/ Peter Hooper
We were happy with our previous MIS provider. It worked and although we probably didn’t use its full capacity it was reliable and used for all basic school information and assessment data. One of the downsides however was the lack of involvement in innovation and development of the product.
We essentially created our own unique problem by opening a Studio School on the same site as our existing school. Both schools formed the Trust. Pupils are in one school during Years 7-9 and then can remain in that school for Years 10 & 11 or enrol at the Studio School. Both schools operate Sixth Form curriculum so students can remain or move between schools again at this point. Each school has its own DfE number and exam centre code.
With common aspects across both schools such as staffing and timetable, lessons attended solely by students from one of the schools and also subjects that were attended by groups of students from both schools it was not possible for our previous MIS to provide a solution. Initially we had introduced a second MIS – now one for each school. This partially worked in that information was available on either MIS but some aspects of attendance were totally in one MIS and if a teacher had a class with students from both schools in it they would have to log on to both MISs in order to find and record information. We looked into different MIS providers to generate a solution that meant that for daily routine operation a member of staff needs could be met through one Trust MIS. There are two additional MISs for each school but it is only for specific external requirements such as the Census that needs to be exported from here. The major difference is that the MIS talk to each other and update. The Trust MIS forms a one-stop-shop where the information from both of the individual MISs can be found. It provides the opportunity for further schools to be added at any future point too.
There is always going to be a lot of work to do when changing MIS. There is never a good time to do either. We chose the end of the academic year prior to the start of the new one. Work started before the end of the summer term cleaning the existing data. Bromcom managed the migration of data from the existing system over a couple of days after the release of external exam results which we imported into our existing MIS and before the beginning of the term in this case. Our migration was also complex as we were trying to move from two MISs to the three MIS set-up. In hindsight, if our data had been even cleaner this would have reduced subsequent work.
During the opening Training Days of the new academic year Bromcom provided a consultant to show the very basic logging on, search, registration taking and lesson attendance facilities. The appearance and logic behind the system was a success with staff who commented about how much better the functionality is. Face-to-face training of administrative and senior staff has also been provided as we got to grips with new processes to complete staff cover for example. Webinars have also been available to get an overview of the different modules within the MIS. These provided a very good general introduction to the area which then needed further individual exploration. In the opening weeks we also benefitted from regular telephone meetings with a project manager. They chased through glitches, sometimes due to our lack of knowledge and sometimes due to technical problems and software errors. We moved forward at a pace. In addition, issues were raised through Customer Support or phoned through to the Support Helpdesk. The vast majority of these got responded to very quickly with solutions or further guidance.
We are still exploring and aiming to utilise even more of the potential Bromcom holds.
The creation of an assessment portfolio equivalent to what we had has been a major undertaking but this also brings the opportunity to review what processes you have and to modify them which you might not otherwise take the opportunity to do. This was true of how we record behaviour events. This is still ongoing as we have created different responses for student behaviour across each school through the Trust MIS and this will probably gain further review. Obviously when you move across the timetable for the first time there are aspects that may not synchronise fully. One example is how we nest certain classes within the same group which came up as a clash. As we move forward however now that the timetable is created within Bromcom some of these issues can be ironed out.
We have been delighted with how the reporting systems provide summary data and also can generate comprehensive reports. Functions within staff cover for example are much enhanced over what we had used before with email alerts being automatically sent and cover appearing on teacher timetables. This has reduced paper based tasks as they have become digitised.
Whilst the process and accuracy of recording attendance has been another area of learning we have more analysis data available than we had before and in a range of graphic ways too.
Having the ability to inform development of the product and generally enable the MIS so that it can work for us is a major plus. We continue to look at introducing more communication through the My Child At School modules and the Student Portal, both of which we have started to use a little. There are some fantastic gains with regard to the use of the Homework and feedback aspects which go to the parent and the student.
Of course. The benefit of many points of contact at Bromcom and such a variety of training methods has been frustrating for some people. They say ‘I just need a manual and I’ll work it out for myself’ and some of the digital help documentation looks undeveloped. Occasionally people will say ‘I used to do that on’ but for us the solution has solved a fundamental problem and we have to remember that. Bromcom isn’t replicating anything else in that way.
A solution that has been slow in coming for us seems really straightforward and we can’t understand why it isn’t a problem in other secondary schools. We regularly have teachers who might want to use a different room to their timetabled classroom, to access specific equipment or because a child is on crutches for a few weeks. This means we need to move the class but this remains a convoluted process which could be easier. Maybe this is because in other schools students remain in the classrooms they are timetabled and staff are not given the option to move as much. For a long term change it can be done through the curriculum set up but for short term changes of perhaps a day or matter of weeks you wouldn’t want to do it this way.
Some of the areas could be smarter and graphically more impressive and the move to the new layout didn’t come at a good time for us. I find myself swapping between new and old versions so that I can quickly find information that I need. With updates some things mysteriously move, for example sending emails to classes, parents or teachers. These are now in Groups whereas they were in the Communicator module. Also the ability to send a message to multiple audiences such as parents, class teachers and the students rather than only one audience at a time would be of benefit. But these are relatively minor aspects that hopefully improve over time.
It was definitely the correct decision to move to Bromcom.
Absolutely: the only decision for us was to move.