How data will help decide the future of education

MicrosoftTeams image 130 | How data will help decide the future of education
By Conrad Emmett | 22nd May 2023 | 7 min read

When it comes to education, the pressure’s never been higher – particularly for state schools, which the government hopes will consolidate into Multi-Academy Trusts by 2030.

These growing trusts are expected to provide frequent reports and detailed funding breakdowns to the DfE.

However, that alone undersells the situation many schools and trusts face.

Once you win funding, you have to track spending across a large, potentially fragmented geographical area with differing levels of deprivation.

Then there’s a general recruitment crisis, compounded by a need to improve wellbeing and to compete.

Needless to say, the ability to manage financial, performance and wellbeing data across many schools is now a must.

Every efficiency you make counts more than ever – as does getting to grips with your competitors, marketing and delivering first-class communication that impresses parents.

Ed:gen – providing the power to adapt

As we’ve seen previously, Ed:gen, the fastest growing cloud-based MIS, already unlocks the potential to link with other IRIS products and services – now including IRIS Financials Schools Edition – helping trusts watch funding, track behaviour and bring schools together.

But there’s always more its 40-strong development team wants to do.

Ed:gen has become a tool with about 50 modules to manage schools and trusts,” says Nicholas Clark, Senior Product Manager at IRIS.

“While schools use these tools, our team always tries to help them stay efficient and adapt. For example, the DfE is not the most organised, and they can change their mind at the last minute during important events like census days. If we need to, we can seamlessly release updates that respond quickly to these events or changes so customers are not impacted adversely.”

Ed:gen’s new functionality, meanwhile, has seen some changes to help schools adapt and thrive in current conditions. For example, whereas schools once made do with a basic accident book, now Ed:gen has a full-featured medical centre that tracks what has happened to pupils, keeps an eye on appointments, sees who has taken medication and flags any dwindling supplies.   

Meanwhile, as schools scramble to recruit, a new module has been introduced to ensure nobody potentially risky slips through the interview process because staff are stuck for time. “Schools and trusts are already making good use of our new social media check,” Nicholas explains.

“This quickly examines what potential recruits are like outside of work and warns about extremist behaviour. What would take up hours of staff time can now be done in minutes.”

Looking ahead, the watchword for Ed:gen is connectivity.

Nicholas adds, “We will soon introduce new apps for parents, teachers and pupils, enabling them to access a greater wealth of data about school life that will keep them connected, updated and on the same page.”

IRIS Ed:gen – smarter than your average MIS

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The evolving landscape of independent schools

Independent schools might escape the big changes brought to their state cousins by the Government, but they also exist in a tightly competitive, result-orientated world.

In such a space, using technology to your advantage can give you an edge.

Alastair Price from iSAMS – the go-to MIS for independent schools – says this means there’s still an appetite to deliver new functionality.

“Our team is always on the lookout for improvements we can make to the software,” Alastair says.

Teachers, by their nature, are closely looking at the detail and keen to do what they can to lift pupils and help them get the grades for those all-important places at university.

“We’re in constant dialogue with our customers, making sure their growing needs are met as they emerge. Like Ed:gen, we’re adding functionality for wellbeing, which is now an incredibly important issue. We’re also refining communications – we live in an age where parents want to see their children’s grades, so accessing this information should be simple.

“But there's also a wish these schools have to get value from their data, so they can make important decisions, increase pupil success and improve in areas like fundraising.

“That’s where IRIS Central comes in.”

IRIS Central: your control tower for more effective trust management

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IRIS Central – transforming every school’s tomorrow

If there’s a game-changer in these sensitive, complex and competitive times – one that can help all types of schools – it’s the platform IRIS Central.

Central is an interactive data warehouse that draws everything together from IRIS platforms, including the MIS, financials and HR. It’s a vivid dashboard that delivers intelligence to organisations about their schools and, thanks to Government statistics, the areas they serve and the performance of potential rivals.

For Independent schools, like iSAMS’ customers, it helps leaders refine the admissions process and win more students – a situation, of course, no longer alien to state schools that have joined a trust.

Nicholas says, “The future is being able to tell a story with data, whether that’s about staff, students, finance, performance or any of the other areas Central can break down into clear visuals. You should be able to do this mid-meeting if you need to.

“Although you can commission bespoke dashboards from us, we’re looking to a future where you can quickly present what you need using high-quality drag and drop.”

Crucially, this is about bringing information together. Nicholas cites an example around child welfare.

“If you view attendance in isolation for one pupil, you might see they've not been there every Friday, but you won't know why,” he adds. “But if you also saw their dinner money balance and it was in deficit for months, you might suspect issues at home – likewise if you saw their parental communication history had stopped two weeks ago.

“Central gives teachers more time to work with those trends rather than spending hours cutting and pasting data or missing something completely.”

An AI future?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become more prominent in recent months. Nicholas thinks there’s a way to improve efficiency by using this technology in IRIS Education software.

“Netflix has this algorithm that suggests what you might want to do next, based on previous activity.

“Why not have something like that in IRIS Central? We're already starting to do some proof of concept to see if our platform could make life even easier by flagging trends you might otherwise not spot and then suggesting how you might want to explore the data further.

“The education professional always needs to be the one that makes a decision, but if our software can use AI to detect things that might pass under the radar, it would be a compelling addition to our existing solutions.

“Ultimately, it’s another great tool we can use as we constantly innovate and improve our technology to help schools regardless of type, location or size.”  

IRIS Education: making every school day a smarter one

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