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blank Maddie Kilminster - 11 May, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

 

The impact of covid-19 on attainment 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Approaches to post-covid recovery

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

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

 

Banning “catch-up” language

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

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

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

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

 

Championing the progress made in lockdown

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

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

 

Focusing on wellbeing

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

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

 

Measuring, mapping and mastering

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

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

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

 

Boosting creative subjects

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Arbor can help

Already using Arbor?

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

New to Arbor?

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 20 April, 2021

Category : Blog

Your guide to schools’ financial benchmarking

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

What is financial benchmarking?

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

Why is financial benchmarking so important for schools?

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

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

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

How to benchmark your school’s financial data

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

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

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

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

How should you use your data?

Once you’ve looked into your benchmarking data, you should evaluate how this data will help you make the best budgeting decisions. Your Governors will be interested to know how and why your financial approach differs to similar schools, and how you plan to redirect your resources to support better outcomes for students. 

Why not present a benchmarking report to your Governors at the next meeting? Some Management Information Systems (MIS) like Arbor MIS have a benchmarking portal, which allows you to compare your school’s behaviour, attendance, attainment and school context data to national averages at key points in the year. This gives you useful context to support your budgeting decisions.

Financial benchmarking reports from Arbor

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

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

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

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

*Out soon! Watch this space

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

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

Discover more about Arbor MIS

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 31 March, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

Taking care of ourselves first

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

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

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

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

The disciplined pursuit of less

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

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

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

How do you ensure quality in the curriculum?

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

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

1. Realign priorities

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

2. Address curriculum misconceptions

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

3. Remember children’s entitlement

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

4. Be more ambitious

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

5. High challenge, low threat

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

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

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

6. Be prepared to be surprised

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

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

7. Underpin learning with high quality texts

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

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

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

8. Use meeting time to talk about books

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

Six keys to success

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

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

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

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

Want to learn more about Arbor MIS? 

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 19 March, 2021

Category : Blog

How Arbor has made our secondary school more solutions-focused

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Beacon-academy-quote-1

 

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

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

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

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

Beacon-academy-quote-2

 

How did implementing Arbor go remotely?

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

 

How is Arbor transforming the way your school works? 

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

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

Beacon-academy-quote-3

 

How has Arbor helped during Covid-19?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Want to find out more?

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 25 February, 2021

Category : Blog

5 ways School Data Managers are using Microsoft Power BI

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

By School Improvement Consultant, Ed Cadwallader

 

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

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

 

What is Power BI?

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

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

 

Top 5 ways to use Power BI

 

1. Customise! (without the pitfalls of Excel)

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

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

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

attendance-Power-BI

Link your data analysis to your interventions

 

 

2. Focus on what matters

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

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

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

 

tooltips-power-bi

Tooltips give additional information and context

 

3. Take action

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

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

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

 

microsoft-teams-Power-BI

Make data informed decisions using Comments and Chat in Teams

 

4. Empower SLT to explore data themselves

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

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

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

 

decomposition-tree-power-bi

Empower leaders to explore the data themselves with the decomposition tree

 

5. See your data in new ways

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

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

demographics-power-bi

Analyse student locations and journeys with the map visual

 

 


Getting started with Microsoft Power BI

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

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

 

Seamless connection between Arbor and Power BI

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

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

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

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

power-bi-arborfest

blank Maddie Kilminster - 23 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Spring term update: Connect more tools to Arbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean for you? 

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

google-classroom

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean for you? 

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

BI-dashboard

Find out more about these integrations

Already using Arbor MIS?

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


New to Arbor? 

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 9 February, 2021

Category : Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Top Strategies for Delivering Consistent Online Learning Across your Primary Schools

Wednesday 10th February, 10am 

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

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

Sign up for free here

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

Wednesday 24th February, 10am 

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

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

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

Sign up for free here

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The Road to Financial Sustainability as a Trust

Wednesday 3rd March, 10am 

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

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

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

Sign up for free here

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

Wednesday 17th March, 11am 

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

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

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

Sign up for free here

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

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

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

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

Sign up for free here

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 2 February, 2021

Category : Blog

Announcing the second virtual ArborFest!

In just two weeks’ time, we’re hosting the second ever virtual ArborFest – a two-day festival dedicated to discovering new ways of working with Arbor MIS.  ArborFest is your chance to meet (online!) the growing community of over 1,500 schools and 130 MATs using Arbor MIS to transform the way they work.  Following our popular

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

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

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

ArborFest

Exploring innovative ways of working

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

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

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

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

What’s on the programme?

Click here to see the full programme and book your tickets 

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

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

Announcing our Keynote Speaker

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

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

Re-live when ArborFest was in-person!

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


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

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

Can’t wait until ArborFest? 

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

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

Emma Sharples - 20 January, 2021

Category : Blog

What’s the best time in the year to move your secondary to a cloud-based MIS?

Rolling out a new MIS (Management Information System) at your secondary school can feel like a daunting task. That’s why we work hand-in-hand with schools to implement Arbor at the right time and pace. There really is no best time to move – we work with schools throughout the school year and during holidays to

Rolling out a new MIS (Management Information System) at your secondary school can feel like a daunting task. That’s why we work hand-in-hand with schools to implement Arbor at the right time and pace.

There really is no best time to move – we work with schools throughout the school year and during holidays to fit your move to Arbor around your priorities, school calendar and staff commitments. During Covid-19 we’ve moved over 400 schools to Arbor.

You’ll have the support of your Arbor Project Manager who will ensure your staff have the right training they need to use Arbor confidently as soon as the system goes live. Find out more about how we help make Arbor a success at your school here.

If you’re wondering when would be a good time to move systems during the academic year, our Head of Professional Services, Emma, has some handy pointers below to help you decide:

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in September

If you want your Arbor site to go live in September, your implementation will begin after the Easter break.

What to bear in mind in your school calendar:  

  • As September is the new school year, we know you’ll need to set up and be confident to use Arbor from day one, including transitioning to your new school timetable 
  • Staff taking summer leave and having availability to support the roll out
  • August Exam Results Day
  • Any September timetable changes

How Arbor can help:

  • If you already completed your school’s new year setup in your previous MIS, it will migrate automatically to Arbor, including your timetable
  • Training will be available to your staff throughout the term before your ‘Go Live’ date and beyond, so staff won’t have to take time for their valuable holidays
  • We’ll plan for priority operations such as exams, in advance of when you need to use this functionality. You’ll also have the option to use your existing MIS for processing your exam results on results day and add them to Arbor at a later date 
  • We’ll make sure your staff have training on timetable management as a priority to support any amendments to make to classes, rooms, staff or enrolments for September

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in October Half-Term

If you want your Arbor site to go live in October Half-Term, your implementation will begin after May Half-Term.

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • School and Workforce Census 
  • Autumn term priorities, e.g. assessment data drops, parents’ evenings and reports
  • Exams resits 

How Arbor can help:

  • Our data migration process is fully compliant for census, and our data cleansing process will ensure your data is good quality 
  • We run two ‘dummy data’ runs so you can check your data is accurate before Arbor goes live
  • We can tailor your implementation and training plan to meet your school’s needs and availability
  • We’ll plan ahead to make sure you can upload your assessment data into Arbor at the right time
  • Your exam entries will migrate to Arbor and we will be on hand to make sure your Exams Officer has the right training and support during this time

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in January

If you want your Arbor site to go live in January, your implementation will begin in September. 

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • September is a busy time to start onboarding a new system
  • School census
  • In-year assessment data drops
  • School closure over the Christmas break

How Arbor can help:

  • We can tailor your implementation and training plan to meet your school’s needs and availability
  • Our data migration process is fully compliant which ensures you have everything you need to complete your census
  • We’ll plan ahead to make sure you can upload your assessment data into Arbor at the right time

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in February Half-Term

If you want your Arbor site to go live in February Half-Term, your implementation will begin after October Half-Term. 

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • Your in-year assessment data drops
  • Exam entry deadline

How Arbor can help:

  • We’ll plan ahead to make sure you have everything for assessment setup and can upload your assessment data into Arbor at the right time
  • During implementation, we will work with you to identify your priorities such as exams. You have the option to either use Arbor or your previous MIS to complete entries, so you can make the transition in your own time

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in Easter

If you want your Arbor site to go live in Easter, your implementation will begin after Christmas. 

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • Your in-year assessment data drops
  • You’ll have done your exam entries

How Arbor can help:

  • You’ll have nearly two terms’ worth of in-year assessment data to upload to Arbor. We can help plan for this in your implementation plan if you choose to use Arbor for assessments straight away
  • We’ll migrate your exam entries to Arbor and we’ll make sure your team are trained on how to make amendments and complete access requirements/seating plans in Arbor if needed

If you want to ‘Go Live’ in May Half-Term

If you want your Arbor site to go live in May Half-Term, your implementation will begin after February Half-Term. 

What to bear in mind in your school calendar: 

  • School census
  • In-year assessment data drops
  • New school year: including timetable and enrolments
  • Exams administration

How Arbor can help:

  • You’ll have nearly three terms’ worth of in-year assessment data to upload to Arbor. We can plan for this in your implementation plan to give you enough time. Alternatively you can continue to use your current assessment tracker until September, transitioning to Arbor gradually
  • We’ll make sure you have enough time to set up your new school year in Arbor. We also have an integration with TimeTabler which allows you to import your timetable. 
  • We’ll make sure your staff have the training they need to administer exams and prepare all access arrangements as required

Want to find out what your implementation journey to Arbor MIS could look like? Join our free webinar on 2nd February at 11am to hear from Rebecca all about the structure and process of moving your secondary school to Arbor’s cloud-based MIS – from data migration, training, to driving long-term improvements to the way you work. Sign up here for free

blank Maddie Kilminster - 11 January, 2021

Category : Blog

3 reasons to switch your secondary school to a cloud-based MIS this year

In busy secondary schools with so much information in different places, it’s often difficult for staff to find what they need. With the added demands of Covid-19 and staff and students working remotely, now is the time to switch to a cloud-based system that you can rely on to support your daily tasks. Arbor’s Secondary

In busy secondary schools with so much information in different places, it’s often difficult for staff to find what they need. With the added demands of Covid-19 and staff and students working remotely, now is the time to switch to a cloud-based system that you can rely on to support your daily tasks.

Arbor’s Secondary School MIS is designed to make a measurable improvement to the way you work by bringing all your systems, data and communications under one roof. This gives everyone at your school a single source of information so you can support the students and staff who need it the most.

Over 168 secondary schools have chosen Arbor MIS for a better working life, joining the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community of over 1,400 schools and MATs.

Moving your school to a new system might seem daunting, but over 412 schools moved to Arbor remotely during Covid-19. Below are three of the top reasons you should consider a switch this term:

1. Your current systems can’t meet the demands of Covid-19

Schools are working in totally new ways right now and older school software simply can’t keep up. Because Arbor MIS is cloud-based, you can stay connected to your school community and maintain all your administrative tasks wherever you need to work – with fast, secure online access.

During Covid-19, we’ve also developed market-leading tools to help free staff up to focus on supporting students and staff:

  • Covid-19 Dashboard – Gives you all the data you need for DfE reporting and helps you track attendance and absence across your student body including vulnerable and key status groups. Follow up with parents directly from the dashboard.
  • Flexible timetabling and cover – We’ll automatically show you which teachers are isolating or sick so you can arrange cover easily, adjusting school timetables flexibly to accommodate bubbles.
  • Built-in communications – Keep in touch with your community by email, SMS, and in-app message from wherever you are in Arbor. The office can send communications in bulk using mail-merge and use templates to save time. Teachers can contact their students directly from the Lesson Dashboard.

“I just wanted to say how impressed I have been with Arbor during the COVID crisis. What you guys have implemented has made my job so much easier.” Josh Pearce, Marches School

2. Arbor MIS works for secondary schools of all shapes and sizes

Arbor is designed to meet the needs of secondary schools of all shapes and sizes. With so much going on, Arbor helps you create a more joined-up school, with a shared view of progress and purpose for all staff.

With accessible, flexible reporting at every level, Arbor gives you a holistic view of your students’ progress across all areas of school – completely out-of-the-box – so you can direct the right support to the right students. Plus, Arbor’s powerful integrations with data analysis platforms including Power BI, SISRA and 4Matrix mean you can dig into your data exactly how you need to. 

Arbor’s fast, intuitive tools, like timetabling, communications and end-to-end exams management, cut down on repetitive manual work and help make life easier for everyone, from Support Staff, to SLT, to Teachers. 

92% of school staff say they save time with Arbor compared to their previous MIS, and 81% say Arbor has improved how they analyse and understand data.

3. We’ll make sure Arbor is a success at your secondary school in the long-term

When you join Arbor we’ll take the time to truly understand your school and your goals – then help you meet them, year after year. Our friendly, expert team of consultants and former educators will work with you to provide the training and services you need to drive impact with Arbor at your secondary school. 

Being part of Arbor, you’ll share best practice with a growing community of like-minded schools learning from each other and sharing best practice. What’s more, we’re always keen to hear your feedback on Arbor and work hand-in-hand with schools to shape the new features we develop. 

We’re proud of our 97% customer satisfaction rate for support and 99% customer retention rate. 

Want to discover more about Arbor MIS and see the system in action? Join one of our free webinars this term to find out how Arbor could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more at your organisation. See all the sessions that are coming up here. 

Alternatively, get in touch with us directly – we’d love to hear from you! tellmemore@arbor-education.com0208 050 1028

blank Danielle Arkwright - 10 December, 2020

Category : Blog

Top tips for managing stress during constant change

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

Up and down the country, we’ve all been working in new ways over the last year. You might have spent time working remotely, or had to quickly adapt and take on more work at a moment’s notice. Whatever your situation, you’ve probably been going at full tilt, and are in need of a break.

As you start thinking about the holiday season – though it’s not a normal one by any means – we wanted to share ways of understanding and managing some of the difficult emotions you might be experiencing.

How are you feeling?

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

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

What is stress?

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

Is stress bad? 

Sometimes having a stress response is appropriate and helpful, for example, if you’re pushed into a dangerous or uncomfortable situation, it’s good to trust your instincts 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

How can we manage stress? 

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

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

Top tips for managing stress

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

Useful links 

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

For coping with the Coronavirus outbreak:

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

General recommendations:

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

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

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

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

blank Maddie Kilminster - 8 December, 2020

Category : Blog

4 top tips for procuring a cloud-based MIS for your school or MAT

Hundreds of schools are switching to cloud-based IT systems this year to help them work more flexibly. But with several cloud-based MIS systems on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start in choosing the system that will work best for your unique requirements. To support you in your search, we wanted

Hundreds of schools are switching to cloud-based IT systems this year to help them work more flexibly. But with several cloud-based MIS systems on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start in choosing the system that will work best for your unique requirements.

To support you in your search, we wanted to share some of the best advice we’ve gathered from our 1,300 schools and 110 MATs about how to take control of the MIS switch and choose the right system (and the supplier) for you.

Read below for top tips to help you break down the process into manageable steps, when to involve your staff, and how to work with your supplier to get the most value out of your new system.

1. First, think teaching and technical

When you’re first scoping your MIS switch, start with a small team of staff who represent both IT and teaching and learning. Together they make the perfect team to think about the full potential of what a new MIS could do for your school. Try to worry less about admin (in the beginning!) and focus instead on how you want to improve ways of working at your school. 

Remember, your current system will be easier to replace than you think!

2. Keep your strategy in mind

The best MIS suppliers will work with you to help you achieve your school or trust’s long-term goals. So make sure you talk through your objectives during the sales process. The company should make clear how you’ll be able to adapt the system to meet your needs, and how it will help you implement improvements at your school over a longer period of time. 

Remember, switching to a new MIS isn’t just a one-off project, it should be a partnership you can trust in year after year.

3. Consider using a framework

Many of our schools and MATs have found using a government-approved framework like G-Cloud a really clear and compliant way of procuring MIS. Having the information about all MIS suppliers on the market in one place can save you time, and helps you choose the most competitive, reputable and secure supplier. 

Read our handy guide to using G-Cloud to procure your new MIS.

4. Get staff on board

A change in systems can be daunting for staff, so it’s a good idea to get them involved in the process early on, so they have the opportunity to air their concerns and ask any questions they have. The best suppliers will provide personalised demos for each of your key staff (E.g. Admin Officers, Finance Manager, Middle Leadership, SENCOs, Teachers, HR Manager) to help them visualise how the new system will work for their everyday roles. 

Remember, your supplier should be able to reassure all your staff how the new system will improve (not just replace) their day-to-day ways of working.

Arbor is the UK’s fastest-growing MIS supplier, with more schools switching to us than any other supplier.

If you’d like to discover how Arbor MIS could help you work faster, smarter and collaborate more at your school or trust, join a free demo webinar or get in touch with the team at tellmemore@arbor-education.com or 0208 050 1028. 

 You can also check out our profile on the DfE’s G-cloud framework here:

Sophia Krage - 18 November, 2020

Category : Blog

Arbor features for Teachers: helping you speed through admin and get time back for students

The classroom has seen a lot of change this term and Teachers are really stretched. To give you an extra helping hand, we’ve developed some really great features in Arbor which take the hassle out of your admin and give you more time to focus on what matters most – your students. Hear from our

The classroom has seen a lot of change this term and Teachers are really stretched. To give you an extra helping hand, we’ve developed some really great features in Arbor which take the hassle out of your admin and give you more time to focus on what matters most – your students.

Hear from our Product Manager for Teaching and Learning, Sophia, below sharing two tools we’ve created to support Teachers this term – My Classroom – an all-in-one solution for classroom management, and My Homepage – a brand new personalised homepage which helps you stay on top of things and act fast.

My Homepage – your personalised dashboard – Launching today!

We know Teachers have little time between lessons to get through their admin, and even less time to check their student records for anything to be aware of. We believe busy Teachers shouldn’t have to search for the information they need. 

That’s why today we’re excited to launch My Homepage – Arbor’s brand new, personalised homepage for Teaching and Pastoral Staff, giving you brand new tools to help you stay on top of things and act fast.

my-homepage

As soon as you log into Arbor, you’ll have everything you need for your day right in front of you:

    • My Students – This is your new, personalised view of your students’ progress. Drill down to see which students are driving overall trends, filter your stats by key groups, such as FSM Year 5 boys, or SEN EAL girls, or switch back to the Whole School tab to get an overview of your school
    • To-do list – See your most urgent tasks, from incomplete registers, unresolved behaviour incidents, cover requests, to any assessment data you need to add, helping you tick them off between lessons
    • Student Alerts – See safeguarding or pastoral notes, detentions and birthdays for your students so you never miss the important things!
    • Whole school notices – Your important announcements are prominently displayed at the top of the page helping you make sure everyone sees key notices
    • Quick Actions – Go straight to your most important actions in Arbor like “Take attendance”, “Create event” and “Send email”
    • Shortcuts – Head right to the core Arbor modules such as “Behaviour”, “Student Profiles” and “Summative tracking”
    • Calendar – Jump straight into your next meeting or lesson from the Homepage

What are schools saying?

“The filters work great for me as I can quickly select the students I’m responsible for. Student alerts also allow me to easily spot pupils that had an absence mark due to Covid.”

Matthew Domine, Assistant Principal and Music and Geography Teacher at Avanti House Secondary School

“57% of our staff are now more aware of school key measures such as attendance and behaviour compared to when they used SIMS” 

Jon Ward, Vice Principal (Curriculum and Standards) at the Abbey Park School

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My Classroom – your all-in-one classroom management tool

Classroom management is a lot more complex right now, with new social distancing rules, track-and-trace, and challenging student behaviour as they adjust. 

To help you manage your class this term and beyond, we’ve created My Classroom – your new all-in-one classroom management tool – that brings together behaviour management, seating plans and attendance in one place for the first time!

my-classroom

Here are some of the main ways My Classroom will take the hassle out of preparing and managing your lessons:

1. Flexible seating plans

My Classroom gives you a powerful solution to seating plans, allowing you to create smart seating plans which reflect your real classroom, assign students using helpful demographic tags, see student photos (or remove in student view if you’re presenting on the board), and share your plans with your colleagues.

2. Take action seamlessly throughout the lesson

With My Classroom, you’ll spend less time on the little tasks which disturb your lesson flow. Cut out the lengthy register call at the beginning of the lesson by bulk selecting marks straight from your plan. Assign positive and negative behaviour points dynamically during the lesson, or log an incident and trigger an automatic follow up action. 

3. Powered by Arbor MIS

The best thing about My Classroom is that it’s built into Arbor MIS, which means you have up-to-date contextual information about your students automatically on your plan, helping you to tell the full story of each of your students lesson to lesson. Plus, any behaviour incidents you record or points you assign feed straight back into Arbor, so you’ll never have to update anything twice. 

What are schools saying?

Teachers are already sharing with us how My Classroom is giving them their time back to focus on teaching and learning instead. It’s also proving really useful during the pandemic, by helping to track-and-trace student contact, and create socially distanced arrangements.

“The reason why I think My Classroom is so exciting, is that it does not have to integrate with any other tools. Managing the lessons from one place rather than having to open lots of different screens will be the key benefit for our staff. For us as a school this will be definitely the right tool. It will be cost-saving and you have the whole data set all in one place.”

Steve Hackshaw, Assistant Headteacher (Learning, Progress and Assessment), at Ralph Thoresby School

“Many thanks to everybody for developing this; I think it’s a really intuitive way for teachers to work with their students and classes.”

Andy Cunningham, Headteacher at The Lakes School

“Using My Classroom has really taken off with our staff – they love the overview of students they get on their seating plans and being able to see the seating plan and take the register at the same time.”

Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead Academy

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to find our more about how Arbor could transform the way your staff work, we’d love to hear from you. You can join one of our free demo webinars, or arrange a 1-on-1 demo here. Alternatively, contact us on: tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

In the meantime, why not sign up to our fortnightly newsletter to get a round-up of our most popular blogs like this straight to your inbox.

blank Maddie Kilminster - 29 October, 2020

Category : Blog

How hundreds of LA maintained schools are moving to the cloud

Since most of us can remember, maintained schools have generally used the IT systems that their Local Authority recommends and supports. Until recently, there hasn’t really been any other option. But in the last few years, many Multi-Academy Trusts have been reviewing their schools’ tech and replacing their legacy, server-based systems with more efficient, cloud-based

Since most of us can remember, maintained schools have generally used the IT systems that their Local Authority recommends and supports. Until recently, there hasn’t really been any other option.

But in the last few years, many Multi-Academy Trusts have been reviewing their schools’ tech and replacing their legacy, server-based systems with more efficient, cloud-based solutions. 

Many Local Authorities, too, have started to collaborate with suppliers like Arbor in order to support their schools to move to a cloud-based MIS. We’re working with a growing number of Local Authorities up and down the country, each of whom has gone through our rigorous accreditation and training so that they can support their schools with Arbor.

If your Local Authority hasn’t started to look at cloud-based options yet, don’t let it hold you back! Many schools have decided they can’t wait and are moving to the cloud by themselves, supported by Arbor’s simple migration process. In Hampshire alone, over 22 schools have moved to Arbor, spurred on by two early pioneers.

Find out below how two Hampshire schools broke away from their LA and moved to Arbor MIS – and they haven’t looked back.

 

Interview with Jason Anderson, Headteacher at Romsey Primary School (moved to Arbor in Spring 2018)

 

1. What motivated your move to Arbor MIS? 

We used to have a number of different systems that managed all the different operational aspects of a school (MIS, attendance, communication, assessment, medical, etc), and although individually these systems worked well, we found that you had to keep switching between them to get the full picture, i.e. linking attendance to progress, or emails home to confirm social media consent. This, coupled with the extraordinarily complex processes to get straightforward answers to simple questions (e.g. What is the absence trend of our PP children this term?) was becoming increasingly frustrating for us.  

I had used Arbor Insight reports for a couple of years, and loved the clarity in which detailed information was presented. The charts and graphs were consistently user friendly, and I was able to get the data I needed swiftly. I did some investigating into Arbor MIS, and spoke to a couple of schools – who all spoke highly of the system. When we costed Arbor over a three year period and found that we would save just under £6k compared to the other systems we were using, the transition was a no brainer!

2. Did you have any concerns before moving?

There were a number of issues that I needed to be confident about before moving to Arbor. Obviously we checked their reliability, ‘uptime’ status over the past few years, accounts, customer service, compliance with GDPR and other relevant legislation. I was also mindful of our school being the first maintained primary school in the county to move away from local authority’s preferred product. We were also twitchy about the actual transition and the physical moving of all our MIS data from one product to another! We knew that we were taking a leap of faith! 

However, after the delays in getting the data out of the old system, the actual transfer into Arbor was slick with several layers of verification. Additional checks by the Arbor team continued to make us feel confident that our data was being well looked after!

3. What was your staff’s reaction to changing MIS? 

The office team were instrumental in evaluating Arbor before moving over to it, so they had some idea of what to expect. They were very excited about the transition, especially with regard to us being a growing school and requiring a product that would grow and help us streamline systems and processes. We are still finding time-saving devices regularly in the product!

My Business Manager is able to put all the staff details in a single system, and add staff attendance, contract details and we are investigating transferring our Single Central Record over too. Teachers like being able to locate parent’s contact details quickly, alongside assessment and attendance data. All these features make for a happy staff!

4. How has Arbor transformed the way you work? 

One of the most notable areas that has been transformed is the census return.  Having our own maintained nursery (with its variety of Nursery 2s and 3s, 15 and 30 hour funding, irregular sessions, non compulsory attendance, paid for sessions, etc.) used to require multiple telephone calls to the previous system’s help desk. These were often painfully long, incredibly complicated and stressful days! However, the most recent census return was completed in under 20 minutes (and when help was required, it’s always clear and accurate!).

I love the automated reports – I’ve got two main ones set up at the moment; one for safeguarding, the other for attendance. These scheduled reports are automatically generated and emailed to the relevant staff. These save so much time! 

For us, however, Arbor is the one-stop-shop for everything. During parents’ evenings, we load on the pupil’s page, and we have all the information at our fingertips. We can quickly see who is social media safe, or doesn’t have permission for the administration of paracetamol, who has a food allergy, or what they achieved in their Y1 Phonics screening. We used to waste so much time digging into separate systems to find all this – having it all on the screen in one place has been fantastic!

5. What would you say to a Local Authority maintained primary school in an area like Hampshire who’s thinking of moving away from SIMS but is nervous about it?

Do it! Don’t hesitate! There are better, more efficient and more effective ways of working. Arbor holds your hand all the way through the process (and beyond – they definitely do not “drop you once you’re in!”). The ongoing communication, support and training continually reassure and help you get the most from Arbor. They are continually developing the product (the Covid attendance summary page is brilliant for the daily DfE return!), and they listen to your suggestions for improvements too! Take the plunge – you won’t look back!

 

To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS could help your school work faster, smarter and collaborate more, join one of our webinars at ArborFest – our exclusive online event for schools across the country. You’ll hear how fellow school staff have transformed the way they work with Arbor MIS. Find out what’s on and book now – it’s free!

 

Read Part Two for our second interview with Kay Bowen, Headteacher at St John the Baptist CoE Primary