People and processesChange ManagementTechnology boosts productivity in the staff room too

Technology boosts productivity in the staff room too

Nick Wilson, Managing Director – Public Sector, Health & Care at Advanced discusses how technology can be used to boost productivity

Nick Wilson, Managing Director – Public Sector, Health & Care at Advanced discusses how technology can be used to boost productivity

 

From interactive whiteboards, personalised learning and virtual reality headsets, technology has the potential to capture the imagination of students, help engage children and subsequently yield strong results in the classroom.  At this year’s BETT Show, there was a powerful tagline of ‘creating a better future by transforming education’ which illustrates that transformation and change are high on the agenda.

But what about in the staff room? The most recent Department for Education (DfE) survey on teachers’ working time revealed that teachers are working excessively long hours – 60 hours per week on average – as staff are increasingly bogged down with paperwork and accountability tasks that are leaving them exhausted and unmotivated. According to the same research, workload is the “most important factor” cited when teachers leave the profession, and education unions have repeatedly asked for help.

The poll is part of the DfE’s Workload Challenge, launched by former education secretary Nicky Morgan in 2014. The department surveyed 3,186 teachers in 218 randomly selected schools, asking them how much they worked in the full working week prior to survey, including the weekend. Some 93% of respondents said that workload in their school was at least a “fairly serious problem”, and more than half (52%) said it was as a “very serious problem”.

 

Overturn the trend

So, what can be done to overturn this worrying trend? With teachers frustrated with spending too much time on marking, planning and data entry and management, technology can be the answer for teachers’ prayers, freeing them up to focus on value added activities and achieving highly coveted OFSTED ratings to shine a light on achievements in teaching progress.

At this week’s Education World Forum, the Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds reinforced how the government is actively working with technology to remove unnecessary workloads so teachers can concentrate on teaching and their own development. In his speech to worldwide education and skills ministers, he said: “I know there is trepidation in schools, quite often colleges, about the role of technology….but technology must have a role in our sector, as it does in other sectors, to be able to ease workload – which I know is of great importance for teachers in this country, and quite rightly so.”

The GovTech Catalyst has promised £20m over the next two years to help public bodies such as schools and colleges to identify challenges “that could be solved by new digital technologies”. This is intended as a way for businesses and innovators to gain access to the schools’ community and make it easier to collaborate on public sector challenges, which include “freeing up teachers’ time”.

But with data analysis as the silver bullet for gaining and acting on valuable insight, many educational facilities are already adopting technology to achieve data-driven processes that both transform the way they operate and improve student outcomes. Grimsby Institute is one of them. A general further education college with around 1,000 staff, it has experienced first-hand how further education software is helping to significantly increase staff productivity. After implementing an integrated student Management and Information System (MIS) from Advanced and integrating it with technology from the wider Pro Suite, it has seen its support staff productivity rocket.

Staff across the college have found every day administration and reporting to be faster, simpler and more intuitive, a transformation from what were historically productivity-draining processes. Standard procedures such as student enrolment, completion, transfer or withdrawal now take just five minutes, rather than up to one hour. This is critical given the systems are used every day by over 70% of staff.  As a result, the college has saved time on approximately 240,000 procedures during 2016/2017 and become nearly 200% more efficient on these tasks – the equivalent of freeing up 11 people – to focus efforts on delivering positive student outcomes.

Alongside the college’s ability to automate dozens of previously manual processes, the solutions also support compliancy, providing a very reliable audit trail. If the data is questioned, the processes are so transparent that it’s easy to see exactly who entered the data, find the source of that data and quickly rectify it.

 

Further enhancements

Even greater productivity can be obtained if the technology is connected with other systems in the organisation, such as finance and HR. Grimsby Institute’s integration with its other systems, such as finance, HR and Virtual Learning environment, means that student information can be kept up-to-date centrally, delivering increased confidence in the analysis and trends that are revealed. Staff can subsequently focus efforts on areas of weakness to ensure targeted improvements are delivered, resulting in greater learner progress across the board.

Just five months after rolling out the technology, the college started preparing the data for its next Ofsted inspection. Using the solutions together, staff were able to access higher quality student data and work more efficiently – all of which helped the college to gather important evidence required for the inspection. Impressively, Grimsby Institute won the highly coveted ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted – held by less than 1% of the 293 further education colleges in England.

Grimsby Institute has shown how technology and data can play a part in supporting staff in their concerted efforts to deliver positive student outcomes and boost operations – something which is within reach for all education institutions. Yet there is still a way to go. While our Advanced Trends Report 2017 revealed that 75% of organisations now have access to accurate and up-to-date information to make informed decisions, just 53% of employees have the right tools to do their job effectively.

If we are to overturn the overwhelming workload pressures felt by many teachers, these findings must change. Whether primary, secondary, further education or higher education, technology can help teachers and other staff reduce mundane and repetitive tasks, work smarter and be more informed. Only by pulling data from multiple sources into one place, and in real-time, can teachers gain a rich picture of pupil data, events and trends; changing data management from a burden to an opportunity. Imagine the impact on British teaching and learning if all educational institutions embraced technology and put data at the heart of their insight…

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