Management Information System (MIS) for schools
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As the fastest-growing MIS provider in the country, we’re learning and changing all the time. As we grow further, Arbor’s Talent Acquisition Manager Sophie, explains why Diversity & Inclusion is one of our top priorities. Striving for a wide range of perspectives Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is a very important topic at the moment, both
As the fastest-growing MIS provider in the country, we’re learning and changing all the time. As we grow further, Arbor’s Talent Acquisition Manager Sophie, explains why Diversity & Inclusion is one of our top priorities.
Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is a very important topic at the moment, both here in the UK and across the world. The recent Black Lives Matter protests have brought the issue to the fore, and shown just how important it is for people to come forward to tell their stories around discrimination.
Diversity doesn’t just relate to visible characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and cultural background, it also includes a wide range of non-visible differences such as religion, social background, sexual orientation, personality, thinking styles and ways of working.
At Arbor, we’ve always thought of ourselves as a forward-thinking, innovative and authentic company, but as we grow we’ve been thinking more and more about how to make sure we’re creating a diverse and inclusive workplace for all our employees.
It’s important to us that we have a wide range of types of people and perspectives represented. Diversity is proven to increase creativity, innovation, efficiency and productivity in the workplace as well as employee engagement and as a growing tech company this is exactly what we are striving for.
We have some way to go to achieving a full balance of diversity in our offices, and it’s not something, unfortunately, that can happen overnight. To maintain a diverse and inclusive culture takes real, practical actions and commitment across the board.
First and foremost we need to understand the make-up of Arbor. We are proud of our commitment to diversity and inclusion but without data we won’t be able to measure how successful our efforts are. We’re in the process of gathering data on the backgrounds, ethnicities and demographics of both our employees and applicants to our job openings. This will help us understand where we’re under-represented so we can work to improve diversity.
We’ve created a dedicated D&I Guild internally, made up of people from different backgrounds and teams across the business, who bring perspectives from lots of different industries. We’ve also made D&I a measurable part of our objectives and key results for the People team, so we have real ownership over these actions.
The D&I Guild has been setting up “lunch & learns” with presentations from both internal and external speakers, including Crayola The Queen who spoke about LGBTQ+ and the difficulties she has experienced in the workplace, as well as Sophie Elwes who shared how disability has affected her working life. I recently spoke about being aware of unconscious bias during the recruitment and interview process, with transferable lessons for the wider world too.
We’ve got lots of initiatives coming up, with more talks and promotion of awareness months including Black History Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. We’re also going to be partnering with leading organisations at the forefront of the D&I field.
This is a very exciting time of growth for Arbor, so if you wish to join a company with with employees at their heart, check out our careers page here: https://careers.arbor-education.com/
Here are our current open roles:
Billing Manager – Leeds/London/Remote
Software Trainer – Remote/South
Account Manager (6m FTC) – Leeds/London/Remote
Senior Marketing Manager – London
Product Engineering Lead (PHP) – Leeds/london/Remote
Senior Product Engineer (PHP) – Leeds/London/Remote
As the DfE advised in their letter to schools last February, it’s a good idea to re-procure any large contracts (such as Management Information Systems (MIS)) when they come to an end. When procuring systems like your MIS, going through an approved framework allows you to search a range of accredited suppliers for one which
As the DfE advised in their letter to schools last February, it’s a good idea to re-procure any large contracts (such as Management Information Systems (MIS)) when they come to an end.
When procuring systems like your MIS, going through an approved framework allows you to search a range of accredited suppliers for one which matches what you’re looking for.
A framework is the simplest route to buy off-the-shelf software, without limiting personalised support through the buying and delivery process. It saves you spending hours drafting requirements, researching companies and going through the tender process – instead giving you all the information you need to choose the most competitive, reputable and safest provider all through one platform.
You’ll also have peace of mind that due diligence checks have already been carried out on the products and companies, and that you’re complying with buying procedures and applicable procurement law.
Today, we’re excited to announce that Arbor has been added to the DfE’s latest G-Cloud 12 framework for approved cloud suppliers!
Find out below how you can use the G-cloud 12 framework to procure a cloud-based MIS for your MAT.
The G-Cloud framework, available on the DfE’s Digital Marketplace, contains 31,000 cloud services for cloud hosting (services for processing and storing data), cloud software (internet applications) and cloud support (helping you set up and maintain your software).
All companies on the framework must go through multiple legal, financial and social responsibility checks on the way they work and the services they provide.
You can find the DfE’s guidance on using the G-Cloud framework here.
1. An important first step is to work out exactly what your trust needs from your system or service before you start. For example, it might be important to you to have built-in communications and meals management, or you might want to customise the system to your bespoke assessment framework. You will likely want a system that’s compatible with multiple internet browsers and devices, and gives you secure logins.
The DfE provides this requirements list to help you start (though it’s from 2014, and most English MIS have developed new capabilities since then).
2. Go to “Cloud software”
3. Search for keywords that are relevant to what you’re looking for, such as ‘Primary MIS’, ‘Secondary MIS’, or ‘MAT MIS’, to find the list of relevant suppliers. Remember to download this list for your audit trail once you’ve found what you’re looking for.
If there are too many results after putting in your keywords through, you can click a filter, e.g. “2-factor authentication” to see the suppliers that provide that feature.
4. Read each supplier’s product and pricing information
5. Send any clarification questions to the suppliers or host a demo day to confirm which supplier best meets your needs
6. Award your contract using the G-Cloud contract template
Arbor MIS helps over 1,200 schools and 100 MATs work more easily and collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.
Arbor’s Group MIS is the only true MIS for MATs, allowing you to see the bigger picture across your trust. Designed with trusts like yours, Arbor helps you work more collaboratively, with tools that make working together easier at every level.
100 schools have joined Arbor through G-Cloud so far! You can find us on G-cloud 12 here:
If you want to see Arbor in action you can book a free demo or join a webinar here.
It’s been the most challenging year yet for schools. From navigating changing DfE guidance, to keeping tabs on vulnerable students, staff have had a lot on their plate. On top of all this, leadership teams have had to grapple with legacy, server-based software, which slowed schools down as they adapted the way they work. This
It’s been the most challenging year yet for schools. From navigating changing DfE guidance, to keeping tabs on vulnerable students, staff have had a lot on their plate.
On top of all this, leadership teams have had to grapple with legacy, server-based software, which slowed schools down as they adapted the way they work.
This year won’t be without its challenges, so you’ll need smart, flexible systems that can do the heavy lifting for you.
That’s why hundreds of schools are switching to a cloud-based MIS like Arbor to help them react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing.
Here are three reasons why you should move your school to the cloud this year:
1. Stay on top of DfE requirements
2. Get the information you need wherever you are
3. Pivot and stay flexible
Let’s break that down…
Having a cloud-based MIS in place makes it easy to adapt to rapid changes in regulation, like socially distanced timetabling, new attendance and absence codes or key worker status.
Whatever the DfE introduces, Arbor can make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day), meaning you can keep on top of new requirements. No more patches or workarounds!
You’ll also have everything you need to follow the new DfE reporting requirements thanks to Arbor’s Covid-19 dashboard. Every day, Arbor crunches the numbers for you across all the DfE’s categories, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed cases of Covid-19, giving you everything you need to submit the Daily Form each morning.
Schools are having to work in lots of new ways – some Teachers are moving between classrooms, some staff are quarantining at home, and some schools are going into local lockdown.
In order to keep your school running whatever happens, your staff need access to their student information so they can complete their essential tasks, like tracking attendance, reporting on vulnerable students and following up with parents and guardians – all from wherever they’re working.
That’s where a cloud-based MIS like Arbor comes in, which gives staff all the data they need wherever they are, without being restricted to school computers or setting up a VPN. Plus, Arbor’s people-friendly dashboards help you get insight from your data and take action in a few clicks.
In an unpredictable term, you might have to change your social distancing arrangements, timetables and staff rotas at short notice.
Arbor gives you the flexibility to plan or switch up your arrangements whenever you need to. Here are just some of the ways the system will work around you:
Because managing your school how you need to right now is so difficult with a server-based system, the question has become not if you should move to the cloud but when.
To help, we’ve made the process of moving to Arbor simple and we can get you up and running in a matter of weeks, 100% remotely. From migrating your data to Arbor, to training up your staff to use the system confidently, a dedicated Project Manager will guide you every step of the way.
Read about how Woodland Academy Trust moved to Arbor remotely during lockdown, along with more than 250 schools!
Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars.
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In our popular “Adapting to Change” webinar series last term, we invited MAT leaders to share how they were adapting their strategies to navigate the Covid-19 crisis as it unfolded. We’ve collated six of the best interviews into a special book which we hope will give MAT leaders useful advice for how to support your
In our popular “Adapting to Change” webinar series last term, we invited MAT leaders to share how they were adapting their strategies to navigate the Covid-19 crisis as it unfolded.
We’ve collated six of the best interviews into a special book which we hope will give MAT leaders useful advice for how to support your schools through constant change and prepare for whatever the future brings.
You can download your copy of the “Adapting to Change” ebook here
Here’s a bit more about the book from Arbor Co-Founder and CEO James:
As MAT leaders there has never been a moment where so much change happened in such a short period of time. In the past six months every trust has been forced to adapt almost all processes overnight to safeguard and support staff, students and the wider community. Whilst this has been an incredibly tough time (I hope you got a break over the summer), it’s also taught us a lot, including how agile, bold and resilient schools could be.
At Arbor we’ve seen a lot of new ideas and practices emerge over the Spring and Summer terms from the 100+ MATs we work with, and have been holding weekly webinars with MAT leaders on strategies they’ve put in place to help adapt to this change.
This book is a concise write-up of practical tips and tactics from MAT CEOs centered on the broad topics of Leadership, Student and Staff Wellbeing and Online Learning. You’ll see how others have wrestled with pivoting their organisations quickly, defining how much autonomy to give to schools, making sure staff don’t burnout and how to ensure quality when teaching online. Hopefully it will stimulate a few new ideas as you look ahead to the future.
I’d like to thank all the authors and those on our webinars for being so open and brave in sharing their experiences as they happened. No one’s pretending they have all the answers, but if there’s ever been a time to experiment with new ways of working it’s now, and I’m encouraged by what I see.
Our mission at Arbor is to help centralise your insight, improve your communications and streamline how you work across your trust. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, please get in touch.
I look forward to seeing you online in our next series of MAT webinars this term, or even one day in person!
Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars.
At Arbor we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with intuitive, people-friendly tools that help staff work faster, smarter and collaborate more. With constant new demands on schools right now on reporting, logistics and communications, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. We believe this is preventable. When you’re
At Arbor we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with intuitive, people-friendly tools that help staff work faster, smarter and collaborate more.
With constant new demands on schools right now on reporting, logistics and communications, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. We believe this is preventable. When you’re stretched to maximum capacity, you should be able to lean on your MIS to pick up the slack.
Whether you’re part of SLT, or work in the school office, discover below five of the top ways you’ll save you hours of admin each week with Arbor, and accomplish more – put together by Arbor Programme Manager, Joanna.
1. Save time each day by automating your reports
2. Save duplication across your teams by sharing reports
3. Cut down on repetition with bulk actions
4. Manage data retention and keep GDPR compliant in a couple of clicks
5. Make your communications smoother using templates
With Senior Leaders spending around 4.4 hours per week on data analysis, automating their reporting can help give you valuable time back to focus on understanding your data and driving impactful decisions.
In Arbor you can use ready-made reports and schedule them to be sent to your colleagues on a regular basis automatically. For example, you could schedule a weekly attendance report to all SLT showing students with < 90% attendance. This cuts down on the time you would spend manually gathering data and creating the report each week.
Here’s a few geeky details:
Discover more ways Arbor’s automation will help you streamline routine processes, reduce errors and mean you spend less time on repetitive tasks here.
2. Save duplication across your teams by sharing reports
Arbor is designed to make it easier to collaborate with colleagues, and to give everyone a shared view of progress and purpose. Built-in dashboards give staff at all levels quick access to the information they need, but it’s also quick and easy to share custom reports you’ve made with other colleagues at your school or schools within your wider trust.
The ins and outs:
Thanks to Arbor’s link to Microsoft Power BI and other BI tools, you can also export your reports if you want to customise how you look at your data. Read our five steps to creating your own BI dashboard here.
Bulk actions in Arbor allow you to perform actions or add information for multiple students or staff at a time. It’s amazing how much time this can save!
Here are just some of the tasks made much easier using bulk actions:
Keeping on top of GDPR regulations for the data you keep on students and staff can be time-consuming and cause a lot of worry for Admin Staff. In Arbor, we take the hassle out of data retention with an automatic dashboard for both students and staff. Arbor will flag for you which records have passed the recommended retention time. You can then select and delete them safely in bulk.
Do you send out the same communications to parents at regular intervals? Maybe it’s a weekly newsletter or a regular bulletin to parents whose children are missing lessons. With Arbor’s built-in communication templates, you can have SMS, letters or emails saved and ready to go when you need them. We’ve created a bank of typical templates but it’s also easy to make your own!
If you want to be even smarter, you can set up your communications templates to automatically include data from a report you’ve created. For example, you could send an email to the parents of Year 5 EAL boys whose attendance is below 90%. Arbor will automatically send the right attendance figure to the right parent.
We know it can sometimes feel daunting to change the ways you’ve been used to working for a long time. But as Arbor schools tell us, switching your mind set to more efficient processes can save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run.
Hear it from Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead Academy:
“I’d been working with our old MIS system both in support roles and as the Data Manager here for over 20 years, so I think everyone was really surprised at how I embraced the change to Arbor, but I could see at an early stage of the implementation process that it had some really powerful and easy to use features for creating custom groups and sending out communications for all the curriculum groups as well as the custom groups. I thought I would need to create lots of custom reports, but most places where the information is displayed you can just use the download button instead. I really wouldn’t want to go back to the old system.”
And Julie Smith, PA to Headteacher at Parkroyal Community School:
“The first word that comes to mind [when describing Arbor] is ‘simplicity’. It’s easy to grasp, and new users can quickly work their way around the system’s functions – you don’t feel like you need hours of training, as you do with other systems. Something I love about Arbor is the fact that it’s multi-functional across the school. By that I mean that most areas of the school use Arbor, whereas with our previous MIS provider, we found that it was only really the School Office staff that were using it – classroom teachers were using it to take the register in their classes, but that was about it! Now everyone in school knows how to use it. Arbor is a school-wide tool, not an office-based MIS System”
Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars.
Great lessons don’t necessarily call for cutting-edge technology. Teachers make great lessons, not apps. What teachers do best is motivating their learners and creating a safe, engaging environment in the classroom. But sadly, time-consuming admin and clunky systems are holding them back from time with their students. We believe great tech can actually help teachers
Great lessons don’t necessarily call for cutting-edge technology. Teachers make great lessons, not apps.
What teachers do best is motivating their learners and creating a safe, engaging environment in the classroom. But sadly, time-consuming admin and clunky systems are holding them back from time with their students.
We believe great tech can actually help teachers in the classroom. The right tools take the hassle out of your daily tasks, freeing you up to get back to what matters: delivering great lessons.
With lots of new challenges in the classroom this term, we’ve put together a list of three intuitive, people-friendly apps that will help simplify how you manage safeguarding, behaviour, attendance, seating plans and blended learning:
Banishing paper logbooks and filing cabinets from over 13,000 schools all over the country, CPOMS is an intuitive app for monitoring child protection, safeguarding and pastoral issues. It cuts down paperwork for staff, while ensuring incidents are properly reported, details are shared securely and students are kept safe.
Arbor MIS integrates seamlessly with CPOMS, so you won’t have to worry about transferring data between the two systems to keep them up-to-date. Your sensitive data will be safe and secure in CPOMS, while Arbor looks after the rest.
Take the hassle out of organising your lessons with My Classroom from Arbor. Our new all-in-one classroom management tool has been designed by teachers, for teachers to help you manage your class seamlessly – giving you your time back to focus on teaching and learning instead.
My Classroom brings seating plans, registers and behaviour management into one place for the first time. Create interactive seating plans using easy drag-and-drop blocks, then add attendance and behaviour points directly onto your plan throughout your lesson on your tablet or desktop. You can share your plans with colleagues too!
The best thing about My Classroom is that it’s powered by Arbor MIS, so you’ll automatically see photos and contextual data about each of your students on your seating plans. Plus, everything you capture in My Classroom shows up on each student’s profile, helping you to tell the full story of each of your pupils lesson-to-lesson.
Many schools in the Arbor Community are planning to continue with a blended learning approach going forward, even when most teaching has returned to the physical classroom. Making lessons available online means students can catch up or reinforce their learning remotely outside of school. Using a virtual learning environment such as G-suite or Office 365 is also a great way to encourage sharing of resources between staff.
The DfE are providing funding for all UK state schools to get G-suite or Office 365 set up and get ongoing support for free. Arbor is working with 14 of the Government’s accredited suppliers on the scheme – for a full list and more information on the scheme, check out our blog!
Of course, technology can only go so far – the real challenge this term is how to support both students to adjust to new routines and rules, and process some of the difficult experiences they might have had during lockdown.
To discuss this in more detail and share some practical advice, we’re bringing together an expert panel for a webinar on “Best Practice: Classroom Management Post-Lockdown” on Thursday 24th September at 11am. For more information and to book your place, click here.
Data and Insight | School Improvement
The start of this academic year presents a lot of immediate challenges for students and staff – from new routines, to catching up on lost learning and recovering emotionally from lockdown. Looking beyond September towards setting school improvement objectives for the whole year, School Leaders are also faced with a challenge. With a six month
The start of this academic year presents a lot of immediate challenges for students and staff – from new routines, to catching up on lost learning and recovering emotionally from lockdown.
Looking beyond September towards setting school improvement objectives for the whole year, School Leaders are also faced with a challenge. With a six month gap in reliable attainment data, there’s less evidence to help identify areas for improvement.
So how can you use the data you do have to inform your school improvement plan this term?
Like any other year, the first (and arguably most important) step in creating an effective school improvement plan is to really understand your school’s performance in depth, including the attainment gaps between different student groups and the factors that cause them.
This year, without performance tables, ASP data from the DfE or consistent assessment data from last term, a good idea is to look back at your prior attainment data (averages over three years are ideal) as a starting point.
For a full picture of your school’s attainment from the last three years, we’re releasing a bundle of our popular Arbor Insight reports exclusively for free. Find out more below or go straight to download your reports here.
In combination with your past performance data, you can look at data from other sources, such as:
A big focus of most school improvement plans this year will be how to get students back on track after lockdown. Your Governors will need to understand the impact of partial school closures on students’ learning and wellbeing to help them review your plans for recovery.
To understand the impact of Covid-19 on your students’ attainment, most schools will be performing a new set of baseline tests with students in the first few weeks of term, then comparing these results with where students were at before lockdown. This is where a full and broad evidence of students’ prior performance will help you reliably understand what has changed and set the most effective goals for how to get students back on track.
Gathering full and reliable prior attainment data could mean lengthy searching through DfE performance tables, and pulling together internal spreadsheets and student records.
To save you time this term and help you kickstart your school improvement planning, we’re releasing a bundle of our most popular Arbor Insight reports (usually worth £300-400) – exclusively for free.
Created especially for your school, your reports will show you the full picture of your students’ progress and attainment over the last three years, giving you the context you need to see where to focus your efforts this year.
You can download your reports from your free benchmarking portal – Arbor Insight – used by over 10,000 schools in the UK to dig deeper into their results and benchmark their performance.
Here’s what the reports will help you to achieve:
Your reports are waiting for you in your free Arbor Insight benchmarking portal – sign up here and download them today!
Here’s some more detail about each of your reports:
We hope your Arbor Insight reports are helpful in giving you the context you need to get started on your school improvement plan.
Make sure you look critically at your data in the reports, and ask questions like “Why did these trends happen?” and “Are they typical of our school?” This will help to make sure your decisions are not based on any bias or previous assumptions. Check out our earlier blog for two approaches you can use to challenge your assumptions – 1) the Socratic Approach and 2) Asking “why?” 5 times.
As you move onto drafting your in-year priorities and objectives, question where you are in your current 3-5 year rolling plan: What have you achieved? What’s changed?
Take a look at some guidance we’ve gathered below on writing an effective plan:
Case Studies | Vulnerable Students
The Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is made up of ten primary and secondary academies in Leicestershire. In the first week of Autumn Term, Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager Daniel Giardiello spoke to Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at TMET, to find out how they’re addressing the post-lockdown learning gap, particularly for their most vulnerable
The Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is made up of ten primary and secondary academies in Leicestershire. In the first week of Autumn Term, Arbor’s Senior Partnership Manager Daniel Giardiello spoke to Mark Oldman, Director of Inclusion and SEND at TMET, to find out how they’re addressing the post-lockdown learning gap, particularly for their most vulnerable students.
In the first few weeks of term, we’re going to re-baseline students using assessments that are very similar to what they took last February. From this, we’ll be able to assess if there has been lost learning, and if so, we’ll restart the curriculum from the point that they need us to, and ensure that deep learning is still able to take place. This is going to be particularly important in the formative primary years.
In order to chart the impact of Covid-19, we’re going to use a “vulnerability index” which, rather than assessing age-appropriate attainment, looks at where each student is compared to where we expected them to be, so we can plan best how to get them back on track. This term we’re applying it to all students so we can gather more information about the situation for each individual. Once each student catches up to where we expect them to be, we’ll move them back onto the usual way of reporting.
We’re also going to use the Covid-19 Wellbeing Questionnaire from ImpactEd to ask KS2+ students across trust what their experiences were during lockdown, with a focus on wellbeing. Using this structured, universal method will allow us to test the temperature of the whole trust, and gather more reliable data than what Teachers could observe in the classroom. The first questionnaire will happen in the first few weeks back, followed by a second in early October. The second point of assessment will give us our first real data drop of academic attainment, which we’ll be able to compare with the wellbeing assessment at the beginning of term.
This combination should begin to show us the impact of Covid-19 because it could reveal sets of students who have become vulnerable whom we might not have known about.
Interventions Assessment: Assessing students’ circumstances
Yes, we’re predicting that Covid-19 will have created a new set of vulnerable students who, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t have been considered vulnerable. Due to having lost six months without the rigour and routine of regular schooling and socialisation with peers, gaps will appear across the board.
It’s important that we don’t start term with assumptions of who our “disadvantaged” and “vulnerable” students are, but we work out who is vulnerable now. Those who are already acknowledged as vulnerable are at an advantage in some ways because we already know about them and they’ve had tailored support throughout lockdown.
During school closures, the vast majority of our SEND children were coming in – for our schools in very disadvantaged areas, this was a large number of pupils who needed wrap-around family support. In many ways our relationships with these pupils has strengthened as a result, and we hope to use this to our advantage when closing the attainment gap.
First and foremost, we need to assess the wellbeing of our SEND cohorts – particularly how they’re feeling being part of their class. Although they might not feel vulnerable in the first few weeks, if their classmates are able to catch up faster than them, they may begin to struggle. To combat this, we’ve employed an educational psychologist to come in two days a week to help properly diagnose what our students are going through, such as digging into difficulties at home. We’re also putting our most vulnerable students into smaller “mini” bubbles to make sure they don’t get excluded or marginalised from their wider classes if they present new challenging behaviour.
In KS1, we’re planning an in-depth focus on the formative skills such as literacy and maths in order to make sure they have strong foundations to progress through the rest of school. We’ve also hired an SEMH Primary Intervention Teacher to work with rolling carousels of children on social and communication skills, so as to quickly fill the gaps that could have developed.
Going into lockdown, we have a well-developed blended learning policy but what we realised was that not all children’s homes were equipped. We first sent a questionnaire home to assess the access to devices, making sure that we were clear of what we expected, for example “has access to a laptop for at least two hours each day” rather than simply “has access to a device” which could have meant borrowing a parent’s smartphone.
We bought 1,200 Chromebooks and distributed them across the trust. We also invested in a Microsoft learning platform and appointed digital champions to help roll it out. We plan to keep our online learning programme going post-Covid-19 as a means of aiding progress. It will allow students to do extra learning remotely outside of school. Our wide-ranging intervention strategies and expert teaching has been further invested in, and will be the key to ensuring a secure and successful start in our primary schools, and to helping Year 6s transition to Year 7.
Covid-19 has forced us to collaborate and think more as a trust. For example, it’s given us the opportunity to improve how we transition students between year groups and between schools, particularly from Year 6 to 7. Our Primary and Secondary Leads have been working effectively together and by recognising the strength in each other’s practice, have been able to influence trust improvement plans even further.
For our most vulnerable students, we’ve learned that this transition needs to be even more personalised, recognising that the effects of lockdown could be far reaching and impact their wellbeing for a sustained period of time. We know that happy schools with meaningful relationships will underpin our approach to intervention in ensuring successful pupil returns.
We’re going to be catching up again with Mark Oldman in October to see how his recovery and catch-up strategies are working out. Watch this space!
As we enter an Autumn Term with lots of new regulations and routines, we’re working closely with school staff to make sure they’ve got the tools they need to react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing. To support you with your big new challenges this term – from new DfE reporting,
As we enter an Autumn Term with lots of new regulations and routines, we’re working closely with school staff to make sure they’ve got the tools they need to react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing.
To support you with your big new challenges this term – from new DfE reporting, to social distancing, to monitoring your vulnerable students – we’ve added some new features to Arbor which take the hassle out of your essential admin.
Whatever the next few months bring, here are some of the ways Arbor can help you focus on what matters – supporting your students:
1. Track attendance & absence without the stress
2. Look out for your vulnerable students
3. Report to the DfE with peace of mind
4. Create flexible timetables that work for everyone
5. Communicate with everyone from one place
6. Pivot your plans when you need to
Let’s break that down …
With students adjusting to full-time school, joining new classes and following new timetables, managing attendance is going to be a little more complex this term.
In Arbor, School Office Staff can instantly pull together the attendance data they need, spot patterns and follow up with guardians straight from built-in attendance dashboards.
Plus, we’ve created a range of new codes to make it simple to record attendance and absence in line with the new DfE guidelines:
These codes automatically map to the DfE “I” and “X” codes, so your CTFs and census returns will always be accurate.
You can also record staff absence categories to help you keep accurate, detailed records:
Staff absences are flagged in Arbor to everyone who needs to know, making arranging cover simple.
After a long time away from school, students in some vulnerable categories will need extra support to recover and catch up. To provide the best care for these students, School Leaders will need to keep a close eye on their progress across attainment, behaviour and attainment.
Arbor makes it easy to pull reports on your key vulnerable demographic groups in a few clicks, or you can schedule reports to notify key staff members regularly. Compare each groups’ performance with the school average, spot trends and set up interventions to help them get back on track.
To save you time completing the DfE’s Daily Form, Arbor’s Covid-19 Dashboard crunches the numbers for you, giving you everything you need to submit the form each morning.
We’ve just updated the Dashboard with the latest categories the DfE is tracking, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19. Click on each category for a breakdown by year group and a full list of students.
For a MAT-level overview, you can use Arbor’s Group MIS to get data at your fingertips about all your students and staff. Monitor attendance patterns, student & staff absence, track key disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and manage Covid-19 related issues centrally.
Depending on your space, staff numbers, and the needs of your students, you’ll need to set up your new timetable in your own unique way. That’s why we’ve built flexibility into Arbor to help you schedule your classes however you need to.
Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here.
Forget switching between systems or uploading/downloading contact lists, in Arbor you can follow up with parents, students or other staff members as soon as you spot something important, from wherever you are in the system. Simply choose the method that’s best for your message – from an email, an SMS, a mail merge letter or an Arbor App alert.
Click here to see how Arbor’s communications allowed The Parks Academies Trust to improve the way they contacted hard-to-reach students during the crisis.
If your school goes into local lockdown, and you have to move back to partial school closures, remote working and virtual learning, Arbor can help you make sure you’re fully prepared to make that transition a smooth one.
Because Arbor is cloud-based, you can manage your school with more flexibility, accessing what you need to do your job from wherever you’re working.
Plus, if the DfE brings out any new guidelines, we make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day!) to help you keep up to date.
During this difficult term, don’t forget the Arbor Team is here to support you with any questions you have.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Wellbeing and mental health are big priorities for us at Arbor, and we’re pleased to see these issues becoming more and more important for schools, too. In support of Youth Mental Health Day today, Arbor Wellbeing Champion Alice has some advice for how you can look out for your mental health and wellbeing at your
Wellbeing and mental health are big priorities for us at Arbor, and we’re pleased to see these issues becoming more and more important for schools, too. In support of Youth Mental Health Day today, Arbor Wellbeing Champion Alice has some advice for how you can look out for your mental health and wellbeing at your school.
I’ve been a Wellbeing Champion at Arbor for a year now. We started off as a team of two and have grown to a team of six, with representatives across our London, Leeds and Belgrade offices. At Arbor, Wellbeing Champions have three main objectives:
1. Promoting positive wellbeing at work
2. Organising wellbeing initiatives and activities
3. Being there to listen if anyone needs to talk
This year we’ve had the added challenge of supporting staff wellbeing whilst working remotely. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s taught us that small gestures like checking in on a colleague can go a long way. We’ve been hosting regular mindfulness Zoom calls, and at the beginning of lockdown, we sent everyone in the company a packet of sunflower seeds to start growing. This was a big hit and created a real sense of community.
Recently, we’ve been seeing Arbor schools and MATs bringing student and staff wellbeing to the top of their agendas. Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, shared with us how they’ve been using Wellbeing Dogs to lift the spirits of students and staff. And Mark Lacey, CEO of The Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, says every catch-up call he has with his Headteachers starts with a check-in with their wellbeing.
This term, as schools return after months of disruption, both students and staff may find it challenging to adjust. Now more than ever it’s vital that schools and trusts build initiatives into their strategy to support the wellbeing and mental health of the whole school.
To help you in shaping your school wellbeing programme, we’ve tracked down three of the top school wellbeing initiatives you could consider for your school.
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.
Embedding a whole-school culture of wellbeing doesn’t happen overnight, but a good basis to start from is building supportive and respectful relationships between students, teachers and parents. A great way to do this is by appointing student and staff Wellbeing Ambassadors to create a supportive environment where students can talk openly about how they are feeling. Worth-it provides training for Wellbeing Ambassadors to equip them with approaches and strategies to support the wellbeing of their peers as well as their own.
Mental health is often not talked about enough in schools because of the stigma around it. One of the best ways to combat some of the misconceptions around mental health is through education. Stem4 offers free teaching resources for Key Stages 3 and 4 that cover topics such as anxiety, stress and depression to empower students with knowledge about mental health.
Something that we always tell ourselves in the Arbor Wellbeing team is that if you look after your own wellbeing first, you’ll be in the best position to look out for others. This is something that Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary at the National Education Union, also advises for schools.
This term is going to be especially challenging for staff, so make sure you’re supporting your colleagues when they need it. Arbor HR Manager, Danielle, has some useful advice for understanding more about stress and how to manage it in her blog for some tips for managing stress. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.
With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org | 0208 050 1028.
With constant changes to Government guidance, family situations and the wider national picture, schools and trusts certainly learned a great deal last term. Where there were huge challenges that meant working in totally new ways, schools has also taken some positive lessons from the crisis. It gave schools the opportunity to pivot fast to work
With constant changes to Government guidance, family situations and the wider national picture, schools and trusts certainly learned a great deal last term. Where there were huge challenges that meant working in totally new ways, schools has also taken some positive lessons from the crisis.
It gave schools the opportunity to pivot fast to work more efficiently and find new ways to reach out to parents and guardians. It also put the spotlight on student and staff wellbeing issues, bringing them top of the agenda.
We recently caught up with Jon Ward from The Parks Academies Trust who told us about the ways he and his staff adapted their ways of working during the crisis. Moving their secondary schools to Arbor MIS in April – right in the middle of partial school closures – meant they saw right away the new and better ways of working with a cloud-based MIS.
Staff across the trust felt Arbor allowed them to collaborate and align over their work. Plus, it took the hassle out of important Covid-19 related tasks like tracking attendance and following up with hard-to-reach families.
To read more about the measurable differences Jon and his team have measured since moving MIS during Covid-19, download their full case study here.
Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.
With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or join one of our webinars.
Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch
Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch them up on lost learning.
However the “new normal” is going to look for your school this term, we’ve put together a list of the most important things you should be thinking about this week:
1. Go through your social distancing checklist
2. Prepare communications your parent and guardian community
3. Evaluate your catch up plan for students
4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing
Depending on the size and layout of your school, and staff capacity, there’s no one solution to keeping students apart. Here are some top tips to consider:
Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here. Arbor schools – check out our Help Centre for lots of guidance on setting up flexible timetabling arrangements.
At the start of term, you’ll be sending your parents lots of updates on the new protocols you’re putting in place. But you should also think about how you can start strengthening relationships with your parents and guardians after their children have been at home for so long. Here are some more top tips:
After months of disrupted learning, students’ progress is likely to be set back, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students hit the hardest. Getting learning back on track will be a big challenge, but here are some suggested first steps:
a) Assess where students are at: You might want to run low-stakes assessments to identify gaps in students’ knowledge this term. The Key has some useful guidance on this and there’s a good school case study here
b) Compare with past performance: Once you have a baseline of performance post-lockdown, comparing this with prior attainment will give you a better sense of how students’ progress has been affected.
To save you time pulling together data, we’re giving schools free access to Arbor Insight reports this term, which will give you a full picture of your students’ progress over the last three years. The reports will be out soon but join the waiting list to be the first to get yours!
c) Identify your most at-risk students: In order to use the Government’s catch-up fund most effectively, it’s important to assess which of your students will benefit from it the most, such as vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category might include more students now as situations have changed.
Arbor’s built-in reporting will allow you to quickly analyse the attainment of your key student groups across subjects, and instantly spot the biggest gaps. Our free performance reports will also help you understand how these attainment gaps have changed over time and the impact of socio-economic factors on your attainment.
It’s likely that students will be dealing with some difficult emotions when they return this term. Teachers might see some new and challenging behaviour in the classroom, but as Educational psychologist, Dr Rob Long, explains, it’s important to understand the anxiety causing the behaviour so they can best manage it. SecEd Magazine has some great guidance on how to support students’ mental health and wellbeing this term.
Remember not to overlook your staff wellbeing; they’ll need support adjusting to the new term as well. Check in with your staff at the beginning of term and think about ways to allow staff to collaborate with and support each other.
GCSE and A-Level Results Days are going to look a little different this year. Some schools will be sharing results with students in-person in bubbles, while others will be managing the whole process remotely. However you need to run your Results Days this year, we know your top priorities will be making sure the day
GCSE and A-Level Results Days are going to look a little different this year. Some schools will be sharing results with students in-person in bubbles, while others will be managing the whole process remotely.
However you need to run your Results Days this year, we know your top priorities will be making sure the day goes smoothly, the results get to the right people at the right time, and students get the support they need.
That’s why we’ve made it simple and straightforward to import, share and analyse your results with Arbor. Check out our overview below of all the ways we’re supporting you this year to manage your Results Day successfully.
Our Support Team is full of secondary and exam specialists who will be on hand throughout both Results Days, as well as the days before, on phone, webchat and email. This year, they’ll also be available from 6.30am on 19th August to give you extra support with preparing your GCSE results.
We’ve added lots of materials on our Help Centre to support you with preparing, organising, sharing and analysing your results. We also hosted a webinar last week walking you through the basics – you can catch the recording here.
The Arbor Community is always buzzing around Results Day with Exams Officers, Office Managers and SLT sharing tips and best practice. If you haven’t already, join the forum for free today!
As soon as results are available, importing them into Arbor is quick and easy. Your results dashboard will flag any errors in your data so you can resolve them straight away. Plus, you can also reverse the results import if you need to.
We’ve teamed up with industry-leading analytics tools that schools love, including 4Matrix, SISRA and ALPS Connect, to make it easy for you to analyse your results in depth. Simply export your results from Arbor into a spreadsheet for quick upload into your chosen platform.
When it comes to releasing results to staff, you can easily set up your embargo time and date, and control who has access to results before and after this time.
On Results Day, you can choose from lots of different options for sharing results with parents. You can download results both in bulk and as individual PDFs, which you could either print out and distribute in person, or share electronically (note, we’d advise adding password protection to each student’s PDF statement). Share your results in a way that’s right for you:
Since there may be a mixture of some students collecting their results remotely and some in-person at staggered times, it could be a challenge to make sure every student gets the right support from staff on the day. To help you keep track of the contact students receive and the follow up needed, we recommend setting up a log sheet in Excel/Google Sheets to record key points of contact and resolutions on the day. This will also be a useful reference if you have to process any appeals.
Add key student details (e.g. name, SEN, PP, EAL, CLA), then add columns for the milestones you want to record, for example if the student has had communication from staff and how (e.g. email/telephone), if they have requested their teacher-assessed grades and if a follow-up is needed.
Here’s an example of what this log sheet could look like:
If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work, our team would be happy to show you around in a virtual demo – simply book here. Alternatively, give us a call on 0208 050 1028 or email email@example.com.
We’re proud to announce that United Learning, the largest mixed-phase MAT in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 72 state schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the two largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK! From Autumn Term 2020, 34 secondary schools and 23
We’re proud to announce that United Learning, the largest mixed-phase MAT in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 72 state schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the two largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK!
From Autumn Term 2020, 34 secondary schools and 23 primary schools in United Learning will move to Arbor – joining the 15 United Learning schools who already use us. Together they’ll join our growing community of over 1,000 schools and 100 MATs who have all chosen Arbor to help transform the way they work – including REAch2, the largest primary school MAT, who moved to Arbor in 2018.
As a large mixed-phased trust, United Learning chose Arbor to help them analyse information across all their schools simply and effectively, automate repetitive administrative tasks and operate remotely at scale all from one system.
Dominic Norrish, Chief Operating Officer at United Learning said: “United Learning are excited to realise the benefits that a modern cloud-based MIS such as Arbor will bring to our schools – resilience, mobility, security and the reduced costs of a single, highly capable tool.”
We’ve taken the time to build out features tailored to each school phase:
United Learning is the latest MAT to choose Arbor – joining trusts like REAch2, Aspire, Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, Red Kite, LEO Academy Trust, Wellspring, and Hoyland Common Academy Trust who have all moved to Arbor in recent years.
320 schools started using Arbor between January-December 2019, joining the growing movement of schools switching to the cloud to transform the way they work. Recently we’ve been focused on helping our schools work flexibly and remotely during Covid-19, with over 250 schools having moved to Arbor during lockdown! We’ve built out our MIS to help schools manage staff rotas, communicate with parents, and set classwork remotely (see more on that here).
You can read more about our cloud-based MIS in our brochures for primary and secondary schools (click here), and MATs (click here).
Interested to see whether Arbor could be a good fit for your school or trust?
We’d be more than happy to arrange a remote, personalised demo for your team – just click here, or reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 050 1028.
Case Studies | MAT Operations
As part of our “Adapting to Change” webinar series for MAT leaders, Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust, shared with us how the trust have been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. Dave explained the vision he’s building for a centralised and collaborative IT infrastructure across the trust. Embracing new technology has been
As part of our “Adapting to Change” webinar series for MAT leaders, Dave Noble, Director of Operations at Red Kite Learning Trust, shared with us how the trust have been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.
Dave explained the vision he’s building for a centralised and collaborative IT infrastructure across the trust. Embracing new technology has been vital in responding to the challenges of the pandemic, from maintaining business critical operations like payroll, to reaching out to vulnerable students, to managing the quality of remote teaching and learning.
Check out Dave’s webinar and presentation below.
To find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform how you work at your school or MAT, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email email@example.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.
The summer break is usually a chance to step back, reflect on the last Term, and gradually start preparations for Autumn. This year, with so many new timetabling and curriculum arrangements coming in September, there’s likely to be even more planning to do in July and August. Whilst you’re preparing for the new Term, you
The summer break is usually a chance to step back, reflect on the last Term, and gradually start preparations for Autumn. This year, with so many new timetabling and curriculum arrangements coming in September, there’s likely to be even more planning to do in July and August.
Whilst you’re preparing for the new Term, you and your staff can access Arbor MIS from home so you can look back at last year’s data, set up your new classes, assessments and registers, and send vital communications to keep parents in the loop.
Whenever you need during summer, you and your staff can access our online support resources for a refresher on how key parts of Arbor work. You can also share tips with fellow Arbor users on the Arbor Community. And don’t forget our expert Support Team is on hand to answer questions too!
Find out below more about all the free support you can access over summer.
Building relationships with colleagues and learning from each other has been especially valuable during the Covid-19 crisis. The Arbor Community has been a great forum for schools and MATs to share their experiences and get advice on the best ways of working.
Over summer, as you prepare for Autumn, you’ll be able to use the Community to chat with colleagues from other schools and compare plans. You’re bound to meet someone who does the same role as you who can show you tips and tricks that you might not have thought of to save you even more time next Term.
We celebrated the positive impact of the Arbor Community at our first ever ArborFest event earlier this year. 100 School Leaders, Business Managers, Teachers and Admins using Arbor across the country came together for a fantastic day of demonstrations on topics across the school landscape – from assessment, to parental engagement, to running an effective school office.
To mark the success of ArborFest we put together a video of the highlights. We’re planning another virtual ArborFest in Autumn Term so keep an eye out!
Whether you need to complete essential admin tasks to get everything set up for September, or you want to give your staff training resources they can use in their own time, the support resources on our Help Centre and our expert Support Team are here whenever you need them.
*Between 24th July and 28th August our Support Team will be available 9am-12pm on Fridays.
If you’re new to Arbor, you can find out more about how a cloud-based MIS will help you run your school or MAT flexibly next term in a free online demo. Alternatively, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 050 1028.
Case Studies | School Operations
With planning arrangements and timetabling at the top of school leaders’ minds right now, we invited expert timetabler and curriculum planner Jan Hetherington to join our webinar series “Adapting to Change” to share her solutions for September. Jan is Vice Principal and Specialist Leader of Education for Curriculum Leadership at Wykham Park Academy, a secondary
With planning arrangements and timetabling at the top of school leaders’ minds right now, we invited expert timetabler and curriculum planner Jan Hetherington to join our webinar series “Adapting to Change” to share her solutions for September.
Jan is Vice Principal and Specialist Leader of Education for Curriculum Leadership at Wykham Park Academy, a secondary school which is part of the 15-school Aspirations Academies Trust. As well as developing the timetable for her school, she also coaches senior leaders across other trusts on how to create more effective timetables.
Jan shared with us some of the plans Wykham Park Academy is putting in place to keep students socially-distanced and to help maintain teaching and learning standards in September. She explained that above all, she wants to ensure that the new arrangements don’t sacrifice students’ full learning experience.
You can read Jan’s conversation with Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill below.
What I mean by that is students need a variety of rhythms across the school day and week to get the highest quality experience. The right timetable should put together the right groups of students with the right teachers. Every lesson slot has a currency; some are lower value than others, for example nobody wants Friday Period 5, or Monday Period 1. Staff need to appreciate that if they get any of those lower value slots, they’re going to have different pedagogical challenges. The timetable should also be suited to the age of the students. I worked once with a MAT which completely restructured their day based on teenage sleep patterns with a staggered day.
As we went into lockdown, we decided that KS3 would have four lessons a day – English, Maths, Science and Humanities – and Year 10&11’s would have five lessons a day. We didn’t synchronise these in the school timetable, we simply uploaded them onto Google Classroom. Our staff skill set has grown exponentially in terms of using online platforms. We had been using Google Classroom already for about a year for setting homework, but we’ve had to learn rapidly over the last few months how to use it for much more.
At first, when we didn’t know how long school closures would last, we wanted to keep a normal lesson format as far as possible. But after Half-Term, we shifted to project-based work for KS3. Year 10 moved away from new learning into consolidatary learning, and for Year 11 we put on four lessons a day only to support those students who were at risk of achieving a 4 or above.
The quality of pre-recorded teaching and learning was mixed at first, so we started to give live lessons to KS5. We chose not to do this for the rest of the school due in part to union advice, plus we wanted to protect staff given potential safeguarding issues and uncertainty around best practice. Instead teachers uploaded pre-recorded lessons – some with audio, some with video.
A key lesson was wrongly assuming that simply uploading a Powerpoint will do. We quickly realised that students need more support; they need a full learning experience with learning modelled by the teacher. For example, we started to use videos showing the teacher writing or demonstrating. It’s also important in pre-recorded lessons that the teacher still engages with the students personally, for instance calling out student names as though they were live in the classroom.
We’re going to use the same lesson timetable we would have used in the normal course of events. The location of lessons might change but the timings won’t. We’re also going to offer a full curriculum. This is because we want to keep things as normal as possible in terms of what is being taught in order to give students’ the richest experience possible. We worry that if they had only a “partial diet” they might easily disengage. We also don’t want to stagger lesson start and end times too much because this would lead to unsupervised time.
We’re going to split the student body into different physical zones, with their own entrance exit and toilets. On the Banbury Aspirations Campus (which contains an Academy, a Studio School and a Sixth Form), we have the unique advantage of a massive site with lots of different buildings housing lots of different specialist areas, so this makes it easier for us to keep students apart.
We’ve got the potential for three different entrances into the school site. Students will have their own route to their zone, and within the zones, they’ll be able to move around into new spaces in order to maintain a rich and varied school day. KS3 will be kept in a “bubble within a bubble”, having all their lessons in one classroom. They’ll only leave their zone as a class to do specialised activities like Drama. KS4 will be zoned as a Year Group “bubble” so all their lessons will be in that zone unless they move for specialist activities.
We’re going to have a reduced menu and students will place an order, then pick it up and go. We’ve got two dining room spaces and we’ll have staggered slots so two “bubbles” can use the room but be separated by time slots. We’re going to continue the breakfast clubs we run for disadvantaged students by keeping them in a “bubble” with each other.
We’re still waiting for advice from the Government on what “enhanced cleaning” means. In the meantime, Headteachers are looking at what pubs and restaurants are doing right now to inform our plans. IT and Food Tech rooms are tricky because they’re used by every Year group and they’re available to book. The plan is to timetable them so there’s at least one lesson period in-between usage so we can clean down surfaces before the next group of students. We’re also going to limit use of those rooms to practical lessons, keeping theory based lessons elsewhere. Cleaning is of course going to be a big expense. We’re looking to the trust to support with that.
Breaks are easier because students will use the outdoor spaces within their zones. We won’t be serving food at break, but students are welcome to bring their own break time food. We will be offering snacks and keeping an eye on known vulnerable students to make sure they are fed.
I’d recommend staggering lesson times and movement times. Also assess what size of “bubble” you’re comfortable with. Some schools I’ve heard of are doing Key Stage “bubbles” which can include 600 students! Some are using online platforms to teach different lessons to classes that stay in one room.
On his blog recently, James Duran gives a range of options for Teachers to consider to balance “catch-up” content and new material. We’re planning a parallel approach of new learning with some revision along the way. We’ll review the content and progress regularly, and define “threshold” concepts within the curriculum students need to understand to move forward.
We plan to make all lessons digitally accessible if needed, making use of the online platform skills staff have learned. We’ve found pre-recorded videos are not just convenient but have the additional benefit that students can pause and rewind which can actually help to reinforce learning. If there’s another lockdown, we’re going to commit to doing live digital lessons because we don’t want to sacrifice the face-to-face element again going forward.
We’re still working out our quality assurance processes. Some schools have been doing live lesson evaluations but we don’t want to do that. In September, we’ll first of all carry out an audit of the technology students have at home to avoid the situation we’ve had where 600 students had to have paper lesson packs because they couldn’t get online. We’ll also do a RAG rating so we’re taking into consideration student preference and learning style.
We’re going to put a digital learning policy in place so students know what we expect of them. In terms of teaching, we expect the same high quality as in the classroom. We want to maintain the learning structure we use normally, with a balance between guided practice and independent practice.
The structure will look like this:
1. Live guided practice: 15 mins or more (live or recorded) where teachers model what they want from students. We’ll encourage the use of audio for this, rather than video, because we know that audio doesn’t split students’ attention in the same way video can
2. Live Q&A and dialogue, encouraging peer interactivity,
3. Independent offline practice, then students upload the work they’ve achieved
We also want to encourage a variety of different learning experiences (e.g. app-based and flip learning). In terms of assessment, we’re still working this out and looking into a system that allows live online assessment. We’ll definitely be including low stakes testing (e.g. using Kahoot). We’re also looking into functionality which allows students to put their work up on the screen rather than asking the teacher to come over and have a look.
If you look at the research after the 2011 earthquake and lockdown in New Zealand, it showed that students did better than expected when they returned. John Hattie (2020) says rather than focusing on “gaps” and content students have “missed”, you should focus rather on what students actually need.
In this vein, we’re not expecting the new arrangements to have a huge effect on students because they’re going to be in a group that’s good for their learning and they’ll be with the right teacher. The sequence of learning may change over the year but they’ll achieve it all by the end of the year.
If you’re new to Arbor, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email email@example.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.
During Covid-19 and partial school closures, schools have been adjusting their timetables, rules and plans along with rapidly changing DfE guidance. Since there’s now more clarity from the Government about the return to school in September, it’s a little easier to put plans in place for the new Term. There are a lot of things
During Covid-19 and partial school closures, schools have been adjusting their timetables, rules and plans along with rapidly changing DfE guidance. Since there’s now more clarity from the Government about the return to school in September, it’s a little easier to put plans in place for the new Term.
There are a lot of things to consider when planning for September – from how to create a “bubble” timetable, to helping students catch up on lost learning, to drawing up your new school improvement plan.
With the help of some of the schools, trusts and education experts we work with, we’ve put together a list of six key things you should think about to help you get everything in place for Autumn:
1. Have you planned for different scenarios?
2. Can you quickly adapt if new DfE guidance comes out?
3. Can you communicate easily with your school community?
4. How are you going to support your students and staff?
5. Have you got good online learning tools?
6. Have you set up your systems for next Year?
Let’s break that down…
When you’re writing risk assessments, you should consider a few different scenarios that could happen in September, and make sure you’ve got the resources and policies in place to cope. A we’ve all learned from the past few months, the Covid-19 situation can change suddenly, so you should build flexibility into your plans.
Take a look at this useful example of a “Covid-19 Exit Strategy” document that Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, has helpfully shared with us. It outlines various risks, such as the rate of infection rising or large numbers of students having to work from home, and how the trust would address each of them.
Once you’ve planned for lots of different scenarios, you should also make sure your systems can adapt and support you if the DfE suddenly introduces new guidelines. For example, could you quickly gather key attendance or demographic information to report to the DfE? Could you quickly adjust your timetable if a local lockdown was introduced in your area? Could your staff access the student information they need from home?
In Arbor, you can log all attendance and absence on your Covid-19 dashboard, and access all the data you need wherever you’re working. You’ll also have key stats to hand, such as everyone who is expected in school that day, and you can directly follow up with any parents/guardians if you need to. Arbor also takes the hassle out of planning staff rotas, creating flexible timetables and arranging classroom layouts for social distancing.
Want more support in creating your September timetable? Join our webinar today (Thurs 9th) at 2pm “Structuring your schools’ timetable: what you need to know as a trust leader for Autumn Term” with Jan Hetherington, Vice-Principal at Wykham Park Academy.
Once you’ve planned your new timetable and daily logistics, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got a cost-effective communications system that can cope with all the various updates you’ll need to send out to parents, staff and students. You might also want to think about innovative and uplifting communications you can send out to motivate your community. We found this great example from Hackney Primary using videos to show students what school will look like when they return.
In Arbor MIS, you can send emails, texts and Arbor App messages (which are great to share updates with parents directly on their phone) from wherever you are in the system. You can also share information on the Parent Portal or Student Portal that parents and students can log in and see. Check out our top 3 tips for keeping in touch with your school community.
As students and staff return from six months of partial lockdown, it’s going to be tricky to adjust to the “new school normal”. We’ve seen school and MAT leaders bringing wellbeing to the top of their agendas recently, by introducing things like “Wellbeing Days” and appointing new members of Pastoral staff. You can read here how Dan Morrow, CEO at Woodland Academy Trust, nurtures his staff wellbeing.
When planning how to look out for your most vulnerable families and staff members, bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category may include more people now as situations have changed. In Arbor, you can quickly produce reports on key demographic groups such as children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers at school and MAT level.
With students coming to school in “bubbles”, you may need to continue a blended approach of face-to-face and remote teaching. During partial school closures, online learning has taken lots of different forms, some using systems like Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to set assignments and hold video lessons. But depending on the technology students had at home and how prepared schools were, remote education has had varying degrees of success.
Think about what you can learn from this Term and how you can improve your online provision going forward. As The Harris Federation found, it’s a challenge to measure the effectiveness of online learning by just looking at quantitative data, like the number of lessons or assignments. Instead, try gathering feedback from staff and students on how they’ve found remote learning so you can see where to make improvements.
You should also make sure your staff are confident using online teaching tools. Did you know the Government is offering a grant for support with Office 365 and G Suite? Find out more info here.
Before the Summer Holidays, it’s vital to set up your statutory enrollment information, calendar, courses and assessments in your Management Information System (MIS), so your staff can hit the ground running in the new Term. In Arbor, we have a dedicated section in the system which walks you through the steps you need to complete so Arbor can get everything ready for you when you return.
Don’t forget, over summer you can access all our free support resources in the Help Centre if you want a refresher on parts of the system before September. If you’d like to arrange any training for new members of staff, get in touch with your Account Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the last few months, we’ve welcomed over 250 schools and MATs to Arbor who we’ve onboarded, migrated and trained 100% remotely. Most of these schools chose to move to Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to replace their server-based system which was preventing them from managing their schools remotely, and meant they weren’t able to
Over the last few months, we’ve welcomed over 250 schools and MATs to Arbor who we’ve onboarded, migrated and trained 100% remotely. Most of these schools chose to move to Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to replace their server-based system which was preventing them from managing their schools remotely, and meant they weren’t able to adapt to the new DfE guidelines quickly.
We use a simple, personalised process to move your data to Arbor and to get staff ready to use the system confidently, with expert guidance every step of the way. If you’d like to see a brochure about the support we offer from signing with Arbor and throughout your journey, leave your details here and we’ll send you a copy.
Rather than take our word for it, it’s often most helpful to hear how real schools and MATs have found the experience. Recently we caught up with the team at Woodland Academy Trust, a Primary MAT in Bexley and North Kent, who have moved to Arbor during lockdown.
You can read our conversation below with Dan Morrow (CEO) Sue Ashton (COO and Deputy CEO) and Yvonne Bruce (School Business Manager).
Our MAT Programme Manager Joanna has been very supportive and approachable from the start. She and her colleague Kate have ensured that we have been on target in the run up to the data migration, with regular calls being made to our Arbor Champions and School Business Lead.
There was a level of nervous excitement during our Discovery Day. Being a SIMS user for so many years, it was difficult feeling 100% about moving to a new system. Again, Joanna was very supportive and explained each step from the Trust & School’s priorities, operational priorities, module role out, training and data migration, going live and third party applications, ensuring that we understood the information we needed to provide.
The Discovery Day was very useful as it allowed us to really look into the applications we were using, and to look at the key successes and challenges we were currently facing when it came to deciding on which applications to migrate over.
The migration was very smooth and lived up to the expectation I had from the seminar I attended, when other users assured me that this process was seamless. The response from other members of our team has been that they were able to find the answer to their queries through your help page and only needed to speak to a trainer on very rare occasions.
Whilst this is clearly a structured process, there was some clear anxiety from our executives and data users over it. The security and assuredness of the project framing from Arbor’s side ensured that these could be addressed and the actual delivery was without any issue whatsoever.
The training has been very thorough and relevant to our needs. The trainers have made their way through the areas at a good pace for everyone on the call to take in and understand. They have each encouraged questions and answers after every section to make sure that everyone on the call understands what has been said. The recording of the training sessions has allowed us to reach out to other members of staff to review.
In a number of our sessions we have had different groups of staff with different focuses and areas of interest. The training has meant that the universal concepts can be delivered and that more bespoke training is then brokered and arranged as needed. The clear respect for people’s time and the subsequent thought and care put into the whole training programme has been a clear win, as it’s meant that our whole team have then engaged with the training.
The response from our Office and Business Management teams across the Trust has been very positive; with comments that Arbor is easy to navigate, especially around reports and is a far superior system to what we were using previously. Setting up the new academic year has also had positive responses; with many of the team saying the step-by-step guide was the easiest they’ve come across, that it’s quick and time-saving and the ability to save as you go has ensured confident use of the system.
The permissions around business roles has taken some getting used to as not all roles in Arbor have the permissions for the business roles we are used to, but again, your help centre has been on hand to show that we can add ad hoc permissions to specific roles.
I would say this has been the perfect time to move! Firstly, It has allowed more personnel to sit on training sessions than perhaps would have been possible under normal circumstances.
Equally, to have a positive change project that has been so well scoped and framed has given us a boost to be able to “control the controllable” and see robust and rigorous systems introduced to further underpin the care that our children and communities deserve.
The news bulletins from Arbor have been helpful with regards to tips for setting up the new academic year and the attendance information required by the DfE.
It has provided a “blank page” to reconsider the way we collect, store, monitor and report our information and at a time when we are looking to reimagine as well as return within education, the timing has been far from a threat; it’s a golden opportunity.
If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help you manage your school or trust flexibly next Term, you can book a free online demo or contact email@example.com. You can also reach us on 0208 050 1028.
Arbor’s solution for larger and more complex schools and MATs When you’re running a large school or MAT, you’re dealing with lots of data. Your setup and the way you work is quite complex and you probably do things a bit differently, with behaviour workflows and assessment frameworks that are unique to you. To
When you’re running a large school or MAT, you’re dealing with lots of data. Your setup and the way you work is quite complex and you probably do things a bit differently, with behaviour workflows and assessment frameworks that are unique to you.
To keep on top of everything, you need smart, joined-up systems that give you central control of all your student and staff information – and help you really understand and report on your data. Plus, with limited time in your day, if you come across any technical issues, you need to get a quick solution from a technical expert who understands how you work.
At Arbor, we’ve designed our Management Information System (MIS) for schools and trusts of all shapes and sizes. As a MAT leader or Headteacher, you have oversight of what’s going on across your organisation, and can jump in if you need to.
As schools and MATs have grown in size and complexity over the past few years, we’ve been building out our product and support to help you deal with the challenges of scale.
That’s why today we’re excited to announce Arbor Enterprise – a brand new feature that’s launching soon, packed full of powerful integrations and advanced data customisation tools, perfect for schools and trusts that are large, complex or want more control of their setup.
Arbor Enterprise will help you simplify your system setup and speed up logins across your organisation. You’ll also have the tools to learn even more from your data – with reports on how staff are working in Arbor, and customisable report templates to use in Microsoft Power BI.
We’ve also created a new support package to give you a direct line to a dedicated expert. With Advanced Support, you’ll be able to speak to a Success Analyst who knows your set-up intimately so they’ll be able to get to the bottom of any technical issues you have faster, and give you tailored solutions.
Your Success Analyst will also give you deeper, focused support with your complex workflows like exams setup or data analysis in 1on1 webinars and in-person Support Days. Plus, they’ll save you valuable time by setting up automatic reports for you with exactly the information you need to see regularly, such as a weekly attendance report.
Arbor Enterprise and Advanced Support will be available in Autumn Term 2020. If you’d like to learn more, join the waiting list and be the first to hear when we launch!
To find out more about Arbor MIS for schools and Group MIS for MATs, you can arrange a free online demo here with one of our team. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data and Insight
As you begin strategic planning for Autumn Term, you may want to dig into your data from the last three years in order to shape your new improvement plan. Arbor’s out-of-the-box dashboards make this easy, helping you quickly access meaningful data so you can make the best decisions. You can drill down into key attendance,
As you begin strategic planning for Autumn Term, you may want to dig into your data from the last three years in order to shape your new improvement plan. Arbor’s out-of-the-box dashboards make this easy, helping you quickly access meaningful data so you can make the best decisions. You can drill down into key attendance, behaviour and attainment metrics and easily spot useful patterns, all without the need for any special training (and no need for a complex setup process!).
We’ve been working with schools and MATs recently who want to customise how they analyse and visualise their data even further using BI (Business Intelligence) tools, such as Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Excel. We make it easy to export your Arbor data securely into BI tools if you want to, so you can dig even deeper into your student measures.
Using BI tools are great for:
So what does using BI look like in practice as a MAT? Andrew Mackereth, Arbor Senior Partnership Manager, caught up with Empower Trust in Shropshire about how they created a custom dashboard in Google Sheets using their Arbor data. Find out why they wanted to create it and how they built it in five easy steps below.
1. Share information with the Board
As the Board of Trustees is accountable for the performance of the Multi-Academy Trust and its Academies, a key issue for Ian Nurser, Empower’s CEO, was to provide them with a breadth of accurate, timely information across a range of key performance indicators (KPIs). This would allow the Board to understand the trust’s strengths and development issues, assess progress and review future risks and priorities.
Pulling everything into a single live dashboard would give the Board a single source of truth. At each meeting, the data would automatically refresh, updating the current picture, or monthly/termly trends at the same time.
2. Make sure everyone has the same information
It was important to Empower that the CEO, the Trust School Improvement Officers and local governing bodies (LGBs) had access to the same Academy-level information to allow them to question, support and appropriately challenge Academy leaders to build on their strengths and continually improve.
3. Bring together a range of live data sources
Empower wanted to bring together real-time information across a broad range of KPIs including attainment and progress for all year groups, pupil attendance, exclusions, SEND, safeguarding and staff absence (as an indicator of staff wellbeing). Using Google Sheets would enable the reports to automatically update as each Academy entered data.
As well as providing real-time information, they wanted to increase efficiency and save leadership time by compiling the content for their termly CEO and Headteacher reports to Trustees and LGBs automatically. They also wanted this information to be available to other groups of Trust and Academy staff such as SENCos and EWOs, so they could better monitor SEND, attendance, staff wellbeing, etc.
Empower took the following steps to plan and build their Google Sheets dashboard:
1. Agree the data they want it to show
2. Find the sources of the data
3. Plan the structure of the dashboard
4. Export the data they want from Arbor
5. The dashboard is ready and will refresh automatically!
The main process involved in creating a dashboard in Google Sheets is exporting data sets from Arbor using “Live Feeds”. Empower pulled the majority of their data from the data tables in Arbor and the other information (such as the number of days of absence caused by holiday) using Arbor’s unique Custom Report Writer.
For each data set (table) they wanted to export from Arbor, they created a “Live Feed” for it, then inserted it into their custom dashboard using the Google Sheets add-on. Then they selected the graph type they wanted to use to illustrate the data (like the bar chart below).
It’s important to be confident that your data is safe when you export it out of your MIS. That’s why in Arbor you can add authentication to your “Live Feeds”. This means that anyone accessing your new custom dashboard (whichever BI tool you create it in) must enter a password. You can also track when each Feed was last accessed. Read more about how Arbor keeps your data secure here.
To find out more about how to explore BI tools with your Arbor data, join our free webinar next Tuesday (7th July) at 11am. In this 45-minute session, we’ll show you how to get the most insight from your school data, both within Arbor MIS and using Power BI. Former Middle Leader at a secondary school and now Arbor’s Lead Product Manager Stephen Higgins will be joined by two data experts – Ed Cadwallader, School Improvement Consultant, and Mark Hodges, Education Systems Manager at Cantium Business Solutions.
There’ll be plenty of time for questions of our three panellists.
Click here to sign up for your free place – hope to see you there!
Data and Insight | MAT Operations
Where do you look for data analysis across your trust? How do you pull this data together? What tools will you have to make informed decisions next year without 2019/20 performance data? Although 2019/20 Analyse School Performance (ASP) data won’t be coming out for any schools in Autumn Term, the government is advising schools and
Where do you look for data analysis across your trust? How do you pull this data together? What tools will you have to make informed decisions next year without 2019/20 performance data?
Although 2019/20 Analyse School Performance (ASP) data won’t be coming out for any schools in Autumn Term, the government is advising schools and trusts to use the last three years of performance data to build improvement plans.
In our webinar last week, with guest speaker Loic Menzies, Chief Executive of The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), we showed you how you can use the benchmarking and performance analysis in your free Arbor Insight portal to help you inform your strategy for next year. You can catch up on the webinar on YouTube:
Arbor Insight gives you out-of-the-box, MAT-level dashboards which aggregate your academies’ latest performance data and benchmark your MAT against national and Top Quintile averages. The dashboards show multi-year trends, which are really important for forming next Academic Year improvement strategies.
You can also drill down to see how individual schools, demographic groups or particular clusters of schools are affecting results. You can also remove schools from your analysis to see how that changes your overall performance.
Also available in your Arbor Insight portal is your trust’s personalised Understanding Your MAT Report, which gives you a unique picture of the contextual factors affecting your trust’s performance, like local area demographics and pupil characteristics.
Access your free Arbor Insight portal here
We have some very exciting webinars for MAT leaders coming up in the next few weeks. Click the links below to sign up for your free space:
Friday 3rd July, 3.30pm
MAT Centralisation vs School Autonomy during Covid-19
Kate Davies, CEO of the 13 school White Woods Primary Academy Trust, will discuss how she is bringing together a group of autonomous schools.
Friday 10th July, 11am
How to look after your most vulnerable students during and after Covid-19
Angela Ransbury, CEO of The Raedwald Trust will discuss how the parameters of education have changed, and the ways in which we fulfilled our teaching and caring commitments before Covid-19 are no longer fit for purpose. She’ll explain what mainstream schools can learn from AP, and how changing and adapting now will help Teachers, pupils and guardians in September.
To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you future-proof your school during Covid-19 and beyond, book an online demo. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email email@example.com.
Schools have had to adapt how they operate at a rapid pace over the last few months, and change isn’t always easy, particularly for a large, complex school or MAT (we’ve written on this subject before). As schools begin to look forward to September, flexibility and adaptability will continue to be part of life. Like
Schools have had to adapt how they operate at a rapid pace over the last few months, and change isn’t always easy, particularly for a large, complex school or MAT (we’ve written on this subject before).
As schools begin to look forward to September, flexibility and adaptability will continue to be part of life. Like many schools, you might be considering switching to cloud-based systems so you can manage your school more flexibly next Term.
Whatever change you’re considering, Arbor’s Partnership Manager, Mark Maitland, has some advice below for how a change in mindset can help you make change a success.
Over the past fifteen years, I’ve been helping individuals, schools and companies work through change. I started out in my career as a Teacher in special needs before moving into psychotherapy and change psychology. When faced with new ways of working, behaviour and new technology, I’ve seen people react in lots of different ways, some finding it more difficult than others.
I was once worked with GP practices to help them change to a new cloud-based system which would free up GP time and improve patient safety. Even when they could see the benefits, staff were reluctant to change their ways of working because it was what they were used to.
This “fear” of change is hardwired in our brain from the past when change was dangerous. Nowadays, when we face a change, our brain’s first reaction is to hesitate! It’s a very emotional reaction to protect ourselves and play it safe. Familiarity is a comfort.
In times of national crises like the pandemic we’re living through right now, two things happen. Society looks to retreat and wait for a return to normal. Then, once we get over the initial shock and accept that “normal” isn’t returning as quickly as we hoped, we begin to reflect and think about what we might do differently in future.
I’ve definitely noticed a shift in mindset from some of the schools I’ve been speaking to since Covid-19 began. Before the pandemic, the demands of normal school life would often get in the way and make staff less open to changing how they’d always done things. They were fearful of yet another burden on their time, and a potential threat to them being able to do their jobs properly.
What we’re seeing more of now is School Leaders stepping back, reflecting on lessons they’ve learned over the last few months, and looking at changes they can make to prepare themselves for the future.
At the top of their minds is asking themselves if the systems they have in place can cope with flexible ways of working going forward.
A crisis can often clarify our minds and allow us to make practical decisions in order to get through. Switching systems like your MIS (Management Information System) during such a busy and challenging time might feel too daunting, but lots of schools have found that by finding something that’s within their control that will help them deal better with the crisis can feel really positive.
At Arbor, we believe you should be able to rely on your tech when you’re pulled in lots of different directions. But if you’re still using a legacy, server-based MIS, you’ll find it difficult to run your school flexibly next term.
Our cloud-based MIS lets you run your school however you need to, giving all your staff the student information they need wherever they are. In Arbor, you can easily plan your rotas, set up flexible timetables, log and manage attendance and keep track of vulnerable students easily with in-built reports.
Read about how both Hoyland Common Academy Trust and LEO Academy Trust moved to Arbor during lockdown, along with more than 225 schools since March!
To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you future-proof your school during Covid-19 and beyond, join one of our free webinars or book an online demo. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve been working hand in hand with schools and MATs to help them to adapt to partial school closures and the recent wider opening to some year groups during the Covid-19 outbreak. Because Arbor is cloud-based, staff can continue to access all the student information they need to do their daily tasks remotely, without worrying
We’ve been working hand in hand with schools and MATs to help them to adapt to partial school closures and the recent wider opening to some year groups during the Covid-19 outbreak. Because Arbor is cloud-based, staff can continue to access all the student information they need to do their daily tasks remotely, without worrying about having a VPN or patches.
There’s lots of uncertainty about what school life will look like in September. Schools don’t know how many students will be on-site or what social distancing arrangements will be in place. What they do know is they’ll need to prepare for lots of different outcomes.
Trying to plan flexible arrangements in September is difficult if you’re still relying on a server-based MIS. That’s why lots of schools are switching to a reliable cloud-based system which will allow them to manage their school flexibly over the next few months.
Over 225 schools have moved to Arbor since March. Here are three reasons why moving to the cloud now will help you manage your school during Covid-19 and beyond:
There’s likely to be more challenges to come in September, so you need a school system that automates your essential daily admin and frees you up to focus on supporting your students and staff.
Whether all students come back, or you have split-populations, Arbor’s cloud-based MIS will allow you to easily plan your rotas and set up flexible timetables. You’ll be able to log and manage attendance from wherever you are, plus track key demographic groups such as children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers easily with in-built reports.
Having a cloud-based MIS in place makes it easy to adapt to rapid changes in regulation, like socially distanced timetabling, new attendance and absence codes or key worker status. This is because whatever the DfE introduces, Arbor can update within 24 hours, meaning you can keep on top of new requirements from the next day. No more patches or workarounds!
With staff working in different ways, and in different locations, their jobs are much more difficult if they have to come into school to access the information they need. That’s where a cloud-based MIS like Arbor comes in, which gives staff all the student data they need wherever they are.
Having instant access to data about the children in your school also reduces the safety risk. Staff can see immediately if something doesn’t look right and follow up immediately with their Teacher or parent directly from the same page. No more switching systems or downloading contact lists! You’ll find more tips for keeping in touch with your school community here.
In our latest webinar for MAT leaders, we were joined by Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation. In our previous blog, we explained Harris’s unique approach to IT and how they were able to enable remote learning for their 36,000+ students when the Covid-19 crisis hit. In
In our latest webinar for MAT leaders, we were joined by Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation. In our previous blog, we explained Harris’s unique approach to IT and how they were able to enable remote learning for their 36,000+ students when the Covid-19 crisis hit.
In this blog, Derek and Andy share how they analysed their data across the trust using Microsoft Power BI, so they could measure how well students and staff were engaging with the online learning tools they’d put in place.
Once remote lessons got underway at The Harris Federation, questions soon arose around how it was all going; how many Teachers and students were engaging and what the quality of the interactions were. It was easy for Teachers to get insights about their classes from Microsoft Teams, but it was difficult to get useful information at a departmental, academy or trust level. To combat this, the IT team developed reports using Power BI to analyse usage data across the trust.
Below is a standard Power BI template they used to see all trust digital activity over a period of time, such as where users were logging in from and which files they were accessing. This was useful as it meant they could look at huge quantities of log data (10 million rows a day) during lockdown.
This image shows a different report they used to look at log information showing all online student activity. This allowed them to easily see the peaks and troughs over time, which helped them identify anyone they should follow up with.
The below report showed them usage of systems during the Covid-19 period. Office 365 is orange, SharePoint is pink, OneDrive is grey, purple is Teams and yellow is Exchange (email) (not many students).
They could see that in March, there was a big increase in email use as students and staff needed to communicate more than ever before, but Teams soon overtook email as remote lessons became regular. Use of Onedrive dropped, potentially because students and Teachers were storing and accessing assignment files within Teams instead.
They also used Power BI to get important demographic information for safeguarding purposes. They also had to keep Governors and the Board of Trustees up-to-date with stats such as attendance.
Covid-19 has drawn attention to just how important having a strong IT infrastructure has been for teams across Harris. It has allowed the IT team to continue business as usual for the large part, and respond to the huge number of data requests they’ve received during lockdown.
Though they’ve been able to learn a lot about the quantity of their online learning data, e.g. the peaks and troughs of usage, which parts of the system were being used and by whom, but what they haven’t been able to analyse is the quality of what was actually going on in the classroom.
We’d be interested to know how and what you’ve learned from your online learning data at your school or trust, and the lessons you’ll take forward as you continue with a blended learning approach. Post a comment here or on the Arbor Community forum.
You’re invited to join us for the next webinar in our “Adapting to Change” series tomorrow (Friday 19th) where we’ll be demonstrating how to use benchmarking and performance analysis to drive smart strategy at your trust. Sign up for free with the link below.
Friday June 19th 2020, 11:00am
Using Arbor’s benchmarking and performance analysis to inform data-driven decisions for your trust
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Over the past few months, in our webinar series “Adapting to Change”, we’ve been speaking to leaders of Multi-Academy Trusts about how they’ve been adapting to lockdown. Recently we invited Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation – a trust of 48 academies in London and Essex –
Over the past few months, in our webinar series “Adapting to Change”, we’ve been speaking to leaders of Multi-Academy Trusts about how they’ve been adapting to lockdown.
Recently we invited Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director from The Harris Federation – a trust of 48 academies in London and Essex – to talk about how they rolled out an online learning programme for their 36,000+ students.
They explained how when Covid-19 hit, their flexible, cloud-based setup allowed them to quickly and easily give all students access to online education, which would not have been possible using a legacy, server based system. You can read more below about Harris’s unique IT approach and how they responded to Covid-19.
Check out our next blog to find out how they analysed their online learning data!
With 4,500 staff and 36,000 students across primary and secondary, Harris uses a centralised and standardised IT set-up designed to give everyone the same experience across the trust.
The focus of Derek and Andy’s roles is making IT work for everyone across the trust with systems that are as efficient and cost effective as possible.
The key principles of their IT approach are:
The IT team at Harris manages data centrally through a combination of their own data warehouse and cloud-based systems. They created a data warehouse so that they could hold all their MIS (Management Information System) data on premises and develop systems on top of it.
Using a data warehouse also means that when they bring in a new system, for example Microsoft Teams, it can set up user accounts for all students and staff automatically. Admin Staff simply add the student names, then the data warehouse puts them into the right groups, saving the central IT team time.
Whenever they design new systems or processes, Derek and Andy ensure they can be used across all academies. They want to make sure all staff and students have the same technology options at their fingertips. At the same time, it’s also important to give Teachers the freedom to use digital tools in a way that suits the particular lesson they’re giving. For this reason, the IT team doesn’t advise that staff teach in a certain way, or use a certain VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) such as Google Classroom. From experience, without top-level buy in from trust leadership, initiatives like these are rarely successful.
Harris uses Microsoft systems across the trust which are set up to communicate with their data warehouse. These are some of the key parts of the puzzle that help the systems interact:
As schools began to close and remote working became necessary, Harris was able to respond quickly, using lessons they’d learned from a recent snow day. On that day, phone lines couldn’t cope, staff ran out of SMS credits and the web connection crashed. They therefore had already solved these issues, and increased their supply of laptops for students and staff to take home when Covid-19 hit.
Setting up remote teaching and learning was also a smooth transition because staff were already using Microsoft Teams and Show My Homework to record lessons and set assignments. The only difference was that staff had to adjust to doing much more on Teams such as leading live lessons. The IT team also needed to set up lots more users on Teams – in March alone they set up 20, 000 accounts which took two weeks as Microsoft struggled to cope!
Click here to see the four steps the IT team took to set up users on Microsoft Teams using their data warehouse
Although they were smooth to set up, remote lessons brought some challenges. IT worked quickly with Teachers to adapt the ways students interacted with Microsoft Teams. For example:
Check out our next blog to find out what Harris has learned about their online learning programme from analysing their data in Microsoft Power BI.
During our webinar series “Adapting to Change”, we’ve been hearing from lots of Multi-Academy Trust leaders about how they’ve shifted their strategy to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, shared how he’s looking out for staff wellbeing, whilst Mark Greatrex, CEO of Bellevue Place Education Trust, spoke about the
During our webinar series “Adapting to Change”, we’ve been hearing from lots of Multi-Academy Trust leaders about how they’ve shifted their strategy to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, shared how he’s looking out for staff wellbeing, whilst Mark Greatrex, CEO of Bellevue Place Education Trust, spoke about the balance between school autonomy and trust centralisation, and Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust shared some lessons for leaders in a global crisis.
Our latest speaker in our Adapting to Change series, LEO Academy Trust gave a brilliant talk about how they’ve rolled out cloud-based technology and consolidated their systems across their trust. They shared how they had to rapidly step up their rollout as the Covid-19 crisis began to kick in. They also explained some of the ways Arbor’s cloud-based MIS has helped them work flexibly during lockdown since they moved in March.
LEO’s Director of Technology (Learning) Graham Macaulay and Chief Operations Officer Nicky Gillhespy shared some great advice for fellow MAT leaders, particularly if you’re planning on updating your trust’s digital strategy in light of the demands of Covid-19.
We’ve summarised their talk below – we hope it gives you some useful tips to take back to your trust when thinking about how to manage the coming weeks and months.
Our Trust is built up of six academies, 3550 students, 415 members of staff across seven sites, but we wanted to bring in one digital strategy which drives our use of technology across the board. It was really important to us that we aligned all our key stakeholders in a clear direction before thinking about how we would actually roll out new systems.
When we began planning our new digital strategy in September 2017, we had five challenges we needed to overcome before moving forward:
To solve these problems, we had two options. The first was to carry on doing what we’d always done and “fill the holes and paint over” so that on the surface everything looked like it was working. This would have been the easy option, as it would involve no new staff training, no new risks, costs or demands on staff time.
Option two was to innovate and think differently. We had to realise that the world was massively changing and that we as an organisation needed to embrace that change. Sometimes the quick wins don’t always produce the best outcomes in the long term.
Defining what we wanted to achieve
The digital vision has to come from the top and you have to have the support of the Trust Board. You also have to have input from various different groups. The key to our success was setting up Digital Working Parties with key stakeholders from across the trust, including Trustees, the CEO, the CFO, COO and Director of Technology. We asked key questions such as “What do we want out of the system?”, “What do we need?” and “What are we doing now that we could do better?” Then we tasked the IT and Technology departments to devise new solutions. Having input from every single area within our trust helped to manage knock-on effects of initiatives and make sure they worked for everyone.
Planning is essential
During the journey, there have been highs where we’ve made progress and delivered change, but of course, there have also been challenges along the way. We learned quickly that the key to success, as with any change management project, was setting essential milestones along the way. Then as the plan began to change, we could default back to our core objectives in order to manage expectations.
We spent a lot of time thinking about long-term development, for example the sort of organisation we wanted to be and the opportunities we wanted to provide to our staff and pupils. But we also needed to deliver short-term projects where staff could see the benefits immediately. What was important was to position these “quick wins” within the longer term direction.
Communicating the strategy
We initially took a “dissemination approach” to communicating the changes to staff. Centrally, we communicated in the Digital Working Party, then Headteachers and Principals passed on the message to their teams. We reflect now that this process could have been improved because it meant those messages weren’t always delivered on time or accurately, and this generated a feeling of hearsay between schools. It would have been better if we’d have taken on some of that responsibility centrally.
Changing mindsets and empowering staff
We wanted to ensure that every staff member had the core skill set they needed to make the changes we were putting in place. We therefore spent almost a whole academic year preparing support materials for staff and delivering CPD on everything from beginner’s Google, to creating forms, to managing files.
Running a staff development programme was essential to making the digital project a success. And this work is ongoing – as we evolve our digital strategy, we will regularly review our provision for our staff and their capabilities, and change the way we deliver our CPD accordingly.
Although most staff have adapted to the new technology we’ve introduced, there was some reluctance and fear of change. We found the most important thing was to build their confidence. Our Office Staff have enormous skill and so we asked them why they liked working in certain ways so we could make sure our new ideas suited them and made their workload easier. By encouraging them to take part in our Digital Working Parties, and demonstrating their particular skills, they started to flourish.
The impact of technology on teaching and learning
Since we moved to the cloud, we’ve been able to change our pedagogy and the way we deliver teaching and learning. We’re running a programme to provide all KS2 children with a Chromebook to use in school and to take home. This has enabled us to move from a passive approach where teachers talk and children do an activity, to having a lot more strategies that enhance the teaching and learning. Pupil engagement has rocketed as a result.
We’re also really proud that one of our schools has become a Google for Education Reference School which means they regularly host visitors from around the world to look at the impact that technology is having on pupil experiences and outcomes.
Supporting remote learning
During these unusual times, we’ve used technology to maintain a sense of normality as much as possible. One of the ways we’ve supported teaching and learning has been through setting up a simple Google website for schools to upload activities. The vision was to provide fun opportunities for children and help families support their children with their education from home. The site is massively helping not just our children, but children across the world, with around 15,000 visitors every day!
We’ve also set up Google Hangouts for our classes, as well as sessions for our “Digital Leader” pupils with speakers from Google and Adobe sharing words of wisdom and ideas for how they can develop their computing knowledge. We’re also holding virtual discos with staff acting as DJs which we’re streaming live.
We moved to Arbor on 16th March – midway through the start of the Covid-19 crisis – but the timing worked out perfectly. Moving to a cloud-based MIS meant that our Office Staff could do all of their admin work at home. From the operations side we have been able to continue business as usual since the crisis hit, since all of our payments and orders could continue, and we could set up staff to work from home easily.
Moving to the cloud has changed how we work for the better and put us in a really strong position, especially for the demands of distance learning. From one computer we can access all areas across the trust, such as the MIS, our data stores and our finance systems. As soon as we decided to close our schools, we created a form to find out from pupils and staff whether they had access to a device or the Internet at home. We then made sure that every pupil and member of staff went home with a web-based device.
Look out for more webinars with MAT leaders in our series “Adapting to Change”. You can also check out our Summer schedule of webinars all about how to manage your school or MAT flexibly with a cloud-based MIS. With sessions specific to primaries, secondaries and MATs, and managing assessments, meals and payments, and more, find the session that’s right for you and book here. See you online soon!
Just before half term, lots of schools joined us for a webinar hosted by The ONTO Group all about designing a new school timetable in line with social distancing. It was a great opportunity for schools to discuss the challenges of their settings with timetabling experts and MIS providers. Lots of important practical and technical
Just before half term, lots of schools joined us for a webinar hosted by The ONTO Group all about designing a new school timetable in line with social distancing. It was a great opportunity for schools to discuss the challenges of their settings with timetabling experts and MIS providers. Lots of important practical and technical questions were raised, including “How could I split my school into two populations?” and “How can we keep students separate when they arrive and depart from school?” TimeTabler had some useful advice that you can find on our blog.
Since then, the conversation has continued on Facebook, with school leaders sharing the solutions they’ve found. You’ll find some great example timetables that members have shared in the “files” section on the page.
With schools now starting to open up to more year groups, the questions now are “How are you putting your new timetable into practice?” and “What is working well and what have been the challenges?”
To discuss all this and more, join us for another free panel discussion next Tuesday (9th June) in partnership with The ONTO Group and with contributions from Edval and TimeTabler. Sign up for free here to join fellow Timetablers and School Leaders and share best practice.
The main topic we’ll be discussing is “Should you put your new timetable into your MIS?” The answer to this will look very different depending on your school setting. We’ll dig into this in the webinar, but beforehand we’ve put together some of the things you can think about to help you make the right call for your school:
If you’re using Arbor MIS, you can find all our guidance on how to set up your new groups and classes, and complete your New School Year Setup on our Help Centre. You’ll find everything we’re doing to support schools during Covid-19 here. You can also discuss with fellow Arbor schools on the Arbor Community.
As we all know, schools have had to rapidly change the way they work in the last few months – adjusting their processes to meet the needs of children and families in and out of school. In turn, IT teams that support schools have also had to change the way they operate. At Arbor we’re
As we all know, schools have had to rapidly change the way they work in the last few months – adjusting their processes to meet the needs of children and families in and out of school. In turn, IT teams that support schools have also had to change the way they operate.
At Arbor we’re proud to work in partnership with more than 30 IT teams across the country, who collectively support thousands of schools. Teaming up with support partners means we can give schools freedom and flexibility so they can get the support that’s right for them.
Over the past weeks, we caught up with some of our support teams (Agilisys in Sefton, ICT Schools Team in Buckinghamshire, Cantium in Kent, HertsForLearning in Hertfordshire, iCT4 in Cornwall, and Orbis in East Sussex) to get their perspectives on the challenges schools are facing and how they’re helping.
We thought we’d share this insight into what’s being going on behind the scenes. Look out for links to some useful blogs and webinars to support you with wider school opening.
Up and down the country, our partners have been working hard to help schools get used to a new way of working, whilst dealing with working remotely themselves. For many it’s been the busiest period they can remember, with teams pulling together despite, as Richard May from Orbis puts it, having “relocated to a variety of spare rooms and kitchen tables”, and as Sheryl Everett from Buckinghamshire Council adds, with the companionship of “pets, offspring and partners.”
Whether putting their own business continuity plans into action, or reacting quickly to help schools with the latest government guidelines, it’s been a time of constant adaptation for our partners. They’ve moved their usual consultancy services online and redesigned their summer training programmes so they can deliver them digitally. However, it has been important to the majority of teams to provide continuity and business as usual as far as possible. Maintaining familiar working patterns has not only been vital for schools, but it has been helpful for IT teams too, as they adapt to the new climate.
For the first few weeks of lockdown, the biggest challenge for our partners was to make sure schools who didn’t have cloud-based systems (for example, if their MIS was server-based) could access the data they needed and get work done. This often meant many hours of work setting up remote access to locally hosted servers via VPNs. One of the most important focuses has been helping schools work securely without their normal networks.
Find out all about the new government grant that could save you thousands on tech support with your G Suite or Office 365 setup – and our Support Partners who could help you – on our blog.
Partners were also busy guiding schools through the rapidly changing government advice. The team at Cantium, for example, pulled together a dedicated resources page where schools could find all the information they needed on Covid-19 in one place.
Find all the support you can get from Arbor during Covid-19 here.
When plans were announced to open schools to more year groups from 1st June, partners began helping schools think about how to design a timetable that keeps students and staff safe. We attended a webinar hosted by The ONTO Group, EdVal Timetables and TimeTabler on how to adapt your timetable for social distancing. Check out our top tips from TimeTabler in our guest blog.
Join us for our next webinar all about timetabling on Tuesday 9th June when we’ll be sharing examples from schools of how to embed your new timetable. Sign up for free here.
More recently, the focus has switched to supporting online learning, helping schools through daily blogs such as those provided by Herts for Learning, or webinars on a range of distance learning topics and getting schools up-and-running with O365 or G-Suite. The team at iCT4 for example, have been running daily Q&A sessions on Microsoft Teams.
Richard Martin from London Grid for Learning (LGfL) wrote a guest blog for us recently with advice for schools on how to manage teaching and learning remotely, including links to digital training for staff.
Join us for a free webinar all about how to manage online learning on Friday 12th June. Derek Hills, Head of Data and Andy Meighen, IT Director at Harris Federation will be sharing how they rolled out their online learning to over 36,000 pupils during lockdown, and what they’ve learned from looking at the data from remote learning. Sign up for free here.
As we look to the future and the gradual extended opening of schools, our partners will continue to have an important role to play in both supporting schools with the technology and the pedagogy for a more blended learning approach. If we’ve learnt one thing from the current crisis, it’s that we can all operate effectively more remotely. Whilst our partners (like all of us) can’t wait to get back to a more normal way of working, elements of online training and service delivery will be here to stay.
If you’re an IT Support Team, School or MAT and you want to find out more about Arbor MIS get in touch at email@example.com, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028.
Arbor Updates | Data and Insight
See your trust in a new light with our new free report Often serving a broad range of pupils from different backgrounds, and sometimes varying geographical areas, a big priority for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) is ensuring their spread of provision gives every pupil an equal chance of success. There are lots of factors that play
Often serving a broad range of pupils from different backgrounds, and sometimes varying geographical areas, a big priority for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) is ensuring their spread of provision gives every pupil an equal chance of success.
There are lots of factors that play a part in how pupils perform, such as where they live, whether they’re eligible for free school meals (FSM), or have special educational needs (SEN). As a DfE official warns that the attainment gap for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds could widen by 75% as a result of Covid-19, it’s more important than ever for trusts to look at their school performance in context. The problem is, it’s not always easy to gather all this data in one place without trawling online data tables or waiting on spreadsheets.
That’s why we’ve launched a brand new free report for MAT leaders – the “Understanding Your MAT Report”. Created for every MAT in the country, the report helps you understand your unique make-up in a national context, so you can shape smart strategy going forwards.
Designed in partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth, the Understanding Your MAT Report brings together your schools’ key performance measures, alongside your MAT’s size and local demographics, to help you understand your unique set of strengths and challenges. What’s more, the report shows you how your MAT compares to other trusts nationally for the first time.
Your Understanding Your MAT Report is live now for you to download from your free Arbor Group Insight portal (our benchmarking tool for MATs)! If you don’t have an account yet, sign up here for free.
What can you do with the new Understanding Your MAT Report?
We use your schools’ latest validated 2019 Analyse School Performance (ASP) data to show you your spread of performance in key measures at KS4, 2 and 1, such as Progress 8, Achieving Expected Standard: Reading, Writing and Maths, and Working at the Expected Standard: Year 1 Phonics.
Then we compare your results against three key benchmarks: Trust average (the weighted average of all your schools’ results), National average (weighted average of all state schools in England) and National MAT average (weighted average of all academies in England) to help you see what makes your MAT distinctive.
Plus, you can use your report as a companion to your free Arbor Group Insight portal, where you can dig further into any data set to see pupil level figures.
Image 1 – KS4 Progress 8 score, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020
You might be wondering “Is my MAT growing at the same pace as other trusts?” Or “Is our proportion of students eligible for Free School Meals higher or lower than other trusts?” The Understanding Your MAT Report will help you answer all these questions and more, showing you how your unique make-up compares to other trusts in the country.
You’ll get an overview of your MAT’s size, growth, blend of phases, pupil characteristics (% of FSM, SEN and EAL pupils), as well as the “Area Type” your schools are in, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) area classifications. The report also shows you the demographic factors associated with the areas your schools are in (such as the level of education and the unemployment rate) which helps you understand your pupils’ socio-economic background.
Image 2 – Area Type Blend, Understanding Your MAT Report 2020
By bringing together your demographics, pupil context and school attainment, your Understanding Your MAT Report will help you understand all the factors impacting achievement at your MAT. As you’ll see from the report’s leading article “Breaking the link: Attainment, poverty and rural schools” (preview here), the relationship between disadvantage and attainment varies considerably between different parts of England, so it’s important for trusts to understand how this plays out across their mix of schools.
Use this analysis to drive decision making at your next strategy meeting, and find new ways to improve results for staff and pupils.
Your Understanding Your MAT Report is live now for you to download from your Arbor Group Insight portal – we’ve also sent the link to you by email. If you’re not registered, don’t worry, you can sign up for free here.
If you have any questions about your report, or if you’d like one of our team to show you around Group Insight, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 050 1028.
In our webinar series for MAT leaders “Adapting to Change”, we recently heard from Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, who shared his strategies for leading his trust through the challenges of Covid-19. Mark had some really useful advice for fellow MAT leaders around how having strong foundations through your strategic plan,
In our webinar series for MAT leaders “Adapting to Change”, we recently heard from Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, who shared his strategies for leading his trust through the challenges of Covid-19.
Mark had some really useful advice for fellow MAT leaders around how having strong foundations through your strategic plan, business continuity plan and risk registers, as well as a strong set of digital tools, can help you pivot flexibly in a crisis. Most importantly, Mark highlighted the need for realism and compassion for staff.
As you’re planning your exit strategy from the current Covid-19 crisis, you might find it helpful to take a look at Mark’s planning document which he kindly shared with us. As you’ll see, the document addresses key risk scenarios and outlines the trust’s response, with space for the individual schools to complete their responses. Click here to download the PDF.
We’ve summarised Mark’s conversation with Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill below.
How well prepared were you for the Covid-19 crisis?
I don’t think anyone was prepared for what has happened, but what we benefited from is we have a clear strategic plan, business continuity plan and risk register which gives us a strong backbone and allows us to adapt and flex when external events occur.
We also pride ourselves on having an adaptive culture at the trust. We recognise that we don’t always have all the answers, but that it’s more important to share best practice, collaborate, and be open to admitting when we’re doing something wrong. This allows us to change direction fast.
How did you adapt to the crisis?
Earlier in the year, we had already experienced a large challenge – we went through 7 Ofsted inspections over a period of 10 weeks – which forced us to adapt quickly. This served as a test in some ways for what was to come with Covid-19 and we were able to learn important lessons so we could easily switch to a new rhythm of working.
Given our schools are spread over quite a wide geographical area, we made sure above all that we worked tightly as a Central Team and that we set a clear direction. It was important that we were responsive in relaying information as soon and as clearly as possible to schools, and that we were accessible for whatever schools needed.
What have you learned about being responsive in a crisis?
The speed at which we’ve adapted to ensure emergency provision has shown us just how much potential we have for change. It’s also proven to us the importance of building into our strategic planning a focus on people more than process. We know staff will continue to feel vulnerable sometimes going forward and we believe taking a compassionate approach and prioritising wellbeing is really important.
When you return to more normal operations, how will your “people over process” approach change the way you work?
Putting people first is a difficult thing to measure and be certain about, but there are some concrete measures we can put in place. For example, we’ve seen that easy-to-use shared IT systems like Office 365 take a lot of burden away from staff and can help them feel connected. We also try to gauge how staff are doing through sending out digital forms and bringing representative groups of staff together to discuss certain issues. We aim to use the feedback we get from staff to build into our policy making going forward. A big emphasis across the trust is also social and personal development.
How do you monitor wellbeing when working remotely?
A big focus of ours as a Central Team is looking after our Headteachers. Our Academy Improvement Team members have each taken responsibility for a group of Heads who they meet with every week using Microsoft Teams (video chat). Every meeting starts with questions about their wellbeing – it’s been important for us to understand all the different struggles Heads are dealing with at the moment, such as spouses who are key workers or having children at home. We’re learning a lot, and fast, about how to sense how staff are doing from their body language and tone over video. Many of the tensions Heateachers found with staff at the beginning involved miscommunications over email, so we’ve actively encouraged video chat to bring a personal approach.
Keeping regular lines of communication has also been really important. We’ve converted our monthly bulletins to weekly bulletins focused on wellbeing, in order to make sure everyone has access to helpful resources.
How has your leadership style changed during Covid-19?
The most challenging thing we’ve faced as a Central Team has been working remotely and not being physically in each school. Whilst my natural leadership style is collaborative and approachable, this has been essential to emphasise even more, making Headteachers aware I’m here if they need.
Of course, we’ve been direct and interventionist where it was necessary. For example, we felt it was important to bring some schools together into hubs so that we had greater control of emergency provision and more staff could shield, despite some resistance from Headteachers.
How have you been using tech to adapt?
Because we’ve invested quite considerably in digital tools over the last two years, we didn’t have to suddenly bring on lots of new systems to cope with remote working. This crisis has shown us the real value of having systems like Arbor’s cloud-based MIS and Office 365 in place to rely on. It’s meant we can share data within and between schools easily, and communicate with parents using tools staff are comfortable using already. Some of our schools weren’t using some of the communications features before the crisis, but Arbor switched these on swiftly for us.
We’ve also seen the benefit of Arbor in our financial management during the crisis. We were able to set up our own Free School Meal voucher scheme and get all the data we needed from Arbor.
Setting up students on Microsoft Teams has also made a lot of impact. Going forward, we’re going to ensure everyone has access to a remote learning platform.
Has this crisis challenged your expectations on how quickly you can implement change?
It’s shown us the importance of being clear about what we all need to do together and what will have the most impact. It’s given us conviction and belief to step into changes more boldly in future.
What are your future plans?
Having learned from this current situation, we’re going to be cautious about making too many plans going forward. Being able to adapt is much more important. We’ve got to be realistic about what can be achieved over the next year, given schools will need time to recover.
In terms of planning towards wider school opening, we’re trying to make neutral decisions by weighing up the polarised spread of views out there. We’ve put together a risk assessment and planning document for our exit from the Covid-19 situation* which outlines key questions and issues, and the trust responses to each of them. It also provides space for schools to add their responses.
* You can download Mark’s “Risk Assessment: Planning for Exit from COVID-19 Emergency Period” document here.
What are your key takeaways from the Covid-19 crisis?
I hope we will all go forward with a greater appreciation for what we have and more compassion for each other. I have been incredibly impressed with everything our staff have achieved and will not forget it.
As a Central Team, we will aim to take collective responsibility for who we are as a trust and move forward with a strong moral compass.
You may have seen that the Government has introduced a new grant that schools can apply for to get support to use digital learning platforms G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education. This is a great opportunity for schools – especially at a time when you’re having to manage at least some of your
You may have seen that the Government has introduced a new grant that schools can apply for to get support to use digital learning platforms G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education. This is a great opportunity for schools – especially at a time when you’re having to manage at least some of your lessons, and your staff and students, remotely.
At Arbor, we believe that you should be able to lean on digital tools to pick up the slack when you find yourself pulled in lots of different directions. That’s why we’ve designed our cloud-based MIS (Management Information System) to allow schools to work flexibly – with access to all your data, the ability to follow up with vulnerable students, plan staff rotas and communicate with your school community – wherever you’re working from.
Arbor MIS integrates with G Suite and Office 365, which means all your students, staff and classes will be automatically set up in your online learning platform – so you can get on with teaching.
The new government grant will help you get started with G Suite or Office 365 with free technical support and project management. We’ve summarised below everything you need to know about the grant:
Here’s the breakdown …
1. What’s the deal?
Although G-suite and Office 365 are already free for educational settings, you’ll need technical support and project management to get set up. This is where the grant comes in. To migrate all of your teaching and learning resources to the cloud you’d normally have to pay a supplier £1-2,000, but qualifying for this grant means the DfE will effectively pay the supplier on your behalf.
2. How much is the grant?
Up to £1000 per school for a Multi-Academy Trust (capped at £10k per trust), £1,500 for an individual primary school or £2,000 for an individual secondary school.
3. Who can access the grant?
The grant is available to both Local Authority maintained schools and Academies, but not to independent schools.
4. How do I sign up?
First of all, we’d recommend doing some research into the digital platforms available to make sure you choose the right one for your school or trust. Speak to other schools, your IT provider or your Local Authority, and read advice from The Key in partnership with the DfE.
Next, you’ll need to choose a supplier who will work with you to migrate your data and set up your new platform. Only certain companies are part of the scheme, so it’s worth checking first whether your local IT partner is involved, and if not, whether they could recommend another supplier. See below for a list of Arbor partners who are on the scheme!
Once you’re ready to go ahead, you can apply using these links:
Some level of remote working looks set to be part of the “new normal” going forward for schools, so this grant is a great opportunity to review your technology and make sure you have a reliable set-up in place for the future.
In an earlier blog, we wrote about how carrying out a systems audit at your school can help you identify where you could cut down on systems to work more efficiently and save money in the long run. Moving to a cloud-based MIS means you can complete all your daily admin tasks and access all your data from one place, rather than all over the place.
The same principle is true for how you manage your online teaching and learning. Choosing a cloud-based platform, like G Suite and Office 365, allows you to access your curriculum resources in one central place, wherever you’re working. They also open up exciting possibilities for more efficient, collaborative working.
Here’s just a few things you can do on G Suite or Office 365:
What’s more, when both your MIS and your learning platform are cloud-based, this frees you from having to have a server at your school, saving you thousands of pounds in maintenance and replacement costs. Working on the cloud also secures your data making you less at risk of losing your information. You can read more here about how Arbor keeps your data secure.
Having an MIS and digital learning platform that you can rely on is great, but the next step to working even more efficiently and saving your staff more time is when all your systems can communicate seamlessly with each other.
That’s why Arbor has integrated with G Suite and Office 365. You’ll have all your student data from Arbor at your fingertips when you’re giving your remote lessons.
Here are some of the benefits of syncing Arbor with G Suite / Office 365:
We work with IT support teams up and down the country who support our schools to get set up on Arbor, and any other technical issues they have. Many of our partners are part of the new government G Suite / Office 365 scheme, so they come highly recommended from us to help you manage your move to one of these platforms.
See below for a list of our trusted partners on the scheme, and the support they offer. Feel free to get in touch to hear more about how you could work together to get your digital learning platform up and running.
Can support you with: G Suite and Arbor MIS
“Training teachers is the key to success with digital learning and a big part of what Vitalize deliver to schools throughout the UK. We have found that schools that invest in training and have a clear digital learning strategy achieve the most impact from deploying cloud learning platforms. It is great to see the positive impact in a short space of time that Google for Education can provide schools with. This will not only help schools now, but provide the basis of a digital strategy for the future.”
Can support you with: G Suite
“123ICT Computing Solutions specialise in working with primary schools to develop their digital education platform and our team of education consultants have trained and supported hundreds of teachers over the past few weeks. With our support and training, many schools have adapted well to the current situation and are now providing a reliable, engaging and easy to use digital education platform enabling daily lessons and activities to be delivered remotely.”
Can support you with: G Suite and Office 365
“Computeam were delighted to be part of this new DfE scheme to level-up digital learning in England. While Covid-19 has been the trigger, we believe the benefits of cloud-based teaching and learning will extend well into the future. As both a Google and Microsoft partner, Computeam can offer deep expertise in either platform. We can also extend the initial service by offering enhanced training and MIS integration to drive benefits from these technologies after the crisis has passed.”
“As a certified Google Partner with over 30 years’ experience within the education sector, we are delighted to be part of this joint initiative with Google and the DfE. Our EdTech Team are a fountain of knowledge and we pride ourselves on our ability to deliver new ways of improving on-premise or cloud learning which should be seamless, collaborative and engaging.”
Badger Computer Services
“Remote learning is not going away and digital platforms are the tools for schools to empower teaching and learning and connect with your students. The DfE funding is available for a finite time and our view is that we should be doing everything we can to ensure schools can continue to support our children’s futures and wellbeing even when away from the physical classroom.”
Turn IT on
Can support you with: G Suite, Office 365 and Arbor MIS
“Our mission at Turn IT on is to enable schools to get the most from their technology – and the last few weeks have shown that tech is an absolutely critical part of any school environment, whether in lockdown or “normal times”. This DfE initiative is a fantastic opportunity for schools, both in the short and longer term. Turn IT on is delighted to have been chosen to partner by both Google and Microsoft and we are looking forward to helping schools all over the UK take advantage of this great opportunity.”
Herts for Learning
Can support you with: G Suite
“The Covid emergency has required a re-engineering of the education system overnight and the schools that were able to adapt fastest were those that had already adopted digital classroom offerings. At HfL, we believe that successful implementation is just as much about the process of change management with staff and students as it is about technology and this is at the very heart of our approach when we work with schools.”
“During this challenging time, technology is crucial. At JTRS, we’ve been working hard to help schools achieve distance learning – we created a Distance Learning Resource Centre for parents, and we’re excited to be part of this DfE scheme to help schools who do not yet have a digital platform like G-Suite for Education. We can help you check if you’re eligible for the funding and apply for it, as well as implementing G-Suite for your school quickly.”
“Joskos has been working closely with the DfE on the platform provisioning programme, which will support schools as they look to leverage the ever growing world of SaaS based EdTech solutions. The scheme will proactively support schools as they start to bring some students in, whilst others remain working at home. We believe that the programme is a positive step forward in making sure that every young person can continue to access learning.”
Other Arbor partners on the scheme and what they can support you with:
Once you’ve started your school’s cloud journey with G Suite or Office 365, the next step is to think about your MIS. The Arbor team is here to help with any questions you have about how your school could make an easy move to be fully cloud-based today. Get in touch email@example.com or call 0208 050 1028.
Preview of the new Understanding Your MAT Report – special article In partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), we’ve created a new free report for MATs across the country – the Understanding Your MAT Report – to help you see your trust in a new light. Built especially for your trust, your
In partnership with the Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), we’ve created a new free report for MATs across the country – the Understanding Your MAT Report – to help you see your trust in a new light.
Built especially for your trust, your report brings together key measures like your schools’ ASP performance statistics, alongside your MAT’s size and local demographics, to help you understand the unique makeup of your trust compared to others in England.
The report is out soon but you can sign up to our waiting list to get early access to your report now!
As a preview, we wanted to share with you the leading article from the report, written by Loic Menzies, CEO of The CfEY. The article introduces you to the contextual analysis the report gives you and the kinds of conversations your report might bring up in your next strategy meeting.
To find out about what’s included in the Understanding Your MAT Report, check out our blog.
by Loic Menzies
The relationship between disadvantage and attainment varies considerably between different parts of England. Combining datasets shows that poverty has a particularly pernicious effect on educational attainment in some area-types, particularly the rural areas shown in green, below.
Free School Meals aren’t the only ingredient
In recent years there has been increasing recognition that the relationship between deprivation and educational achievement is not as simple as we once thought. Researchers like Simon Burgess have shown that the interaction between disadvantage and ethnicity / migration status, for example, is often underestimated.
At LKMco we’ve had a longstanding interest in ONS area classifIcations (see “The Two Kingstons – what FSM does and doesn’t tell us” and “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner”). These classifications combine a range of characteristics of different areas, including industrial and employment data; demographics and qualification levels.
Combining these classifications with school data reveals striking differences between patterns of school performance in different area types.
Affluent England and London in the lead (surprise, surprise)
At the most basic level, we see that area types differ considerably in their attainment and deprivation levels.
Areas described as “Affluent England” achieve most highly, but “London Cosmopolitan” and “Ethnically Diverse Cosmopolitan” areas are not far behind – despite having two or three-times the same level of deprivation.
However, once we plot FSM levels against attainment, the results get considerably more interesting – and the worrying situation in rural schools is revealed.
A variable picture
Firstly, notice how, apart from a small cluster of very-low-deprivation, very-high-attainment schools on the far left, pink dots dominate the top of the distribution. These represent “ethnically diverse cosmopolitan” areas (most of which are in Greater London). This shows that regardless of their deprivation levels, pupils tend to do best in these areas. Meanwhile, red dots are concentrated in the top right-hand corner. These represent high-achieving, high-deprivation central-London schools.
How strong is the link between deprivation and attainment…? It depends on the area
Switching our attention to the trend lines and R-squared values (representing the strength of the relationship between poverty and attainment), we see that the angle of the lines differs considerably – as does the strength of the correlation, even though all eight correlations are significant.
Notably, in rural areas the relationship between poverty and educational outcomes is particularly strong. So although pupils in rural schools with low deprivation attain highly, schools in deprived areas are really struggling.
It seems that rural schools have particular difficulty breaking the link between poverty and low pupil attainment.
What about pupil progress?
Switching the measure to pupil progress paints an even starker picture of pupil outcomes in disadvantaged rural schools.
In general, the relationship between FSM and Progress is much weaker than when looking at attainment (r squared values of <0.2 in most area types).
This is unsurprising, since how well pupils achieve at KS2 (which is taken into account in Progress 8), already depends a lot on their deprivation level.
However, in rural schools, we find that a moderate relationship returns. It therefore seems that low attainment in rural, high-deprivation secondary schools is not just about pupils having low starting points. Instead, there is an important link between school deprivation level and progress rates.
Why is pupil progress in disadvantaged secondary schools worse in rural schools than in other parts of the country?
When considering how to break the link between poverty and education outcomes, it is crucial to take a nuanced view of poverty. Geography, demographics and community/economic context play a critical role in moderating the relationship between poverty and educational outcomes.
Studies of the factors affecting schools in different area types are therefore urgently needed, since these would help schools understand how best to respond to their circumstances.
Key factors to explore could include:
Find out more about this analysis in Schools Week.
Loic Menzies is Director of The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY). He specialises in education policy and research, youth development and social enterprise. He was previously a tutor for Canterbury Christ Church’s Faculty of Education, an Associate Senior Manager and Head of History and Social Sciences at St. George’s R.C. School in North West London and a youth worker. He has authored numerous high profile reports and works with policy makers to communicate the implications of research, for example presenting to the Education Select Committee on White Working Class Underachievement or presenting to civil servants on teacher recruitment, retention and development. He is currently editing CfEY’s first book with Routledge entitled ‘Young People on the Margins’.
For descriptions of all the area types in England, as defined by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), take a look at the ONS website.
Spring Term has brought a great deal of change for schools and trusts, with staff having to quickly adapt to every new challenge and requirement that came their way. As we move into Summer Term, change is set to be the new normal, and we’ll have to keep adapting in lots of new ways. Since
Spring Term has brought a great deal of change for schools and trusts, with staff having to quickly adapt to every new challenge and requirement that came their way. As we move into Summer Term, change is set to be the new normal, and we’ll have to keep adapting in lots of new ways.
Since partial school closures were announced, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with schools to build out our MIS (Management Information System) to ensure schools can continue to run flexibly. Because we can move schools to Arbor 100% remotely, lots of schools have taken this opportunity to get up and running on our cloud-based MIS to help them access the information they need wherever they are.
As experts in school operations and data, with many former teachers in the Arbor team, we’ve been sharing practical support and guidance over the last few months, designed to help schools adapt. In case you missed anything, we’ve put together a round-up below so you have one handy guide to managing your school flexibly.
1. Using Arbor MIS to manage your school remotely
2. Expert guidance on key topics on our blog
3. Advice from schools and MATs in our webinars
4. Hear from the Arbor Community
Here’s how to find everything …
We’re firm believers that you should be able to lean on tools like your MIS to pick up the slack when you find yourself pulled in lots of different directions. Arbor takes the hassle out of important tasks like following up with vulnerable children, planning staff rotas, and communicating with your students and parents, wherever you’re working from. Plus, we’re making updates every day to make sure you’re covering all the new government requirements.
Here’s a list of some of the features we’ve developed to help you manage your school or MAT during Covid-19:
You can find more detailed guidance and all the support you need from the dedicated Covid-19 page on our Help Centre. Don’t forget, our Support Team is always there for you on the phone, email and web chat.
Find out about the government grant you can apply for to get support with setting up G Suite or Office 365 at your school or trust on our blog.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been blogging about some of the top priorities for school leaders right now – from keeping in touch with students and parents, to nurturing staff wellbeing. We’ve gathered advice from across the Arbor team, guest experts, and schools and MATs in our network, designed to give some practical tips on how to adapt to change – whatever your role.
Check out the topics that interest you below, there’ll be more to come! Look out for links to useful resources in the blogs if you want to learn more.
From the Arbor team:
From guest experts:
From schools and MATs:
We’ve also been learning a lot from listening to our schools and how they’re coping during lockdown, and the strategies leaders have put in place. We’ve been asking questions like “How do you plan for change, support your students, and manage staff wellbeing when you’re working remotely?” and “How do you keep adapting as new guidance comes out?”
We’re running two free webinar series that have been really popular:
If you’d like to listen to the recording of any of our past webinars, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Across our network of schools and MATs, we’ve seen some inspiring responses to an extremely challenging situation, with schools finding new and innovative ways to connect with their students. English Martyrs Catholic Primary School were straight out of the gate with their virtual PE lessons, as were LEO Academy Trust with their distance wellbeing sessions. Hoyland Common Academy Trust have been promoting mental health awareness and Avanti Schools Trust have been offering free yoga sessions!
As staff and students are working in totally new ways, it’s more important than ever to reach out and connect. When we shared some of our work-from-home stations and morning routines on Twitter, we were pleased to discover lots of our schools also wanted to share their creative ways to make the most of lockdown.
In what continues to be a difficult period, the Arbor team is always here to help and support where we can. We wanted to share a few pieces of feedback we’ve got lately from schools and partner organisations that we’re really proud of.
“Arbor’s been pretty essential to the distance learning program here and I’m confident we have a system that is really strong. We log daily checks with our students and have been able to use this to get to the stage where we can say we have contact with 100% of our students every day.”
Phil Jones, Head of Academy Services at Pool Academy
As a school we could not have accomplished half of what we have with our previous MIS. Arbor’s cloud based MIS has not only allowed remote working within what is a challenging, time sensitive period; but also given the exact information required without the need for additional query templates to be set up.”
Simon Brown, Headteacher at, Blaydon West Primary
“It’s refreshing to know that Arbor listen to what schools need and respond so quickly and also that priorities change depending on the current situation.”
Susan Scott, Education ICT, Bradford Metropolitan District Council
“We wouldn’t have known what to do without Arbor this week, it’s been an absolute godsend being able to access school info from the Group and all the other inbuilt reports we can access, as well as accessing remotely!”
Vicky Harrison, COO at Hoyland Common Academy Trust
“We just don’t know how we have managed before we had Arbor. We are all in this together and should ensure people know how much we appreciate Arbor helping us get through this difficult time.”
Jackie Blaikie, Bursar at Acresfield Primary School
“I’ve found it great to be able to use Arbor while working at home. I’ve sent instructions for parents about how to resolve issues with students logging into Show My Homework and how the students can access their school email accounts from home.”
Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead CE Academy
We’re moving schools to Arbor every day, 100% remotely. If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help you manage your school or remotely and flexibly, get in touch at email@example.com or call 0208 050 1028.
Mark Greatrex has had a rich history in education; having held senior positions in three academy trusts and serving ten years at the DfE, his current position is CEO at Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET), where he’s been for five years. BPET is geographically spread out, made up of eight primary schools in eight different
Mark Greatrex has had a rich history in education; having held senior positions in three academy trusts and serving ten years at the DfE, his current position is CEO at Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET), where he’s been for five years. BPET is geographically spread out, made up of eight primary schools in eight different Local Authority regions across London and Berkshire.
Mark joined us for a brilliant webinar in our series “Adapting to change”, where he shared with fellow MAT leaders his strategies for leading a geographically dispersed trust, and how these strategies play out during the challenges of Covid-19.
You can read Mark’s conversation with Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill, below. Here’s a quick summary of the three main strategic areas Mark talked about:
We’re very passionate about the breadth of provision we offer. We want the children to leave having real independence and confidence. Not only is the curriculum broad, but it’s delivered in an exciting, engaging and purposeful way.
The most important thing for us is educational autonomy. We create the culture of the organisation centrally, and do have some policies that are approved centrally, such as safeguarding, first aid, health & safety and HR. But all our educational policies are approved at a local level.
In the autonomy model, the role of the Headteacher is key. I’ve wanted to make sure that they have full ownership of everything that goes on in the institution they lead. It’s the middle leaders and the Teachers too, who are the engine room of the school. They own the curriculum content and the delivery of it. Because we serve schools across a diverse group of affluent and not so affluent areas, the curriculum needs to meet the needs of the local community that we serve.
The first thing I did as the CEO was put a very strong Headteacher performance management policy in place so that I can properly hold them to account, and that the metrics are shared and understood across the organisation. If we are pushing accountability, we need to reward so our Headteachers are eligible for discretionary bonuses every year of 2-8%.
Headteacher objectives and targets are linked to our trust goals: Learn, enjoy, succeed.
We make five two-day visits a year to review each of our schools. In the visits, we look at the school development plan, the safeguarding audit. The essential element is the learning review where we look at a particular piece of teaching and learning.
Our review cycle is modelled on “C.O.D.E.” (Challenge, Ownership, Dialogue and Engagement). Each school chooses one area to be reviewed on each year. For example, under “Ownership”, we review childrens’ engagement in their own learning. This drives a powerful teaching and learning conversation within our schools. I wouldn’t recommend doing the whole Ofsted review cycle, because if the Central Team has got leadership right, and we’ve got teaching and learning right in schools, everything else will fall into place.
Systems like Arbor MIS and Civica (our finance system) are invaluable to us as a Multi-Academy Trust, as they make those conversations a lot more focused. Five years ago, when I was going into schools with school improvement advisors, we’d spend a whole hour just trying to agree on a figure. Now we can immediately identify where the challenges are, for example persistent absences or behavioural issues. Arbor and Civia take us to the right places to focus our discussions and move the schools forward at pace.
As part of our school improvement strategy, we produce performance reports every term that are similar to the “school on a page” reports that some trusts use. These are two-page reports with RAG ratings covering attainment, quality of teaching and learning, leadership, attendance, safeguarding, behaviour, resources, staffing and engagement with the community. These consistent documents share the dialogue and increase visibility and accountability, bringing everyone into the conversation of improvement.
As a Central Team, we then plan strategic improvement interventions. As David Blunkett said “Intervention should be in inverse proportion to success.” We believe the system is improved by working on our worst performing schools.
Depending on internal capacity, we sometimes commission organisations such as Local Authorities or expert private providers to do a piece of work with a clear scope e.g. improve attendance in one of our schools.
We’re lucky to have an “Enrichment fund” which we use for certain passion projects across our schools, such as “Philosophy for Children” staff training, or hiring a Maths advisor five days a year for each school.
Our CPD offer is critical. We’ve developed new Headship, Senior and Emerging Leaders programmes. We run one trust-wide INSET day a year in one of our schools, with about fifty one-hour taster sessions in different areas e.g. having courageous conversations with parents. These really drive enthusiasm and give staff tools and techniques they can take back to their schools. They’re also aimed to continue to fire their enthusiasm for teaching and learning.
We also make sure we do safeguarding every year for new staff or those who need a refresher. It’s possible to do things centrally but you can’t do it as often and you need to use remote formats. Going forward, we plan to do 4 out of 5 of our collaboration sessions per year virtually.
Where we give our schools educational autonomy, the opposite is true in terms of how we’re structured financially. By managing finances centrally, I want to invest funds in the schools that need it the most. That’s not to say we pool school funding. Each school retains their budgets based on the school funding letter.
We’ve set three key financial performance indicators:
1) No school will go into deficit. Those who are in deficit have a goal to be out by the end of the year
2) Staffing should be no greater than 75% of each school’s budget. This has allowed us to prioritise our numbers of staff
3) 95% of invoices should have a purchase order. We want to ensure a formalised process where all committed spend at school level is raised in our finance system (Civica) as a purchase order. We then process all invoices centrally in weekly payment run across all schools. This ensures all our suppliers are paid against their payment terms
Since 2011, the MAT market has been growing and evolving exponentially. The question of proximity was only really brought up by Lord Nash when he recommended an hour’s journey time between schools. Hopefully the way we support our schools will give confidence that distance doesn’t have to be a barrier, but we take responsibility for our growth, not only in numbers, but in geography, and work hard to make sure we don’t have any true outliers.
A management consultant once introduced to me the rule of “10, 40 100”. If you think of these proportions applied to an organisation – it could be the number of employees, or the turnover – organisations with 10, 40 and 100 need to be run in very different ways and probably need very different CEOs. In our case, we think of this in terms of number of schools. Our aim is to grow to 15 schools, but if we’re successful at 15 and the trustees want us to grow to 40, that will be a very different business model.
However, where operational alignment works well for 15 schools, the question is, is it scalable within the 10, 40, 100 rule? I don’t know. If we grow, Regional Directors and hubs might be an option. We could also split the Finance Director role into four hubs. What we’d have to think about, however, is how we’d bring those hubs together to maintain consistency.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been thrown into web calls; we use Zoom for all of our conversations with Headteachers. Normally, having a meeting with a school can take two hours out of everyone’s time, so doing them virtually is really powerful. I think having a blend of the Internet and meeting in person is important – Zoom is something the finance and operations teams use quite a lot anyway, and have been for a few years now. But you can’t deny the power of personal contact. I think we’ll always continue our physical meetings with Headteachers four times a year.
Look out for more webinars in our series “Adapting to Change”, where we’re interviewing MAT leaders about how they’re adapting to partial school closures and all the changes that are happening at the moment. You can catch up on one of our recent webinars with Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust all about “Nurturing Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing” here.
If you want to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help your trust work flexibly and remotely, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0208 050 1028. Or alternatively you can book a web demo here.
Over the last few months, schools have had to adapt to constant change, and keep their schools running without really knowing what the weeks ahead would hold. Although we still don’t have all the details, the latest Government plans suggest schools should prepare to partially reopen from 1st June, starting with Reception, Year 1, Year
Over the last few months, schools have had to adapt to constant change, and keep their schools running without really knowing what the weeks ahead would hold. Although we still don’t have all the details, the latest Government plans suggest schools should prepare to partially reopen from 1st June, starting with Reception, Year 1, Year 6, Year 10 and Year 12. A key question on everyone’s minds right now is how to design a school timetable that will adhere to social distancing and keep students and staff safe.
To help, our partners at TimeTabler have put together some practical advice on adapting your timetable for social distancing. Maggie, our Key Account Manager and former Timetable Manager at a secondary school, has summarised their advice below:
You’re also invited to join us in a webinar on Thursday at 3pm where we’ll be discussing timetabling in detail with our partners TimeTabler and The Onto Group. Click here to register!
If you just can’t get enough timetabling tips, you can read the full article on TimeTabler’s website. Otherwise, this blog should give you some food for thought.
1. Set different start and end times
Think about staggering your school start and end times to reduce contact in the school playground before and after school. This may seem straightforward, but bear in mind any implications for the local bus services, who may not be able to change their timetable. Instead of staggering by year group, you could even stagger by transport method, so that pupils who travel by bus arrive a little earlier or later than those whose parents drop them off in the car.
2. Set different break and lunch times
Spacing kids out at lunch might sound like a simple solution, but without careful planning it could mean that some staff end up going without a break. For example, if Mrs Jones teaches a Year 7 class before break and Year 10 class after break, but Year 7 now has a later break time than Year 10, Mrs Jones may have to go straight from one class to the next. (Note, if you’re using TimeTabler, you can use the ‘split-site’ feature to avoid this).
3. Limit group sizes by creating two school populations
As and when all year groups return to school, if social distancing is still a requirement, one option is to set a maximum group size (e.g. 15) so students can be spaced out in the classroom. However, in most schools, this would mean only 50% or less of the school population could be in school at a time, and therefore students would only receive 50% of their ‘normal’ teaching. In this case, schools could try splitting into two student populations and manage teacher coverage using a rota system.
Currently, the DfE is not expecting schools to introduce staggered returns or a rota systems, but without the ability to be flexible, many schools are concerned it will be impossible for them to follow social distancing guidelines.
If splitting your school into two populations is something you want to consider, we’ve put together some more detailed advice on this below.
There are two routes you might consider when splitting your student body:
Route 1: Split each teaching group within each Year in two
At Key Stages 1-3, it should be fairly easy to split each class in two as students are generally all taking the same subjects. However, you might want to consider how you split the teaching groups, for example to maintain friendship groups, or to separate antisocial or disruptive pairs. Equally, you might actually decide to break up friendship groups to cut down on social interaction before and after class.
However, at Key Stages 4 and 5, it’s likely to be more difficult to create two populations of equal size by dividing teaching groups. With students attending lots of different combinations of subjects, each with different class sizes, it would be near impossible to coordinate options to have only one population at school at one time (see ‘Staggering populations’ section below).
Route 2: Group Years to make populations
There are a number of different ways to do this, for example you might group Years 7, 9 and 11 into Population X and Years 8, 10, and 12/13 into Population Y. Alternatively, you might split by Key Stage – whatever makes the most sense for a balanced demand on specialist rooms, labs, equipment and so on. Note, with this option, individual teaching groups may still need to be split to stay within the size limit.
Once you’ve split your population in two, you then need to consider how to manage how to timetable them. For schools considering reopening on a rota basis, there are a few different ways you could approach this:
If you go for B or C, you should bear a few things in mind:
Whatever your approach, it’s also important to consider whether there are sufficient transport links to get all populations to school on time, and whether parents’ work schedules are able to adapt.
TimeTabler is a fast, friendly and reliable computer program used by schools & colleges in over 80 countries to schedule their timetables. Designed to reduce the manual work involved in timetabling, TimeTabler leaves you with more time to apply your professional skill and judgement where it’s needed, to produce a timetable of the highest quality.
TimeTabler’s founder Keith Johnson is also the author of the standard ‘bible’ on Timetabling: ‘The Timetabler’s CookBook, which has now helped thousands of beginners to learn the Art of Timetabling, and many experienced timetablers to understand it in even more depth.
The good news is that TimeTabler integrates with Arbor MIS to give you the best timetabling experience. Use TimeTabler to schedule your timetable, then simply import it into Arbor’s MIS, using our inbuilt Wizard that guides you through the steps. Once your timetable is imported, you can make any changes or tweaks you need to in Arbor, so you don’t have to keep going back and forth. What’s more, as a trusted TimeTabler partner, Arbor customers can receive a discount on their TimeTabler licence.
If you’d like to find out more on the topic of timetabling for social distancing, Arbor and TimeTabler are taking part in an online debate hosted by our partners The ONTO Group on Thursday 21st May at 3pm. Click here to register!
Because Arbor MIS is cloud-based, you and your staff can work from wherever you need to. Find out more about the ways Arbor can help you work remotely and flexibly in our free webinar series today – check out the schedule here. You can also get in touch to book a virtual demo with one of our team – simply email email@example.com or call 0208 050 1028.
LGfL (London Grid for Learning) is a not for profit organisation that provides secure internet connectivity and digital services to over 90% of London schools and many others nationwide. Special Projects Lead at LGFL, Richard Martin, has put together this blog with advice for schools on delivering remote teaching and learning during lockdown. Richard was
LGfL (London Grid for Learning) is a not for profit organisation that provides secure internet connectivity and digital services to over 90% of London schools and many others nationwide. Special Projects Lead at LGFL, Richard Martin, has put together this blog with advice for schools on delivering remote teaching and learning during lockdown. Richard was previously the CIO for the ARK academy group and Head of IT for the Girls’ Day School Trust. He is also a governor for a small primary school in Surrey.
The challenges presented to schools during the Covid-19 lockdown have been diverse and complex. In my role as the Special Projects Lead for LGfL, I get to speak to many schools directly and have regular contact with organisations who provide on-site technical support for schools through the LGFL Digital Transformation Partner Programme that I run.
This has brought to the fore real challenges for schools that go beyond traditional teaching in the classroom. I am aware of many school heads and school leaders spending their time delivering lunches to vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils and regularly checking in with families to help them through the crisis. Schools also stayed open during the Easter holidays to look after children of key workers.
The challenge to move to new ways of working and delivering remote teaching and learning provisions almost overnight introduces a level of organisational change that would break most large corporate organisations, let alone a small primary school! At LGfL we have been supporting our schools and the wider education community as best we can, and have set up a website – coronavirus.lgfl.net – to provide advice, guidance and useful links.
As someone who has been promoting the use of tech, especially cloud-based tech, in schools for years, I am aware of the vast differences in approach and progress with digital tools across the school community. Some schools have embedded technology in their organisation very positively, whereas others for many reasons have made slower progress. A small but not insignificant minority of school leaders just did not see that tech would add any value. This view has not been helped by a multitude of failed IT initiatives in schools that were poorly thought out, highly expensive with little or no thought given to teacher training and effective, sustainable ongoing support.
Unsurprisingly, what we have seen in the schools we are engaging with during lockdown, is that those who had already started down the road to the cloud were the ones who have had the greatest success in sharing online content, lessons and materials. Schools starting from scratch in the few weeks before lockdown have struggled. One large London academy group who had already invested heavily in setting up and providing training on Microsoft 365 were quickly able to expand operations, including setting up 25,000 MS Teams sites in the days after the announcement of lockdown.
Similar successes were had with Google G-Suite in schools such as Poverest Primary in Bromley who were quickly able to switch to online provision. Paul Haylock, the Deputy Headteacher, explains below what they have achieved during lockdown:
“As a school already set up with Google accounts for both staff and children, we found the transition to online learning very easy to do. Within those last two days of school we managed to be completely set up and ready for the Monday lessons. […]
All our teachers have become so much more confident using Google Classroom and now using many features they weren’t before. Using Google Meet we have had staff meetings and year group planning meetings. Teaching presentations sourced from a whole host of website-based companies are shared in the classroom for pupils and parents to read, tasks are also shared in the same way and blank documents (mainly docs and slides) are given to each pupil for them to share their learning. This is then remotely handed in and reviewed by the teachers. Those who can only access on phones and small devices read the information but complete learning on paper and upload photographs for the teachers to see.
Teachers are preparing work as year group teams and posting on the Google Classroom so that each new learning is posted at 9am each morning. This is done via a time stamp so learning for a whole week can be prepared at any time but only appears to the child at 9am each day.
As school leaders we are using Google Forms with our parents to identify when children are coming into school and what the weekly free school meal arrangements are for each family. This means we can staff the building with the minimum number of staff for the children we have in the building, helping our staff to work from home and isolate as much as possible.”
Paul Haylock was able to achieve this comprehensive provision because he had put in the groundwork previously and worked closely with an engaged and competent support partner. You can see more on how LGFL work with schools here.
Another challenge amplified by remote learning is digital connectivity for disadvantaged children at home and ensuring there’s a solution for pupils who do not have access to a device or whose only internet provision may be via a parent’s mobile phone. Upon request from the DFE, LGfL are looking to procure devices and provide a safe, secure route to the Internet for those that need it.
The Covid-19 outbreak has been a horrible time for everyone and a tragic loss of life both in the UK and around the world. What we once perceived as normal is unlikely to return for a very long time, if ever, but I hope that some positive change will come out of our experiences in the past few months.
This time will teach us the true power of tech – if staff have the right support, tech can free them up and help them to adapt. If implemented in the right way, tech can improve and transform the way schools work so they can weather any storm. For example, the ability to set and mark work digitally should, in the long term, save teachers’ time and effort, and provide analytics on engagement far more easily. Teachers will now be much more confident using tools to teach children who are incapacitated, or for whatever reason cannot get into schools once they are opened. Sadly, for many of us, snow days will now be a lot less fun!
If you want to get up to speed with digital tools to use in your classroom, click the links below to access online learning resources from:
Arbor’s Head of Support, Emily Copsey, shares top tips for communicating with your school network during Covid-19 and partial school closures Our schools have been sharing with us that keeping in touch with parents – particularly the most vulnerable families – is top of their minds right now. School staff are relying more than ever
Arbor’s Head of Support, Emily Copsey, shares top tips for communicating with your school network during Covid-19 and partial school closures
Our schools have been sharing with us that keeping in touch with parents – particularly the most vulnerable families – is top of their minds right now. School staff are relying more than ever on parents and guardians to engage in their children’s education. Ensuring you can help parents to support their children starts with having a strong line of communication in place.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve worked with our schools to make sure they have everything they need in Arbor to keep in touch with their school community. Because Arbor’s MIS is cloud-based, staff have up-to-the-minute data about all their students and guardians at their fingertips, so they can communicate with the right people at the right time, from one place.
We’ve put together three top tips for engaging with parents – particularly during lockdown:
1. Make sure it’s not all doom and gloom
2. Plan your content in advance
3. Get something in the diary
Let’s break that down …
Alongside essential announcements, share some content with parents that might lift their spirits. This could be some fun weekend activities, craft projects or TV recommendations.
We’ve seen some really uplifting posts from schools on social media – like this wonderful “We miss you” video from the Knockhall Primary Staff, and free yoga sessions from Avanti Schools Trust. You could even put a short newsletter together with a weekly roundup.
We’re also delighted to share this poem sent by English Martyrs Catholic Primary School in their newsletter to their Year 6 students due to start their SATS this week. This is a great example of giving parents a way to talk about this difficult time and all the emotions surrounding it with their children.
Over the last few weeks, you’ve probably been sending parents lots of updates as you react to daily changes. But as we adapt to a new way of working, it’s a good idea to plan a schedule of content you want to share with parents. Whether it’s a weekly round up of the work set for each class, or a regular prompt to parents to send in their details, creating a content calendar can help your team to prioritise their workload, and make sure information reaches parents at the right time.
Many Arbor schools are having success with planning regular communications. Baxter College send weekly key worker surveys in Arbor so they can keep track of who to expect the following week. Find out more about how Baxter College use Arbor to send automated reports here.
Remember, one channel might not work for everyone in your community. In Arbor there are lots of different options you can use to share information with parents:
With less in-person contact with parents, it might be easy for some parents to drop off your radar. It can be useful to get a contact slot in parents’ diaries so they can plan around it. In Arbor, you can use Guardian Consultations to book one-on-one check-ins at a time that suits everyone.
For parents who you know are not online, you’ll have to contact them in a different way. In Arbor, you can keep these parents separate in a custom group so you can plan how to reach them separately – maybe through a phone call or a physical letter. Staff can pull up parents’ phone numbers easily in Arbor, or quickly create a letter template, which will automatically populate with each parents’ details, that they can print and send out.
To find out more about communicating with parents remotely, we’re running a series of practical support webinars on parental engagement, kicking off with a session all about using the Parent Portal on Monday 18th May – sign up for free here. The Arbor Community is another great place to find advice and best practice from fellow Arbor schools – join today for free.
For full guidance on how to use Arbor to manage your school during Covid-19, check out this guide on our blog.
Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill caught up with Vicky Harrison, COO at Hoyland Common Academy Trust (HCAT), about how she’s adapted to change over the last few weeks Why did you decide to move to Arbor? Last year we had significant growth, acquiring a large secondary school with over 2000 pupils and two more large primary
Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill caught up with Vicky Harrison, COO at Hoyland Common Academy Trust (HCAT), about how she’s adapted to change over the last few weeks
Last year we had significant growth, acquiring a large secondary school with over 2000 pupils and two more large primary schools, as well as working with a school in Barnsley as an associate MAT member. We were previously using Capita SIMS but it wasn’t working for us as an expanding trust, so that was the main reason we decided to move to Arbor in February.
In general, it’s not been about challenges, it’s been about successes. There were a lot of unknowns, so we had to react to the daily information from the Government. We’ve used the central team really well, which has freed up our schools to concentrate on the key worker kids, student wellbeing and chasing up vulnerable children.
Arbor helped us alleviate some of the burden on teachers and admin staff having to create staff rotas and track free school meal pupils, because we could access all the free school meal data via the MIS from our central office, and upload it to the Edenred site. To get the FSM data, I could easily log into everybody’s Arbor and create a simple report with the names of pupils, their contact numbers, addresses and email addresses, then send out a blanket message to them asking them for the supermarket of their choice. We’ve also created a whole raft of letters and emails centrally that we’ve rolled out across the trust. That just wouldn’t have been possible before.
One of the things we’ve found useful is that Arbor has been very reactive to the situation. You react as soon as something happens, and being a cloud-based system, updates are instantaneous. Like with the free school meals report, for example, it was there ready to go within a day. Also, initially we were doing the registers at a trust level – logging on every day and putting the hashtag code in but Arbor soon created a fix in the system that automatically put in the hashtags, which saved us another thing to think about.
The ability to use Arbor at home has been especially helpful to our teachers and headteachers. On Capital SIMS, we had to rely on something called Forticlient which teachers had to have installed on their laptops and didn’t always work. With Arbor, teachers have been able to log on at home to contact their class through a safe portal. It’s also been really easy to use for any staff who are “anti-ICT”.
It was really seamless. We made the decision to move to Arbor in February because we still had until the end of March with Capita SIMS. This was so if anything had gone wrong, we could still use Capita. Initially I was kind of dreading it. I was thinking all our data was going to be lost, and that we wouldn’t be able to find anything but it’s been really straightforward and simple and really supportive from the Arbor team as well. We were using SchoolComms and Parent Pay and initially planned to roll Arbor out in phases, but because staff found it so easy to use at a school level, we decided to roll with it from day one. Even if you’re not particularly ICT-savvy, it’s so straightforward and you can see where you’ve got to go to get the information you need. If you don’t, Arbor’s live chat and the Arbor Community forum have been really useful.
When we were using Capita SIMS, we relied on our local authority to write reports because it was so difficult to work out where you needed to go to get the information. Then when we wanted to send a communication to a parent, we had to log into a separate text messaging service and there was no log of communications. With Arbor, staff are able to readily access children’s contacts without having to rely on somebody back at the office. You can track what you’ve sent out (for example the messages to FSM families I’ve sent during Covid-19) and see if they get back to see you – and parents can see too. Then if you do need to chase it up, you can send a text out again.
Because the system is so easy to use, they’ve not needed much training. When we first rolled it out, we did initial training on core things like how to take the register, how to manage dinners etc. And they all picked it up. Then we just sent an easy, simple crib sheet to staff with how to contact Arbor if they needed. Prior to school closures, we did a staff briefing on how to contact parents and how to get the information they needed.
Our associate school is local authority maintained and still on Capita SIMS at the moment but because we’re having to keep contacting them to get all the information we need, we’ve decided to roll out Arbor for them while Covid-19 is going on. So it won’t really be a barrier to rolling out Arbor any further.
I don’t think so. If we’d have known about Arbor sooner, we’d have moved sooner!
At the moment everything is unknown. We don’t know what Boris is going to announce when he does. If he decides, for example, to send back families, Arbor will give us that ability to quickly find out what families we’ve got in school and what year groups they’re in, so we can concentrate on the timetabling. It’ll also mean we can do rotas flexibly, for example if staff are in on odd days.
If you’d like to hear from more MAT leaders about how they’re managing their schools remotely, we’ve got lots more free webinars coming up. Check out our schedule of remote working webinars here. We’ve got a special webinar this Friday with Jonathan Bishop, CEO at Cornerstone Academy Trust. Jonathan will be discussing how to make online education a success at scale. You can sign up here for Friday.
For all the guidance on how to use Arbor during Covid-19, it’s all here.
As schools and trusts navigate this time of tough challenges and constant change, we want to offer some helpful advice for adapting to new ways of working. Danielle Arkwright, our HR and Office Manager, has put together some guidance on how to manage any stress you may be experiencing due to all this change. Danielle
As schools and trusts navigate this time of tough challenges and constant change, we want to offer some helpful advice for adapting to new ways of working. Danielle Arkwright, our HR and Office Manager, has put together some guidance on how to manage any stress you may be experiencing due to all this change. Danielle is trained in creative therapies, stress and trauma, and is in her final year studying for an MA in Drama Therapy at University of Roehampton, so we’re really excited to share her tips with you.
So, it’s week 6 of lockdown and it might seem like everyone around you has either perfected Michelin level cooking, learned to knit or can now do every yoga pose in the book. You might feel that everyone is expecting you to emerge from this crisis a better, more beautiful and more productive version of yourself. If you’ve managed any of the above things, brilliant. But as admirable as all that sounds, some of us might not be finding ourselves quite as productive – and that’s okay.
If you or your partner are working remotely, your home life has probably changed quite dramatically recently. Whatever your situation – whether you’re spending your non-work hours running around after kids, or facing a stale sense of boredom – we’re all coping with a time when our normal boundaries have shifted. We recently shared some tips for working remotely, but today I wanted to talk about how to manage the difficult emotions we might be experiencing.
This period of change might have left you feeling irritable, anxious or down. You may be feeling less confident than usual and having more consistent worries about body image. You might be drinking and eating more, finding it difficult to make decisions and having trouble sleeping. Maybe you’re noticing unpleasant things going on with your body, like skin irritation, muscle ache and headaches. All of the above are symptoms of stress. I’m going to cover how to recognise and manage these symptoms.
Firstly, it’s important to say that feeling these things is a perfectly normal response to such an abnormal situation. There will be millions of people across the world experiencing similar feelings. Even if you haven’t been personally affected by Coronavirus, you may be worried about you or your loved ones getting infected, or about getting the supplies you need. You may be concerned about money or job security.
Uncertainty is one of the most difficult things to face. Not knowing when things will get back to “normal” makes us feel powerless and unsafe. You might be feeling hyper-vigilant; constantly checking the news to feel more in control. The good news? You’re not alone and there are strategies you can use to cope.
Being aware of what is happening to our bodies when we feel in a panicked state can help us to step back and not judge ourselves.
Sometimes having a stress response is appropriate and helpful, for example, if you’re pushed into a dangerous or uncomfortable situation, it’s good to trust your instincts to and avoid it. However, if we constantly experience stress over a long period of time, this pressure can make us feel overwhelmed or unable to cope. This is what we call “chronic” or long-term stress, and it can have an impact on both physical and mental health.
For more info, go to MentalHealth.org
There are small and meaningful things you can do to lessen the symptoms of stress. Some of these techniques might seem simple and obvious, but if practiced regularly, they can have a huge impact on your stress levels.
At Arbor, we’ve set up a dedicated wellbeing committee, who have been rolling out lots of different activities, particularly over the last few weeks, that allow colleagues to dedicate time to mental wellbeing together. We’ve had online yoga classes, weekly group mindfulness practice, fun daily challenges and art sessions. We’re also planning to send out seeds to everyone’s home address so we can start a sunflower growing competition!
Stay connected – Even if it’s a few phone calls a week, sending a funny video, or doing a organised online activity like a quiz, connecting with others can remind us we’re all in this together
Stay hydrated – You might be really good at remembering to drink when you’re in the office but during lockdown, don’t forget to keep hydrated to at least cut down on unnecessary headaches
Structure your day – Routine helps us feel secure. It can be as simple as eating lunch at the same time (perhaps “with” colleagues) or a regular time you connect with your friends
Take regular breaks and go outside – It’s easy to forget to get up and move when a cup of tea is in reach! Try and plan breaks and a short evening walk into your day to keep your mind fresh
Try mindfulness – Now is the time for an open mind (literally!). I’d really recommend trying an app like Headspace, even if only for 5 minutes a day, to allow you to step back when it all becomes too much
Dress for the day you want – Try and resist staying in your PJs all day! Get dressed and see how different you feel!
Remember, some days will be better than others and if you manage just a few of these things you are doing really well. My biggest advice is to lower your expectations – if you don’t feel very productive, don’t let it pull you down. When you’re kind to yourself, you’ll allow your best thoughts to flow.
I’ve put a list together of some resources I think are really helpful, particularly during the challenges we’re facing at the moment:
For coping with the Coronavirus outbreak:
Tom, our Partnership Specialist, has some reading recommendations too!
If you have any tips to add to Danielle and Toms’ lists, share them with us on social media using #ArborCommunity or on our Community Forum if you’re an Arbor school.
We’re running a webinar programme called “Adapting to Change: Managing Your Schools and Staff Remotely” for MAT Leaders to share strategies during lockdown and beyond. You can sign up for free by clicking the link.
To find out how to manage and report on the Coronavirus situation in Arbor, you can read our blog, or find practical advice on our Help Centre. If you’re new to Arbor, find out if Arbor MIS is for you with an online demo – get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028.
During this time of constant change for schools and trusts, we want to support schools with practical advice for adapting to new ways of working. Becca Watkins, our Operations Executive, has put together her top 3 tips to bear in mind for working remotely As an EdTech company, with almost a quarter of our employees
During this time of constant change for schools and trusts, we want to support schools with practical advice for adapting to new ways of working. Becca Watkins, our Operations Executive, has put together her top 3 tips to bear in mind for working remotely
As an EdTech company, with almost a quarter of our employees already used to working remotely, we’ve adapted quite well over the past few weeks, all things considered. Many things haven’t changed – our schools and trusts can of course still access Arbor’s cloud-based Management Information System (MIS) from anywhere. And our internal systems at Arbor are no different.
As we prepare to strap in for another few months of remote working, we’ve been reflecting on lessons we’ve learned so far and how we can keep up momentum and morale.
Whatever organisation you work for, whether that’s a school, trust, local authority or private company, you’re probably finding yourself working remotely or in a completely different routine now. From our experience at Arbor, we wanted to share some tips and tricks for working together in this new way.
Bear in mind – these are not just tips for working remotely – they’re tips for working remotely during a pandemic. There’s a big difference. Situations change daily, so you should allow your outlook and mood to change too. If you take just one tip from this blog – be kind to yourself.
My top tips for adapting to your new, virtual workplace are:
Something not many companies have faced before is how to keep their employees’ morale high during a time of widespread strain. The key to this is having a strong company culture and great communication. Most importantly, and the easiest thing to introduce, you can’t underestimate the value of having a laugh together. Here are some ideas to bring a little light-hearted relief:
Remote working is a new experience for us all, and being kind and thoughtful will go a long way, whatever your role or company. So take a breath, take a pause, and remember this is temporary. How we adapt to this crisis will serve us not just right now, but in the long term as well.
If you have any tips to add to Becca’s list, share them with us on social media using #ArborCommunity or on our Community Forum if you’re an Arbor school.
As part of our programme of webinars – “Adapting to Change: Managing your Schools and Staff Remotely” – we invited Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, to share his strategies for staff mental health and wellbeing across his trust Dan discussed the responsibility of trust leaders to their staff, particularly during the Coronavirus crisis,
As part of our programme of webinars – “Adapting to Change: Managing your Schools and Staff Remotely” – we invited Dan Morrow, CEO of Woodland Academy Trust, to share his strategies for staff mental health and wellbeing across his trust
Dan discussed the responsibility of trust leaders to their staff, particularly during the Coronavirus crisis, and how he’s shaped policies around what makes a real difference to staff. We’ve put together the key takeaways from Dan’s fantastic talk and also included his slides below.
His main tips were:
The philosophy that guides Dan’s strategy is that “wellbeing isn’t something you can just tack on – it needs to be based in culture and action”. Since arriving at Woodland Academy Trust, a trust of four Primary schools in North Kent, Dan has brought wellbeing and mental health onto the agenda, replacing the previous “compliance mindset” which he says did not treat staff “as people first”.
He’s introduced initiatives such as wellbeing dogs, paid wellbeing days and CPD pathways staff can shape themselves, which have turned around the trust’s previously high level of staff absence, sickness and turnover rate. They’ve achieved this, Dan explains, by shaping wellbeing policies around their staff – which makes them feel heard and creates a reciprocal culture where “people want to get out of bed and come to work every day.”
“A contract is very important but as you see at the moment, it isn’t a contract that’s driving behaviour – it’s relationship, it’s duty, and it’s need”
The last few weeks have proven to Dan that the most important thing for his employees is their families and home life. As a leader, he believes you have to work your decisions around the reality of peoples’ lives. “It’s important we understand that sometimes life happens”, Dan says. With this in mind, the trust has re-examined their bank of policies to make them family-friendly and focused on workload. Making these adjustments has cut down on the number of staff calling in sick because of dependency issues or an issue that would have previously forced them to take unpaid leave.
In shaping wellbeing policies across the whole trust, Dan sent out surveys to his staff to make sure they were on board with everything he was proposing. “The worst thing you can do in wellbeing” according to Dan, “is to announce a strategy which you’re effectively doing to your staff and they may not actually want”. The surveys helped Dan’s team understand what would really make a difference to staff. For example, they had proposed wellbeing workshops but staff said the most valuable thing for them was more time. Dan’s team took this and introduced the idea of paid wellbeing days which staff can use for something that’s important to them, whether that’s to “attend weddings, the first day of their children’s school or a spa day with a friend they hadn’t seen for 30 years. Why not?”
An essential part of Dan’s leadership strategy is listening to his staff. When he started as CEO, he met with every member of staff to get to know them as individuals, ask them how they are and what they need. The aim of these conversations was to build the relationship on “a shared sense of culture and vision”. In a trust the size of Woodland, it was possible (and important to Dan) for the Executive Team to hold these conversations, but for larger trusts Dan suggests this may be done on a Division or Director basis. Dan plans to check in with staff in this way again when schools return after the Coronavirus crisis.
Woodland’s people-first approach extends to staff development, where Dan ensures that initiatives are geared towards what staff actually need and want to work on. Staff can now create their own CPD pathways and take secondments or work experience opportunities, which gives them “a voice in where their development is going”. Staff are also encouraged to take part in networking and to be active in discussions within the education sector on social media. 3 out of 4 of Woodland staff are now involved in Twitter or LinkedIn which, Dan says, demonstrates how staff feel more ownership over their career.
“Being part of a broader narrative of education has been really important for colleagues to find their place within our sector”
As part of the overall strategy at Woodland “WAT CAIRS” (Woodland Academy Trust Care, Aspiration, Inspiration, Respect and Stewardship), they believe that leadership should be “part of the solution to problems” that staff face in their lives. For this reason, a free employee counselling service is available for staff, which has been particularly useful during the difficult few weeks since the Coronavirus outbreak. They also run a wellbeing dogs scheme, which has been incredibly popular, both with children and staff. Initiatives like these are relatively cheap and help to “lift the spirits and make it feel like work has an aspect of care to it.”
And those costs have paid off. Staff retention has risen to over 95%, saving over £ 300, 000 in recruitment costs over three years. Days lost to sickness has reduced significantly, too, falling from 11% in 2015-16 to 3.1% last year, which has cut the need for external cover.
As a result of the Coronavirus crisis, Woodland Academy Trust has taken many lessons which will inform their wellbeing policy going forward. In this challenging time full of anxiety, Dan’s attitude is “it’s incumbent on us leaders now to ensure that staff understand that their wellbeing is being prioritised.” One of the immediate practical measures he took to put anxiety to rest was to reassure his staff around pay. Communication was also key – teams are encouraged to check in with each other regularly and new protocols and practices have been produced so everyone is comfortable working remotely. They’ve also provided close support for the more vulnerable members of staff.
Dan predicts that following this crisis, wellbeing and mental health are going to be higher on the agenda so leaders should “ensure staff have the professional capabilities, the personal resilience and the team around them to be successful”.
You can look through Dan’s presentation below which includes useful links for teachers to resources, podcasts and blogs to access during lockdown.
We have lots more webinars coming up in our programme Adapting to Change. The next few will be conversations between MAT Leaders and Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill. For more details on what’s coming up, check out our blog.
If you have any questions about the webinars, or about how Arbor MIS could help your trust, you can get in touch at email@example.com, or give us a call on 0208 050 1028.
To find out how to manage and report on the Coronavirus situation in Arbor, you can read our latest blog, or find practical advice on our Help Centre.
Arbor Updates | School Operations
To all our Arbor schools and MATs, Our priority right now is to help you manage your school during the Coronavirus outbreak To make it as simple as possible for you to get the information you need, we’ve created one central article in our Help Centre with everything you need to know on using Arbor
To all our Arbor schools and MATs,
Our priority right now is to help you manage your school during the Coronavirus outbreak
To make it as simple as possible for you to get the information you need, we’ve created one central article in our Help Centre with everything you need to know on using Arbor to react to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Using Arbor during this period
On our Help Centre, you can find out how to:
All of these features are live and available to use in Arbor now.
We’re monitoring the news closely, including for any further updates around exams, so we can be responsive to schools’ needs as they arise. Each time we release a new feature we’ll update the same Help Centre page and email you to let you know too.
Our Support Team is available to support you by phone, email and web chat.
In the meantime, I hope you and the staff, students and parents at your school are coping as well as you can. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any help – we’re all in this together.
All the best,
CEO and Co-Founder, Arbor Education
Arbor Updates | IT Support
We know that moving to the cloud can seem like a big job. The benefits of switching MIS might be hard to picture when you’ve never undergone such a large change at your school. That’s why we want to make sure you have the right support at every step of the way. Getting to know
We know that moving to the cloud can seem like a big job. The benefits of switching MIS might be hard to picture when you’ve never undergone such a large change at your school. That’s why we want to make sure you have the right support at every step of the way.
Getting to know the 1,000 schools who have chosen Arbor has shown us that each school works in a unique way. This is also true of support – different schools will have certain styles that suit them best. The Arbor Support Team of experts and former teachers will guide you through rolling out your new system, getting started with core functions, through to driving impact from Arbor over a longer period of time. However, many schools have an existing relationship with a local support partner and we think it’s important that a move to Arbor doesn’t mean losing these ties.
To give schools freedom and flexibility, you can either choose our direct support, or from our network of local support partners across the country, including SIMS Support Units, who provide schools with expert training and advice on the use of Arbor.
Each of the 31 organisations we work with goes through in-depth training to become an accredited Arbor Support Partner. This involves:
We’re thrilled to announce the following 10 Support Partners who have recently gained full accreditation. You might spot one of the providers in your local area!
Buckinghamshire County Council
ICT Schools Team, part of The Buckinghamshire Council, became our very first accredited Support Partner in March 2019. They provide telephone support and remote assistance on Arbor, a comprehensive training schedule and consultancy visits, along with technical support on admin and curriculum networks.
iCT4 has been providing ICT services to schools since 2002. Originally formed as part of the Cornwall Council Learning Partnership, they now cover all of the UK, delivering full service IT solutions to the education, business and charity sectors. Their aim is to empower users to make the most of ICT.
OSMIS is based in the North of England and delivers quality training, support and consultancy services to schools, academies, Local Authorities and Multi-Academy Trusts. Their dedicated service desk is staffed by experts with decades of experience of working in schools. OSMIS seeks to work in a genuine partnership to help customers to realise efficiencies and to achieve the very best from their MIS.
Orbis is a shared services partnership between Brighton and Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and Surrey County Council. Orbis strives to deliver greater value for their customers by generating efficiencies and exploiting the benefits of sharing resources and technology.
You can read more about our partnership with Orbis in this blog.
Connect-Up Support Services, based in Leeds, have over 25 years’ experience working in the Education sector. They cover a wide range of MIS, Admin office, Curriculum managed services and training for primary schools and trusts in the Yorkshire Region.
Herts for Learning
Herts for Learning (HfL) is the UK’s largest schools-owned company, providing a broad range of education and business services that support schools and educational settings to deliver improved outcomes for children. They work with 99% of Hertfordshire schools and over 3,100 schools and educational settings nationally, deploying 450 staff across all phases. HfL provides training, support and challenge to staff and governors at all levels.
We are working together with Herts for Learning, ICT4, OSMIS and Orbis to launch Arbor Lite – our new, essential MIS package for primary schools.
School Business Services (SBS)
SBS is a leading global specialist in providing support services and products to the education sector. They offer consultancy, training, service desks and managed services to schools and academies. Their core specialisms are Finance & Business Management, ICT, Management Information Systems (MIS) and HR Support.
You can read more about our partnership with SBS in this blog.
Turn IT on
With over 150 years of combined experience in supporting Management Information Systems (MIS), turn IT on provide expert support to help schools use Arbor as effectively as possible. Unlimited telephone and remote support is available, as well as a wide range of on-site consultancy services.
You can read more about our partnership with turn IT on in this blog.
Wirral Software Support for Schools
Wirral Council’s Software Support team provides training, support and installations for Management Information Systems (MIS) and software used by schools and academies. Their training programmes are tailored to each school.
Cantium Business Solutions
Cantium Business Solutions works with schools and Multi-Academy Trusts to provide insight-driven solutions and tailored back office support. From integrated HR and Payroll, to innovative ICT solutions, Cantium aims to help schools drive improvements and create efficiencies and savings to transform how they work for the better.
If you’re new to Arbor and want to find out more about the support we offer, or about working with one of our Support Partners, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call 020 8050 2086 if you’re a Primary, or 020 8050 2087 if you’re a Secondary.
To find out more about switching to Arbor MIS, you can arrange a free demo here or call us on 0208 050 1028.
Pool Academy is a secondary school in Cornwall with 650+ students. We caught up with Phil Jones, Head of Academy Services, who told us about some of the ways life at school has changed for the better since they moved to Arbor back in 2018 Can you tell us why you decided to switch to
Pool Academy is a secondary school in Cornwall with 650+ students. We caught up with Phil Jones, Head of Academy Services, who told us about some of the ways life at school has changed for the better since they moved to Arbor back in 2018
Can you tell us why you decided to switch to Arbor?
Was having a cloud-based system important for you?
Which area of the system in Arbor has saved you the most time?
How did you find the migration and implementation process?
Are there any other aspects of Arbor that you have found particularly useful?
Do you feel you get the support you need from the Arbor team?
Would you recommend Arbor?
Last week we welcomed 100 School Leaders, Business Managers, Teachers and Admins from schools and MATs using Arbor across the country. It was a fantastic day of keynote speeches, breakout sessions and discussions on topics across the school landscape – from assessment, behaviour and reporting, to parental engagement, managing Ofsted inspections and running an effective
Last week we welcomed 100 School Leaders, Business Managers, Teachers and Admins from schools and MATs using Arbor across the country. It was a fantastic day of keynote speeches, breakout sessions and discussions on topics across the school landscape – from assessment, behaviour and reporting, to parental engagement, managing Ofsted inspections and running an effective school office.
It was brilliant to hear from some of our 1,000 schools (of all shapes and sizes!) about how they are integrating Arbor MIS into all areas of their day-to-day life. Schools had the opportunity to network with staff members in the same roles as them at other schools – and to learn from each other and share best practice.
Lots of exciting discussions took place throughout the day, and we overheard some fascinating ideas shared about ways schools have transformed key processes (like using automatic interventions and creating custom reports) in Arbor.
For Lewis Dinsdale, Headteacher at English Martyrs Catholic Primary, Arbor’s Parent Portal has allowed his team to reach out to parents more effectively, as well as better understanding their data. He told us, “we finally have data behind how parents are engaging with our school!”
Martyn Essery, Deputy Headteacher at The Reach Free School shared how Arbor made managing their Ofsted inspection easy, because he was able to quickly drill down into the data and pull out trends to make useful crib sheets for staff. Martyn says “with Arbor we can evidence that we know what’s going on with our students and the impact of what we’re doing.”
For Julie Smith, Senior Administrator and PA to the Headteacher at Park Royal Community Primary, being able to schedule the weekly reports and automatic follow-ups has saved her office a lot of time and hassle.
After the event, our online community forum was buzzing with ideas being shared. If you’re an Arbor user, sign up today for free and learn more from fellow Arbor schools!
It was great to have so many schools together in one room, who all shared a collective passion for improving the lives of students everywhere. We loved meeting so many of our schools and finding out how you’re using Arbor to transform the way you work.
It was also a chance for the Arbor team to hear your feedback and show you some of the exciting new features we’re releasing this year. We had some great feedback on My Classroom, our new all-in-one classroom management tool, which brings seating plans, attendance and behaviour management in one place for the first time. Look out for that later this term!
Hear what a few more of our schools said about the day:
To find out more about how Arbor MIS could transform the way your school works, you can arrange a free demo here or call us on 0208 050 1028.
With large student bodies, hundreds of subject strands and lots of different staff responsibilities, secondary school data can be a complex web. To tackle it, you need a Management Information System (MIS) that gives your staff access to clear, visual data so they can take action instantly. At Arbor, we have a team with deep
With large student bodies, hundreds of subject strands and lots of different staff responsibilities, secondary school data can be a complex web. To tackle it, you need a Management Information System (MIS) that gives your staff access to clear, visual data so they can take action instantly.
At Arbor, we have a team with deep secondary school knowledge who have designed our MIS hand-in-hand with schools. Arbor MIS not only takes the hassle out of daily admin – it can also transform the way you work. The number of secondary schools joining Arbor is growing daily – three times as many switched to us last year compared to 2018. And they’ve joined a growing community of 1,000 schools and MATs who rely on Arbor MIS every day.
We’ve put together the top four things that secondary schools really love about Arbor MIS. Read more below about our BI analytics, behaviour reporting, exam management and interventions.
3 in 4 of our schools say Arbor has improved their data analysis
At Arbor we care about democratising data – our MIS gives staff visibility of the data they need every day. We have built “out-of-the-box” BI (Business Intelligence) into the fabric of our MIS which means staff can easily go deep into their data without needing to be a data expert. Through clear, detailed dashboards, Teachers, Heads of Department and Admin Staff can access, analyse and action the data that’s relevant to their role. You can also keep using the BI tools you love by pulling your Arbor data into a password-protected Live Feed that you can upload to another application. You can read more about Arbor’s BI tools in our blog.
4 in 5 say Arbor has transformed the way they work
Arbor MIS helps you manage behaviour more efficiently, with smarter evidence, and in a way that’s right for your school. You have the flexibility to define behaviour types and frameworks, and to set up automatic actions in response to specific incidents or behaviour types, helping you cut down on workload.
Thanks to Arbor’s built-in BI, your behaviour data is more powerful. You’ll be able to build up a rounded picture of each student and compare their behaviour with their class, year group or a custom group you’ve created. To find out more about how Arbor can transform behaviour reporting, check out our blog “A day in the life” by our Senior Partnership Manager and former Headteacher, Andrew.
Managing exams in Arbor MIS is hassle-free every step of the way – from preparation to results day. Unlike other exam management systems, in Arbor there’s no need to search for basedata on exam board websites – we pull it in automatically for you.
Here’s a bit more about how we make exams simple in Arbor:
Set up your exams offering with precise awards and unit codes at the start of the year. This stops any mistakes down the line. You can manage your mock or internal exams in Arbor in exactly the same way as GCSEs or A Levels.
Inputting entries is flexible – either the Exams Officer can input directly or Teachers can propose entries. Easily create an EDI Entries file or an EDI Amendments file with any changes. You can also input coursework marks (Centre Assessed Outcomes) and Forecast Grades, and create an EDI Coursework file.
Everything you need to set up your candidates for the year is all in one place – from assigning candidate numbers, UCIs, ULNs and Exam Access Arrangements. You can assign candidates to seating plans, allocate them to one or more exam rooms and create candidate timetables. Students can see their timetable in the student and parent portals.
Have visibility over invigilator duties, see how many invigilators are already allocated to each room and assign more if needed, print timetables and easily arrange cover.
Manage your results centrally – simply import your EDI Results files into Arbor and see a dashboard of the results which you can print. You can set an Embargo Period and Embargo Date to release results to staff. Teachers can see results on the student profiles, and students can through the student and parent portals.
Arbor MIS has built-in analysis of exam results but you can also export your data to an external spreadsheet, or to SISRA and 4Matrix if you want to do your own deeper analysis.
3 in 4 say Arbor saves them time
We know how important pastoral and academic interventions are in secondary schools. That’s why we’ve made interventions flexible and easy to use in Arbor MIS. Whether your interventions are ad hoc and informal, or highly formalised and structured, you can build your interventions your way. Arbor MIS allows you to create, track, monitor and cost the breadth and range of your wider curriculum. You’ll always stay on top of your students’ progress, attainment and wellbeing – plus you’ll be able to track where extra attention is needed.
You can read more about creating interventions in our blog “6 Steps to Create an Effective Interventions Strategy”. To read how Kate Ferris from Baxter College tailored her behaviour interventions in Arbor, check out her case study.
Our secondaries have been sharing with us why Arbor works for them – read how Suzanne Pike, Vice Principal of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, leads a secondary school with Arbor and hear from Kate Ferris, Data Systems Analyst at Baxter College, about how Arbor has led to a culture shift at their school.
To find out why Arbor MIS is perfect for secondary schools like yours, click here to arrange a free demo or call us on 0208 050 1028.
Kate Ferris, Data Systems Analyst at Baxter College, a Secondary Academy of 865 students in Kidderminster, talked to us about how Arbor’s Management Information System (MIS) has not only made admin at her school simpler and easier – it’s transformed the way they work. Since moving to Arbor MIS almost two years ago, there have
Kate Ferris, Data Systems Analyst at Baxter College, a Secondary Academy of 865 students in Kidderminster, talked to us about how Arbor’s Management Information System (MIS) has not only made admin at her school simpler and easier – it’s transformed the way they work.
Since moving to Arbor MIS almost two years ago, there have been a lot of changes at Baxter College; but the biggest shift has been much more focus on data. Kate’s role – Data Systems Analyst – has also changed in two years, now being much more focused on the MIS. The school has expanded their IT team in order to work smarter across the trust (Severn Academies Educational Trust) by upgrading systems and creating efficiencies. To support this, Baxter College needed a smarter MIS that gave them access to live, detailed data that could be pulled easily into clear reports.
Kate shared with us the top four reasons she loves using Arbor MIS at her school:
Arbor MIS allows Baxter College to dig into their data and do more with it. Easy-to-use, visual dashboards present relevant data to everyone who needs it across the school. As Data Systems Analyst, Kate has an overview of what’s going on across different classes, pastoral groups and staff teams, which means she has all the information she needs to jump in if necessary. Kate says she’s seen a culture shift at her school – now that the data is easy to understand, teachers are much more enthusiastic about engaging with Arbor MIS than the previous, clunky system.
Seeing their data in new ways has led to new discoveries. According to Kate, Arbor MIS unlocked their behaviour data and helped them to understand trends and patterns for the first time. Arbor has given them a “360 degree view” of behaviour across the school so they can intervene where they need to and never miss anything. The flexibility to tailor interventions is essential for Kate; she can define metrics that are important to her – for example, if a student is late three times, Arbor automatically alerts the right pastoral leads.
Having attendance, behaviour and progress data all in one place has made a powerful difference to Baxter College. Providing outstanding, all-round care to students is a core part of the school’s mission and having data at their fingertips in Arbor helps them see exactly where extra attention is needed. Staff can now drill down into all the important areas of a student’s school life and take everything into consideration to see how they’re doing.
Thanks to communication through the Arbor App, Kate has seen teachers and parents/guardians come closer together. As a large secondary school, Baxter College is keen to keep regular touchpoints with parents (2-3 emails and SMS messages per week) and the Arbor App makes this easy. Setting up automated communications, such as weekly attendance reports, is a great way for staff to let multiple parents know what’s going on with their child without the hassle of sending individual reports to each parent.
Reaching out like this wasn’t possible before the Arbor App. Getting up-to-date, personalised information to parents was only really possible at parents’ evenings. Parents now have a personal connection to the school and a sense of belonging to the school community. The gap is narrowing – currently 53% of parents at Baxter College have the Arbor App – so Kate’s goal is to encourage more and more parents to engage and feel comfortable contacting the school.
As Baxter College has changed, Arbor has adapted to their needs. With the flexibility to add and customise features, they have shaped the MIS into a system that works best for their school. Kate and her fellow staff members have integrated Arbor MIS across their day-to-day life at school and it is now at the heart of what they do.
At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting school and MAT data. We’ve put together this short blog to explain what we do in a little more detail. 1)
At Arbor, we take data security very seriously – it’s at the heart of what we do. We’re proud to go above and beyond the MIS industry standard when it comes to protecting school and MAT data. We’ve put together this short blog to explain what we do in a little more detail.
The security of every Arbor office is maintained by formal security inspections and risk assessments. Access to our offices is restricted with secure keys, CCTV, 24/7 security personnel and secure perimeter doors.
When protecting data at your school, it’s important that you follow data security best practice to make sure data does not fall into the wrong hands. Here are some key things you can keep in mind:
If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your secondary school works, contact us.
At BETT last week, Tim and Stephen from the Arbor team gave a talk in the Tech In Action theatre about how Arbor MIS can transform the way schools work. We were pleased to see so many new faces in the audience but in case you missed it, you can see their presentation below which
At BETT last week, Tim and Stephen from the Arbor team gave a talk in the Tech In Action theatre about how Arbor MIS can transform the way schools work. We were pleased to see so many new faces in the audience but in case you missed it, you can see their presentation below which includes some handy video demos.
Tim and Stephen talked about how Arbor MIS makes your essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful, so you can get on and focus where it matters most. They went through four key ways Arbor helps teachers in the classroom – these were:
1. Teaching a lesson using My Classroom
My Classroom is an exciting new feature of Arbor MIS that takes the hassle out of preparing for lessons. With this all-in-one classroom management tool, you can organise your lessons and manage your class seamlessly – giving you time back to focus on teaching and learning.
2. Sending letters home to your students’ parents
Communication with parents is quick, easy and automated in Arbor MIS. For example, if an after-school club has been cancelled, you can send a message to all relevant parents instantly. Parents will get the message on the Arbor App on their phone, which will also let them know if there’s another session they can book instead.
3. Preparing for a meeting with a parent
Arbor MIS gives you the whole picture for each student in a few clicks. Simply search for a student and you can see a breakdown of their behaviour history, attainment, important medical and pastoral notes, absence patterns and how they compare with their classmates. From clear, visual dashboards, you’ll instantly see the most important areas to focus on in your next meeting with their parent.
4. Reviewing your class at the end of the day
After lessons, data on your whole form or class group is at your fingertips. From the week’s behaviour incidents, to how many students have done their homework, to their attainment over time – you can use data to intervene where needed, like creating a booster group, or emailing parents.
If you’d like to find out more about how our hassle-free, cloud-based MIS could help you act on everything important fast, so you and your staff can focus on what matters most, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email email@example.com.
Arbor Lite is our new, essential MIS package for primary schools in partnership with Herts for Learning, iCT4, Orbis and OSMIS. At Arbor, our mission is to transform the way schools work to save teachers time and improve student outcomes. We built Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to make essential daily admin quicker, school data
Arbor Lite is our new, essential MIS package for primary schools in partnership with Herts for Learning, iCT4, Orbis and OSMIS.
At Arbor, our mission is to transform the way schools work to save teachers time and improve student outcomes. We built Arbor MIS (Management Information System) to make essential daily admin quicker, school data more powerful and day-to-day school management less stressful for everyone, so you can get on and focus where it matters most.
Over the past few years we’ve helped over 900 schools of all shapes and sizes make an easy move to our smarter, cloud-based MIS. But we know that for some schools – smaller, LA maintained primary schools in particular – that a move to the cloud has to be a real partnership between their school staff, their new MIS, and their trusted local support partner. We also know that, if you’re a smaller school, moving to a full MIS might feel too complex if you only use your existing system in a light touch way.
That’s why we’re excited to announce Arbor Lite – a new, lightweight version of Arbor MIS. Arbor Lite offers all the key features smaller schools need to save time from day one, like lightning fast digital registers, behaviour logging, communication to parents and everything you need for census. Plus, working in the cloud means Arbor is always up-to-date and you can access what you need securely, from anywhere.
Crucially, Arbor Lite is only available through our four launch partners – Herts for Learning (HfL), iCT4, Orbis and OSMIS – to ensure your move to the cloud is supported by the partner you already know and work with. If you’re a primary school working with any of these partners already, and you’d like to switch to the cloud, our launch partners will support you along the way, making the switch much easier. Working with your support partner, you can also choose to build on and adapt Arbor Lite as your school’s needs change.
By launching Arbor Lite in partnership with HfL, iCT4, Orbis and OSMIS, our aim is to bring the benefits of our brilliant, cloud-based MIS to those schools who might have felt a solo move was too complex. If you work with a different support partner, don’t worry – we work with a growing number of support and training providers across England and we plan to extend Arbor Lite further in the future.
We’d love to tell you more about everything Arbor has to offer this week if you’re attending BETT 2020. Come and see us at stand NM30 to have a chat, or join us for a free lunch and glass of wine at Tapa Tapa restaurant (on the DLR walkway outside the ExCel centre). Sign up for your free spot here.
If you’re already an Arbor partner and want to find out more about Arbor Lite – or if you’re a support team and want to know how we work with partners – we’d love to hear from you too! Come along to our BETT Partners’ Lounge this week – you can sign up here. We hope to see you there!
You might have heard of Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Tableau. But what is Business Intelligence (BI) and what does it mean for schools and MATs? We’ve put together this handy guide to help you navigate all things BI. What is BI? BI stands for “Business Intelligence”. In simple terms, this means the
You might have heard of Microsoft Power BI, Google Data Studio or Tableau. But what is Business Intelligence (BI) and what does it mean for schools and MATs? We’ve put together this handy guide to help you navigate all things BI.
What is BI?
BI stands for “Business Intelligence”. In simple terms, this means the technology used by companies (or schools and trusts!) to analyse their data. BI tools are used to do these things:
How is BI used in schools and MATs?
Schools are swimming in data. But data is only helpful when you can learn from it. Without a way to understand their data so they can turn it into actions, schools can find themselves “drowning in data” (Education Technology). This is where Business Intelligence tools come in – they help SLT monitor the health and progress of their schools (e.g. Which of my schools is performing most highly?), inform strategic decisions (e.g. Which subject should we invest in more next year?) and report to governors, parents and trustees.
Why are schools using external BI tools?
Schools and MATs are turning to external BI tools more and more in order to analyse their data. This is usually because their management information system (MIS) doesn’t give them an easy way of visualising their data in the way they need. BI tools free schools from having to manually build reports in spreadsheets which is time-consuming and doesn’t present an overall picture. For multi-academy trusts especially, BI dashboards allow them to see a “single source of truth” in order to monitor and assess the performance of all their schools, rather than having to piece together and compare the data themselves.
The size of your trust will affect the type of data analytics and BI tooling that’s right for you. Larger MATs may have the resources to employ data and software professionals to create a bespoke BI solution. We’ve put together a diagram below showing how the size, degree of centralisation, existing systems and data strategy of a MAT might affect what they need from BI.
The problem schools are facing with external BI products is they’re expensive, complex and require setup by trained staff. Many tools don’t work with schools’ existing management information systems, which means it takes a long time for staff to take actions on the data. Plus, as most tools are not suited to groups of schools, MATs have to rely on products such as Microsoft Power BI to bring all their data together.
Arbor’s BI solution
At Arbor, we have built “out of the box” Business Intelligence solutions into the fabric of our MIS through clear, detailed and relevant dashboards. This means there’s no need for configuration or setup – everyone working at your school can see and manipulate the data they need in a few clicks. Plus, you can go deep into the detail of your data and take actions without needing to be a data expert or to hire one!
What makes Arbor different?
Whilst Arbor provides detailed, powerful, “out of the box” analysis for schools, we also know that you sometimes need to analyse data outside of your MIS. That’s why Arbor MIS supports all major BI providers, giving you the freedom and flexibility to choose and define your own BI approach for your group. It’s easy – using Arbor “Live Feeds”, you can export live data from Arbor MIS into your external BI tool.
We’ve built powerful yet simple Business Intelligence into Arbor MIS, Group MIS and Arbor Insight. You can book a demo today or come and chat to us at BETT – we’re at stand NM30. We’re also hosting lunch (on us!) at Tapa Tapa restaurant (on the DLR walkway outside the ExCel centre) – sign up for your free spot here.
We’re delighted to announce that turn IT on is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS. Turn IT on’s team of experienced experts work in partnership with schools to maximise the potential of ICT for the benefit of pupils, teachers and management groups. Many of their team have been teachers and all of them
We’re delighted to announce that turn IT on is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS.
Turn IT on’s team of experienced experts work in partnership with schools to maximise the potential of ICT for the benefit of pupils, teachers and management groups. Many of their team have been teachers and all of them understand the huge challenges that modern schools meet in the face of an ever-changing landscape.
With over 150 years of combined experience in supporting Management Information Systems, turn IT on can ensure the effective and enhanced use of Arbor to give you peace of mind that your funding is correct, Ofsted data is ready and expert support is on hand whenever you or your team need it.
Turn IT on’s experts know every aspect of Arbor and their support covers key areas including census, attendance, behaviour, admissions, school dashboard, student & staff profiles, assessment & summative tracking, reports & dashboards, custom report writer, communications, teacher app, SEN, timetabling, exams, and cover.
Arbor MIS (Management Information System) is the hassle-free way for schools and trusts to get work done that schools and trusts love to use.
Whether you’re a primary, secondary or MAT, Arbor helps make your essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful – so everyone from your back office to your SLT can get on and focus where it matters most.
We’ve already helped more than 900 schools and MATs make the switch to our smarter cloud-based MIS. With human support at every step!
We completed a full-day accreditation test with turn IT on which included:
Following a successful day, we’re thrilled to say we are now working together to give schools the option to switch to Arbor MIS whilst keeping their trusted support team at turn IT on. Working with Arbor and turn IT on together gives your school:
To find out more about switching to Arbor with the turn IT on MIS team, contact turn IT on through their website, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01865 597620 (option 6).
We often get asked by schools and MATs what’s better – choosing several ‘best-of-breed’ software tools, or one tool that promises almost all the functionality you need? Our CEO, James Weatherill, asks, are there any shades of grey in-between? Jack of all trades, master of none When software was in its infancy in the 90’s
We often get asked by schools and MATs what’s better – choosing several ‘best-of-breed’ software tools, or one tool that promises almost all the functionality you need? Our CEO, James Weatherill, asks, are there any shades of grey in-between?
Jack of all trades, master of none
When software was in its infancy in the 90’s and early 00’s, companies and schools tended to choose ‘one-stop-shop’ systems that could do virtually all the tasks a school needed to run itself. The advantage was lower cost, higher central control and simplified management. But this came at a cost of being tied to one supplier, meaning prices often went up with little product improvement, less flexibility and local variation on customisation. There is also the simple adage that whilst big systems have a lot of functionality, they tend to do more things less well than specialist tools.
Businesses and schools are now generally moving to best-of-breed strategies which pick a few core systems and integrate these with a wider suite of specialist apps, reducing implementation time, giving greater flexibility and higher levels of functionality. This has all been made possible by a shift to the cloud, where integration can be online and seamless (at least in theory). However, as we’ll show, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Your culture and strategy should dictate your systems choice
The answer to what type of system to choose in my view depends on what you want to achieve as a school or MAT, as well as the culture you’ve set. As I’ve written about before, MATs should be intentional about the culture they want to create, as this will often drive how they make decisions. This is no different for schools and how they select systems, as the diagram below shows.
A) Low need for control + Low complexity = define data standards
If you’re a school or small trust that typically gives high agency to staff, then you might not need to standardise much except for how to use the systems you’ve procured and the data you want to get out. Choosing best-of-breed tools that fit the needs of your individual school (or schools) works well here, with the caveat that you’ll need a plan for how all the systems integrate (don’t forget or underestimate this step or you’ll be swimming in a data soup!).
B) Low need for control + High complexity = collectively agree core systems; staff choose bolt-ons
If you’re a large school or trust, you may like to give an element of agency to your staff to choose systems that can be tailored to the local context of the school. Yet, due to your size, a certain amount of system standardisation is important or there would be chaos. For these types of schools or trusts, it works well to clearly define your non-negotiable core systems (often involving many staff in procurement decisions), then delegate non-core systems to staff to allow variation according to need.
C) High need for control + High complexity = several monolithic systems, centrally controlled
If you’re a large school or MAT involving multiple phases spread across many sites or geographies, who needs high control of the systems staff use (perhaps due to cost or culture), you may prefer more monolithic systems. This approach involves selecting fewer, larger applications and perhaps even hosting them on-site.
The advantages of larger systems are simplified vendor management, cost savings, support simplicity and data standardisation. However, this is at the expense of flexibility (being tied to one vendor makes ‘rip-and-replace’ harder), functionality gaps (the vendor is likely to have less product depth in specific workflows) and more difficult implementation (more tools have to be replaced).
D) High need for control + Low complexity = standardised core systems; staff choose bolt-ons
If you’re a school or MAT of medium size and scale, a hybrid approach of leadership works well with core non-negotiable systems being centrally defined and school staff choosing bolt-ons. This preserves an element of standardisation whilst allowing staff agency over the systems that might be more appropriate to their context. The trick is ensuring the core systems chosen (typically MIS, finance, HR, assessment) work well together so you can retain flexibility.
A bit about how Arbor can help…
Arbor MIS can tick all the boxes above, as we have a wide range of functionality that caters to primary, secondary, special schools and MATs of all shapes, sizes and cultures. However, we know that every school and MAT has their preferred and loved applications and we want to play well within that ecosystem.
We believe choosing best-of-breed software beats monolithic tools that are a ‘jack of all trades’ but master of none, so our focus is being the best MIS that provides all staff with smart information so they can make better decisions, whilst reducing unnecessary admin tasks.
To discover the hundreds of software partners we work with click here.
Get in touch and find out how we could help your school or MAT by emailing me at email@example.com. Look forward to hearing from you!
Category : Blog , Uncategorized
Download your FREE 2018/19 KS2 and KS4 Performance Summary Report to compare how you’re performing against schools in your LA and schools “Like You” We know school budgets are getting tighter each year, so we’ve built completely free KS2 and KS4 Performance Summary Reports for every primary and secondary school in the country. We believe
Download your FREE 2018/19 KS2 and KS4 Performance Summary Report to compare how you’re performing against schools in your LA and schools “Like You”
We know school budgets are getting tighter each year, so we’ve built completely free KS2 and KS4 Performance Summary Reports for every primary and secondary school in the country. We believe fast and effective data analysis should be available to all schools, at a price that won’t break the bank, so you can get on and focus your time where it matters most – supporting your students.
Your reports present your data in a clear, visual graphs and charts, making it easy for you to find the data you need to celebrate successes, prioritise interventions, inform your School Improvement Plan and quickly spot areas to highlight in meetings with governors. Log in or sign up for your free Arbor Insight portal today, and download your school’s unique Performance Summary Report to see your school’s performance over the last 3 years.
Who is this report for?
Headteachers, SLT, data managers and governors will all find this report useful. You can add as many users as you like to your free Arbor Insight Portal, so everyone can see how your students are getting on.
What features does this report have?
(i) School context
See how the proportion of FSM, EAL and SEN has changed over the last three years
Fig. 1: The Pupil Context page of your Free Performance Summary Report
(ii) Compare your performance against schools “Like You
We know it’s harder to get students to the expected level if they come from more disadvantaged backgrounds, so your report shows you how schools in the same phase and proportion of Prior Attainment, FSM and EAL are performing in Headline measures
(iii) Compare your performance against schools in your LA
See how all other schools are performing in the same Headline measures in your LA
(iv) Compare your performance against National average
See what the difference is between your school’s average performance in each measure compared with the National Average
Fig. 2: Your report compares your pupils’ performance to the national average in a variety of measures
(v) 3 year Rolling Average
Find out if this year’s performance is an anomaly or consistent with the last three years
(vi) Focus on “Closing the Gap”
This section of the report helps you focus on closing the gaps in your school for School Improvement Planning, understanding the key areas to prioritise and for working out where to focus interventions. This section of the report looks at the attainment gaps in your school
Fig. 3: Your report shows you where you need to focus in order to close the gaps in your school
How can I get this report?
To download your free 2018/19 Performance Summary Report:
1. Already an Arbor Insight user? Log in here: https://login.arbor.sc
2. If you haven’t logged in before, sign up here for free in 30 seconds: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register
3. Click on the Free tab in the Performance Reports section of your portal
4. Click the green Download button
5. Find your PDF Performance Summary in your downloads folder
What else can I find in my Arbor Insight portal that’s free?
On the left-hand side of your Insight portal, you can find completely free dashboards which show you:
All of these dashboards are updated with the latest ASP data as soon as we receive it from the DfE.
If you’re an academy that’s been open since 1st September 2017, we’ve also built a free Academies Financial Benchmarking report for you! To learn more about this report, just click here.
What else do you do?
Arbor Insight is a free tool we offer alongside our cloud-based MIS that schools and MATs love to use. If you’re interested in learning more about how our MIS can take the stress out of daily school admin and make your data more powerful, book a free demo here.
I still have a few questions. Can I contact you for help?
Absolutely. You can reach the Arbor team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling us on 020 7043 1830.
Our CEO, James Weatherill, opened our fourth MAT Conference in Manchester by talking about the growing sense of confidence in the MAT sphere as trusts become better at coping with constant change. We’ve transcribed his presentation below! This is the fourth conference in a series we’ve run to try and bring together MAT leaders from
Our CEO, James Weatherill, opened our fourth MAT Conference in Manchester by talking about the growing sense of confidence in the MAT sphere as trusts become better at coping with constant change. We’ve transcribed his presentation below!
This is the fourth conference in a series we’ve run to try and bring together MAT leaders from all around the country to exchange good ideas. Today, we’ll talk about your successes, as well as advice on what to avoid, and you should take home some practical, implementable tips to share with your wider central team.
The reason why we do this kind of event is this: we’ve been travelling around the country and speaking to each of you, and we kept on finding that we were being asked the same questions. What this generally meant was that people weren’t exchanging ideas between each other. So, we want this to be a safe space for you to come together and hear about what different MATs are doing, both well and not so well, so you can avoid mistakes and exchange good ideas.
I think in the early formation of any industry, it’s really important that people get together and talk a lot, so that’s the basic format for today. Hopefully you’ll go away having learned something new, having met some peers, having built some good relationships and ultimately having new ideas to take back to help your MAT scale better and more sustainably. That is the goal of today.
We try and come up with a different theme for each conference, and for this I chose “getting better and coping with constant change” – I’ll run you through my rationale for that. This is a quote I came across that illustrates my point by Dorothy Parker, the American poet and author:
“In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.
But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”
What’s nice about this is that I think of multi-academy trusts as a group, and as people we’re still at the start of a journey. I think that journey is now a few years in. The feeling I get from going around and meeting lots of multi-academy trust is that we’re at the end of the youth phase, where perhaps we were all finding our way, listening to what schools had to say and giving quite a lot of autonomy around decision making. I’m sensing a growing confidence in each of you about having tackled the basics.
We’re now moving on to some perhaps more cultural, personal things that you’re trying to tackle in your trusts – more specific issues. Some of the bigger,systemic problems are being tackled, like: “How do we scale? What size do I need to be? What do my staffing structures look like?” These issues are broadly being solved (though not completely) and we’re moving on to the second stage where there’s this growing confidence.
The last line of the Dorothy Parker quote perhaps doesn’t resonate with everyone. You can’t quite be that direct with everyone. And perhaps that’s too much confidence. But, nonetheless, I think we’re somewhere in the middle of those two verses now as trust leaders.
Coping with constant change
The MAT backdrop has been one of massive change, huge change, political change, funding change, technological change – so much more in the last five years than I’ve seen for a very long time. I think as CEOs, you’ve got better at coping with that. You start off with one or two schools, you get better, you get hit by a few problems and your goal is trying to stay on track without falling off (the GIF below illustrates this process quite well!). I think people are steadily getting better at riding that wave of change and pushing through progress in that way.
Group MIS: One system to streamline all data and workflows
So a little bit about Arbor: we’re a Management Information System for schools and trusts. We work with over 800 schools and 75 MATS. We have a group MIS which you can learn about here.
Fig 1: Arbor’s cloud-based MIS for MATs is the hassle free way for trusts to get work done
Our Group MIS pulls all of your data together into one one place and allows you to get a MAT-wide view benchmarked against national data as well. You can drill down all the way from a MAT level. It gives you out of the box analysis on regions, on your primary and secondaries and you can go all the way from MAT level to student level – with no setup required as long as your schools are running our MIS system. It also allows you to work on how you can operate better as a MAT. Group-wide workflows, for example, like setting assessment policy centrally and pushing them down to schools, mean you can get work done without having to go into each individual school’s MIS.
School MIS: A hassle-free way to streamline your schools
We also run a school MIS. This is a simple, smart system that brings all of your data together at the school level. This video shows us an overview of behaviour and reform:
Fig 2: Arbor’s cloud-based MIS for schools
So, you can start to see your data making sense, both from a student level and on a school level. Again, this comes with out of the box analytics and you can drill down and action things. The goal is about automating all of the admin in your school to save your staff time, bringing all of your data together and pointing your staff to the children who are most in need.
Over 1,000 schools will switch MIS this year
There’s been a lot of schools switching MIS. Over 1000 schools have switched this year. We’re slightly different as a company in that we care about the impact that we have. We have a board and it’s my responsibility to report to them. These are the metrics that matter to them:
The answers to all of these questions is shown in the data below, which is taken from the 800+ schools who use Arbor:
Fig 3: At Arbor, we have specific impact metrics that help us make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing
Over 800 schools and 75 MATs have switched to Arbor
We work with lots of different types of MATS:
Fig 4: A slide from James’ presentation showing the different types of MATs Arbor works with
We work with MATs from the very large (over 60 schools) all the way down to the very small (1 or 2 schools). That’s where some of the learnings come from today. At different stages of the journey, you have different problems and there’s different ways of solving it. We’ve seen a lot of it. Take the Isle of Man, for example, which has its own government – they have very different problems. So hopefully, we’ll be able to play back some of these learnings today.
Centralising data and your back office
We also have lots of partners that we work with. We don’t just do the job ourselves:
Fig 5: A slide from James’ presentation showing how we work with our partners
We have two sponsors today: P.S. Financials and RS Assessment. We integrate with both and we’ll talk about that today. You’ll find out how you can get a holistic overview of all of your students and how you can see your benchmark assessment data alongside your attendance and behaviour in Arbor. The whole goal is around centralizing the back office, so that everything works seamlessly.
School Autonomy vs MAT Centralisation
In previous conference, we’ve talked about the general theme of, “Where do you sit on the balance between school autonomy and MAT centralisation?” and a few speakers today will talk about their experiences with this.
Fig 6: A slide from James’ presentation showing school autonomy vs MAT centralisation amongst different MATs
We’ve run surveys and some of you will have been called about where you sit on the scale. These green blobs show a sample of where this room sits on each of these different areas. I’ve also highlighted in light green where the moving average is. So, what about MATs across the country? How centralized are they across all of these different things? The picture that’s emerging is that it’s kind of settling down. People know what they know and now they’re moving forward more slowly.
The first few conferences that we did, when we benchmarked this data, it was all over the place. Some people were more centralized, some people were less. But what we can see now is that assessment models in primaries and curriculum in primary-led MATS are being more centralized.
In secondaries, it’s still a way off. Governance has been pretty highly-centralized across MATS, and there are different models for that. It’s the same with school improvement – sometimes there is a function set up for that centrally. Some MATS around the tables here are doing that particularly well. Pedagogy less so – left up to the schools to a degree.
But in terms of policy systems and back office, we’re moving towards greater centralization and control at the MAT level. And this is an evolving picture. So we keep on playing this back to the room, but I think the trend has always been more to the right. MATs are taking more ownership of the more non-teaching elements so that schools can focus more on the business of teaching.
Beacons of excellence
There are beacons of excellence in this room. A question we tend to ask you is: “What one thing you do particularly well in your MAT, and what one thing could others perhaps learn from?” These are a few snippets from the calls that we had with some of the people sitting here.
Fig 7: Quotes from MATs about what they do well
The interesting and quite rewarding thing here was that lots of people are talking about their culture being something that they do particularly well. Another common theme is being confident to share the collective idea of our Trust, not the Trust – a shared, authentic identity across all schools. Safeguarding is another one, and one MAT talks about their approach to people(i.e. how HR and talent management can be a competitive advantage). We’ve also heard about how culture can be used to attract schools.
The Biggest Challenges
So now, onto challenges. And there are loads. That’s also what today is about:
Fig 8: Quotes from MATs about some of the challenges they face
One challenge is around parental engagement amongst vulnerable students. Also systems, and integration in a general sense. Head teachers who are wedded to how things used to be done, rather than how things are done now, perhaps? And finance is an ongoing problem. These are some common challenges that I hope will ring a few bells with a lot of you. That’s why I want to give all of you time throughout the day to explore the challenges that each of you have in your respective trusts. That’s it for me – thanks for listening!
If you’d like to find out more about how our hassle-free, cloud-based MIS could help transform your MAT, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email email@example.com.
Ever wondered what secondary schools like about Arbor? We interviewed Suzanne Pike, Vice Principal of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, to find out why her school chose to switch MIS, and how Arbor helps with the day-to-day running of the school. What made you choose Arbor? We were previously a SIMS school and it wasn’t
Ever wondered what secondary schools like about Arbor? We interviewed Suzanne Pike, Vice Principal of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, to find out why her school chose to switch MIS, and how Arbor helps with the day-to-day running of the school.
What made you choose Arbor?
We were previously a SIMS school and it wasn’t online; we were constantly running updates, and it was quite clunky – we needed to streamline. It’s fair to say we were a fairly new leadership team, with a big job to do in terms of school improvement. We recognised that although we had a large amount of data, we weren’t using it as smartly, flexibly and efficiently as we could be. It was hard to interrogate. We were trying to set up the processes that really run a school, and those have to be based on data and reliable workflows. We recognised that Arbor could help us achieve that. The big benefit has been being able to hold much more information – around communication, assessments, everything – all in one place, and then being able to cut that data in different ways.
Could you give us a bit of your Trust’s background moving to Arbor?
We’re a part of Woodard Academies Trust – “WAT”. At the moment, two schools are on Arbor. When we moved we had a need to do it and told the Trust we wanted to, and the other school, Polam Hall, also had a need as their contracts were coming to an end. The remaining schools were happier than we were with the legacy system at the time, so we moved first understanding they might move later.
Polam Hall migrated after us, so they were able to come down and do some training with us before they moved. We have contact with them, not on a day to day basis, but there can be similarities and things to compare notes on. Ultimately they’re very different though, as a brand new all-through, so they started a bit smaller in terms of functionality and have been able to set things up in different ways.
We staggered how we adopted our modules to make things easier for staff, and are both now at the point where we’re looking into how we do our assessments and will do some joint training with them around that soon.
What are some of the best features you’ve seen in your time with us?
The App has been very successful. We’re trying to get everyone on board with that as part of our new communications strategy. We love the idea of sending a push notification to a parent’s phone, and if they haven’t checked the App after an hour they automatically get an SMS instead – that’s going to be very useful.
We fully utilise the behaviour system in all its glory – we use all the behaviour workflows, it’s so customisable. We’ve unfortunately had to do a couple of exclusions recently, which is never easy, but is much easier when you have all the right information. It’s also useful having all the information in one place for looked after children, when you’re dealing with so many different authorities.
We have got quite clever with the reports, live-linking them to pivot tables in Google sheets. Certainly in attendance tracking and behaviour we’ve got some funky ways of breaking down the information that’s really pertinent to how we work in our school. We want to get those going with our assessments too – in fact we have a meeting about getting that started later today!
What saves you the most time in your role if you compare it to your previous system?
Communication. Having parents being able to see everything live – report cards, timetables, interventions – makes my job that much easier in terms of raising standards. Now they can be involved as stakeholders in getting their kids to work harder.
We recently set up all of our extra-curricular clubs and trips on the MIS and that’s been great from the perspective of logistics, with registers and student lists all live on the site, and obviously the communication links as well so that parents can update permissions and know what’s happening. When Year 7 came in with 150 more students this year than last it was going to be a massive workload, but the Parent Portal made it a really smooth transition. No “oh when does sign-up for this open? How does this work?” – they can see everything they need.
Now we’ve set up academic interventions for year 11s and year 13s, and we’re going to move all our interventions into the MIS, as again, the links with communication are really powerful.
Do you have any advice for similar schools (or MATs with similar schools) who are switching MIS?
I would say map out all your integrations beforehand, and be very mindful of what you spend time on. If the essential functionality you want can be achieved within Arbor, you’re better off moving it in. Arbor can do so much – you should be clear on what you want to achieve, what is essential, and what is desirable. Scaling the system up over time and having waves of project planning was really helpful for us. Over time you can make your system more sophisticated, and Arbor or other schools that use it can help you prioritise. You might say, “I want this third party system; it gives us what we need,” but does it really?
There’s never a dull moment in Education, but this term really has felt action-packed. So as you settle into the season of Nativities, surrounded by paper cut-out snowflakes and glitter trampled so deep into the carpet it will still be there in June, let us give you a festive roundup of what’s new with Arbor’s
There’s never a dull moment in Education, but this term really has felt action-packed. So as you settle into the season of Nativities, surrounded by paper cut-out snowflakes and glitter trampled so deep into the carpet it will still be there in June, let us give you a festive roundup of what’s new with Arbor’s partner network!
We’ve got new names to introduce, milestones to celebrate, and a couple of teasers for what’s coming up in 2020. Starting with…
(Image 1: Our new badge for officially accredited Arbor Partners)
1. Three new partners became accredited to support Arbor MIS
We’ve been out and about this term, visiting partners from Leeds to Brighton to put their teams through their paces on Arbor MIS. It’s been fantastic to see the level of skill and knowledge they’ve all brought to their accreditation days and unsurprisingly, they all passed first time! Please give a warm Arbor welcome to:
The Orbis Partnership is a shared services agreement between Brighton and Hove City Council, and Surrey and East Sussex County Councils. The Orbis team have decades of expertise in finance, business operations, HR and IT – so schools and academies can get all your support from one place.
SBS is a leading specialist in school support services, offering a wide range of MIS services to suit schools’ finances, staff and vision. They work with over 1000 schools across England, with strong hubs in London, the South West and the North.
Connect-Up provide a wide range of MIS, Admin and Curriculum managed service support across Yorkshire. Everything from small cabling jobs to total, integrated support for Schools and MATs – and all with a friendly, local approach.
We’ve still got one more accreditation day to squeeze in this week – so good luck to the team at Turn IT on!
2. We welcomed 7 new partners on board
Our network is always growing and it’s been great working with so many new partners this term, including:
Keystone MIS – expert SIMS and Arbor support based in Hull, but with over 200 customers nationally
Education Lincs – Dedicated local IT and MIS support based in Lincolnshire
Code Green – the fantastic MIS support team working out of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Pennine Education – Expert MIS support and training in Oldham and the North West.
3. We started work on deep integrations in areas like Safeguarding, Finance and Budgeting
We’re always looking for ways to make things simpler for schools, which is why we integrate for free with a whole range of well-loved apps, from door entry systems to payments providers (click here for a full list!). This term, we started working on a few new ones – here’s what’s coming up in 2020:
CPOMS – a user-friendly safeguarding app used by over 10,000 schools in the UK. Basic student and staff data already syncs from Arbor to CPOMS, but we’re now working to sync safeguarding notifications and statistics too. This will give you a single, clear picture of your students’ pastoral and education data.
PS Financials – the Finance system used by 60% of all Multi Academy Trusts. We’ve partnered successfully with PS Financials to deliver three national MAT conferences and we’re now starting work on a technical partnership too. No spoilers for now, but watch this space!
SBS online – our partnership with School Business Services got off to a flying start this year – we’ve not only teamed up with their software support team (see above), but we’re also planning to integrate with their intuitive web-based budgeting software used by over 1,000 schools.
4. Our partners co-hosted 5 local Arbor MIS events with us, from Kent to the Wirral!
As well as big national conferences like BETT, we also love to come and meet schools in their local area for smaller, more personalised events. For schools new to Arbor, this is a great chance to see a demo of the software, ask questions, meet schools already using it and get advice on switching.
We try to do this in partnership with local companies who understand what’s important to schools and can advise them impartially. We therefore owe a big thank you to JSPC, Educa IT, Studysafe and Wirral Borough Council for hosting sessions with us this term in West Sussex, Kent, Rotherham and the North West.
Look out for early 2020 events in East Sussex, Hampshire, Westminster and Northamptonshire.
5. We launched our BETT Partner Lounge
Earlier this week, we opened booking for our annual School and MAT Leaders’ Lounge and our Partners’ Lounge at BETT 2020. The main arena can be overwhelming, so if you want to have a more relaxed chat about moving to Arbor MIS or partnering with us, the Lounge is the place for you. Drop in for a glass of wine and a bite to eat at Tapa Tapa restaurant, just outside the Western Gateway entrance to the ExCel, from Wednesday 22nd to Friday 24th January. Book your free spot by clicking on either of the links above – look forward to seeing you there!
We’re really proud of everything we’ve achieved with our partners this term and look forward to even more exciting projects in 2020. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about any of the partners mentioned, or about becoming a partner yourself. And if you’ve read this far, thanks – treat yourself to a mince pie!
At Arbor’s MAT conference on 8th November in Manchester, Debbie Clinton, CEO, and Vince Green, Principal and Regional Director for Education, shared their experiences of turning around Academy Transformation Trust over the past year. To read part 1 of their presentation, click here. It’s scary, isn’t it? How these edifices can collapse really, really quickly in
At Arbor’s MAT conference on 8th November in Manchester, Debbie Clinton, CEO, and Vince Green, Principal and Regional Director for Education, shared their experiences of turning around Academy Transformation Trust over the past year. To read part 1 of their presentation, click here.
It’s scary, isn’t it? How these edifices can collapse really, really quickly in our sector. So how have we fixed it? What have we actually done? I suppose we’ve done a lot of obvious stuff, really. First, I went on a grand tour – it had to be done. I don’t know how you can do it any other way as a new Chief Executive. You’ve got to get into these academies and get to know them, smell them, breathe them – just to feel what they feel like.
So I said to the principals, “I’m going to carry out 22 section 8 inspections over a two term period.” That went down well. But it was actually really, really helpful. I did this because, with the absence of effective school improvement strategy and an effective MIS, I didn’t have intelligence I could trust. I didn’t feel that I could trust what I was being told across all 22 academies. On reflection it was useful because you see things that vary in quality from superb to rubbish.
It’s important to decide this: what are our priorities? A delivery plan was absolutely vital, because there was no culture to hold people to account whatsoever. While I am surrounded by lots of talent in the league of Vince, one of the problems that I had was that the absence of effective systems meant that quality assurance just wasn’t happening on a routine basis.
So the executive leadership team complete an annual delivery plan and decide the following: here’s our strategic priority, here’s what I am going to do and here’s what that will be. Now, if only getting the structure right led to rapid school improvement – wouldn’t we all be happy?
I appreciate that I’m now in year two. Year one was spent doing that. And now in year 2, my trustees will say, “Okay then. Let’s see the impact of these significant changes.” It’s a fair enough question. But I hope what you see is a coherence; an approach to regionalisation; an approach to mirroring directorates that look like each other, which helps in terms of becoming one entity.
(Image 1: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing how she will act on her three year strategy to improve Academy Transformation Trust)
People development is perhaps an obvious thing to bring up, as is the urgent need for the assessment of safeguarding and risk. We’ve appointed a Director of Safeguarding because we didn’t have one before. One of our schools went into category last academic year on the back of a very serious safeguarding criminal case. We’ve moved on quite a bit since then, but one of the reasons for it was that we just really weren’t understanding the complexity and the vagaries of safeguarding. I think Ofsted upped their safeguarding game remarkably in the past 12 months (about time, mind) and we don’t always agree with them, but actually, in light of that, it means that someone’s got to be driving safeguarding.
Governance is also really important. Our governance trust board had been radically reformed with the DFE’s involvement before I got there. They’re very impressive. Local academies were all over the place – outstanding through to absent, basically, because there’s no approach to governance. There’s no coherent approach to understanding what governance means in our trust.
We appointed a head of corporate affairs which was crucial. Neutrality is also really important. I know that Andy will happily whistleblow about me at anytime because he’s very clear that he is accountable to the chair of the trust. So, although he’s a salaried employee, he operates in a neutral way.
We’ve taken a lot of time to think about the style with which we bring about the recovery. This is perhaps a bit blindingly obvious, but actually I’ve inspected too many MATS and schools to know it isn’t always: “What leadership technique and strategy will I use in this meeting, this workshop, this line management, this performance development compensation, etc.?”
(Image 2: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing the style of her three year strategy to improve Academy Transformation Trust)
It’s also important to be humble. Humility: you can’t underestimate that. But you know that already. CEOs are famous for their egos aren’t they? I hope I park it as much as I can. There’s too much ego in our system already. We need to acknowledge that around us, we have so much talent. Tact: I’m mostly tactful, but I also don’t mess around. If someone’s not done a good job, they do know it.
I am patient mostly and ethical always. You can look at my expense plan. You can look at my salary. I’ve worked really hard and I spent a long time with my P.A. and one of our finance team talking about the management of my expenses accounts and how it was going to be; how it would be quality assured.
Then the other stuff is obvious. Communication practices: the most obvious thing. We haven’t got that right. In fact, we’re not very good at that yet. It’s getting better, but we need it. We do need an effective communication strategy. You can’t just by accident run a MAT of our size. You’ve got to be consciously thinking about how you get it all behaving as one entity. How will you constantly revisit what we are and what we say we are?
(Image 3: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing how her strategy has started to improve outcomes for Academy Transformation Trust)
So as you would expect, there are some quantitative and qualitative examples of the impact of all of this activity so far. We ended last year with a £2.9 million deficit. We ended this year in surplus for £2 million. We still have a historic debt, which won’t be settled until summer of 2021. But in a year, we’re down to £2 million. So despite everything, despite ruthless financial leadership, we still did that because we were spending amounts like £200,000 on an army of goodness knows what. I’m out of time now, but I think that the rest speaks for itself.
At Arbor’s MAT conference on 8th November in Manchester, Debbie Clinton, CEO, and Vince Green, Principal and Regional Director for Education, shared their experiences of turning around Academy Transformation Trust over the past year. We’ve transcribed part 1 of their presentation below! Debbie: I’m Debbie Clinton, the Chief Executive Officer of Academies Transformation Trust and
At Arbor’s MAT conference on 8th November in Manchester, Debbie Clinton, CEO, and Vince Green, Principal and Regional Director for Education, shared their experiences of turning around Academy Transformation Trust over the past year. We’ve transcribed part 1 of their presentation below!
I’m Debbie Clinton, the Chief Executive Officer of Academies Transformation Trust and I have been in post since September of 2018. A bit about my background: Secondary headteacher (named in the House of Commons!) and all these accolades that actually were very precious to me at the time. And then I left all of that to join the dark side and become an HMI (forgive me!) but it was very useful. Then I went over to the Diverse Academy Learning Partnership in the East Midlands to be the deputy CEO and then acting CEO of a much smaller trust than the one I work with now. And then, obviously I mentioned that I started at ATT just over a year ago, and I’m loving it. But it’s also a bit loony, which we’ll come to.
I’m Vince Green and I’ve been a principal within the Academy Transformation Trust since 2014. It’s my 6th year with the trust and I’ve really experienced the interesting journey that our trust has been on during the last 5 years – very much ups and downs all along the way. I was principal for 5 years at Bristnall Hall Academy in Sandwell. But this year, I’m in a fortunate position. Having worked with Debbie for just over a year, I’m now Regional Education Director for Secondary West and also Executive Principal over Bristnall Hall and two other academies in the West Midlands.
First, we’ll do the boring bit. So this is us. We are big. We have 22 academies, 10 primaries and secondaries, 1 special school and 1 FE College. We operate across 2 regions, 10 local authority areas, 10 lots of schools forums, 10 lots of CED funding models, 10 high-needs funding models. It’s just great. We have a turnover of over 8 million – not enough, but obviously a significant budget to manage. We have 13,000 students and around 2000 colleagues. If I had had my old HMI hat on – and there’s at least one other former HMI in the room – I would have put our multi-academy trust straight into category for all sorts of reasons, and we’ll come to those now.
(Image 1: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing key stats from the Academy Transformation Trust)
The main reason is actually very simple: the multi-academy trust was not behaving as a multi-academy trust. It was behaving as a set of 22 individual entities, some of whom, like Vince’s old academy, were fairly high-performing and doing quite well. So, they kind of just got on with it and thought “the trust is just a pain so I’ll just park that to one side.” As a formerly strong Head, I would’ve done the same. But others, of course, were desperate for the structure and support and challenge that lies at the heart of an effective multi-academy trust – and they weren’t getting any of that. So, everybody lost.
There’s a theme we hope that you pick up running through our presentation: the need to behave as a trust, but then defining what that actually means. We had the following problems: significant debt, 4 CFOs in as many years, management that wasn’t fit for purpose (I’m not talking about the individuals, actually, because many of them are still with me – which is actually a great testament to how far we’ve come). But the structures were just all over the place. Very poor systems. We’re still unearthing things now that are news to some of my senior leaders. Very poor control. Almost absent control at all levels, actually.
Then there’s risk management. I can say this now, because we’ve got one. We didn’t have a risk register. Can you imagine my reaction when I arrived to that? And the trustees were being told that everything was actually tickety-boo when it certainly wasn’t. Some academies had a risk register, so they were compliant, and in some cases quite good registers. But there wasn’t one in the centre. This was a huge problem.
(Image 2: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing key financial problems within the Academy Transformation Trust)
Can I just add from a principal’s point of view that within our trust during that time, it was quite a strange scenario. About a year in, lots of our academies with financial issues were in positions where there had to be restructures and redundancy processes. We very much did those off our own backs, because we had worked with principals or head teachers before who’d always done the right thing: cut their crop accordingly. If you haven’t got enough money moving forward, you have a redundancy process. But many didn’t, and it wasn’t imposed on them by the Trust at all.
At times, it would appear to most of us principals that financial people didn’t really know when these problems were coming. So, the only academies that were addressing this were those that had good financial systems and managers within their academy already. We realised this during a major redundancy process at my own academy at the time and I remember turning around to my SLT at one time and saying, “You know what? I reckon today we could go out and spend £100,000 on stuff for this academy and I think we’d get away with it.” Unfortunately, it’s taxpayers’ money, because otherwise it would be great fun. That was the kind of world we lived in at the time.
Absolutely. It’s a picture that I recognised from my inspection life as well. With regard to operations, you’ve got to think about the context. 22 academies, 10 local authority areas across East and West regions, massive geographical challenges and a massive geographical understanding that needs to be grasped that wasn’t. So, we’ve done quite a lot with H.R., which is getting there and ICT, which wasn’t regionalised – I mean how do you not regionalise IT and MIS? How can you not actually make sure that the very architecture on which you build your MAT has been properly regionalised?
We also had poor procurement leadership; there was a Procurement Director. I have no evidence of the impact of that job at all. We had poor MIS leadership – absent, in fact. When you’re looking at areas like risk management and control systems, you need to be really clear on performance with regard to finance, operations and education. We don’t just do education in MATS – of course we don’t. We’re a multi-million pound business! How did we actually know what was going on? Well, we didn’t. And that’s kind of the point. Classic left hand, right hand stuff: too many people.
If you look at old versions of our website, you will see that there’s all these people employed at the centre doing goodness knows what. And morally, I have an issue with that. So one of the first things we’ve done is try to drive ethical leadership culturally through the organisation. We have to be absolutely clear. What is that job that isn’t either a teacher, head teacher or member of associated support staff? What do they do? What is the point of me? What is the point of a job like this? And how do we continue to evidence the impact of these fairly highly-paid people?
“What do you do?” That was a question that couldn’t be answered effectively by quite a number of people in those roles. Then there was an equally large problem: no approach to people development. There was no strategic, deep understanding that the most important thing you ever do as a trust – as any large organisation – is look after your people. Develop them. Challenge them. Bring them on. Make them feel like they want to be part of the journey.
(Image 3: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing key operations problems within the Academy Transformation Trust)
I agree. In terms of education, there were some pockets of great practice going on within many of the academies and actually within our central team. We’ve had a lot of different staff that have worked separately for our trust over the 5 years I’ve worked with ATT. We’ve had some great individuals within those groups, but it’s never been joined up. And what it has resulted in is these academies pretty much working in silos, occasionally collaborating with other academies because the principals have taken it upon themselves to do it. But it’s been very much them and us.
So that brings me on to where we are now. We are one organisation. We are one trust. I think what attracted me initially to work for ATT – to take on my first headship with it – was the fact that I was clearly going to have huge amounts of autonomy, which was very attractive at the time. I could bring in the people I wanted, which was great fun, and so on. And that worked well, even in my environment. I’m not just saying that because it’s me necessarily, because I had a number of other great things in place, but this did not work well in other academies where that wasn’t the case.
We had, as I’ve said, uncontrolled spending. We had crazy staffing structures in some places and things not driving on educationally as one would want. Another big issue was definitely our people development strategy. In terms of talent mapping, capacity mapping and skill mapping, it was only done well in some academies. In others, we’ve lost some fantastic people along the way and I see them doing great things now in other trusts and in other organisations. And really, you know, our kids are missing out on those people now because it wasn’t mapped out properly at the time.
You know, Sir David Carter, as he left his role as National Schools Commissioner, talked about the spectrum of autonomous alignment and standardisation. What do you tightly control? What do you not really care about and what do you need to make sure you align? We did a lot of work on that, which is nowhere near finished, but we have begun a very important piece of work in our Trust about that.
One of the things that most fascinated me in my interview for ATT was the total absence of this. There were about 8 trustees involved in my appointment. During the interview they asked, “Have you got any questions?” And I said, “Talk to me about your school improvement strategy,” and they couldn’t tell me anything. It was disgraceful.
In fact, the trustees were quite clear that this was one of their main worries that they felt unable to articulate. That classic Ofsted question: “Talk to me about how you improve academies.” What do you do? What’s your model? How do you know it works?
So defining that was was really, very important indeed. When I arrived, they were spending £185,000 on consultants. So I asked to see the 16 contracts for these 16 consultants. Not a single KPI on any contract. One of them is charging around £800 a day (to fund his villa in Spain, clearly). I could not see any KPIs in any of those contracts, so they’ve all gone.
(Image 4: A slide taken from Debbie Clinton’s presentation showing key education problems within the Academy Transformation Trust)
Just to conclude, I mean, we will all be very aware of what’s happened with certain other high-profile MATs that no longer exist. And I think the bottom line was that ATT was in a position which was seen externally as relatively healthy. It was a MAT that had been allowed to grow – in a crazy way, really. If you look at the geography of a lot of our academies, we had at the time very rapidly declined, in a way that could have basically forced us to cease to exist.
Click here to read the next instalment of Debbie and Vince’s presentation, in which they talk about exactly how they approached turning around Academy Transformation Trust.
We’re delighted to announce that School Business Services (SBS) is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS. SBS is a leading specialist in school support services, offering a wide range of MIS services to suit schools’ finances, staff and vision. They work with over 1000 schools across England, with strong hubs in London, the
We’re delighted to announce that School Business Services (SBS) is now an accredited support partner for Arbor MIS.
SBS is a leading specialist in school support services, offering a wide range
of MIS services to suit schools’ finances, staff and vision. They work with
over 1000 schools across England, with strong hubs in London, the South
West and the North.
Consisting of ex-deputy headteachers, teachers and educational
specialists, the SBS MIS team builds trusting relationships with schools,
providing consultancy and training.
In addition to MIS, School Business Services is an onsite, offsite and online
support provider for Finance, HR and ICT. They develop the leading budget
management software SBS Budgets, accessed anywhere via SBS Online.
Arbor MIS (Management Information System) is the hassle-free way for
schools and trusts to get work done.
Whether you’re a primary, secondary or MAT, Arbor helps make your
essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful – so everyone from
your back office to your SLT can get on and focus where it matters most.
We’ve already helped more than 800 schools and MATs make the switch to
our smarter cloud-based MIS. With human support at every step!
We visited the SBS Milton Keynes office recently to complete their
The full day’s accreditation included:
Following a successful day, we’re thrilled to say we are now working together to give schools the option to switch to Arbor MIS whilst keeping their trusted support team at SBS. Working with Arbor and SBS together gives your school:
1. A cloud-based MIS which makes your essential admin and day-to-day work hassle-free
2. Clear MIS data you can use to focus where it matters most
3. An MIS Support Team who will help you save time on data management
4. Peace of mind for statutory returns
5. A team who will empower your staff to develop skills
To find out more about switching to Arbor with the SBS MIS team contact
0345 222 1551 – Opt 5 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my last blog, I explained why SIMS Support Units are teaming up with Arbor right now – and why this is great news for schools. This week, we’re celebrating one of our new partners gaining their Arbor accreditation. Meet Orbis – a collaboration between Brighton & Hove City Council, and Surrey and East Sussex
In my last blog, I explained why SIMS Support Units are teaming up with Arbor right now – and why this is great news for schools. This week, we’re celebrating one of our new partners gaining their Arbor accreditation. Meet Orbis – a collaboration between Brighton & Hove City Council, and Surrey and East Sussex County Councils – who’ve just passed their test with flying colours!
(Image 1: logo of newly-accredited Arbor Partner, Orbis)
The Orbis Partnership started seven years ago as a way of taking the stress out of procurement and helping schools get the best value for money. In 2017, they teamed up formally sothey could share more services and bring together decades of expertise in finance, business operations, HR and IT.
Orbis are proud of their public sector background and they know how important it is that the technology in your school “just works”. Their passion and experience help them go the extra mile for their schools by:
(Image 2: The Orbis team explaining how they help schools and MATs)
Orbis chose to work with Arbor after noticing that more and more local schools were switching away from Capita SIMS each year and choosing cloud-based systems instead. SIMS – once the go-to name in schools for all things admin – has had some delays in bringing out a cloud alternative to their traditionally server-based product. Now, schools and MATs are switching to the cloud in greater numbers than ever before, and are looking for a cloud-based MIS like Arbor that takes the stress out of daily admin and lets them work from anywhere.
(Image 3: A graph showing the declining number of schools using SIMS and increasing number of schools using a cloud-based MIS)
This has transformed the way thousands of schools work, putting data at the fingertips of every teacher, administrator and senior leader to help them see the big picture and take action. Even so, schools are busy places and people still need human support! A new MIS can often do things they couldn’t have imagined with the old system, and they need training to empower them to use it.
Orbis realised that there was a demand for local, hands-on support and training from the hundreds of schools using Arbor MIS across the South East, so they joined Arbor’s partner program in February 2019. As well as championing the effective use of MIS in schools, they can also help with all aspects of IT within your school as part of their all-inclusive, fully-managed Premier Support Service. They can also advise you on Finance, HR and Payroll, Property and Catering – so you can get all your support from one team.
The Orbis Partnership is one of 24 brilliant Arbor support units around the country – click here for a full list. If you’re a current Arbor customer and you’d like to switch your support to a local partner, reach out to your Arbor account manager on 020 7043 0470 and they’ll be happy to advise.
If you’re new to Arbor and thinking of switching to our cloud-based MIS, book a demo by calling 020 8050 1028 or email email@example.com. For more information on Orbis IT Services you can call them on 01323 463133 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Every school has been working hard on ensuring they have an inspiring, rich and challenging curriculum for the pupils recently. Whilst a great curriculum has always been at the heart of learning, the extra focus of the updated Ofsted evaluation schedule has led to schools revisiting their curriculum design. Whilst reviewing curriculum design, schools should
Every school has been working hard on ensuring they have an inspiring, rich and challenging curriculum for the pupils recently. Whilst a great curriculum has always been at the heart of learning, the extra focus of the updated Ofsted evaluation schedule has led to schools revisiting their curriculum design.
Whilst reviewing curriculum design, schools should ask themselves not only what pupils should know, be able to do and understand, but also how these aspects work in a cross-curricular way. Is there a skill that will help a pupil’s understanding of many subjects? Should we have explicit goals for learning behaviours that will assist learning in a global sense? Many schools will already do this but – when asked why – they often assert that such learning behaviours are impactful -, without being able to reference any real evidence.
Is this really a problem? Perhaps not. After all, a skilful teacher or leader often draws on years of experiential learning of what works well. High performing professionals are known to work in a constant loop of self-feedback that informs future practice.
On the other hand – maybe this is a problem. Those of you who are familiar with the work of John Hattie will know that his research into the impact of what strategies truly improve learning can be very insightful. For example, his work highlights the relatively small impact of class size on outcomes – yet many still believe this is crucial.
Before we make changes, we need to be sure we are making decisions based on sound evidence.
Which brings me to my main point: all schools should be actively researching and monitoring the impact of their curriculum design. If you are about to spend significant time building a change to your curriculum, training teachers and updating documents, then you need to know this change will make a meaningful impact.
During my time working with Computing At School, I saw what I believed to be evidence that computational thinking had a positive impact in other areas of the curriculum, with a focus on problem-solving, decomposition of problems and self-evaluation of solutions. But how could I be sure?
This is where we need to design a process that tests the theory by providing clear evidence of impact; this means building in a way to make the important measurable (as opposed to making the measurable important).
In my example, I may believe that pupils who are better at problem-solving perform better across the curriculum. I might decide, therefore, to explicitly teach problem-solving. In order to effectively judge whether I am right, I need to know two things: which pupils are good at problem solving and does this correlate with other educational outcomes?
Time, then, for some active research. Using a rubric, I could evaluate pupils’ problem-solving skills.
(Image 1: A table taken from Livingstone Academies part of the Aspirations Academies Trust – Copyright 2016)
I could then cross-reference this to academic outcomes in English and Mathematics. If a strong correlation exists, then it will be worthwhile integrating the teaching of problem-solving into my curriculum.
As ever though – this can be time-consuming work. If schools are to engage in research like this, they need a hassle-free way to get it done. They need a tool that can bring together what you already know about your pupils, such as their background and current academic grades, and your research evidence.
Luckily for Arbor schools, it’s very easy to make a rubric for assessing almost anything, such as the problem-solving example above. Once this has been used, clear analytics can then be used to determine if a strong correlation exists.
Research like this needs to be a continual process, as the needs of your pupils may change; the world they live in certainly will! So, having the tools to make the process easy and hassle-free should be a high priority.
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 email@example.com.
We’re really pleased to announce that your latest KS4 data is now available on Arbor Insight! We’ve been hard at work crunching all of your 2018/19 ASP data, so you can spend more time focusing on how findings from your performance data will inform your school improvement planning. We’ve produced 7 premium PDF reports, which
We’re really pleased to announce that your latest KS4 data is now available on Arbor Insight!
We’ve been hard at work crunching all of your 2018/19 ASP data, so you can spend more time focusing on how findings from your performance data will inform your school improvement planning.
We’ve produced 7 premium PDF reports, which benchmark your school against similar schools and top performing schools, as well as the national average. You can quickly and easily share these reports with your team, governors and even parents. We’ve also created free performance dashboards for every school in the country, where you can look at all of your headline measures and drill down into your data to see your strengths and weaknesses and where your biggest gaps are in attainment and progress. Adjust filters to change the year, demographic group and benchmarks; this makes your analysis quick, simple and highly effective.
(Fig. 1 Key Findings page from an example Understanding Your School Report)
The percentage of pupils entered into the EBacc increased this year by 1.6% from 2018; this is the highest entry rate since the introduction of the Ebacc in 2010. Both Humanities and Foreign Languages subjects had increased entry rates this year compared with last, which contributes to this increased entry rate. However, this increase is not across the board, The Department for Education has stated that this year 58.4% of pupils with high prior attainment entered the EBacc, compared with 30% of pupils who have middle attainment and just 9.4% who have low attainment.
There is also a lot of variation in terms of what subjects students choose across these 3 attainment groups. We’ve created a curriculum summary in the “Understanding Your School Report”, so you can see what subjects your low, middle and high attainment pupils have taken this year and a separate summary for the subjects your FSM pupils have entered. Our Understanding Your School report also shows you the subjects your disadvantaged students have entered into in comparison with their peers, so you can see whether there are issues with access to different areas of learning between different pupil groups.
(Fig2. Curriculum Summary focus on disadvantaged from an example Understanding Your School Report)
Another feature of the “Understanding Your School Report” is our “Schools Like You” benchmark, which is hugely effective in demonstrating how the specific demographic context of your school affects pupil attainment. This is something that the Progress 8 measure cannot show by itself and it’s useful to know how similar schools are performing, so you can use this as a realistic benchmark. Our “Schools Like You” benchmark shows an average figure of all schools that have a similar demographic intake to yours. We’ve used the methodology of the Education Endowment Foundation for the weighting of demographics in this benchmark, which is: average prior attainment (40%), variance prior attainment (5%), FSM 6 (25%), EAL (20%) and IDACI – Income Deprivation Affecting Children (10%).
(Fig. 3 Maths attainment page showing an example of the “Schools Like You” benchmark from the Understanding Your School Report)
Researchers at the Centre for Multilevel Modelling, Bristol University, compared the current Progress 8 measure with an “adjusted” measure that also accounted for pupil criteria such as gender, age, ethnicity, residential deprivation, Free School Meals, English as an Additional Language and Special Educational Needs. Adjusting the Progress 8 measure to include background factors like these meant that, in national rankings based on accountability measures, 20% of schools would change by over 500 places.
Exam results can also be disproportionately affected by social and geographical context. You can see how the area your school is in has impacted your pupils’ outcomes in our “Understanding Your School Report”, which features our new Area Type Comparison graph. This graph brings ONS area classification data together with your ASP attainment data – something entirely unique to Arbor Insight. The ONS has classified every LA in the country into 8 “supergroups”, which share characteristics, based on socio-economic and demographic data from the national census. Our graph explains which supergroup (or area type) your school is in, and shows how your performance compares to schools in areas with similar socio-economic characteristics, helping you to examine patterns between your student intake and attainment.
(fig. 4 Area Type Graph of a school in “Affluent England” taken from an example Understanding Your School Report)
Arbor Insight is our industry-leading benchmarking tool for every school and MAT in the country. It’s free for everyone! If you haven’t already, sign up today in just 1 minute: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register
If you already have an account, log in to see your updated performance dashboards: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login
Over 80 secondary schools have Arbor MIS and if you want to know why they love using Arbor, then take a look at the product here: https://arbor-education.com/products/school-mis/. Get in touch by phone on 020 8050 1028 or email firstname.lastname@example.org -we’d love to hear from you!
I read the news today, oh boy. Unfortunately, I’m not going on to talk about the lucky man that made the grade in the famous song by The Beatles; instead I’m talking about the story that appeared on BBC News with the caption: “I had an interest in school – but zero help.” I felt
I read the news today, oh boy.
Unfortunately, I’m not going on to talk about the lucky man that made the grade in the famous song by The Beatles; instead I’m talking about the story that appeared on BBC News with the caption: “I had an interest in school – but zero help.”
I felt profoundly sad for the families and their unmet needs but as a former Headteacher, I also felt for the schools as they seemed to be taking the presenting issues extremely seriously but their “help” wasn’t helping.
Thinking back to situations I had managed in my schools, I remembered the round-robin reports that regularly hit my desk about the progress, behaviour and attendance of pupils causing concern. This was our way of capturing the presenting issues in order to formulate a plan.
The sort of report I’m talking about is the kind that is being generated right now by teachers and pastoral leads across the country (and across the world) to explore concerns, or support meaningful meetings with parents. Every school seems to have their own template and completes in a way that meets their specific circumstances. However good I thought our report templates were, there was always some information that we hadn’t captured to complete the picture of the child. It’s only since I’ve been working with Arbor MIS that I realised just how poorly set up my schools were to surface student-level information quickly due to the limitations of our previous MIS. To compound the problem, my teams could only access the information when on site, which put an added burden on working parents and carers.
Our weekly student focus meetings brought together progress, educational support, welfare and attendance leads to discuss current and emerging issues. A typical action arising from the meeting would be for a key worker (in this instance: me) to make contact with home to request a meeting.
For the purpose of this blog, I am going to walk through a typical “student of concern” scenario but in this instance, the fictional student is Kimberly Adams, a Year 10 student at Pinewood Secondary School. As Head, I’m collating information ahead of a meeting with her parents. The meeting is therefore at our request because, as I shall explain, her name had cropped up in a number of progress and well-being meetings recently and we want to engage with home at the earliest opportunity. I want to get a comprehensive picture of the student using Arbor MIS.
The following picture begins to emerge:
Kimberly appears to like school; her attendance is currently 96%+ and this is an improvement on last year. She has regular planned absences for medical appointments due to a long-standing medical condition: the result of a head injury that causes a lack of focus. She has the highest attendance in her Tutor Group.
(Image 1: Screenshot of Attendance in Arbor broken down into different groups)
Unfortunately, since the start of Year 10 she has begun to arrive at school late. There is no particular pattern to her lateness to school but she is frequently late to Pd3 which follows break. This is an area to investigate.
(Image 2: Screenshot of Attendance in Arbor broken down into time of day)
Her behaviour is generally good but September the 18th was an uncharacteristically bad day. Kimberly didn’t suggest a reason as to why she had such a bad day but perhaps her parents can offer some context that would explain it. This is an area to investigate.
(Image 3: Screenshot of Behaviour in Arbor broken down into time of day)
It seems that Kimberly does not adapt well to temporary teachers and, looking at her behaviour log in more depth, there seems to be a correlation between her incidents of misbehaviour and supply teachers. As a side issue, I can see that she had eight lessons where her regular teacher has been absent which is potentially having a de-stabilising effect. This is an area to investigate.
(Image 4: Screenshot of student cover statistics in Arbor)
Academically, she is performing fairly well. She is a low prior attainer but she has a flair for Maths and English. It would be useful to explore the issues around English and the relative underachievement in Computer Science and Textiles from her perspective.
(Image 5: Screenshot of assessment and progress statistics in Arbor)
Kimberly has not signed up for any trips or visits this academic year but she is a member of the Eco Club. Her form tutor, Ms Kelly runs the Eco Club and this seems to have sparked her interest somewhat. Ms Kelly fears she may be bullied by some of the other girls in the tutor group but Kimberly has always denied this. This is an area to investigate.
Neither parent has logged into the parent portal, so may be missing vital communications from school about events, achievement and progress. I should offer to reset their password or resend the joining instructions if required.
I am confident that I can approach the meeting with some good evidence to back up my concerns and steer the conversation to cover the areas for further investigation.
Meetings like this one will happen everyday in schools for a myriad of reasons. I’m fortunate that, because Arbor is designed to turn insight into action, I have all of my information on students at-risk together in one place – and not all over the place.
We are all aware of the widespread funding shortfalls in the education sector, and it’s definitely a challenging time to be a budget holder in schools and Multi Academy Trusts. Having full visibility of all income and expenditure is hugely important in order to understand your school’s financial allocations, like where you may be lacking
We are all aware of the widespread funding shortfalls in the education sector, and it’s definitely a challenging time to be a budget holder in schools and Multi Academy Trusts. Having full visibility of all income and expenditure is hugely important in order to understand your school’s financial allocations, like where you may be lacking in funding and areas you might be overspending in.
We have created a Schools Financial Benchmarking report (SFB) for every state school in England, which displays all of your income and expenditure in a clear, easy-to-read PDF report. Over 1,000 schools have used their Arbor Insight Financial Benchmarking report since we launched it in 2015; sharing it with governors, using it as evidence in internal and external meetings and using it to inform their budget planning.
(Image 1: A screenshot of Grant Funding as presented in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking Report)
Your school budget should reflect your School Improvement Plan – covering a five-year basis, showing two years in retrospect, the current year, and the next two years’ forecast.
Before setting up any new budget, you’ll want to have handy:
Being aware of where you expect to see larger expenditure and accounting up front for your budget planning and communication is really important. For example, staffing costs in schools typically account for between 75 to 85% of the overall school expenditure and premises costs 10 to 12%. It’s therefore important to forecast likely costs in these areas early on. In your SFB report, you will see all expenditure and income sections shown as a percentage of total spend so you can visualise all of your finances better. We also break down every value as an amount that has been spent or received per pupil in your school.
(Image 2: A screenshot of total spend as presented in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking Report)
Arbor’s Schools Financial Benchmarking report is a useful resource for school budgeters, as you can see how much schools in your local authority spend on resources, such as classroom assistants, catering, building maintenance and so on. We also benchmark you school against other schools that have a similar demographic cohort of pupils to you, weighted by percentage of prior attainment, FSM and EAL pupils. If you have a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils, or perhaps pupils with low prior attainment, it’s important to see whether similar schools have comparable spending patterns – or if being benchmarked against these schools highlights some areas of funding/spending that might be good to look into.
In terms of planning your budget and making sure it aligns with your school improvement planning, you can see how your finances have shaped up over the last 3 years with our line graphs that include trend figures. We also show the last 3 years of finances for each resource compared with that of the national average, schools in your LA and schools like you. Our 3-year rolling average for each expenditure and income resource can help you predict and plan your future 3 year expenditure planning.
(Image 3: A screenshot of Premises as presented in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking Report)
How to present this data to other key stakeholders:
Now you’ve got to break down the school budget for the governors. Come with easy-to-understand, clear budget reporting sheets, such as your Schools Financial Benchmarking report and feel prepared to explain any holes with recommendations for avoiding them in the future. For example, if you overspent on building maintenance this year, you could suggest implementing more regular building checks to spot problem areas, or negotiating better terms with your insurers and maintenance providers.
If you’re looking to keep your cost low and give next year’s budget a little wiggle room, look at how Arbor’s simple, smart MIS can help you not only centralise your systems and data, but also your costs, so that you can focus on what matters most, your pupils.
Haven’t yet signed up to your Arbor Insight portal? No problem! Sign up here in seconds: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register
Already signed up? Just log in here: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login
If you have any questions or would like any help, you can reach the Arbor Insight team at email@example.com or by calling us on 0207 043 1830.
Arbor Insight is a free tool we offer alongside our hassle-free MIS that schools and MATs love to use. If you’re interested in learning more about how our MIS can make daily school admin easier and your data more useful, book a free demo here or call our MIS Demo Team on 0208 050 1028.
What we do and why… At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with smarter, hassle-free tools teachers love to use. You’ve seen the headlines. Sadly, the mess and stress of data and admin is a major source of unhappiness in our schools. 60% of a teacher’s time is spent on
What we do and why…
At Arbor, we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with smarter, hassle-free tools teachers love to use.
You’ve seen the headlines. Sadly, the mess and stress of data and admin is a major source of unhappiness in our schools. 60% of a teacher’s time is spent on admin related work, 53% agree that it contributes to stress and it’s only getting worse every year.
So, at Arbor we put everything we have into building hassle-free school technology, like our MIS (Management Information System), that’s as powerful and intelligent as it is easy to use.
Ultimately, we’re here to help make our schools and trusts stress a little less, and focus on what matters most – improving the lives of teachers and outcomes of students everywhere!
So, who are we?
We’re a diverse team of ex-teachers, education enthusiasts and motivated people who are all working towards the same goal: to help schools stress less and focus on what matters! Our interview process includes specific questions to make sure candidates’ values are aligned with our own.
(Image 1: A diagram showing Arbor’s core company values)
Finding people who share the same passion for our social impact not only makes our company an amazing place to work, it gives our customers a consistent, 5* service that sets us apart from our competitors.
Why working at Arbor was the right move for me
I joined Arbor in July 2019, with little knowledge of the EdTech market, but with a passion for helping people and finding great talent, which aligned well with Arbor’s mission. It was refreshing to join a company that cares just as much about values and cultural fit as experience and a CV.
Arbor also aligns its values with the benefits offered to its employees, including a volunteering day with a cause/charity of your choice, flexible working, half day Fridays during the summer, personal and professional development training budgets – and much more!
Arbor’s values aren’t just something we promote on our website; people say them out loud in the office; people live them day in, day out – internally with teams and externally with our customers.
(Image 2: A photograph of the Arbor team)
Hear it from our schools…
“Working with Arbor is a pleasure in every way. It is an exceptional tool but the people make the real difference with their friendly but professional manner, clear knowledge of the system, and most of all a strong passion and desire for delivering the desired outcomes and improving features and functionality.” – Stephanie Bass, Business Manager at Bridge Schools Trust
“We genuinely love the Arbor system and the team behind it who seem to just want the whole system to succeed at the Lakes. There’s always a bit of heart in the mouth when you instigate such change in a school and I would just like to say a huge thank you to yourself and your team, who really have looked after us and who have wholeheartedly helped us confirm that the decision to change to Arbor was the right one.” – Andy Cunningham, Headteacher at The Lakes Secondary School
Hear it from our Arborians…
Emma Sharples, Head of Professional Services
“Employee number 35 and number 4 on the ground in Leeds. I started Arbor as an Engagement Manager, working on special projects and building our implementation models for future onboarding.
After approximately 1090 working days, onboarding over 600 schools, supporting nearly 40 MATs, I’ve had a fantastic opportunity to help shape the customer team! My own career development has gone from strength to strength, from engagement manager to programme manager, to building out the Secondary Support Team as we took on the world of Secondary, to now Head of Professional Services!”
Stephen Higgins, Lead Product Manager
“I left a 6 year career in Teaching to join Arbor. Initially I was worried if I could “make the jump” to a new career and a new city, with a new set of colleagues.
My first experience of the Arbor family was to join the company at their annual winter conference in Belgrade. After spending a few hours with the team, I realised that my fears were completely unfounded. Everyone was so friendly, smart and passionate about solving problems in education, and they instantly made me feel like one of the team.
Since that first day, I have learnt so much about myself, about business and about my new profession. It was hard work and challenging at times, but I’ve never looked back!”
This September, Ofsted’s new inspection framework came into effect, putting more of an emphasis on curriculum as opposed to just academic results with their new “quality of education” grade. A consistent theme in teachers’ feedback to inspections so far seems to be that Ofsted have become more rigorous; rather than settling for a surface level
This September, Ofsted’s new inspection framework came into effect, putting more of an emphasis on curriculum as opposed to just academic results with their new “quality of education” grade. A consistent theme in teachers’ feedback to inspections so far seems to be that Ofsted have become more rigorous; rather than settling for a surface level view, they now want to dig a little deeper into how schools and trust operate and why.
According to Tes, some leadership and teachers have described these new inspections as intense and stressful, while others say it provides a fairer, more balanced view of how you work. Either way, we can safely say that it definitely wouldn’t hurt to prepare to tackle some tough questions about your MAT.
To help you prepare, we’ve put together this useful list of questions that you might be asked during an Ofsted inspection this year. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but acts as more of a checklist for you and other MAT leaders to read ahead of any upcoming inspections.
Questions are based on inspections that other schools have experienced this year. Many of these questions can be credited to governingmatters.wordpress.com who posted this useful article to help governors prepare for Ofsted inspections.
1. MAT structure and values
Ofsted are very likely to ask you at least one question about your MAT’s values and the aims that you have for your pupils. Consider why your trust operates the way that it does and how you think this will help to shape your students’ education overall.
A. How is your MAT structured and why?
B. What are your priorities for your schools?
C. What are your ambitions for your children?
You’ll be expected to provide some information on your governors, including their training and the role they play. Think about how you can show that your governors are adequately trained and appropriately contributing to how your MAT is run.
A. How does the MAT board work with Local Governing Bodies?
B. What role do your governors play in school leadership? How do you recruit new governors?
C. What training do your governors receive?
3. Headteachers and SLT
Have a think about how often you hold your headteachers and SLT members to account for how their schools are performing. Be sure to have some proof that you can present to Ofsted ahead of your inspection! In Group MIS, it’s easy to check how your different schools are performing by looking at your data dashboards when you first log in to your portal.
A. How do you hold your headteachers and SLT to account?
B. How do you ensure that you are not just relying on information provided by the head?
C. Can you give an example of how you challenged the head and brought about a change?
Image 1: A screenshot of the main Dashboard when you log into Arbor Group MIS
4. Staff performance and wellbeing
Be ready to provide examples of how you handle both positive and negative staff performance, as well as how you make sure the staff across your MAT are well looked after and happy. In Arbor MIS, you can use our Staff Development function to track staff appraisals and training.
A. How do you ensure staff wellbeing? Can you give any examples?
B. What is the link between teacher appraisal and pay?
C. How is teacher underperformance dealt with in your trust?
5. Measuring progress and school improvement
Think about how you’ve analysed your KS1 & KS2 performance data so far and whether you’ve effectively pinpointed where your MAT is performing well and where it could be doing better – click here to find out how you can do this using our free Group Insight reports and dashboards.
A. What do your schools do best and what could they do better?
B. How do you contribute to and monitor your school improvement plan?
C. Please describe the MAT’s journey since the last inspection. Have you made an effort to fix issues that were picked up last time?
6. Curriculum planning and tracking
Ofsted is putting more emphasis on the curriculum than ever before with their new inspection framework. Use Arbor’s curriculum tracker to manage the way you deliver the curriculum across your MAT, and our analytics to inform your methodology. You can also read our helpful blog on curriculum planning and improving student outcomes.
A. How do you monitor your schools’ curriculum and how do you know it matches the national curriculum?
B. How do your students do in foundation subjects?
C. How do leaders discuss the sequencing of curriculum development? How do your teachers know what to teach?
7. Education equality
Consider the provisions you have in place for your disadvantaged pupils and how you make sure they have as many opportunities as their fellow students and that they are treated equally. Remember – you should be able to show how you measure the impact of these provisions! In our Group MIS, you can use our “By Demographic” function to keep track of disadvantaged students and work out where to intervene; you can also use our Interventions tracker to monitor any progress made.
A. How do you meet the equalities act? How do you know diversity is being taught in your schools?
B. What do you know about the performance of your SEN/EAL/disadvantaged pupils?
C. How do you use Pupil Premium and Sports Premium monies and what impact has this had? How are pupil premium children progressing and what do you have in place to ensure higher attaining Pupil Premium students are challenged?
Image 2: A screenshot of attendance by demographic in Arbor’s Group MIS
8. Data monitoring
It’s possible that Ofsted will also ask you about the way you monitor and measure the data you receive from schools across your MAT. You need to be prepared for questions about the accuracy of this data; do this by collecting tangible evidence ahead of time. In, you can use our helpful data dashboards to diagnose any potential errors before your inspection.
A. How do you know that the data you get from your schools is accurate?
B. How do you measure pupil attendance in your schools?
C. How do you monitor pupil behaviour in your schools?
9. Safety and GDPR
We’re pretty confident that you’ll be asked about the level of safety in schools across your MAT. Make sure you have evidence to show that you’re compliant with GDPR regulations and that you have all the necessary procedures in place to keep your students safe. Visit our website to see how you can keep your data safe with Arbor.
A. Are children safe in your schools?
B. Do you have safeguarding training? Are safeguarding audits carried out regularly
C. Are you aware of and happy with the lockdown procedure in your schools
10. Parental engagement
Finally, you may be asked about your schools’ relationship with parents and how this relationship is maintained. You might want to check out our blog on “5 ways to boost parental engagement at your school” to see how you can effectively keep in touch with your parents.
A. How do you communicate with parents?
B. Are parents supportive of the schools in your trust?
C. Can you tell me more about your parent questionnaires?
As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, our new “Understanding Your School Report” will help you prepare for the new Ofsted inspection framework by allowing you to benchmark your schools’ performance data against the national average, top quintile, and schools with a similar demographic intake. Download our new report to help your schools prepare for the next inspection: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register
Hope you find the list helpful!
Arbor MIS for MATs brings all your schools together so you can instantly see how everyone’s getting on, and jump in if you need to. To find out more about Group MIS, get in touch via the contact form on our website, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0208 050 1028.
Your academy’s free Financial Benchmarking report for 2017-2018 is now available on your Arbor Insight portal. The report was prepared by Arbor Education Partners using your most recent Schools Financial Benchmarking data from the Department for Education. The aim of these reports is to help you with benchmarking your income and expenditure, as well as
Your academy’s free Financial Benchmarking report for 2017-2018 is now available on your Arbor Insight portal. The report was prepared by Arbor Education Partners using your most recent Schools Financial Benchmarking data from the Department for Education. The aim of these reports is to help you with benchmarking your income and expenditure, as well as helping you to plan your budget effectively.
What is Arbor Insight?
Arbor Insight is our industry-leading benchmarking tool for every school and MAT in the country. It’s free for everyone! See your school’s performance on all your key measures from the DfE – including comparisons with similar, national, local and top quintile schools – in easy to read reports you can share with your whole team. We also give you personalised recommendations for your school, so you can understand exactly where to focus.
Why create a report?
Our reports have been created just for your to help you see the power information can have when intelligently analysed, and intuitively presented. It also acts as a small introduction to what Arbor can do! While this data may be from last year, it is also totally free as part of our mission to help schools stress a little less and focus on what matters most – use our data to help drive your school improvement for the coming year.
Fig 1: Screenshot showing how total spend is broken down in your Financial Benchmarking report
How did you get the data?
This report has been created using Academies’ Financial Benchmarking Data from 2017/2018 as released for the first time in October 2019. We combined this with data sourced from the Department for Education which our clever data scientists then imported into Arbor’s Adaptive Management System for analysis and output. The result is an individual academies’ financial budget report unique to each academy.
Your Financial Benchmarking report will contain an overview of funding and spending across your academy from the years 2017-2018. We have also compared your data with schools like you, schools in your local Authority and the national average. Quickly spot trends and anomalies in your finance data with our easy-to-read graphs, and see how your income and spending has changed over time with our 3-year rolling averages.
See how much funding your school received last academic year broken down into percentages and compared to schools like your, Local Authority schools and the national average.
Find out what percentage of grant funding you were given, across: direct grants, community grants and targeted grants.
Fig 2: Screenshot showing a Grant Funding breakdown in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking report
See what percentage of self-generated funding you had, taking into account: community-focused school facilities, income from facilities and services, income from catering, receipts from insurance claims, donations and more!
Fig 3: Screenshot showing Self-generated Funding in our Financial Benchmarking report
See how much your schools spent in the years 2017-2018 broken down into percentages and compared to schools like your, Local Authority schools and the national average.
Find out what percentage of staff spend there was, across: teaching staff, supply staff, education support staff and administrative staff.
Fig 4: Screenshot showing a Staff Spending breakdown in Arbor’s Financial Benchmarking report
See what percentage of income was spent on the school premises, including: premises staff, cleaning and maintenance.
Fig 5: Screenshot showing a premises spending breakdown in our Financial Benchmarking report
Have a look at your spending on different occupations, including: energy, water and sewage and catering expenditure.
Fig 6: Screenshot showing occupations spending in our Financial Benchmarking report
See what your academy spends on supplies and services, taking into account: administrative supplies, educational supplies and bought-in professional services.
Fig 7: Screenshot showing supplies and services spending in our Financial Benchmarking report
How do I get my hands on a free report?
It’s super easy for you to download your academy’s free, personalised financial benchmarking report. Just log in to your Arbor Insight portal here: https://login.arbor.sc/
I haven’t used Arbor Insight before – how do I sign up?
Click here to sign up to your academy’s free Arbor Insight portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register
You haven’t answered my questions! Can I contact you for help?
Absolutely. You can reach the Arbor team at email@example.com or by calling us on 020 8050 1028.
We’re excited to let you know that all your KS1, KS2 and Phonics Analyse School Performance (ASP) data has been added to your Group Insight portal. We’ve crunched your schools’ 2019 data ahead of the DfE and used it to build free, interactive dashboards which you can use to explore aggregated statistics for all your
We’re excited to let you know that all your KS1, KS2 and Phonics Analyse School Performance (ASP) data has been added to your Group Insight portal. We’ve crunched your schools’ 2019 data ahead of the DfE and used it to build free, interactive dashboards which you can use to explore aggregated statistics for all your schools. Keep reading to find out more about Group Insight and how you can use it to plan your MAT’s improvement approach for next year.
What is Group Insight?
Group Insight is a free performance analysis tool for MATs to help you analyse your schools’ latest Analyse School Performance (ASP) data. We automatically analyse your MAT’s latest school performance data and present it back to you in easy-to-understand PDF reports and personalised dashboards, so you don’t have to spend hours aggregating and analysing the raw data yourself.
Fig 1.: A screenshot of a Group Insight dashboard displaying KS2 data across a MAT
How do you present my schools’ KS1 & KS2 data?
Your dashboards are great for helping you spot trends over the past three years, identifying which schools are driving over (or under) performance, and benchmarking your academies against national and top quintile averages. You can also use them to view each of your schools’ outcomes side by side, drill down into individual school outcomes and show impact over time when reporting to trustees.
Fig 2.: A screenshot of a Group Insight comparing a MATs school results by cluster
We’ve also updated our popular pre-paid PDF reports analysing your schools’ attainment and progress, highlighting areas to close the gap, and exploring patterns between your trust’s outcomes and the context of your unique demographic intake in our new Understanding Your School Report, which you can download via your portal.
Click here to log in & access your 2019 reports and dashboards: https://login.arbor.sc
Fig 3.: A screenshot of a Group Insight comparing a MATs results by demographic
“Clear, saves us time, available sooner than DfE MAT data, and is extremely well presented, making reporting to Trustees very straight forward”
– Paul James, Chief Executive Officer at River Learning Trust
How do I sign up?
Click here to sign up to your MAT’s free Arbor Insight portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/group-register
When will you add KS4 data to my portal?
We expect to receive your 2018/2019 KS4 data from the DfE very soon – so watch this space! If you’re already signed up, we’ll email you automatically to let you know when this happens.
Do you offer training on how my schools can use their Arbor Insight portal?
Yes! We run a free Arbor Insight Roadshow each Autumn Term offering free, in-person training to help your schools’ central teams to get the most out of Arbor Insight. Click here to sign up
Where can I hear more about Group Insight?
You can hear our CRO, Phillippa De’Ath, talk about how you can use your ASP data to drive school improvement across your MAT at the Schools & Academies Show in Birmingham. She’ll be speaking in the Business & Finance Theatre from 10:10-10:30 on 14th November 2019.
Can I use Group Insight alongside the DfE’s ASP service?
Yes! Arbor is an accredited supplier of ASP data, which means we receive secure, early access to all your school performance data from the DfE as soon as it’s released. So far over 10,000 schools have signed up to use us. Lots of schools and MATs use us instead of the DfE’s ASP service, but you can also use our reports and dashboards as a companion to the DfE’s analysis.
This November, we’re also holding another of our popular MAT Conferences in Manchester. Over 80 MAT leaders from over 50 MATs have already signed up! Click here to book your free place before they sell out
We’re very pleased to announce that we have now updated your Arbor Insight reports and dashboards with your 2019 KS1 & Phonics data! As an accredited supplier of ASP data, you can get early access to your school’s performance data in your free Arbor Insight portal, where we have done the work for you in
We’re very pleased to announce that we have now updated your Arbor Insight reports and dashboards with your 2019 KS1 & Phonics data!
As an accredited supplier of ASP data, you can get early access to your school’s performance data in your free Arbor Insight portal, where we have done the work for you in analysing your performance data! Now you can view your Phonics, KS1 and KS2 (including disadvantaged) data in your Arbor Insight portal.
We’ve used your data to build free interactive dashboards and 7 premium performance reports, which show your attainment & progress over time, identify gaps between different student groups and explain your performance in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. Over 10,000 schools are now using Arbor Insight to benchmark their performance, so if you’re thinking of signing up, you’ll be in good company!
Just sign up here to your free portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register
Or if you already have an account, log in here: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login
You will find your latest KS1 data in our popular premium reports:
Fig 1.: Screenshots of Arbor’s popular premium reports
NEW Understanding Your School report
Our new report is designed to help you analyse your outcomes in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. It benchmarks you against similar schools, the top quintile & the national average, and helps you explore patterns between the socio-economic makeup of your local area, deprivation and attainment. Use this report to help inform your school improvement strategy.
Closing the Gap Reports x5
The Gap reports are a set of 5 reports showing attainment & attendance gaps between different student groups at your school. The government wants schools to focus, not only on overall attainment, but on narrowing these achievement gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils. There does not appear to be a direct relationship between increased school funding and increased pupil attainment – what matters most is how schools can effectively and efficiently use the resources they have (both financial and human) for maximum impact. You first need to see where these gaps appear in your school in order to focus your attention and resources – and these reports do the job for you!
Attainment & Progress Report
The Attainment & Progress reports analyse the attainment and progress of different demographic groups at your school. Use them to help identify where you could be making more progress. We benchmark each subject against the performance of all other subjects combined and against the national average of each subject and all other subjects combined.
You will also find your KS1 & Phonics data in your FREE performance dashboards -find them on the left hand side of your portal and start analysing your performance data now!
Don’t forget, you’re invited to free Insight Training sessions this Autumn! Learn how you can use your Arbor Insight reports and dashboards to dig deeper into the trends behind your benchmarking data, understand how to determine whether your results are typical, quickly identify your school’s strengths & weaknesses and take part in workshops about how you can write specific, measurable objectives for your School Improvement Plan.
Spaces are limited, so click here to reserve your free spot at a training session near you!
Get in touch if you have any questions or would like help signing up, using your dashboards, purchasing reports or anything else! We’re always here to help. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0207 043 1830.
Arbor Insight is a free tool we offer alongside our simple, smart, cloud-based MIS. If you’re interested in learning more about how our MIS could help to transform the way you work, book a free demo here or call our MIS Demo Team on 0208 050 1028.
This blog was written by Beth Mokrini, Partner Manager at Arbor Education. Click here to discover Beth’s Top 10 must-have cloud systems for your school. Two years ago, my job didn’t exist. That’s because two years ago, most schools used on-premise SIMS as their Management Information System, supported by a local IT support desk known
This blog was written by Beth Mokrini, Partner Manager at Arbor Education. Click here to discover Beth’s Top 10 must-have cloud systems for your school.
Two years ago, my job didn’t exist.
That’s because two years ago, most schools used on-premise SIMS as their Management Information System, supported by a local IT support desk known as a SIMS Support Unit (SSU). Meanwhile, the growing number of schools using Arbor MIS came to us directly for support and training. Although we sometimes collaborated to help a school switch, in general, there wasn’t much opportunity for SSUs to team up with Arbor.
Fast forward to September 2019, and Arbor is now closely partnered with 19 SSUs of various shapes and sizes, based everywhere from Oldham to Cornwall. I have the exciting full-time job of managing Arbor’s partner program, which means leading on the development of new partnerships, helping SSUs earn their Arbor accreditation, and spreading the word to schools!
Image 1: A collection of just some of Arbor’s partners
We’re not the only ones making moves in this direction – most cloud based MIS providers now offer a partner program, though the costs and benefits vary widely. Like us, they’re responding to demand from support units who’ve been working with SIMS for decades, but who are now keen to diversify. Everyone is adapting to the new reality of the school MIS market: SIMS has lost 7% market share since 2016, while alternative MIS vendors have picked up over 5000 schools and continue to grow.
Image 2: A graph showing how school cloud MIS usage is increasing over time
Schools now have a wider choice of MIS provider and (quite rightly) they want a wider choice of support options too. Many SSUs are taking the opportunity to form new partnerships, develop new skills and ride the wave of schools moving to the cloud (rather than being swept away!).
We asked our three biggest support partners what they thought was behind this significant shift, and they gave three key reasons:
1. “We’re listening to our schools.”
A quarter of all primary schools and 1 in 14 secondaries have now moved to a cloud-based MIS. The pace of switching is accelerating year on year, as more schools realise the benefits of a cloud-based MIS in terms of saving time, reducing costs and enabling more flexible working.
Just because schools want to switch MIS, doesn’t mean they want to switch their support too. Many SSUs have been working with their schools for 15+ years and they’ve built up a strong relationship, which neither party wants to lose. But the challenge that’s emerging for schools is that when their support provider only works with Capita SIMS, moving to the cloud means they’ve no choice but to leave them behind.
This may put some off switching MIS for a year or two – but eventually the benefits of the cloud become too hard to ignore. This is especially true for MATs, who are faced with the challenge of aggregating and analysing data from multiple schools on a regular basis. Too often with on-premise SIMS, this means physically driving from school to school to download reports, then manually combining them in excel. For academy trusts, moving to a cloud MIS puts data at their fingertips so they can concentrate on improving outcomes for students. In fact, over half of the largest MATs have already moved to a cloud based MIS, according to a recent blog on MIS market stats by the director of the analytics platform Assembly Education.
School leaders too, previously cautious about leaving SIMS, are now more likely than ever to know another school that’s already done it. As the school market dares to become excited about the alternatives to SIMS, SSUs are listening and welcoming partnerships with cloud-based MIS providers.
2. “We don’t know when ‘SIMS8’ will be ready.”
We posted a year ago about the delays to Capita’s new cloud based product ‘SIMS8’, and not much has changed since then. It’s still live in fewer than 50 schools, only suitable for primaries and behind in the development of complex areas like reporting and integrations.
Meanwhile, there’s no sign of schools & MATs waiting around for Capita to release their cloud-based offering. Around 1,200 schools are thought to have switched MIS in the last academic year, including many Local Authority maintained schools. Although academies have so far been switching from SIMS in greater numbers, maintained schools are increasingly challenging the assumption that they should all use Capita software – especially when doing so prevents them from taking advantage of user-friendly, cost effective systems.
Unfortunately, until SIMS can meet schools’ demand for a smarter, cloud-based MIS, neither can SIMS Support Units. That’s why, to fill the gap left by SIMS8, many SSUs have differentiated their provision and developed partnerships with existing cloud MIS providers instead. This in turn is stoking up a measure of healthy competition between the leading cloud-based MIS providers, all of whom want to be chosen as the SSU’s preferred alternative to SIMS.
3. “Arbor is the leading alternative to SIMS.”
Arbor is now the 4th biggest MIS provider in England by school numbers, having grown by over 100% this academic year. We cater to all phases – primaries, secondaries, special schools and MATs. Of all the schools who left SIMS in the last year, more switched to Arbor than to any other provider.
We’ve also invested in our partner program to make sure we’re not only the leading alternative for schools, but for SSUs too. Our Partner program is completely free – there’s no cost for training & support, no fee for our accreditation test and no annual charge to remain on the program. We believe schools should have the widest possible choice of support as well as MIS, so we’ve removed the barriers to becoming an Arbor partner.
We also offer a referral scheme, so instead of losing money when a school moves to the cloud, Arbor support partners receive a bonus! This has helped the SSUs we work with to see their partnership with Arbor as a growth opportunity, rather than simply a way of minimising disruption to their business. Schools can switch to the MIS of their choice without losing their trusted local support provider, and SSUs can continue to provide outstanding support, but now to a wider customer base.
It’s fair to say a lot has changed in the last two years at Arbor (and not just in my job). We look forward to seeing what the next two will bring!
If you’re a SIMS Support Unit and interested in becoming a partner, I’d love to have a chat – please email me to set up a phone call.
If you’re a school and would like to know more about our MIS or our support partners, contact us today.
For a list of our current support partners, click here.
As I’m sure you’ve read, the new Ofsted Inspection Framework has now come into effect. Central to the new framework is the idea that there isn’t a “correct” way for schools to do things – whereas the old framework encouraged inspectors to look at your school’s results and use data for accountability purposes, the new
As I’m sure you’ve read, the new Ofsted Inspection Framework has now come into effect. Central to the new framework is the idea that there isn’t a “correct” way for schools to do things – whereas the old framework encouraged inspectors to look at your school’s results and use data for accountability purposes, the new one focuses on the context of your school and the ways in which this has shaped your curriculum and the “quality of education” available (you can see a summary of the other changes in our blog here).
After reviewing the new framework with our partner LKMCo, we decided that we wanted to help schools make the most of this less prescriptive approach from Ofsted. So we’re excited to announce that we’ve upgraded and enhanced our old Ofsted Readiness Report, converting it into a report which is focused on helping schools to plan around and respond to their specific context, rather than on whether things are being done in a particular way. The old name didn’t make much sense any more, so we’ve renamed it the Understanding Your School Report.
The Understanding Your School Report combines your latest DfE performance data (ASP) with ONS area classifications, families of schools, and top quintile benchmarks to give you the most complete picture of your outcomes in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. Our aim is to bring a range of data sources together to give you a balanced and nuanced picture of your school to help inform your school improvement approach. We’ve summarised some of the new report’s features below.
What can I do with the new Understanding Your School Report?
The main data source in the report is still Analyse School Performance (ASP). Whilst ASP is helpful for getting a basic overview of your performance, it’s often hard to use, so we wanted our new report to be a useful companion to the DfE’s service as well as a helpful tool in its own right:
1. Understand your school’s performance & outcomes in the context of its demographics
Exam results can be disproportionately affected by social and geographical context, but it’s time-consuming to bring these data sets together. Services like ASP don’t show any contextual data alongside your performance out-of-the-box.
To help you see how the area your school is in has impacted outcomes, the Understanding Your School Report features our new Area Type Comparison graph, which uniquely brings ONS area classification data together with your ASP attainment data for the first time. The ONS has classified every LA in the country into 8 “supergroups” which share characteristics, based on socio-economic and demographic data from the national census. Our graph explains which supergroup (or area type) your school is in, and shows how your performance compares to schools in areas with similar socio-economic characteristics, helping you to examine patterns between your student intake and attainment.
Image 1: A screenshot of the Area Type Comparison graph from Arbor’s Understanding Your School Report
2. Get meaningful benchmarks beyond just comparing to the national average
ASP only benchmarks your school against the national average. Whilst this is helpful, the national average isn’t always the most meaningful benchmark (for example, as a small rural primary school you might feel it’s not relevant to compare yourself to large primary schools based in a city because their intake will be so different). The Understanding Your School Report still shows how you’ve performed compared to the national average, but it also introduces 2 new benchmarks as well.
Our new schools “Like You” benchmark uses EEF “Families of Schools” methodology to compare your performance to similar schools based on four factors:
This benchmark helps you to compare your performance with other schools with similar pupil characteristics, in similar contexts.
The Understanding Your School also gives you a “Top Quintile” benchmark, which compares you to the top 20% of schools for each measure – this provides your school with a useful stretch target to work towards.
Image 2: A screenshot showing the different benchmarks available in The Understanding Your School Report
3. Understand how consistent your performance has been over time
It can be hard to visualise progress over time using the tables and bar charts provided in ASP. Our new Understanding Your School Report helps you see how your performance has changed over time by presenting Trend over Time line graphs, and showing 3 year rolling averages next to key headline figures. This gives you a broader picture of your performance, meaning you can quickly spot any inconsistencies and identify anomalies (for example, is this cohort’s performance consistent with your school, or is it atypical? If so, why?).
Image 3: A screenshot of the Trend over Time line graph in The Understanding Your School Report
4. Easily visualise gaps and work out where to target interventions
Whilst ASP breaks down your performance by pupil characteristics, it does this in tables – which means it can be time consuming to spot gaps, making it very hard to tell at a glance how well different groups are performing.
The Understanding Your School Report has a dedicated Closing the Gap section which helps you to benchmark different school groups such as SEN or Pupil Premium against each other. We express gaps as numbers of pupils rather than % to help make your SIP more meaningful.
Meanwhile, the new Curriculum Summary section for secondary schools helps leaders see how different student groups have chosen to take exams, so that they can identify whether there are issues with access to different areas of learning between groups of pupils.
5. View meaningful analysis of your data presented in easy-to-understand charts
With its clear, visual designs, simple bar charts and callouts in plain English, the Understanding Your School Report does all your performance analysis for you. Instantly see headline measures on the Key Findings page, as well as key areas to work on. This means you can get on with using your data to drive school improvement instead of wading through tables in ASP.
Image 4: A screenshot of the Key Findings page in The Understanding Your School Report
We hope that the Understanding Your School Report becomes an essential part of your school improvement cycle. If you’re interested in hearing more about the report, as well as about what our other Insight reports can do for you, why not come along to one of our free Insight Training Sessions this Autumn?
Sign up to Arbor Insight here to purchase your own Understanding Your School Report, and to view other popular reports that we offer. For more information about Arbor Insight, email email@example.com or call 02070431830.
School Operations | Vulnerable Students
In May, the DfE published the findings from the much anticipated Timpson Review, which recommends that schools be supported to reduce the number of exclusions they make by focussing in on early intervention and quality Alternative Provision. In this blog, I will explore the implications of this on schools and discuss how Arbor MIS can
In May, the DfE published the findings from the much anticipated Timpson Review, which recommends that schools be supported to reduce the number of exclusions they make by focussing in on early intervention and quality Alternative Provision. In this blog, I will explore the implications of this on schools and discuss how Arbor MIS can help schools to use data to intervene proactively with students and better understand their holistic needs, before they reach the point of being an exclusion risk.
Are current intervention strategies timely enough?
Prior to working with Arbor, my 13 years as a teacher and senior leader were spent both in Mainstream Secondary and in Specialist Education for Behaviourally Challenging students, so I have seen both the before and after stories of mainstream exclusions.
When a child comes into a full time AP or SEMH school, it’s often the case that they have been excluded, not just once but many times, and are trapped in an ongoing, negative spiral of:
Image 1: A diagram showing a child’s negative behaviour cycle
Trying to re-instill a sense of self-worth and value for learning into individuals who seem almost broken by this experience is very difficult at the post-exclusion stage. We succeeded with many, but not with all.
For those with whom we didn’t, I often wonder… Could it have been a different story if during their more formative stages in education, greater focus had been placed on developing their necessary dispositions for learning, rather than hammering home a nearly entirely academic curriculum? For students who are more resilient and better at regulating their emotions , this is ok; but for those who aren’t, early subjection to repeat experiences of failure will trigger innate safety behaviours such as escape and avoidance, which in the classroom context will display as refusal to work and disruption to lessons.
This opens up a broader debate about the appropriateness of the curriculum we deliver and whether we are assessing the right things for these individuals – something I discussed in my previous blog which focussed on SEN Assessment. Whilst there will never be a silver bullet answer to the “what to do?” question for all children (this will differ depending on context), my overriding feeling regarding “when to do it?” is that, in nearly all cases, it could have been earlier in the story and not at the point where behaviour had already become unmanageable. But how do we know when is best to take a different approach? That’s where the effective use of data comes in!
Data driven intervention
During my time in schools, I have seen and implemented a fair share of behavioural initiatives and policies, some of which were successful and others less so, but in every instance their success was dependent on the quality of information that fed into them. Data-wise, the two most important questions to ask are:
Unfortunately, the answer to these questions isn’t always “yes”. In many schools, it’s hard to act on data in a timely way, as there’s usually a heavy reliance on the manual collation and analysis of it in order to find meaning. Therefore, intervention is often carried out at the point where behaviour is so severe or prevalent that you don’t even need data to tell you there’s something to do. So, you become a reactive culture.
Negative behaviour doesn’t occur in isolation; it’s often linked to other factors, such as home-life, literacy, attendance and pastoral issues. But due to the siloed nature of data in schools (as illustrated in the systems diagram below) it is also difficult to combine different measures into simple, quick analysis, or to easily know what’s been going on with a child.
Image 2: A diagram showing the siloed nature of data in schools
Arbor MIS makes it easy to input and analyse all your core data in one system. With all student data brought together on simple profile pages, it’s easy for staff to get the holistic overview of a student that’s needed in order to plan more specifically for their needs. This is something that’s crucial to Liam Dowling, and the staff of Hinderton School, an Outstanding Cheshire SEN school who specialise in supporting students with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) and social communication difficulties from a young age.
Image 3: A diagram showing the way school data can be brought together
Hinderton’s short inspection letter from June 2017 praised the school on the interconnectedness of it’s systems, meaning that all stakeholders have easy access to the data they need:
“Your online systems, which work seamlessly together, make sure that senior leaders, staff and parents all have the information they need at their fingertips. As a result, you have streamlined and improved all aspects of information relating to pupils.”
Hinderton’s short inspection letter – OFSTED June 2017
Hinderton are one of nearly 800 schools who benefit from Arbor MIS’ ability to:
Give staff easy access to the full story of a child to enable better understanding of needs
Image 4: A demonstration of how Arbor MIS gives you the full story of a child
With appropriate permissions, all information ranging from communications with parents, attendance, behaviour and SEN history is visible in one place. Understanding what has gone on with a disaffected child is crucial to knowing how best to work with them and Arbor makes finding this information as easy as possible.
Automate behaviour action and analysis
Image 5: A demonstration of how you can automate behaviour action in Arbor MIS
Arbor’s automatic workflows within the behaviour module ensure that students who exhibit persistent low level behaviour across multiple lessons are always identified and action is taken without an administrative burden to staff. This helps schools to ensure that negative behaviour is appropriately challenged in all instances and isn’t allowed to snowball to the point of being unmanageable.
Link Interventions to Data
Image 6: A demonstration of how you can plan interventions with Arbor MIS
Arbor allows you to create interventions with Participant and Outcome criteria that pull data in from anywhere in the MIS. Therefore, students could be recommended for a Behaviour for Learning intervention following a slight change in behavioural patterns at an earlier point in time than when it becomes prevalent and significantly disruptive to others.
Customise Assessment frameworks to target specific needs
Image 7: An example of how to customise assessment frameworks in Arbor MIS
The Springwell Special Academy are an Outstanding SEMH school who make full use of Arbor’s flexible Assessment system to host specific frameworks that fit their students’ needs. This enables them to focus on social and emotional development, resilience and student wellbeing as well as tracking academic progress. The image above shows the input page of a framework they have developed called the SEMH tracker.
In conclusion, the Timpson review has brought about a greater emphasis on schools to develop strategies to help students whom they may otherwise exclude. The four tools above are just a few examples of how Arbor could help schools in collecting more specifically focussed data to use in a more timely and targeted way in order to help improve the holistic outcomes of these vulnerable students. We recognise that the challenge isn’t easy and the “what to do” expertise lies with the people who know the students best – a piece of software isn’t going to be the solution but could play a significant part in the data strategy that drives the change!
If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your school uses interventions, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year, over 1,000 schools moved their MIS to the cloud – the highest number of schools ever to have moved in the space of a year! That means 1 in 4 schools have now left SIMS in favour of easier-to-use cloud-based systems like Arbor. We’re really excited that more and more schools are realising
Last year, over 1,000 schools moved their MIS to the cloud – the highest number of schools ever to have moved in the space of a year! That means 1 in 4 schools have now left SIMS in favour of easier-to-use cloud-based systems like Arbor. We’re really excited that more and more schools are realising the benefits of the cloud; after all, we’ve been talking about it since we were first founded!
We’ve spoken to lots of Headteachers and SLT recently who want to move MIS, but who are nervous about the pain of switching out-weighing the gain of a new system. With that in mind, we’ve to put together a helpful guide on moving your MIS to the cloud (scroll to the bottom of this page to read), which we’ve written based on our experience of helping over 800 schools make the switch.
We’ve answered some of the most common questions we get asked, including how secure the cloud really is, how much it costs, and how cloud-based systems differ to SIMS. You’ll also find some first-hand switching stories from schools & MATs who use Arbor – we hope it helps make switching MIS seem a little less stressful than it might feel right now.
Moving their MIS to the cloud hasn’t just helped the 600 primary schools, 77 secondary schools and 101 special schools using Arbor save time and money – it’s also helped them transform the way they run their school. Arbor MIS acts as the central system at your school to help you get work done, replacing any clunky, third-party apps that don’t speak to each other. Teachers and SLT can now follow up with absent students, write report cards and prepare for census in just a few clicks – meaning they no longer have to switch between paper, spreadsheets and different systems to get the information they need about their students!
If you’re planning your own move to the cloud, have a read of our guide on Moving to the Cloud by clicking on the link below:
Why have 5,000+ schools moved to a cloud-based MIS? ~ powered by Arbor
Hope you find it helpful!
If you’d like to learn more about how Arbor could help you transform the way your school operates, get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education, or give us a quick call on 020 8 050 1028
Being born in the early 90’s and receiving my first computer as a gift in December of 1999 turned out to be not only a brilliant idea (thanks mum & dad!), but for many reasons, also quite profound in the way that this beige PC tower ended up shaping not just my life, but also
Being born in the early 90’s and receiving my first computer as a gift in December of 1999 turned out to be not only a brilliant idea (thanks mum & dad!), but for many reasons, also quite profound in the way that this beige PC tower ended up shaping not just my life, but also the lives of an entire generation.
It’s almost impossible to imagine today’s world without the advent of the technology that has shaped our lives so dramatically. Even as a young boy, while I would spend countless hours playing around with this marvellous box of tricks (Windows 98 seems so archaic by today’s standards), I was amazed by what it could do and saw no limit to what was possible.
Suddenly, I could (willingly) do my homework on-screen and at the press of a button it would be spat out by the enormous printer to the left of the big-back monitor. I’m sure you can imagine my utter delight when I figured out how to access the internet through dial-up (and my hopeless despair when I’d spent 10 minutes trying to download an image, only for the phone to ring half way through and kill my connection).
Picture 1: A comparison of a computer from 1984 and a computer from 2019
Fast forward 20 years and I still find myself astounded with all the technological advancements of the modern world. My smartphone can do everything and more that my first computer could and all the time we’re finding new and clever ways to apply all of this technology to a variety of different situations, problems and sectors to make our lives easier.
However, this isn’t always the case. When I think about how we use technology to supplement educational outcomes and improve the effectiveness of our schools in general, I have mixed feelings. In some cases schools are embracing tech with great results (putting iPads in the classroom being an example) but in other areas, schools are being left behind.
The (not so) looming crisis
In 2019, schools are under scrutiny and pressure like never before. The education system is ever evolving and adapting to address its own challenges whilst trying to find new ways to teach the next generation so they’re set up for life in an ever more competitive and challenging world. Despite this, it’s failing to adequately address an ever progressing crisis: teachers leaving the profession at an unprecedented rate.
Among others, one of the most commonly cited reasons for the staffing crisis in the UK is the increasing demand and workload placed upon school staff as a whole, not just teachers. When I meet with school leaders in the North of England this is a question which is raised almost every single time – ‘how can I improve the efficiency and outcomes of my school whilst also reducing my staff’s workload?’ and my answer is always the same: try to see technology as an assistant and a driver for positive change and not a means to an end. It should help, not hinder you.
In most elements of our lives we embrace the latest and greatest in tech and no longer do we settle for the sub-standard; take mobile phones as an example. On average, most people change their smartphone every 2-3 years and sometimes even more frequently. If the device doesn’t do what we want or expect it to, or even if we just find it a bit difficult to use, what do we do? We replace it without hesitation and try another brand entirely.
I really like this attitude to tech; it serves to ensure that vendors are always striving to find new and innovative ways to make our lives easier, always one step ahead of us and improving on things that we never even thought were a problem, until we’re handed the solution. Of course, we know what happens when they don’t move with the times. More so, it stops vendors becoming complacent.
Having seen the internals of education and technology for myself, I firmly believe schools should think of their systems like most of us do a mobile phone; a really useful tool to help us out on a day to day basis, but something we can easily swap and move away from if it no longer serves its purpose. It’s for this reason that we encourage schools we meet with to do a systems audit, which helps determine if the technology they’re paying for has become outdated or no longer fits with the day-to-day running of the school.
Picture 2: An example of mobile phones from the 1980s and a mobile phone in 2019
In a school, the MIS is one of the key pieces of tech which has the capacity to vastly reduce staff workload, increase the efficiency of the school and improve pupil outcomes at large. Despite this, many schools across the country are still using clunky, out-of-date systems that are time consuming and difficult to use, yet some appear to accept this because they’re perhaps unaware just how much of a difference a modern MIS could make to their work, and their school as a whole.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who’s not happy with the technology that’s supposed to assist them and make their life easier, it would be to explore alternatives and try and find a system that fits the ethos of your school, and that enhances the livelihoods of its staff and the outcomes of its pupils.
Sometimes, we’re unaware that there are better ways to do things until we’re presented with a new idea. Try to look for a solution to your problems in a proactive manner – technology is there to help you and when it no longer does, it effectively becomes surplus to requirements.
If you’re unhappy with your MIS and school systems in general, it could be that they’re no longer fit for purpose and you should start exploring alternatives. It’s your duty to ensure your school has the best outcomes and your staff are as happy as they can be.
Remember, a change of attitude is all that’s necessary.
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just added 2019 KS2 data to Arbor Insight. We’ve crunched your data ahead of the DfE to give you a head start analysing your latest SATs results, making Arbor one of the first places you can see your latest data! We’ve been busy updating your dashboards, readying your reports
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just added 2019 KS2 data to Arbor Insight. We’ve crunched your data ahead of the DfE to give you a head start analysing your latest SATs results, making Arbor one of the first places you can see your latest data!
We’ve been busy updating your dashboards, readying your reports (and even adding a whole new report!) to analyse your performance data for you so you can get on with using it to plan your school improvement approach. Keep reading to find out more about Arbor Insight, what’s changed and how our reports can help.
What is Arbor Insight?
Arbor Insight is a free performance analysis tool for schools & MATs to help you analyse your latest Analyse School Performance (ASP) and finance data. We automatically analyse your latest school performance data and present it back to you in easy-to-understand PDF reports and interactive dashboards, so you don’t have to spend hours analysing the raw data yourself. It’s free to sign up for your school’s interactive dashboards and portal, and we charge a small amount for our premium, in-depth reports (as they take a bit more work to build).
Can I use Arbor Insight alongside the DfE’s ASP service?
Yes! Arbor is an accredited supplier of ASP data, which means we receive secure, early access to all your school performance data from the DfE as soon as it’s released. So far over 10,000 schools have signed up to use us. Lots of schools use us instead of the DfE’s ASP service, but you can also use our reports and dashboards as a companion to the DfE’s analysis.
How do you present my KS2 data?
Your school’s Arbor Insight portal contains free interactive dashboards benchmarking your performance against the national average, as well as against schools “Like You” and “Top Quintile” schools. Click on any measure to drill down and see which demographic groups are driving over or underperformance.
Image 1: A screenshot of one of Arbor’s free interactive dashboards
You can also dig deeper into your KS2 data with our popular paid-for PDF reports:
What’s the new report you mentioned?
This year we’ve released our brand new Understanding Your School Report, which helps you understand your performance in the context of your school’s unique demographic intake. See your performance benchmarked against similar, top 20% & national averages, and explore patterns between the socio-economic makeup of your local area, deprivation and attainment.
Image 2: A screenshot of Arbor’s new Understanding Your School Report
Click here to sign up to your school’s free Arbor Insight portal: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register
When will you add KS1 & KS4 data to my portal?
We expect to receive your 2018/2019 KS1 data in October and your KS4 data in November – so watch this space! If you’re already signed up, we’ll email you automatically to let you know when this happens.
Do you offer training on using my school’s Arbor Insight portal?
Yes! We run a free Arbor Insight Roadshow each Autumn Term to help you get the most out of your school’s dashboards and reports. Click here to sign up for your slot
Absolutely. You can reach our Arbor Insight Team on email@example.com or by calling 0207 043 1830.
School payments happen every day: parents pay for school lunches, clubs and trips all the time. Studies have shown that the number of cashless transactions is constantly increasing, with more and more of these parents choosing to use online payments to purchase goods and services from schools. It’s not a secret that online payments are
School payments happen every day: parents pay for school lunches, clubs and trips all the time. Studies have shown that the number of cashless transactions is constantly increasing, with more and more of these parents choosing to use online payments to purchase goods and services from schools.
It’s not a secret that online payments are susceptible to fraud (we’ve all heard stories about stolen credit cards and phishing sites that steal your details), so making online payments as safe as possible is a challenge for organisations all around the globe. As they became more aware of these risks, governments and financial authorities decided to take action by making payments more secure and protecting consumers when they pay online. They introduced the Payment Services Directive (PSD) in 2007 to regulate online payments in the EU and EEA, and in 2015 the updated directive – second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) – was released. This introduced even more regulations, including Strong Customer Authentication.
It was initially put forward that on 14th September 2019, new requirements for authenticating online payments will be introduced in Europe as part of PSD2. When you make an online payment, SCA requires you to use at least two of the following 3 elements:
Update: UK Finance are now recommending an 18-month delay to the introduction of Secure Customer Authentication rules in the UK to give companies more time to prepare. While this might mean that SCA regulations are postponed, there is no guarantee, which is why we have made sure we are compliant. Arbor is set up for all eventualities so that your school won’t face any problems now, or in the future. Our updates to your system also means that school payments will be protected from fraudulent transactions, which is an added bonus!
From when SCA comes into action, banks will decline payments that require SCA and that don’t meet this authentication criteria (if you would like to read the original SCA requirements, they’re set out in this Regulatory Technical Standards document). These regulations will apply to British banks as well, as they are not dependant on any Brexit decisions.
Authentication is typically added in as an extra step after checkout, where the cardholder is prompted by their bank to provide additional information to complete a payment (this could be a code sent to their phone or fingerprint authentication through their mobile banking app).
Under this new regulation, specific types of low-risk payments may be exempt from Strong Customer Authentication. Payment providers will be able to request these exemptions when processing a payment. The cardholder’s bank will then receive the request, assess the risk level of the transaction, and ultimately decide whether to approve the exemption or whether authentication is still necessary. Usually, transactions lower that £30 will be considered as low-risk and, in most cases, will not require any authentication.
SCA regulations will introduce small changes to the way people make card payments to school:
Image 1: A screenshot showing you how to enter your card details into Arbor
Image e: A screenshot showing a successful payment in Arbor
At Arbor, we’ve introduced changes to the way we process card payments to become 100% compliant with the new regulations, which means your school won’t face any problems when Strong Customer Authentication comes into practice. You also won’t need to make any changes if you use the card payment functionality in Arbor – we’ve taken care of all that for you already!
If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your school handles payments, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assessment | School Operations
A-Level and GCSE results days are amongst the busiest days in any school’s calendar. We’ve compiled this guide and checklist to help the day go as smoothly as possible. 1. Import results files Results files can either be downloaded from the awarding organisation’s online portal or automatically received using the A2C transport application. Once you
A-Level and GCSE results days are amongst the busiest days in any school’s calendar. We’ve compiled this guide and checklist to help the day go as smoothly as possible.
1. Import results files
Results files can either be downloaded from the awarding organisation’s online portal or automatically received using the A2C transport application. Once you have received your results files, it’s then a case of importing them into your MIS.
Arbor’s MIS makes this process very easy by automatically identifying any problems when you upload your results files. Don’t worry about importing QN (Qualification Number) files, creating grade sets, or entering discount codes; because Arbor MIS is in the cloud, this is all done for you.
Image 1: A screenshot showing how results files are imported onto Arbor MIS
2. Set embargo date/times
The JCQ stipulates that only the school’s Exams Officer, Senior Leadership and other selected members of staff can have access to results before the official publication date. To ensure that this happens, it is essential that an “embargo date” is set in your MIS. The embargo date ensures that results can only be viewed by other members of staff, students and parents the day after results are published.
Setting an embargo is straightforward in Arbor. When you upload results files, you’ll be asked to enter an embargo date. Arbor automatically assumes that the Examinations Officer and Head Teacher will have access to results files before the embargo date, but it’s really simple to add more staff members as “pre-embargo” viewers if you’d like.
Image 2: A screenshot showing how to set an embargo date in Arbor MIS
3. Manually enter the results for any non-EDI qualifications
In the case of qualifications that don’t support EDI results files, results need to be manually added into your MIS. Non-EDI results can be viewed and downloaded from the awarding organisation’s secure portal.
Arbor’s Exams module supports all Ofqual recognised qualifications. Non-EDI qualifications can be easily added to your centre’s qualification offering. Arbor manges all the information for non-EDI qualifications centrally, so there’s no need to manually add information such as award and/or learning unit names and combinations.
Image 3: A screenshot showing where to enter non-EDI qualifications in Arbor MIS
4. Export results to a data analysis application
There are a number of excellent and intuitive third party data analysis tools available to schools (some schools have their own Excel templates, or prefer to use an analysis tool such as SISRA, 4Matrix or ALPS Connect for this purpose). After all the candidates’ results have been loaded into your MIS, the next step is to export them for analysis. To get the most out of your exams day data analysis, you should have exported assessment data at selected periods (“data drops”) throughout the year; this will allow your school’s Data Manager and Heads of Department to analyse student’s progress throughout the year.
Importing data into a third party data analysis tool can either be done from within the application itself, or by creating a marksheet with the relevant student and exam result that can be re-imported into the application.
We know that creating marksheets to export exam data is incredibly time-consuming – that’s why Arbor’s Exams module has multiple, powerful out-of-the-box reporting tools that allow you to export candidates’ results in a few clicks. If you want more flexibility to create your own reports, you can also use Arbor’s Custom Report Writer which lets you quickly and easily compile custom marksheets that contain any data point from your MIS.
Image 4: A screenshot showing how export candidate results from Arbor MIS
5. Print candidate’s Statement of Results
After you have completed your results analysis, it’s advisable to print out paper copies of candidates’ Statement of Results. Remember, only the relevant members of staff should be able to see these results before the release date. This means that all printed content should only be handled by theses members of staff. When the Statement of Results have been printed, they must be stored in a safe and secure place until the following day.
Image 5: A screenshot of how candidates’ Statement of Results appear in Arbor
6. Electronically share results with parents and guardians
The nervous thrill of opening your exam result is something that none of us ever forget. Opening the envelope is usually followed by a phone call home to tell loved ones. Students will be making plans for college, university and the rest of their lives; teachers will be on hand to offer congratulations, advice and support.
It’s not always possible for parents, guardians and students to be in school on results day, and amidst all the excitement, it’s not uncommon for Statements of Results to get spoilt or lost! With this in mind, it’s wise to share students’ exam results with their parents and guardians electronically too. Your MIS provider should give you the option to do this.
If your school is using the Arbor App, parents will be able to see their child’s exam results by selecting ‘Examinations’ in the menu. Parents can view a list of their child’s exam results or download a printable PDF. If you don’t want to share students’ exam results with parents via the Arbor App, or you would like to wait until after results day, all of this can be managed in Arbor MIS.
Image 6: A screenshot of how examination results appear in the Arbor App
Using Arbor MIS? Need help on Results Day?
We have a comprehensive online help guide that addresses all the questions that you may have. Still stuck? Our customer team will be on hand to help you!
If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your secondary school works, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email email@example.com.
Thousands of schools have now joined the cashless and paperless revolution, from the cosiest rural primary to the biggest inner-city sixth form college. This has led to an explosion in the Edtech sector, with hundreds of useful apps and dashboards now available to manage your school or MAT more efficiently. This is great news for
Thousands of schools have now joined the cashless and paperless revolution, from the cosiest rural primary to the biggest inner-city sixth form college. This has led to an explosion in the Edtech sector, with hundreds of useful apps and dashboards now available to manage your school or MAT more efficiently. This is great news for schools, but the choice can be bewildering.
To combat the flow of paper slips, cash and cheques that once flooded the office, many schools have now armed themselves with an array of new technologies. This can lead to soaring IT budgets and “login fatigue” (a feeling of exhaustion caused by typing in multiple usernames and passwords to complete one simple task!).
That’s why we thought we’d help you narrow down the field, by compiling our top 10 cloud systems to help schools work more efficiently. These systems are all best-of-breed in their own right, and what’s more, they integrate smoothly with Arbor’s smart, simple, cloud based MIS!
Banishing paper logbooks and filing cabinets from schools all over the country, CPOMS is an intuitive app for monitoring child protection, safeguarding and pastoral issues. It cuts down paperwork for staff, while ensuring incidents are properly reported, details are shared securely and students are kept safe.
Basic student and staff data already syncs from Arbor to CPOMS, allowing our customers to operate seamlessly between the two systems. We’re now working together on a deeper integration, which we hope will allow teachers to get a single clear picture of their student’s pastoral and education data.
| G Suite for Education
Google offers its much-loved set of apps (including Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Hangouts) to schools for free, including extra features to make for smooth collaboration between students and staff. You can link Arbor MIS to Google so that you only have to set up accounts for your staff and students once, and your timetables in Arbor will automatically show in your Google Calendar, keeping your MIS as the single source of truth.
InVentry’s popular Sign In tools help schools securely monitor staff, students and visitors, while speeding up the sign in process. They also provide a user-friendly Audit & Compliance app, to simplify the management of assets. InVentry has set up read/write integrations with Arbor and other leading MIS providers, so you can relax knowing your crucial attendance and security data is accurate to the minute.
| SISRA and 4Matrix |
Although SISRA have recently branched out into lesson observations and CPD with their new product, SISRA Observe, they’re probably best known for their outstanding secondary data analysis tool, SISRA Analytics. Highlights include bespoke grading so you can use your own scales and language, and out-of-the-box performance reports to save you time on exam results day.
Similarly, 4Matrix is well loved by secondary schools for its management of school performance data. The app produces quick, in-depth reports on exam results day, meaning you won’t need to sift through spreadsheets to show progress for different student groups. 4Matrix also supports the design and assessment of a curriculum “without levels” for KS3.
Both systems help you create neat, visual representations of your key performance data. You can easily sync achievement and contextual data from Arbor marksheets to either 4Matrix or SISRA, meaning there’s no need for dual entry, and your MIS remains the single source of truth.
| RS Assessments
RS Assessment’s standardised tests PIRA and PUMA are a key component of many primary school improvement strategies, helping Senior Leaders track in-year pupil progress and benchmark against age-related expectations. What’s more, you can use the tests in conjunction with MARK (My Assessment and Reporting Kit) online, to get time-saving analysis of test results.
Arbor has partnered with RS Assessments to feed test results from PIRA and PUMA into our smart, simple MIS, so there’s no need for dual data entry. For MAT Leaders, the same data will aggregate up to your MAT MIS to give you a single overview of your schools. Read more about this integration here!
ParentPay is an easy-to-use online payments service used by over 9,000 schools in the UK. It allows cashless income collection and financial reporting for everything from clubs and trips, to dinners and uniforms. ParentPay comes with in-built email and SMS functionality too, so you can manage payments and communicate with parents in the same place. Arbor MIS includes a built-in payment and communications service, but we also integrate directly with ParentPay, giving schools the flexibility to choose the best solution for them.
Assembly offers school data integration and Multi Academy Trust analytics. You can use their innovative dashboards to connect your MIS to a wide range of third-party applications, and also to populate Assembly Analytics (Assembly’s MAT Analytics tool) with a live feed of you school’s data. Arbor is one of six leading MIS providers to integrate with Assembly, so it’s a great option for MATs who aren’t ready to move all their schools onto the same MIS.
For MATs looking to find economies of scale by centralising MIS across their schools, Arbor’s MIS for Groups and MATs allows you to transform the way you work, by reporting and taking action centrally.
| Wonde and Groupcall |
Wonde and Groupcall are two of the UK’s most popular “data providers” for Education, which means they can connect your MIS with hundreds more apps and make it easy to control data sharing. You can share data from your MIS with 3rd party apps through their platform, with user friendly dashboards to help you see what data is shared with whom. Arbor MIS (along with many other cloud based providers) integrates with both Wonde and Groupcall, meaning any of the apps on their platforms are open to Arbor schools.
So there you have it: our pick of the top 10 apps for schools and MATs looking to go cashless and paperless. Powerful on their own, they all integrate with Arbor’s cloud-based MIS to help you save even more time and get deeper insight into your data. We’re not stopping there though – our API team is constantly expanding the range of integrations available to our customers. We’re currently working on a deeper sync with the market-leading Cunninghams Catering app, so watch this space!
I used to marvel at the mystery and complexity that always seemed to surround the world of the Curriculum Deputy. When I eventually became one, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormous privilege but enormous responsibility I had to create the perfect curriculum model – taking into account the latest thinking on curriculum design and
I used to marvel at the mystery and complexity that always seemed to surround the world of the Curriculum Deputy. When I eventually became one, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormous privilege but enormous responsibility I had to create the perfect curriculum model – taking into account the latest thinking on curriculum design and implementation. As I became more experienced, I began to make increasingly bold moves to build the curriculum around the needs of learners and not just the constraints of the budget.
My first mentor was a retired (and fabulously wise) Curriculum Deputy who stressed that planning the curriculum was a whole-year job. When I became a Headteacher, I continued working and planning in this way and valued the support of some really creative thinkers on my leadership teams. It was a special day indeed when Ofsted visited one such school and judged leadership, management and the curriculum as outstanding.Sadly, that framework and financial climate are a thing of the past now!
In more recent times, the Leadership Team started to consider in depth the outcomes for pupils after each set of summer results and would use this to interrogate the merits of our curriculum plan. Once or twice we did withdraw a course in September if student numbers didn’t justify it, or a staffing crisis necessitated it, but generally, once a commitment had been made to students that a course would run, we honoured it for the full two years.
Whatever our staff/student profile looked like, our first priority was to ensure that students had access to a broad, balanced, relevant curriculum. Our most recent challenges included:
Working to a timetable of 30 periods a week meant an inevitable squeeze on option choices, reducing the number of subjects students could choose from four to three in one case, and removing PSHCE/RE as subjects and mapping the provision across the curriculum. None of these decisions were easy to make or sat particularly well with me, but as the saying goes; something’s got to give.
My mentor, Bob, helped me plan my staffing requirements and showed me how many staff periods I needed to cover my commitments. Not only did this give me the opportunity to examine my current staffing needs, I could also begin to plan ahead – particularly if it meant recruiting a double specialist like a French/Spanish teacher or an RM/Textiles teacher. This was hugely helpful in feeding into the budget planning cycle and supporting my requests for additional funding for staffing.
We rarely carried any slack in our curriculum model. This inevitably meant that SLT members would also have to pick up subjects outside of their discipline and teachers that didn’t have a full timetable of classes were used as additional support with key groups and interventions. In reality, our staffing model would have to change incrementally throughout the year if the staffing profile suddenly changed, or if it was clear from our in-year tracking that students were not making sufficient progress.
One strength of our curriculum was that we could plan our interventions so well that we could provide extra lessons and tailor the curriculum for individuals and groups. We would do this by taking them out of some lessons where they were performing well to give them additional support in subjects where they were performing less well. We were blessed with a dedicated team of teachers and TA’s, some of whom would run sessions before and after school, others during registration and others during gained time or non-contact time.
If, like we did, you believe the curriculum is the dominant driver for boosting student outcomes and life chances, you will face constant budgetary pressures with very few variables to play with. We explored:
As a direct consequence, we found ourselves increasingly offering shorter contracts, reducing the size of the SLT and going without certain associate staff roles like a PA – just to balance the books. After all, it’s about delivering the most effective curriculum possible with your current staff and budget!
We used an approach we called “active vacancy management” that ensured that each time a post became vacant we didn’t simply fill it. First of all, we decided if we needed to replace the post, assessed whether it would be a like-for-like replacement or in some reduced capacity and analysed current staff deployments in detail, before considering placing an advert.
Increasingly, we looked beyond our own staff and worked closely with neighbouring schools to share teachers and other support roles. This is not without its complications, but it makes the process of appointing one full-time English teacher that works on two sites marginally easier than appointing two.
I am heartened by news of courageous schools and Trusts that break the mould and shape their curricula around the needs of their students by considering the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to be happy, resilient and independent learners.
Maintaining the intent and moral purpose of the curriculum is challenging, but the rewards for young people make it worth every minute.
“When we’re talking about intent, we’re talking about how ambitious, coherently planned and sequenced, how broad and balanced and inclusive the curriculum is.”
Heather Fearn – Ofsted
Data and Insight | School Operations
Data entry is a daunting prospect for most teachers. With the amount of data they are expected to record, it can often take up a large portion of their daily workload, and workload is listed as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. The good news is it doesn’t have to be
Data entry is a daunting prospect for most teachers. With the amount of data they are expected to record, it can often take up a large portion of their daily workload, and workload is listed as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way – keep reading to see how you can transform the way your school deals with data entry.
Making data work
In November 2018, the Teacher Workload Advisory Group released a report called “Making Data Work”. The report reveals that teachers consider unnecessary tasks around recording, monitoring and analysing data to be notably time-consuming, with data entry highlighted as the biggest problem. The Teacher Workload Advisory Group set out a number of suggestions for the DfE to consider. These included:
So what’s the best way to reduce data entry at your school? Try following these simple steps:
Part 1: Streamline your systems
Before you do anything else, you need to ask yourself if all the third-party systems you’re currently using still work for your school. Are they up to date? Do you need all of them? Do staff engage with them regularly?
Find out by running a systems audit. It’s easy to do – just follow the instructions in our blog on how to audit your school or MAT’s IT systems. By running a systems audit, you can reduce the number of places you have to enter data. Goodbye, multiple logins! Your staff will have fewer systems and apps to keep track of, which will considerably reduce their administrative workload.
Image 1: How we encourage schools to approach an IT systems audit
Part 2: Make sure any extra systems you’re using are integrated with your MIS
Over the years, your school has probably invested in lots of different systems that were useful at the time, but which don’t integrate with your current MIS. This can make everyday tasks like following up with detentions and creating meal plans much more complicated and time-consuming than they need to be, as you have to visit external apps in order to properly record all of the data. Using systems that integrate with your MIS can make admin a lot simpler. For example, Arbor’s integrations with apps like CPOMS and Inventry means that you only have to enter student data once and it will update automatically in these apps.
The “Making Data Work” report also advises that schools should “minimise or eliminate the number of pieces of information teachers are expected to compile.” Ensuring your systems integrate with your MIS will mean that you can access all your data in one place, which means you won’t have to spend time transferring it from one system to another.
Image 2: How parents can view all payments and invoices from Arbor’s Parent Portal
Part 3: Set up a system to suit your school
It’s important to think about how your MIS can best serve your school. For example, the report advises that schools should have simple systems that allow behaviour incidents to be logged during lesson time, rather than at break or lunch. In Arbor, you can set up incident workflows that track negative and positive behaviour (e.g. a Level 2 incident could automatically create a lunchtime detention). Automating workflows in this way means that teachers don’t have to add this information manually, which will save them a significant amount of time.
Your MIS can also help to reduce data with quick group selection. For example, in Arbor you can select absentees from your register and instantly send emails to their primary guardians with the help of our mail merge tool. You can even use a pre-made message template so you won’t have to type a single word!
Image 3: How you can follow up on students registered absent in Arbor
Not only will reducing data entry help to improve workloads, it will make your staff happier too. So – streamline your systems, make sure they integrate with your MIS, and set it all up to suit your school. If you’d like to hear more about how Arbor could help you reduce data entry at your school, why not drop us a message here?
At our most recent MAT conference, Paul West, Chief Executive Officer at Spencer Academies Trust, shared his experience of the trust’s recent merger with Trent Academies Group, and how other trusts considering a similar move can make sure they’re doing it right. Check out his presentation below to see how Spencer Academies Trust navigated this
At our most recent MAT conference, Paul West, Chief Executive Officer at Spencer Academies Trust, shared his experience of the trust’s recent merger with Trent Academies Group, and how other trusts considering a similar move can make sure they’re doing it right. Check out his presentation below to see how Spencer Academies Trust navigated this important process:
Fig. 1: Click on the the arrows to flip through Paul’s presentation
At our latest MAT conference in London, Paul James, Chief Executive of River Learning Trust, talked to us about the importance of “working together to achieve excellence in education”. His presentation, which you can view below, explores different approaches to leadership and emphasises the necessity of teamwork. Fig. 1: Click on the the arrows to
At our latest MAT conference in London, Paul James, Chief Executive of River Learning Trust, talked to us about the importance of “working together to achieve excellence in education”. His presentation, which you can view below, explores different approaches to leadership and emphasises the necessity of teamwork.
Fig. 1: Click on the the arrows to flick through Paul’s slides from the day
At our recent MAT conference in London, Will Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Greenshaw Learning Trust, spoke about the importance of defining your Trust and how building strong foundations and principals is key to running a successful organisation. We’ve transcribed the beginning of his presentation below. What do we mean by “Trust”? A couple of
At our recent MAT conference in London, Will Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Greenshaw Learning Trust, spoke about the importance of defining your Trust and how building strong foundations and principals is key to running a successful organisation. We’ve transcribed the beginning of his presentation below.
What do we mean by “Trust”? A couple of years ago, as I walked around schools and spoke to my relatively small central team, I would hear things like “the Trust are coming in; the Trust have asked for this information.” We seemed to exist in some ivory tower headed up by me in some sort of draconian dark suit wielding some sceptre of power that was “the Trust”. We needed to bust that myth.
We moved away from the notion of “the Trust is coming in”. I went round and made it our number 1 performance managing objective to get it clear to local governing bodies and head teachers that “The Trust” is everyone. We challenge people when they refer to the Trust central team as “The Trust”. They are included in that Trust.
This has created an understanding of who we are as an organisation and has allowed me to develop true school-to-school collaboration, because we are all in one Trust and that’s been a massive thing for us. That’s why I focus very much on defining that Trust.
Click on the slides below to learn about Greenshaw Learning Trust’s strategy in more detail:
At our latest MAT Conference in London, Martin Holyoak, Education Product Specialist at PS Financials, spoke about the benefits of standardising systems across your MAT as you scale. Read what he had to say below. Let’s talk about using technology to strengthen your position when centralising. When we read into the whole centralising process, there’s a
At our latest MAT Conference in London, Martin Holyoak, Education Product Specialist at PS Financials, spoke about the benefits of standardising systems across your MAT as you scale. Read what he had to say below.
Let’s talk about using technology to strengthen your position when centralising. When we read into the whole centralising process, there’s a lot to consider. One of the first considerations should be the technology we use. What you should try to do is to use 1 product across all the schools in your Trust. When some schools first join the Trust, they try to take their systems with them. They can use anything up to 15 different systems – just for the basics. It’s actually more cost-effective when you start breaking contracts and just using one system.
Fig. 1: Click on the the arrows to flick through Martin’s slides from the day
Looking at accounting, HR, procurement, communications – whatever it may be; if you have multiple sets of software that don’t work with each other, it’s not helpful. If you just use these spreadsheets and systems, making an error could mean that hundreds of messages could be lost. You’re not going to see the full picture with these spreadsheets – and it’s a lot of work as well! So, if you can have 1 of everything, that will strengthen your Trust’s position and help you with scaling up as new schools join.
Where do you sit?
This brings me to your centralisation journey, wherever you are on it:
1. Autonomy: we work autonomously at first, holding only ourselves accountable and hiring who we want
2. Standardisation: when I look at the information in my Trust, I see differences without seeing lots of processes – standardisation is the next step
3. Centralisation: once everyone is doing step 2, it’s easier to put everything into a central site
But with centralisation, there are quite a lot of issues. I have seen schools in Trusts for years that are still autonomous; they all do their own payrolls, hire who they want, run their own bank accounts. I’ve seen a lot of centralising as well, but you do have 2 separate directions to choose from. Ours is more controlled. By controlled, I mean we have a core team of specialists. Every MAT central team should have a core that covers finance, Hr, IT – to name just a few. They work together, not across business units, but across all schools. This way, you are getting efficiency and uniformity, which will help you to scale up when new schools join the Trust.
What are the positives of going central?
It’s very, very efficient. Let’s look at an individual business unit like the finance function, for example. When running a 10-school trust, that’s 10 banknotes, 10 payment runs – it all takes time. Or we could just have 1 of everything. That seems a lot easier, doesn’t it? Improving financial reporting also really needs core specialists. We get what we can out of the system and all the schools in the Trust get included.
And that’s just in finance. Let’s look at HR: people are always the most expensive part of your budget and that will never change. It’s also the place with the least visibility in all the schools I’ve been to. We’ve introduced our core specialists to HR to control and harmonise processes across our schools. We can onboard people quickly and capture their data.
If we’re going to scale up, it comes down to 3 things and the main thing is people. Getting the right technology is also really important, but it’s about process as well. You can have the most sophisticated software in the land – but if you use it incorrectly, what’s the point?
How does GAG Pooling fit in?
I will bring up GAG pooling, although I have no opinion on the matter. With many Trusts, even centralised Trusts, their schools manage their own premises, IT, administration and much more. The Trust then covers a small margin that handles things like legal, overheads and whatever else. The idea of GAG pooling is that the opposite would happen – the Trust would manage the majority of these school operations. All the ethical stuff, contracts and the like would be taken care of by a core team of specialists. This leaves the school to come back to their main focus: education. That’s something you can do with the right technology.
Is it right for your audience?
One of the concerns you have with centralising is your audience. We all crave reports. I know you’ve got governor reports, trustees, SLT and everything else. There’s lots of reports to produce. With the right technology in the hands of the right people, you can turn great looking things into something tangible. Fantastic work, but is it right for your audience? Again, the right people in the right positions in the central team working together can produce information that is going to make a difference moving forward.
As a former Maths teacher at an Alternative Provision in Leeds, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of students and parents reluctant to get involved in school life. Here are the top five methods I found worked to encourage active engagement between your school and parents. Focus on the Positives At a school where
As a former Maths teacher at an Alternative Provision in Leeds, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of students and parents reluctant to get involved in school life. Here are the top five methods I found worked to encourage active engagement between your school and parents.
Focus on the Positives
At a school where most students had already been excluded, parents were used to receiving nothing but negative news. But effective parental engagement doesn’t mean only speaking when things go wrong. Tell parents about positive events too, with greater frequency. At the Alternative Provision, we’d send a quick text for positive events. If a student had a really good day, we’d use a phone call. Track what’s been said by keeping a communications log.
Set Regular Reviews
Parents Evenings aren’t just for telling parents about their child’s grades. They can also be an opportunity to talk about their social development, friendships, career goals, attitude and behaviour, and agree an action plan of how to support the child at home and at school. To increase the number of parents who attend, stop relying on sending kids home with sign-up sheets and use an online booking system, letting parents book slots whenever they want.
Image 1: A screenshot of the Arbor MIS Guardian Consultations feature
Get parents and students to work together
Education has changed so much since parents were in school, they may have no idea what their children are studying. Keep parents engaged by assigning homework that they can help their children complete. For primary school students, try giving tasks to read aloud. For secondary schools, let parents know what assignments their child has to complete and if it’s been submitted on time using a student or guardian portal.
Be open to feedback
Parents are most likely to get involved if they feel like they can make a real difference. Whenever parents visit or contact you, be willing to listen to their responses, answer their questions, and make them feel their contribution is welcomed. Make sure parents feel they can come to you if they have questions about how your school works, and let them know which person they should contact about certain issues.
Give them what they want
Despite your best efforts, there will always be some parents who won’t respond to a text, email or letter. You also can’t rely on students to pass on information. Maybe they’ll forget to mention something, or they simply don’t have a good relationship. To overcome this, give parents all the information they need in the palm of their hand by using an App. Not only does this notify parents instantly, but they can also refer back to it later if they forget.
Image 2: A screenshot of Arbor’s new in-app messaging feature
At Arbor, we’re always trying to improve how we can support schools to take parental engagement to the next level. We’ve recently introduced an in-app messaging feature that allows fast, free communication between schools and parents – take a look at this article to see how else you can use our new Arbor App!
What’s the best way for your school to engage with parents? Far too often we’ve seen schools struggle with a mixture of asking parents to check letters, forms, payment systems, booking systems, and report cards. This causes too much manual work for schools, and makes it hard for parents to keep on top of everything.
What’s the best way for your school to engage with parents? Far too often we’ve seen schools struggle with a mixture of asking parents to check letters, forms, payment systems, booking systems, and report cards. This causes too much manual work for schools, and makes it hard for parents to keep on top of everything.
That’s why today we’re thrilled to launch the new Arbor App for iOS & Android. Say goodbye to paper slips and emails – our new App lets parents register their child for a club or trip, book parents evening slots, and manage payments all from their phone. Parents can also use the App to check in on their child’s attendance, behaviour and progress.
What’s more, the App will let you communicate with parents for free using our new In-App Messaging feature.
Image 1: Arbor have launched a simple, smart app for parents and guardians
How will parents benefit?
How will your school benefit?
How to get set up
The Arbor App is for parents at schools who already use the Arbor MIS. To get your school set up, contact your Account Manager or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not using Arbor yet? If you’re interested in finding out more about how Arbor MIS and the new Arbor App could transform the way your school works, get in touch! You can request a free demo and a chat with your local Partnership Manager anytime through the contact form on our website, by emailing email@example.com or calling 0208 050 1028.
Today I will share with you the principles that keep REAch2 together. We call them our touchstones. These are the things that are common and that are important for us as an organisation. We call them touchstones because a touchstone 500 years ago was a measure of quality. It’s a standard by which we are judged.
Today I will share with you the principles that keep REAch2 together. We call them our touchstones. These are the things that are common and that are important for us as an organisation. We call them touchstones because a touchstone 500 years ago was a measure of quality. It’s a standard by which we are judged. Hence, their importance can be felt across our organisation.
They’re also a barometer of how we’re doing. As a director of HR, I can assure you: when we have challenging conversations, this is what we come back to. As I’ve said before, REAch2 isn’t a Starbucks where every coffee shop is the same. We’re the equivalent of a bespoke coffee shop, where quality is absolutely paramount. No teacher is the same; no two schools are the same, but we share these guiding principles.
So what does this mean in practice?
Let me give you some good examples:
We make time to meet. If you take everything else away, apart from aligning with your culture and your purpose, this is paramount. It’s the easiest thing to disappear out of your calendars. We enjoy working together. We are vibrant when we work together.
We don’t have head office, so we’re all in lots of different locations. We’ve gotten really good at Zoom or Skype calls and work hard at making it feel like we’re all in one room. Making time together is really important. That’s the senior leadership team, head teachers and teachers.
You’ll see on the website that we talk about the REAch2 family. That may sound corny to some, but we mean it. Being a family means that we actually hold each other to account. We have a chart that reminds us of who’s responsible for what: how central team is going to work with schools, what support they’re going to get. We challenge each other when things aren’t going so well.
One of the things we remind our headteachers and SLT about is “raise extra purpose”. We have to ensure that everyone understands why we do what we do. If you go onto our website, then you’ll see our 5 year strategy document, which outlines that REAch2 stands for ‘reaching educational attainment’. Under that, we’ve got 3 headings:
Image 1: REAch2 uses touchstones to stay focused on their guiding principles when on-boarding new schools to the MAT
Another key element: people. When I first joined REAch 2, I was clearly the executive. My focus would be leadership, leadership, leadership coupled with location, location, location. You can imagine that, having 60 schools, we’re not looking for the same head teacher for every single one. Our smallest school in East Anglia has 75 pupils, while our largest in London has over 1000. We’ve appointed every single one of our head teachers apart from 3. It’s not a ruthless statistic: it’s the results of painstaking clarity in what we’re about and what works.
When you think about it, it’s not difficult. Know what you’re looking for when you interview. Our first questions are about the ‘REAch2 fit’, not about experience. Our on-boarding plan for every single person on the central team is 6 months. It’s very specific, it’s very clear and the line manager takes ownership of it. We have an induction event, which is not just for head teachers, but for any of their SLT whom they wish to bring along. We have 3 regional teaching conferences a year, and we have one larger headteacher conference where everybody comes together.
It’s important to get people together to reinforce messages. When it comes to leadership and culture:
Practice is important. If our touchstones are non-negotiable and we’re clear about our mission, then actually it takes practice. Communicating something via a poster or on a website and doing it once won’t accomplish anything. It’s about reinforcing it on a daily basis. Over the last 6 months we’ve been looking at our own growth to make sure we maintain our purpose and principles when we add more schools. We’re not standing still.
One of the reasons why REAch2 is really keen to be at Arbor’s conference today is because our sector is still relatively new. This is a good reason to support each other. Don’t forget that whilst we’re all working on our own individual culture, people outside our sector will be looking at us. They will say: ‘what’s it like working there?’ So, your culture (our culture) is important. It will define us as a good place to work: a sector for a career and a sector which means business.
Today I’m going to talk about how to scale culture across your MAT whilst giving schools individual identity. I’m Sue Northend, Head of HR at REAch2, and I wanted to start by telling you a little bit about the trust and the journey we’ve been on so far. REAch2 is the largest primary academy trust
Today I’m going to talk about how to scale culture across your MAT whilst giving schools individual identity. I’m Sue Northend, Head of HR at REAch2, and I wanted to start by telling you a little bit about the trust and the journey we’ve been on so far.
REAch2 is the largest primary academy trust in England, and we have 60 schools scattered across 200 miles of geography. Our schools tend to fall into one of two specific categories; they’re either rural and coastal, which has its own set of challenges, or they’re in central towns and cities. Part of REAch2’s DNA is taking on schools that are in particular situations where there is a lot of social deprivation.
82% of our academies were sponsored when they came to us with severe issues of performance. We’ve got 20,000 children and 4,000 staff, and of the 60 schools we’ve got today, 17% of them were in special measures when they came to the trust. I’m really delighted to be able to say that 6 years later, 82% of our schools are now rated “Good” or above. There’s no doubt that it’s a journey, and part of the culture that we embed in our schools is to make sure that they know that we’re not looking for results over a 12-month period, because we want those results to be sustainable.
My background is in finance, so coming into education was a learning curve for me! Despite this, I think I bought some fresh thinking to REAch2 when I arrived. Really, any organization in the commercial sector that is growing in the way REAch2 has done (which is about 50% in three years!) would think it was utter madness. But what we’ve learnt along the way is that we don’t get it right all the time, and I think we as a central team have had to accept that it is a learning journey. What I want to share with you today is a bit about where we are, what our culture looks like, and how we reinforce it.
First of all, let’s take a look at what it takes to create and organise a culture.
One of our first steps when taking on a new school is to do what we call “facilitating a path”. When a MAT is small, alignment is easy – after a few conversations by the water cooler, a decision is made, steps are agreed, and we’re on the same page. As the MAT grows, that gets more difficult. It becomes all the more important to be clear and consistent, and to communicate what it is we do & what we’re about on a daily basis. So when a school joins the trust, we clear the path for the REAch2 culture, and some of this is really practical, as you might expect. We look at things like structure, accountability, and whether the school has the right talent (although we don’t sack the headteacher!). We have conversations with all the teachers about what REAch2 is about, and our CEO, Deputy CEO, COO & Leadership team make time to go out and spend time in the school so that the teachers can ask us questions and can see that we really care about the path that we’re clearing.
There are a lot of CEOs, COOs and CFOs here today, and make no mistake – culture is your responsibility. It has to start at the top. When we clear the path, we focus on supporting the school leadership by balancing what’s core and consistent across all our schools, with what’s individual to that specific school. I think that’s one of the attractions of REAch2 to all the primary schools that join us – we don’t insist that all schools have the same vision. We don’t impose a curriculum or a uniform – headteachers are headteachers because they enjoy the leadership, the ownership and the success that they bring to their own schools. We understand that.
So we’re very careful about what is core and what’s not. We’re not the Starbucks of the education world, and not every latte, frappuccino or mocha is the same. We see the trust and central team as being the enabler and the empowerer, facilitating and supporting change or improvement.
In order that we can understand what needs to change, we hold inductions. And during that induction, we introduce our Headteachers to “Oh, the places you will go”, by Dr Seuss (one of my favourite philosophers!). It’s a simple book, but it’s got some fantastic philosophy in there. When you first join the trust, it feels like this line in the book:
“You’ll be on your way up. You’ll be seeing great sights. You’ll join the high flyers who soar at great heights.”
However, we’re really clear about this to the Headteachers in our senior leadership team – for all of us there will be times when, as Dr Seuss says:
“When you’re alone, there’s a good chance you’ll meet some things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some down the road between hither and yon, that will scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”
Image 1: REAch2 use The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss to onboard new schools joining the MAT
For me, part of the culture of REAch2 is making sure that all of our schools know that we are there when things are going well and when the chips are down. And, let’s be realistic – that can be a daily occurrence.
Before I talk more specifically about REAch2’s culture, I’m going to talk a little bit about what the word culture actually means. We tend to our schools in the same way that a farmer might tend to a field, or a parent might tend to a child. We’re there through the good weather and the bad weather, thick and thin, and no matter what the time is; I’ve been supporting teachers with cases over the weekend and during the evening. It’s important that they know we are there. Every school is individual – not only because of the location – but because no two pupils are the same. So why would our schools be the same? The DNA may be alike, but they’re more like siblings, not clones. Most importantly, the culture spans across all aspects of the organisation, from our trustees to our governors, our headteachers to our pupils, and we share our vision with parents. We tend to our staff through CPD, and coaching is available to all leaders, without restriction. For pupils, our Eleven Before Eleven programme means that children from disadvantaged backgrounds get to cook a meal together, sleep out under the stars, or travel on the train – things they’ve never had the chance to do before.
These are the kind of things that excite us. These are the kind of things that mean the curriculum is not core – it’s differentiated for school to school. So before I talk specifically about REAch2, I’m going to ask you a really easy question. Grab a pen and paper off the table, and I want you to score yourself in answer to these two questions (top marks is 10, and 1 is really low):
You should have found those questions easy to answer. Now I’m going to move onto a harder question.
My guess is probably not (unless you’ve just done a session on this exact topic). But this is the work that you need to do, because those words will affect the way you’re behaving. No matter if your senior leadership team is 3 of you, 10 or 15 of you – if your behaviour is reinforcing different cultures, different words and a different purpose, you can imagine how your sphere of influence will dissipate as the organisation grows.
On Thursday 2nd May, we bought together 68 MATs for our third sold out MAT Conference in London. Matthew Haynes, SHMI and the designer of MAT summary evaluations, was among our speakers, and took to the stage to talk us through what Ofsted hope to achieve through the new approach to inspecting multi-academy trusts. You can
On Thursday 2nd May, we bought together 68 MATs for our third sold out MAT Conference in London. Matthew Haynes, SHMI and the designer of MAT summary evaluations, was among our speakers, and took to the stage to talk us through what Ofsted hope to achieve through the new approach to inspecting multi-academy trusts. You can flick through his informative slides below:
We’ll be posting the rest of the presentations from our MAT conference in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on the blog for more updates!
People buy and sell every day, and schools are no exception. As a product manager developing payment systems, the main ‘use cases’ I consider when thinking about school payments include school meals, paid clubs, and field trips. There are a lot of other use cases depending on what kind of additional services the school provides,
People buy and sell every day, and schools are no exception. As a product manager developing payment systems, the main ‘use cases’ I consider when thinking about school payments include school meals, paid clubs, and field trips. There are a lot of other use cases depending on what kind of additional services the school provides, such as selling snacks, school uniform, items in the school shop, books, tickets for school events, and more.
The most popular ways to process payments from parents and guardians are:
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each of these methods!
On the school’s side, cash has the major benefit of no processing or transaction fees. Parents at many schools may also prefer to use cash to pay for activities and meals – this is generally a question of demographics, as lower income families are less likely to use cheques or have credit/debit cards as their main form of payment.
Cash does have it’s downsides though, from the stress of counting bags of coins and banknotes, to the security required to safely store them in school and take them to a bank at least several times per week (hello, staff time and safety).
Cheques are another way of accepting payments that mostly have similar pros and cons to cash. The specific downsides of cheques, however, are that there is a longer lag time between the parent making the payment and the school being able to cash it. This can cause problems with, for instance, having the money you need for a trip in time for every child to go, or even with cheques bouncing altogether.
It’s probably fair to say that in a lot of places this way of accepting payments is slowly dying out because of its inefficiency, and the long time needed to process money. A lot of people these days simply don’t use cheques, or even own a chequebook.
This payment method doesn’t involve dealing with banknotes and papers, everything is in one place on the screen, and the accounting is so much easier. However, this payment method is not as popular at schools because it tends to be very time-inefficient when it comes to making frequent, smaller payments of different sizes – like you do with school meals. The time that it costs to make a bank transfer is worth more than the £2.40 you’re actually sending.
Research shows that most people prefer using card payments when they can. From the parents’ point of view, card payments provide several incentives to pay reliably and on time: its fast and easy, refunds are simple, and they can track their payments in their account or on their phone.
Schools must always consider the fee that comes with each payment and understand whether this is feasible for them to use (remember, that lots of providers don’t use a flat fee and usually charge some percentage plus a couple of pence, which become super expensive for micro-payments that are most common in schools). However, sometimes it’s better to lose a small percentage on a transaction fee, rather than losing 100% of a payment when a parent says that they don’t have enough cash with them!
All these considerations are why we take a holistic approach to school payments, and have given our MIS the ability to log cash, cheque, bank transfer, and online card payments. Arbor provides a sophisticated solution for managing school payments via the MIS and our Parent Portal. Together with taking payments for school meals, trips and clubs, it gives flexible possibilities for setting up and accepting payments for bespoke accounts, such as for books or uniforms. You can also use Arbor to audit and report on all these transactions and accounts.
So, what’s the best method for your school?
This is up to you, but on balance out of all four options, it’s no secret that going cashless is the current trend in today’s world. The United Kingdom had the highest revenue rate in cashless payments among all EU countries in 2017 – more than 100 trillion pounds. More and more schools are joining this trend and deciding to go cashless (or mostly cashless), for simple reasons:
A card payments system like Arbor will help you go cashless in a format designed for schools and integrated with all your other MIS modules.
Image 1: A screenshot of the Arbor App
The benefits of card payments in Arbor:
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.
We recently talked about the importance of an aligned staff development framework in your school or Trust, and our first point was to make sure your objectives are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. SMART objectives are a common project management tool, and can be set for an individual staff member, for a
We recently talked about the importance of an aligned staff development framework in your school or Trust, and our first point was to make sure your objectives are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. SMART objectives are a common project management tool, and can be set for an individual staff member, for a department, a school, or even as a vision for an entire Trust. So, what are the benefits of SMART objectives for staff management, and how do you make sure you’re getting them?
(You can also click here to read & download a handy PDF checklist for SMART objectives)
Specificity is important because it means your staff will always have a clear sense of direction. Wanting to improve attendance may be your overarching goal, but your staff will be listless and their attempts to do so may rub up against one another if they each have that as their own personal objective. A more specific school objective would be “improve on last year’s attendance across the board in every year group”. Then, your Heads of Year would have even more specific attendance objectives such as “meet with the parents of every persistent absentee in Year 5, to create personal attendance strategies“.
In this way, your staff all know how they’re contributing to your targets. This will give their daily tasks a sense of genuine purpose, and help them prioritise their time. To check if your staff objectives are specific enough, ask yourself; is this objective focused on this one person’s role in the school? Am I confident this objective won’t be misconstrued?
Measurability is important to consider for practical reasons. You need to know if your efforts are effective so that you can build on them next term or next year, and you can’t know that unless you’re somehow measuring them. When you set a staff member’s objective, consider how it will be reviewed in three months time. Try not to set objectives that will require a significant admin burden to measure – it’s best to use metrics which are already recorded by the tools at your disposal. For instance, the Head of Year target above, to meet with the parents of every persistent absentee in Year 5, would be very difficult if you didn’t already have a way of reporting on persistent absentees by year group and easily making their meeting records.
Remember that ‘measurable’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘measured by hard data’. A classroom teacher, for instance, might have a target of achieving positive feedback in every lesson observation that year. If you decide how you’re going to measure your targets up front, you remove any disputes and headaches from the performance review process, and ensure that staff members always know how well they’re doing.
It’s important to make sure your objectives are challenging, yet realistic. Give your staff members something aim for, but make sure the target is within range. Getting to a 97% attendance average this term is a very specific and measurable goal for your school, but could end up being pretty demoralising if your current attendance is 85%. If a goal is overwhelmingly optimistic, it’s harder to work out where to start, and stressful to invest energy into any one approach.
Individual staff abilities should also be considered – do they have enough training in their role to complete this objective? Will they need any help? Do they feel confident that they can succeed, and if not then how can you as a manager instill that confidence in them?
Making sure your objectives are relevant has obvious surface level benefits – there’s no point telling your staff to do something that has nothing to do with the school or its students. Relevance has a more refined meaning though; individual staff objectives should be relevant to their team’s current objective, which should be relevant to the school’s current overarching objectives, and so on. At the top level, creating a very clear improvement plan will help all of your school or Trust’s line managers to set relevant individual goals for their staff.
If staff goals are all very relevant, the right person will always be completing the right task. Relevant objectives also help staff improve their skills in their chosen career. To test whether an objective is relevant enough, ask yourself if it’s contributing both to the goals of the school and the purpose of that individual’s job role.
Every objective should be time bound, both to make sure there’s a defined end or review date, and to make sure your staff member is performing tasks at a relevant time in relation to their context. In a school or Trust context, this generally means binding objectives to the academic year. You should be able to decide whether an objective is a short term goal which should be finished by the end of term, such as to support students in achieving their mock exam target marks, or whether an objective is a longer term project that could take all academic year with termly check ins, such as to improve homework submission rates across a department.
The benefit of this is that your staff member will have the time they need to achieve their objective and will be achieving them in time to contribute to your broader goals for the school. To check if an objective is timely, ask yourself; is this the right time of year to attempt this objective? Have I provided enough time to succeed? Will it be complete in time to fit in with our overall improvement plan?
However you track your staff performance, whether through Arbor MIS or any other system, SMART is a useful framework to keep in mind. The best performance objectives will instill a sense of purpose, make task prioritisation easy, and give your staff a clear direction for the year ahead. Download a PDF checklist of this advice here, or read more advice on improving school and Trust operations here.
A number of factors are making schools and MATs look again at the data they gather and use around pupil attainment and progress. These include, but are not limited to: Reducing teacher workload The proposed new, less data reliant, Ofsted Framework The challenge of standardising teacher assessments Balancing the autonomy that schools require to meet
A number of factors are making schools and MATs look again at the data they gather and use around pupil attainment and progress. These include, but are not limited to:
The traditional model in schools has, for some time, been a combination of formative assessment and summative teacher assessment.
Tracking formative assessment takes many forms, from simple notes against lesson plans to more formal ‘rubrics’ where banks of statements are ‘ticked off’. Whatever level of recording is used by schools, this is the main vehicle for improvement in student achievement as it’s ongoing and informs future provision.
Since the removal of ‘levels’, there’s been a huge amount of time spent by schools coming up with alternative summative assessment models. A lot of these ended up looking very much like the levels they were supposed to replace!
Whatever the summative model, the greatest challenges of a teacher-determined summative judgement have remained the same; ensuring consistency and validity of these judgements, and managing the workload caused by creating, moderating and collating judgements (let alone analysing the outcomes!)
There is also clear pressure from Ofsted to stop using flight paths to judge whether pupils’ progress is as desired. Only this weekend, Sean Harford (HMI and Ofsted’s National Director for Education) made it clear that this approach to target setting is, in his opinion, potentially demotivating. Flight paths are intrinsically linked to the use of summative teacher assessment scales – each implies the other is a valid approach.
In summary; schools and MATs face a real challenge. It’s essential for leaders to know the success, or otherwise, of their provision. This is particularly difficult for MATs as they scale and begin to cover a wider geographical area (and manage ever higher pupil and school numbers). Without attainment data then desktop surveys of the success, or otherwise, of schools and teachers is not possible.
What is needed is a method of providing the data required whilst reducing teacher workload, ensuring consistency of judgement and, depending on your approach, moving away from flight-paths.
This is where commercial standardised testing comes in. It solves many of the problems associated with summative teacher judgement:
The final piece of the jigsaw in getting standardised testing to work in your school or MAT is making sure you have analytics that are informative and easily aggregated.
Some MIS systems should be able to do this for you. For example, Arbor’s integration with RS Assessments’ PiRA and PUMA testing aggregates all of your test outcome data into the school and MAT MIS, with no extra data downloads and uploads, for easy and insightful analytics. Teachers can use the strand level analysis provided by RS Assessments to more accurately plan future curriculum content to meet the needs of the pupils. Senior leaders at schools and MATs can also use Arbor MIS to take action on their results – for example, by setting up intervention groups, or by building custom reports combining data from their PiRA and PUMA test results and Arbor MIS. If you don’t have access to this kind of analysis, many standardised test providers will offer their own dashboards or reporting services.
Fig 1.: Using Arbor’s integration with PiRA & PUMA tests in Arbor MIS
By adopting standardised assessments in place of teacher determined summative judgements, the time saved can be put back into planning and delivering great learning experiences for pupils whilst ensuring school and MAT leaders can still evaluate the outcomes achieved.
Get in touch to book a free demo to find out how Arbor MIS and RS Assessments from Hodder Education could transform your school or MAT, call us on 0208 050 1028 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For current customers: contact your Arbor Customer Success Manager or Account Manager to get this integration set up!
Over the past few months we’ve been giving our Assignments a fresh lick of paint, so that what used to be a minor feature on the lesson dashboard is now a full blown module schools can use as an electronic homework solution. Teachers have always been able to set students work directly from the lesson
Over the past few months we’ve been giving our Assignments a fresh lick of paint, so that what used to be a minor feature on the lesson dashboard is now a full blown module schools can use as an electronic homework solution. Teachers have always been able to set students work directly from the lesson dashboard, which will appear in their Student Portal so they can submit their work online, but we’ve made some big improvements to what you can then do with the data this generates. School leaders can now analyse how much work is being set in each subject, which teachers are setting the most work, and more!
We asked Carly McCulloch, Arbor Product Manager, to go over some of these features for you in a bit more detail:
We’ve made some improvements to the workflows for creating assignments, and tracking the submissions of assignments within Arbor for you and your teaching staff. These new additions to the assignment module have been developed based on feedback from school senior leadership, who wanted a way to see the submission statistics for assignments in their school, and check the quantity and quality of homework set by teaching staff. We take suggestions from schools very seriously, so please keep them coming!
Improvements to homework tracking include:
Fig. 1 – The Overview by Courses page showing automatically calculated stats for the number of assignments set and their submission rates
We’ve also not forgotten about our company mission to save teachers time. A lot of the new features should help teachers set and mark Assignments more easily, incentivising use of the system and streamlining workflows in your school:
Fig. 2 – A Student Marks Chart automatically generated for a marked assignment in Arbor MIS – the colour splits the marks down the median, the blue line shows the mean, and hovering over each bar shows further student level information
Fig. 3 – A teacher marking a grade-based English assignment, submitted by students online
We hope this module can help you to track assignment submissions, make them easier for students and teachers to manage, and ultimately improve the effectiveness of assignments in your school.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS system could transform the way your school or MAT works, save your staff time and improve student outcomes, get in touch via the contact form on our website
The educational landscape is constantly changing, not least the way in which student and school performance is measured. While working in my previous role as a secondary school data manager we still had Levels, GCSEs graded A* to G and RAISEonline. Now we have Progress 8 and Attainment 8 as the headline measures used to
The educational landscape is constantly changing, not least the way in which student and school performance is measured.
While working in my previous role as a secondary school data manager we still had Levels, GCSEs graded A* to G and RAISEonline. Now we have Progress 8 and Attainment 8 as the headline measures used to measure school performance, along with the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) average point score, and the proportion of pupils attaining English and Maths at a grade 5 or above.
Fig 1.: Your free Arbor Insight dashboards analyse trends over the past three years and benchmark you against local, national and “Schools like you” measures
Arbor Insight is all you need to analyse past performance and view trends, but how can you estimate your accountability measures for your current Year 11 cohort?
First, some quick definitions:
Attainment 8 for each student is simply the sum of values of the highest GCSEs within four “buckets”: Maths, English, EBAcc and Open (other subjects). Maths is double-weighted. The highest of English Language and English Literature is placed in the English bucket and is also double-weighted, provided that the student takes both. Some non-GCSE qualifications can count towards the ‘Open’ slots.
Progress 8 for each student is one tenth of the difference between the student’s predicted Attainment 8, and the expected Attainment 8 score, based on their KS2 Prior Attainment. Both measures are calculated after the Key Stage 4 results are released each year, because they’re based on the actual average results achieved by students.
The first and easiest way to analyse your Key Stage 4 performance is to check the features available in your MIS or assessments system. Your MIS may provide estimates for Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Arbor does this within the Progress 8 Analysis dashboard. This automatically uses the complex DfE methodology and will give you a useful overview of your estimated measures. The estimates for each student can be downloaded or sent to a live feed:
Fig. 2.: Arbor uses DfE methodology to calculate estimates for Progress 8 & Attainment 8
What can you do if your MIS doesn’t provide this analysis?
You can calculate your Progress 8 measures within a spreadsheet. You’ll need to start by calculating the KS2 prior attainment for each student. For details of how the DfE calculate the KS2 Prior Attainment you should refer to the Secondary accountability measures document published by the Department for Education. It’s currently the rounded average of the fine scores for Reading and Maths. Below is an example of how the fine scores can be calculated within a spreadsheet – feel free to copy my work!
You can use lookups on the test marks to find the fine score for each student. Then average the two marks and round to one decimal place:
You then need to download the grades for English, Maths, Ebacc and Open from your MIS. To calculate the Attainment 8 convert these grades to values and sum, doubling the value for Maths and English (providing students are taking both English Literature and English Language).
The Secondary accountability measures document provides Attainment 8 and “bucket” averages from the previous year. These can be copied into your spreadsheet.
Use this data to calculate the expected Attainment 8 score and marks for each student. The KS2 Prior Attainment for the student is used to lookup the average marks for Attainment 8 and for the English, Maths, EBacc and Open subjects. The average marks for Maths and English need to be divided by 2 to give the expected marks for these subjects; the EBacc and Open marks need to be divided by 3.
The Progress 8 for each student can be found by subtracting the expected Attainment 8 score from the predicted Attainment 8 score for each student and dividing by 10:
To calculate the overall school Progress 8, find the average of all the students’ Progress 8:
Finally, you can refer to columns from the different sheets and use conditional formatting to analyse your data further:
I hope these tips have been useful for new data managers, as well as those who still aren’t quite comfortable with the new system. If you’d like to find out how you can perform your Progress 8 or Attainment 8 analysis in Arbor instead, do get in touch here!
We’ve just updated our KS1 and KS2 free dashboards and premium Insight reports with the latest ASP disadvantaged data! This means that our Ofsted Readiness, Attainment & Progress and Closing the Gap reports all now include validated & disadvantaged KS2 data and disadvantaged data & phonics KS1 results. With the release of this new disadvantaged
We’ve just updated our KS1 and KS2 free dashboards and premium Insight reports with the latest ASP disadvantaged data!
This means that our Ofsted Readiness, Attainment & Progress and Closing the Gap reports all now include validated & disadvantaged KS2 data and disadvantaged data & phonics KS1 results.
With the release of this new disadvantaged data, the Department for Education has published new analysis about the disadvantage gap in UK schools. Looking at provisional phonics data from 2018, 70% of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) met the expected standard in phonics in year 1, compared to 84% of all other pupils. The gap between pupils eligible for FSM and all other pupils is 14 percentage points, and remains the same compared to 2017.
The gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged KS2 pupils (measured using the disadvantage gap index) has decreased in each of the last seven years, narrowing by 3% in the latest year and 13.2% since 2011.
If you’d like to know how your disadvantaged pupils have performed relative to national averages and other pupils within your school, you can find all the information you need in your Insight reports, which are available to view in your Arbor Insight portal. If you’ve already got an account, you can click here to log in, or click here to create an account for your school or MAT.
A closer look at what’s new in our Insight reports:
Since we imported this new data, we’ve made a few changes to your Arbor Insight reports. We’ve outlined the most important changes below.
1. Ofsted Readiness report
In the KS1 section of this report, we’ve added disadvantage cohort benchmarks to the Working at Expected Standard measures for Reading, Writing and Maths. For KS2, this added benchmark can be found in Averaged Scaled Score and Overall Progress Score for Reading, Writing and Maths.
Fig. 1: The bar graphs above show your school’s average as a benchmark against each demographic group, helping you to quickly see which cohorts are under-performing or exceeding the school average
Fig. 2: A screenshot of our Ofsted Readiness report
You may have also noticed changes in the condensed Closing the Gap section in our Ofsted Readiness report for both KS1 and KS2 data (see above image). For KS1, Working at the Expected Standard for Reading, Writing and Maths now has added disadvantaged measures. For KS2, this measure has been added under Averaged Scale Score in Reading and Maths. The text callout for these measures contain useful calculations which explain your data in plain english & calculate the percentage by which the gap for each measure has widened or narrowed in your school.
2. Attainment & Progress report:
The KS1 & KS2 Attainment and Progress reports also now contain disadvantaged benchmarks and cohort data for 2017/18, allowing you to benchmark this cohort against all other demographic groupings in your school. For KS1, this chart can be found in measures, Achieving Expected Standard: Y1 Phonics, Achieving Expected Standard and Working at Greater Depth within the Expected Standard for Reading, Writing and Maths. For KS2, this graph appears in Overall Progress Score for Reading, Writing and Maths.
Fig. 3: A screenshot of our Attainment & Progress report
3. Closing the Gap report: Focus on Disadvantage
This particular report is part of a series of 5 reports which help to identify the gaps between student groups, showing which groups are under or over performing relative to the school, group and national averages.
At the beginning of this report there is a star chart which shows the gaps between disadvantaged and EAL pupils compared to the rest of the school. For KS1, the measures shown in this graph are attendance and attainment, and for KS2 they are attendance, attainment and progress measures. This star chart is colour coded to help you identify any areas that need your attention (or indeed any areas that should be shouted about because there is no gap!); for example, a green star indicates there is no gap between the group and the school average, whilst an orange star indicates the group has performed below the school and national averages. A yellow star indicates the group has performed between them.
Fig. 4: A screenshot of the star chart at the beginning of the Closing the Gap report
Your reports clearly display the cohort size for each measure, so you know how much statistical significance each outcome has. This can help you know which areas you should be prioritising.
Finally, KS4 validated and disadvantaged data will be released in the next few weeks. Once it’s released, Arbor Insight portals & reports will be automatically updated.
As one of only a few accredited suppliers, we receive all of our data for Arbor Insight reports and dashboards directly from the DfE. Over 10,000 schools are now using Arbor Insight to benchmark their performance, so if you’re thinking of signing up, you’ll be in good company!
We’re excited to announce that on 2nd May 2019, Arbor & PS Financials are bringing together MAT CEOs and senior leaders from across the country for the third installment of our MAT conference series! The conference will build on the success of our MAT conferences in London and Manchester last year, attended by over 200
We’re excited to announce that on 2nd May 2019, Arbor & PS Financials are bringing together MAT CEOs and senior leaders from across the country for the third installment of our MAT conference series! The conference will build on the success of our MAT conferences in London and Manchester last year, attended by over 200 Executive Leaders representing 150 MATs nationally.
Image 1: Kings Place, Kings Cross, where this year’s conference will take place
Entitled Scaling sustainably: How, when and if to centralise, the conference will cover various different strategies for achieving sustainable growth. Delegates will hear from established MAT CEOs & Senior Leaders about how they’ve scaled their strategy, operations, central team process, systems, reporting, governance & culture. You can read about some of of our speakers below:
Cathie Paine, Deputy CEO, REAch2:
Appointed in 1998 to her first headship in a large and socially deprived school in “special measures”, Cathie was at the time the youngest headteacher in England and led the school to become “Good” in just four terms. Cathie’s headship career went on to span 15 years across three key stages and schools in a variety of challenging circumstances across the 3-11 age range. As Deputy CEO of REAch2, the largest primary MAT in the country, her vision is the belief that school leadership at its heart is about transforming lives. Cathie will share her advice on how to scale culture across a MAT whilst giving schools individual identity.
Will Smith, CEO, Greenshaw Learning Trust:
Will is judged by Ofsted to be an outstanding and inspirational school leader. He has worked as a senior school leader for over 15 years and was a national leader in education as leader of the PiXL network, supporting half of the secondary schools in England and Wales. Will was headteacher at Greenshaw High School for five years where he oversaw improvement in outcomes at GCSE and A level. His talk will draw on his experience of scaling from 1-13 schools in 3 years, and will include practical and implementable tips for MATS at a similar stage of growth.
Claire-Marie Cuthbert, CEO, The Evolve Trust:
Claire-Maire has over 15 years of leadership experience in some of the country’s most challenging schools including both primary and secondary contexts. Awarded Advanced Skills Teacher status in 2002, from there Claire-Marie became a trouble shooter for failing schools and departments across the region and also advised the DfE and QCDA on innovative curriculum models and personalised pathways for students. She has been recognised nationally by TES Teaching Awards for her outstanding contribution to challenging urban education, and has recently been awarded the prestigious EMWA award for outstanding contribution to public life and exceptional leadership. During her presentation, Claire-Marie will talk about how to improve collaboration within your MAT and across school phases.
Paul West, CEO, Spencer Academies Trust:
Paul West is a teacher, school leader and National Leader of Education with twenty-five years of experience in schools, and a ten-year record of outstanding leadership in first tier education trusts and corporates. Paul has worked across maintained and independent schools and has led at both primary and secondary level, and his leadership has been judged as outstanding in successive Ofsted inspections. He has practical experience of developing rapid school improvement strategy, opening start-up Academies, establishing Free Schools, Additional Provision Schools, and managing significant change, and will draw on this experience to talk about what to do right and what to avoid when merging MATs.
Paul James, CEO, River Learning Trust:
Paul James is a qualified teacher with over 20 years of experience in schools, including in senior leadership roles in a range of secondary education settings, and as a primary school governor and IEB member. Until recently he was a Headteacher of a comprehensive school of over 1800 students, which is a National Teaching School. He is currently a National Leader of Education alongside being Chief Executive of the River Learning Trust. Paul will discuss how to define non-negotiables across your trust whilst building in agency for your headteachers.
In addition to the speakers and talks listed above, there will also be an open, round-table discussion between MAT COOs about how they’re scaling different sized MATs, including any challenges they’ve come up against in the process and anything that’s worked particularly well. You’ll leave with lots of ideas and tips to take back to your MAT to help you as you scale.
Similarly to our previous conferences, we’ve scheduled various breaks throughout the day, during which we encourage delegates to network, exchange stories about scaling, and share good practice with one another. There will also be breakfast pastries on arrival, free lunch served, and tea & coffee throughout the day. Hope to see you there!
Click here to sign up for your free ticket to Arbor’s MAT Conference: https://scaling-your-MAT-sustainably-2019.eventbrite.com
To get an idea of the sorts of topics we’ll be covering on the day, why not have a look back at the presentations from previous MAT conferences that we posted on our blog? Click here to read them
More and more software on the market offers ways of moving beyond the classic time saving tools of mail merges and reporting templates, into the realm of fully automated workflows. As with all new technologies, this offers opportunities to improve the way we work, as well as potential pitfalls, depending on how you use them.
An automated workflow is essentially one in which a single input from a user can trigger several resulting actions. This reduces the amount of data that needs to be entered and screens that need to be clicked through to achieve a desired result.
Every step in the process achieving the outputs above is one that would have to be performed manually by a staff member if they did not have automated workflows, and which can be performed in moments by automated computer software with access to accurate school records.
Some common examples of automated workflows in school software include:
The most obvious concern when setting up these workflows is human error. If a serious behaviour incident were to be incorrectly logged against the wrong student, that could result in a confused or upset parent on the phone to the school office that afternoon (not to mention the unearned earful the unsuspecting student could be in for when they got home). If you’re interested in automated workflows but your staff are not yet very technologically literate, it might be better to set up semi-automated systems with stopgaps for admins to approve comms before they’re sent out, before trialling full automation.
The root of this concern is the level of training required for all the individuals using the system. If inappropriately knowledgeable about the level of information that a parent portal shares, for example, a staff member may end up disseminating more of their personal opinions to parents than they would like. Similarly, if a workflow is inexpertly set up, the administrator may cause far too much or too little information to be transferred, to the extent that notifications become either irritating or simply not useful. This is why it’s absolutely vital to have excellent support and training resources from your software provider when setting up automated workflows, and why you should choose software which clearly outlines to administrators which workflows they have set up and how they can be edited. If there’s no way to work out what your outputs will be, don’t use that automated process – regroup, reconfigure, and retrain.
Even if you only implement semi-automation, and only for your most repetitive admin tasks, this can pay big dividends for staff time. This should give them more time to spend working with students. The best version of an automated workflow is one which removes the burden of data collection and processing from your staff, and lets you prioritise actually dealing with what the data tells you.
Automation also lends a degree of consistency to your policies, as the same results will always be generated from the same input, and staff don’t have to remember exact data processes perfectly every time themselves. While human error can lead to incorrect outputs, there’s far more chance for human error to creep in throughout systems which are entirely manual and paper based. We’ve seen firsthand how setting up consistent and reliable automated communications can have a big impact on parental engagement and school processes, particularly within behaviour workflows where consistency of both rules and rewards is really vital.
Castle Hill had a couple of issues with parent comms before they moved to Arbor MIS, because almost everything was based on paper. When children showed good or bad behaviour, teachers would write a note in the student’s planner, which the child would then take home for parents to check. However, children couldn’t always be relied upon to take their planners home with them – especially if they’d been given a negative behaviour note from their teacher! Now they’ve switched to Arbor, the staff at Castle Hill log behaviour points in the system, which automatically sends an email to the relevant guardians. Parents can also log into their Parent Portal for a live update on how their children are doing. Children are now better behaved because they know that their parents know what they’ve been up to, and the school has less paperwork to get through.
Overall, like any tool in education, the effectiveness of automation depends entirely on how you can use it. If you are going to set up automation, it needs to be in such a way that it demonstrably responds to your specific challenges, and can provide the maximum possible impact to the time constraints currently affecting your staff and the outcomes of your students.
If you’re a current Arbor MIS or Group MIS customer interested in setting up more of your automated features, get in touch with your Account Manager or email email@example.com. If you don’t use Arbor yet and would like to find out more about how we can automate repetitive tasks to save teacher time, get in touch on 0207 043 0470, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our contact form.
More and more schools and MATs are choosing to move MIS, with 1,000+ schools and MATs predicted to switch this year, and we’ve definitely noticed interest in our own products and services increasing. We now work with over 600 schools spread across hundreds of MATs and Local Authorities, driven by a desire to transform the
More and more schools and MATs are choosing to move MIS, with 1,000+ schools and MATs predicted to switch this year, and we’ve definitely noticed interest in our own products and services increasing. We now work with over 600 schools spread across hundreds of MATs and Local Authorities, driven by a desire to transform the way they work, save teachers time, and improve outcomes. However, while it seems ever clearer why you might want to move to simpler, smarter, cloud based systems, we still often hear from schools wondering exactly how they buy something as complex as a Management Information System.
This is always the first step! Email email@example.com or call us on 0208 050 1028 and we’ll connect you with your local Arbor Partnership Manager. Your Partnership Manager will come and visit you to learn more about your requirements and give you a demo of our MIS. They’ll also answer any of your questions while you decide when you’ll switch, including a written proposal so you can feel confident in your decision and share it among other stakeholders.
When you’ve had time to evaluate your options and decide which package suits you best, they’ll send your contract and introduce you to your dedicated Customer Success Manager, who will personally walk you through your kick-off plan and data migration. This is definitely the simplest way to get started on Arbor MIS, and is perfect for customers from individual schools to smaller and medium sized trusts.
You can also buy Arbor through several trusted frameworks, giving you the peace of mind that due diligence checks have already been made on our product and company. Arbor is a member of the government’s G-Cloud 10 framework for approved cloud suppliers, and the ThinkIT framework.
To use a public framework, check their website carefully as the rules for each are different. Generally you’ll be able to send us your requirements and have a demo, before signing using the framework’s contract template.
For example, for G-Cloud 10, a standard process would be:
Both of these frameworks are suitable for customers of all sizes, and allow you to buy direct without running your own process, though they do provide you with a little less flexibility than coming to us directly (see above), or going to tender (see below).
If you’re a medium/large MAT or a larger school with more complex needs, you might want to take the time to write a tender outlining your requirements. We can still give you a demo whilst you work out your requirements, and once you go to tender we’ll respond to all your questions and outline the contract we think will be right for your school or Trust.
When writing your requirements, it can help to think about what you need your system to do, rather than just listing specific technical features you like the look of, as different MIS providers may have different solutions to the same problem. So long as you follow this rule of thumb, functions over features, tendering doesn’t have to be intimidating – you know what your school or Trust needs, and it’s up to suppliers to prove how they can provide that for you. You can find lots of great procurement advice online from the Crown Commercial Service, including a list of MIS functions you might want to ask about in your tender. Click here to see their list of suggested areas to consider.
If you think your MIS lifetime contract value will go over £181,302 you’ll need to run a formal public tender, which comes with its own set of rules and guidelines – tender expert John Leonard has written a blog that thoroughly outlines this process. Otherwise, just make sure your questions are clear, that you’ve outlined how you’ll be scoring products and pricing, and that you’ve given a reasonable amount of time for suppliers to respond to you. Don’t forget to give yourself enough time to properly evaluate the systems, as well – it’s better to tender sooner rather than later.
All this is especially important to consider at this point in the financial year, as some of your contracts may be coming up for extension. The DfE has confirmed in recent advice that moving to a cloud based product should be considered enough of a contract change to run a new procurement exercise, even if the new product is with the same provider. If you’d like to see what else is out there and look into Arbor MIS or Group MIS for your school or Trust, you can fill out our contact form, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 0208 050 1028 to get in touch!
Every teacher knows that good behaviour in the classroom is fundamental to learning. This isn’t just anecdotal; we’ve had the data to back this up since 2009, when the University of Nottingham surveyed hundreds of head teachers in school improvement groups whose schools had sustained improvement over three years. One of the most highly rated
Every teacher knows that good behaviour in the classroom is fundamental to learning. This isn’t just anecdotal; we’ve had the data to back this up since 2009, when the University of Nottingham surveyed hundreds of head teachers in school improvement groups whose schools had sustained improvement over three years. One of the most highly rated factors in their improved outcomes was an ‘improved behaviour climate’, an effect felt through all phases but most strongly in Primary schools (see below). Critically, the lower a school’s performance was at the start of the improvement process, the higher the impact they were likely to report behaviour climate having.