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Stephen Lucey outlines how using technology within school management systems drives efficiencies

Effective school management systems are the core strength of a school, helping provide strong leadership, an efficient senior management team and a solid communication channel. Moreover, the smooth running of the management system is essential in helping save teachers valuable time to spend on teaching and improving results.

Traditionally, schools relied on paper based systems when logging information about a school. They collected information on learners across a range of registration folders, marking books, assessment records and any number of different paper documents. Collating, sifting and adding in this information takes time and creates another administration burden, which reduces the amount of time spent in the classroom.

Today, technology is providing useful management solutions, helping teachers share information on individual students and identify any issues early on.  

This article will look at some of the most common management systems which can help save the workforce time, build better communication between parents, schools and learners and ultimately ensure that the maximum time is spent in the classroom helping learners learn.


Management information systems (MIS)

An MIS allows teachers to capture all the data of a school, its staff and students in one central, easily accessible data base. It then allows school leaders to observe trends within and between groups of students, compare different cohorts and make decisions about the school based on this data.

The main benefit of a system like this is the fact that it reduces the administrative burden on school staff, thus, making more efficient use of teacher’s time through more effective timetabling. It can also be used to facilitate a more personalised learning approach by matching curriculum resources to particular teaching and learning activities, or by making a wide range of assessment and analysis tools available to teachers so that they can better understand the attainment of the pupils in their classes and put in place measures that match their needs.

This is particularly helpful in schools where children have special learning needs or additional educational needs, and staff need to be able to have all the information on their students at their fingertips as well as being able to keep up-to-date with the different requirements the students have. When, for example, a child starts at a new school, the school is often given large amounts of information about the provisions they need to receive, which again needs to be centrally stored and referred back to as easily as possible as well as analysed and shared amongst staff and parents.

Learning platforms

A learning platform is an online collection of tools and services designed to support teaching, learning, management and administration. They extend the opportunities for schools by enabling learners, parents, carers and school staff access to resources, online storage and tools for communication, learning, teaching and management, not only during the school day but also after school hours and beyond the school walls.

Recent Becta research (Oh, Nothing Much Report, Becta, March 2009) shows that 82% of parents feel “in the dark” when it comes to their child’s schooling and 80% want improved communication with their child’s school. Learning platforms are an effective solution, enabling teachers to share updates on progress more quickly and update on performance with real time online reporting. This is a timely and meaningful way for parents of children with SEN to view their achievements and progress.

Learning platforms offer access to all kinds of curriculum resources, allowing learners access to effective support out of the classroom, as well as helping them to catch up on classes and even progress more quickly through a course using online learning. They can submit their homework and assessments online for marking and assessment, store their notes in their own personal learning space and collaborate through discussions with other pupils and teachers. Children with learning difficulties can benefit by having access to a range of tailored resources, peer support and opportunities to revisit lessons. It can also help them to interact with their parents, who can also get involved with the learning process.

Registration systems

In the past, registration of pupils involved filling in paper forms that were then laboriously entered into school databases or filed into paper trails. But with an automated registration system, pupils are provided with an identifying token, such as a smart card, which they place on an electronic reader in order to register their attendance.

It is quick, reduces the need for teaching staff to manually register students and encourages young people to take responsibility in registering their own attendance. The same technology can also help manage the flow of students to different areas of the school, for example, only allowing students with scheduled lessons into areas where they need to be supervised. This helps teachers to know exactly where the children are and can, therefore, help keep them safe.

Cashless catering

A cashless catering system enables students to use pre-paid accounts for meals instead of carrying cash. These are increasingly popular with schools because they improve student safety by removing the need for pupils to carry money, and pupils in receipt of free school meals are not identifiable, which helps to avoid them being stigmatised.

Cashless catering systems such as this operate in thousands of sites across the country, improving cash flow and reducing queues at tills. In one London borough alone, over 80 secondary and primary schools have been involved with an e-pay cashless system.

The project in Croydon allows parents to pay online and in advance for their child’s school lunches. They can top up the pupil’s account which is then debited when they pass through the canteen till. Approximately 45,000 pupils have been involved in the trial whereby 15,000 parents activated an online account to credit their child’s accounts and 7,500 parents paid via PayPoint.

Conclusion

Whatever the application, investing wisely in management systems can free up invaluable time, making schools more efficient and enabling teachers to more effectively communicate with both parents and learners, whilst focusing their energies on teaching and driving strong results. 

Further information

Stephen Lucy was Executive Director, Strategic Technologies at Becta.

Article first published in SEN Magazine issue 42: September/October 2009.

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