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Contact Group’s Call Parent notifies parents by SMS and email

The information game

Management information systems are revolutionizing the way schools collect, store and share data. Simon Fry and Jo Golding report

Posted by Dave Higgitt | April 02, 2015 | Product news

Technology has transformed teaching in recent years, with interactive screens replacing blackboards and tablets replacing books, enhancing tuition and learning for teachers and pupils alike. Behind the scenes, a management information system (MIS) can similarly boost a school’s administration, providing vital and varied information in an instant. Integrating functions and processes can ensure joined-up thinking leads to joined-up action, providing that a school has fully considered what it needs its MIS to do.

Avoiding obsolescence is crucial, according to Chris Munday, head of MIS at RM Education: “An MIS is the single point of truth for nearly all of a school’s data and is used to record pupils’ attendance data for each lesson, as well as any behaviour incidents, and to track pupils’ progress and attainment. It also holds staff data and is used to record staff management information, such as absences or CPD and training.

“When considering one, ensure it is future-proofed. Is it going to manage the school’s need for the short and longer terms? Ease of use is also critical as staff at all levels will need to use it to get real value from it and its data. Time and resources are precious commodities in the day-to-day workings of a school and an MIS should enhance, not hinder, their day-to-day responsibilities. Reducing time on administrative tasks means value can be added elsewhere. Plus it needs to be simple to create any reports on demand for all sorts of stakeholders, from headteachers and governors to local authorities and Ofsted.”

Chris also warns against false economies when deciding which MIS to install. “Ensure you are getting value for money. There is no point spending a large sum of money on an MIS only to find it doesn’t do some of the things you expect it to do or you have to pay extra for hardware or additional modules. The right MIS solution will bring together all of your assessment, behaviour, attendance, pupil and staff data into one system, making it easier to track pupil progress and get a holistic view of a pupil and the school, as well as reducing errors, saving time and eliminating the amount you need to spend on disparate systems that don’t link up together. We offer an online-based MIS system, along with finance solutions suiting schools and academies which have been developed specifically for schools. Our MIS solution, RM Integris, is the leading online MIS system in UK schools and combines a powerful suite of administration tools that can provide schools with easy access to assessment, behaviour, pupil, staff and school data all in one place through a highly intuitive and secure online user interface.”

Schools can rest assured RM Education’s MIS will function in harmony with their operations. “We work closely with schools, local authorities, the DfE and the education industry to ensure our MIS meets the ongoing, changing needs of schools, such as providing more flexible reporting tools to enable them to interrogate their data more deeply or catering for the new NAHT assessment framework criteria.

“We spend a lot of time in schools to understand how they want to use the system and how it can enhance what they do. We also capture feedback directly through the product with our ‘user voice’ section where customers can send suggestions for improvement. We also run user forums and research projects to find out what customers want in the future and what matters to them most. We genuinely value the feedback customers give us and that really impacts on the roadmap of our products. Plus, as RM Integris is an online product, we can do much analysis around what schools do and don’t use. This online delivery also means we can implement enhancements quickly, effectively, automatically and out of school hours so there is no school day disruption.”

WCBS is a specialist provider of MIS software to independent schools in the UK and overseas, offering a complete MIS solution that can support multiple departments, including academic, admissions, finance and alumni.

According to 2014’s UK Independent Schools ICT Survey and Analysis, conducted by Ovum and commissioned by the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, WCBS is, “the most widely-used vendor by far” by UK fee-paying schools, achieving the top position and largest market share in nine out of ten categories.

WCBS has a dedicated support team, ensuring schools have a point of reference available when needed and delivering convenient, flexible support via email, website, phone and Skype. Robert Blake, headmaster of Kenya’s Peponi House School, described WCBS’s help desk as being “manned by superstars of shining genius and lightning response time”.

WCBS also offers an extensive programme of training and workshop opportunities, including bespoke training and regional workshops covering an extensive topic range and expertise levels, their support team ensuring that the most is gained from their products. Bespoke training can be provided onsite or at WCBS’s offices while regional workshops held at numerous locations nationally also provide popular, informal networking environments.

WCBS will shortly be conducting a survey which will analyse information management in the independent schools market. This will be converted into an informative report giving insight into how information is currently managed, an MIS’s importance and benefits, key factors influencing decision-making and schools’ information management challenges.

Classroom Monitor is an online tool for recording formative assessment, tracking pupil progress and reporting to parents. Quick and easy to use, it provides instant in-depth pupil and whole-school performance analysis. Based around an interactive markbook storing evidence of learning year-round, it is linked to curricular frameworks and streamlines pupil assessment and target-setting. It also provides teachers with over 2,000 learning resources for use in the classroom or for pupils working independently.

The markbooks are fully flexible to the national curriculum 2014 and can be customised to a school’s own curriculum framework. Teachers and senior leaders can track pupil progress instantly and the markbook feeds into a data dashboard with live updates on pupil, cohort and whole-school performance. Key metrics are always at your fingertips, giving school leaders the vital information they need to maintain high standards of teaching and learning.

Reporting also becomes faster and more effective with Classroom Monitor’s revolutionary ‘parent portal’, which allows multimedia examples of pupils’ work to be shared with parents and engage them with their child’s learning. Time spent on reporting is also greatly reduced.

Classroom Monitor supports key stages 1-3 and EYFS and synchronises with school MISs; it is mobile-friendly and can be accessed anywhere at any time for flexible curriculum management.

Contact Group is a leading provider of communication and data services to schools in the UK and Ireland, their products integrating seamlessly with leading MISs to meet schools’ needs in safeguarding pupil welfare. These solutions have radically changed the way the sector approaches mandatory tasks, significantly improving efficiency and productivity.

Call Parent notifies parents by SMS and email of school closures and events – prior to this teachers used a telephone tree system wherein they would call, for example, six parents who would in turn call other parents. This was highly time-consuming, unlike Call Parents which works in minutes at the touch of a button.

Truancy Call tackles pupil absenteeism through automated phone calls and texts, avoiding the need for a dedicated staff member to phone parents of absentees. Text Someone encourages pupils and parents to report incidents of bullying via their school’s website, the Text Someone website or by texting, with all services available 24 hours a day. Previously, children would have to approach a teacher during term time to report bullying, something most were too embarrassed to do.

E-Mentoring enables schools to provide secure and convenient e-mentoring via text or online. Before this technology existed, busy teachers would have had to find time to meet with each pupil they monitored; this service means pupils can ask a question by text or online at their leisure and their teacher can respond securely whenever they choose.

A school administrator returning to their role after several years away would be astounded at the technology now available to them. The brave new world brought by software and services brings smooth day-to-day school operation, with previously mundane tasks accomplished efficiently and effortlessly. Teachers sometimes advise their pupils to ‘work smarter, not harder’; thanks to an MIS and the products which can function alongside it, schools can now work smarter than ever before.

RM Education W: www.rm.com

WCBS W: www.wcbs.co.uk

Classroom Monitor W: www.classroommonitor.co.uk

Contact Group W: www.the-contactgroup.com

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