Even at the best of times, school management can be challenging; from securing personal data and academic records, to keeping track of your resources. When you then factor in having to oversee multiple schools or academies, it’s easy to see how this can escalate into serious demands on resources and infrastructure.
For local authorities (LAs) and multi-academy trusts (MATs), having a clear overview is essential, especially where they must find ways of making fewer resources go further.
Often, one of the most significant issues is that individual schools and academies will have their own software and systems, and these are not easily adaptable for, or compatible with, multiple sites.
It’s one thing for individual schools to integrate their operations, but how does this embracing of new technology translate to multiple-site management?
For MATs, at least, the idea of schools sharing provision and learning directly from each other is built-in to their concept. But some MATs can include up to 40 schools, which is a big network to manage.
The MIS market is growing
According to research, there is a significant proportion of software expenditure on school management information systems (MIS).
In England alone, the market is worth over £100 million a year. Traditionally, Capita has dominated it. Capita’s SIMS was the platform of choice for around 80% of state schools in 2017, but has in recent years seen a fall in popularity. In fact, the rise of cloud-based MIS for schools and newcomers on the market means the MIS landscape is becoming more and more competitive each year.
Despite this, the market remains slow to change, in large part due to concerns around the potential disruption schools could face if they alter the management information systems they use.
Yet as the education sector becomes more digitised and resources continue to be put under pressure, schools, LAs and MATs could be missing out on significant gains. So how aware are they of these alternatives?
The rise of cloud-based systems
On the surface, modern, cloud-based systems offer a potential solution for the type of multi-site management LAs and MATs often require. There are, however, barriers to both their widespread adoption, and to their effectiveness in practice.
For LAs, for instance, the way that many education bodies have installed and implemented MIS has been both slow and narrowly-focused. Schools would typically install SIMS as a desktop-based, on-premise solution, or the LA would host the cloud version, to deploy across several schools.
This would put the onus for maintaining and updating the system either on the individual school, or the LA - costing time and money.
And in the case of MATs, the challenge here is to reconcile the need for overarching administration with the autonomy of individual academies.
Is the choice then to either enforce a uniform approach to adopting MIS, or to risk incompatibilities if different academies end up adopting different platforms?
Are changes on the horizon for MIS?
Capita has very recently sold off its education division. Capita’s Education Software Solutions (ESS) business sold for £400 million to a private equity firm. As a result, ESS will become part of the ParentPay group.
What implications does this have for schools MIS? Many other MIS suppliers have gone through various forms of sale, acquisition or merger.
The market is shifting and consolidating. But while it’s currently business as usual for schools, this uncertainty isn’t going to help with their administrative planning.
In an increasingly complex and demanding environment for managing schools, administrators need flexible and adaptable solutions.
A key to this is platform-agnostic software.
What is platform-agnostic software?
Platform-agnostic software is software that has interoperability across different operating platforms.
The critical issue it addresses is compatibility: you should be able to use it on different devices, so that it functions in a variety of environments. This type of inclusivity adds value, and ensures that a wide pool of users can engage with the technology involved. Currently, even buying tools from the same established MIS provider may not guarantee this compatibility.
The benefits for school administration are clear. Platform-agnostic software enables collaboration without obstacles. Where one system is in place, you can add to it, and work with it, without costly upgrades or system redesigns.
Freeing the administrative systems of schools from the frustrations of incompatibility can pave the way for LAs and MATs to use MIS more effectively in multi-site management.
This has serious practical considerations, such as how schools take payments. If one system isn’t talking properly to another this can mean more than an administrative headache. It has the potential to leave big holes in accounting, with future budgeting implications.
The Pebble suite and integrated management
Pebble’s income management products for schools are designed for flexibility and adaptability. They’re platform-agnostic, which makes them the perfect partners for modern management information systems.
Tali is an innovative, accessible online bookkeeping platform, which works as an all-in-one answer for financial management.
It helps schools monitor their income efficiently and accurately, while eliminating human error and offering a wide range of capabilities, including:
It synchronises its information with your existing MIS, removing the need for duplication of entries.
Till is Pebble’s tablet-based point of sale platform. It’s designed to enable cashless catering with card and contactless payments. With Till, you can create multiple products and profiles, ensuring you can take various forms of payment.
It also includes stock management, staff time management and custom reporting. And, like other Pebble products, it will integrate seamlessly with other systems such as ParentPay, Sage and Xero.
Trac integrates transactions, bringing different financial management systems together, and is an ideal administrative solution for MATs and LAs. It smoothly transfers data between systems, with fully-automated data-synching.
Trac will bring together all your essential financial functions, while extending this seamless integration to multiple sites. It is a standalone integration tool, but it’s also built-in to the Tali platform (see above).
However many schools, academies or sites you’re managing, Pebble has the tools to streamline your processes and give you the clarity you need for your future school management.
To find out more about our full range of products, please contact us today.
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