Given how efficient it is to use a management information system to keep track of absenteeism, communicating with parents and recording children’s progress (see What else can technology offer schools?), you’d think that every school in the country would find their MIS to be absolutely essential.
However, according to the latest research from the British Educational Suppliers Association, this is simply not the case. According to their latest survey into the state of education technology in Britain, only 20% of primary schools think their MIS is very important. For secondaries the figure is 56%.
In all, 77% of primary schools think their MIS system is important or very important, while for secondaries the figure is 92%. The corollary of these statistics, though, is that 15% of primary schools and 5% of secondary schools think their MIS is of little or no importance. Why might this be the case?
Perhaps a clue is in another of the report’s findings: for the majority of primary schools (51%) a significant percentage of teachers are not making effective use of the technology available to them. In secondaries, the situation is not that much better: in 38% of the schools surveyed less than half of the teachers made effective use of the technology available to them.
A good starting point might be to find out what the situation is in your own school, perhaps using the criteria set out in Outmoded Systems that Schools Need to Move Past.
The next step would probably be to make sure that members of the senior leadership team are familiar with how to use the systems, and actually doing so. The reason that it’s a good idea to start with them is that once they experience the benefits for themselves they will be more likely to encourage the teachers they lead to follow suit.
You might be tempted to believe that, as your particular school is very small, an MIS is overkill. However, one of the key benefits of an MIS is that you don’t have to keep writing or doing the same things. Another benefit is that having everything stored electronically means that you have a record of communications, payments and anything else you’ve used the system to take care of. Yet another benefit is that it’s easy to spot correlations, such as between different pupils being off school at exactly the same time.
In fact, the benefits seem so obvious that if teachers aren’t making use of the systems available then the reason must either be that they are not aware of the potential benefits, they are aware but don’t know how to realise them, or they find that jotting something down on a piece of paper is faster than logging into the system and typing it in.
If that last reason is the case, the senior leadership team needs to convey the message that while each of those situations might save the individual teacher a few minutes, the aggregated effect is to make it impossible for the SLT or even individual members of staff to use the MIS to its full advantage.
But first things first: we’ve quoted a number of statistics in this article. What’s the situation in your school?