Management Information System (MIS) for schools
Expert ideas for a better working life at your school or trust
Case Studies | Migration
Category : Blog
Before Arbor, our secondary school was already using a cloud MIS, but our MAT wanted all of their schools to be on the same system. We took it as an opportunity to make real change in the way we work, as we felt restricted by what our previous MIS could do. For context, Hinchingbrooke is
Before Arbor, our secondary school was already using a cloud MIS, but our MAT wanted all of their schools to be on the same system. We took it as an opportunity to make real change in the way we work, as we felt restricted by what our previous MIS could do.
For context, Hinchingbrooke is a large comprehensive secondary school with 2000 students. Comprehensive is the perfect word for it – we have a range of students from all socio-economic backgrounds.
As the only secondary school in the MAT, we had a big voice in the decision when it came to choosing an MIS, especially because of the frustrations our staff had felt with our previous cloud system. We were well aware how critical an MIS could be, because it underpins everything, from basics like registers through to safeguarding and interventions. It’s almost the heart of the school.
Of course, its importance means changing MIS, as with any big system change, brings with it a level of anxiety. That’s why research and communication are key to making sure the change is a long-term success. My personal experience and advice to any school thinking of moving to a new MIS would be to sit down and plan what your long-term goals are as a school and how moving MIS fits into this.
We were never bothered about the name of the MIS – but what we did know was exactly what our strategic aims of the system change would be, which in our case was to simplify our processes in order to save time. There will always be people who are resistant to change, or want as little change as possible – such as wanting to replicate everything that the school previously did, but in the cloud. Having moved from one cloud system to another, I can safely say there is much more that changing MIS can do for a school.
You’ve got to challenge those people who are adamant on sticking and ask ‘why.’ Being able to present the case for change, with school improvement at its heart, will make these conversations easier, and will get the team on one page before you decide to make the switch.
The best example I have is the fact I’ve always had an iPhone. I like Apple and I’m used to the system. But I might not know that a Samsung does everything just as well, and even has some features that might be better suited to what I use my phone for. If everyone starts moving to Samsung, you have to question why. Don’t get married to an idea or a principle of a product.
Again, it all comes back to the big picture and seeing the long-term goals, not just switching for a tickbox exercise and trying to replicate everything you did in the previous MIS. Your MIS should be a vehicle for your strategic aims rather than the other way around.
Drawing on my experience across both cloud and legacy MIS, I can’t think of an MIS that’s going to be better than Arbor. To anyone not sure about switching, I’d always say go in with an open mind and let the system and features speak for itself.
Click here to read our case study with Hinchingbrooke School and find out the features they use most.
Want to see how Arbor could transform your secondary school? Book a call with one of our friendly team here and they will walk you through the process.
Case Studies | Local Authorities | Migration
We sat down with Jenny Collins, MIS Programme Manager at Hampshire County Council to talk about how she and her team are helping schools with their move to a cloud-based MIS. Jenny, alongside representatives from Herts for Learning and Amazon Web Services, will be talking through Hampshire County Council’s process and answering your questions in
We sat down with Jenny Collins, MIS Programme Manager at Hampshire County Council to talk about how she and her team are helping schools with their move to a cloud-based MIS.
Jenny, alongside representatives from Herts for Learning and Amazon Web Services, will be talking through Hampshire County Council’s process and answering your questions in our fireside chat on the 18th October. Sign up for free here.
We’re always looking at how we offer the best support for the schools in our area. Over the past two years, we’ve seen a steady decline
in the number of schools using SIMS, with the majority moving to Arbor. We lost approximately 25% of our customer base, so it was no longer financially viable to carry on with our hosted environment. In March 2022, as part of the review of our service, we decided that Arbor was the leading challenger in the market and that we should offer support for their MIS as well. Schools always have a choice about which providers they use, so it was about us responding to where the volumes were moving.
The main concern from the team was around our ability to maintain quality of service while staff were taken off the support rota to undertake accreditation. Communication is key during a time of significant change – staff were briefed about the reasons for the change, and the support team leader provided encouragement on a one-to-one basis. The team were included in detailed planning activities, ensuring their buy-in. Also, the team could see the market changing, and knew that this was a good opportunity for both themselves and the schools.
Management approval was our first big blocker – but the figures spoke for themselves once the decision paper was compiled. There was also a nervousness from our team about their ability to succeed, particularly in the accreditation tests. Arbor’s partnership team was very supportive, with regular progress checkpoints to maintain focus, as well as being quick to respond to ad hoc questions.
Our measure of success is ultimately the feedback from schools. There’s no denying that it’s extra work for a small team, but schools are finding the new system far more intuitive to use. It’s easier for the teachers to get what information they want out of it. Schools like the way Arbor reacts to feedback and the way you can vote for changes or join working groups.
It’s been good for us as an organisation as we can now bring a bit more pressure to bear on things that are Hampshire-specific, such as our own assessment model; we’re working with Arbor to fine-tune this to make use of assessment material better for our schools.
Some schools have told us that the decision to choose Arbor was based on the fact that we were now providing the support service, which is great to hear. We differ from many support partners in our pricing approach, which is flat rather than per pupil. What’s been interesting is that we’ve had schools sign up to our service– even where we’re more expensive for them – because they value the personal service we provide. The schools have also understood that this is a journey for us as an organisation – there’s a recognition that we are all in this to ensure the best outcomes for the children in the county. One of my colleagues recently said, “our schools are being really nice and understanding that we are on this journey together.”
We’re still aiming to provide the same valued service, irrespective of the MIS used by schools. We provide a personal one-to-one service, talking our customers through the resolution of their queries. We have a continuous service improvement ethos, meaning we regularly review our procedures and gain feedback from our schools. We consider customer feedback crucial, and we use multiple channels to make sure our message gets out, and their responses can get back to us, be this through surveys, headteacher strategy groups or conferences.
If you’d like to read the full report, written in partnership with Socitm, click here.
Or, you can find out more about how we work with with Socitm here.
EdTech | Migration
As part of our partnership with Amazon Web Services, we interviewed Andrew Proctor, Executive Lead for Education, about how schools should be thinking about migration to the cloud. You can read a shorter version of this article in our joint whitepaper with Socitm. – How has the move to the cloud looked across other parts
As part of our partnership with Amazon Web Services, we interviewed Andrew Proctor, Executive Lead for Education, about how schools should be thinking about migration to the cloud. You can read a shorter version of this article in our joint whitepaper with Socitm.
I think it’s taken a number of different shapes and forms across different sectors, but I also think it’s important to draw a distinction between those organisations and companies that are born in the cloud and those that are not. Cloud-borne companies can scale rapidly, because they already have a cloud way of thinking and doing. This is more the case for the private sector, where companies are often driven by the need for a competitive edge.
Traditionally, I think the public sector has looked at digital transformation as a set of projects to implement new technologies, rather than an embedded cultural change. For those that have made the move to the cloud, they are able to see past technology as something that simply keeps the lights on. It has accelerated and de-risked innovation.
What we’ve seen over the past two years is evolution and adaptation in the education sector, rather than true transformation and reinvention. An example would be moving lessons online. This is in no way to dismiss the incredible work that the public sector has had to do in a very short amount of time, but it demonstrates that they’ve been limited to almost reproducing what they’ve already been doing via different methods, rather than reinventing and improving them.
The adoption of a cloud mindset should be central to any plans for transformation – viewing cloud as something that can help your team focus on your end-users.
When I was first at Staffordshire University, there were monthly management meetings. The different teams would come in and talk about patches to the infrastructure, uptime and availability. By moving to the cloud, one of the cultural things I was able to do was shift the focus of those meetings away from maintenance of the system and through to telling us what problems they’d solved, what new functionality and new services they’d designed and delivered to help staff and students. Ultimately, cloud was a springboard for a much more user-centric approach.
I also think it’s important to know that you don’t need to boil the ocean and seek perfection. Public sector governance doesn’t often align with digital and agile ways of operating. There’s a tendency towards multi-year business plans where every detail must be nailed down. Teams need to accept that traditional governance and its rigidity may not always be conducive to the benefits of the cloud.
Look at digital transformation as a way of being and doing – not the shift to a different piece of technology. You need to be user-obsessed and focused. My advice would therefore be to start by putting some of the cultural building blocks in place and thinking of the bigger picture.
Don’t try to reproduce what you’ve already done but in the cloud. Of course, you can make cost efficiencies and savings by getting rid of a data centre. But the real advantage of cloud is the ability to be innovative and agile.
I’d also say that you should look to the huge community of support that’s out there for help. You don’t have to do it all alone. Many organisations, sectors, and industries have reinvented themselves and are willing to offer a helping hand. Look to partners as well.
To see other case studies like Andrew’s, click on the image above
Whatever the sector, organisations face some barriers, but many of these are actually just perceived barriers, particularly around security and skills.
The security of the cloud is one such perceived barrier. There’s a trust and comfort to having something under physical lock and key in a data centre in your building. Cloud doesn’t remove locks and keys, it just does them in a better and different way. You still get 100% control over who has access to your data and applications. If you take Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example, we have over one million monthly active customers, across every vertical, including policing and security services around the globe. So our infrastructure is designed around the most stringent of security requirements from around the world – and each customer benefits from that. If you’re a school, you’re benefiting from infrastructure that’s been designed for a much higher tier of security than you actually need.
Another concern is around skills. Some organisations worry that they haven’t got the internal skills for digital transformation or cloud adoption. There’s also a natural concern within individuals that they don’t have the skills required. So there’s a fear about making sure transformation is sustainable, because it has the right people moving it along. These concerns have solutions. You can train and develop your internal team where appropriate, rely on partners and also look to grow teams where necessary. In such a fast-paced environment as is the world of IT, the ability to upskill is viewed as an exciting opportunity for internal teams. It’s a positive thing.
The vast majority of projects that are deemed to be large-scale can and should be broken down into manageable chunks. It’s very difficult to produce this perfect, accurately timed and costed multi-year project plan sat at a desk in a room before you’re actually faced with reality. But we still seem wedded to doing that in the public sector.
It’s much better to adopt, again, a sort of cloud mindset, by listening to what end-users need and want. And be prepared to change and adapt where needed.
It’s healthy to think big, but start small. This big idea that all schools will move to the cloud is absolutely right and proper, but the key is to start small, learn some lessons and demonstrate both success and value. Start by migrating those systems that aren’t complex to do so.
In terms of practical advice, the establishment of some core tenets for the project is very important. What are the key things that are driving the initiative? A really rough idea of a tenet could be that you will always prioritise the security of people’s data, so when you come to some difficult or challenging decisions that you need to communicate to everyone, you can refer back to those tenets as well to make sure that you’re staying true to what was agreed upfront. This can help defuse some of the conflict and tension, because you’ve got that established guidance to refer back to. So setting, agreeing and communicating those key tenets to the broader school community can be very helpful.
And again, take digital ethos and approach. It could be moving a single school or a single application or service to the cloud. Take stock, learn some lessons and then progress from there and be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.
Finally, I think it’s important to advocate for the fact that even though there may be some initial trade-offs, as we’ve discussed with the needs of users, going back to one of the core benefits of a cloud mindset is that ultimately you become much more customer-centric and you get much more time and resource to invest back into your end-users as well. Advocating that to the user community is really important. Naturally, there will be some friction and surprises, but just make sure you’ve got some resources ready to communicate to teams and keep them informed.
I would add that there is a lot in the public sector and education sector to celebrate. There is plenty of opportunity for them in terms of digital transformation, but I think they should take a sense of pride in just how important they’ve been, how important they will remain to be and what they have done during a challenging few years.
It’s been a very challenging environment for universities and schools. Lots of noise in the media and press, lots of pressure politically. But they have absolutely done everyone in the country proud in terms of the service that they provided. If you look at them being able to provide new mental health services at universities and schools and the adoption of those, I think we should all be proud of what the education sector has been able to achieve, and we should all advocate for the many opportunities that are still ahead of them.
A shorter version of this article appears in our whitepaper with Socitm, which also features interviews with Hampshire County Council and Herts for Learning about how and why they are offering schools in their area the choice of a cloud MIS. Click here for your free copy of the whitepaper.
Migration | Partners
We’re excited to launch our latest whitepaper, in partnership with Socitm, about how three organisations are helping schools think about a move to the cloud. As the Management Information System (MIS) market shifts, more and more councils are embracing changing technology. But for many, change presents concerns around capacity, impact on internal structures and getting
We’re excited to launch our latest whitepaper, in partnership with Socitm, about how three organisations are helping schools think about a move to the cloud.
As the Management Information System (MIS) market shifts, more and more councils are embracing changing technology. But for many, change presents concerns around capacity, impact on internal structures and getting to grips with new systems. With many councils wanting to provide choice to their schools and follow the lead of those who are already seeking to harness modern technology, including cloud-based MIS, knowing where to start can be a daunting prospect.
Hampshire County Council and Herts for Learning are two organisations that have already embraced a move to the cloud when it comes to school MIS. In this whitepaper, hear from both organisations on how they managed this project internally, advice they would give to others, and what it was that encouraged them to take action.
We also spoke with Amazon Web Services about the trends they’ve seen across the public sector, and how Local Authorities across the UK can take advice from, and be encouraged by, others who have managed similar projects.
Download your free copy of the whitepaper here to read these three case studies.
All three of our contributors will be joining Phillippa D’Ath, CRO at Arbor Education, for a fireside chat on their schools’ experience with a move to the cloud. Sign up to the free webinar, taking place on 18th October at 1pm, by clicking here.
You can find out more about our partnership with Socitm here.
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