A well thought-out and integrated information management system and other technology can provide a lot more benefits to a school than simply speeding up certain processes.
The first major benefit is saving the school money. School budgets are tight at the best of times, so anything that can help reduce spending is to be welcomed! But what else can technology do for your school?
1. Go paperless
One way is to cut down on printing costs by going paperless. This is not something that can be achieved overnight, but is definitely something to aim for. It can also be achieved to a large extent by having certain other systems in place.
For example, if the school can accept electronic payments for school lunch, it can also give out electronic receipts. Perhaps not all parents will require a receipt, but some might, in order to make sure their child has spent their lunch money on lunch rather than sweets. Without electronic payments, the school has to have receipt books for teachers or the office staff to use, which is a burden on the stationery bill.
2. Access data anywhere
Technology also allows teachers to have access to their data wherever they happen to be, and on their own device. For instance, if a teacher takes a class to a local museum, they can have the class register right there on their phone or tablet. Not only is this very convenient, but it can cut down on printing costs, because there is no need for the teacher to print off a class list.
In fact, having a phone or tablet has been found to reduce printing costs as a by-product. For example, when Harrogate Grammar School adopted iPads as part of a pilot study to see the effects of using tablets across the school, it was found that the senior leadership team could access the documents on their device, and so cut out the associated printing costs.
3. Communicate with parents
Communicating electronically, whether within the school or between school and parents and others, is far more efficient than relying on paper. Storage is much less of a problem, as is finding information you know has been sent or received. Apart from anything else, information is probably less likely to get lost — think of how many letters never make it home to parents when sent via their children.
On the subject of communicating with parents, the school’s MIS system offers the opportunity to engage in what businesses refer to as CRM: customer relationship management. What this means is that the school can very easily personalise the messages it sends to parents. Rather than “Please make sure your child has his/her PE kit on Wednesday”, you can send “Please make sure Darren has his PE kit…”. It may not sound like much, but people do like the personal touch.
You might even consider asking parents and pupils to take part in electronic surveys, to help the school avoid spending money on things that parents don’t want and therefore won’t use. Even if no money is involved, a survey or online poll can help the school gauge parents’ opinions on particular issues, and so guide future decision-making.
4. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency
That’s another area where technology can be an enormous aid. Having up-to-date data means that a school can do what it needs to much more efficiently, and in a more timely manner. Take the old reporting system, whereby parents were informed about their child’s progress, or lack of it, and their attendance and punctuality record, at the end of the school year. That was like driving a car with only the rear view mirror to guide you. Technology enables teachers to have the salient information instantly, and therefore to make interventions right there and then.
That also applies when they’re working from home. If the school is closed because of, say, weather conditions, there should be no reason that teachers have to struggle to get in so that they can continue with lesson preparation or marking. If everything they need is stored in the cloud, they can work from home. There’s also the bonus that their work won’t be lost or inaccessible if their laptop stops working — assuming they’ve saved everything to the cloud of course.
5. Full integration
Finally, having an integrated system in which all functionality is accessed from the same ‘dashboard’ means two things. First, lower training costs, because teachers and office staff have to learn just one main application, so that add-ons become fairly intuitive to use. Secondly, it means there are fewer potential software conflicts, because each part of the suite has been designed to work with all the other parts.
In conclusion, the school’s information management system and other technologies has the potential to offer a lot more than taking the register and collecting in dinner money.
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