How Bromcom has supported a brand-new school community
The Tarka Learning Partnership was formed in July 2018 to support the development of North Devon schools. Their vision is to empower North Devon’s young people through education. In September 2020, Roundswell Community Primary Academy opened its doors. Based in a brand new building, they admitted nursery and reception pupils with a view of building the cohort over the coming years. We spoke to Emma Stubbs, Business Manager at Roundswell Community Primary to see how and why her trust had made the move to Bromcom.
Previously Emma had only been exposed to one MIS, Capita SIMS as it had historically been the chosen system to support schools in their locality. Emma has noticed a marked difference in systems when she had the chance to explore what else was available. One of the main reasons for not moving sooner, was that SIMS is all that anyone had known, and that people thought it was particularly good because it was the only system they had ever used. Since changing MIS, Emma has a very different opinion on SIMS and the functionality that it was once lauded for.
“The SIMS system was dark and unenticing”
Emma found SIMS to be unintuitive. It was able to hold some information that could be recalled upon for some simple reports but in general it was not an easy system to use. Users found it increasingly hard to locate and create different reports within the system. She noted that in a lot of cases, schools end up creating a separate role of Data Manager just to be able to create bespoke reports that would satisfy the needs of the different audiences. The allocated member of staff would become inundated with reporting requests from others that simply could not navigate the pathways of the system to gain the desired report. It was the same experience for Emma.
“Only one person knew how to use the system properly”
The expertise and time needed to invest into understanding the system was huge and, in a school, you just do not have time to learn a system or an update. The software needs to be intuitive so everyone can do their jobs and responsibilities, quickly and efficiently. The system was clunky and dated, which did not inspire the use of the system and would often cause a delay in tasks being completed. Not only was the system unreliable due to the local servers, but it could also be seen as overwhelming and confusing.
“Reporting was horrendous – there were just too many options”
Emma recalled there were many options available, but many were irrelevant and often would confuse users. The administration was not clear and often wasted the time of the users trying to work out which report or which filter is needed. The pathways are often laborious and not clear to the user.
Working within a Trust, reports had to be sent to the centralised team. This led to an array of data management tasks and the potential for there to be mismanagement and data errors. As a trust they needed a centralised system to aggregate the data and the legacy MIS could not provide this.
Another challenge for the schools was how they communicate to the parents and wider community. Having a safe, easy communication path between the community and school is vital to ensure engagement in the development of the child. The legacy MIS was unable to fulfil the needs of the Trust and a third-party option had to be procured. This was a costly additional feature that the trust believed should be included within the MIS system package as an essential part of modern school life.
Knowing that the Trust was growing and had a healthy appetite for development and change, a tender process began. Several different MIS providers highlighted their systems and Bromcom was chosen above the rest of the competitors.
“Accessibility for all users at all levels.”
A key factor for the trust was how interactive and intuitive the system could be. Everyone had a chance to trial the Bromcom system, and everyone was able to interact and perform their duties. Ultimately, the finance arm of the trust decided on the solution, but a lot of feedback had been provided from different members of staff.
Once the decision had been made, the staff easily made the switch to the new system due to the intuitive interface and the global search bar. There was no need for lots of training and staff have been able to navigate the system using the help options provided. The interface is very clean and intuitive. Emma can navigate between the different screens with ease, and administrative tasks seem simpler because there are subheadings signposting the contents clearly.
There are still areas of the system that have not been put into full use as of yet, but this is out of choice and Emma noted that it shows how clean and easy it is to complete tasks without other functions and features getting in the way of the standard practice of running a school.
“Being able to access the system from home during the last few months has been so beneficial”
The schools have not been tied down to a particular space to complete their responsibilities and duties. Instead, they have been able to access the system from anywhere at any time. It enabled staff to safely work from home and complete their daily routines. The freedom to move between spaces and machines enables staff to work in separate locations and collaborate freely.
“Everything is in one place”
Emma feels that a real strength of Bromcom is that everything is in the same solution. There is no need for multiple logins or multiple systems to remember pathways and navigation around interfaces. The one system supports the functionality and negates the needs for the different third-party add-ons. The cost implications of not renewing several third-party contracts means that the funding can be used elsewhere to develop teaching and learning.
As the school continues to grow and fulfil the places available, Bromcom will continue to support the Tarka Learning Partnership to ensure that each child is empowered to reach their potential.