In many ways, cloud technology is really familiar to us. In our home lives we access cloud services like email or Netflix, more or less every day. We couldn’t imagine going back to posting letters, or a weekly trip to Blockbuster video. And yet, when it comes to a school’s management information system, cloud technology is something that needs a bit more explaining.
Let’s be clear. Lot’s of schools have adopted cloud technologies, whether it’s collaboration tools like Google Docs, or in their use of online services like CPOMS or GovernorHub. But a school's MIS is often one of the last things to move over to the cloud. While that’s a shame, because of the benefits this technology brings - it’s not all that surprising.
A school’s MIS is one of its most fundamental tools and so, school leaders are cautious about changing it. But thinking of this as a ‘digital transformation’ or a big ‘move to the cloud’, is probably not all that helpful. It’s actually a much smaller shift than most schools expect (for example, our team can move schools over to ScholarPack in just one day). And changing your system to one that’s simpler and accessible from anywhere can have an immediate impact.
COVID-19 has shaken up ‘business as usual’ and forced us all to think and work differently. For those schools who aren’t using cloud technologies, or perhaps have a mix of them, they will have really felt the difference.
Staff have been either working from home, or a mix of home and school, so the ability to access anything (important pupil information or contact details) and complete tasks from anywhere has been critical. And this includes physically within the school as well. Teachers are able to access the MIS from the classroom, which massively reduces the need to move around the school, and allows the children and staff to stay within their bubbles. The headteacher will be trying to stay 2 meters away from the SENCO, or the admin. Handing around pieces of paper is suddenly a risky activity. So remote access to the MIS has been really powerful for keeping things running smoothly.
Similarly, not having to worry about updating the system will have been a big relief for schools using cloud systems over the last few months. When the government restricted schools to a maximum of 15 students per classroom, we were able to develop our ‘bubble’ feature and roll it out before full year groups returned. Our schools were able to take registers, view reports, or send messages to their bubble groups from the first day back.
With on-premise systems, such as SIMS, these kinds of updates cannot be installed as quickly, or in some cases at all - as they may require a patch to be sent to the school, for someone on-site to apply the software update. For many schools COVID-19 has exposed just how limited and problematic on-premise systems can be.
We’re proud to have had lots of positive feedback from ScholarPack users on how much we’ve helped them over the last few months, and specifically, how much time we’ve saved them. They know we’re going to be thinking about what they need as things continue to change, and that saves them time in two major ways: the time of actually doing the work, but also, it saves them the time having to think about how to do it.
Indeed, one of the biggest challenges from the last few months has been the amount of times schools have had to rethink their processes to come up with another solution, or way of working, at a moment's notice. We’ve been able to forewarn schools about changes to ScholarPack and let them know we’re working on it. This way, they don’t have to go away and start working on a new spreadsheet, or hacking the system somehow to get it to do what they need. When we update the system, it's ready for them as soon as they log in.
Looking forward, this level of unpredictable change is only going to continue.
Just think of all the things we assumed would be there forever, like the way schools take registers, divide their form groups, and assess learning - these have all fundamentally changed in the last 3 months. Even as schools look to open fully from September, we know that the ‘new normal’ will actually be a period of ongoing change and innovation.
Director of Product