/ David Moran
The selection of the right Management Information System (MIS) is a pivotal decision that can significantly impact the daily operations and long-term success of a school or academy. Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) and individual schools often engage in extensive evaluations and comparisons when considering different MIS solutions. Feature checklists, technical specifications, and sales pitches are just some of the aspects that weigh into the decision-making process.
However, as many institutions have discovered, there is often more to an MIS than what meets the eye in the initial evaluation.
The story of Corinium Education Trust provides an enlightening case study. The trust, comprising a secondary school and three primary schools, embarked on a journey to enhance its MIS by transitioning from SIMS to Arbor. The decision was made with optimism and expectations of improved efficiency, streamlined processes, and better data management. However, the trust soon found itself facing challenges and limitations within that were not apparent during the selection process. Corinium reported that these limitations led to workarounds, increased manual efforts, and a sense of dissatisfaction with the system’s inability to adapt to their specific needs.
As a result, Corinium began to explore other options, ultimately making the decision to switch to Bromcom, which they found to be a more configurable and flexible MIS solution. In making this transition, Corinium experienced firsthand the difference that flexibility and configurability can make in the realm of school management. Their journey highlights the critical importance of an MIS’s adaptability to the unique needs of schools, ensuring that it doesn’t become a hindrance but a valuable tool that supports and enhances the educational process.
To shed light on the specific challenges faced by Corinium in their experience with another cloud-based MIS and the advantages they found in Bromcom, let’s delve into real-world scenarios and reported evidence that exemplifies the significance of flexibility and configurability in a school MIS:
Arbor’s assessment functionality, while initially promising, proved to be more restrictive than Corinium expected. The system allowed changes within only narrow parameters, forcing educators and administrators to make accommodations. The assessment structure was far from being as flexible as they had hoped.
In contrast, Bromcom’s system empowers schools to have full customisation over their assessment components and reporting formats. This means that schools can build the exact assessment structure they require, while ensuring that the reporting maintains brand consistency and delivers the desired message to parents and stakeholders. This level of configurability allows schools to maintain a unique identity and fulfil their specific assessment needs.
A common challenge encountered by schools is the differentiation between subjects like English and English Literature. Some MIS are set up for these two subjects be scheduled identically, even when they were taught separately. This presented a significant hurdle for Corinium, as it necessitated complicated workarounds to accurately capture two distinct sets of grades.
Bromcom takes a different approach by providing greater flexibility. Schools using Bromcom can set up customised marksheets that allow for both the copying and separation of grades for subjects like English and English Literature. Importantly, this can be done without being tethered to the intricacies of the school timetable. This configurability means that staff can submit grades conveniently and accurately without artificial constraints, ensuring that each subject’s unique nuances are captured appropriately.
Timetables are the backbone of a school’s daily operations. Making substantial changes to a school’s timetable is not a rare occurrence. Limitations in this area posed considerable challenges for Corinium. When significant edits were made to the timetable, there was a risk of overriding modifications made in the system during the export process. With no revision history, these substantial edits prompted anxiety and a sense of unease.
Bromcom, on the other hand, features a purpose-built timetabling module that enhances the agility and confidence with which schools can manage their timetables. With Bromcom, the process of making timetable changes is considerably more straightforward. Schools can push and pull changes with ease; all while being reassured that no overriding changes will occur during export. Each adjustment made in Bromcom is time-stamped, providing transparency and safeguarding against data loss or errors.
Routine tasks like advancing classes from one academic year to the next or transferring groups presented unexpected challenges for Corinium. These seemingly straightforward operations turned into time-consuming chores that took days to complete.
Bromcom has designed an intuitive and efficient set of tools for managing class promotions and group transfers. As a result, these operations can be completed in a matter of seconds, offering schools the flexibility and convenience they need to manage their classes effectively. Bromcom’s approach recognises that schools require agility and last-minute flexibility when it comes to these essential operations.
A common requirement in many schools, especially those with different year groups or student categories, is the need for staggered lunch schedules. Despite efforts to tweak and work around this issue, Corinium’s specific needs for staggered lunches across different groups and days could not be seamlessly accommodated. This lack of flexibility created a considerable administrative burden for the school.
Bromcom offers a straightforward solution to the complex problem of managing staggered lunches. Schools using Bromcom can readily handle staggered lunch parameters through its flexible time-setting options. This flexibility extends to accommodating weekly rotations, where lunch times may need to differ. With Bromcom, there is no need for workarounds or complex scheduling adjustments. The system adapts to the school’s specific needs.
An MIS is expected to provide insights and notifications, especially when it comes to critical metrics such as staff sickness absences. Corinium found their previous MIS’s capacity to configure alerts and thresholds to be limited, leaving the school unaware until manual reviews were conducted.
Bromcom empowers schools to take control of their data with the ability to create custom notifications. Schools can define and set thresholds for various metrics, ensuring that they stay informed about critical issues, such as staff sickness absences. With Bromcom, schools no longer need to rely on manual oversight to detect potential problems. The system proactively keeps them in the loop, allowing for timely interventions and decision-making.
The process of adding new students to the system is a routine but crucial task for any school. Corinium found this task involved a repetitive series of clicks through subjects and years without the convenience of filtering. Consequently, it became a time-consuming endeavour for school administrators.
Bromcom simplifies the student enrolment process by automatically assigning relevant class details upon the selection of the student’s year group. This automated process removes the busywork and speeds up enrolments significantly. It recognises that schools need to onboard students efficiently and that time spent on repetitive administrative tasks can be better used for educational activities.
The accurate recording of exclusions is vital for schools, as it influences a range of reports and statistics. Limitations in handling same-day exclusions resulted in data accuracy issues for Corinium. Present marks from brief attendance would often override exclusions, skewing the reporting of absences.
Bromcom’s exclusion logging system takes precedence over any prior attendance marks on the same day, ensuring accurate absence statistics, regardless of partial attendance. This means that schools can rely on their MIS to provide an accurate representation of student exclusions, and there is no exaggeration of attendance.
By sharing their experiences, Corinium helps other MATs understand some of the more detailed, technical issues that can arise, and encourages them to consider systems like Bromcom, which are truly capable of adapting to meet their unique needs. Instead of settling for inflexibility, schools can find the right fit to reduce manual workarounds and fully realise the benefits of their investment.
The experiences of Corinium Education Trust shed light on a fundamental issue in the world of school management – the need for flexibility and configurability in a Management Information System. But why do these characteristics matter so much, and how can they transform the way educational institutions operate? Let’s explore these questions in more depth.
Every school is unique, with its own set of educational objectives, teaching methods, and administrative requirements. A one-size-fits-all MIS solution rarely serves the diverse needs of schools. The inflexibility of a system, as seen in Arbor’s case, can force schools to adapt to the system rather than the system adapting to the school. This leads to workarounds, compromises, and inefficiencies.
A flexible and configurable MIS, such as Bromcom, allows schools to tailor the system to their specific needs. Whether it’s designing a custom assessment structure, managing complex timetables, or accommodating staggered lunch schedules, a configurable system empowers schools to maintain their uniqueness without constraints. This means that schools can achieve their educational goals more effectively without compromising their individuality. At the same time the Multi Academy Trust can access live data across all of their schools, push assessments and create their own reports and dashboards.
School administrators, teachers, and staff often find themselves grappling with time-consuming administrative tasks that take valuable time away from educational activities. The more complex and rigid the MIS, the more manual input is required to manage tasks such as student enrolment, class promotions, and exclusion logging. This not only drains resources but also reduces the focus on core educational objectives.
A flexible MIS simplifies these administrative tasks by automating processes and providing intuitive tools. This reduces the burden on school staff, freeing up their time to concentrate on teaching, learning, and student support. It’s a win-win situation where the school operates more efficiently, and educators can allocate more energy to their primary mission – education.
Accurate and reliable data is the foundation of effective decision-making in education. Inaccuracies in attendance records, grade reporting, and other critical metrics can have far-reaching consequences. In Arbor’s case, the system’s limitations in handling same-day exclusions led to data accuracy issues, which could lead to misinformed decisions.
A configurable system like Bromcom ensures data accuracy by offering the necessary tools to manage and report data accurately. The exclusion logging system takes precedence over attendance marks on the same day, guaranteeing precise reporting. When schools have confidence in the accuracy of their data, they are able to make informed decisions that positively impact students’ educational journeys.
The ultimate goal of an MIS is to support educational excellence. It should be a tool that empowers schools to focus on teaching, learning, and student development rather than getting bogged down by administrative hurdles. A flexible and configurable MIS aligns with this vision by minimising obstacles and streamlining operations.
When schools have an MIS that adapts to their unique needs and simplifies administrative tasks, they can dedicate more resources to achieving educational excellence. Teachers can spend more time in the classroom, and administrators can focus on strategic initiatives to enhance the quality of education. In this way, flexibility and configurability lead to improved educational outcomes.
The field of education is continuously evolving, driven by advancements in technology, changes in pedagogy, and political shifts in their expectations. In this dynamic environment, educational institutions must be adaptable to remain relevant and effective. An MIS that can’t keep pace with these changes becomes a liability rather than an asset.
A flexible and configurable MIS future-proofs education by accommodating changes as they occur. Schools can adjust their systems to align with new educational practices, technological advancements, and emerging requirements. This adaptability ensures that educational institutions can thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of education.
The MIS dilemma faced by Corinium Education Trust is a story of transformation and adaptation. It serves as a powerful reminder of the critical importance of flexibility and configurability in the world of school management. An MIS should be a tool that enhances the educational experience, not hinders it. It should adapt to the unique needs of each school, simplify administrative tasks, ensure data accuracy, and promote educational excellence.
In the case of Corinium, the switch to Bromcom demonstrated that it’s possible to have an MIS that aligns with these principles. Schools can find a system that not only meets their needs but also empowers them to thrive and excel in a rapidly changing educational landscape. In the end, it’s a lesson in the value of choosing an MIS that works for the school, not the other way around.