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Outmoded Systems that Schools Need to Move Past

by Terry Freedman on May 11, 2017

Inertia. It’s the enemy of innovation. “We’ve always done it this way”, people say. Or, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The trouble is, ‘it’ may well be broken without anyone even realising it. Take paper usage, for example. According to an article in Edutopia, an American website, the average school uses around 250,000 sheets of paper a year. A UK-related article on the Office Express website presents even starker figures: up to a million sheets per school per year, with a further £60,000 spent on photocopying.

If you think about it, that’s the equivalent of two teachers or two or three teaching assistants, once you take the ‘on-costs’ into account. So, anything a school can do to reduce how much paper it gets through should be considered. Even if your school hasn’t decided to go completely paperless, as is possibly through applications such as ParentPaperWork, you could at least look for savings in a number of ways.

For example, could some of your letters home to parents be replaced by emails or texts. Could the school newsletter be emailed rather than printed? Do set lists have to be printed out when they could be accessed from a smartphone or tablet?

In fact, when you look at all the different admin-related tasks the school performs, is there anything that strikes you as outdated or wasteful?

Take numbers of school dinners. In the bad old days either the teacher or pupils had to collect in the details of who was having school dinner that day, take in the money for them, and get the information to the school office in time for the dinners to be prepared or ordered. None of that is necessary now, because numbers for school dinners can be ascertained when the register is being taken — and the information sent to the school office instantaneously.

Moreover, it’s easy for a school to set up convenient payment systems that makes life much easier for all concerned: pupils, who no longer have to remember that the money in their pocket is for lunch, not crisps; teachers, who don’t have to waste time totaling up dinner money and wondering why they have 50p too little or too much; and the beleaguered office staff who no longer have to cope with ten or twenty teachers or pupils all trying to give them dinner monies at the same time.

Another thing to look at is how many times teachers and office staff (re)create the same information over and over again. Think about it: if a pupil’s name is in the school information management system, nobody should ever have to type it out when creating a list. Need to create a special group for low attainers in maths? It should be as easy as putting ticks next to pupils’ names, according to the grades they’ve been given. In fact, a good system like Emerge will do most of the work for you.

On the subject of assessment, can you record data for pupils while you’re talking to them in the lesson? If not, you probably make notes, then enter the appropriate information into the assessment system later. So, you will be doing the same thing twice, and spending extra time doing it — time that you could be spending preparing a lesson or having a break.

A nightmare for teachers is trying to talk to a parent on the phone. Chances are, when the teacher is free, the parent is unavailable, and vice versa. A much better solution is to be able to send the information in a text or email to parents.

Finally, when a school trip is running late getting back what do you do? Leave parents to fret while waiting in the school car park? Try to phone each one individually? Or send a blanket message by text to all of them at the same time?

Bottom line: if people are spending time doing things more than once, wasting time doing things one by one rather than simultaneously, or doing anything that a computer could do, the school system in question is outmoded.

To coin a phrase: the school could do better.

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