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Top ten tips: how better data can improve your school

07 Oct 2020 / Pete Atherton

The internet is full of lists, charts and top tips: 5 reasons why you should do this, 7 ways to do that better; 9 of the best of that.

In this blog post, I will follow this trend like a sheep — a sheep who knows a thing or two about edtech. If you can’t beat them, join them, I say.

This list of top ten tips will help school leaders and MATs look more closely at how MIS get the best out of staff and pupils because all can spend more time doing what matters most.

Tip #1: Try a one stop shop

Many schools and MATS have saved a lot of time and money by housing all their data and functionality in one place. Why have everything under the same roof? For one, this saves money on additional license charges. Also, keeping it all under one roof means that you don’t have to ping data back and forth between different systems that may not talk to each other very well.

Tip #2: Make sure your MIS looks good and is easy to use

This may sound like a superficial point but it is about more than aesthetics. If an MIS is well-designed and intuitive, staff can get up and running in no time. It should all feel very contemporary. I was going to say ‘very 2020’ but there are many things about 2020 about which we don’t wish to be reminded. When I say contemporary, I mean that it should feel like a walkthru system, where the user is taken through how to use each feature step-by-step. The global search tool on the main dashboard should make everything easy to find and the user should be able to bypass the main menu.

Tip #3: Supercharge your analytics

If your analytics dashboard is as powerful as it should be, it should have the following qualities:

  • All pupil demographics and KPIs (key performance indicators) such as attendance, behaviour and attainment should be easily available.
  • All data should be simple to analyse: you should be able to drill down through various charts and tables and export with ease.
  • Data should help you identify trends. For this to happen, it needs to be agile and current, so you can have reliable information on, for example, attendance or behaviour.
  • You should have the option to take control and design your own dashboards. MIS could give you a secure feed to Power BI — an industry standard interactive reporting tool.

Tip #4: Make sure finance is integrated

Why is it so depressing that so many banks are disappearing form the high street? Simple reason? Managing our finances works best when the information is easy to access and integrated into our everyday lives.

If your finance software is cloud-based, it can be fully integrated into MIS. That way, there will be no need to jump between applications. If your finance is part of MIS, you can use it as you would any other website, with multiple tabs. But this will also enable you to drill down into data.

Tip #5: Make assessment an easier process

Do you have experiences of trying to use the school’s assessment system but it seriously gets in the way of supporting students? If the answer is yes, then, you may want to look at a more flexible system that allows you to track progress from one central point. Whether you are analysing formative of summative assessments, it should be easy for you to analyse performance, for example by student, by class or by year group. Once you have analysed the data, it should also be easy for you to share it with parents via an integrated app.

Tip #6: Primary schools — track your assessment

How many Primary schools would like to track their data more efficiently? More to the point, how could the system they use have features such as a wizard to help them roll out an assessment system, based a series of simple questions. If there are many analysis features and built-in reports, you don’t need to be a technical wizard. I hope you like what I did there.

Tip #7: Secondary schools — look for software that is made for your sector

By the same token, how many Secondary schools have a MIS solution that is tailor-made for their sector? This kind of software has, of course, taken years of trial and error to develop and not many suppliers have the necessary experience and expertise.

Tip #8: Get everyone on the same page

Are you responsible for a MAT? If so, when you are choosing an MIS supplier, how important is MAT-wide data? You may want to look for the right functionality that will give you a detailed view of the entire Trust on a single dashboard. This data can then be exported to Excel spreadsheets and shared with ease. Bromcom, for example, offer a built-in Power BI viewer with a fully secure and customisable data feed, which saves money on Power BI licensing.

Tip #9: Scale up your MIS

MATs and Local Authorities (LAs) will do well to seek out a supplier with a track record of helping organisations scale up. This often necessitates migrating school data or adapting practices to accommodate internal systems.

Tip #10: Aim for central distribution

To save time and money, you would do well to look for an MIS that is built with MATs or LAs in mind. The advantages of this are access to a distribution repository, from which to share important data like assessment templates and reports.

In the next blog post, I will be reporting on the Primary School Improvement Workshop Webinar. Until then — take care!