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Maddie Kilminster - 5 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How IT support teams are helping schools adapt to new ways of working 

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.


Working remotely to help schools do the same

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. 


Helping schools access the information they need

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.


Guiding schools on how to manage online learning

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.


A blended learning future 

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

Maddie Kilminster - 3 June, 2020

Category : Blog

Apply for free support from Google and Microsoft to support your virtual learning

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:

  • What is the grant?
  • Why should I use a digital learning platform at my school?
  • How does Arbor work with G Suite or Office 365?
  • Use your grant for support from our trusted partners

Here’s the breakdown …

What is the grant?

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: 

Why should I use a digital learning platform at my school?

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: 

  • Hold virtual lessons using Google Meet or Microsoft Teams 
  • Create classes and groups instantly using data synced from your MIS
  • Assign and mark homework online, so you can continue teaching and learning remotely if your teachers or students have to work from home
  • Test students’ learning remotely with online quizzes
  • Collaborate more closely with students, e.g. via shared online whiteboards or notebooks. Just because you’re separated, doesn’t mean you can’t still have meaningful interactions!
  • Communicate more easily with students, staff and parents using Gmail or Outlook and share calendars
  • Get answers quickly – create and send simple online forms directly to parents 

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.

How does Arbor work with G Suite or Office 365?

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:

  • Analyse your data however you need to – You can dig down further into your live student data from Arbor using Google Sheets, Excel or other BI platforms like PowerBI. You can also track and authenticate exactly who has access to your data from Arbor
  • Set up new users, classes or groups faster – Because your data in Arbor syncs with G Suite / Office 365, your student profiles will be set up automatically and the system will use their timetable and class information to put them into the right groups for you
  • Only ever log in once – Arbor’s integration with Google means you’ll only have to log in once to access your MIS and G Suite – no more remembering multiple passwords!

Use your grant on support from our trusted partners

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.

Vitalize IT

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.”

Computer Talk 

Can support you with: G Suite 

“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 

Can support you with: G Suite and Office 365

“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.”


Can support you with: G Suite

“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.”


Can support you with: G Suite and Office 365

“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 hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Beth Mokrini - 13 March, 2020

Category : Blog

Get the support that works for you with Arbor

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:


  • 4-6 months of self-guided training using videos, guides and mock tests
  • Fortnightly call with one of our Customer Support experts
  • Day of shadowing our Customer Support Team (optional) 
  • Day of in-person training (optional) 


  • Online exam on Arbor’s core modules
  • Deliver an assessed 1-hour training session
  • Respond to mock support calls and tickets 

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. 



Glyn pascoe ict4 quoteiCT4 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 Education

Dave Cattlin OSMIS quote

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.



Jason Waring Orbis quoteOrbis 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

Jennie readings herts for learning quote

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)

Cara Patching SBS quote

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

tom welch turniton quoteWith 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

mark hodges cantium quote

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 myteam@arbor-education.com. 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.

Beth Mokrini - 17 December, 2019

Category : Blog

Partner roundup: Autumn term 2019

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. 

School Business Services (SBS)

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!