In 2020, a national report into principal health and wellbeing revealed that principals are working an average of about 55.2 hours a week during the school term. Approximately 97.3% reported they work over 40 hours a week, with 72.4% reporting having worked over 50 hours a week.
While being busy comes with the territory of being a principal, much of this time is being taken up by attending to repetitive, and often tedious, tasks. Indeed, this is an issue that school business managers, payroll officers and other administrative staff can certainly relate to.
Last year, The Alpha School System (TASS), which provides centralised school management and portal solutions, received the most enquiries about workflows and automated efficiencies ever; highlighting the push from schools to streamline their administrative processes.
Below, The Educator speaks to Kate Damant, Sales and Marketing Manager at TASS, about how the organisation is helping schools cut the clutter and simplify their business operations in 2021 and beyond.
TE: Red tape can be a major headache for School Business Managers, whose roles are becoming increasingly busy and multi-faceted. What opportunities do you see in the year ahead for Business Managers to reduce this red tape and improve efficiency in their schools?
Compliance, risk mitigation and ensuring that policy is followed are major aspects of any Business Manager's role; however, it is often the part that is met with dread. The perseverance required to stay up to date with the latest changes, requirements, and best practices; to ensure that the school is aligned with government obligations and staff are following the school's procedures can quickly wear anyone down. Not only can software automation improve employee wellbeing by tackling the routine administrative tasks, but it also reduces room for human error through parameter-based controls that ensure each step is fulfilled and that the correct information is captured and audited along the way. But automation doesn't just have to be process-driven; it can also be proactive. It can provide timely updates, notifications, reminders, and digests of information through features such as scheduled reports that are delivered directly via email – helping busy business managers to juggle their priorities and work load, while also removing blockages and the need for staff to wait on them, or worse, nag.
TE: With more schools moving towards a hybrid model combining face-to-face and online education, what are some key data management considerations you see for school administration in 2021?
In January 2021, over 60% of cybersecurity threats occurred within the education industry. This live interactive map from Microsoft shows which sectors are most attacked across the globe. So, it's no surprise that security has never been more important to schools. With the rapid adoption of cloud systems to facilitate remote working and learning last year, many schools did not have the time to thoroughly review what was being implemented in the rush. As things start to return to "normal", now is the time to stop and critically think about what was implemented last year; re-evaluate what is in use, what purpose it serves, what data it stores, and whether it is compliant with policy. This re-evaluation will mitigate any risk and give your team confidence in the systems they use.
TE: The last year also drove home the importance of stronger school-family connections, particularly in terms of parents' having a greater understanding of what is happening in their child's classrooms. How might these connections be strengthened in 2021?
In 2020, parents weren't just connected to their child's learning; they were involved in it. As things return to "normal", schools should try to continue to leverage this engagement and academic involvement with their parent community. Providing parents with a dedicated space to access meaningful data offers parents transparency between the classroom and home, giving confidence in the school, and its ability to be transparent and aware of academic trends. Delivering academic and performance analytics will also help promote positive Academic Socialisation; encouraging parents to adopt home-based strategies to assist with scholastic expectations, personal values and building learning strategies. This type of home-based involvement is critical to any child's academic success.
TE: What are some of the most important ways that TASS will be helping schools in the year ahead?
All our releases are determined by what our customers need and want. They discuss and vote for what will be part of the next release cycle through our community forum. Last year we noticed a need for automation and efficiencies, and this year it is all about data. We see schools shifting their focus to big data and how they can leverage it to improve their performance and strategic direction. More and more schools will reconsider their software stack and question whether it is providing them with data-led insights. Apart from some big releases, which will include things like scheduling software, bank feeds, and a facility for students to log themselves in and out of appointments (we can’t give away all our secrets); with travel back on the cards (for now) we hope to get out and visit our customers more often. Listening to and learning from our customers has always been key to our success. Last year's travel restrictions emphasised how much we all enjoy seeing everyone face-to-face.