How Arbor has made our secondary school more solutions-focused

Maddie Kilminster - 19 March, 2021

Category : Blog

How Arbor has made our secondary school more solutions-focused

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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



How did implementing Arbor go remotely?

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


How is Arbor transforming the way your school works? 

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

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



How has Arbor helped during Covid-19?

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

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



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

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

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


Want to find out more?

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

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