust centralisation?

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

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

Why should MATs carefully think through how they procure?

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

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

What was your starting point for procuring an MIS? 

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

How did Covid-19 affect your decision to procure?

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

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

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

How did you find implementing Arbor MIS 100% remotely?

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

How did the procurement process go?

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

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

How did you involve your schools in the process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

blank Cosima Baring - 14 January, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

 

Find out about Arbor MIS

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

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

 

Join us for afternoon tea!

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

blank Maddie Kilminster - 11 January, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

Over 209 secondary schools have chosen Arbor MIS for a better working life, joining the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community of over 1,800 schools and MATs.

Moving your school to a new system might seem daunting, but over 600 schools moved to Arbor remotely during Covid-19. Below are three of the top reasons you should consider a switch this term:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 5 January, 2021

Category : Blog

How to use your MIS to reduce your workload this term

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Automate key tasks so they take up less time

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

4. Make communicating with your school community fast and simple

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

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

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

5. Standardise your operations and ways of working

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

 

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 8 December, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

To support you in your search, we wanted to share some of the best advice we’ve gathered from our 1,700 schools and 110 MATs about how to take control of the MIS switch and choose the right system (and the supplier) for you.

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

1. First, think teaching and technical

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

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

2. Keep your strategy in mind

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

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

3. Consider using a framework

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

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

4. Get staff on board

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

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

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

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

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

David Norton - 8 December, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Herts for Learning (HfL)

HFL

Why did you choose to partner with Arbor?

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

 

How did the accreditation process go?

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

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

 

How have you found working with Arbor so far?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

   

The City of Bradford (E-ICT Team)

city-of-bradford

 

Why did you choose to partner with Arbor?

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

 

How did the accreditation process go?

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

 

How have you found working with Arbor so far?

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

blank James Weatherill - 2 December, 2020

Category : Blog

The future of Arbor and the MIS market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Transform the ecosystem of apps and support partners

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

2. Provide smarter insight

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

3. Bring school communities together

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

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

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

James

CEO and Co-Founder, Arbor Education

blank Daniel Giardiello - 1 December, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been the benefit of using ImpactEd in particular?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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blank Beth Mokrini - 30 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

What does a Support Partner do?

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

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

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

Arbor-Partners-map

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

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

AdEPT Education – Nationwide

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

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

Agile Technical Solutions – East Anglia

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

Agilisys (Sefton Borough Council) – Sefton

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

Bradford Metropolitan Borough Council E-ICT Team – Bradford

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

Carbon Cloud – Kent

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

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

Code Green (Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council)  – Barnsley

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

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

Cygnet IT Services – Sutton

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

Education Lincs – Lincolnshire

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

Holker IT (formerly PC Edutech) – North West

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


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

Integra Schools (South Gloucestershire Council) – Gloucestershire

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

Interm IT – South of England

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

Itech Support – Hertfordshire

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

JC Comtech – East Anglia

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

Keystone MIS – Yorkshire

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

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

School Care – Hampshire

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

Services 4 SchoolsWolverhampton

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

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

The SCAS Team – West Sussex

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

Trading with Schools (Bristol City Council) – Bristol

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

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

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

Vitalize IT Nationwide

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

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

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Rachel Coldicutt - 27 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid change

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

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

graduation

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

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

rapid-change

No time for reflection

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

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

Building foundations for the future

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

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

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

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

Practical tips for moving forward

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

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

Glimmers-report

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

  • Tracking your change

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

  • Reflection on roles

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

  • Planning for uncertainty

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

Remember, we co-create technology

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

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

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Tony Phillips - 19 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

10am, Tuesday 24th November 

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

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

Teams-training-1

2. Blended Learning for Primary Schools with Microsoft Teams 

3pm, Tuesday 24 November

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

Teams-training-2

3. Centralising Resources and Reducing Teacher Workload using Microsoft Teams 

1pm on Wednesday 25 November 

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

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

Teams-training-3

 

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

 

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

Sophia Krage - 18 November, 2020

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

My Homepage – your personalised dashboard – Launching today!

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

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

my-homepage

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

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

What are schools saying?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My-Classroom

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

1. Flexible seating plans

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

2. Take action seamlessly throughout the lesson

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

3. Powered by Arbor MIS

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

4. Brand new: we’ve added live attainment data to My Classroom!

Choose the grades and targets you want to track, and see them directly on your seating plan. This helps you see your higher and lower achievers right away, so you can best support them in the classroom.

It’s a great way to give cover staff a helpful background to your class, too.

What are schools saying?

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

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

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

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

Andy Cunningham, Headteacher at The Lakes School

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

Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead Academy

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to find our more about how Arbor could transfor