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Maddie Kilminster - 22 September, 2020

Category : Blog

3 reasons why you should switch to a cloud-based MIS now to future-proof your school

It’s been the most challenging year yet for schools. From navigating changing DfE guidance, to keeping tabs on vulnerable students, staff have had a lot on their plate. On top of all this, leadership teams have had to grapple with legacy, server-based software, which slowed schools down as they adapted the way they work.  This

It’s been the most challenging year yet for schools. From navigating changing DfE guidance, to keeping tabs on vulnerable students, staff have had a lot on their plate.

On top of all this, leadership teams have had to grapple with legacy, server-based software, which slowed schools down as they adapted the way they work. 

This year won’t be without its challenges, so you’ll need smart, flexible systems that can do the heavy lifting for you. 

That’s why hundreds of schools are switching to a cloud-based MIS like Arbor to help them react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing.

Here are three reasons why you should move your school to the cloud this year: 

1. Stay on top of DfE requirements
2. Get the information you need wherever you are
3. Pivot and stay flexible

Let’s break that down…

1. Stay on top of DfE requirements

Having a cloud-based MIS in place makes it easy to adapt to rapid changes in regulation, like socially distanced timetabling, new attendance and absence codes or key worker status. 

Whatever the DfE introduces, Arbor can make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day), meaning you can keep on top of new requirements. No more patches or workarounds!

You’ll also have everything you need to follow the new DfE reporting requirements thanks to Arbor’s Covid-19 dashboard. Every day, Arbor crunches the numbers for you across all the DfE’s categories, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed cases of Covid-19, giving you everything you need to submit the Daily Form each morning. 

covid-19-dashboard

2. Get the information you need wherever you are

Schools are having to work in lots of new ways – some Teachers are moving between classrooms, some staff are quarantining at home, and some schools are going into local lockdown.

In order to keep your school running whatever happens, your staff need access to their student information so they can complete their essential tasks, like tracking attendance, reporting on vulnerable students and following up with parents and guardians – all from wherever they’re working. 

That’s where a cloud-based MIS like Arbor comes in, which gives staff all the data they need wherever they are, without being restricted to school computers or setting up a VPN. Plus, Arbor’s people-friendly dashboards help you get insight from your data and take action in a few clicks. 

3. Pivot and stay flexible 

In an unpredictable term, you might have to change your social distancing arrangements, timetables and staff rotas at short notice. 

Arbor gives you the flexibility to plan or switch up your arrangements whenever you need to. Here are just some of the ways the system will work around you:

  • Flex your timetable – Arrange new bubbles, assign different Teachers to each class, change your start and finish times and much more, all without clashes or gaps
  • Capture changes – It’s quick and easy to update key demographic information for your students so you can capture all the circumstances that might have changed post-lockdown. Creating custom groups will then help you keep tabs on the students you need to
  • Quick actions – Speed up your admin with key timesavers like bulk actions, communications templates and live to-do lists, freeing up your staff to focus on what matters. Find out more about how to save hours a week on admin here
  • Custom reports – Keep track of the student groups and the criteria that’s important to you, and schedule your reports so you’ve always got the most up-to-date data

It’s easy to switch

Because managing your school how you need to right now is so difficult with a server-based system, the question has become not if you should move to the cloud but when

To help, we’ve made the process of moving to Arbor simple and we can get you up and running in a matter of weeks, 100% remotely. From migrating your data to Arbor, to training up your staff to use the system confidently, a dedicated Project Manager will guide you every step of the way.

Read about how Woodland Academy Trust moved to Arbor remotely during lockdown, along with more than 250 schools! 

Arbor-covid-19

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Joanna Paterson - 18 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to save hours a week of school admin 

At Arbor we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with intuitive, people-friendly tools that help staff work faster, smarter and collaborate more.   With constant new demands on schools right now on reporting, logistics and communications, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. We believe this is preventable. When you’re

At Arbor we’re on a mission to transform the way schools work with intuitive, people-friendly tools that help staff work faster, smarter and collaborate more.  

With constant new demands on schools right now on reporting, logistics and communications, staff are working longer hours than ever to keep up. We believe this is preventable. When you’re stretched to maximum capacity, you should be able to lean on your MIS to pick up the slack. 

Whether you’re part of SLT, or work in the school office, discover below five of the top ways you’ll save you hours of admin each week with Arbor, and accomplish more – put together by Arbor Programme Manager, Joanna. 

1. Save time each day by automating your reports
2. Save duplication across your teams by sharing reports
3. Cut down on repetition with bulk actions
4. Manage data retention and keep GDPR compliant in a couple of clicks
5. Make your communications smoother using templates

​​​​

1. Save time each day by automating your reports 

With Senior Leaders spending around 4.4 hours per week on data analysis, automating their reporting can help give you valuable time back to focus on understanding your data and driving impactful decisions.

In Arbor you can use ready-made reports and schedule them to be sent to your colleagues on a regular basis automatically. For example, you could schedule a weekly attendance report to all SLT showing students with < 90% attendance. This cuts down on the time you would spend manually gathering data and creating the report each week. 

Here’s a few geeky details: 

  • Thanks to the ‘relative dates’ feature in Arbor’s Custom Report Writer, you only have to create a report once, then it automatically refreshes the data each week. You can choose your own relative dates, e.g. “today”, “this week”, “this academic year” etc. 
  • With flexible scheduling options, you can arrange for your report to run at any time and on any basis. For example, every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; or once a week on a Friday lunchtime
  • Embedded communications means you can quickly take action on the basis of your report results (e.g. follow up with parents) directly, without jumping between systems 
  • We’ve got lots of report templates to get you started, including some you might need right now, such as Mode of Travel, Native Language Numbers and Attendance for 1st September 2019 – 20th March 2020

Discover more ways Arbor’s automation will help you streamline routine processes, reduce errors and mean you spend less time on repetitive tasks here.

2. Save duplication across your teams by sharing reports

Arbor is designed to make it easier to collaborate with colleagues, and to give everyone a shared view of progress and purpose. Built-in dashboards give staff at all levels quick access to the information they need, but it’s also quick and easy to share custom reports you’ve made with other colleagues at your school or schools within your wider trust.

The ins and outs: 

  • Choose from a range of options to share your report with a colleague – either within Arbor, where it will get added to their list of reports or externally by SMS, letter or email (we do not recommend this if the report contains sensitive information)
  • You can also notify other staff members that you’ve sent out the report to keep them in the loop
  • In Arbor everyone has a business role, so if you share a report with someone who has left the school, it will automatically reach their replacement 
  • Once you’ve scheduled a regular report, you can make changes to the frequency or staff members at any time

Thanks to Arbor’s link to Microsoft Power BI and other BI tools, you can also export your reports if you want to customise how you look at your data. Read our five steps to creating your own BI dashboard here.

3. Cut down on repetition with bulk actions

Bulk actions in Arbor allow you to perform actions or add information for multiple students or staff at a time. It’s amazing how much time this can save! 

Here are just some of the tasks made much easier using bulk actions:

  • Assigning students to interventions – Wherever you are in the system, whether you’re in an attendance report, or a marksheet, you can select a group of students and add them to an intervention in bulk
  • Sending communications – From any dashboard, such as a list of persistent absentees, or a list of students with balances due for a club or trip, you can select students you want to follow up with and take action right away, such as emailing their parent
  • Chase meal balances – See all the monies owed to you and ask parents to top up, all from the same screen
  • Assign candidates to exam seats – When you’re arranging large exam sittings and complex schedules, spot quickly which students need to be seated and assign the missing places in bulk
  • Resolve behaviour incidents – Check through the behaviour incidents assigned to you and click to clear the resolved ones all in one go
  • Replace academic leads – When a staff leaves, reassign their course to the new Teacher in bulk
  • Creating custom groups – This is where automation meets bulk actions. Set criteria, for example “more than four behaviour incidents in a week”, which automatically puts students who fit into a custom group. This means you’ll be able to report on and follow up with this group of students all in one go

manage-attendance

4. Manage data retention and keep GDPR compliant in a couple of clicks 

Keeping on top of GDPR regulations for the data you keep on students and staff can be time-consuming and cause a lot of worry for Admin Staff. In Arbor, we take the hassle out of data retention with an automatic dashboard for both students and staff. Arbor will flag for you which records have passed the recommended retention time. You can then select and delete them safely in bulk.  

manage-GDPR

5. Make your communications smoother using templates

Do you send out the same communications to parents at regular intervals? Maybe it’s a weekly newsletter or a regular bulletin to parents whose children are missing lessons. With Arbor’s built-in communication templates, you can have SMS, letters or emails saved and ready to go when you need them. We’ve created a bank of typical templates but it’s also easy to make your own!

If you want to be even smarter, you can set up your communications templates to automatically include data from a report you’ve created. For example, you could send an email to the parents of Year 5 EAL boys whose attendance is below 90%. Arbor will automatically send the right attendance figure to the right parent.

Choose a better way to work

We know it can sometimes feel daunting to change the ways you’ve been used to working for a long time. But as Arbor schools tell us, switching your mind set to more efficient processes can save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run. 

Hear it from Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead Academy:

“I’d been working with our old MIS system both in support roles and as the Data Manager here for over 20 years, so I think everyone was really surprised at how I embraced the change to Arbor, but I could see at an early stage of the implementation process that it had some really powerful and easy to use features for creating custom groups and sending out communications for all the curriculum groups as well as the custom groups. I thought I would need to create lots of custom reports, but most places where the information is displayed you can just use the download button instead. I really wouldn’t want to go back to the old system.” 

And Julie Smith, PA to Headteacher at Parkroyal Community School: 

“The first word that comes to mind [when describing Arbor] is ‘simplicity’. It’s easy to grasp, and new users can quickly work their way around the system’s functions – you don’t feel like you need hours of training, as you do with other systems. Something I love about Arbor is the fact that it’s multi-functional across the school. By that I mean that most areas of the school use Arbor, whereas with our previous MIS provider, we found that it was only really the School Office staff that were using it – classroom teachers were using it to take the register in their classes, but that was about it! Now everyone in school knows how to use it. Arbor is a school-wide tool, not an office-based MIS System” 

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 14 September, 2020

Category : Blog

The only 3 apps you need to manage your class

Great lessons don’t necessarily call for cutting-edge technology. Teachers make great lessons, not apps.  What teachers do best is motivating their learners and creating a safe, engaging environment in the classroom. But sadly, time-consuming admin and clunky systems are holding them back from time with their students. We believe great tech can actually help teachers

Great lessons don’t necessarily call for cutting-edge technology. Teachers make great lessons, not apps. 

What teachers do best is motivating their learners and creating a safe, engaging environment in the classroom. But sadly, time-consuming admin and clunky systems are holding them back from time with their students.

We believe great tech can actually help teachers in the classroom. The right tools take the hassle out of your daily tasks, freeing you up to get back to what matters: delivering great lessons.

With lots of new challenges in the classroom this term, we’ve put together a list of three intuitive, people-friendly apps that will help simplify how you manage safeguarding, behaviour, attendance, seating plans and blended learning: 

For Safeguarding: CPOMS 

Banishing paper logbooks and filing cabinets from over 13,000 schools all over the country, CPOMS is an intuitive app for monitoring child protection, safeguarding and pastoral issues. It cuts down paperwork for staff, while ensuring incidents are properly reported, details are shared securely and students are kept safe. 

Arbor MIS integrates seamlessly with CPOMS, so you won’t have to worry about transferring data between the two systems to keep them up-to-date. Your sensitive data will be safe and secure in CPOMS, while Arbor looks after the rest. 

For behaviour management, taking attendance and seating plans: My Classroom 

My-Classroom

Take the hassle out of organising your lessons with My Classroom from Arbor. Our new all-in-one classroom management tool has been designed by teachers, for teachers to help you manage your class seamlessly – giving you your time back to focus on teaching and learning instead. 

My Classroom brings seating plans, registers and behaviour management into one place for the first time. Create interactive seating plans using easy drag-and-drop blocks, then add attendance and behaviour points directly onto your plan throughout your lesson on your tablet or desktop. You can share your plans with colleagues too!

The best thing about My Classroom is that it’s powered by Arbor MIS, so you’ll automatically see photos and contextual data about each of your students on your seating plans. Plus, everything you capture in My Classroom shows up on each student’s profile, helping you to tell the full story of each of your pupils lesson-to-lesson.

For blended learning: VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)

Many schools in the Arbor Community are planning to continue with a blended learning approach going forward, even when most teaching has returned to the physical classroom. Making lessons available online means students can catch up or reinforce their learning remotely outside of school. Using a virtual learning environment such as G-suite or Office 365 is also a great way to encourage sharing of resources between staff.

The DfE are providing funding for all UK state schools to get G-suite or Office 365 set up and get ongoing support for free. Arbor is working with 14 of the Government’s accredited suppliers on the scheme – for a full list and more information on the scheme, check out our blog!

Of course, technology can only go so far – the real challenge this term is how to support both students to adjust to new routines and rules, and process some of the difficult experiences they might have had during lockdown. 

To discuss this in more detail and share some practical advice, we’re bringing together an expert panel for a webinar on “Best Practice: Classroom Management Post-Lockdown” on Thursday 24th September at 11am. For more information and to book your place, click here.

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 7 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How to be prepared for anything this term with Arbor MIS

As we enter an Autumn Term with lots of new regulations and routines, we’re working closely with school staff to make sure they’ve got the tools they need to react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing.  To support you with your big new challenges this term – from new DfE reporting,

As we enter an Autumn Term with lots of new regulations and routines, we’re working closely with school staff to make sure they’ve got the tools they need to react to anything that’s thrown at them, without missing a thing. 

To support you with your big new challenges this term – from new DfE reporting, to social distancing, to monitoring your vulnerable students – we’ve added some new features to Arbor which take the hassle out of your essential admin.

Whatever the next few months bring, here are some of the ways Arbor can help you focus on what matters – supporting your students:

1. Track attendance & absence without the stress
2. Look out for your vulnerable students
3. Report to the DfE with peace of mind
4. Create flexible timetables that work for everyone
5. Communicate with everyone from one place
6. Pivot your plans when you need to

Let’s break that down …

1. Track attendance & absence without the stress

 With students adjusting to full-time school, joining new classes and following new timetables, managing attendance is going to be a little more complex this term. 

In Arbor, School Office Staff can instantly pull together the attendance data they need, spot patterns and follow up with guardians straight from built-in attendance dashboards. 

Plus, we’ve created a range of new codes to make it simple to record attendance and absence in line with the new DfE guidelines:

  • SI – Self-isolating due to exposure to Covid-19 
  • Sym – Suspected case of Covid-19 
  • Cov – Confirmed case of Covid-19

These codes automatically map to the DfE “I” and “X” codes, so your CTFs and census returns will always be accurate.

You can also record staff absence categories to help you keep accurate, detailed records: 

  • Suspected case of Covid-19 and self-isolating 
  • Confirmed case of Covid-19
  • Self-isolating due to underlying health conditions
  • Member of their household is sick
  • Travelled somewhere that puts them at risk 

Staff absences are flagged in Arbor to everyone who needs to know, making arranging cover simple.

2. Look out for your vulnerable students

After a long time away from school, students in some vulnerable categories will need extra support to recover and catch up. To provide the best care for these students, School Leaders will need to keep a close eye on their progress across attainment, behaviour and attainment.  

Arbor makes it easy to pull reports on your key vulnerable demographic groups in a few clicks, or you can schedule reports to notify key staff members regularly. Compare each groups’ performance with the school average, spot trends and set up interventions to help them get back on track. 

3. Report to the DfE with peace of mind 

To save you time completing the DfE’s Daily Form, Arbor’s Covid-19 Dashboard crunches the numbers for you, giving you everything you need to submit the form each morning. 

We’ve just updated the Dashboard with the latest categories the DfE is tracking, including students with an EHC plan, a social worker and confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19. Click on each category for a breakdown by year group and a full list of students.

For a MAT-level overview, you can use Arbor’s Group MIS to get data at your fingertips about all your students and staff. Monitor attendance patterns, student & staff absence, track key disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and manage Covid-19 related issues centrally.

4. Create flexible timetables that work for everyone

Depending on your space, staff numbers, and the needs of your students, you’ll need to set up your new timetable in your own unique way. That’s why we’ve built flexibility into Arbor to help you schedule your classes however you need to. 

  • Create bubbles: Once you’ve divided your students into cohorts, you can easily edit your existing timetables and add extra slots for the same lesson, add or change the Teacher, and stagger the start and finish times
  • Stagger registration: If you need some students to arrive at school at different times, it’s easy to adjust your Statutory Roll Call times in Arbor
  • Check for clashes: Make sure your new timetable works for everyone with Arbor’s handy dashboard alerting you to any clashes or gaps you need to resolve
  • Design it your way: Thanks to our integration with TimeTabler, you can create your timetable there then import it straight into Arbor

Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here.

5. Communicate with everyone from one place

Forget switching between systems or uploading/downloading contact lists, in Arbor you can follow up with parents, students or other staff members as soon as you spot something important, from wherever you are in the system. Simply choose the method that’s best for your message – from an email, an SMS, a mail merge letter or an Arbor App alert.

Click here to see how Arbor’s communications allowed The Parks Academies Trust to improve the way they contacted hard-to-reach students during the crisis.

6. Pivot your plans when you need to 

If your school goes into local lockdown, and you have to move back to partial school closures, remote working and virtual learning, Arbor can help you make sure you’re fully prepared to make that transition a smooth one.

Because Arbor is cloud-based, you can manage your school with more flexibility, accessing what you need to do your job from wherever you’re working. 

Plus, if the DfE brings out any new guidelines, we make updates to the system as soon as we can (sometimes even on the same day!) to help you keep up to date.

We’re here to help

During this difficult term, don’t forget the Arbor Team is here to support you with any questions you have.

  • Check out the Help Centre – We’ve put together a page dedicated to everything you need to know about reopening your school with Arbor
  • Join us live – We’re hosting a range of webinars this term, both sessions with tips and tricks for Arbor users, and sessions open to everyone to learn more about Arbor. Check out what’s coming up here
  • Join the community – If you’re an Arbor user, join the Arbor Community of fellow schools where you can share advice, best practice and learn from each other
  • Get in touch: Our Support Team are here from 8:00am-5:00pm every day on email, phone and webchat

Choose a better way to work 

Interested in finding out how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you work more easily and collaboratively this term? Book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

Maddie Kilminster - 3 September, 2020

Category : Blog

How The Parks Academies Trust stayed flexible in the face of change 

With constant changes to Government guidance, family situations and the wider national picture, schools and trusts certainly learned a great deal last term. Where there were huge challenges that meant working in totally new ways, schools has also taken some positive lessons from the crisis. It gave schools the opportunity to pivot fast to work

With constant changes to Government guidance, family situations and the wider national picture, schools and trusts certainly learned a great deal last term. Where there were huge challenges that meant working in totally new ways, schools has also taken some positive lessons from the crisis.

It gave schools the opportunity to pivot fast to work more efficiently and find new ways to reach out to parents and guardians. It also put the spotlight on student and staff wellbeing issues, bringing them top of the agenda.

We recently caught up with Jon Ward from The Parks Academies Trust who told us about the ways he and his staff adapted their ways of working during the crisis. Moving their secondary schools to Arbor MIS in April – right in the middle of partial school closures – meant they saw right away the new and better ways of working with a cloud-based MIS. 

Parks_Academy_case_study_image

Staff across the trust felt Arbor allowed them to collaborate and align over their work. Plus, it took the hassle out of important Covid-19 related tasks like tracking attendance and following up with hard-to-reach families.

To read more about the measurable differences Jon and his team have measured since moving MIS during Covid-19, download their full case study here

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference. 

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or join one of our webinars

tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028

 

Maddie Kilminster - 1 September, 2020

Category : Blog

4 things to think about as your school re-opens

Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch

Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch them up on lost learning.

However the “new normal” is going to look for your school this term, we’ve put together a list of the most important things you should be thinking about this week:

1. Go through your social distancing checklist

2. Prepare communications your parent and guardian community

3. Evaluate your catch up plan for students

4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing 

Let’s break that down…

1. Go through your social distancing checklist

Depending on the size and layout of your school, and staff capacity, there’s no one solution to keeping students apart. Here are some top tips to consider:

Staggering

  • Stagger start and finish times for each bubble 
  • Create separate entrances/exits to school for each bubble
  • Discourage parents gathering outside school gates
  • Stagger lunch and break times or divide your dining hall into sections
  • Introduce a one-way system around school 

Timetabling

  • Leave gaps between lessons for cleaning
  • Can your students stay in one room and teachers move around?
  • Think about keeping seating plans consistent
  • Increase time spent outdoors. Can some lessons be outside?
  • Instead of gathering for assembly, live-stream to each classroom!

Hygiene

  • Encourage a routine of hand washing. Make it fun for younger children by giving them a stamp card!
  • Hand out hygiene packs containing sanitiser and essentials
  • Do you have an isolation room for anyone showing symptoms? 

Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here. Arbor schools – check out our Help Centre for lots of guidance on setting up flexible timetabling arrangements.

2. Prepare communications to your parent and guardian community

At the start of term, you’ll be sending your parents lots of updates on the new protocols you’re putting in place. But you should also think about how you can start strengthening relationships with your parents and guardians after their children have been at home for so long. Here are some more top tips:

  • Think about your tone of voice: Help parents feel secure that you’ve got things under control. Balance your practical updates with more positive, upbeat notices. For families who are anxious about the return to school, the NSPCC has some useful resources 
  • Choose the right communication method: A long email is not the best way to communicate everything. Think about using texts, social media, a virtual noticeboard or the Arbor App for different messages
  • Put together a clear communications plan: A comms calendar will help make sure parents get the info at the right time, plus your staff can plan their workload around it
  • Make sure you’ve got up-to-date contact details: Check you’ve got the right contact details for all your parents and guardians. Many schools find it helpful to send out a Google Form for parents to submit their contact information straight to the office

3. Evaluate your catch up plans for students

After months of disrupted learning, students’ progress is likely to be set back, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students hit the hardest. Getting learning back on track will be a big challenge, but here are some suggested first steps: 

a) Assess where students are at: You might want to run low-stakes assessments to identify gaps in students’ knowledge this term. The Key has some useful guidance on this and there’s a good school case study here

b) Compare with past performance: Once you have a baseline of performance post-lockdown, comparing this with prior attainment will give you a better sense of how students’ progress has been affected.

To save you time pulling together data, we’re giving schools free access to Arbor Insight reports this term, which will give you a full picture of your students’ progress over the last three years. The reports will be out soon but join the waiting list to be the first to get yours!

c) Identify your most at-risk students: In order to use the Government’s catch-up fund most effectively, it’s important to assess which of your students will benefit from it the most, such as vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category might include more students now as situations have changed. 

Arbor’s built-in reporting will allow you to quickly analyse the attainment of your key student groups across subjects, and instantly spot the biggest gaps. Our free performance reports will also help you understand how these attainment gaps have changed over time and the impact of socio-economic factors on your attainment.

4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing 

It’s likely that students will be dealing with some difficult emotions when they return this term. Teachers might see some new and challenging behaviour in the classroom, but as Educational psychologist, Dr Rob Long, explains, it’s important to understand the anxiety causing the behaviour so they can best manage it. SecEd Magazine has some great guidance on how to support students’ mental health and wellbeing this term. 

Remember not to overlook your staff wellbeing; they’ll need support adjusting to the new term as well. Check in with your staff at the beginning of term and think about ways to allow staff to collaborate with and support each other. 

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or contact us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028.

JanHetherington - 13 July, 2020

Category : Blog

Structuring your school timetable for Autumn Term: Tips from Jan Hetherington, Vice-Principal at Wykham Park Academy

With planning arrangements and timetabling at the top of school leaders’ minds right now, we invited expert timetabler and curriculum planner Jan Hetherington to join our webinar series “Adapting to Change” to share her solutions for September.  Jan is Vice Principal and Specialist Leader of Education for Curriculum Leadership at Wykham Park Academy, a secondary

With planning arrangements and timetabling at the top of school leaders’ minds right now, we invited expert timetabler and curriculum planner Jan Hetherington to join our webinar series “Adapting to Change” to share her solutions for September. 

Jan is Vice Principal and Specialist Leader of Education for Curriculum Leadership at Wykham Park Academy, a secondary school which is part of the 15-school Aspirations Academies Trust. As well as developing the timetable for her school, she also coaches senior leaders across other trusts on how to create more effective timetables.

Jan shared with us some of the plans Wykham Park Academy is putting in place to keep students socially-distanced and to help maintain teaching and learning standards in September. She explained that above all, she wants to ensure that the new arrangements don’t sacrifice students’ full learning experience.

You can read Jan’s conversation with Arbor’s CEO James Weatherill below.

 

You’ve said that “Timetabling is more than an annual exercise. It defines the experience students get.” Could you explain that?

What I mean by that is students need a variety of rhythms across the school day and week to get the highest quality experience. The right timetable should put together the right groups of students with the right teachers. Every lesson slot has a currency; some are lower value than others, for example nobody wants Friday Period 5, or Monday Period 1. Staff need to appreciate that if they get any of those lower value slots, they’re going to have different pedagogical challenges. The timetable should also be suited to the age of the students. I worked once with a MAT which completely restructured their day based on teenage sleep patterns with a staggered day. 

 

How did you adjust your timetable and learning provision during Covid-19?

As we went into lockdown, we decided that KS3 would have four lessons a day – English, Maths, Science and Humanities – and Year 10&11’s would have five lessons a day. We didn’t synchronise these in the school timetable, we simply uploaded them onto Google Classroom. Our staff skill set has grown exponentially in terms of using online platforms. We had been using Google Classroom already for about a year for setting homework, but we’ve had to learn rapidly over the last few months how to use it for much more. 

At first, when we didn’t know how long school closures would last, we wanted to keep a normal lesson format as far as possible. But after Half-Term, we shifted to project-based work for KS3. Year 10 moved away from new learning into consolidatary learning, and for Year 11 we put on four lessons a day only to support those students who were at risk of achieving a 4 or above. 

The quality of pre-recorded teaching and learning was mixed at first, so we started to give live lessons to KS5. We chose not to do this for the rest of the school due in part to union advice, plus we wanted to protect staff given potential safeguarding issues and uncertainty around best practice. Instead teachers uploaded pre-recorded lessons – some with audio, some with video. 

 

What are the key lessons you learned about how to engage students with online learning?

A key lesson was wrongly assuming that simply uploading a Powerpoint will do. We quickly realised that students need more support; they need a full learning experience with learning modelled by the teacher. For example, we started to use videos showing the teacher writing or demonstrating. It’s also important in pre-recorded lessons that the teacher still engages with the students personally, for instance calling out student names as though they were live in the classroom. 

 

What are your timetabling plans for September? 

We’re going to use the same lesson timetable we would have used in the normal course of events. The location of lessons might change but the timings won’t. We’re also going to offer a full curriculum. This is because we want to keep things as normal as possible in terms of what is being taught in order to give students’ the richest experience possible. We worry that if they had only a “partial diet” they might easily disengage. We also don’t want to stagger lesson start and end times too much because this would lead to unsupervised time. 

 

How will you keep students apart? 

We’re going to split the student body into different physical zones, with their own entrance exit and toilets. On the Banbury Aspirations Campus (which contains an Academy, a Studio School and a Sixth Form), we have the unique advantage of a massive site with lots of different buildings housing lots of different specialist areas,  so this makes it easier for us to keep students apart. 

We’ve got the potential for three different entrances into the school site. Students will have their own route to their zone, and within the zones, they’ll be able to move around into new spaces in order to maintain a rich and varied school day. KS3 will be kept in a “bubble within a bubble”, having all their lessons in one classroom. They’ll only leave their zone as a class to do specialised activities like Drama. KS4 will be zoned as a Year Group “bubble” so all their lessons will be in that zone unless they move for specialist activities. 

 

How will dining work?

We’re going to have a reduced menu and students will place an order, then pick it up and go. We’ve got two dining room spaces and we’ll have staggered slots so two “bubbles” can use the room but be separated by time slots. We’re going to continue the breakfast clubs we run for disadvantaged students by keeping them in a “bubble” with each other.

 

What about cleaning?

We’re still waiting for advice from the Government on what “enhanced cleaning” means. In the meantime, Headteachers are looking at what pubs and restaurants are doing right now to inform our plans. IT and Food Tech rooms are tricky because they’re used by every Year group and they’re available to book. The plan is to timetable them so there’s at least one lesson period in-between usage so we can clean down surfaces before the next group of students. We’re also going to limit use of those rooms to practical lessons, keeping theory based lessons elsewhere. Cleaning is of course going to be a big expense. We’re looking to the trust to support with that.

 

What about breaks?

Breaks are easier because students will use the outdoor spaces within their zones. We won’t be serving food at break, but students are welcome to bring their own break time food. We will be offering snacks and keeping an eye on known vulnerable students to make sure they are fed.

 

What is your advice to schools that don’t have the capacity or space you do?

I’d recommend staggering lesson times and movement times. Also assess what size of “bubble” you’re comfortable with. Some schools I’ve heard of are doing Key Stage “bubbles” which can include 600 students! Some are using online platforms to teach different lessons to classes that stay in one room. 

 

What’s your attitude to a “catch-up” curriculum?

On his blog recently, James Duran gives a range of options for Teachers to consider to balance “catch-up” content and new material. We’re planning a parallel approach of new learning with some revision along the way. We’ll review the content and progress regularly, and define “threshold” concepts within the curriculum students need to understand to move forward.

 

What are your fallbacks and contingency plans?

We plan to make all lessons digitally accessible if needed, making use of the online platform skills staff have learned. We’ve found pre-recorded videos are not just convenient but have the additional benefit that students can pause and rewind which can actually help to reinforce learning. If there’s another lockdown, we’re going to commit to doing live digital lessons because we don’t want to sacrifice the face-to-face element again going forward. 

 

What does quality online learning look like and how will you guarantee it going forward?

We’re still working out our quality assurance processes. Some schools have been doing live lesson evaluations but we don’t want to do that. In September, we’ll first of all carry out an audit of the technology students have at home to avoid the situation we’ve had where 600 students had to have paper lesson packs because they couldn’t get online. We’ll also do a RAG rating so we’re taking into consideration student preference and learning style. 

We’re going to put a digital learning policy in place so students know what we expect of them. In terms of teaching, we expect the same high quality as in the classroom. We want to maintain the learning structure we use normally, with a balance between guided practice and independent practice. 

The structure will look like this:

1. Live guided practice: 15 mins or more (live or recorded) where teachers model what they want from students. We’ll encourage the use of audio for this, rather than video, because we know that audio doesn’t split students’ attention in the same way video can

2. Live Q&A and dialogue, encouraging peer interactivity,

3. Independent offline practice, then students upload the work they’ve achieved

 

We also want to encourage a variety of different learning experiences (e.g. app-based and flip learning). In terms of assessment, we’re still working this out and looking into a system that allows live online assessment. We’ll definitely be including low stakes testing (e.g. using Kahoot). We’re also looking into functionality which allows students to put their work up on the screen rather than asking the teacher to come over and have a look. 

 

To what extent do you think changes next Term will affect students’ experience? 

If you look at the research after the 2011 earthquake and lockdown in New Zealand, it showed that students did better than expected when they returned. John Hattie (2020) says rather than focusing on “gaps” and content students have “missed”, you should focus rather on what students actually need. 

In this vein, we’re not expecting the new arrangements to have a huge effect on students because they’re going to be in a group that’s good for their learning and they’ll be with the right teacher. The sequence of learning may change over the year but they’ll achieve it all by the end of the year. 

 

If you’re new to Arbor, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 9 July, 2020

Category : Blog

6 steps to prepare your school for September

During Covid-19 and partial school closures, schools have been adjusting their timetables, rules and plans along with rapidly changing DfE guidance. Since there’s now more clarity from the Government about the return to school in September, it’s a little easier to put plans in place for the new Term. There are a lot of things

During Covid-19 and partial school closures, schools have been adjusting their timetables, rules and plans along with rapidly changing DfE guidance. Since there’s now more clarity from the Government about the return to school in September, it’s a little easier to put plans in place for the new Term.

There are a lot of things to consider when planning for September – from how to create a “bubble” timetable, to helping students catch up on lost learning, to drawing up your new school improvement plan. 

With the help of some of the schools, trusts and education experts we work with, we’ve put together a list of six key things you should think about to help you get everything in place for Autumn:

1. Have you planned for different scenarios?
2. Can you quickly adapt if new DfE guidance comes out?
3. Can you communicate easily with your school community?
4. How are you going to support your students and staff?
5. Have you got good online learning tools?
6. Have you set up your systems for next Year?

Let’s break that down… 

 

1. Have you planned for different scenarios?

When you’re writing risk assessments, you should consider a few different scenarios that could happen in September, and make sure you’ve got the resources and policies in place to cope. A we’ve all learned from the past few months, the Covid-19 situation can change suddenly, so you should build flexibility into your plans.

Take a look at this useful example of a “Covid-19 Exit Strategy” document that Mark Lacey, CEO of Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, has helpfully shared with us. It outlines various risks, such as the rate of infection rising or large numbers of students having to work from home, and how the trust would address each of them. 

 

2. Can you quickly adapt if new DfE guidance comes out?

Once you’ve planned for lots of different scenarios, you should also make sure your systems can adapt and support you if the DfE suddenly introduces new guidelines. For example, could you quickly gather key attendance or demographic information to report to the DfE? Could you quickly adjust your timetable if a local lockdown was introduced in your area? Could your staff access the student information they need from home?  

In Arbor, you can log all attendance and absence on your Covid-19 dashboard, and access all the data you need wherever you’re working. You’ll also have key stats to hand, such as everyone who is expected in school that day, and you can directly follow up with any parents/guardians if you need to. Arbor also takes the hassle out of planning staff rotas, creating flexible timetables and arranging classroom layouts for social distancing.

Want more support in creating your September timetable? Join our webinar today (Thurs 9th) at 2pm “Structuring your schools’ timetable: what you need to know as a trust leader for Autumn Term” with Jan Hetherington, Vice-Principal at Wykham Park Academy.

 

3. Can you communicate easily with your school community?

Once you’ve planned your new timetable and daily logistics, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got a cost-effective communications system that can cope with all the various updates you’ll need to send out to parents, staff and students. You might also want to think about innovative and uplifting communications you can send out to motivate your community. We found this great example from Hackney Primary using videos to show students what school will look like when they return. 

In Arbor MIS, you can send emails, texts and Arbor App messages (which are great to share updates with parents directly on their phone) from wherever you are in the system. You can also share information on the Parent Portal or Student Portal that parents and students can log in and see. Check out our top 3 tips for keeping in touch with your school community.

 

4. How are you going to support your students and staff?

As students and staff return from six months of partial lockdown, it’s going to be tricky to adjust to the “new school normal”.  We’ve seen school and MAT leaders bringing wellbeing to the top of their agendas recently, by introducing things like “Wellbeing Days” and appointing new members of Pastoral staff. You can read here how Dan Morrow, CEO at Woodland Academy Trust, nurtures his staff wellbeing. 

When planning how to look out for your most vulnerable families and staff members, bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category may include more people now as situations have changed. In Arbor, you can quickly produce reports on key demographic groups such as children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers at school and MAT level.

 

5. Have you got good online learning tools?

With students coming to school in “bubbles”, you may need to continue a blended approach of face-to-face and remote teaching. During partial school closures, online learning has taken lots of different forms, some using systems like Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to set assignments and hold video lessons. But depending on the technology students had at home and how prepared schools were, remote education has had varying degrees of success. 

Think about what you can learn from this Term and how you can improve your online provision going forward. As The Harris Federation found, it’s a challenge to measure the effectiveness of online learning by just looking at quantitative data, like the number of lessons or assignments. Instead, try gathering feedback from staff and students on how they’ve found remote learning so you can see where to make improvements. 

You should also make sure your staff are confident using online teaching tools. Did you know the Government is offering a grant for support with Office 365 and G Suite? Find out more info here.

 

6. Have you set up your systems for next Year?

Before the Summer Holidays, it’s vital to set up your statutory enrollment information, calendar, courses and assessments in your Management Information System (MIS), so your staff can hit the ground running in the new Term. In Arbor, we have a dedicated section in the system which walks you through the steps you need to complete so Arbor can get everything ready for you when you return.

Don’t forget, over summer you can access all our free support resources in the Help Centre if you want a refresher on parts of the system before September. If you’d like to arrange any training for new members of staff, get in touch with your Account Manager at accountmanagers@arbor-education.com.

 

If you’re new to Arbor, we’d be happy to give you an online demo. Get in touch or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com. Alternatively, you can call 0208 050 1028.

Maddie Kilminster - 24 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How to open up your school’s mindset to change

Schools have had to adapt how they operate at a rapid pace over the last few months, and change isn’t always easy, particularly for a large, complex school or MAT (we’ve written on this subject before).  As schools begin to look forward to September, flexibility and adaptability will continue to be part of life. Like

Schools have had to adapt how they operate at a rapid pace over the last few months, and change isn’t always easy, particularly for a large, complex school or MAT (we’ve written on this subject before). 

As schools begin to look forward to September, flexibility and adaptability will continue to be part of life. Like many schools, you might be considering switching to cloud-based systems so you can manage your school more flexibly next Term.  

Whatever change you’re considering, Arbor’s Partnership Manager, Mark Maitland, has some advice below for how a change in mindset can help you make change a success.

 

The change mindset

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve been helping individuals, schools and companies work through change. I started out in my career as a Teacher in special needs before moving into psychotherapy and change psychology. When faced with new ways of working, behaviour and new technology, I’ve seen people react in lots of different ways, some finding it more difficult than others.

I was once worked with GP practices to help them change to a new cloud-based system which would free up GP time and improve patient safety. Even when they could see the benefits, staff were reluctant to change their ways of working because it was what they were used to. 

This “fear” of change is hardwired in our brain from the past when change was dangerous. Nowadays, when we face a change, our brain’s first reaction is to hesitate! It’s a very emotional reaction to protect ourselves and play it safe. Familiarity is a comfort. 

 

Caution in a pandemic

In times of national crises like the pandemic we’re living through right now, two things happen. Society looks to retreat and wait for a return to normal. Then, once we get over the initial shock and accept that “normal” isn’t returning as quickly as we hoped, we begin to reflect and think about what we might do differently in future. 

Changing school technology 

I’ve definitely noticed a shift in mindset from some of the schools I’ve been speaking to since Covid-19 began. Before the pandemic, the demands of normal school life would often get in the way and make staff less open to changing how they’d always done things. They were fearful of yet another burden on their time, and a potential threat to them being able to do their jobs properly.

What we’re seeing more of now is School Leaders stepping back, reflecting on lessons they’ve learned over the last few months, and looking at changes they can make to prepare themselves for the future. 

At the top of their minds is asking themselves if the systems they have in place can cope with flexible ways of working going forward.

  • If things change again, do we have a good communications system?
  • If staff have to work remotely again, can they access all the student information they need from home
  • Do we have quick ways to track vulnerable students and staff?
  • How quickly would our systems update if the DfE changed guidelines again?

 

“We should have done this years ago!”

A crisis can often clarify our minds and allow us to make practical decisions in order to get through. Switching systems like your MIS (Management Information System) during such a busy and challenging time might feel too daunting, but lots of schools have found that by finding something that’s within their control that will help them deal better with the crisis can feel really positive. 

 

How Arbor can help

At Arbor, we believe you should be able to rely on your tech when you’re pulled in lots of different directions. But if you’re still using a legacy, server-based MIS, you’ll find it difficult to run your school flexibly next term. 

Our cloud-based MIS lets you run your school however you need to, giving all your staff the student information they need wherever they are. In Arbor, you can easily plan your rotas, set up flexible timetables, log and manage attendance and keep track of vulnerable students easily with in-built reports. 

Read about how both Hoyland Common Academy Trust and LEO Academy Trust moved to Arbor during lockdown, along with more than 225 schools since March! 

To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you future-proof your school during Covid-19 and beyond, join one of our free webinars or book an online demo. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com

Maddie Kilminster - 24 June, 2020

Category : Blog

3 reasons why you should switch to a cloud-based MIS now to future-proof your school

We’ve been working hand in hand with schools and MATs to help them to adapt to partial school closures and the recent wider opening to some year groups during the Covid-19 outbreak. Because Arbor is cloud-based, staff can continue to access all the student information they need to do their daily tasks remotely, without worrying

server vs cloud

We’ve been working hand in hand with schools and MATs to help them to adapt to partial school closures and the recent wider opening to some year groups during the Covid-19 outbreak. Because Arbor is cloud-based, staff can continue to access all the student information they need to do their daily tasks remotely, without worrying about having a VPN or patches. 

There’s lots of uncertainty about what school life will look like in September. Schools don’t know how many students will be on-site or what social distancing arrangements will be in place. What they do know is they’ll need to prepare for lots of different outcomes.

Trying to plan flexible arrangements in September is difficult if you’re still relying on a server-based MIS. That’s why lots of schools are switching to a reliable cloud-based system which will allow them to manage their school flexibly over the next few months. 

Over 225 schools have moved to Arbor since March. Here are three reasons why moving to the cloud now will help you manage your school during Covid-19 and beyond:

 

1) Be prepared for September with systems that reduce your admin burden

There’s likely to be more challenges to come in September, so you need a school system that automates your essential daily admin and frees you up to focus on supporting your students and staff. 

Whether all students come back, or you have split-populations, Arbor’s cloud-based MIS will allow you to easily plan your rotas and set up flexible timetables. You’ll be able to log and manage attendance from wherever you are, plus track key demographic groups such as children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers easily with in-built reports. Simon brown quote

2) Keep on top of DfE requirements

Having a cloud-based MIS in place makes it easy to adapt to rapid changes in regulation, like socially distanced timetabling, new attendance and absence codes or key worker status. This is because whatever the DfE introduces, Arbor can update within 24 hours, meaning you can keep on top of new requirements from the next day. No more patches or workarounds!

 

3) Instantly access student and staff information from anywhere

With staff working in different ways, and in different locations, their jobs are much more difficult if they have to come into school to access the information they need. That’s where a cloud-based MIS like Arbor comes in, which gives staff all the student data they need wherever they are. 

Having instant access to data about the children in your school also reduces the safety risk. Staff can see immediately if something doesn’t look right and follow up immediately with their Teacher or parent directly from the same page. No more switching systems or downloading contact lists! You’ll find more tips for keeping in touch with your school community here.

jacky blaikie quote blog

It’s easy to switch

Because managing your school how you need to right now is so difficult with a server-based system, the question has become not if you should move to the cloud but when

To help, we’ve made the process of moving to Arbor simple and we can get you up and running in a matter of weeks, 100% remotely. From migrating your data to Arbor, to training up your staff to use the system confidently, a dedicated Project Manager will guide you every step of the way.

Read about how both Hoyland Common Academy Trust and LEO Academy Trust moved to Arbor during lockdown, along with more than 225 schools since March! 

Vicky Harrison blog quote

To find out more about how Arbor’s cloud-based MIS can help you future-proof your school during Covid-19 and beyond, join one of our free webinars or book an online demo. You can also call 0208 050 1028 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com

 

Maddie Kilminster - 5 June, 2020

Category : Blog

How can you move forward with your socially distanced school timetable?

Just before half term, lots of schools joined us for a webinar hosted by The ONTO Group all about designing a new school timetable in line with social distancing. It was a great opportunity for schools to discuss the challenges of their settings with timetabling experts and MIS providers. Lots of important practical and technical

Just before half term, lots of schools joined us for a webinar hosted by The ONTO Group all about designing a new school timetable in line with social distancing. It was a great opportunity for schools to discuss the challenges of their settings with timetabling experts and MIS providers. Lots of important practical and technical questions were raised, including “How could I split my school into two populations?” and “How can we keep students separate when they arrive and depart from school?” TimeTabler had some useful advice that you can find on our blog.

Since then, the conversation has continued on Facebook, with school leaders sharing the solutions they’ve found. You’ll find some great example timetables that members have shared in the “files” section on the page. 

With schools now starting to open up to more year groups, the questions now are “How are you putting your new timetable into practice?” and “What is working well and what have been the challenges?”

To discuss all this and more, join us for another free panel discussion next Tuesday (9th June) in partnership with The ONTO Group and with contributions from Edval and TimeTabler. Sign up for free here to join fellow Timetablers and School Leaders and share best practice.

The main topic we’ll be discussing is “Should you put your new timetable into your MIS?” The answer to this will look very different depending on your school setting. We’ll dig into this in the webinar, but beforehand we’ve put together some of the things you can think about to help you make the right call for your school:

  • How many students are you expecting?
  • Will your students be moving around the school?
  • Are you following the same rota each week?
  • How will you take your registers?
  • How will you know which students to expect in school? 
  • How will you follow up if expected students don’t come in?
  • Will you be able to identify quickly who is on site for health & safety and safeguarding reasons?
  • Can you easily log the contact points between students and between staff and students for contract tracing purposes?
  • Do you have any systems linked to your MIS? For example, Show My Homework, Hegarty Maths, CPOMS, Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom?
  • What will happen if you end courses and replace your main timetable for this year? Will it affect your New School Year setup?

If you’re using Arbor MIS, you can find all our guidance on how to set up your new groups and classes, and complete your New School Year Setup on our Help Centre. You’ll find everything we’re doing to support schools during Covid-19 here. You can also discuss with fellow Arbor schools on the Arbor Community.

Maddie Kilminster - 28 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Arbor’s guide to managing your school flexibly

Spring Term has brought a great deal of change for schools and trusts, with staff having to quickly adapt to every new challenge and requirement that came their way. As we move into Summer Term, change is set to be the new normal, and we’ll have to keep adapting in lots of new ways. Since

Spring Term has brought a great deal of change for schools and trusts, with staff having to quickly adapt to every new challenge and requirement that came their way. As we move into Summer Term, change is set to be the new normal, and we’ll have to keep adapting in lots of new ways.

Since partial school closures were announced, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with schools to build out our MIS (Management Information System) to ensure schools can continue to run flexibly. Because we can move schools to Arbor 100% remotely, lots of schools have taken this opportunity to get up and running on our cloud-based MIS to help them access the information they need wherever they are.

As experts in school operations and data, with many former teachers in the Arbor team, we’ve been sharing practical support and guidance over the last few months, designed to help schools adapt. In case you missed anything, we’ve put together a round-up below so you have one handy guide to managing your school flexibly.

1. Using Arbor MIS to manage your school remotely

2. Expert guidance on key topics on our blog

3. Advice from schools and MATs in our webinars

4. Hear from the Arbor Community

Here’s how to find everything … 

1. Using Arbor MIS to manage your school remotely

We’re firm believers that you should be able to lean on tools like your MIS to pick up the slack when you find yourself pulled in lots of different directions. Arbor takes the hassle out of important tasks like following up with vulnerable children, planning staff rotas, and communicating with your students and parents, wherever you’re working from. Plus, we’re making updates every day to make sure you’re covering all the new government requirements

Here’s a list of some of the features we’ve developed to help you manage your school or MAT during Covid-19:

  • Log all attendance and absence from wherever you are from your Covid-19 dashboard, and have all the info to hand ready to complete the DfE’s Daily Form, and directly follow up with any parents/guardians you need to
  • Produce key demographic reports on children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM, and children of key workers at school and MAT level
  • Keep track of vulnerable students and follow up, all from one system 
  • Communicate with classes, staff, and parents from one place – no more switching systems or uploading/downloading contact lists
  • Arrange supermarket vouchers for FSM students
  • Plan rotas and set up flexible timetables (see our blog for tips on creating a socially-distanced timetable)
  • Record medical conditions for students or staff
  • Track the information that’s important to you, e.g. students’ access to the Internet or a laptop at home

You can find more detailed guidance and all the support you need from the dedicated Covid-19 page on our Help Centre. Don’t forget, our Support Team is always there for you on the phone, email and web chat.

Find out about the government grant you can apply for to get support with setting up G Suite or Office 365 at your school or trust on our blog.

 

2. Expert guidance on key topics on our blog

Over the last few weeks we’ve been blogging about some of the top priorities for school leaders right now – from keeping in touch with students and parents, to nurturing staff wellbeing. We’ve gathered advice from across the Arbor team, guest experts, and schools and MATs in our network, designed to give some practical tips on how to adapt to change – whatever your role.

Check out the topics that interest you below, there’ll be more to come! Look out for links to useful resources in the blogs if you want to learn more.

From the Arbor team:

From guest experts:

From schools and MATs:

 

3. Advice from schools and MATs in our webinars

We’ve also been learning a lot from listening to our schools and how they’re coping during lockdown, and the strategies leaders have put in place. We’ve been asking questions like “How do you plan for change, support your students, and manage staff wellbeing when you’re working remotely?” and “How do you keep adapting as new guidance comes out?” 

We’re running two free webinar series that have been really popular:

  • Adapting to Change: Bite-sized 45-minute webinars created for MAT CEOs, COOs, CFOs and SLT and delivered by your peers. Each week we invite a trust leader to share one thing they’ve been doing particularly well or think others could learn from in an informal setting. With topics ranging from how to make online education a success, to how to collaborate and communicate at scale, this series is a space for sharing best practice, network with other MAT leaders, and leave with new ideas to take back to your own trust. Look out for more in the series!
  • Managing your school remotely with Arbor MIS: We walk you through the parts of the system that will help you run your school flexibly and remotely. Choose from a range of topics such as assessment, behaviour and payments, as well as sessions designed for primary, secondary or special schools and MATs. Check out our schedule of Summer Term webinars here.

If you’d like to listen to the recording of any of our past webinars, get in touch at james@arbor-education.com. 

 

4. Hear from the Arbor Community

Across our network of schools and MATs, we’ve seen some inspiring responses to an extremely challenging situation, with schools finding new and innovative ways to connect with their students. English Martyrs Catholic Primary School were straight out of the gate with their virtual PE lessons, as were LEO Academy Trust with their distance wellbeing sessions. Hoyland Common Academy Trust have been promoting mental health awareness and Avanti Schools Trust have been offering free yoga sessions

As staff and students are working in totally new ways, it’s more important than ever to reach out and connect. When we shared some of our work-from-home stations and morning routines on Twitter, we were pleased to discover lots of our schools also wanted to share their creative ways to make the most of lockdown.

In what continues to be a difficult period, the Arbor team is always here to help and support where we can. We wanted to share a few pieces of feedback we’ve got lately from schools and partner organisations that we’re really proud of.

“Arbor’s been pretty essential to the distance learning program here and I’m confident we have a system that is really strong. We log daily checks with our students and have been able to use this to get to the stage where we can say we have contact with 100% of our students every day.”
Phil Jones, Head of Academy Services at Pool Academy

As a school we could not have accomplished half of what we have with our previous MIS. Arbor’s cloud based MIS has not only allowed remote working within what is a challenging, time sensitive period; but also given the exact information required without the need for additional query templates to be set up.”
Simon Brown, Headteacher at, Blaydon West Primary

“It’s refreshing to know that Arbor listen to what schools need and respond so quickly and also that priorities change depending on the current situation.”
Susan Scott, Education ICT, Bradford Metropolitan District Council

“We wouldn’t have known what to do without Arbor this week, it’s been an absolute godsend being able to access school info from the Group and all the other inbuilt reports we can access, as well as accessing remotely!”
Vicky Harrison, COO at Hoyland Common Academy Trust

“We just don’t know how we have managed before we had Arbor. We are all in this together and should ensure people know how much we appreciate Arbor helping us get through this difficult time.”
Jackie Blaikie, Bursar at Acresfield Primary School

“I’ve found it great to be able to use Arbor while working at home. I’ve sent instructions for parents about how to resolve issues with students logging into Show My Homework and how the students can access their school email accounts from home.”
Joanne Hedges, Data Manager at Manshead CE Academy

We’re moving schools to Arbor every day, 100% remotely. If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor MIS could help you manage your school or remotely and flexibly, get in touch at hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028. 

Maddie Kilminster - 20 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Top tips for creating a socially distanced school timetable

Over the last few months, schools have had to adapt to constant change, and keep their schools running without really knowing what the weeks ahead would hold. Although we still don’t have all the details, the latest Government plans suggest schools should prepare to partially reopen from 1st June, starting with Reception, Year 1, Year

Over the last few months, schools have had to adapt to constant change, and keep their schools running without really knowing what the weeks ahead would hold. Although we still don’t have all the details, the latest Government plans suggest schools should prepare to partially reopen from 1st June, starting with Reception, Year 1, Year 6, Year 10 and Year 12. A key question on everyone’s minds right now is how to design a school timetable that will adhere to social distancing and keep students and staff safe. 

To help, our partners at TimeTabler have put together some practical advice on adapting your timetable for social distancing. Maggie, our Key Account Manager and former Timetable Manager at a secondary school, has summarised their advice below:

  • Top 3 tips for a socially distanced timetable
  • Managing two school populations 
  • Questions you should ask

You’re also invited to join us in a webinar on Thursday at 3pm where we’ll be discussing timetabling in detail with our partners TimeTabler and The Onto Group. Click here to register! 

If you just can’t get enough timetabling tips, you can read the full article on TimeTabler’s website. Otherwise, this blog should give you some food for thought.

 

Top 3 tips for a socially distanced timetable:

1. Set different start and end times

Think about staggering your school start and end times to reduce contact in the school playground before and after school. This may seem straightforward, but bear in mind any implications for the local bus services, who may not be able to change their timetable. Instead of staggering by year group, you could even stagger by transport method, so that pupils who travel by bus arrive a little earlier or later than those whose parents drop them off in the car. 

2. Set different break and lunch times

Spacing kids out at lunch might sound like a simple solution, but without careful planning it could mean that some staff end up going without a break. For example, if Mrs Jones teaches a Year 7 class before break and Year 10 class after break, but Year 7 now has a later break time than Year 10, Mrs Jones may have to go straight from one class to the next. (Note, if you’re using TimeTabler, you can use the ‘split-site’ feature to avoid this).

3. Limit group sizes by creating two school populations

As and when all year groups return to school, if social distancing is still a requirement, one option is to set a maximum group size (e.g. 15) so students can be spaced out in the classroom. However, in most schools, this would mean only 50% or less of the school population could be in school at a time, and therefore students would only receive 50% of their ‘normal’ teaching. In this case, schools could try splitting into two student populations and manage teacher coverage using a rota system. 

Currently, the DfE is not expecting schools to introduce staggered returns or a rota systems, but without the ability to be flexible, many schools are concerned it will be impossible for them to follow social distancing guidelines.

If splitting your school into two populations is something you want to consider, we’ve put together some more detailed advice on this below. 

 

Managing two school populations 

There are two routes you might consider when splitting your student body:

Route 1: Split each teaching group within each Year in two

At Key Stages 1-3, it should be fairly easy to split each class in two as students are generally all taking the same subjects. However, you might want to consider how you split the teaching groups, for example to maintain friendship groups, or to separate antisocial or disruptive pairs. Equally, you might actually decide to break up friendship groups to cut down on social interaction before and after class.

However, at Key Stages 4 and 5, it’s likely to be more difficult to create two populations of equal size by dividing teaching groups. With students attending lots of different combinations of subjects, each with different class sizes, it would be near impossible to coordinate options to have only one population at school at one time (see ‘Staggering populations’ section below). 

Route 2: Group Years to make populations

There are a number of different ways to do this, for example you might group Years 7, 9 and 11 into Population X and Years 8, 10, and 12/13 into Population Y. Alternatively, you might split by Key Stage – whatever makes the most sense for a balanced demand on specialist rooms, labs, equipment and so on. Note, with this option, individual teaching groups may still need to be split to stay within the size limit.

Staggering populations

Once you’ve split your population in two, you then need to consider how to manage how to timetable them. For schools considering reopening on a rota basis, there are a few different ways you could approach this:

  • Populations come in on alternate weeks 
  • Population X in morning, Population Y in afternoon
  • Population X in morning Mon-Weds AM, Population Y in afternoon Weds PM-Fri

If you go for B or C, you should bear a few things in mind: 

  • Make sure social contact is limited at crossover time
  • Mornings tend to be longer on a school timetable, so make sure each population gets an equal amount of teaching time
  • Plan two lunch sittings during crossover time

Whatever your approach, it’s also important to consider whether there are sufficient transport links to get all populations to school on time, and whether parents’ work schedules are able to adapt.

Questions you should ask:

  • Could you find a way for students to stay in one place? Unless they needed a specialist room, teachers could move from room to room instead, to reduce social contact on the corridors
  • Do students have to eat lunch in the canteen? Students could eat in their classroom or on the school field, where they can spread out and where it’s more ventilated
  • Could students spend the day in their PE kit? There are different opinions on PE – some say it could make physical contact more likely, but others argue it’s vital for mental as well as physical health. If you do keep PE on your timetable, students could come to school in their PE kit to avoid the close proximity of changing rooms
  • Will you be adding hand sanitiser stations around the school? If so, you might need to make changes to the work of ancillary staff like cleaners and caretakers
  • Could you make a one-way system? You could use floor-arrows or cordons to cut down on corridor bottle-necks 
  • Is the staffroom big enough? Is there enough space to spread staff out too?
  • Can you make detentions socially distanced? Or is there an alternative way of managing behaviour?
  • Do you have students living with elderly or vulnerable parents or guardians? These students might need to arrive late or leave early
  • Do you have any elderly or vulnerable staff? For example, should vulnerable staff do online teaching only? If so, how will this affect the timetable?
  • Have you got consistent guidelines for setting and marking remote learning? Staff with lower teaching loads could be made responsible for setting online work and monitoring the students who are not currently in school
  • Do you have a plan to make up for lost time? The effects of this break in learning may well be felt for some time after schools return. Do you have a plan to tackle the loss of motivation that some students may experience?
  • Should you invest in the future? Has the technology you have been using for remote working worked well? It’s worth investing in good solutions now, because although things are starting to return to normal, restrictions may be tightened again in future

About TimeTabler

TimeTabler is a fast, friendly and reliable computer program used by schools & colleges in over 80 countries to schedule their timetables. Designed to reduce the manual work involved in timetabling, TimeTabler leaves you with more time to apply your professional skill and judgement where it’s needed, to produce a timetable of the highest quality.

TimeTabler’s founder Keith Johnson is also the author of the standard ‘bible’ on Timetabling: ‘The Timetabler’s CookBook, which has now helped thousands of beginners to learn the Art of Timetabling, and many experienced timetablers to understand it in even more depth.

The good news is that TimeTabler integrates with Arbor MIS to give you the best timetabling experience. Use TimeTabler to schedule your timetable, then simply import it into Arbor’s MIS, using our inbuilt Wizard that guides you through the steps. Once your timetable is imported, you can make any changes or tweaks you need to in Arbor, so you don’t have to keep going back and forth. What’s more, as a trusted TimeTabler partner, Arbor customers can receive a discount on their TimeTabler licence.

If you’d like to find out more on the topic of timetabling for social distancing, Arbor and TimeTabler are taking part in an online debate hosted by our partners The ONTO Group on Thursday 21st May at 3pm. Click here to register!

Because Arbor MIS is cloud-based, you and your staff can work from wherever you need to. Find out more about the ways Arbor can help you work remotely and flexibly in our free webinar series today – check out the schedule here. You can also get in touch to book a virtual demo with one of our team – simply email hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

 

 

Richard Martin - 15 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Delivering remote teaching and learning during lockdown by Richard Martin from LGFL

LGfL (London Grid for Learning) is a not for profit organisation that provides secure internet connectivity and digital services to over 90% of London schools and many others nationwide. Special Projects Lead at LGFL, Richard Martin, has put together this blog with advice for schools on delivering remote teaching and learning during lockdown. Richard was

LGfL (London Grid for Learning) is a not for profit organisation that provides secure internet connectivity and digital services to over 90% of London schools and many others nationwide. Special Projects Lead at LGFL, Richard Martin, has put together this blog with advice for schools on delivering remote teaching and learning during lockdown. Richard was previously the CIO for the ARK academy group and Head of IT for the Girls’ Day School Trust. He is also a governor for a small primary school in Surrey.

 

The challenges presented to schools during the Covid-19 lockdown have been diverse and complex. In my role as the Special Projects Lead for LGfL, I get to speak to many schools directly and have regular contact with organisations who provide on-site technical support for schools through the LGFL Digital Transformation Partner Programme that I run.

This has brought to the fore real challenges for schools that go beyond traditional teaching in the classroom. I am aware of many school heads and school leaders spending their time delivering lunches to vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils and regularly checking in with families to help them through the crisis. Schools also stayed open during the Easter holidays to look after children of key workers. 

The challenge to move to new ways of working and delivering remote teaching and learning provisions almost overnight introduces a level of organisational change that would break most large corporate organisations, let alone a small primary school! At LGfL we have been supporting our schools and the wider education community as best we can, and have set up a website – coronavirus.lgfl.net – to provide advice, guidance and useful links.

 

Some schools were more prepared than others

As someone who has been promoting the use of tech, especially cloud-based tech, in schools for years, I am aware of the vast differences in approach and progress with digital tools across the school community. Some schools have embedded technology in their organisation very positively, whereas others for many reasons have made slower progress. A small but not insignificant minority of school leaders just did not see that tech would add any value. This view has not been helped by a multitude of failed IT initiatives in schools that were poorly thought out, highly expensive with little or no thought given to teacher training and effective, sustainable ongoing support.

Unsurprisingly, what we have seen in the schools we are engaging with during lockdown, is that those who had already started down the road to the cloud were the ones who have had the greatest success in sharing online content, lessons and materials. Schools starting from scratch in the few weeks before lockdown have struggled. One large London academy group who had already invested heavily in setting up and providing training on Microsoft 365 were quickly able to expand operations, including setting up 25,000 MS Teams sites in the days after the announcement of lockdown.  

 

Harnessing Google to deliver learning

Similar successes were had with Google G-Suite in schools such as Poverest Primary in Bromley who were quickly able to switch to online provision. Paul Haylock, the Deputy Headteacher, explains below what they have achieved during lockdown:

As a school already set up with Google accounts for both staff and children, we found the transition to online learning very easy to do. Within those last two days of school we managed to be completely set up and ready for the Monday lessons. […]

 All our teachers have become so much more confident using Google Classroom and now using many features they weren’t before. Using Google Meet we have had staff meetings and year group planning meetings. Teaching presentations sourced from a whole host of website-based companies are shared in the classroom for pupils and parents to read, tasks are also shared in the same way and blank documents (mainly docs and slides) are given to each pupil for them to share their learning. This is then remotely handed in and reviewed by the teachers. Those who can only access on phones and small devices read the information but complete learning on paper and upload photographs for the teachers to see.

 Teachers are preparing work as year group teams and posting on the Google Classroom so that each new learning is posted at 9am each morning. This is done via a time stamp so learning for a whole week can be prepared at any time but only appears to the child at 9am each day.

As school leaders we are using Google Forms with our parents to identify when children are coming into school and what the weekly free school meal arrangements are for each family. This means we can staff the building with the minimum number of staff for the children we have in the building, helping our staff to work from home and isolate as much as possible.

Paul Haylock was able to achieve this comprehensive provision because he had put in the groundwork previously and worked closely with an engaged and competent support partner. You can see more on how LGFL work with schools here.

 

Getting tech to every pupil 

Another challenge amplified by remote learning is digital connectivity for disadvantaged children at home and ensuring there’s a solution for pupils who do not have access to a device or whose only internet provision may be via a parent’s mobile phone. Upon request from the DFE, LGfL are looking to procure devices and provide a safe, secure route to the Internet for those that need it.

The Covid-19 outbreak has been a horrible time for everyone and a tragic loss of life both in the UK and around the world. What we once perceived as normal is unlikely to return for a very long time, if ever, but I hope that some positive change will come out of our experiences in the past few months. 

This time will teach us the true power of tech – if staff have the right support, tech can free them up and help them to adapt. If implemented in the right way, tech can improve and transform the way schools work so they can weather any storm. For example, the ability to set and mark work digitally should, in the long term, save teachers’ time and effort, and provide analytics on engagement far more easily. Teachers will now be much more confident using tools to teach children who are incapacitated, or for whatever reason cannot get into schools once they are opened. Sadly, for many of us, snow days will now be a lot less fun!

If you want to get up to speed with digital tools to use in your classroom, click the links below to access online learning resources from: 

 

Because Arbor MIS is cloud-based, you and your staff can work from wherever you need to. Find out more about the ways Arbor can help you work remotely and flexibly in our free webinar series today – check out the schedule here. You can also get in touch to book a virtual demo with one of our team – simply email hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028.

Emily Copsey - 15 May, 2020

Category : Blog

Keeping in touch with your school community during lockdown

Arbor’s Head of Support, Emily Copsey, shares top tips for communicating with your school network during Covid-19 and partial school closures Our schools have been sharing with us that keeping in touch with parents – particularly the most vulnerable families – is top of their minds right now. School staff are relying more than ever

Arbor’s Head of Support, Emily Copsey, shares top tips for communicating with your school network during Covid-19 and partial school closures

Our schools have been sharing with us that keeping in touch with parents – particularly the most vulnerable families – is top of their minds right now. School staff are relying more than ever on parents and guardians to engage in their children’s education. Ensuring you can help parents to support their children starts with having a strong line of communication in place.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve worked with our schools to make sure they have everything they need in Arbor to keep in touch with their school community. Because Arbor’s MIS is cloud-based,  staff have up-to-the-minute data about all their students and guardians at their fingertips, so they can communicate with the right people at the right time, from one place

We’ve put together three top tips for engaging with parents – particularly during lockdown: 

1. Make sure it’s not all doom and gloom

2. Plan your content in advance

3. Get something in the diary

 

 Let’s break that down …

 

1. Make sure it’s not all doom and gloom

Alongside essential announcements, share some content with parents that might lift their spirits. This could be some fun weekend activities, craft projects or TV recommendations.

We’ve seen some really uplifting posts from schools on social media – like this wonderful “We miss you” video from the Knockhall Primary Staff, and free yoga sessions from Avanti Schools Trust. You could even put a short newsletter together with a weekly roundup.

We’re also delighted to share this poem sent by English Martyrs Catholic Primary School in their newsletter to their Year 6 students due to start their SATS this week. This is a great example of giving parents a way to talk about this difficult time and all the emotions surrounding it with their children.

 

2. Plan your content in advance

Over the last few weeks, you’ve probably been sending parents lots of updates as you react to daily changes. But as we adapt to a new way of working, it’s a good idea to plan a schedule of content you want to share with parents. Whether it’s a weekly round up of the work set for each class, or a regular prompt to parents to send in their details, creating a content calendar can help your team to prioritise their workload, and make sure information reaches parents at the right time.

Many Arbor schools are having success with planning regular communications. Baxter College send weekly key worker surveys in Arbor so they can keep track of who to expect the following week. Find out more about how Baxter College use Arbor to send automated reports here.

Remember, one channel might not work for everyone in your community. In Arbor there are lots of different options you can use to share information with parents:

  • Parent Portal – Parents can log in to see information about their child. Many schools at the moment are using the portal to get parents to provide their details (e.g. medical or dietary requirements for new starters), or complete consents for new measures
  • The Arbor App – In-app messages appear as push notifications on parents’ phones, so it’s a great way to get their attention remotely. Use them to send a quick prompt to parents to check their emails, or to complete consents by a certain date. Parents can reply or write in-app messages themselves, too
  • Texts – A great way to get a quick answer from parents, or vice versa. Were you expecting a child of a key worker in school today but they haven’t shown up? Was the parent expecting them to be in school or has something changed? Top tip: if you’re sending texts regularly, our SMS Unlimited package can help
  • Emails – This is most effective for sending critical or major updates, such as new Covid-19 requirements, or on the steps your school is taking to prepare for 1st June. Some schools are also using email to share Google form links with parents so they can let the school know when they are planning to come in – plus, you’ll be notified automatically with their responses

 

3. Get something in the diary

With less in-person contact with parents, it might be easy for some parents to drop off your radar. It can be useful to get a contact slot in parents’ diaries so they can plan around it. In Arbor, you can use Guardian Consultations to book one-on-one check-ins at a time that suits everyone. 

For parents who you know are not online, you’ll have to contact them in a different way. In Arbor, you can keep these parents separate in a custom group so you can plan how to reach them separately – maybe through a phone call or a physical letter. Staff can pull up parents’ phone numbers easily in Arbor, or quickly create a letter template, which will automatically populate with each parents’ details, that they can print and send out.

To find out more about communicating with parents remotely, we’re running a series of practical support webinars on parental engagement, kicking off with a session all about using the Parent Portal on Monday 18th May – sign up for free here. The Arbor Community is another great place to find advice and best practice from fellow Arbor schools – join today for free.

For full guidance on how to use Arbor to manage your school during Covid-19, check out this guide on our blog.

Rebecca Watkins - 22 April, 2020

Category : Blog

Top 3 tips for working remotely – whatever your role

During this time of constant change for schools and trusts, we want to support schools with practical advice for adapting to new ways of working. Becca Watkins, our Operations Executive, has put together her top 3 tips to bear in mind for working remotely As an EdTech company, with almost a quarter of our employees

During this time of constant change for schools and trusts, we want to support schools with practical advice for adapting to new ways of working. Becca Watkins, our Operations Executive, has put together her top 3 tips to bear in mind for working remotely

As an EdTech company, with almost a quarter of our employees already used to working remotely, we’ve adapted quite well over the past few weeks, all things considered. Many things haven’t changed – our schools and trusts can of course still access Arbor’s cloud-based Management Information System (MIS) from anywhere. And our internal systems at Arbor are no different. 

As we prepare to strap in for another few months of remote working, we’ve been reflecting on lessons we’ve learned so far and how we can keep up momentum and morale. 

Our top 3 tips for remote working

Whatever organisation you work for, whether that’s a school, trust, local authority or private company, you’re probably finding yourself working remotely or in a completely different routine now. From our experience at Arbor, we wanted to share some tips and tricks for working together in this new way. 

Bear in mind – these are not just tips for working remotely – they’re tips for working remotely during a pandemic. There’s a big difference. Situations change daily, so you should allow your outlook and mood to change too. If you take just one tip from this blog – be kind to yourself

My top tips for adapting to your new, virtual workplace are:

  1. Keep communicating with your team
  2. Find balance and remember what’s important
  3. Don’t underestimate laughter

Let’s break that down…

 

1. Keep communicating

 

  • Show your face!
    You may be feeling less well-kempt than usual or slightly embarrassed by the state of your room in the background, however, it’s a good idea to turn your video on for your colleagues, and for them to do the same. Remember, body language constitutes 55% of how we communicate, so it’s easy to misinterpret something someone has said if you can’t see them. Remember, you might not be seeing many human beings at the moment, so the more personal connection you have with your colleagues the better!
  • Begin with hello
    Why not try starting your smaller group meetings with a moment for a personal catch-up. As we’ve said, it’s harder to tell how someone is feeling over video, so make sure you take the time to ask how your colleagues are doing and share how you are, too. It’s also a great idea to plan some non-work related catch-ups with colleagues. At Arbor, we often have “coffee & catch-ups” with different people where we have a laugh and check in to see if anyone needs any support. We’re all in this together and we’ll all need a helping hand at some point.
  • Stand-up
    While adjusting your posture now and then is great, this tip is actually about checking in regularly with your team. A “stand-up” is a type of meeting where originally teams would literally stand up to keep the meeting short and sweet before people got too tired on their feet! Whether you actually stand up in front of your laptop or not, stand-ups are a great way to give a short, efficient status update to your team. We find it really useful to take 15-minutes every morning to keep each other in the loop about what we’re doing.
  • Be a source of truth
    As a leader, the best response to a crisis is to be the source of truth for your employees about what is happening in the world. Transparency is strength – addressing the difficult situation, letting your team know how you’re dealing with it and how it will affect them, will reassure them that you’re representing them in the decisions you make. Even if your policies aren’t set yet – let them know it’s a working process that needs everyone’s input. James, Arbor’s CEO, has been keeping team morale up with daily updates on the developing situation for the country, and what this means for our schools and how we need to work together to adapt.

 

2. Find balance

 

  • Work-life balance
    It’s tough when your home and work life start to merge into one another. But it’s important to find that divide so you can switch off when you’re not working and be really present in your home life. Work-life-balance won’t be the same for everyone – having other commitments outside of work or those you care for might mean different priorities. Continuing to re-evaluate what’s important to you will show you the balance you need to strike. Now is not the time to try to fit a mould or do what others are doing. If you can, find a new schedule that works around you – move your hours a little to give you more breathing space. Breaking just once at lunch time might not be the time off you need!
  • Is it urgent? Is it important?
    As national and local factors are changing all the time, your school, trust or company will be reassessing and re-prioritising objectives and timelines regularly. Try and apply this to your personal workload too. Order your tasks by urgency and importance, so you can work efficiently on the most relevant things – see our handy chart below! 

urgency matrix

3. Don’t underestimate laughter

Something not many companies have faced before is how to keep their employees’ morale high during a time of widespread strain. The key to this is having a strong company culture and great communication. Most importantly, and the easiest thing to introduce, you can’t underestimate the value of having a laugh together. Here are some ideas to bring a little light-hearted relief:

  • Friendly competitions
    One way we’re keeping up our work relationships at Arbor is daily competitions set by our Co-Founder and CEO, James Weatherill. Every day, James sets the whole company a single challenge to post in our team Slack channel. The best have been to take a picture of your home office (check them out on twitter!), share your favourite song of all time, and one of my personal favourites – Renaissance Yourself – which shows how you would look as a Renaissance portrait (go on, try it!). It’s a very fun way of breaking the bounds of remote working and getting to know your colleagues even better. 
  • Quiz time!
    Why not host a quiz for your team and/or company to play together? Quizzes can really engage a team and lift the mood by taking the mind somewhere completely different. You can play at the end of the day or during a lunch break, with a digital platform or good old fashioned pen and paper. We’ve been using Kahoot for our quizzes, great for being quick and interactive. 

Keep sharing

Remote working is a new experience for us all, and being kind and thoughtful will go a long way, whatever your role or company. So take a breath, take a pause, and remember this is temporary. How we adapt to this crisis will serve us not just right now, but in the long term as well. 

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

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. 

James Weatherill - 19 March, 2020

Category : Blog

How to use Arbor during school closures

To all our Arbor schools and MATs, Our priority right now is to help you manage your school during the Coronavirus outbreak To make it as simple as possible for you to get the information you need, we’ve created one central article in our Help Centre with everything you need to know on using Arbor

To all our Arbor schools and MATs,

Our priority right now is to help you manage your school during the Coronavirus outbreak

To make it as simple as possible for you to get the information you need, we’ve created one central article in our Help Centre with everything you need to know on using Arbor to react to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Using Arbor during this period

On our Help Centre, you can find out how to:

  • Record and report on children of key workers, with the ability to bulk update records
  • Produce key demographic reports on: children with EHCP, child protection status, FSM children, and children of key workers at school and MAT level
  • Record, report and update staff and student absence and report the number of students still physically in school
  • Record whole or partial school closures 
  • Report on Y code absences
  • Add a medical condition for students or staff
  • Communicate with students and their guardians during this time

All of these features are live and available to use in Arbor now.

Coming Up
We’re monitoring the news closely, including for any further updates around exams, so we can be responsive to schools’ needs as they arise. Each time we release a new feature we’ll update the same Help Centre page and email you to let you know too.

Support
Our Support Team is available to support you by phone, email and web chat.

In the meantime, I hope you and the staff, students and parents at your school are coping as well as you can. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any help – we’re all in this together.

All the best,

James

James Weatherill
CEO and Co-Founder, Arbor Education
 

Maddie Kilminster - 24 February, 2020

Category : Blog

How Arbor could transform your secondary school

With large student bodies, hundreds of subject strands and lots of different staff responsibilities, secondary school data can be a complex web. To tackle it, you need a Management Information System (MIS) that gives your staff access to clear, visual data so they can take action instantly. At Arbor, we have a team with deep

With large student bodies, hundreds of subject strands and lots of different staff responsibilities, secondary school data can be a complex web. To tackle it, you need a Management Information System (MIS) that gives your staff access to clear, visual data so they can take action instantly.

At Arbor, we have a team with deep secondary school knowledge who have designed our MIS hand-in-hand with schools. Arbor MIS not only takes the hassle out of daily admin – it can also transform the way you work. The number of secondary schools joining Arbor is growing daily – three times as many switched to us last year compared to 2018. And they’ve joined a growing community of 1,000 schools and MATs who rely on Arbor MIS every day.

We’ve put together the top four things that secondary schools really love about Arbor MIS. Read more below about our BI analytics, behaviour reporting, exam management and interventions.

 

1. We give you the choice to analyse your data any way you like

 

3 in 4 of our schools say Arbor has improved their data analysis

At Arbor we care about democratising data – our MIS gives staff visibility of the data they need every day. We have built “out-of-the-box” BI (Business Intelligence) into the fabric of our MIS which means staff can easily go deep into their data without needing to be a data expert. Through clear, detailed dashboards, Teachers, Heads of Department and Admin Staff can access, analyse and action the data that’s relevant to their role. You can also keep using the BI tools you love by pulling your Arbor data into a password-protected Live Feed that you can upload to another application. You can read more about Arbor’s BI tools in our blog.

2. Implement a consistent behaviour policy across your school

4 in 5 say Arbor has transformed the way they work

Arbor MIS helps you manage behaviour more efficiently, with smarter evidence, and in a way that’s right for your school. You have the flexibility to define behaviour types and frameworks, and to set up automatic actions in response to specific incidents or behaviour types, helping you cut down on workload. 

Thanks to Arbor’s built-in BI, your behaviour data is more powerful. You’ll be able to build up a rounded picture of each student and compare their behaviour with their class, year group or a custom group you’ve created. To find out more about how Arbor can transform behaviour reporting, check out our blog “A day in the life” by our Senior Partnership Manager and former Headteacher, Andrew. 

behaviour

3. End-to-end exam management, from mocks to results day

Managing exams in Arbor MIS is hassle-free every step of the way – from preparation to results day. Unlike other exam management systems, in Arbor there’s no need to search for basedata on exam board websites – we pull it in automatically for you.

Here’s a bit more about how we make exams simple in Arbor:

Exams offering

Set up your exams offering with precise awards and unit codes at the start of the year. This stops any mistakes down the line. You can manage your mock or internal exams in Arbor in exactly the same way as GCSEs or A Levels. 

Entries

Inputting entries is flexible – either the Exams Officer can input directly or Teachers can propose entries. Easily create an EDI Entries file or an EDI Amendments file with any changes. You can also input coursework marks (Centre Assessed Outcomes) and Forecast Grades, and create an EDI Coursework file. 

Candidates & timetabling

Everything you need to set up your candidates for the year is all in one place – from assigning candidate numbers, UCIs, ULNs and Exam Access Arrangements. You can assign candidates to seating plans, allocate them to one or more exam rooms and create candidate timetables. Students can see their timetable in the student and parent portals.

Invigilators

Have visibility over invigilator duties, see how many invigilators are already allocated to each room and assign more if needed, print timetables and easily arrange cover.

Results

Manage your results centrally – simply import your EDI Results files into Arbor and see a dashboard of the results which you can print. You can set an Embargo Period and Embargo Date to release results to staff. Teachers can see results on the student profiles, and students can through the student and parent portals. 

Results analysis

Arbor MIS has built-in analysis of exam results but you can also export your data to an external spreadsheet, or to SISRA and 4Matrix if you want to do your own deeper analysis.

4. Plan, manage, and monitor interventions


3 in 4 say Arbor saves them time

We know how important pastoral and academic interventions are in secondary schools. That’s why we’ve made interventions flexible and easy to use in Arbor MIS. Whether your interventions are ad hoc and informal, or highly formalised and structured, you can build your interventions your way. Arbor MIS allows you to create, track, monitor and cost the breadth and range of your wider curriculum. You’ll always stay on top of your students’ progress, attainment and wellbeing – plus you’ll be able to track where extra attention is needed. 

You can read more about creating interventions in our blog “6 Steps to Create an Effective Interventions Strategy”. To read how Kate Ferris from Baxter College tailored her behaviour interventions in Arbor, check out her case study.

interventions

Our secondaries have been sharing with us why Arbor works for them – read how Suzanne Pike, Vice Principal of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, leads a secondary school with Arbor and hear from Kate Ferris, Data Systems Analyst at Baxter College, about how Arbor has led to a culture shift at their school

To find out why Arbor MIS is perfect for secondary schools like yours, click here to arrange a free demo or call us on 0208 050 1028.

 

 

Maddie Kilminster - 27 January, 2020

Category : Blog

Arbor in Action in the Classroom

At BETT last week, Tim and Stephen from the Arbor team gave a talk in the Tech In Action theatre about how Arbor MIS can transform the way schools work. We were pleased to see so many new faces in the audience but in case you missed it, you can see their presentation below which

At BETT last week, Tim and Stephen from the Arbor team gave a talk in the Tech In Action theatre about how Arbor MIS can transform the way schools work. We were pleased to see so many new faces in the audience but in case you missed it, you can see their presentation below which includes some handy video demos.

Tim and Stephen talked about how Arbor MIS makes your essential daily admin more powerful and less stressful, so you can get on and focus where it matters most. They went through four key ways Arbor helps teachers in the classroom – these were:

1. Teaching a lesson using My Classroom 

My Classroom is an exciting new feature of Arbor MIS that takes the hassle out of preparing for lessons. With this all-in-one classroom management tool, you can organise your lessons and manage your class seamlessly – giving you time back to focus on teaching and learning.

2. Sending letters home to your students’ parents

Communication with parents is quick, easy and automated in Arbor MIS. For example, if an after-school club has been cancelled, you can send a message to all relevant parents instantly. Parents will get the message on the Arbor App on their phone, which will also let them know if there’s another session they can book  instead.

3. Preparing for a meeting with a parent

Arbor MIS gives you the whole picture for each student in a few clicks. Simply search for a student and you can see a breakdown of their behaviour history, attainment, important medical and pastoral notes, absence patterns and how they compare with their classmates. From clear, visual dashboards, you’ll instantly see the most important areas to focus on in your next meeting with their parent.

4. Reviewing your class at the end of the day

After lessons, data on your whole form or class group is at your fingertips. From the week’s behaviour incidents, to how many students have done their homework, to their attainment over time – you can use data to intervene where needed, like creating a booster group, or emailing parents.

If you’d like to find out more about how our hassle-free, cloud-based MIS could help you act on everything important fast, so you and your staff can focus on what matters most, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

James Weatherill - 15 January, 2020

Category : Blog

Best-of-Breed vs One-Stop-Shop?

We often get asked by schools and MATs what’s better – choosing several ‘best-of-breed’ software tools, or one tool that promises almost all the functionality you need? Our CEO, James Weatherill, asks, are there any shades of grey in-between? Jack of all trades, master of none When software was in its infancy in the 90’s

We often get asked by schools and MATs what’s better – choosing several ‘best-of-breed’ software tools, or one tool that promises almost all the functionality you need? Our CEO, James Weatherill, asks, are there any shades of grey in-between?

Jack of all trades, master of none

When software was in its infancy in the 90’s and early 00’s, companies and schools tended to choose ‘one-stop-shop’ systems that could do virtually all the tasks a school needed to run itself. The advantage was lower cost, higher central control and simplified management. But this came at a cost of being tied to one supplier, meaning prices often went up with little product improvement, less flexibility and local variation on customisation. There is also the simple adage that whilst big systems have a lot of functionality, they tend to do more things less well than specialist tools. 

Businesses and schools are now generally moving to best-of-breed strategies which pick a few core systems and integrate these with a wider suite of specialist apps, reducing implementation time, giving greater flexibility and higher levels of functionality. This has all been made possible by a shift to the cloud, where integration can be online and seamless (at least in theory). However, as we’ll show, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Your culture and strategy should dictate your systems choice

The answer to what type of system to choose in my view depends on what you want to achieve as a school or MAT, as well as the culture you’ve set. As I’ve written about before, MATs should be intentional about the culture they want to create, as this will often drive how they make decisions. This is no different for schools and how they select systems, as the diagram below shows.

MAT culture

Let’s break that down…

A) Low need for control + Low complexity = define data standards
If you’re a school or small trust that typically gives high agency to staff, then you might not need to standardise much except for how to use the systems you’ve procured and the data you want to get out. Choosing best-of-breed tools that fit the needs of your individual school (or schools) works well here, with the caveat that you’ll need a plan for how all the systems integrate (don’t forget or underestimate this step or you’ll be swimming in a data soup!).

B) Low need for control + High complexity = collectively agree core systems; staff choose bolt-ons
If you’re a large school or trust, you may like to give an element of agency to your staff to choose systems that can be tailored to the local context of the school. Yet, due to your size, a certain amount of system standardisation is important or there would be chaos. For these types of schools or trusts, it works well to clearly define your non-negotiable core systems (often involving many staff in procurement decisions), then delegate non-core systems to staff to allow variation according to need.

C) High need for control + High complexity = several monolithic systems, centrally controlled
If you’re a large school or MAT involving multiple phases spread across many sites or geographies, who needs high control of the systems staff use (perhaps due to cost or culture), you may prefer more monolithic systems. This approach involves selecting fewer, larger applications and perhaps even hosting them on-site.

The advantages of larger systems are simplified vendor management, cost savings, support simplicity and data standardisation. However, this is at the expense of flexibility (being tied to one vendor makes ‘rip-and-replace’ harder), functionality gaps (the vendor is likely to have less product depth in specific workflows) and more difficult implementation (more tools have to be replaced).

D) High need for control + Low complexity = standardised core systems; staff choose bolt-ons
If you’re a school or MAT of medium size and scale, a hybrid approach of leadership works well with core non-negotiable systems being centrally defined and school staff choosing bolt-ons. This preserves an element of standardisation whilst allowing staff agency over the systems that might be more appropriate to their context. The trick is ensuring the core systems chosen (typically MIS, finance, HR, assessment) work well together so you can retain flexibility.

A bit about how Arbor can help…

Arbor MIS can tick all the boxes above, as we have a wide range of functionality that caters to primary, secondary, special schools and MATs of all shapes, sizes and cultures. However, we know that every school and MAT has their preferred and loved applications and we want to play well within that ecosystem.

We believe choosing best-of-breed software beats monolithic tools that are a ‘jack of all trades’ but master of none, so our focus is being the best MIS that provides all staff with smart information so they can make better decisions, whilst reducing unnecessary admin tasks.

To discover the hundreds of software partners we work with click here.
Get in touch and find out how we could help your school or MAT by emailing me at james@arbor-education.com. Look forward to hearing from you!

Tim Ward - 28 November, 2019

Category : Blog

Research Led Curriculum Design

Every school has been working hard on ensuring they have an inspiring, rich and challenging curriculum for the pupils recently.  Whilst a great curriculum has always been at the heart of learning, the extra focus of the updated Ofsted evaluation schedule has led to schools revisiting their curriculum design. Whilst reviewing curriculum design, schools should

Every school has been working hard on ensuring they have an inspiring, rich and challenging curriculum for the pupils recently.  Whilst a great curriculum has always been at the heart of learning, the extra focus of the updated Ofsted evaluation schedule has led to schools revisiting their curriculum design.

Whilst reviewing curriculum design, schools should ask themselves not only what pupils should know, be able to do and understand, but also how these aspects work in a cross-curricular way.  Is there a skill that will help a pupil’s understanding of many subjects? Should we have explicit goals for learning behaviours that will assist learning in a global sense? Many schools will already do this but – when asked why – they often assert that such learning behaviours are impactful -, without being able to reference any real evidence.

Is this really a problem?  Perhaps not. After all, a skilful teacher or leader often draws on years of experiential learning of what works well.  High performing professionals are known to work in a constant loop of self-feedback that informs future practice.

On the other hand – maybe this is a problem.  Those of you who are familiar with the work of John Hattie will know that his research into the impact of what strategies truly improve learning can be very insightful. For example, his work highlights the relatively small impact of class size on outcomes – yet many still believe this is crucial. 

Before we make changes, we need to be sure we are making decisions based on sound evidence.

Which brings me to my main point: all schools should be actively researching and monitoring  the impact of their curriculum design. If you are about to spend significant time building a change to your curriculum, training teachers and updating documents, then you need to know this change will make a meaningful impact.

During my time working with Computing At School, I saw what I believed to be evidence that computational thinking had a positive impact in other areas of the curriculum, with a focus on problem-solving, decomposition of problems and self-evaluation of solutions.  But how could I be sure?

This is where we need to design a process that tests the theory by providing clear evidence of impact; this means building in a way to make the important measurable (as opposed to making the measurable important).

In my example, I may believe that pupils who are better at problem-solving perform better across the curriculum.  I might decide, therefore, to explicitly teach problem-solving. In order to effectively judge whether I am right, I need to know two things: which pupils are good at problem solving and does this correlate with other educational outcomes?

Time, then, for some active research. Using a rubric, I could evaluate pupils’ problem-solving skills.

(Image 1: A table taken from Livingstone Academies part of the Aspirations Academies Trust – Copyright 2016)

 

I could then cross-reference this to academic outcomes in English and Mathematics.  If a strong correlation exists, then it will be worthwhile integrating the teaching of problem-solving into my curriculum.

As ever though – this can be time-consuming work.  If schools are to engage in research like this, they need a hassle-free way to get it done.  They need a tool that can bring together what you already know about your pupils, such as their background and current academic grades, and your research evidence.

Luckily for Arbor schools, it’s very easy to make a rubric for assessing almost anything, such as the problem-solving example above.  Once this has been used, clear analytics can then be used to determine if a strong correlation exists.

Research like this needs to be a continual process, as the needs of your pupils may change; the world they live in certainly will! So, having the tools to make the process easy and hassle-free should be a high priority.

In summary:

1. When you review curriculum design, look for opportunities that improve outcomes across all subjects

2. Beware of falling back on assumed knowledge of “what works well”

3. Instead, find ways to make what you believe to be important measurable and generate your own research data

4. Use this data to make evidentially driven changes to secure maximum impact on pupil learning

5. Don’t start work without having the right tools at your disposal that will make the process hassle-free and help you get the work done quickly. 

 

If you’d like to find out why Arbor is the MIS schools love to use, why not contact us? You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

 

Andrew Mackereth - 20 November, 2019

Category : Blog

A day in the life

I read the news today, oh boy.  Unfortunately, I’m not going on to talk about the lucky man that made the grade in the famous song by The Beatles; instead I’m talking about the story that appeared on BBC News with the caption: “I had an interest in school – but zero help.”  I felt

I read the news today, oh boy. 

Unfortunately, I’m not going on to talk about the lucky man that made the grade in the famous song by The Beatles; instead I’m talking about the story that appeared on BBC News with the caption: “I had an interest in school – but zero help.” 

I felt profoundly sad for the families and their unmet needs but as a former Headteacher, I also felt for the schools as they seemed to be taking the presenting issues extremely seriously but their “help” wasn’t helping. 

Thinking back to situations I had managed in my schools, I remembered the round-robin reports that regularly hit my desk about the progress, behaviour and attendance of pupils causing concern. This was our way of capturing the presenting issues in order to formulate a plan.

The sort of report I’m talking about is the kind that is being generated right now by teachers and pastoral leads across the country (and across the world) to explore concerns, or support meaningful meetings with parents. Every school seems to have their own template and completes in a way that meets their specific circumstances. However good I thought our report templates were, there was always some information that we hadn’t captured to complete the picture of the child. It’s only since I’ve been working with Arbor MIS that I realised just how poorly set up my schools were to surface student-level information quickly due to the limitations of our previous MIS. To compound the problem, my teams could only access the information when on site, which put an added burden on working parents and carers. 

Our weekly student focus meetings brought together progress, educational support, welfare and attendance leads to discuss current and emerging issues. A typical action arising from the meeting would be for a key worker (in this instance: me) to make contact with home to request a meeting. 

For the purpose of this blog, I am going to walk through a typical “student of concern” scenario but in this instance, the fictional student is Kimberly Adams, a Year 10 student at Pinewood Secondary School. As Head, I’m collating information ahead of a meeting with her parents. The meeting is therefore at our request because, as I shall explain, her name had cropped up in a number of progress and well-being meetings recently and we want to engage with home at the earliest opportunity. I want to get a comprehensive picture of the student using Arbor MIS.

The following picture begins to emerge:

Kimberly appears to like school; her attendance is currently 96%+ and this is an improvement on last year. She has regular planned absences for medical appointments due to a long-standing medical condition: the result of a head injury that causes a lack of focus. She has the highest attendance in her Tutor Group.

(Image 1: Screenshot of Attendance in Arbor broken down into different groups) 

 

Unfortunately, since the start of Year 10 she has begun to arrive at school late. There is no particular pattern to her lateness to school but she is frequently late to Pd3 which follows break. This is an area to investigate.

(Image 2: Screenshot of Attendance in Arbor broken down into time of day) 

 

Her behaviour is generally good but September the 18th was an uncharacteristically bad day. Kimberly didn’t suggest a reason as to why she had such a bad day but perhaps her parents can offer some context that would explain it. This is an area to investigate.

(Image 3: Screenshot of Behaviour in Arbor broken down into time of day) 

 

It seems that Kimberly does not adapt well to temporary teachers and, looking at her behaviour log in more depth, there seems to be a correlation between her incidents of misbehaviour and supply teachers. As a side issue, I can see that she had eight lessons where her regular teacher has been absent which is potentially having a de-stabilising effect. This is an area to investigate. 

(Image 4: Screenshot of student cover statistics in Arbor) 

 

Academically, she is performing fairly well. She is a low prior attainer but she has a flair for Maths and English. It would be useful to explore the issues around English and the relative underachievement in Computer Science and Textiles from her perspective.

(Image 5: Screenshot of assessment and progress statistics in Arbor) 

 

Kimberly has not signed up for any trips or visits this academic year but she is a member of the Eco Club. Her form tutor, Ms Kelly runs the Eco Club and this seems to have sparked her interest somewhat. Ms Kelly fears she may be bullied by some of the other girls in the tutor group but Kimberly has always denied this. This is an area to investigate. 

Neither parent has logged into the parent portal, so may be missing vital communications from school about events, achievement and progress. I should offer to reset their password or resend the joining instructions if required. 

I am confident that I can approach the meeting with some good evidence to back up my concerns and steer the conversation to cover the areas for further investigation. 

Meetings like this one will happen everyday in schools for a myriad of reasons. I’m fortunate that, because Arbor is designed to turn insight into action, I have all of my information on students at-risk together in one place – and not all over the place.

 

If you’d like to find out more about how our hassle-free, cloud-based MIS could help you act on everything important fast, so you and your staff can focus on what matters most, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Daniel Giardiello - 21 September, 2019

Category : Blog

How Arbor can help you to proactively identify and help students at risk of exclusion

In May, the DfE published the findings from the much anticipated Timpson Review, which recommends that schools be supported to reduce the number of exclusions they make by focussing in on early intervention and quality Alternative Provision. In this blog, I will explore the implications of this on schools and discuss how Arbor MIS can

In May, the DfE published the findings from the much anticipated Timpson Review, which recommends that schools be supported to reduce the number of exclusions they make by focussing in on early intervention and quality Alternative Provision. In this blog, I will explore the implications of this on schools and discuss how Arbor MIS can help schools to use data to intervene proactively with students and better understand their holistic needs, before they reach the point of being an exclusion risk.

 

Are current intervention strategies timely enough?

Prior to working with Arbor, my 13 years as a teacher and senior leader were spent both in Mainstream Secondary and in Specialist Education for Behaviourally Challenging students, so I have seen both the before and after stories of mainstream exclusions. 

When a child comes into a full time AP or SEMH school, it’s often the case that they have been excluded, not just once but many times, and are trapped in an ongoing, negative spiral of:

Image 1: A diagram showing a child’s negative behaviour cycle 

Trying to re-instill a sense of self-worth and value for learning into individuals who seem almost broken by this experience is very difficult at the post-exclusion stage. We succeeded with many, but not with all. 

For those with whom we didn’t, I often wonder… Could it have been a different story if during their more formative stages in education, greater focus had been placed on developing their necessary dispositions for learning, rather than hammering home a nearly entirely academic curriculum? For students who are more resilient and better at regulating their emotions , this is ok; but for those who aren’t, early subjection to repeat experiences of failure will trigger innate safety behaviours such as escape and avoidance, which in the classroom context will display as refusal to work and disruption to lessons.

This opens up a broader debate about the appropriateness of the curriculum we deliver and whether we are assessing the right things for these individuals – something I discussed in my previous blog which focussed on SEN Assessment. Whilst there will never be a silver bullet answer to the “what to do?” question for all children (this will differ depending on context), my overriding feeling regarding “when to do it?” is that, in nearly all cases, it could have been earlier in the story and not at the point where behaviour had already become unmanageable. But how do we know when is best to take a different approach? That’s where the effective use of data comes in! 

 

Data driven intervention

During my time in schools, I have seen and implemented a fair share of behavioural initiatives and policies, some of which were successful and others less so, but in every instance their success was dependent on the quality of information that fed into them. Data-wise, the two most important questions to ask are:

  • Is the data gathered in a timely enough way for the actions it informs to actually have an impact?
  • Is the data telling us something we don’t already know?

Unfortunately, the answer to these questions isn’t always “yes”. In many schools, it’s hard to act on data in a timely way, as there’s usually a heavy reliance on the manual collation and analysis of it in order to find meaning. Therefore, intervention is often carried out at the point where behaviour is so severe or prevalent that you don’t even need data to tell you there’s something to do. So, you become a reactive culture. 

Negative behaviour doesn’t occur in isolation; it’s often linked to other factors, such as home-life, literacy, attendance and pastoral issues. But due to the siloed nature of data in schools (as illustrated in the systems diagram below) it is also difficult to combine different measures into simple, quick analysis, or to easily know what’s been going on with a child. 

Image 2: A diagram showing the siloed nature of data in schools  

Arbor MIS makes it easy to input and analyse all your core data in one system. With all student data brought together on simple profile pages, it’s easy for staff to get the holistic overview of a student that’s needed in order to plan more specifically for their needs. This is something that’s crucial to Liam Dowling, and the staff of Hinderton School, an Outstanding Cheshire SEN school who specialise in supporting students with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) and social communication difficulties from a young age. 

Image 3: A diagram showing the way school data can be brought together  

Hinderton’s short inspection letter from June 2017 praised the school on the interconnectedness of it’s systems, meaning that all stakeholders have easy access to the data they need:

“Your online systems, which work seamlessly together, make sure that senior leaders, staff and parents all have the information they need at their fingertips. As a result, you have streamlined and improved all aspects of information relating to pupils.”

Hinderton’s short inspection letter – OFSTED June 2017

Hinderton are one of nearly 800 schools who benefit from Arbor MIS’ ability to:

Give staff easy access to the full story of a child to enable better understanding of needs

Image 4: A demonstration of how Arbor MIS gives you the full story of a child

With appropriate permissions, all information ranging from communications with parents, attendance, behaviour and SEN history is visible in one place. Understanding what has gone on with a disaffected child is crucial to knowing how best to work with them and Arbor makes finding this information as easy as possible.

 

Automate behaviour action and analysis

Image 5: A demonstration of how you can automate behaviour action in Arbor MIS

Arbor’s automatic workflows within the behaviour module ensure that students who exhibit persistent low level behaviour across multiple lessons are always identified and action is taken without an administrative burden to staff. This helps schools to ensure that negative behaviour is appropriately challenged in all instances and isn’t allowed to snowball to the point of being unmanageable. 

 

Link Interventions to Data

Image 6: A demonstration of how you can plan interventions with Arbor MIS

Arbor allows you to create interventions with Participant and Outcome criteria that pull data in from anywhere in the MIS. Therefore, students could be recommended for a Behaviour for Learning intervention following a slight change in behavioural patterns at an earlier point in time than when it becomes prevalent and significantly disruptive to others.

 

Customise Assessment frameworks to target specific needs

Image 7: An example of how to customise assessment frameworks in Arbor MIS

The Springwell Special Academy are an Outstanding SEMH school who make full use of Arbor’s flexible Assessment system to host specific frameworks that fit their students’ needs. This enables them to focus on social and emotional development, resilience and student wellbeing as well as tracking academic progress. The image above shows the input page of a framework they have developed called the SEMH tracker. 

In conclusion, the Timpson review has brought about a greater emphasis on schools to develop strategies to help students whom they may otherwise exclude. The four tools above are just a few examples of how Arbor could help schools in collecting more specifically focussed data to use in a more timely and targeted way in order to help improve the holistic outcomes of these vulnerable students. We recognise that the challenge isn’t easy and the “what to do” expertise lies with the people who know the students best – a piece of software isn’t going to be the solution but could play a significant part in the data strategy that drives the change! 

 

If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your school uses interventions, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

 

 

Cosima Baring - 19 September, 2019

Category : Blog

Why have 5,000+ schools moved their MIS to the cloud?

Last year, over 1,000 schools moved their MIS to the cloud –  the highest number of schools ever to have moved in the space of a year! That means 1 in 4 schools have now left SIMS in favour of easier-to-use cloud-based systems like Arbor. We’re really excited that more and more schools are realising

Last year, over 1,000 schools moved their MIS to the cloud –  the highest number of schools ever to have moved in the space of a year! That means 1 in 4 schools have now left SIMS in favour of easier-to-use cloud-based systems like Arbor. We’re really excited that more and more schools are realising the benefits of the cloud; after all, we’ve been talking about it since we were first founded!

We’ve spoken to lots of Headteachers and SLT recently who want to move MIS, but who are nervous about the pain of switching out-weighing the gain of a new system. With that in mind, we’ve to put together a helpful guide on moving your MIS to the cloud (scroll to the bottom of this page to read), which we’ve written based on our experience of helping over 800 schools make the switch. 

We’ve answered some of the most common questions we get asked, including how secure the cloud really is, how much it costs, and how cloud-based systems differ to SIMS. You’ll also find some first-hand switching stories from schools & MATs who use Arbor – we hope it helps make switching MIS seem a little less stressful than it might feel right now.

Moving their MIS to the cloud hasn’t just helped the 600 primary schools, 77 secondary schools and 101 special schools using Arbor save time and money – it’s also helped them transform the way they run their school. Arbor MIS acts as the central system at your school to help you get work done, replacing any clunky, third-party apps that don’t speak to each other. Teachers and SLT can now follow up with absent students, write report cards and prepare for census in just a few clicks – meaning they no longer have to switch between paper, spreadsheets and different systems to get the information they need about their students! 

If you’re planning your own move to the cloud, have a read of our guide on Moving to the Cloud by clicking on the link below: 

Why have 5,000+ schools moved to a cloud-based MIS? ~ powered by Arbor

Hope you find it helpful!

If you’d like to learn more about how Arbor could help you transform the way your school operates, get in touch at tellmemore@arbor-education, or give us a quick call on 020 8 050 1028

Chris Taylor - 17 September, 2019

Category : Blog

Education and modern technology: is a change of attitude needed?

Being born in the early 90’s and receiving my first computer as a gift in December of 1999 turned out to be not only a brilliant idea (thanks mum & dad!), but for many reasons, also quite profound in the way that this beige PC tower ended up shaping not just my life, but also

Being born in the early 90’s and receiving my first computer as a gift in December of 1999 turned out to be not only a brilliant idea (thanks mum & dad!), but for many reasons, also quite profound in the way that this beige PC tower ended up shaping not just my life, but also the lives of an entire generation. 

It’s almost impossible to imagine today’s world without the advent of the technology that has shaped our lives so dramatically. Even as a young boy, while I would spend countless hours playing around with this marvellous box of tricks (Windows 98 seems so archaic by today’s standards), I was amazed by what it could do and saw no limit to what was possible. 

Suddenly, I could (willingly) do my homework on-screen and at the press of a button it would be spat out by the enormous printer to the left of the big-back monitor. I’m sure you can imagine my utter delight when I figured out how to access the internet through dial-up (and my hopeless despair when I’d spent 10 minutes trying to download an image, only for the phone to ring half way through and kill my connection). 

Picture 1: A comparison of a computer from 1984 and a computer from 2019

Fast forward 20 years and I still find myself astounded with all the technological advancements of the modern world. My smartphone can do everything and more that my first computer could and all the time we’re finding new and clever ways to apply all of this technology to a variety of different situations, problems and sectors to make our lives easier.

However, this isn’t always the case. When I think about how we use technology to supplement educational outcomes and improve the effectiveness of our schools in general, I have mixed feelings. In some cases schools are embracing tech with great results (putting iPads in the classroom being an example) but in other areas, schools are being left behind. 

 

The (not so) looming crisis

In 2019, schools are under scrutiny and pressure like never before. The education system is ever evolving and adapting to address its own challenges whilst trying to find new ways to teach the next generation so they’re set up for life in an ever more competitive and challenging world. Despite this, it’s failing to adequately address an ever progressing crisis: teachers leaving the profession at an unprecedented rate.

Among others, one of the most commonly cited reasons for the staffing crisis in the UK is the increasing demand and workload placed upon school staff as a whole, not just teachers. When I meet with school leaders in the North of England this is a question which is raised almost every single time – ‘how can I improve the efficiency and outcomes of my school whilst also reducing my staff’s workload?’ and my answer is always the same: try to see technology as an assistant and a driver for positive change and not a means to an end. It should help, not hinder you. 

In most elements of our lives we embrace the latest and greatest in tech and no longer do we settle for the sub-standard; take mobile phones as an example. On average, most people change their smartphone every 2-3 years and sometimes even more frequently. If the device doesn’t do what we want or expect it to, or even if we just find it a bit difficult to use, what do we do? We replace it without hesitation and try another brand entirely. 

I really like this attitude to tech; it serves to ensure that vendors are always striving to find new and innovative ways to make our lives easier, always one step ahead of us and improving on things that we never even thought were a problem, until we’re handed the solution. Of course, we know what happens when they don’t move with the times. More so, it stops vendors becoming complacent. 

Having seen the internals of education and technology for myself, I firmly believe schools should think of their systems like most of us do a mobile phone; a really useful tool to help us out on a day to day basis, but something we can easily swap and move away from if it no longer serves its purpose. It’s for this reason that we encourage schools we meet with to do a systems audit, which helps determine if the technology they’re paying for has become outdated or no longer fits with the day-to-day running of the school.

Picture 2: An example of mobile phones from the 1980s and a mobile phone in 2019

In a school, the MIS is one of the key pieces of tech which has the capacity to vastly reduce staff workload, increase the efficiency of the school and improve pupil outcomes at large. Despite this, many schools across the country are still using clunky, out-of-date systems that are time consuming and difficult to use, yet some appear to accept this because they’re perhaps unaware just how much of a difference a modern MIS could make to their work, and their school as a whole.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who’s not happy with the technology that’s supposed to assist them and make their life easier, it would be to explore alternatives and try and find a system that fits the ethos of your school, and that enhances the livelihoods of its staff and the outcomes of its pupils. 

Sometimes, we’re unaware that there are better ways to do things until we’re presented with a new idea. Try to look for a solution to your problems in a proactive manner – technology is there to help you and when it no longer does, it effectively becomes surplus to requirements. 

If you’re unhappy with your MIS and school systems in general, it could be that they’re no longer fit for purpose and you should start exploring alternatives. It’s your duty to ensure your school has the best outcomes and your staff are as happy as they can be.

Remember, a change of attitude is all that’s necessary. 

 

 

 

 

Nataliia Semenenko - 21 August, 2019

Category : Blog

What are Strong Customer Authentication regulations and how will they impact school payments?

School payments happen every day: parents pay for school lunches, clubs and trips all the time. Studies have shown that the number of cashless transactions is constantly increasing, with  more and more of these parents choosing to use online payments to purchase goods and services from schools.  It’s not a secret that online payments are

School payments happen every day: parents pay for school lunches, clubs and trips all the time. Studies have shown that the number of cashless transactions is constantly increasing, with  more and more of these parents choosing to use online payments to purchase goods and services from schools. 

It’s not a secret that online payments are susceptible to fraud (we’ve all heard stories about stolen credit cards and phishing sites that steal your details), so making online payments as safe as possible is a challenge for organisations all around the globe. As they became more aware of these risks, governments and financial authorities decided to take action by making payments more secure and protecting consumers when they pay online. They introduced the Payment Services Directive (PSD) in 2007 to regulate online payments in the EU and EEA, and in 2015 the updated directive –  second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) – was released. This introduced even more regulations, including Strong Customer Authentication.

What are Strong Customer Authentication regulations?

It was initially put forward that on 14th September 2019, new requirements for authenticating online payments will be introduced in Europe as part of PSD2. When you make an online payment, SCA requires you to use at least two of the following 3 elements:

  • Something the payer knows (e.g. password or PIN)
  • Something the payer has (e.g. mobile phone or hardware token)
  • Something the payer is (e.g. fingerprint or face recognition)

Update: UK Finance are now recommending an 18-month delay to the introduction of Secure Customer Authentication rules in the UK to give companies more time to prepare. While this might mean that SCA regulations are postponed, there is no guarantee, which is why we have made sure we are compliant. Arbor is set up for all eventualities so that your school won’t face any problems now, or in the future. Our updates to your system also means that school payments will be protected from fraudulent transactions, which is an added bonus!

From when SCA comes into action, banks will decline payments that require SCA and that don’t meet this authentication criteria (if you would like to read the original SCA requirements, they’re set out in this Regulatory Technical Standards document). These regulations will apply to British banks as well, as they are not dependant on any Brexit decisions. 

Authentication is typically added in as an extra step after checkout, where the cardholder is prompted by their bank to provide additional information to complete a payment (this could be a code sent to their phone or fingerprint authentication through their mobile banking app).

Under this new regulation, specific types of low-risk payments may be exempt from Strong Customer Authentication. Payment providers will be able to request these exemptions when processing a payment. The cardholder’s bank will then receive the request, assess the risk level of the transaction, and ultimately decide whether to approve the exemption or whether authentication is still necessary. Usually, transactions lower that £30 will be considered as low-risk and, in most cases, will not require any authentication.

How will this impact school payments?

SCA regulations will introduce small changes to the way people make card payments to school:

  • Initiating the payment: when the payer decides what they want to pay for (e.g. a school trip) and starts making the payment, they will be prompted to fill in their card details and to then initiate the payment.

Image 1: A screenshot showing you how to enter your card details into Arbor

  • Triggering dynamic authentication: it will be automatically detected whether authentication is needed for the payment to take place. If required, the payer will be prompted to authenticate the payment using an SMS code, bank mobile app or other element, depending on what their bank supports.

 

  • Completing the payment: Once the payer’s identity is successfully confirmed, the payment will be completed and their card will be charged. 

Image e: A screenshot showing a successful payment in Arbor

At Arbor, we’ve introduced changes to the way we process card payments to become 100% compliant with the new regulations, which means your school won’t face any problems when Strong Customer Authentication comes into practice. You also won’t need to make any changes if you use the card payment functionality in Arbor – we’ve taken care of all that for you already! 

 

If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your school handles payments, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

 

Stephen Higgins - 13 July, 2019

Category : Blog

Preparing for Exams Results Day

A-Level and GCSE results days are amongst the busiest days in any school’s calendar. We’ve compiled this guide and checklist to help the day go as smoothly as possible.  1. Import results files Results files can either be downloaded from the awarding organisation’s online portal or automatically received using the A2C transport application. Once you

A-Level and GCSE results days are amongst the busiest days in any school’s calendar. We’ve compiled this guide and checklist to help the day go as smoothly as possible. 

1. Import results files

Results files can either be downloaded from the awarding organisation’s online portal or automatically received using the A2C transport application. Once you have received your results files, it’s then a case of importing them into your MIS. 

Arbor’s MIS makes this process very easy by automatically identifying any problems when you upload your results files. Don’t worry about importing QN (Qualification Number) files, creating grade sets, or entering discount codes; because Arbor MIS is in the cloud, this is all done for you. 

Image 1: A screenshot showing how results files are imported onto Arbor MIS

2. Set embargo date/times

The JCQ stipulates that only the school’s Exams Officer, Senior Leadership and other selected members of staff can have access to results before the official publication date. To ensure that this happens, it is essential that an “embargo date” is set in your MIS. The embargo date ensures that results can only be viewed by other members of staff, students and parents the day after results are published. 

Setting an embargo is straightforward in Arbor. When you upload results files, you’ll be asked to enter an embargo date. Arbor automatically assumes that the Examinations Officer and Head Teacher will have access to results files before the embargo date, but it’s really simple to add more staff members as “pre-embargo” viewers if you’d like. 

Image 2: A screenshot showing how to set an embargo date in Arbor MIS

3. Manually enter the results for any non-EDI qualifications

In the case of qualifications that don’t support EDI results files, results need to be manually added into your MIS. Non-EDI results can be viewed and downloaded from the awarding organisation’s secure portal. 

Arbor’s Exams module supports all Ofqual recognised qualifications. Non-EDI qualifications can be easily added to your centre’s qualification offering. Arbor manges all the information for non-EDI qualifications centrally, so there’s no need to manually add information such as award and/or learning unit names and combinations.

Image 3: A screenshot showing where to enter non-EDI qualifications in Arbor MIS

4. Export results to a data analysis application

There are a number of excellent and intuitive third party data analysis tools available to schools (some schools have their own Excel templates, or prefer to use an analysis tool such as SISRA, 4Matrix or ALPS Connect for this purpose). After all the candidates’ results have been loaded into your MIS, the next step is to export them for analysis. To get the most out of your exams day data analysis, you should have exported assessment data at selected periods (“data drops”) throughout the year; this will allow your school’s Data Manager and Heads of Department to analyse student’s progress throughout the year.

Importing data into a third party data analysis tool can either be done from within the application itself, or by creating a marksheet with the relevant student and exam result that can be re-imported into the application. 

We know that creating marksheets to export exam data is incredibly time-consuming – that’s why Arbor’s Exams module has multiple, powerful out-of-the-box reporting tools that allow you to export candidates’ results in a few clicks. If you want more flexibility to create your own reports, you can also use Arbor’s Custom Report Writer which lets you quickly and easily compile custom marksheets that contain any data point from your MIS.   

Image 4: A screenshot showing how export candidate results from Arbor MIS

5. Print candidate’s Statement of Results

After you have completed your results analysis, it’s advisable to print out paper copies of candidates’ Statement of Results. Remember, only the relevant members of staff should be able to see these results before the release date. This means that all printed content should only be handled by theses members of staff. When the Statement of Results have been printed, they must be stored in a safe and secure place until the following day. 

Image 5: A screenshot of how candidates’ Statement of Results appear in Arbor

6. Electronically share results with parents and guardians

The nervous thrill of opening your exam result is something that none of us ever forget. Opening the envelope is usually followed by a phone call home to tell loved ones. Students will be making plans for college, university and the rest of their lives; teachers will be on hand to offer congratulations, advice and support. 

It’s not always possible for parents, guardians and students to be in school on results day, and amidst all the excitement, it’s not uncommon for Statements of Results to get spoilt or lost! With this in mind, it’s wise to share students’ exam results with their parents and guardians electronically too. Your MIS provider should give you the option to do this.

If your school is using the Arbor App, parents will be able to see their child’s exam results by selecting ‘Examinations’ in the menu. Parents can view a list of their child’s exam results or download a printable PDF. If you don’t want to share students’ exam results with parents via the Arbor App, or you would like to wait until after results day, all of this can be managed in Arbor MIS.

Image 6: A screenshot of how examination results appear in the Arbor App

Using Arbor MIS? Need help on Results Day? 

We have a comprehensive online help guide that addresses all the questions that you may have. Still stuck? Our customer team will be on hand to help you! 

If you’d like to find out more about how our simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you transform the way your secondary school works, contact us. You can also book a demo by calling 0207 043 0470 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Beth Mokrini - 12 July, 2019

Category : Blog

Top 10 must-have cloud systems for your school

Thousands of schools have now joined the cashless and paperless revolution, from the cosiest rural primary to the biggest inner-city sixth form college. This has led to an explosion in the Edtech sector, with hundreds of useful apps and dashboards now available to manage your school or MAT more efficiently. This is great news for

Thousands of schools have now joined the cashless and paperless revolution, from the cosiest rural primary to the biggest inner-city sixth form college. This has led to an explosion in the Edtech sector, with hundreds of useful apps and dashboards now available to manage your school or MAT more efficiently. This is great news for schools, but the choice can be bewildering. 

 

To combat the flow of paper slips, cash and cheques that once flooded the office, many schools have now armed themselves with an array of new technologies. This can lead to soaring IT budgets and “login fatigue” (a feeling of exhaustion caused by typing in multiple usernames and passwords to complete one simple task!).  

 

That’s why we thought we’d help you narrow down the field, by compiling our top 10 cloud systems to help schools work more efficiently. These systems are all best-of-breed in their own right, and what’s more, they integrate smoothly with Arbor’s smart, simple, cloud based MIS! 

cpoms | CPOMS

 

Banishing paper logbooks and filing cabinets from schools all over the country, CPOMS is an intuitive app for monitoring child protection, safeguarding and pastoral issues. It cuts down paperwork for staff, while ensuring incidents are properly reported, details are shared securely and students are kept safe. 

Basic student and staff data already syncs from Arbor to CPOMS, allowing our customers to operate seamlessly between the two systems. We’re now working together on a deeper integration, which we hope will allow teachers to get a single clear picture of their student’s pastoral and education data. 

Related image | G Suite for Education 

 

Google offers its much-loved set of apps (including Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Hangouts) to schools for free, including extra features to make for smooth collaboration between students and staff. You can link Arbor MIS to Google so that you only have to set up accounts for your staff and students once, and your timetables in Arbor will automatically show in your Google Calendar, keeping your MIS as the single source of truth. 

| InVentry

 

InVentry’s popular Sign In tools help schools securely monitor staff, students and visitors, while speeding up the sign in process. They also provide a user-friendly Audit & Compliance app, to simplify the management of assets. InVentry has set up read/write integrations with Arbor and other leading MIS providers, so you can relax knowing your crucial attendance and security data is accurate to the minute.

 

Image result for sisra | SISRA and 4Matrix  |

Although SISRA have recently branched out into lesson observations and CPD with their new product, SISRA Observe, they’re probably best known for their outstanding secondary data analysis tool, SISRA Analytics. Highlights include bespoke grading so you can use your own scales and language, and out-of-the-box performance reports to save you time on exam results day. 

Similarly, 4Matrix is well loved by secondary schools for its management of school performance data. The app produces quick, in-depth reports on exam results day, meaning you won’t need to sift through spreadsheets to show progress for different student groups. 4Matrix also supports the design and assessment of a curriculum “without levels” for KS3. 

Both systems help you create neat, visual representations of your key performance data. You can easily sync achievement and contextual data from Arbor marksheets to either 4Matrix or SISRA, meaning there’s no need for dual entry, and your MIS remains the single source of truth.

RS Assessment | RS Assessments

 

RS Assessment’s standardised tests PIRA and PUMA are a key component of many primary school improvement strategies, helping Senior Leaders track in-year pupil progress and benchmark against age-related expectations. What’s more, you can use the tests in conjunction with MARK (My Assessment and Reporting Kit) online, to get time-saving analysis of test results. 

Arbor has partnered with RS Assessments to feed test results from PIRA and PUMA into our smart, simple MIS, so there’s no need for dual data entry. For MAT Leaders, the same data will aggregate up to your MAT MIS to give you a single overview of your schools. Read more about this integration here! 

Image result for parentpay logo | ParentPay

 

ParentPay is an easy-to-use online payments service used by over 9,000 schools in the UK. It allows cashless income collection and financial reporting for everything from clubs and trips, to dinners and uniforms. ParentPay comes with in-built email and SMS functionality too, so you can manage payments and communicate with parents in the same place. Arbor MIS includes a built-in payment and communications service, but we also integrate directly with ParentPay, giving schools the flexibility to choose the best solution for them. 

 

Assembly logo | Assembly

 

Assembly offers school data integration and Multi Academy Trust analytics. You can use their innovative dashboards to connect your MIS to a wide range of third-party applications, and also to populate Assembly Analytics (Assembly’s MAT Analytics tool) with a live feed of you school’s data. Arbor is one of six leading MIS providers to integrate with Assembly, so it’s a great option for MATs who aren’t ready to move all their schools onto the same MIS. 

For MATs looking to find economies of scale by centralising MIS across their schools, Arbor’s MIS for Groups and MATs allows you to transform the way you work, by reporting and taking action centrally.

 

Image result for wonde | Wonde and Groupcall  | groupcall

 

Wonde and Groupcall are two of the UK’s most popular “data providers” for Education, which means they can connect your MIS with hundreds more apps and make it easy to control data sharing. You can share data from your MIS with 3rd party apps through their platform, with user friendly dashboards to help you see what data is shared with whom. Arbor MIS (along with many other cloud based providers) integrates with both Wonde and Groupcall, meaning any of the apps on their platforms are open to Arbor schools. 

So there you have it: our pick of the top 10 apps for schools and MATs looking to go cashless and paperless. Powerful on their own, they all integrate with Arbor’s cloud-based MIS to help you save even more time and get deeper insight into your data. We’re not stopping there though – our API team is constantly expanding the range of integrations available to our customers. We’re currently working on a deeper sync with the market-leading Cunninghams Catering app, so watch this space! 

 

Andrew Mackereth - 10 July, 2019

Category : Blog

Is your curriculum planning improving outcomes for your students?

I used to marvel at the mystery and complexity that always seemed to surround the world of the Curriculum Deputy. When I eventually became one, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormous privilege but enormous responsibility I had to create the perfect curriculum model – taking into account the latest thinking on curriculum design and

I used to marvel at the mystery and complexity that always seemed to surround the world of the Curriculum Deputy. When I eventually became one, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormous privilege but enormous responsibility I had to create the perfect curriculum model – taking into account the latest thinking on curriculum design and implementation. As I became more experienced, I began to make increasingly bold moves to build the curriculum around the needs of learners and not just the constraints of the budget.

My first mentor was a retired (and fabulously wise) Curriculum Deputy who stressed that planning the curriculum was a whole-year job. When I became a Headteacher, I continued working and planning in this way and valued the support of some really creative thinkers on my leadership teams. It was a special day indeed when Ofsted visited one such school and judged leadership, management and the curriculum as outstanding.Sadly, that framework and financial climate are a thing of the past now!

In more recent times, the Leadership Team started to consider in depth the outcomes for pupils after each set of summer results and would use this to interrogate the merits of our curriculum plan. Once or twice we did withdraw a course in September if student numbers didn’t justify it, or a staffing crisis necessitated it, but generally,  once a commitment had been made to students that a course would run, we honoured it for the full two years.

Whatever our staff/student profile looked like, our first priority  was to ensure that students had access to a broad, balanced, relevant curriculum. Our most recent challenges included:

  • Pressure to increase curriculum time for maths and English
  • Pressure to create additional time for science in KS4 to cope with the demands of the new syllabus
  • Our wish to make explicit provision for wellness and mental health first aid within the curriculum

Working to a timetable of 30 periods a week meant an inevitable squeeze on option choices, reducing the number of subjects students could choose from four to three in one case, and removing PSHCE/RE as subjects and mapping the provision across the curriculum. None of these decisions were easy to make or sat particularly well with me, but as the saying goes; something’s got to give.

My mentor, Bob, helped me plan my staffing requirements and showed me how many staff periods I needed to cover my commitments. Not only did this give me the opportunity to examine my current staffing needs, I could also begin to plan ahead – particularly if it meant recruiting a double specialist like a French/Spanish teacher or an RM/Textiles teacher. This was hugely helpful in feeding into the budget planning cycle and supporting my requests for additional funding for staffing.

We rarely carried any slack in our curriculum model. This inevitably meant that SLT members would also have to pick up subjects outside of their discipline and teachers that didn’t have a full timetable of classes were used as additional support with key groups and interventions. In reality, our staffing model would have to change incrementally throughout the year if the staffing profile suddenly changed, or if it was clear from our in-year tracking that students were not making sufficient progress. 

One strength of our curriculum was that we could plan our interventions so well that we could provide extra lessons and tailor the curriculum for individuals and groups. We would do this by taking them out of some lessons where they were performing well to give them additional support in subjects where they were performing less well. We were blessed with a dedicated team of teachers and TA’s, some of whom would run sessions before and after school, others during registration and others during gained time or non-contact time.

If, like we did, you believe the curriculum is the dominant driver for boosting student outcomes and life chances, you will face constant budgetary pressures with very few variables to play with. We explored:

  •   Increasing teacher contact ratios
  •   Increasing class sizes
  •   Imposing strict enrolment quotas (that placed Arts subjects and languages in particular jeopardy)
  •   Increasing the classroom contact time of SLT
  •   Doubling-up or co-teaching Y12/13 classes in minority subjects
  •   Considering some subjects as extra-curricular offerings only

As a direct consequence, we found ourselves increasingly offering shorter contracts, reducing the size of the SLT and going without certain associate staff roles like a PA – just to balance the books. After all, it’s about delivering the most effective curriculum possible with your current staff and budget!

We used an approach we called “active vacancy management” that ensured that each time a post became vacant we didn’t simply fill it. First of all, we decided if we needed to replace the post, assessed whether it would be a like-for-like replacement or in some reduced capacity and analysed current staff deployments in detail, before considering placing an advert.

Increasingly, we looked beyond our own staff and worked closely with neighbouring schools to share teachers and other support roles. This is not without its complications, but it makes the process of appointing one full-time English teacher that works on two sites marginally easier than appointing two.

I am heartened by news of courageous schools and Trusts that break the mould and shape their curricula around the needs of their students by considering the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to be happy, resilient and independent learners.

Maintaining the intent and moral purpose of the curriculum is challenging, but the rewards for young people make it worth every minute.

“When we’re talking about intent, we’re talking about how ambitious, coherently planned and sequenced, how broad and balanced and inclusive the curriculum is.”

Heather Fearn – Ofsted

Hannah McGreevy - 5 July, 2019

Category : Blog

How to reduce data entry at your school

Data entry is a daunting prospect for most teachers. With the amount of data they are expected to record, it can often take up a large portion of their daily workload, and workload is listed as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. The good news is it doesn’t have to be

Data entry is a daunting prospect for most teachers. With the amount of data they are expected to record, it can often take up a large portion of their daily workload, and workload is listed as one of the most common reasons for leaving the profession. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way – keep reading to see how you can transform the way your school deals with data entry. 

Making data work

In November 2018, the Teacher Workload Advisory Group released a report called “Making Data Work”. The report reveals that teachers consider unnecessary tasks around recording, monitoring and analysing data to be notably time-consuming, with data entry highlighted as the biggest problem. The Teacher Workload Advisory Group set out a number of suggestions for the DfE to consider. These included:

  • Making sure schools are using cloud-based products which help to minimise workload by allowing teachers to access the MIS from anywhere at any time – the same isn’t possible from a desktop computer 
  • Promoting the use of education technology to “improve the collection, monitoring and analysis of attainment data” 
  • Encouraging parental engagement through the use of technology – for example, the Arbor App keeps parents up to date with school trips and parents evenings, meaning teachers spend less time chasing up on emails 

So what’s the best way to reduce data entry at your school? Try following these simple steps:

Part 1: Streamline your systems

Before you do anything else, you need to ask yourself if all the third-party systems you’re currently using still work for your school. Are they up to date? Do you need all of them? Do staff engage with them regularly? 

Find out by running a systems audit. It’s easy to do – just follow the instructions in our blog on how to audit your school or MAT’s IT systems. By running a systems audit, you can reduce the number of places you have to enter data. Goodbye, multiple logins! Your staff will have fewer systems and apps to keep track of, which will considerably reduce their administrative workload. 

An IT systems audit

Image 1: How we encourage schools to approach an IT systems audit

Part 2: Make sure any extra systems you’re using are integrated with your MIS

Over the years, your school has probably invested in lots of different systems that were useful at the time, but which don’t integrate with your current MIS. This can make everyday tasks like following up with detentions and creating meal plans much more complicated and time-consuming than they need to be, as you have to visit external apps in order to properly record all of the data. Using systems that integrate with your MIS can make admin a lot simpler. For example, Arbor’s integrations with apps like CPOMS and Inventry means that you only have to enter student data once and it will update automatically in these apps. 

The “Making Data Work” report also advises that schools should “minimise or eliminate the number of pieces of information teachers are expected to compile.” Ensuring your systems integrate with your MIS will mean that you can access all your data in one place, which means you won’t have to spend time transferring it from one system to another. 

Image 2: How parents can view all payments and invoices from Arbor’s Parent Portal 

Part 3: Set up a system to suit your school

It’s important to think about how your MIS can best serve your school. For example, the report advises that schools should have simple systems that allow behaviour incidents to be logged during lesson time, rather than at break or lunch. In Arbor, you can set up incident workflows that track negative and positive behaviour (e.g. a Level 2 incident could automatically create a lunchtime detention). Automating workflows in this way means that teachers don’t have to add this information manually, which will save them a significant amount of time. 

Your MIS can also help to reduce data with quick group selection. For example, in Arbor you can select absentees from your register and instantly send emails to their primary guardians with the help of our mail merge tool. You can even use a pre-made message template so you won’t have to type a single word! 

Image 3: How you can follow up on students registered absent in Arbor

Not only will reducing data entry help to improve workloads, it will make your staff happier too. So – streamline your systems, make sure they integrate with your MIS, and set it all up to suit your school. If you’d like to hear more about how Arbor could help you reduce data entry at your school, why not drop us a message here?

Gwyn Mabo - 17 June, 2019

Category : Blog

5 ways to boost parental engagement at your school

As a former Maths teacher at an Alternative Provision in Leeds, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of students and parents reluctant to get involved in school life. Here are the top five methods I found worked to encourage active engagement between your school and parents. Focus on the Positives At a school where

As a former Maths teacher at an Alternative Provision in Leeds, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of students and parents reluctant to get involved in school life. Here are the top five methods I found worked to encourage active engagement between your school and parents.

Focus on the Positives

At a school where most students had already been excluded, parents were used to receiving nothing but negative news. But effective parental engagement doesn’t mean only speaking when things go wrong. Tell parents about positive events too, with greater frequency. At the Alternative Provision, we’d send a quick text for positive events. If a student had a really good day, we’d use a phone call. Track what’s been said by keeping a communications log.

Set Regular Reviews

Parents Evenings aren’t just for telling parents about their child’s grades. They can also be an opportunity to talk about their social development, friendships, career goals, attitude and behaviour, and agree an action plan of how to support the child at home and at school. To increase the number of parents who attend, stop relying on sending kids home with sign-up sheets and use an online booking system, letting parents book slots whenever they want. 

Image 1: A screenshot of the Arbor MIS Guardian Consultations feature 

Get parents and students to work together

Education has changed so much since parents were in school, they may have no idea what their children are studying. Keep parents engaged by assigning homework that they can help their children complete. For primary school students, try giving tasks to read aloud. For secondary schools, let parents know what assignments their child has to complete and if it’s been submitted on time using a student or guardian portal.

Be open to feedback

Parents are most likely to get involved if they feel like they can make a real difference. Whenever parents visit or contact you, be willing to listen to their responses, answer their questions, and make them feel their contribution is welcomed. Make sure parents feel they can come to you if they have questions about how your school works, and let them know which person they should contact about certain issues.

Give them what they want

Despite your best efforts, there will always be some parents who won’t respond to a text, email or letter. You also can’t rely on students to pass on information. Maybe they’ll forget to mention something, or they simply don’t have a good relationship. To overcome this, give parents all the information they need in the palm of their hand by using an App. Not only does this notify parents instantly, but they can also refer back to it later if they forget.

      

Image 2: A screenshot of Arbor’s new in-app messaging feature 

At Arbor, we’re always trying to improve how we can support schools to take parental engagement to the next level. We’ve recently introduced an in-app messaging feature that allows fast, free communication between schools and parents – take a look at this article to see how else you can use our new Arbor App!

Nataliia Semenenko - 11 April, 2019

Category : Blog

Are you using the best payment method for your school?

People buy and sell every day, and schools are no exception. As a product manager developing payment systems, the main ‘use cases’ I consider when thinking about school payments include school meals, paid clubs, and field trips. There are a lot of other use cases depending on what kind of additional services the school provides,

People buy and sell every day, and schools are no exception. As a product manager developing payment systems, the main ‘use cases’ I consider when thinking about school payments include school meals, paid clubs, and field trips. There are a lot of other use cases depending on what kind of additional services the school provides, such as selling snacks, school uniform, items in the school shop, books, tickets for school events, and more.

The most popular ways to process payments from parents and guardians are:

  • Cash
  • Cheque
  • Bank transfer
  • Credit or debit card

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each of these methods!

Cash payments

On the school’s side, cash has the major benefit of no processing or transaction fees. Parents at many schools may also prefer to use cash to pay for activities and meals – this is generally a question of demographics, as lower income families are less likely to use cheques or have credit/debit cards as their main form of payment. 

Cash does have it’s downsides though, from the stress of counting bags of coins and banknotes, to the security required to safely store them in school and take them to a bank at least several times per week (hello, staff time and safety).

Cheque payments

Cheques are another way of accepting payments that mostly have similar pros and cons to cash. The specific downsides of cheques, however, are that there is a longer lag time between the parent making the payment and the school being able to cash it. This can cause problems with, for instance, having the money you need for a trip in time for every child to go, or even with cheques bouncing altogether.

It’s probably fair to say that in a lot of places this way of accepting payments is slowly dying out because of its inefficiency, and the long time needed to process money. A lot of people these days simply don’t use cheques, or even own a chequebook.

Bank transfers

This payment method doesn’t involve dealing with banknotes and papers, everything is in one place on the screen, and the accounting is so much easier. However, this payment method is not as popular at schools because it tends to be very time-inefficient when it comes to making frequent, smaller payments of different sizes – like you do with school meals. The time that it costs to make a bank transfer is worth more than the £2.40 you’re actually sending.

Card payments

Research shows that most people prefer using card payments when they can. From the parents’ point of view, card payments provide several incentives to pay reliably and on time: its fast and easy, refunds are simple, and they can track their payments in their account or on their phone.

Schools must always consider the fee that comes with each payment and understand whether this is feasible for them to use (remember, that lots of providers don’t use a flat fee and usually charge some percentage plus a couple of pence, which become super expensive for micro-payments that are most common in schools). However, sometimes it’s better to lose a small percentage on a transaction fee, rather than losing 100% of a payment when a parent says that they don’t have enough cash with them!

All these considerations are why we take a holistic approach to school payments, and have given our MIS the ability to log cash, cheque, bank transfer, and online card payments. Arbor provides a sophisticated solution for managing school payments via the MIS and our Parent Portal. Together with taking payments for school meals, trips and clubs, it gives flexible possibilities for setting up and accepting payments for bespoke accounts, such as for books or uniforms. You can also use Arbor to audit and report on all these transactions and accounts.

So, what’s the best method for your school?

This is up to you, but on balance out of all four options, it’s no secret that going cashless is the current trend in today’s world. The United Kingdom had the highest revenue rate in cashless payments among all EU countries in 2017 – more than 100 trillion pounds. More and more schools are joining this trend and deciding to go cashless (or mostly cashless), for simple reasons:

  • It is not particularly safe for kids to bring money to school
  • It is also not very safe to keep money in school
  • It involves either school staff time spent to take money to the bank, or spending money on services that would bank money for you
  • Going cashless eases accounting workloads

A card payments system like Arbor will help you go cashless in a format designed for schools and integrated with all your other MIS modules.

Image 1: A screenshot of the Arbor App 

The benefits of card payments in Arbor:

  • A flat transaction fee of 1.275% (cheaper than most providers). Schools that often process micropayments (for instance for school meals) don’t have to worry about a high add-on price, since Arbor takes only a flat fee with no hidden costs or additional service charges per payment.
  • Everything is in one place – in Arbor – so there is no need for schools to maintain different systems to run the MIS and accept card payments. It’s easier and time efficient for school staff. And it’s great and easy for parents as well – they log in once to their Parent Portal in which they can not only see their kids results and information, but pay for their meals, clubs, trips etc.
  • Arbor supports paying out money to different bank accounts (for instance, when there is a need to pay out collected money to a caterer to a different bank account). You can also find the detailed breakdown of each payout per transaction basis.
  • All reports, VAT invoices etc. are accessible in Arbor MIS, saving time otherwise used on maintaining and using more than one system.

We are at the beginning of a fascinating journey for different ways of accepting payments, and the future may bring even more developments, from mobile and biometric payments, to things like cryptocurrencies. If your school trip funds are still tied up in a lockbox in reception though, a decent card payments system may just be the best place to start.

If you’re an Arbor customer, you can talk to your Account Manager about getting started on Arbor Payments and Parent Portal in your MIS. If you’re not yet an Arbor school, and would like to find out more, get in touch via our contact form or on 0207 043 0470.

Carly McCulloch - 25 March, 2019

Category : Blog

How to use Arbor to track homework in your school

Over the past few months we’ve been giving our Assignments a fresh lick of paint, so that what used to be a minor feature on the lesson dashboard is now a full blown module schools can use as an electronic homework solution. Teachers have always been able to set students work directly from the lesson

Over the past few months we’ve been giving our Assignments a fresh lick of paint, so that what used to be a minor feature on the lesson dashboard is now a full blown module schools can use as an electronic homework solution. Teachers have always been able to set students work directly from the lesson dashboard, which will appear in their Student Portal so they can submit their work online, but we’ve made some big improvements to what you can then do with the data this generates. School leaders can now analyse how much work is being set in each subject, which teachers are setting the most work, and more!

We asked Carly McCulloch, Arbor Product Manager, to go over some of these features for you in a bit more detail:

We’ve made some improvements to the workflows for creating assignments, and tracking the submissions of assignments within Arbor for you and your teaching staff. These new additions to the assignment module have been developed based on feedback from school senior leadership, who wanted a way to see the submission statistics for assignments in their school, and check the quantity and quality of homework set by teaching staff. We take suggestions from schools very seriously, so please keep them coming!

Improvements to homework tracking include:

  • In the “Overview by Courses” section, you can see the number of assignments created and the submission statistics for each course in your school by month, term or academic year. Based on what you want to look at in more detail, or if there are any areas you want to follow up on, you can drill down to see the number of assignments created and the submissions statistics for each year group and each class within that year group. You can also see the assignment submissions for specific students in a class and across all their classes with the grades and/or comments for each assignment they submitted.

Fig. 1 – The Overview by Courses page showing automatically calculated stats for the number of assignments set and their submission rates

  • In the “Overview by Staff” section, you can see the number of assignments created by each member of staff per month, term and academic year. You can easily drill down from this view to see the assignment details as well as the submission rates in the markbook. This gives you a clear view of the amount of homework being set according to your schools’ homework policy, and gives you a deeper insight into the quality of assignments your teaching staff are creating for students.

We’ve also not forgotten about our company mission to save teachers time. A lot of the new features should help teachers set and mark Assignments more easily, incentivising use of the system and streamlining workflows in your school:

  • You now have the ability to create an assignment for multiple classes, saving you the hassle of re-creating the assignment for each class you need to assign it to. This is particularly helpful for members of your team who may need to create an assignment like a coursework deadline for all classes across a department or faculty.
  • You can create an assignment that doesn’t need to be marked by selecting ‘No mark’, giving you and your teaching staff more flexibility to track the submission of every kind of work. You can track submissions for assignments that do require marking by selecting ‘Grade’, ‘Number’, ‘Percentage’, or ‘Comment only’. Alternatively, you can simply input a grade and/or a comment into the markbook, which will automatically update the submission status.

Fig. 2 – A Student Marks Chart automatically generated for a marked assignment in Arbor MIS – the colour splits the marks down the median, the blue line shows the mean, and hovering over each bar shows further student level information

  • You can track the submission of all assignments, whether they are submitted via Arbor through the Student Portal or physically in school. Teachers can update the status to ‘Submitted’, ‘Not submitted’, ‘Submitted late’, and ‘Waiting for a student to submit’. If students submit work via their Student Portal, it will automatically show as ‘Submitted’ and will be ready to mark.

Fig. 3 – A teacher marking a grade-based English assignment, submitted by students online

We hope this module can help you to track assignment submissions, make them easier for students and teachers to manage, and ultimately improve the effectiveness of assignments in your school.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS system could transform the way your school or MAT works, save your staff time and improve student outcomes, get in touch via the contact form on our website

Jem Jones - 7 March, 2019

Category : Blog

The pros and cons of automating school communication

More and more software on the market offers ways of moving beyond the classic time saving tools of mail merges and reporting templates, into the realm of fully automated workflows. As with all new technologies, this offers opportunities to improve the way we work, as well as potential pitfalls, depending on how you use them.

More and more software on the market offers ways of moving beyond the classic time saving tools of mail merges and reporting templates, into the realm of fully automated workflows. As with all new technologies, this offers opportunities to improve the way we work, as well as potential pitfalls, depending on how you use them.

What do we mean by ‘automated workflows’?

An automated workflow is essentially one in which a single input from a user can trigger several resulting actions. This reduces the amount of data that needs to be entered and screens that need to be clicked through to achieve a desired result.

 

Diagram: an example of an automated behaviour workflow

Every step in the process achieving the outputs above is one that would have to be performed manually by a staff member if they did not have automated workflows, and which can be performed in moments by automated computer software with access to accurate school records.

Some common examples of automated workflows in school software include:

  • Parent Portals which automatically show a level of live processed data about a student to their guardian, for instance to indicate what homework they have been assigned and which assignments are now overdue
  • Reports which automatically generate according to templates written by the school, and send at scheduled times for specified staff members to view
  • Behaviour workflows that can automatically email/text individuals, schedule disciplinary actions, or assign behaviour points, according to a negative or positive incident that has been recorded

The argument against

The most obvious concern when setting up these workflows is human error. If a serious behaviour incident were to be incorrectly logged against the wrong student, that could result in a confused or upset parent on the phone to the school office that afternoon (not to mention the unearned earful the unsuspecting student could be in for when they got home). If you’re interested in automated workflows but your staff are not yet very technologically literate, it might be better to set up semi-automated systems with stopgaps for admins to approve comms before they’re sent out, before trialling full automation.

The root of this concern is the level of training required for all the individuals using the system. If inappropriately knowledgeable about the level of information that a parent portal shares, for example, a staff member may end up disseminating more of their personal opinions to parents than they would like. Similarly, if a workflow is inexpertly set up, the administrator may cause far too much or too little information to be transferred, to the extent that notifications become either irritating or simply not useful. This is why it’s absolutely vital to have excellent support and training resources from your software provider when setting up automated workflows, and why you should choose software which clearly outlines to administrators which workflows they have set up and how they can be edited. If there’s no way to work out what your outputs will be, don’t use that automated process – regroup, reconfigure, and retrain.

The argument in favour

Even if you only implement semi-automation, and only for your most repetitive admin tasks, this can pay big dividends for staff time. This should give them more time to spend working with students. The best version of an automated workflow is one which removes the burden of data collection and processing from your staff, and lets you prioritise actually dealing with what the data tells you.

Automation also lends a degree of consistency to your policies, as the same results will always be generated from the same input, and staff don’t have to remember exact data processes perfectly every time themselves. While human error can lead to incorrect outputs, there’s far more chance for human error to creep in throughout systems which are entirely manual and paper based. We’ve seen firsthand how setting up consistent and reliable automated communications can have a big impact on parental engagement and school processes, particularly within behaviour workflows where consistency of both rules and rewards is really vital.

Case Study

Castle Hill had a couple of issues with parent comms before they moved to Arbor MIS, because almost everything was based on paper. When children showed good or bad behaviour, teachers would write a note in the student’s planner, which the child would then take home for parents to check. However, children couldn’t always be relied upon to take their planners home with them – especially if they’d been given a negative behaviour note from their teacher! Now they’ve switched to Arbor, the staff at Castle Hill log behaviour points in the system, which automatically sends an email to the relevant guardians. Parents can also log into their Parent Portal for a live update on how their children are doing. Children are now better behaved because they know that their parents know what they’ve been up to, and the school has less paperwork to get through.

Overall, like any tool in education, the effectiveness of automation depends entirely on how you can use it. If you are going to set up automation, it needs to be in such a way that it demonstrably responds to your specific challenges, and can provide the maximum possible impact to the time constraints currently affecting your staff and the outcomes of your students.

If you’re a current Arbor MIS or Group MIS customer interested in setting up more of your automated features, get in touch with your Account Manager or email myteam@arbor-education.com. If you don’t use Arbor yet and would like to find out more about how we can automate repetitive tasks to save teacher time, get in touch on 0207 043 0470, hello@arbor-education.com, or via our contact form.

 

Maggie Fidler - 27 February, 2019

Category : Blog

How to take the stress out of organising cover

During the winter, we had some lovely crisp mornings and could enjoy the heating coming on in the classrooms. We’re also inevitably faced with colds, flu, sickness bugs and travel delays! For the person responsible for arranging cover, this can be an incredibly stressful time of year (trust me, as cover co-ordinator and examinations manager

During the winter, we had some lovely crisp mornings and could enjoy the heating coming on in the classrooms. We’re also inevitably faced with colds, flu, sickness bugs and travel delays!

For the person responsible for arranging cover, this can be an incredibly stressful time of year (trust me, as cover co-ordinator and examinations manager for 18 months in a 15 year teaching career, I’ve been there!). For me, arranging cover was never just about getting a body into the room for supervision – I always wanted to allocate the most appropriate person for that particular lesson. In a secondary school, I needed to know the teachers that normally taught each subject, in order to avoid things like a French teacher covering a Maths lesson whilst a Maths teacher covered a Language lesson. I wanted the best people in front of the kids to reduce the impact on learning and minimise the workload stress on the staff. As the timetabler, this knowledge was ingrained in my mind, but for anyone stepping in to make cover arrangements in my absence, the task became almost impossible.

To mitigate against situations like this, in Arbor, we show not just available staff, but who is also a teacher of the same subject to actively support you in minimising the impact staff absence has on learning.

Image 1: Arranging cover in Arbor

Not only can you see which teacher is available that teaches the same subject, you can also request their agreement if you want to (this is always a useful feature when senior staff may have meetings booked!). You can, of course, still bulk select all of the lessons from a staff member to allocate as in house cover supervisor or supply in one go – meaning no more clicking into each lesson instance to add the same arrangements.

The first task of the day for any timetabler is to take a deep breath and open the schools’ emails whilst listening to the answer machine messages for staff absence. Within Arbor, you can mark multiple staff as absent either one at a time or all in one go, and you can also differentiate between a full day of sickness absence, or a 1 hour off-site meeting.

Image 2: Entering the details of a staff absence

Arbor’s ability to add attachments to staff absences (e.g. medical documents or a screenshot of a sick note) without separately logging into the HR module would have saved some of my finance colleagues from premature greyness!

Whilst teachers love the sight of a supply teacher (as they are then less likely to be needed for cover), this was one of my biggest nightmares. I could happily allocate them to the classes and print off cover slips, but then came the dreaded registers (I’ve sat at my desk for hours clicking into each individual class in order to print a register!). There was also the issue of wanting two copies: one to return to the office and one for the supply teacher to keep in class for reference. This either required a trip to the photocopier, or the time-consuming task of having to press print twice because no matter what settings I’d select, the MIS just would not let me have two copies.

In between this joyous process of printing and copying, another person would inevitably call in sick or have an emergency to tend to. I would then have to go back to my computer and close the screen I was using in order to start the process again for the newly absent person. Because Arbor is a cloud-based system, it can be open in more than one window (just like when you’re browsing the internet looking for information and open another ‘tab’ to look for something else), which saves you from repeating the same process time and time again.

In Arbor, it takes just a few seconds to download all of the registers you’ve selected, and then all you need to do is to hit the print button, choosing as many copies as you require. For a wet Wednesday during flu season and a full moon (we’ve all had those days!), I’d have saved hours if I’d been using Arbor instead of the other MIS I was using.

Image 3: An overview of staff absence, which lessons are being covered that day and by which teacher

With all the information you need in one place, Arbor gives you an overview of what’s going on in school that day, helping you to stay on top of what who’s covering what lesson and when. The green ‘cover slips’ button in the screenshot above allows you to print you a concise summary of cover staff for the staffroom notice board, as well as personalised slips for each teacher (with page breaks, so you haven’t got to get to the guillotine or scissors!).

So, if you were rushing around arranging cover for hours on end this winter, maybe it’s time to investigate a smarter, time-saving option. Get in touch with us via the contact form on our website to find out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS could transform the way you operate your school!

Phoebe McLaughlin - 25 February, 2019

Category : Blog

How to audit your school or MAT’s IT systems

Why run a systems audit in the first place? Over the years, many schools accumulate a variety of IT systems or software. These systems were initially installed to help make things run more smoothly across the school but, over time, they’ve inevitably become outdated and no longer fit with the day-to-day running of the school.

Why run a systems audit in the first place?

Over the years, many schools accumulate a variety of IT systems or software. These systems were initially installed to help make things run more smoothly across the school but, over time, they’ve inevitably become outdated and no longer fit with the day-to-day running of the school. In many cases, school leaders can forget to question whether a piece of software is continuing to help improve the school, or whether it’s there simply because it worked in the past.

The Audit Theory

When a school or trust tells us about all the third party products they use, we always like to ask why they chose that particular system:

  • What does it do that no one else can?
  • What about it specifically do they like and not like?
  • Is staff engagement with that system high and if not, why?

For example, a school may have been using a behaviour tracking software outside of their MIS for many years and are happy with how it charts points over time, but they don’t use any of the other features that the software offers. In cases like this, and with many other systems that are an added cost, it’s worth questioning if there are alternative ways of working within one system to consolidate both time and funds.

We encourage schools to create a side-by-side price comparison of the cost of each third party product to prompt an internal conversation about the practicalities and usefulness of each system, and whether it can be replaced by a new system altogether. This practice promotes the importance of an audit in deciding if there are added benefits to keeping a specific system, or if it’s time to part ways.

An IT systems audit

Image 1: How we encourage schools to approach an IT systems audit

This is how we would recommend running an IT systems audit:

1. Ask members of staff from all areas of the school when running your audit – don’t assume that one person will know everything that everyone is using!

2. Start by listing out all the systems people use for the core functions in your school, like attendance, assessment, behaviour and communications, and how much you pay for them annually

3. Move on to listing the rest of your systems and costs – if you don’t have to pay for something annually and you already have it, you can mark the cost as £0

4. Make sure to list separate software products from the same company as being separate – one might be more useful than the other

5. Then go back down your list and note each software’s functionality – not just what you’re currently using it for, but what it could do if you used every module and feature in it

6. You’ll probably have come across several overlaps by now. This is the tricky part: for everything that overlaps, consider which really has the greater value, and which you can think about cutting down

This value judgement can’t entirely be based on price, although that is important – you also have to question why you had several systems in the first place. Is one of them more user friendly? Is it quick to train new staff on? Does it save your teachers a lot of time? Will you really get the best deal just by picking between these two programs, or if you’re switching anyway should you choose an entirely new system altogether?

The Outcome

It’s quite possible that with a change in mindset, cutting down your third party systems may open more doors than it closes, and create opportunities to improve how you work.

We understand that this takes time, but we’ve also seen first hand how many schools love the fact that Arbor can bring all of their data and systems into one central system, meaning that the number of logins (and passwords!) for staff can be cut down. This results in increased productivity as it ultimately saves staff hours of time manually transferring data between systems – because everything you need is all in one place!

If you’re not yet an Arbor MIS customer, you can request a free demo and a chat with your local Partnership Manager anytime through the contact form on our website, or by emailing tellmemore@arbor-education.com or calling 0208 050 1028.

Tim Gray - 6 February, 2019

Category : Blog

How you can track pupil progress in Arbor MIS

As I’m sure you’ve heard, School Pupil Tracker Online (SPTO) will be closing down at the end of this year. If you currently use SPTO, you’ll be looking for something to replace it with the same (if not better!) level of functionality and analysis, so this is a great opportunity to look at how you’re

As I’m sure you’ve heard, School Pupil Tracker Online (SPTO) will be closing down at the end of this year. If you currently use SPTO, you’ll be looking for something to replace it with the same (if not better!) level of functionality and analysis, so this is a great opportunity to look at how you’re using your current MIS system as a whole. To help you, we’ve written this a short blog explaining how schools & MATs use the integrated assessments module of Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS to track, analyse and report on pupil progress.

Let’s start with the basics. Like SPTO, Arbor’s assessments module covers the following:

1. Formative Tracking: In Arbor, teachers can enter marks against curriculum statements and view formative analysis. This helps inform lesson planning and differentiate learning based on students’ understanding of the curriculum. You can either use preset or imported curriculum frameworks, or create your own custom curriculum framework in the system:

 

Image 1: A teacher marking a formative reading assessment

2. Summative Tracking: You can also access marksheets, enter marks for summative & ad hoc assessments, and view and export analysis for summative, ad hoc and 3rd party standardised assessments (such as PiRA and PUMA tests from RS Assessments by Hodder Education)


Image 2: Grade distribution dashboard analysing a summative assessment

Arbor also has some more in-depth, out-of-the-box analysis tools to help you dig deeper into your assessment data:

3a. Attainment over Time allows you to see how many students are achieving each grade during different assessment periods. The date chosen provides a breakdown of the available grades at that given point in time:


Image 3: Measuring Attainment Over Time

You can also choose to group students by demographic, in order to compare grades. For example, you can compare girls to boys and identify that girls currently require more support in this subject:


Image 4: Comparing students by demographic

3b. Below, At or Above: The Below, At or Above page allows schools to see the percentage of children who are below/at/above their targets for each assessment period:

Image 5: Tracking pupil progress using Below, At or Above, and clicking on a record to retrieve a slideover of students

3c. Analysis at MAT level: Some assessments, like PiRA & PUMA, even push up to Arbor’s Group MIS for dashboard analysis across schools:

Image 6: A screenshot of aggregated data in Arbor’s Group MIS

Image 7: A plain-text callout explaining your data

4. Most importantly though, the biggest benefit of using assessments in Arbor MIS is that it’s a fully-integrated module that syncs up with all the other data in your MIS system. This means:

  • Teachers only have one login to perform all their assessment marking, run their classes, take registers, and perform their other daily tasks
  • Our powerful bulk actions can be performed from any table of assessment data, for instance to send a mail merge email directly to your top performing students to congratulate them, or to directly enrol a set of underperforming students in an intervention
  • Assessment trends can easily be compared with trends in behaviour, attendance, and other modules both for groups and for individual students, to create a holistic picture of their progress in all areas through the school

Interested in finding out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS could transform the way your school works? Get in touch with us via the contact form on our website or give us a call on 0208 050 1028

 

Jem Jones - 28 January, 2019

Category : Blog

3 key aims from the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy

With the new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy now published, we’ve boiled down its many new ideas and policies into 3 of the core goals the DfE want to accomplish. Improve early career support Attracting people to the profession in the first place is a big part of increasing teacher numbers, and to this end

With the new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy now published, we’ve boiled down its many new ideas and policies into 3 of the core goals the DfE want to accomplish.

Improve early career support

Attracting people to the profession in the first place is a big part of increasing teacher numbers, and to this end a ‘one stop system’ for teacher training is being piloted to make the process simpler. For increased recruitment to benefit student outcomes on a long term basis, these new teachers also need better career support to make sure they have time to develop, instead of becoming overwhelmed and dropping out of the sector.

The ‘Early Career Framework’, a two year training package for new teachers, will support this aim, as will additional bursaries and financial incentives for performance. The Early Career Framework has £130 million already earmarked for its funding, in addition to £42 million from the Teacher Development Premium. The biggest change schools should initially experience is that new teachers in this framework will have a reduced teaching timetable. The idea is that their extra time will be spent in their ECF teacher training, meaning their career has a more gradual buildup of workload in line with the buildup of their expertise.

Promote flexible and part-time working options

This aim could fundamentally change how a lot of teachers progress in their career and how a lot of schools think about staffing. A ‘job-share’ service is set to be launched to both help schools share staff with specific skills between them, and to help people remain in their professions while working part-time. To make sure this new level of flexibility doesn’t just move workloads from teachers to school administrators, free timetabling tools will be released by the DfE to help schools manage the new process.

It’s likely that this will benefit a lot of smaller schools who no longer have the budget for a dedicated staff member in every area, as well as MATs who are already starting to centralise job roles so specialist staff can work across several schools. Specialist NQTs will encourage teachers to focus in on their areas of interest and provide new avenues of career progression beyond the traditional steps up into school management.

Flexible working should also benefit the teachers themselves. The concept includes not only part time schedules, but also ideas like working from home when not needed in the school, that a lot of employees now expect in other sectors. Using cloud-based software could become key to offering these options, as it allows your staff to work securely from anywhere.

Reduce teacher workloads

This is an issue very near and dear to our hearts, as saving teachers time has been a core tenet of Arbor’s social mission since the beginning. As our culture has become more data-driven, the time teachers spend on non-teaching tasks has increased. We’ve known this since 2010 – the results of the DfE’s last teacher workload survey are below.

Source: Teacher Workload Diary Survey 2010 (DfE)

That’s why Arbor focuses a lot of our product development on simplifying and automating administrative tasks for teachers, so they have more time to spend interacting with students to improve their outcomes. A key concept in the reduction of teacher workload includes making sure they have only one point of data entry (i.e. if you have more than one application doing essentially the same job twice, or you don’t have any integration between your MIS and your other providers, you may need to rethink your systems).

The strategy will apparently involve “working with Ofsted to ensure staff workload is considered as part of a school’s inspection judgement”, so this aim will be key for schools to consider alongside the new Ofsted framework, to make sure their improvement plan doesn’t rely on unrealistic expectations for teachers.

There are plenty of other specific plans and policies, from simplifying school accountability to developing housing near schools, that you can read about in the full strategy here. Overall, the strategy aims to make the day to day lives of teachers, as well as their overarching career progression, more manageable and more fulfilling – so talented teachers stay in the profession longer and perform better while they’re there.

You can find out more about how Arbor MIS saves teachers time to help them improve student outcomes by getting in touch here.

Jem Jones - 3 January, 2019

Category : Blog

How to add value to your extra-curricular program

In light of the new Ofsted framework placing weight on personal development through extra-curricular activities, we spoke to Alistair Endersby, a former national debating coach who’s twice brought teams to the World Schools Debating Championships and currently organises the Sixth Form enrichment programme at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. 1. Make it clear activities are

In light of the new Ofsted framework placing weight on personal development through extra-curricular activities, we spoke to Alistair Endersby, a former national debating coach who’s twice brought teams to the World Schools Debating Championships and currently organises the Sixth Form enrichment programme at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury.

1. Make it clear activities are open to everyone

Whilst some endeavours such as the school play or a Duke of Edinburgh award will require students to be committed from start to finish, most clubs benefit from an open door policy. If you set up a regular, publicised schedule, then students can drop in whenever they’re free. A successful club such as the politics and debating societies Alistair runs should, in his words, “be open to all comers each time, even if some keen students also take part in extra coaching to prepare them for competitions. The club’s committee are the fixed point of organisation, but the membership should be fluid.”

“If you can also open up your activity to a wider range of year groups then you should.” This allows younger students to develop a sense of responsibility organically by seeing the example of older students, rather than developing didactically under a set of stringent membership rules. “It’s good for the younger kids to see the older years engaging with interesting and serious things outside of the classroom, and you can form vertical links throughout your school by getting the older students in the club to coach the younger students. […] It has to be voluntary, too, to change the way it’s seen and add value to the experience.”

This open, inter-year culture is particularly helpful in secondary schools, allowing younger students to think about where they want to be in their activity and their learning by the time they reach their peers’ age; do they need to start taking music theory to progress in their orchestra? Should they do a sports leadership award if they want to be captain of the football team? Should they arrange work experience in their chosen area?

“It almost allows ‘gifted and talented’ to be self-selecting rather than a set program – what you’re rewarding is interest.”

2. Provide opportunities for leadership

“An atmosphere of mentorship has practical benefits as well, of course, in that it can free up staff time.” Once you’ve established a committee and a regular activity schedule across a range of disciplines, staff focus should be placed on developing their student committees and leading their activity to self-sustainability.

The everyday logistics of a club can be taken on by trustworthy student committee members, not only developing their general organisational skills but also their professionalism and confidence when speaking to adults. This can mean everything from asking the head of PE whether they can use the gym for practice to asking universities and speakers to visit the school. “Students asking can be more persuasive than teachers asking – especially if the university thinks of you as a target school”.

In the case of Bishop Wordsworth’s; “At the end of assembly when the head asks for notices, there’s no distinction made between student and staff announcements. The committee members have to put their hand up, stand up, and talk, or their club won’t get publicised. Trusting students to make announcements is potentially quite daunting, but very valuable”. It’s all about building up value, until your students are invested enough in the activity to reduce the burden on their teachers.

“Gaining confidence in their abilities is beneficial academically and beyond the curriculum, in terms of their wider confidence and what they can bring to university and the world. Teamwork, leadership, logistics, organisation, persuading people to help you, and negotiating with adults will all leave them more prepared for the future. It’s the kind of thing employers say schools don’t do.”

3. Enter your students in competitions

Having enabled the students themselves to coordinate internal activities, staff will have more time to organise higher level plans for their clubs and societies, that give your students goals to work towards.

“Although inter-school competition sounds like a luxury, it makes the activity bigger and higher status than just your school, and invests time in a few students who are then likely to take on roles running the activity within the school, and passing it on to others.”

“At Bishops the Year 12s who are now entering national contests run the internal Year 10 debating contest, which will make them better equipped to run the whole society once they hit Year 13, because they’ve improved by judging other people’s work. In turn, the Year 10s run a smaller scale public speaking contest for Year 8s.”

Competitions shouldn’t only be thought of as something for the students to put in their CV or Personal Statement, but as something that will actively challenge students, improving confidence, teamwork, and outcomes. If you usually only run casual internal competitions, these can justify the cost of entering regional or national contests by acting as a basis for who is entered. In turn, the prize of being taken to a more prestigious event can increase the popularity of internal activities to both enter and spectate.

“For instance, just a debate workshop would have a pretty low turnout, but showcasing your contest entrants and trialling them openly appeals to the spectating students’ competitive spirits, and trains the viewers at the same time by letting them watch the best the school has to offer”.

If your committee has been able to take on internal responsibilities, the inter-school competition can then be the focus of staff time put into the club. “You can give your contest entrants a bit of elite experience, stretch them beyond the training they would just have within the school, and add status to the activity to in turn inspire younger students”.

To sum up

The last thing we asked Alistair was what he would say to a teacher or school leader who doesn’t believe they have the time to fully develop their extra-curricular program.

“One of my core beliefs and values in teaching lies in what you do outside the classroom. It’s worth the school committing to and investing in, for both their students and their teachers. It’s possible to build in a way that it becomes self-sustaining. That’s not necessarily a job to give a brand new teacher, but if one in their second or third year, gaining in professional confidence, can be given the time to properly set up over the course of a year, then the students that get involved in that activity will feel invested in by their school.”

If you want to read more about the new Ofsted judgements and ideas for how you can prepare for them, click here.

James Weatherill - 5 December, 2018

Category : Blog

4 practical ways to centralise school data & back office ops

— I recently spoke at our Manchester MAT Conference on how culture beats strategy when MATs start thinking about centralising data, operations and people. At Arbor we talk about 4 (broad) types of MAT cultures, and how the degree of MAT alignment vs school autonomy dictates how you approach scaling systems, processes and people. What

I recently spoke at our Manchester MAT Conference on how culture beats strategy when MATs start thinking about centralising data, operations and people.

At Arbor we talk about 4 (broad) types of MAT cultures, and how the degree of MAT alignment vs school autonomy dictates how you approach scaling systems, processes and people. What we see more and more from the 57 MATs who we provide MIS systems to, and the 100s more we are speaking to is that centralisation of school back office functions such as data, HR, finance and operations is the general direction of travel for all MATs. The debate is centred around the degree, style and pace at which this happens.

We’ve gathered feedback about the 4 different ways MATs go about scaling decision making, curriculum & assessment, systems & processes and their central team in the presentation below. See what you think and whether you fit into 1 or more of the categories I describe.

Harriet Cheng - 4 December, 2018

Category : Blog

4 ways a cloud-based MIS will change the way you work at school

We’ve written before about the fact that more schools than ever are choosing to switch to a cloud-based MIS – in fact, we predict that over 1,000 schools will move in 2019 alone! It’s not just potential cost savings which are compelling schools to move (primary schools save £3,000 on average by switching, and secondary

We’ve written before about the fact that more schools than ever are choosing to switch to a cloud-based MIS – in fact, we predict that over 1,000 schools will move in 2019 alone!

It’s not just potential cost savings which are compelling schools to move (primary schools save £3,000 on average by switching, and secondary schools could save around £6,000) – increasingly schools are realising that moving to the cloud offers a real opportunity to transform the way they work. We explore the 4 key ways your MIS could do this below.

1. Your school can go paperless

Put an end to paper registers, incident forms, and classroom context sheets! A cloud-based MIS will let you record all this information quickly & easily via a browser so you never have to worry about printing or losing a sheet of paper again. Not only is this better for data protection, compliance & safeguarding (contrary to popular belief, the cloud is a lot more secure than using a server-based system or arch lever files), it also means you’ll eliminate unnecessary data duplication (never again will you have to transfer information from paper to screen!).

2. Let your MIS do non-teaching tasks for you

The second benefit to putting key information about attendance and behaviour in a cloud-based MIS is that you can start to set up smart workflows which mean your MIS ends up doing a lot of admin for you. For example, you could tell your MIS that everytime a “Level 3” incident is recorded, the Head of Year should be automatically informed by email and the student should automatically be registered for the next detention. This helps to cut out a lot of manual chasing & scheduling – and also helps your school to maintain a consistent behaviour policy.

3. Stop your staff being tied to their desks

When you use a server-based system, staff can only access your school MIS from specific stations (normally the desktop in their classroom). This limits the usefulness of the information inside it, since it can’t be viewed, discussed or put to use outside of that one room. With a cloud MIS, your staff automatically have the flexibility to work on the move around school and bring up important information quickly & easily in key meetings.

4. Reduce your “data workload”

Far too often, schools end up using a patchwork of different systems for different school areas (such as attendance, behaviour, parent communication, interventions, and so on). This normally means that in order to look at patterns between different areas, add demographic data into assessment results, or follow up with parents about absence, staff have to manually download and compare different spreadsheets, find contact details in one place to use in another, and juggle multiple logins. All of this means leads to lots of manual work to make data any use. By contrast, most cloud-based MIS systems replace your patchwork of systems with just one – making your data instantly accessible, comparable and useful.

With so many schools moving to the cloud, we’ve found the question has become when and not if the decision is right for your school. We’d be more than happy to discuss how you currently use your MIS and explain how our simple, smart cloud-based system could help you transform the way you work. Just get in touch here, call 0208 050 1028 or email tellmemore@arbor-education.com.

Stephen Higgins - 27 November, 2018

Category : Blog

How to get ahead of Ofsted’s new inspection framework

As I’m sure you’ve seen, Ofsted recently announced plans to change the way it inspects schools, colleges, further education institutions and early years settings from September 2019. To help you understand how the new framework will impact the way you operate your school, we’ve rounded up the most important changes you need to know about.

As I’m sure you’ve seen, Ofsted recently announced plans to change the way it inspects schools, colleges, further education institutions and early years settings from September 2019. To help you understand how the new framework will impact the way you operate your school, we’ve rounded up the most important changes you need to know about.

What’s changing?

“Quality of education” to replace current judgements

Firstly, Ofsted will introduce a new judgement for ‘quality of education’, which will replace the current ‘outcomes for pupils’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ judgements with a single, broader judgement.

This new judgement will mean that Ofsted can recognise primary schools that, for example, prioritise phonics and the transition into early reading, and which encourage older pupils to read widely and deeply. It will also make it easier for secondary schools to offer children a broad range of subjects and encourage the take up of core EBacc subjects at GCSE, like humanities subjects and languages, alongside the arts and creative subjects. This is a move away from Ofsted’s previous focus on exam results.

Image 1: Arbor’s Assignments module

In many cases, your MIS system can help provide evidence to inspectors that you’ve incorporated these new guidelines into the way you run your school. Arbor’s Assignments module allows school leadership to check in on the quality of homework set by teachers and returned by students, and teachers can upload lesson resources to assignments and lesson dashboards, which can be reviewed by leadership or inspectors.

 

Other new inspection judgements

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, also announced the 3 other inspection judgements that Ofsted will consult on. These are:

    • Personal development
    • Behaviour and attitudes
    • Leadership and Management

These changes recognise the difference between behaviour & discipline in schools, pupils’ wider personal development, and their opportunities to grow as “active, healthy and engaged citizens.” ‘Extra-curricular activities’ should be incorporated into the curriculum, and schools will be required to prove that they offer a range of these activities.

Image 2: Arbor’s Clubs & Trips module

Ofsted inspectors will want to know that each student has the opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities (especially Pupil Premium students). In Arbor, the Clubs & Trips modules can be used to report on which students are accessing extra-curricular activities, and, perhaps more importantly, allows teachers to identify students that have never taken part in an extracurricular activity and invite them or their parents to sign up, so that you can proudly say: “all our students have taken part in extracurricular activities this year.”  

So what will Ofsted inspectors be looking for with the new framework?

Schools need to be clear answering the following 3 key questions:

  • What are you trying to achieve through your curriculum? (Intent)
  • How is your curriculum being delivered? (Implementation)
  • What difference is your curriculum making? (Impact)

What can schools do?  

  • Dedicate substantial timetable slots beyond the ‘core’ subjects, wherever possible
  • Consider how your curriculum caters for disadvantaged groups. Ensure these pupils are not ‘shut out’ of pursuing subjects they want to study because of too sharp a focus on exam results
  • Show you are making curriculum development and design a priority. Survey your staff on how confident they feel in these skills
  • Offer a range of “extra-curricular” activities
  • For primary schools: evaluate the regularity of SATs preparation, such as mock tests and booster classes. Consider introducing additional reading sessions and encouraging reading for pleasure for a counter-balance

Overview

The new framework places less emphasis on schools’ headline data, with inspectors focusing instead on how schools are achieving their results, and if they’re offering their students a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep. The changes will look in more detail at the substance of education, and actively discourage unnecessary data collection (a key contributor to increased workload in many schools). Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said that the changes would move inspection more towards being “a conversation about what actually happens in schools”.

 

If you’re interested in hearing about how Arbor’s simple, smart, cloud-based MIS can help transform the way your school or Trust operates, you can get in touch via the contact form on our website, or give us a call any time on 0208 050 1028

Stephen Higgins - 2 November, 2018

Category : Blog

6 steps to create an effective interventions strategy

As a former Secondary school middle leader, I know how effective a well planned, and well executed intervention can be. That said, I also understand what a detrimental effect a poorly planned, badly-executed one can have! Interventions are incredibly expensive in terms of material cost, staff and student time, and it’s often very hard to

As a former Secondary school middle leader, I know how effective a well planned, and well executed intervention can be. That said, I also understand what a detrimental effect a poorly planned, badly-executed one can have! Interventions are incredibly expensive in terms of material cost, staff and student time, and it’s often very hard to find out what works and what doesn’t, particularly when you’re dealing with larger groups of students. In this blog, I’ll share a strategy that I developed during my time as a teacher, and talk about how Arbor can help alleviate the administrative burden of planning, managing, and monitoring interventions.

Step 1: Define the outcome

The first thing you need to do when planning an intervention is to think about its outcome, or, in other words, what you want your students to achieve by the end of the intervention. The outcome of an intervention should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

For example, students may reach their Phonics targets by the end of that term, or a student could have 100% attendance over the 4 week intervention period.  

Step 2: Carefully plan your intervention

For an intervention to succeed, planning is essential! Your intervention will need to be planned differently depending on the scale, scope and target students. Once you’ve successfully devised an effective, well-planned intervention, it can be used time and time again.

Ask yourself the following questions when planning your intervention:

  • Which students/groups of students will the intervention target?
  • What do I want the students to have achieved by the end of the intervention?
  • What resources will I need?
  • What individual strategies an we put into action?

Image 1: Our MIS helps you plan the dates, participant criteria and outcomes of your interventions, and schedule intervention reviews

Step 3: Start small

I’ve always found that starting small, or using a ‘control group’ of students is a great way to test out your intervention and to learn what does & doesn’t work. It’s much easier to plan your next steps and measure progress when you’re dealing with a small, manageable group of young people, and it’s also a much better way to get feedback from the students themselves. Share the intervention’s outcomes with them and ask them if they think they’re making progress; after all, they are the key stakeholders!

I’ve spoken to schools that have conducted blanket after-school interventions across large sections of the student body, especially during key points of the year like SATs, or GCSEs. This approach is incredibly costly in terms of staff time and financial resource, and often doesn’t yield good results. Start your test groups at the start of the year, learn from them first, then build up to whole school initiatives.

Step 4: Scale up your intervention

Once you’ve got something that works, you’ll need to scale it up. When doing so, it’s always wise to keep the following in mind:  

  • How will I manage staff time?
  • How will this affect students’ learning time?
  • How can I manage costs?
  • How do I keep parents and other members of staff informed about the progress of the intervention?
  • How can I best manage resources? (e.g. room allocation)
  • How do I make sure students attend my interventions?
  • What’s the best way to continually monitor impact?

Image 2: How to measure & track intervention costs in Arbor’s MIS

You should have an answer for all these questions before you begin scaling up your intervention, otherwise you might find yourself in a difficult situation.

Step 5: Make sure you’re monitoring progress

It’s easy to start an intervention initiative and expect it to “just work”. I made this mistake early on in my career: if students are leaving my lesson to work with a Teaching Assistant on their literacy, surely that will help them to improve? Ultimately, every child is unique; what works for one student may not work for another. Continually monitoring each student’s progress towards the intervention’s desired outcome is essential. Remember, the outcome must be measurable.

With all of the above, you should be able to lean on your MIS system to do some of this work for you. Arbor’s built-in Interventions module makes planning, monitoring and reporting on interventions easy, and saves you hours a week on repetitive data entry & admin tasks. You can quickly target students and measure the success of an intervention by defining your desired outcome based on student data points in the MIS, and track student’s progress in real time as they progress through the intervention. You can also easily manage intervention costs, timetable interventions and provision maps.

Image 3: Easily monitor how students are getting on via Arbor’s Student Profile as they progress through an intervention

Step 6: Share best practice!

Finally, running effective interventions is a brilliant learning process, not only for your students, but also for you and the other teachers at your school. Sharing best practice with colleagues not only helps others to learn from your successes and failures, but also provides you with valuable feedback from other professionals.

If you’d like to find out more about how Arbor’s simple, smart cloud-based MIS could help you manage interventions at your school, send us a message or call us on 0208 050 1028.

Jem Jones - 11 October, 2018

Category : Blog

3 reasons your school should avoid running competing IT systems

When you’re picking IT systems for your school or MAT, the options can be overwhelming. As every provider has a USP or ‘unique selling point’ to help them stand out, it’s easy to find different parts of competing systems more appealing. Maybe your business manager likes the features in one payment system, but your catering

When you’re picking IT systems for your school or MAT, the options can be overwhelming. As every provider has a USP or ‘unique selling point’ to help them stand out, it’s easy to find different parts of competing systems more appealing. Maybe your business manager likes the features in one payment system, but your catering team prefers the interface of another. Trying to combine them, and get the best of both worlds, is rarely a solution.

1. It saves money

This is the obvious problem with running systems in parallel. Schools who try to get their money’s worth and use every feature they’re paying for will not only become expert users in their chosen system, but will be able to cut down their unnecessary costs. For the two big software packages used to run your school, a Management Information System (MIS) and a Financial Management System (FMS), you also need to consider the cost of training. You only need one of each, and you should only pay for one of each.

2. It gives your staff back their time

In a recent survey of 11,000 NEU members, 82% of Secondary teachers reported that data collection was not streamlined in their school, and required them to enter data twice. Around 65% of both Primary and Secondary teachers described the amount of data they had to collect as unmanageable. This is indicative of the biggest problem with running disconnected or competing IT systems – they contribute heavily to staff workloads.

Your school systems should interface seamlessly to minimise data entry, using a feature like our secure, open API. This is a great way to reduce data entry between different types of system, and there are some systems which very rarely need to share data anyway, such as your MIS and FMS.

On the other hand, for systems which are designed to do the same thing, data can never be streamlined, as competing businesses preserving their intellectual property will rarely spend resources building integrations for one another. Some level of double entry will always be required.

3. Your data will be safer

Under GDPR, schools are obligated both to protect students and guardians from data breaches, and to keep their information up to date. Choosing secure systems in the first place is important for protecting sensitive information, so you should always check for an internationally recognised certification like ISO 27001 when you buy. However, data breaches don’t only come from attacks and system faults, but from human error. The more times you need to enter data, the more chances human error has to slip in.

Multiple systems, especially systems which aren’t connected through a secure API, are more likely to be inaccurate. Inaccuracy can seem annoying but harmless when it’s a small change, but when you look after hundreds or even thousands of children, little problems quickly get bigger. A wrongly recorded meal choice can mean grumbles from one student, or a severe allergic reaction from another!

By getting the most out of each of your systems, and simplifying your data collection processes, you can save both budgets and workloads from undue burden.

We’re on a mission to transform the way schools operate, and part of that involves reducing unsustainable workloads by bringing as many systems as possible into one place. If you are an Arbor MIS customer, check that your school is using every feature properly to reduce the time you spend plugging data into other systems. 

Our schools love the fact that Arbor brings all of their data into one central system, reducing the number of systems they use and saving staff hours of time manually copying and pasting data from one system to another. If you’re not yet an Arbor MIS customer, you can request a free demo and a chat with your local Partnership Manager anytime through the contact form on our website, or by emailing tellmemore@arbor-education.com or calling 0208 050 1028. 

James Weatherill - 8 October, 2018

Category : Blog

6 steps to reduce teachers’ data workload

Reducing time spent on data and assessment is the key to reducing additional teacher workload Much has been written recently by the government and in the press about reducing teachers’ workloads, with polls suggesting that 1 in 5 teachers intend to leave their job because they feel overworked. One of Arbor’s impact goals (which we analyse each year

Reducing time spent on data and assessment is the key to reducing additional teacher workload

Much has been written recently by the government and in the press about reducing teachers’ workloads, with polls suggesting that 1 in 5 teachers intend to leave their job because they feel overworked.

One of Arbor’s impact goals (which we analyse each year for all the schools we work with) is to reduce the time teachers spend on inputting & analysing data so that they can focus on improving student outcomes! So we decided to take a look at the data to see where teachers were spending their time.

By looking at teacher diary surveys, we found that in just three years the workload of teachers has increased by an average of 12%. Put another way, this is a huge 5 days extra work per year for a primary teacher and 4 days extra work for a secondary teacher!

Digging down into the data further, we found that three-quarters of this increase in workload can be explained by an increase in the amount of time teachers are spending on planning, preparation and assessment. Given that it’s doubtful that teachers have been ramping up the time spent on planning or preparation, as this has always been a core requirement, the change most likely comes from an increase in assessment-related work driven by government, Ofsted and school policies on data and reporting.

Following this analysis, if your school can reduce the amount of time teachers spend on assessment and data, you’ll go a long way towards solving the workload problem! To do so requires reviewing how and why you collect, analyse and report on data.

6 steps to reduce teachers’ data workload

Arbor has built a simple 6 step checklist to help senior leaders reduce workload in your school:

Implementing a data workload checklist

We’ve broken down the 6 steps above into a helpful checklist for senior leaders to help implement within your school, complementing the advice given by the Teacher Workload Review Group with an actionable list of key tasks. If it seems too much to take on all at once, just start with one item at a time, and remember that every step you take could help to reduce the workload burden on staff.

 

Click here to download this checklist as a handy PDF.

James Weatherill - 27 September, 2018

Category : Blog

Why have 4,000 schools switched MIS to the cloud?

With the launch of the completely new, cloud-based SIMS8, it’s now an inevitability that all schools will be switching MIS, it’s just a question of whether they’ll be retraining on the new SIMS or an alternative provider. This is a good opportunity to select the system that best suits your school, LA or MAT and

With the launch of the completely new, cloud-based SIMS8, it’s now an inevitability that all schools will be switching MIS, it’s just a question of whether they’ll be retraining on the new SIMS or an alternative provider. This is a good opportunity to select the system that best suits your school, LA or MAT and provides value for money.

Ahead of your school or group switching, we thought it would be helpful to help answer some questions you might have about the cloud. After all, we’ve been doing it for years!

Q) How many schools have already switched their MIS to the cloud (mostly from SIMS)?  

1 in 5 primary schools and 1 in 20 secondary schools have already switched their MIS to the cloud. This number is increasing at around 18% – we expect over 1,000 schools to switch this year alone! The vast majority of primary school MIS switchers are moving away from SIMS, whilst secondary schools are typically switching from SIMS and CMIS/Progresso.    

Q) Why have so many schools moved to the cloud already?  

Most schools have switched for a combination of the following factors:

  • Save money, and reduce the number of systems in school: cloud-based MIS systems are typically 20%-30% cheaper in terms of license fees and support. They also help reduce the number of systems you need in your school, as functionality isn’t modular and comes as standard (e.g. SMS, online payments, parent evening booking etc). This is important as budgets are tight.
  • Bring all your school data together in one system: Cloud-based systems can help consolidate all core student and staff data, including attainment, progress, behaviour, payments and messages into one system, improving reporting
  • Free, simple integration with third-party systems: all new cloud-based systems can integrate easily with other apps in your school, meaning no more excel uploads and downloads, and one password to sign into all those systems!
  • Access from anywhere, and any device: this seems simple, but it means staff can enter marks from home, and aren’t tied to their desk in school.

Q) How much cheaper is a cloud-based MIS?

Typically you can save ~30% on your total systems costs, meaning the cost of support and license fees together. Be careful to compare like-for-like with functionality to calculate this accurately. Oh, and you can get rid of your server, which is an additional cost!

  • Primary schools: can typically save £1k-£2k+ per year by reducing MIS pricing as well as reducing the number of different systems they need (e.g. payments, SMS, progress tracking etc)
  • Secondary schools: can typically save £3k-£6k+ per year by reducing MIS pricing as well as reducing the number of different systems they need (e.g. payments, SMS, progress tracking etc)

Q) How secure is a cloud-based system?

Much more secure than your school server! MIS systems like Arbor’s simple, smart cloud-based MIS have passed security standards such as ISO27001, have been accredited by the DfE to hold sensitive information from ASP, are penetration tested each year and are GDPR compliant. You can read more about our security standards here. We take care of ever-changing security requirements so you can rest at peace knowing your school is compliant.

Q) What about the brand new cloud-based SIMS – I’ve heard that’s out now. How is it different to old SIMS?

SIMS has embraced the cloud and launched SIMS8, their completely new cloud-based MIS, so it’s now a question of when not if your school will move! Here is what we know about SIMS8 at this point (accurate as of 6th March 2018) – if you use SIMS we’d urge you to ask your contact for their version as we’re biased ;). Better yet, ask to hear from the schools who use it to see what they think!

  • It’s still being trialled by less than 20 schools: which is behind schedule, and less than the 500-1000 that was originally intended. This indicates the product roll-out might be further delayed.
  • It appears more expensive: pricing is very similar to SIMS7 but includes a £500 hosting charge. SIMS have been reluctant to release pricing, so ask your rep to see if you’ll be charged more.
  • Third-party integrations haven’t been built yet: as third-party suppliers are waiting to see how many schools pick it up due to the low take-up above
  • You’ll need to retrain your staff: it’s a brand new system, and although there are some similarities to old SIMS, you’ll need to retain your staff on how to use it.

Q) So what should I do as a school?

It’s now a question of when, not if, you’ll be moving to the cloud. The question is simply which provider you go with – whoever it is, you should ensure they provide value for money and fit your ethos as a school. If you’re with SIMS or CMIS, compare them to 2 or 3 other providers to see who you like the best and make a choice by inviting them to pop in. You’ll be with them for a few years at least, so it’s worth making a considered choice, and it’s as much about the people/service as the product. Oh, and if you’re a MAT, LA or group of schools then you will likely have to conduct a slightly more formal process via a tender as a cloud product is a brand new product and service, so can’t be grandfathered in under the same terms.

Q) We are a MAT and have both primary and secondary schools in our trust. What should I do?

Good question! If you decide to stick with SIMS across your trust, you won’t be able to get the full benefits of a cloud-based MIS for your central team & schools until 2019 (at the earliest) as SIMS Secondary isn’t ready yet. It’s worth thinking about whether you’re willing to wait this long, particularly as it means you’ll need to maintain multiple different systems across your trust until then (which is costly, time-consuming, and less efficient than having standardised systems). It’s also whether checking whether the MIS provider you go with lets you manage data, workflows and reporting for all the schools across your MAT from just one system – take a look at our MAT MIS as an example of this.

James Weatherill - 5 September, 2018

Category : Blog

Questions you should ask your MIS about GDPR

Questions you should ask your MIS about GDPR As you’ve no-doubt seen from the relentless marketing by third-parties – GDPR came into force in schools in May 2018! The below is our take on the questions you should ask your suppliers, including your MIS to ensure you’re GDPR ready. Just copy and paste! Why should

Questions you should ask your MIS about GDPR

As you’ve no-doubt seen from the relentless marketing by third-parties – GDPR came into force in schools in May 2018! The below is our take on the questions you should ask your suppliers, including your MIS to ensure you’re GDPR ready. Just copy and paste!

Why should schools & MATs care about GDPR?

GDPR introduced significant new compliance obligations for schools and new requirements for the processing of children’s data, notably increased governance requirements and much higher fines if schools & MATs fail to comply (upto the greater of €20m or 4% turnover). Ensuring compliance is unfortunately a good deal of work, but you can lean on your systems providers to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

Questions to ask your MIS

Your MIS is the key source of student and staff information you have in your school, including most of what GDPR would constitute ‘personal data.’ It’s important when preparing for GDPR that you ensure that your MIS is compliant, then you can switch attention to other suppliers and systems that feed off the data in your MIS.

What GDPR Introduces Why should schools & MATs care? Questions for your MIS
Extends the definition of personal data Increased data protection processes and procedures to document What is your current MIS’ Information Security Management System (ISMS)?

Does your MIS have any current data protection and cyber qualifications (e.g. ISO 27001, Cyber Essentials Plus)

Higher penalties for breaches and non-notification (upto the greater of €20m or 4% turnover) Schools need to audit their systems and suppliers to check compliance

Increased risk, especially for MATs who are data controllers for multiple schools

Do your data protection terms flow down to sub-processors so you’re covered?

Is your MIS liable for any act or omission by these sub-vendors?

Extends the rights of individuals to their data Parents and students can request a greater amount of information from schools, and schools need to be able to give it to them easily Can your MIS export a full list of fields for student and guardian data?
New breach reporting requirements Appointment of a Data Protection Officer who is up-to-date on legislation and can respond appropriately

If you as a MAT pool your data centrally in a dashboard or central schoolview, does that meet GDPR requirements around permissioning and data pooling?

Has your Data Protection Officer audited your MIS to ensure compliance and assess risk using the questions above?

Does your MAT central data meet GDPR requirements ensuring that data is permissioned and each school’s sensitive data is kept separate?

Additional governance requirements

What should your schools be doing now?

There’s a lot of scaremongering by third parties, but Iain Bradley (Head of Data Modernisation) at the DfE has written what I think is a very useful blog that discusses the steps schools should be taking now.

  1. Think where personal data is captured during school life – this is likely to include admissions, parental forms, assessment, school trips etc
  2. Think about where that data is used – generally it’s for contacting people, for tracking education, or for maintaining regular school facilities and activities like libraries and canteens.  Several, but not all of your systems, may interconnect with the core management information system (MIS)
  3. Think who you share that data with – for schools this commonly includes local authorities, multi-academy trusts, the DfE and beyond.
  4. Start to ask questions to your system providers – you can use our list above for MIS.

The above steps are often best captured in a data mapping exercise which we’ve done at Arbor, and which Iain from the DfE has done at the primary school where he’s a governor. A copy of the picture is below.

How Arbor can help

Arbor exceeds current data security recommendations. We’re ISO 27001 compliant (the standard in data protection certification), on the government’s G-Cloud framework and accredited to hold sensitive data. We also stress test our processes and procedures by getting tested by third parties and holding cyber qualifications.

We’ve put a presentation together that sums up these points which you can read by clicking here. All in all, GDPR is something that schools should consider seriously, but you should lean on your providers to help alleviate the burden.

 

James Weatherill - 21 June, 2018

Category : Blog

3 ways of centralising data for schools, MATs and LAs

Why bother centralising your data? Schools, Trusts and LAs increasingly ask us how they can centralise their data, but they sometimes don’t know where to start and what their broad options are. Most share the common need of wanting to bring their data together to gain deeper, faster insight into their staff and students, save

Why bother centralising your data?

Schools, Trusts and LAs increasingly ask us how they can centralise their data, but they sometimes don’t know where to start and what their broad options are. Most share the common need of wanting to bring their data together to gain deeper, faster insight into their staff and students, save teachers time endlessly copying and pasting data from multiple systems (and reduce mistakes whilst doing so), whilst saving money by reducing the number of systems they have in the school.

3 ways for centralising your data, and when to do it

From our work with schools, MATs, LAs and governments we’ve seen a lot of different ways of centralising data, but they generally fall into 3 categories.

1. Using Excel/manual exports [best for small schools; MATs with less than 5 schools]

When small, it’s best to keep things simple. Whilst not ideal, excel is the quickest, cheapest and easiest tool to get to do your heavy lifting. Most schools will organise data drops at set times in the year, using permissioned worksheets and data validation to minimise errors, and producing graphs and reports that can act as simple dashboards. New versions of excel can even link live to your systems (we do this in Arbor) so that can be pulled automatically from your MIS, meaning no more data drops and data errors! That said, excel comes with hidden costs, it can involve staff double entering data, takes time to fill in, is prone to errors, and doesn’t scale as your school or MAT grows (in fact it gets harder to administer as you grow).

2. Standardising systems [best for large schools; MATs with more than 5 schools; LAs]

Once a Trust grows to about 5 schools (depending on the complexity of the Trust) the person in charge of collecting and analysing all of the data can often become overwhelmed by the manual process, and as we’ve written about before, this is the time most Trusts look at standardising some core systems to start to automate the process of data collection. It’s worth noting that this step is typically beneficial for all school types; the key is not to leave it too late, as you then end up unpicking all of the manual process within each school.

Once the core systems have been standardised and rationalised into as few systems as practical (e.g. finance, assessment, MIS), then the school, Trust or LA can integrate these systems, ensuring data is only entered once, and use the tools’ internal ability to aggregate their core data and reports. The disadvantage of this approach is the upfront setup time and cost, however if chosen sensibly, these system should be able to payback this in time/money savings within a year or two, lowering overhead, improving reporting capability, allowing the Trust to centralise workflows and communication and ultimately enabling the group to scale.

3. Analytics layer [best for very large schools; MATs with more than 15 schools; LAs]

Without a degree of standardisation in your core systems and data, as described above, achieving an analytics layer can take a lot of time and patience. Custom field names, non-standardisation across schools of assessment, and people simply choosing to record things in different ways at different times lead to increasing complexity. Many systems (like Arbor) integrate with analytics layers such as Microsoft’s PowerBI (which many Trusts are using) out of the box, so once you’ve standardised your MIS, you can spin up an analytics layer in little to no time. This allows you to create custom graphs and charts with the reassurance that the underlying data is accurate – else bad data can lead to bad decisions!

How Arbor can help [click here for slides]

1. Integrate live with Excel/Google: Every table and report in Arbor can be live linked to Excel or Google sheets [slide 18], meaning no more data drops. Schools and Trusts can collect data instantly from several schools, and generate their own simple dashboards, combining MIS, national, HR and external data to create a holistic view of performance

2. Standardising systems: we’ve talked about what systems to standardise and when before. Once standardised, Arbor’s Group dashboards and reports instantly aggregate student and staff data across schools, allowing MATs and LAs the ability to centralise data and take action by logging into systems remotely and performing workflows (e.g. attendance follow-ups)

3. Analytics layer: Arbor integrates with PowerBI out of the box via the excel integration, allowing groups to build their own simple Analytics layers. Our free and open API can also be used for deeper integration with Business Intelligence tools.

James Weatherill - 1 June, 2018

Category : Blog

8 steps to help manage change in schools

The pace of change is increasing The pace of change in education is increasing fast, with new structures, policies, funding formulae and technologies announced seemingly every month. This is particularly hard to cope with in schools who often have highly embedded, overlapping and complex processes which have been in place for years and never questioned.

The pace of change is increasing

The pace of change in education is increasing fast, with new structures, policies, funding formulae and technologies announced seemingly every month. This is particularly hard to cope with in schools who often have highly embedded, overlapping and complex processes which have been in place for years and never questioned. Top that off with a highly time-pressured environment and it makes change hard. “If you want to make enemies, try to change something,”  as the saying goes.

Change is tough but if done right can be transformational

However change is a reality that has to be faced if you want to improve, and rather than ignore it and try to batten down the hatches, Senior Leaders should take the time to learn about how to manage it. If change is well managed, and staggered so as not to overwhelm staff, it can improve outcomes for all stakeholders.

We thought we’d publish our guide for how to manage change (which we use for MIS implementation) so that Senior and Middle Leaders can borrow and adapt it for use inside your school or institution. It’s not meant to be a proscriptive series of steps to be followed, but rather a general guide to help you think through the process and tailor to your own school.

1. Establish a need for change (your “burning platform”)
Identify a compelling need for change with a sense of urgency to maintain momentum throughout the project. If you don’t make the need for change compelling or urgent enough, people won’t see the point.

2. Build up champions to drive through change
Identify champions who have the capability, capacity and positive attitude to help drive through change. It may start with you (it often does!), but it always helps to roll out within a school, department or team you know will have the best chance of success. Remember you can’t do everything alone!

3. Create a compelling vision outlining benefits for all
To get buy in you’ll need a compelling vision. Articulate what success looks like and the benefits this will have for each stakeholder (how much time they’ll get back, how their job will be easier etc). Ideally identify some metrics of measuring success (e.g. number of users logged in, amount of time/money saved, staff satisfaction).

4. Communicate the vision to stakeholders to get buy-in
Communicate the vision publicly to get buy in from your staff for the change and to help support the champions you identified. You’ll never win everyone over, that’s fine, but you’ve at least called out the issue and given it support. Change comes from the top, so you need to be seen to champion it.

5. Empower others to act on the vision
All too often we see projects fail in schools as change is not staggered so it combines with the pressures of daily school life to overwhelm staff. Instead try to phase in change, identify the right time of year for it, and try to get others to be seen to be successful. Staff will then feel empowered, not threatened or overwhelmed.

6. Create and celebrate short-term wins
Try to create quick, meaningful wins to demonstrate success and encourage buy-in. These should be publicised as success stories to galvanise support and overcome inertia. Keep a steady drip of success stories coming to maintain momentum and isolate the naysayers.

7. Measure success and embed change
Demonstrate success further by quantifying it against the success criteria you identified earlier, and publicising results. Use this credibility to change other more entrenched systems and processes.

8. Don’t let up!
Most change initiatives fail by assuming the job is done before change has taken root. Culture is a strong force that takes time to realign. To create and sustain change will require continued demonstration of success and ongoing dialogue with staff.

Evidence for Change Management Working
Arbor has gone through our Change Management process with our Group and Multi-Academy Trust clients. Our Impact Metrics and Net Promoter Scores show consistently high scores given by schools over time, showing that the Change Management Approach and system has helped to create a consistently positive impact, as shown below. That’s one way we measure success, but I’d be keen to hear how you measure yours!


Sample size for each survey  >=300

*positively indicates users respond “sometimes, often or frequently”

 

James Weatherill - 19 October, 2017

Category : Blog

7 staffing measures your MAT or school could be tracking

We’ve been gathering feedback from the dozens of different MATs we work with on what core measures they’ve been tracking to monitor success. Measuring staffing is clearly vital, as it typically accounts for 70%-80% of a school’s budget, but we find that the measures MATs and schools are currently using vary wildly. Some opt for financial measures that

We’ve been gathering feedback from the dozens of different MATs we work with on what core measures they’ve been tracking to monitor success. Measuring staffing is clearly vital, as it typically accounts for 70%-80% of a school’s budget, but we find that the measures MATs and schools are currently using vary wildly. Some opt for financial measures that focus on efficiency and cost, others look at Net Promoter Scores that focus on satisfaction, all depending on the culture of the MAT or school, which we’ve analysed in previous posts. Below are some that we’ve seen with their benefits and drawbacks:

1) Staff cost per pupil: split by % child facing vs. % non child-facing, % SLT vs % teachers (supply vs. FTE) vs. % back-office
A basic indicator but one that can reveal a lot if benchmarked and analysed correctly. Looking at the splits of % child-facing vs. non-child facing can reveal heavy management layers or inefficient back office process taking resource away from front-line teaching. The split between SLT, teachers (supply & FTE) and back office can help to drill down and identify where schools might be over or underspending.

2) Cost per subject
Used by MATs such as Outwood Grange in their dashboard, this can help schools rationalise subjects to make efficiency gains (such as a vocational subject taken by 6 students year on year). The exact calculations can be tough to produce without the right systems able to combine academic and financial data.

3) % staff receiving performance-related pay increase
A contentious measure, as there is no right or wrong answer, but worth correlating to pupil attainment and progress measures. This can also be further broken down by Key Stage and subject.

4) Net Promoter Score (NPS)/satisfaction + staff comments
Most schools agree staff satisfaction is a key measure of long term health, and even though satisfaction may not always be high it’s worth knowing when it takes a dip so you can intervene to reduce turnover. Some schools and MATs such as Elliot Foundation are starting to use Net Promoter Score to measure this. Arbor uses a tool called Ask.nicely to monitor the health of all our schools, which automatically sends out 100 emails a day to different school stakeholders, allowing us to segment responses by role (email us to find out more). Note that the comments provided as feedback are perhaps more useful than the data in helping management understand school strengths and areas to improve.

5) Complaints
Number of complaints by role or school, as well as the verbatim complaint itself combine with Net Promotor Score as a useful indicator. Again the comments in the complaints themselves are often the most useful.

6) Retention/Vacancies
Staff turnover is often 20%-30% in some schools and MATs, far higher than the 15% national average. Retention is a vital measure to at least know, even if it’s not monitored as frequently as satisfaction or NPS. Vacancies by number and type of role is also useful to understand retention and where issues lie, and it can be obtained relatively easily through the census submission, although it’s a lagging indicator (by the time a vacancy arises it’s too late to intervene).

7) CPD cost as % staff pay
Not investing in staff can lead to high turnover, but many schools and MATs are guilty of underinvesting in staff who then stay and don’t progress. Monitoring overall CPD as a % staff pay allows benchmarking between different schools and MATs to see if you’re developing your staff. Clearly just monitoring the cost won’t tell you if the CPD has been effective. This should be assessed in appraisals.

Ultimately the measures you choose depend on the culture your MAT or school wants to foster. Purely financial measures with no balance will focus on efficiency, whilst focusing entirely on staff satisfaction can lead to lax financial management. Having the systems to automatically report on staffing measures is key to reduce excel sheets flying around. Arbor’s MAT and School MIS can centrally report on all staff and student measures, giving SLT the reports and dashboards they need in one click to monitor performance. Get in touch to find out more.

James Weatherill - 5 July, 2017

Category : Blog

3 ways school automation can save staff hours each week

School automation is a bit like having an automated robot which takes all the tediousness and drudgery out of manual data entry and repetitive tasks. All you need to do is set the criteria for what you want the robot to do and, once the action is triggered, the robot will take care of the

School automation is a bit like having an automated robot which takes all the tediousness and drudgery out of manual data entry and repetitive tasks. All you need to do is set the criteria for what you want the robot to do and, once the action is triggered, the robot will take care of the task for you without any extra clicks or work. For example, you might want your Headteacher to get a text message whenever there is an exclusion, or a pupil’s guardian to be notified when their child has 100% attendance, or any incident involving bullying to be automatically escalated and the child assigned a detention.

Just as sales and marketing automation have transformed the private sector, so too we think that school automation will transform the education sector over the next 5 years by saving staff time on repetitive administrative tasks, allowing them to concentrate on teaching and learning activities. The timing for this is as much driven by technology as it is by cost savings and time pressure, with the IFS stating that school budgets will decline by 7% in real-terms over the next 5 years, meaning schools will have to look for smart ways to start making savings without increasing staff workload.

There are 3 immediate ways we see school automation helping to save staff time, all of which can be implemented immediately:

1. Automate reporting
With senior leaders spending around 4.4 hours per week on data analysis, automation can help save time by having reports built, scheduled and sent to those who need them automatically. It also cuts out time spent on manually gathering data. The example below shows a school report on 100% weekly attendance being built and automatically scheduled to send to all pastoral leaders at 8am every Monday morning ready for registration. You could of course build more complex reports for governors, heads of department or headteachers using any reporting template you like too!

2. Automate escalation
Staff spend 8.0 hours per week on administration, much of which is taken up by behaviour management and escalation. This escalation can be automated – allowing, for example, detentions to be assigned automatically for certain behaviours, senior staff to be instantly emailed for trigger behaviours such as bullying, and parents to be notified of repeated good behaviour – all without any additional data entry. At the MAT level, this allows groups to monitor and report on a school’s behaviour policy, ensuring that it’s consistently delivered.

bhaviour automated incident escalation.gif

3. Automate chasing
Staff spend 3.8 hours per week on parent and guardian interaction, and although much of this is essential, some of the communication is repetitive and can be automated. For example, communication around late payments, attendance year-to-date below 95%, and good behaviour on a particular day could be automatically scheduled in your MIS. Chasing staff for late marksheets or incomplete registers can also be automated, saving administrators valuable time.

attendance chase guardians.gif

How do I try this in my school or MAT?
Workflow and data automation is now commonplace in businesses, but old-fashioned school MIS systems have held schools back. All of of the above is now possible in Arbor, and some other integrated, cloud-based MIS systems, so ask your provider for more information or get in touch with us for a demo to see how Arbor can help automate your repetitive admin and data tasks and give your staff their time back!

Phillippa De'Ath - 22 February, 2017

Category : Blog

How to successfully launch your Free School (Part II)

This is the time in pre-opening when the EFA cheque book is out for IT which can be a hugely daunting task for the uninitiated. I’ve spoken extensively about the following topics and am surprised they’re still up for debate. This is only the case in Education (which is what we’re all trying to change!).

This is the time in pre-opening when the EFA cheque book is out for IT which can be a hugely daunting task for the uninitiated. I’ve spoken extensively about the following topics and am surprised they’re still up for debate. This is only the case in Education (which is what we’re all trying to change!).

1. Use the Cloud

  • In 2012 several school IT companies told us that you couldn’t run a school in the Cloud. They are more open to this kind of thinking. Realise that the resistance is based on their skills and sales targets, and not your needs (I began my IT career setting up servers for the world’s biggest server company, so if I can change my mind, so can they!)
  • You don’t need VPNs or other clunky layers to access the best of breed applications when you use proper SaaS services. If it sounds complicated, chances are it will be
  • Even device management can be Cloud based now so there should be no reason for a server in your school
  • Turn your server room into a music practice room for the benefit of all your students and the environment, and let someone else run your mini data centre for you!

2. Put staff efficiency and training first

  • Ask staff to train each other. A 4 hour training session on using interactive whiteboards isn’t fun for anyone; talking to your new colleagues about the cool things you’ve done with Google Classroom is more likely to drive innovation, collaboration, and productivity in your school. You could even ask one of your IT providers to let you use their space to do it, but facilitate rather than train before you move into your building. Do what startups do (you are one!) and bring decent, healthy snacks to the training room
  • Focus on supporting your staff on new things like processes for collaboration in the Cloud rather than what the C://Drive is or how to email attachments. Use good naming conventions from the beginning

3. Obsess about integrations

  • Nicky Morgan warned against “constraining the power of data” in schools at BETT 2016; in the pre-opening phase you have the opportunity to plan against such constraints. Data is notoriously badly managed (either over-restricted or poorly shared) by education data companies, but you can avoid making decisions that lock you in early on to a particular path. Most importantly, you need ready access to your assessment data in a variety of formats to allow Ofsted, and likely a demanding school board, the chance to understand what great progress students are making in your school.
  • One way to deal with this is to make sure that you use systems that have open APIs and are easy to use for all staff, not just founding data junkies
  • It’s OK to use spreadsheets when you’re small, but make sure you have a good plan for scaling and migrating that historic data to open, secure systems as soon as possible once you’ve launched
  • Ask parents what they’re expecting to see – they’ve supported you this far and it’s fair to ask them what would make sense to them in understanding the story of their child’s life at school

 

Phillippa De'Ath - 16 January, 2017

Category : Blog

How to successfully launch your Free School (Part I)

Just having a brilliant team and a great idea isn’t enough if people don’t know about you and can’t talk to you about it. You won’t have the resources of an open school (lots of teachers, a printer, a kettle…) to market your offer, so you have to do lots and lots of events, flyering,

Just having a brilliant team and a great idea isn’t enough if people don’t know about you and can’t talk to you about it. You won’t have the resources of an open school (lots of teachers, a printer, a kettle…) to market your offer, so you have to do lots and lots of events, flyering, talking to people in person, going to find them as well as getting them to come to you and using technology to reduce the effort and increase the quality of communications.

Be present
We spoke to hundreds of parents in person to get our school full for opening, via our own events, the feeder schools, park and playground trips and small gatherings in coffee shops or local community centres organised by keen parents. We met families on Good Friday to reassure them we’d be open on time and would provide the kind of education they wanted. If the only tangible thing your school has is your team and a prospectus, then your team have to be out talking to people. This includes your Principal Designate, who may not be used to such a street-facing role.

Be available
We had a Skype phone that could always be answered by someone knowledgeable from any location (and you can keep the number when you move to full land phone) so parents got the same response they would get from calling an open school. I cannot believe how many free schools don’t have a phone number, considering how many calls parents make to us. Parents need to talk to you, for reassurance as well as practical details.

Advertise
Advertise effectively. Bus rear-end ads have given us the best return, they’ll be seen in the right geographical area by all people and you can normally get a good deal if you haggle.
Use Mailchimp, Eventbrite and other free and effective tools for making you stay better engaged with your parents, as any growing business would.

The brilliant team
This is a bit motherhood and apple pie but in pre-opening there are three crucial roles in addition to the founding team (which you should keep as lean and capable as possible):

  • Head Designate: Obvious but they need to be brilliant and you need to get on with them. Good relationships and cultural fit are even more important in a start up phase when you’re building the organisation together. The head needs to be resilient and 100% on board with the vision; make them prove this to you in the interviews.
  • Operations/Business Manager: A weak point for all academies not just free schools, as the requirements and levels of accountability are so different compared to established community schools. You’ll need good software that you can use from anywhere, access to a good accountant and someone who can switch between managing lunch money and the EFA capital claims. I would recommend sharing someone brilliant with another school over having a dedicated under-qualified person. In this model, employ an administrator who can communicate really well with parents and the business manager.
  • IT manager: You’re reading this blog because you’re interested in data and technology so make sure you hire someone who believes in your vision and has enough experience to manage your ICT providers and train your staff as well as manage the network and reset your passwords. I think this is a two-man job, and would recommend a Senior plus an Apprentice so speak to your local vocational provider. You might be able to get someone to join in pre- opening from an apprenticeship scheme, and get a grant for doing so.

Don’t expect all the ICT to work perfectly on day one unless you have some good on your side managing it. Make sure you have back up plans e.g. access to a 3/4G connection for when your broadband is not installed on time (this can take 6 months at least).

Collecting and Protecting your data: The Data Roadmap 

Good housekeeping, safety and security of student data starts as soon as you receive applications. If you’re using collaboration tools like Google Apps for School, make sure you have signed the right model funding agreements for data processing outside the EU. Make a single person responsible for Data Security and Quality and put in place good practices before school opens. This will make the preparation for your pre-registration checks, opening day and first census all the more easy.

Make sure things you want to communicate electronically can be viewed on phones as well as computers to reach the widest possible audience. Arbor is free for Free Schools in pre-opening so you can use Arbor to send SMS to parents and begin building up profile data.

You can save yourself lots of time and errors with things like Google Forms or Survey Monkey, that can help you collect information from parents and new staff electronically, and leave you time to focus on the harder-to-reach parents, who might not have internet access or English as a first language.

In the next blog, I’ll focus on ICT in free schools.