By Ian Hunter, Chief Commercial Officer at WCBS, provider of information management systems for independent and international schools
Many schools today invest in some form of management information system and most schools recognise its value, but how many are fully optimising it?
85% of the independent and international schools recently surveyed by WCBS said that MIS is ‘important or very important’ for their school. Research trends suggest that an increasing number of schools are developing an improved understanding of their MIS and using it to enhance both administration, and teaching and learning.
As well as benefits to efficiency, data security and cohesiveness, a number of schools said they are seeing improvements to pupil learning as a result of effective use of their MIS. 78% of the schools researched this year said it gives them better trackability of student learning. Other improvements include greater insight into each pupil’s specific needs, enhanced approaches to teaching and learning, a 360-degree pupil view and more effective ways of communicating with parents.
However, only 32% of schools that were researched said they are satisfied with the way their school currently manages its information, and only 9% believe they are managing it very well. Although a significant number of schools said that staff are engaged to some extent in managing data (46% average engagement, 33% good or very good engagement), 21% of schools said that staff engagement is poor. Needless to say, this is an improvement on the same research conducted in 2015, when only 27% of schools said they were satisfied with the way their school was managing its data, and only 3% felt they were managing it very well. Staff engagement has also improved year on year.
Most schools (almost 80%) recognise that ongoing training for staff is important, and 60% of the schools surveyed said they are planning to invest in staff development this year and over the next five years. For some schools this is not enough. A growing number of schools that WCBS is working with are taking significant steps to ensure their data management and technology is integrated and implemented most effectively. Cairo English School is one example.
Four years ago, the school appointed a Technology Integration Specialist to act as a liaison between the IT department, the educational staff and the school administration, ‘translating’ the IT vision of the school in a way that everyone could understand. The specialist, Nathan Still, works closely with all staff to make sure they know how to use and make the most of the technology within the school.
There can be such a big divide between teaching and IT; in the language, the understanding of value and needs and in the skills of users. Many teachers know what they need, but don’t know how to get there – Nathan Still, Cairo English School’s Technology Integration Specialist
“There can be such a big divide between teaching and IT; in the language, the understanding of value and needs and in the skills of users. Many teachers know what they need, but don’t know how to get there. Many leadership teams recognise that the methods they are using are inefficient or unconnected, but struggle to know how to move forward. Often in schools, there’s huge disconnect between departments particularly in the implementation of educational goals that use technology and the understanding of IT needs. It helps to have someone with a combination of educational and IT skills to bridge the gap,” he said.
Appreciating the challenges that teachers face and helping them through this is an important part of Nathan’s role. “I see them looking overwhelmed at the prospect of learning new technology or a new system, or struggling with implementation of technology because of their responsibilities in the classroom. Showing them compassion as well as giving them support makes such a difference,” he added.
As well as providing this valuable support for staff, Nathan has ensured that technology, where beneficial, is integrated into virtually every aspect of operation and education at Cairo English School. This encompasses school administration, parent communication, managing school fees and tracking student progress. Over a three-year process, led by Nathan, the school has levelled all of its summative assessments; aligning the Early Years profile, English National Curriculum levels, IGCSE, A levels and the IB Diploma against an average points score baseline. Within its management information system, numeric equivalents are now recorded across the whole school. Tracking a student’s learning journey in such an integrated way, throughout their entire time at the school, is giving the school a highly effective collegiate approach to student progress. This alone shows the huge value of such a specialist role.
As technology becomes increasingly crucial to school success, and information management becomes an integral part of school life, providing the right resources – and the right support – for the entire school community is an investment every school should consider.