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Tom Hoyes31/01/2023 12:02:39 PM9 min read

Tee off the New Year with our Back to School Tips

Are you feeling well-prepared for the new school year? If you're still working hard to get everything settled for a productive 2023, you're not alone!

Whilst the start of the school year is the perfect time to get organised, review current processes and solidify your plans, it can be difficult to know what to prioritise, or find the time to get everything done.

Using this time effectively will ultimately save your school time and effort, so with this in mind, we've put together our tips for the important items to consider this term to set your school up for success for the rest of the year.

 

Staffing

One of the biggest challenges that most businesses are currently facing is staffing issues, and schools are no exception to this, with teaching staff in high demand and teacher attrition a major concern.

The NEiTA-ACE Teachers Report Card sheds light on the current state of teaching in Australia and found that 84% of teachers surveyed have thought about leaving their work. You may have already felt the effects of this industry-wide issue, but whilst there's no immediate fix, looking at ways to ease some of the stress teachers face, and building a supportive working environment and culture, could go a long way.

 

Teacher Stress:

Results from the same study show that 75% of teachers feel stressed by their work. The Educator has put together an assortment of helpful tips on managing and alleviating some of the day-to-day pressures teachers can face, including;

  • Making time to problem-solve as a team
  • Allowing time for planning sessions and completing them collaboratively to share the load
  • Demonstrating to staff effective goal-setting and coping strategies
  • Scheduling regular check-ins with leadership

While this may be a complex issue that needs to be faced, implementing some of these small but effective strategies could have a positive impact on your school’s teachers.

 

Welcoming New Staff:

Your school has likely added new staff to the team at the start of the year. Beyond just the initial onboarding process, it is crucial that they continue to feel both welcomed and supported for the year ahead.

Some things you can consider for your new staff include:

  • Hosting workshops to bring staff up to speed on the systems they will be using
  • Induction handbooks
  • Welcome kits with branded school merch
  • Organising networking opportunities.

Whether it be different events or ongoing support options, there is a multitude of different ways you can ensure your new staff feel part of the team. For some more ideas on how to welcome your new staff, as well as your new parents and students, check out our previous blog!

 

Security and Compliance

You've likely seen in recent news the influx of major corporations that have been the target of cyber-attacks. In 2022 alone, companies such as Optus, Medibank and LastPass were all subject to attacks that resulted in their customer's data being compromised or stolen.

The most prominent of these was the Optus cyberattack. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) reported that over 9.8 million customer records had been breached. Customers' names, dates of birth, email addresses, and phone numbers were all compromised, except it didn't stop there as a subset of customers also had their driver's licenses and passports numbers uncovered.

While schools are relatively small compared to large corporations such as Optus, they are at just as much risk from things like data theft or ransomware attacks. School systems store highly confidential (and valuable) information pertaining to students, staff, and parents, so it is essential to take proper precautions to keep this data as secure as possible.

 

When did you last change your password?

The new year is a perfect opportunity to remind staff to set new passwords. As this is the responsibility of individual users, they must understand the importance of using strong passwords and changing them regularly. Proactive Information Management (PIM) has put together some helpful tips on when and why you should update your passwords periodically, and some best practices for creation.

PIM also suggests you should change your password:

  1. Following a security breach
  2. If you suspect unauthorised access
  3. After discovering malware or other phishing attempts
  4. Shared Access
  5. Logging in when connected to a public network
  6. If you haven't logged in for a while

Click here for more tips on security strategies your school can use.

 

Cybersecurity Gamification:

It's no secret that cybersecurity can be a bit of a dry topic for most people, unless it's already part of your day-to-day or you're particularly interested in the field. Making it interesting is the key to getting staff more engaged with security practices and tips - so how do you make it more compelling?

Gamification is the process of adding gameplay elements to training or similar activities in the hopes of better retention of information. While gamification is not a new process, many workplaces are translating this beneficial practice for cybersecurity training to assist in keeping staff up to date with different security procedures.

IT company Delinea states that:

"Gamification in cybersecurity is a strategy that incentivises people to solve security-related challenges through competitions and rewards to improve their hands-on technical expertise and collaboration skills."

Delinea also states that regular training has a knowledge retention rate of 5% compared to experimental learning practices such as gamification, which can have a retention rate of up to 90%.

Check out our other tips for implementing cybersecurity gamification at your school.

 

Process Improvement

Taking the time at the beginning of the year to review whether your systems and processes are running efficiently will give you insights into the areas that could be improved. While this may be a time-consuming task initially, implementing change with your findings can be beneficial in the long run.

As with any evaluation of processes or systems, it’s important to first talk with the different operational areas across your school. This will provide a better understanding of their day-to-day tasks, and assist in identifying where improvements could be made and what will have the most impact.

 

Automation & Workflows:

In today's technology-driven world, being able to complete tasks at the tap of a finger has become an expectation. Reviewing the processes at your school and digitising as many as possible will help reduce the administrative burden on your staff, improving performance, reducing human error, and ultimately saving time and money.

Click here to learn more about implementing workflows and automation at your school.

 

Evaluating Systems & Performance:

The beginning of the year is also the perfect time to evaluate your systems and their performance before your software ecosystem becomes even more tangled.

Continuing to use software that doesn't fit your needs will frustrate staff and complicate day-to-day operations over time, so ensuring that you regularly evaluate your school's systems is essential.

Some of the common issues that arise when schools evaluate their systems could include:

  • Outgrowing software due to limited functionality
  • Value for money
  • Integrations and data transfer with other systems
  • The number of systems used and the need to consolidate.
For a full breakdown of how and why to conduct an internal evaluation of your school's systems, check out the first of our two-part series here.

As part of your evaluation, it is also often helpful to map out your current software ecosystem. This will allow you to visualise all the systems you have in place, the features they cover, and how they connect.

To help you get started, we have created a free interactive tool to help visualise your school's current ecosystem. Try it out here!

 

School Data

Your school is recording a tremendous amount of data daily. Still, that information is wasted if you are not actively interpreting it and using your findings to inform your future strategies. AISNSW states that:

"The effective use of student data can be the impetus for educators to improve learning and wellbeing outcomes, and/or student social and emotional learning. However, simply having data offers very little insight."

In light of this, let's look at what data you should be tracking and the importance of giving your data some TLC.

 

Using Data to Inform your Strategies:

As mentioned in one of our previous blogs, there is a misconception that recording more data is always better. The reality is that tracking data just for the sake of it is detrimental to effective data analysis, making it an unnecessarily overwhelming and time-consuming task.

Asking questions to lead data collection and analysis will help you better understand what will be important for your school and avoid wasting time on data that doesn't provide any valuable insights. When thinking about what to collect, always start by asking yourself what you want to learn, for instance:

  1. What are the most popular extracurricular trends/activities?
  2. Where are the highest gaps in student attendance?
  3. Are there any positive or negative trends in your student's academic outcomes?

For more tips on the effective use of data in schools, check out our blog here.

If you want to make data insights easier to access and consume for teachers, students and parents, a solution that consolidates your school's data into easy-to-digest insights (Such as TrackOne Studio's Learning Analytics Suite) could be a beneficial tool.

 

Giving your data some TLC:

Much like the old 'you are what you eat' adage, your database can only be as good as the data you put into it. If you've got inconsistencies, gaps or other problems, you'll be spending a lot of time in the future trying to fix things to get the information you need.

To avoid this, the beginning of the year is an excellent opportunity to give your school's database some much-needed TLC. Taking the time to fix issues and clean or organise data will make it much easier to use and maintain each term, but knowing where to start can be a daunting task.

Taking this into account, here are some valuable pointers to get you started:

  • Decide what data you do and do not use
  • Keep things consistent and tidy as you go, saving you time down the track
  • Store data in your central point of truth and never use lone spreadsheets

For a more thorough deep dive, we covered these tips and more in our blog.

 

From staffing, security and compliance, process improvement and data usage, there is a lot to consider when setting your school up for a successful year.

Whether or not you have time to get to each of these, we hope these tips will help you to prioritise the areas that need your attention the most, and ultimately save your school time and effort in the future.

 

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