Save time and money using ICT effectively

Ed Whittaker

Ed started his career in chemistry, working for ICI Organics Division in Blackley. Having decided that 21 days holiday a year was simply not enough, he left industry to take up teaching at the age of 30. He spent the next twenty odd years teaching chemistry to GCSE and A level - and learning about behaviour management the hard way. Early in his teaching career he became interested in classroom management techniques following some Keystone Kops style episodes in his Y9 lessons. For the last few years of his teaching career Ed was the behaviour lead in a large Manchester comprehensive and was responsible for the successful introduction of BFL into the school. In July 2008 Ed left teaching to form Schools Data Services Ltd, specifically to promote IRIS, an on-line behaviour and rewards management facility devised by Ed and ex school MIS manager Andrew Rose.

Ed lives in Rochdale with wife Helen, two boys and a dog of very small brain called Archie. His main ambition is to make a difference in education by providing an alternative low cost, high value MIS to schools.

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Driving efficiencies to provide real cost savings will be top of every secondary school Headteacher’s agenda in 2011. Managing and monitoring pupil behaviour is often administration heavy causing it to be a common time thief for both teachers and non-pastoral staff. An effective way of easing this burden is to implement a well-designed robust IT system that can record, monitor, analyse and manage pupil behaviour.

As teaching, learning and behaviour are inseparable issues in school, managing pupil behaviour efficiently is a core consideration for Headteachers. Without good order in the classroom, effective teaching cannot take place and pupils’ learning is inhibited. Even low-level disruption in the classroom is a significant source of stress for teachers. Poor behaviour, whatever the severity, impacts on every aspect of school life; from exam results to teacher and pupil wellbeing.

All too often the manual systems in place for monitoring and managing pupil behaviour are administration intensive, involving a significant investment of time from teaching and non-pastoral staff. Traditional paper based systems frequently require the completion of various forms from which data is extracted into a spreadsheet. While this type of system could be described as adequately monitoring the number of positive or disruptive behaviour incidents, there is minimal analysis available. As a result, a paper based system does not assist a head teacher to drive efficiency through behaviour management or provide an immediate accurate overview of pupil behaviour.

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Before an IT system can be introduced and pupil behaviour monitored a school needs an effective behaviour management strategy in place. This should adhere to the following criteria: the policy needs to be clear, known and understood by all; staff, pupils and parents. There should be a sense of ‘buy-in’ to the policy by the staff so they feel supported by the school management. It needs to address both low-level and severe behaviour in a ‘fair’ manner and have a number of clear, known sanctions. The policy should also equally address and encourage positive behaviour.

The ‘IT’ solution

Once in place, the strategy will help form the basis for procuring a suitable behaviour monitoring IT system. With this in mind, a system that is customisable and flexible is an excellent starting point and will ensure the school can monitor the details that are relevant to its behaviour strategy. By having input screens that are customisable, the school has greater control over the input and output data ensuring staff only record necessary information.

There are behaviour management systems available as optional modules with MIS systems, like SIMS and CMIS. Cost-effective solutions from smaller independent companies can also offer interoperability to make the integration of new software quick and straightforward. This removes the need to re-enter information that already exists, such as staff, student and timetable records.

Furthermore, an online cloud-based solution requires no uploading of software onto individual computers or the school’s network and allows users to access the system via the internet using secure log-on details at anytime from anywhere. By choosing an online behaviour monitoring platform, information sharing between the school and its stakeholders is simplified. The school can provide secure access to specific data within the system to management, governors, parents and even pupils.

However, one of most powerful capabilities of an IT based behaviour management system is the ability to provide real-time analysis, turning raw data into usable, useful information with the click of a mouse. Software that can compare year groups, specific classes or even individual pupils over a set period of time with a one click policy eliminates any analysis administration time. How often do schools cost the time and effort put in by clerical staff in collating behaviour or rewards data? The new Ofsted inspection framework, with its increased focus on behaviour, has placed greater emphasis on having the facts and evidence to inform the school plan and the ability to monitor the effects of policy changes on pupil behaviour in real-time.

Similarly, a system that can equally record and manage poor and good behaviour is paramount. By implementing a platform that places the same importance on recording both positive and negative behaviour via a simple entry form will encourage staff to reward pupils. All too often good behaviour is taken for granted in schools but reinforcing a positive behaviour learning environment will ultimately lead to improved standards.

Counting the benefits

Implementing the appropriate software system should make recording and monitoring behaviour simple and not be labour intensive for the staff. A well-designed robust IT system could save the average secondary school many hours per week in administration time from teaching and non-pastoral staff. However, the benefits are plentiful and much further reaching than simply reducing administration costs. Improved effectiveness and efficiency of pastoral staff, better staff communication, better engaged pupils and the means to effectively tackle low-level disruption in the classroom are only a starting point.

A key feature of an effective behaviour monitoring system is its ability to quickly and easily give feedback to teachers regarding reported incidents. Providing feedback on incidents teachers have logged makes them feel listened to, engenders team spirit and increases staff morale and ‘buy-in’ to the system.

Effective behaviour monitoring IT systems have further positive by-products, enabling easy identification of teachers struggling to manage challenging behaviour and in need of support. This gives the senior leadership team the chance to support and highlight training needs amongst its staff members.

Ultimately, by utilising the behaviour monitoring software correctly, the school can simultaneously tackle low-level disruption in the classroom supported by positive discipline and also drive cost and time efficiencies.

Learn more...

Check out Innovate My School's Behaviour Management Software directory for in-depth listings on the latest behaviour management products on the market.

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