/ Damon Hatcher
Back in the decade of big hair, New Romantics and the Rubik’s cube, cars were rolling out of showrooms with cassette decks, proudly emitting the occupants’ music choices with a gerbil like quality that’s hard to forget. Those that wanted the latest and greatest, the ultimate expression of 80s excess, would drive over to their local car audio centre and procure a brand new CD Player from Pioneer. Over time, these items became standard equipment, included in the price of the car. Likewise with Satellite navigation, it began as a third party bolt on and later became part of the standard offering, considered essential for a new vehicle. This cycle is replicated across the majority of markets, the initial innovation becomes an essential part of a product and something we rely on as much as a sat nav.
When it comes to the School MIS, we haven’t really seen that pattern. The use of bolt-on software is rife when you look at the historic market leader. It seems like every innovation remains as an additional extra with a hefty charge for the school and a significant amount of upkeep to match. Let’s face it, having a bolt on to carry out an essential task is somewhat of a workaround and not something we should expect from a modern product.
The school administrative team handling the various data feeds take on this huge burden because it’s far better than what took place before. Sure, there are plenty of calls to support teams to fix problematic data transfers and duplicated information, but the thought of going back to a paper based system is driving the move towards more automation and more third party applications.
A lot of schools have first-hand experience of this issue, but it doesn’t have to be this way. When we set out our grand plan at Bromcom, we wanted to bring all of the functionality into one simple One-Stop-Shop package. Why should you have to outsource so many tasks that should be included within in the MIS? To us, it made sense that having all of your data and functionality in one place means it’s entered once and utilised in a hundred different ways.
For example, our schools can effectively analyse using memberships from across the spectrum. How has persistent absence affected my attainment and has the introduction of the breakfast club made a difference to our attendance? They can raise safeguarding concerns directly from the Teacher’s Lesson Dashboard or design seating plans for their classes, all within the MIS.
Parents have one login to view all of their children across multiple schools. Show them as much or as little information as you wish. Perhaps you’d like to let them see behaviour events as they’re logged with a notification popping up on their mobile phone. Pupil attendance history, even down to the individual lesson, can be shared via the app. Assessment results, Homework, Achievements and reports can be published directly with the click of a button. The school shop, trips, clubs, dinner money and parents evenings are all handled inside Bromcom. Parents can even carry out data cleansing and update the office with any changes.
Additionally, there’s no data transfers to complicate things and there’s always one single point of truth. GDPR turns from a nightmare to a breeze as data access and right to be forgotten requests are a solitary click away. The pile of existing contracts are simplified into one SLA with an annual fee that will slash your costs. So it raises the question, why continue to do things in the old way? We’re challenging schools to work out how much they’re spending on bolt-ons and have provided a downloadable spreadsheet here to get you started.
Offering schools choice
It’s not always as straightforward as clicking your fingers to send all of those contracts into the ether and we understand that nothing is black and white. You might want to continue with a third party product that you’re either getting a lot of value from or have requirements that are unique to your school. We may feel we can offer a great alternative but we would never want to restrict our customers. That’s why we provide a great API to our partners that’s free to use, so you’ll find the vast majority of third party suppliers already have direct links with us. Even if you would prefer to keep one or two bolt-ons, you’ll still benefit from significant savings and efficiencies.
In order to keep ahead of the game, there are times when we do encourage the use of third party tools like Microsoft Power BI, the industry leading Business Intelligence Dashboard tool. However, to adhere to our ethos, we integrated the Power BI viewer into the MIS and provided a method of using the service that’s free to schools. In our mind, that’s a win-win situation. We provide a starter kit of templates which can be tailored to your needs, or created from the ground up. The combination of integrated Power BI and live Excel feeds are hugely powerful for those who wish to take their data a step further. To reference the original analogy, this is exactly what car manufacturers do by embedding Apple Car Play and Android Auto. When there’s a great tool that schools want to use, we’ll try and bring it into the fold, making the experience seamless and taking away those additional costs.
So how are we delivering on our grand plan of a One-Stop-Shop? Our users tell us it’s going very well indeed, with MATs publicising the huge savings they’ve made across all of their schools – Harris Federation saved £2.8m over 3 years across 40-50 schools (video presentation: Carolyn English at Harris Federation). Now we have a fully featured, integrated finance product, we’ve taken another step towards our goal. Why not take up the challenge and work out how much you’re spending on third party bolt-ons with your current MIS? It’ll give you an insight into why we began our journey and get you thinking about whether it’s time to make a change.
As Derek Hills of Harris Federation states; “Harris Federation moved to a new MIS provider Bromcom across all of our schools, and one of the major selling points was that many of these add-ons were integrated into the system. One system, one consistent approach, and more importantly, one price.” Derek’s blog is a great read and covers how schools are often seen as cash cows for a wide array of services – View Here.