Even at the best of times, school management can be challenging, and when you factor in having to oversee multiple schools or academies, there are 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.
One issue is that often 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.
Major areas for improving future efficiency include online payments and financial management.
The schools management 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.
The market has been slow to change, due to the potential disruption schools anticipate if they alter the management information systems they use, but it is gradually becoming more competitive.
However, as more schools and academies embrace other systems such as cashless catering and integrated financial management, how confident can LAs and MATs be that these platforms will work well together, across multiple sites?
Complex and demanding
The way that many education bodies have installed and implemented new systems has often been both slow and narrowly-focused.
From an MIS perspective, 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. This costs time and money.
The different administrative remit of MATs has led to many of them looking for cloud-based alternatives to SIMS.
But the challenge here is to reconcile the need for centralised reporting with the autonomy of individual academies, many of whom will have already adopted new systems of their own choosing. This is particularly important when it comes to financial management.
Flexible integration and centralised reporting
In an increasingly complex and demanding environment for managing schools, administrators need flexible and adaptable solutions.
The market is shifting and consolidating, but any uncertainty about future developments isn’t going to help with how schools plan their management.
It’s neither affordable nor viable for them to simply start with a clean slate and select one overarching system to impose across multiple sites.
What they require is the means to more easily integrate those platforms and systems they already use with a centralised reporting capability.
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.
The benefits for schools 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 centralise their multi-site reporting and management much more effectively.
Currently, even buying tools from the same established MIS provider may not guarantee the compatibility these systems need.
This has serious practical implications, 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 financial 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:
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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