/ Rory Haynes
Churchill Academy and Sixth Form is an Outstanding provider located in North Somerset. With no limits set on what pupils can achieve, their day-to-day aim is to inspire their students to make a positive difference.
We sat down with Headteacher, Chris Hildrew, to find out how the school conducted a seamless transition to Bromcom and the advantages they have experienced with their new all-inclusive MIS.
We fully implemented Bromcom in February 2022, but our journey began in 2021.
We had been entertaining an MIS change for some time. Our previous provider was OK, I had been using it for over 20 years across various different roles. While it did what we needed it to, we were having to spend additional money on programmes to supplement all of our data gathering and analysis. We had a teacher interface, safeguarding module, parent portal, and more. This bolt-on expenditure was also coupled with the time-consuming ritual of logging into each system to gain the required information. Four or five systems with four or five passwords does not make for an efficient working experience. Added to this the cumbersome nature of moving from one window to another and slow loading times, it was a no-brainer to try something else.
During the procurement process, we had several focus points that needed to be addressed. First and foremost was the ‘one stop-shop’ offering. We wanted one system, one login, and one point of truth so teachers could complete all of their work from a single programme.
Our evaluation period included talking to several schools that operated Bromcom and competing systems. It was Bromcom’s complete offering that tipped the balance. A lot of the other providers were not able to offer the same amount of functionality, and this was a vital selling point for us. We made the decision in early July and signed on the dotted line in September 2021, this allowed us ample time to utilise the system before our go-live date.
As part of our transition to Bromcom, the team gave us access to a dummy system which replicated our datasets – essentially, a walled-garden version of Bromcom.
This snapshot allowed us to play with the system and become familiar with operating procedures. We could enter behaviour, safeguarding information, and attendance marks, safe in the knowledge this information would not be saved.
We had a lot of fun doing this and it provided a great opportunity for teachers to acclimatise to the new software. One of the central reasons for change was to improve teacher work-life balance so this step was vital.
With the dummy system in place, staff could see, first-hand, the efficiencies brought about by not having to log into multiple systems and no more ‘spinning wheels of doom.’ When we did eventually go live after a comprehensive migratory phase, there was very little upheaval. It’s been a big, big win.
The Bromcom dashboards now play a central role in my day-to-day life as a Head. Each morning, the overviews provide a clear indication of staff absences, cover requirements, and even student birthdays. I’m immediately aware of gaps in provision and, on the birthday side, it’s lovely to see a student in the corridor and wish them many happy returns (most of them are blown away by the fact that I’ve ‘remembered’).
The importance of these dashboards also extends to SLT meetings. We look at key school metrics and conduct benchmarking against other Bromcom schools, particularly attendance. We’re yet to try the national and regional benchmarking facilities but we know there is the capability to do so.
Those meetings, with the assistance of Bromcom, allow us to assess trends among particular subgroups. If intervention is required, this can be done quickly, and we can address any issues at their roots. This is also replicated by the safeguarding team who use their specific dashboard to keep an eye on any vulnerabilities across the student population. In fact, the safeguarding dashboard has been customised within Bromcom so we can really inspect data at a granular level. Previously, this level of analysis would have taken a lot more time and required multiple systems to speak to one another.
One area we have seen a real benefit is behaviour logs. Staff would often have to wait for an age to log incidents in the previous system, this is not the case anymore. We are now confident that the information provided by teachers is accurate because there isn’t a technological barrier in their way.
The same can be said for attendance. As the system actually works, teachers can conduct registers quickly and are even sent prompts if they are not completed. Therefore, if there are any unexpected absentees they can be referred immediately.
Bromcom has made the lives of teachers a lot smoother. There are fewer systems and less time is spent waiting for outcomes.
Churchill have always operated some sort of parent portal. This meant that when we introduced My Child At School (MCAS) parents were already being communicated with, electronically. This really aided with the transition to a new system, the only issues were purely logistical i.e., getting them new logins.
The system is far neater than anything we’ve used before and we’re still working out how we can maximise it even further. We’re excited by the push notification capabilities and the noticeboard feature. Currently, we’re still sending too many emails!
We’re actually conducting some analysis on how parents interact with the app. The administration team are working through the collected data to see how effective our communications are and how we can improve them yet further.
Our next step is to introduce payments. We have another system which runs concurrently with Bromcom that we had already paid for. There was no financial incentive to change immediately, and we were already used to this system. Now though, we can bring payments under the Bromcom umbrella and truly operate the one-stop-shop approach.
We already use MCAS for loads of different purposes. We send reports through MCAS, post timetables, document behaviour, and more.
One of the best features is the ability to show exam results. If children are away or unable to get into school for their GCSEs, they can simply log in from wherever they are and find out their scores. In previous years and with previous systems, we would experience crashes and people would be waiting for this incredibly important information because the technology couldn’t handle the demand.
MCAS already has widespread use across our community, and I think, with the introduction of payments, this will continue to grow.
There’s no doubt that Bromcom has saved us money.
Even if it hadn’t, it would have been a price worth paying to have everything in one place. The fact that it’s cheaper too is just an added benefit. I know some of the competing MIS providers don’t have safeguarding or timetabling included, that in itself means schools are spending more when it could be included as standard.
Bromcom have even introduced an options module which is a great addition. They really seem like a company that want to bring more to the fold, and we stand to benefit from this.
It’s not just financial savings either, there are efficiency savings for administrative tasks, freeing up time for teams to focus on other projects which may previously have been neglected.
Honestly, I love the responsiveness of the company. With our previous system, there was a lack of interaction and when you made suggestions for developments these seemed to fall into a black hole.
With Bromcom, you can make recommendations and within weeks, they’re already in the system. That’s really encouraging, knowing your feedback is being monitored and more importantly, listened to. There seem to be iterative improvements all the time and the Bromcom team are evidently working hard behind the scenes to make the product as good as possible. As a tech nerd, this is something I am very pleased with and love looking at how new features are deployed.
Yes, absolutely. Every school has their own unique requirements, but Bromcom have created an MIS with everything wrapped into it. The product is already great and getting better.