The future of MIS is already here
Find out how Arbor can make a difference to your school or trust today, and more about Arbor’s future direction of travel.
James Weatherill, CEO Arbor
Overview – The future of MIS is already here
James Weatherill talks about the direction of travel he is looking to take you on over the course of the next 3-5 years with Arbor MIS.
He talks about some of the key challenges in education that Arbor is responding to and his visions about how to eliminate unnecessary school admin by creating software that is intuitive and a joy to use that makes a lasting positive difference at all levels within education.
Find out about why more primary, secondary and special schools that change their MIS choose Arbor than all other systems combined, making Arbor the fastest growing MIS with over 2,500 schools and 280 MATs.
James is the CEO of Arbor Education, the cloud-based Management Information System that helps schools understand their data better, communicate seamlessly with the school community and automate busy work.
In his spare time James is a governor of a mixed-phase MAT in London and spends his time thinking about how to eliminate unnecessary school admin, what data does each school stakeholder need at each point in the day, and how can you create school software that is a joy to use. He accepts there is still a long way to go on the journey, but it’s getting better each day!
After more than 40 years of helping our customers make more effective and extensive use of SIMS, in 2021 we took the decision to become an Advanced Arbor Accredited support and training partner. This means we that if customers choose to change their MIS, we can now offer services for Arbor, alongside our SIMS services which of course we continue to invest in.
One year on we now support more than 30 schools across the south-west and our Arbor customer base is growing rapidly across the country as Arbor continues to grow.
At Scomis, we help our customers across the country make more extensive and effective use of their Management Information Systems (MIS). We aim to help you exploit SIMS to its full potential to ensure that it is fully embedded across your school or multi academy trust. In doing so we help you achieve consistency of use to deliver efficiency gains, reduce staff workload, realise best value, and ultimately drive forward school improvement.
Find out more about our services that could help you get more out of Arbor MIS:
For help when you need it most – Scomis MIS Support Services
Other related topics
Find out more about how Arbor Head of Product, Hilary Aylesworth is making James’s vision a reality.
Find out more about moving your MIS to Arbor with CEO and Executive Head Teacher of The Cornerstone Academy Trust, Jonathan Bishop.
Find out more about ParentPay (the new owners of ESS SIMS) and their plans for Next Generation SIMS.
Further reading and reference material
ScomisLive is recognised by ISBL as Continued Professional Development (CPD)
Offering over 20 hours of appropriate learning content for School Business Leaders. ISBL members can register their attendance against their annual CPD commitment.
DEBBIE: Welcome back everyone. This morning we are hearing from James Weatherill about the direction of travel, looking to take you on over the course of 3-5 years with Arbor SIMS. After modern 40 years of helping customers make effective use of SIMS last year, we made the decision to become an advanced Arbor credited supported training partner. If the customers choose to change MIS, we can offer services for Arbor alongside the SIMS service that we will continue to invest in. So, one year on, we are managing over 30 schools, south-west, and our Arbor customer base is growing rapidly across the country as Arbor continues to grow. So this is the first time that Arbor has presented at a Scomis event. We are delighted this morning to welcome James to ScomisLive. James is keen to take questions, so please ask them through the Q&A.
We have definitely allowed time at the end of the presentation to take as many as possible. So, that is it from me. Good morning, James. And over to you.
JAMES: Good morning, thank you very much, Debbie. So, I will take you through a bit of background about Arbor and a bit of where we are heading, setting the stage for Hillary who is coming up later at 20.30pm to talk about what it means in terms of product. A little about me, first. I’m James, the CEO and co-founder of Arbor, having been with the company from the beginning. I’m a Londoner, I live in London. If you have a school in London, you are likely to have met me. I am a creative entrepreneur, I love solving problems with a hodgepodge career with a data business first to understand wealth, a second business that looked to make intelligent hardware products, Smartphone, watch, sat nav, etc and the third business, the hardest to solve, education, out of all of those, is Arbor! Things that I like. Simple thing, I live near an inordinate amount of bakeries, so I stuff myself with bread and gin distilleries as well, so Victorian in eating habits, and I like challenging the status quo of projects and learning about you. So that is a bit about me. So, it is worth going into: Why even bother to build Arbor? And why is it worth looking at MIS? Education has gone through so much change. More in the last two years than in the previous 20, driven by COVID, no-one’s choice but I separate change in 3 levels. At the basic level is the changes happening to how children learn. We have two children, Lauren and William, a traditional method of learning is a textbook or a syllabus provided by a provider, and you may open the book to page 5, start to learn a number system, progressing to geometry, et cetera and Lauren and William learning broadly the same thing in the same way at the same time. We are shifting to a different pattern of learning on the right. Children learning different things at different ways, different times. So these are two children going through a mass curriculum online at different paces. Lauren starts off on number systems, and masters that quickly to move on to ratios and probability. Dots around and at the end takes an exam or test, William, may start somewhere different with a different set of skills and strengths, weedles through the curriculum and again takes the same test. We are not fully on the right-hand side. COVID has accelerated online learning, online tuition and children learning home in different ways with a different medium, as a school, if you have 30 Laurens and William, how do you know what to do next? What are the strengths and the weakness? So the children need to have a scale to support their learnings and shifts. That impacts on teaching. On the left-hand side there is a traditional model of teaching. It is class-based. A teacher imparts knowledge to the students. There is data generated through a quiz or a test or termly data drops. Typically used by management to assess how teaching has gone in the term past but we move more online to a new model of more realtime teaching and feedback so, it is more personalised. Data is blended. There is iPads in the classroom. Children are doing online tests or quizzes and working through a digital curriculum. The teacher is a guide to help the children through the curriculum. There is a lot of data generated a large amount, chosen by all to help the parents, to be used by teachers and the head of year to work out what to do next. It places a stress on the teacher if they don’t have the data on finger tips to support learning and targeted interventions. Zooming further the school structure is change. We are working in a complex school system where you have local authorities, individual academies and multi-academy Trusts, working together. Each model has a different element of standardisation and autonomy with a whole mix going on now. Balancing the need between what the map wants to see, what the school wants to see, what the local authority wants to do to fulfil statutory obligations and what the school does with a minimum amount of friction is important. Good systems can help to provide for this by providing data to all school stakeholders. So you have that change against student, teacher, school level all going on at the same time and where is the pressure felt the most on teaching and support staff … and I guess friends at Scomis supporting the change. So workload spiked as the change is pushed down on to the schools, and I look at teacher diary surveys, it is a nerdy pastime of mine that I track, the interesting bit offed it there is that a workload is starting to decrease a little bit. It is still too high but admin is increasing. So again, the teaching staff absorbed the change through working harder, better systems can help to automate some of that work, reduce it, make it efficient, effective, and give teachers back time, so really what we trying to do is to give back teacher’s quantity of time by automating the parts in orange, and improving the quality of teaching time by using the data that we collect to target the staff to the students most in need.
This is our problem statement: All of that change means that there is a gap between what the schools need to do and what you can deliver easily and effectively. I believe it is caused not solely but in a large part by the systems. Schools have worked hard to keep apace with change. COVID accelerated it further. Schools kept up but MIS has not. That is why we started Arbor. It is more true today than yesterday. Probably more true tomorrow than it is today. So it is a problem statement. The challenge that I throw to you guys, if you agree, let me know, if you don’t, ask me a question at the end. This, I wanted to bring this to life through a couple of pen portraits. Here are things you can read. Real life stories from the schools that we work with. So a head teacher, addressing persistent absenteeism, it is hard to pull a strategy in place, wants to attract a tenant but it is taking the data manager too long to pull together a report. How do heads get access to realtime information without going through a data manager each time and stressing them out?
That the is one aspect where we can help a head teacher. Support staff, this is an example of a secondary school admin in Yorkshire. Taking all of the time up with attendance. Trying to contact parents of children by 10am or as soon as possible after register is taken, to close safeguarding gaps. It can take ages. And it is significant. Although the school is taking a register electronically, teachers still forget to press save so there is chasing around with the secondary admin which causes pain, friction and distraction each day. As a teacher, that is a primary schoolteacher from Rotherham. Dreading to write reports for the students. Know it is important but it is time consuming, running reports, typing remarks, ferreting around to get data in place and by the time you come to write the professional judgment, you have switched off a little bit. Very sad to hear. But these are examples of the pain points, the change pushed down on to the staff, people doing the busy work, instead of work that they should be doing in this case, the teacher having a professional judgment on the students. That the is the main value-add there. So, what are we doing to help all of this?
This is our mission at Arbor. We want to help the schools transform the way that we work to save teacher’s time and as output improve student outcomes. Getting Arbor, we have, to unpack it a little bit, we don’t want to create a small change in schools, I don’t want to try to ease workload by 5%. That will not be an exciting goal or ambitious for you, nor would it be worth changing a system to achieve a marginal gain. I want to totally change the way that schools work to make the pain points disappear and ideally, the best thing that MIS can be is invisible within a school. To work seamlessly to take the pain points and busy work away from the staff to allow the head teachers to get data instantly, support staff with the admin management and for teachers to continue with teaching that is a transformation. To turn MIS from being a bit of a painful word into a pleasurable word! And I’m being whole school transformation. at no point in time has it been more true than today. All schools have had to transform the way that they work over the last two years, terrifying, stressful and in the context of the mission, a big opportunity as well. So, never look at a gift horse in the mouth. Sometimes fast change whilst not asked for is useful. The main outputs that we align to at Arbor we obsess about the time we can save schools through all aspects of the system and the whole mission and the point of the company that is written into our articles of association is: Arbor exists to improve the attainment of young people. It is our legal purpose in our articles. I want to align our mission to schools’ mission. Schools are not for profit organisations we have to align with improving outcomes if we can do that, if we are doing a good job and the staff recommend us, and we are using the system effectively, we will hopefully have a great business. Zooming further out, we have the opportunity at Arbor to make a difference not only to the individual schools but to create a school-led system. What do I mean by that? Well, I think that the education system is fragmented, it is driven by indecision, you can’t get governments across the world to agree on what good looks like or within this country, two governments don’t agree. So ever changing standards. I believe that the standards and practices are led by systems and schools not the governments, so we collect the data, test what works, and in practice short cycles to be led by school practice, not politics. We listen to the schools, we build that into the system. We have an opportunity now at Arbor, with about 3,500 schools to create a national impact. We have a really good network of being able to understand how COVID is spreading across the country as every day we get the data, once the register is closed and we have instant idea of how it is spreading, we should share that with people! We can define together for how the schools’ collect standards and data and the workflow continues in the school. Data is important in the journey with access to the data, with our products and new products and third-party systems we can understand how education is delivered at scale. So there is stuff coming up that is exciting that I will talk to you about.
Schools are not for profit organisations. We need to align. If we can do that and staff recommend us and are using the system effectively hopefully we will have a great business. Zooming out a bit further. We have an opportunity to make a difference not only to individual schools, but to create a schoolled system.
What do I mean by that? I think the education system is fragmented it’s riven by indecision. You can’t even get Governments across the world to agree on what good looks like. So you have everchanging standards. I believe that standards and good practice are going to be led by systems and schools not Government. It’s a punchy statement, but we collect more data, we can test what works, in practical short cycles and we can be led by school practice, not politics. We listen to what schools want and we build it into the system. We do have this unique opportunity now where Arbor at an about 3,500 schools. We can create a national impact.
We have a really good network of being able to understand how COVID is spreading across the country, because every day we get the data and once registers closed we have an idea of how that is spreading we should share that with people. So we can define together the standard for how schools collect data and analyse data and workflows will go on in the school. Data is going to be super important on this journey. As we get access to data, we can understand how education is being delivered at scale. So there is some stuff coming up which is quite exciting and I will talk to you about.
We are very keen to prove the difference we make. There is no point in changing your MIS unless it actually makes a measurable difference to how we work. We survey all of our schools every term on a number of impact metrics. So how much time do schools save, 92% here. How has Arbor improved how you analyse and understand data. 81% of schools agreed it had. The one I am most pleased about is how has Arbor transformed the way you worked? Or has it. 92% said that. So we hold ourselves true to these metrics and we review them in depth every term and we can share them with you. So we can show in a school who agrees with these and where the blockers are.
It’s also important in terms of vision. I want buyin, not lock in. I want every single school to be delighted with the fact they have chosen Arbor. That is the reason you will stay. This is a quote from Joanne, I pick on her too much because I like this. Change is hard. When they said it, they used it a catalyst to change many ways in which they work, not just MIS, MIS touches on so many different aspects of school life. It’s a deep change and we see this with many different data managers and support officers that you have got used to a way of working that is 20 years old. How do you change to a new way of working? I would ask, is it worth trying?
This is Joanna, and she is biased because she is using Arbor. She doesn’t want to go back to the old way of working. It’s tough to break a habit, but once you do, change is hard, but if it’s worthwhile it becomes the new normal. School systems are meant to solve this. The role of the MIS is to bring all of these systems together. It doesn’t mean you have to do it all and I would caution against any provider that says you can do absolutely everything, but each system and it tells the bigger picture. How do you tell the story of a child in no clicks. That is not happening and collectively these systems are quite expensive. We want to provide integrated insight as a system, so we offer many of these things. Payments and communications and they come out of the box at a lower cost with Arbor. We want to integrate and bring the best systems that you love to use together as well so that you don’t have to input a parent’s email three times into three systems.
Another test is how much do you have to put in staff details? If it’s any more than once something is going wrong. So we want to bring your data together, core data in one system, allow that data to flow around and be a really great partner to the systems you love so that they get the data from Arbor and you can push the data back into Arbor. So you get all of your data nicely in one place. That should save hours of time when you are pulling together reports, especially when you are at home and you have to do that lastminute report. You can actually do it. That doesn’t seem very visionary, but it’s not about a test for are we doing my job properly? And what we are trying to create is a more joined up school. These are the benefits you can see for each ski stakeholder. Students are always up to date. Students get more support, parents are more engaged and informed, they can communicate with school and communicate in real time, make changes on the app and it requests a request for home change or a change in phone number and it can be completed in one click. Parents can on board in terms of their admissions, so they can fill in their details, the school doesn’t need to. Really speeds up admin time for school staff, SENCOs provide more effective support and leadership understand how their school is operating daytoday. It’s kind of a virtuous circle. I want everyone to be up to date in realtime about how students are progressing. That is the goal and able to and a big theme that we will unpack and Hilary will show later is how different stakeholders can collaborate around a child as well. Many people input around a child every single day, so that information needs to be captured in a really easy way.
And you know there is budget savings as well. So the benefit of having a cloudbased system is things can be cheaper and more joined up, because that is the way it should work. So we save about 30% on IT costs by cutting out systems you no longer need, making savings on other systems but I would caution that the software savings are pale in comparison to the amount of time you will save. That staff time is so valuable. So that is where the real value is.
So this is an example of bringing data together to tell a child’s story. A real example from the schools and how you can reflect on can you do this at your school. I wouldn’t say it’s the most challenging thing to do, it’s quite basic. But Billy was a KS1 child, quiet but not on the low attainment lists in the school. Looks like a typical student. Came into an office and had a bump on his head, they noticed a spike in bad behaviour, we can track it over time. It always came up on Wednesday lunchtimes. You could see there was a pin note that Billy’s parents had recently split up. So the text immediately through the system to Billy’s parents found that Billy stayed with his dad on Tuesdays but his dad wasn’t used to looking after him, recently divorced, wasn’t giving him breakfast or putting him to bed. So when he came in he was super tired and hungry and that had him getting into fights. The story wasn’t about a bump, it was about Billy’s father not being able to take care of him properly. That would be hard for some schools to come up in a number of systems.
So these stories go on every day in the system and our job as assistant provider is to show clearly to you, you can have a million graphs but it doesn’t help you tell the story. We are trying to help you tell stories with the data and bring it together in a really understandable way.
So this is one thing that when I read it, it gives me joy. I hope this is happening a thousand times across thousands of our schools and we are creating all of these tiny bits of impact every single day. Obviously we are doing nothing, you are doing everything, we are just helping schools to uncover these stories that are going on. So the goal is no child can slip through the gap. We are trying to make a really equitable education system for everyone by showcasing these stories every day. Hilary will show you how and Jonathan later today as well in practice. So this is one of our guiding statements at Arbor, can we get the right data for the right person at the right time? This is our homepage dashboard, which epitomises that. They are really not about loads of data. There is too much data in your MIS, it’s extremely confusing. We know at 9.00am you need to take a register. We know you are a teacher and if you haven’t taken a register by a certain point in the day you should be alerted to this.
So we are trying to make smart alerts to help you prioritise your time. As a teacher if you go into the MIS one of the five things we are looking at now, we are trying to showcase that to you. There is still work to do, but you can hopefully see the direction of travel when you go on to our home page with alerts and notices and data that in plain English explains what is going on in the school. You can tailor that yourself, we try to, I think there is a philosophy make things work out of the box. So you go on to your home page, it will work, if you are an MAT, you can log on to that. It will just work, you don’t need to tailor it straight away, but if you want to you can. We are big fans of making things just work straight away with the minimum possible effort. We are also quite keen on these pop ups you will see everywhere that will hover over that explain what that thing means. Because I am aware that the school data is super complicated and I don’t understand it at all times so how can everyone else. So we are really trying to be helpful with these guiding tips all the time.
Again our goal is if we are smart enough we can tell you the right thing at the right time and really target that information at your role so you don’t have to click around. Again, work to be done, but that is that. School collaboration is again a big theme. Like MIS should be a place where all of your school work happens. I don’t mean homework, I mean school work, work you do in school.
So from every table in Arbor you have this ability to communicate and flag and tag people so you can start to interact around the data, here you can see we are creating followups for these students who have an attendance issue. You can do this from any table in Arbor. It’s a really powerful feature and we want to expand this as well, so in the future we will be appbased so you can walk around the school and get these alerts in realtime without having to log in to the webbased version, but it’s all about what next. We are showing you a piece of data, what are you going to do about it? If you can’t do anything about it, it’s kind of useless seeing it. So we are keen to link data to action at scale. You can do this in your school MIS, but also at a local authority or a multiacademy trust level and you can send communications to all of your key stage 1 teachers or a subsection of parents, etc, etc. So communication and collaboration is super important to us and you will start to see a lot of features from us around that. I am painfully aware that MIS is just one thing in a school and we need to play really well with others. We sit in a really complex ecosystem, there is Arbor and then there is the tools around Arbor. So Google Classroom Teams, PS financials, lots of different systems that just need to work. Beyond that we have great support partners like Scomis that need better data to support you guys. It’s our role to transform that ecosystem and make it much more efficient and effective. We want to do things like help Scomis with tools so they can automatically migrate schools and they don’t need to go through us. There is a really lovely accreditation programme not just for Scomis but for schools, so you can put that on your CV, that you are accredited on Arbor to Level 1. We really want a good development portal, if you want to build on top of Arbor that are free. If you have an app and you want to integrate it, you provide support at no cost. You want to see what you are paying, the selfservice billing. All of the tools that help that ecosystem work better. We want to provide Scomis with really good tools that can see usage analytical, how you are using the system, where you are getting stuck and let’s send a help article to them straight away? So we want data and collaboration tools not just for schools but for app developers, the products that integrate with Arbor. So we really want to make everyone’s job so much easier by providing the data. We are already doing all of these things.
Not just the product, sometimes we talk about, we have spent an enormous amount of time trying to, MIS might be all bells and whistles and look great and have a bazillion features but if you are not using them it’s totally useless. It’s all about how effectively you use it. We have put so much time and effort into the analytics behind how Arbor is used. We can tell the user journey of everyone in your school. What they have clicked on, where they have got stuck, have you paid for this package, but you are not using it. We know that now and we try and nudge you. If you do get stuck we send you a helpful training resource and we also have this guide which is personalised by your role which helps you through the system.
So you don’t need to go through a massive training programme, you can just start to use it from day one. My test is can I do it? If I can’t it’s hard for a school. So we have built this in and it’s a real differentiator of what we do and it takes up more time than the product. So really keen that it’s about effective adoption and we measure this really rigorously as well in our schools. So very proud of that. So I am coming to the end now. If you do have any questions now is the time to put them in.
Everything I have talked about is about the future and everything will get better, but it’s available today, not a promise for tomorrow. So it’s a big change to switch from one MIS to another, it has to be worth it, we have tried to prove that to ourselves with data, the ultimate proof is do we have every customer want to recommend it to another school that they want to switch. I want buy-in for every school we work with and we work super hard to do that. If you want to find out more there is my email. I would love to get in touch. I can answer any questions now and following, but do drop me a line if you want to find out more. I think there is some followup talks, so you have Jonathan Bishop from Cornerstone. He is going to be talking about how they have adopted Arbor with Scomis support and the journey he has gone on, the ups and downs and the difference it has made. So better hear it from him than me. And we have Hilary, our head of product on at 2.30 to set the stage about our principles, our ways of working and what we care about. She will show you what is coming up in terms of product today and tomorrow. So some exciting talks if you want to find out more. That is it from me. So Hilary, do you want to ask any questions?
DEBBIE: Lovely, James, thank you very much indeed. We have left enough so that is great. Hilary, I am sure there is some questions that have been coming through on the chat. I will leave that to you.
HILARY: I can see a few here, James, so we have about half a dozen, so we will see what we can get through and respond to the rest afterwards. So the first one, you talked about, I think you mentioned 3,500 customers. So you have, as a business you have grown rapidly in the last few years. How are you managing your growth?
JAMES: Very deliberately is the answer. Really it’s by having great partners. We know we can’t grow ourselves. We have grown so fast, we couldn’t handle it if it was just us. We rely on people like Scomis to help deeply support our schools and make that transition meaningful. So we have, I believe, the largest support network of any powerbased MIS, we have more support partners and I hope we do a good job for you guys in giving you the tools to support the schools effectively. So that is really the secret, it’s not a big secret. We rely on a wide network of people to help support our schools. On top of that, I think we, I would add one thing. You saw it in one of my slides but we spent an enormous amount of time building a great help centre, some learning journey, accreditation online, to make that transition really seamless. That has taken years of work. That is not we have just spun it up quickly in the last year. So we have been super deliberate about making sure the adoption and learning is as easy as possible so schools can get started and it works from day one. We measure that through our impact metrics every term. So we know if we are doing a good job and we know when we are not and we try not to jump it.
HILARY: So related to that there is a question about where to get support from. So why should I take support from a support unit when I can get it from Arbor directly?
JAMES: Good question. So we support thousands of schools. To do that we obviously can’t be in every school, every single day, so we provide a very digitallydriven support service. We have phone lines and chat bots and web chat. So we provide good support, but it’s not as local as a support partner and not as handson as a support partner, because we can’t get to know thousands of schools as well as someone like Scomis can get to know schools in their area. So it’s a more handsoff level of support and Scomis is more handson and in depth level of support. So we always support schools to choose whoever they want for support. So choose people you think are going to do it best and we fully support you with that. We never try and push our own support on people, for example. We always recommend Scomis to schools as well, so maybe that would be my answer.
HILARY: Thank you. There is a question here about change. So there is someone wanting to know, given this would be an enormous change for a school, I assume they are referring to changing MIS. Does Arbor or Scomis offer a trial of the product?
JAMES: Trial. Yes, I mean you can play around with the system a little bit. I think it’s difficult to trial it without your data in it. I think the demo process that we go through and the exploration process we go through gives you enough information to go on. Playing around with someone else’s data is not going to offer you that. We used to offer that and we found that most gave up after 15 minutes, they didn’t need that much more convincing. We think that the demos we give you through the sales process and the questions you can ask should convince you in short order, but try it and let me know.
HILARY: Okay. So this is an interesting one. With around 22,000 schools in England, why, in your opinion, isn’t there a model to follow? So talking here I think about processes, that has it all nailed?
JAMES: I think lots of schools like doing things differently. When I say good practice, there is no best practice. There is no this is the best way of doing things. In Arbor we try to allow frameworks to take place. You might be like, this is the way I have set up my behaviour workflows. I am following the United Learning Model or whatever. So there are different ways you can set up the system and we are trying not to be too predictive in saying, “This is the best way.” We offer frameworks so you can choose from a number of different ways. Now we are going to a meaningful scale we can probably start testing these. We haven’t done much work on that, but what is the shortest workflow you could have for this and which email template have the best parental engagement when you send them out. So we would really like schools to start sharing that and we have a really good community and we have a thing called Arbor Fest which happens twice a year and we love them sharing ports and we set up different workflows and we put them on stage and ultimately you can go back and tweak the system differently. So massive fans of that, we have an online community that you can join where we encourage that to happen as well. So, I think it will emerge and certainly lots of trusts are being quite prescriptive about it. That is being written down right now, but again all slightly different. I think it will converge over the next few years.
HILARY: A related one, you have already alluded to. The answer to this question is yes. Is your approach to Arbor is an agile one? Or is there service improvements needed to respond to a changing environment?
JAMES: Last years would have been hard if we were not agile. A good example is when the DfE had their new COVID attendance rules we were able to report next day. So we built that overnight and released it straight away. We have the ability, another good example is if the sense us, if there is an error, and the DfE have found an error you can resubmit your census ten minutes later. We are extremely agile. We balance that with being deliberately agile, big changes we can beta test with certain schools. You, 50 schools try it out first and we can then release it to the rest. We are big fans of schooling testing what we have released in a meaningful way. There are big releases happening around school holiday time so you have enough time to train. So we can deploy at any time instantly, that is the exciting thing.
HILARY: Thank you. So I think I have just got a couple of minutes to squeeze in one more. So there is one here about your purchase as an organisation by The Key, who obviously own Scholar Pack, there is a question here about what benefits have you seen since that purchase? And related, is there a plan to keep Arbor and Scholar Pack separate?
JAMES: Good question. The reason why we joined them is they are very missionaligned and they understand the sector really well and they matched our ambition. We knew we were going to have a big period of growth coming up. That period of growth would be expensive and we wanted the funding to allow us to grow as quickly as we are and we wanted that to come from someone who was very mission aligned with what the schools want. So we deliberately picked The Key as partners on our journey. You can see we have hired a lot of people and we are growing well. We are not growing fast at the expense of quality. That is why we made a deliberate step 15 months ago to join with The Key because it gives us access to more funding, more expertise and more people to ensure we can scale very sustainably. That is the answer to the first bit and you know we are very happy. So it was the right decision.
We, the second bit on Scholar Pack, yes they are going to be separate. They are separate platforms built in different ways. We are kind of best friends now, but we are definitely separate platforms that will remain. So we will always keep that separate. We will probably learn what works really well in Scholar Pack and start to Scholar Packify them with Arbor.
HILARY: Then I am going to squeeze in one very last one. So a short answer. So there is a question here, can Arbor do everything SIMS can, eg, timetabling?
JAMES: Yes. Timetabling, so we have to, because we work with so many thousands of schools and if we didn’t we would have been found out by now. So yes, we do. We do it differently and we do other things as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a like for like. Like I haven’t just tried to rebuild SIMS bus frankly if you wanted that you should just have SIMS. So we do things differently, but the functionality is equivalent, I hope and I am biased, I hope I do things quicker than in SIMS. But again talk to our schools and find out if that is true, Jonathan will be on next so you can grill him about that. Timetabling we used timetabler, so there are certain things that we specifically tried not to do.
Beware of the person who says they can do everything, because I guarantee they won’t do everything well. So timetabling was a deep domain, has a deep domain experience, we work with Timetabler which works in exactly the same way that NovaT does, again not wanting to blow Keith’s trumpet for him, but he would say he does it better. So it’s horses for courses. Definitely you can do, have exactly the same functionality in both. I would say Arbor, the difference is SIMS is very modular and we are trying to do that all with a very integrated user experience. So for example, I mentioned communication and collaboration is embedded in every screen in Arbor. You can’t take it out, you can’t take out the ability to communicate an email with parents, it’s just there. That is true for many other bits of the system, so in a few clicks you can do everything.
HILARY: Great. I am going to draw the questions to a close because we are coming up to the morning break. I will pass back to Debbie to say a few words.
DEBBIE: So, James, once again thank you ever so much for presenting at our Scomis Live event. We obviously look forward to continuing with Arbor utilising our experience as a specialised provider to help schools successfully adopt and embed Arbor. That is what we are here to do. If you want to find out more about the developments that James has spoken about, as James has mentioned, please join the session with Hilary, the Head of Product at Arbor at 2.30 this afternoon. So I think that is it from me and then back to you, Hilary.
HILARY: OK. Thank you, Debbie. We are going into the morning break. Then you will have a choice of 3 sessions. We have spoken about Jonathan Bishop, the CEO of the Cornerstone Trust. To give insight into the how the Trust transforms MIS. We then have session from Phil Wheeler. A Google presenter and trainer to explore how to empower SEND students to learn independently using tech. Or you can join Debbie and I, running a session where you can hear more about how Scomis can help you with a future journey with tech. We can guarantee you will find out something new about us at the session. We will see you back here after the break at 12pm. Thank you very much.