We all know schools are busy places. Making things easier for staff, students and parents is always a priority.
An effective way to streamline processes is through school management systems. While commonplace in many schools, the constant evolution of technology and management systems regularly introducing new features, it may be time to consider if your school’s management system needs updating.
Generally installed as a software package to existing devices, school management systems can record and store a range of data including staff and student movement, and learning progress for individual students, or across subjects and cohorts. Communication details for students and their families, as well as enduring permissions, wellbeing and pastoral information, and student adherence to codes of conduct can be captured.
Customising your system to suit your school’s needs will determine the types of data collected, who can access it, and for how long it will be stored. Reports can be easily generated, spanning a student’s entire time at the school. Information may include assessment records, attendance reports, any siblings the student has, extra-curricular activities they are involved in and details of previous education.
Storing this information in hard copy would be challenging, and interpreting and comparing data sets would likely be impossible. Management systems, then, can save school staff time. Students will also benefit from educators having full and complete information regarding their learning and progress.
Regular communication between schools and families is paramount for good student outcomes. When parents can easily access information, they feel connected to the school and become more invested in their child’s education. School management systems can incorporate parent communication, simplifying and targeting information to the parents who most need it.
With so many extra-curricular activities on offer at schools, the number of updates sent to parents can feel overwhelming. Customised parent communication, based on data collected by school management systems, ensures parents receive information relevant to their child. When information is relevant, parents are more likely to engage with it, and are less likely to miss important updates or information relevant to their student.
The health and safety of students while at school is paramount. School management systems can record important medical information, including allergies. A report can then be generated and distributed to all staff. Knowledge of which students may have severe allergies or other medical conditions may assist staff in preventing medical emergencies before they happen. School management systems make accessing and sharing this information simple and efficient.
Quick access to files and extended storage of student information is important. Digital storage of data within a school management system ensures records can remain secure, even when school spaces are rearranged, or storage facilities are compromised by flood or fire. As files are centralised, school management systems do not rely on a few key staff members having knowledge of and access to files; the configuration of your system can ensure all staff have access to the information they need, immediately.
Once installed, some initial training for staff in using the system may be required. School management systems, though, are generally user friendly and simple to operate. Ongoing support is generally offered by providers, ensuring staff have access to help when needed.
With a range of options available for school management systems, School News asked some industry experts for their insights.
Cassie Martin, National Sales Manager at Sentral says it is important that school management systems offer flexibility to meet the specific needs of each individual school, regardless of the school type, size, location and number of campuses.
“Some systems, for example, have a Wellbeing module which allows schools to collect data that’s relevant to them. If there is a particular focus at the school, or issue such as cyberbullying or truancy, the Wellbeing module can be configured to collect relevant information. The leadership team can then analyse this data to make meaningful and proactive decisions to address the issue. This can be as simple as identifying a problematic time of day and adjusting staffing or timetables accordingly.”
“Schools can collect a range of data, data sets or data points across a student’s life cycle at school. This includes assessment, attendance, demographic, health and pastoral care data, which is all essential in providing a holistic view of the student. Most schools face difficulty in collating and accessing this information in a timely and efficient manner.
“Systems which automate the sharing of the desired information across teaching staff, students, and parent community decreases the need for multiple entries from staff members. ‘Role’ based configuration means that only staff who need particular student data to do their job will have access to it,” Ms Martin said.
“School management systems can incorporate apps for parents. This simplifies processes for explaining absences, viewing academic results, and increases the engagement and visibility for parents surrounding their child’s school life.”
Neil Spence, Schools Engagement Manager at Compass believes that in today’s education landscape, whole school management systems play a critical role in managing complex operations of schools and improving results. “To be effective, these systems must be flexible and tailored to meet the evolving needs of schools,” Mr Spence said.
“One important area that school management systems can assist with is the collation of attendance, wellbeing, and assessment or reporting data. By organising this data in a cloud-based system, educators can more easily track student progress and tailor teaching strategies to meet individual student needs.
“Additionally, by using these systems, parents support their child’s learning by receiving timely insights on their child’s academic progress and wellbeing.”
Mr Spence said implementing a new school management system starts with planning requirements, then building awareness of products, completing a cost/benefit analysis and purchasing a system.
“As best practice, during the purchasing stage the preferred vendor guides you all the way by outlining the rollout, negotiating face-to-face training and go live date, and explaining all support options. Partnering with an experienced and trusted vendor will successfully transition your school to a new whole school management system, leading to efficiencies and improvements for your school and community.”
Dr Kiki Tanousis from Xuno said upgrading to a simpler, more efficient school management system is the best option for schools. “Schools often find themselves with monolithic school management systems that do lots of things but do only a few of them really well. So, their IT departments often have to add on specialist software to get the versatility and depth that they and their communities need. Specialist timetabling, specialist reporting, specialist analytics, comms, financials, health and safety and the like.
“One would have thought that this would allow for great versatility, but it doesn’t really seem to work that way. Schools can find themselves ensnared by and entangled in, their monolithic system, limited in their ability to link with other systems and in some cases, vulnerable to “captive customer” price rises,” Dr Tanousis said.
“But things are changing quickly. “Open SIS” systems are fighting back by creating clusters that are truly a network of specialist products. This means that schools can have a dispersed management system that enables them to pick the best of the best.
“Secondly, with expert data extraction, conversion and transformation tools, rival systems can be forced to work together, making the ability to add on specialist products (or even kick out legacy monoliths) that much easier.”