With the increasing focus on early intervention, there is a real demand for schools and other teams to work more closely together in the provision of children’s services. This makes it more important than ever for authorities to be able to share information on children with those who need it in an efficient and timely way.
This is something we knew we needed to address at East Riding of Yorkshire Council. By transforming the systems and processes for sharing data that have been in place for many years, we have helped to ensure schools and other teams working with children and families can access the information they need to improve lives.
Like most authorities, responding to the demand for up-to-date information on children from our 150 schools and other partners was incredibly time-consuming for our staff. At busy times of the year, such as during school admissions, we had to take on temporary staff to help us manage the workload.
With budgets being squeezed and the increasing demand for greater efficiency, we wanted to find a more effective way to get information on children to schools and other external agencies such as health and the police.
We made the decision to begin using a business intelligence tool that allows school leaders to access real-time data stored in our management information system from their own computer screen, rather than having to contact our teams directly.
The software, supplied by Capita One, allows schools to quickly see the number of children eligible for free school meals or those who qualify for additional funding such as the pupil premium.
Heads are alerted by email within a few hours if their pupil cohort changes. They can plan their budgets without having to request details of the children on their pupil roll from the council. And pupils don’t have to wait for the system to catch up before they start receiving their free school meals.
The impact is clear. The initiative has saved our benefits team an estimated six weeks work in collating data on children entitled to free school meals for schools and an additional 10 days work has been saved for the staff member responsible for matching these pupils with the clothing allowance linked to secondary school admissions.
We have also found it is no longer necessary to take on temporary staff and the estimated saving is the equivalent of one full-time staff member, who can now be deployed more effectively elsewhere.
When schools have access to timely, accurate information on their existing and prospective pupils, they can identify associated funding and apply for it in good time. Using the software has helped one school secure an additional £200,000 of pupil premium funding that can be invested in improving outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children in the area.
A key benefit is that agencies are finding it easier to work in a more joined-up way to meet children’s needs. Head teachers across the authority now have a more complete picture of their pupils. Using the software, they can easily see if other professionals are involved with a child and make contact with them should they have any concerns. An education welfare officer or health professional could see a child at 2pm, for example, and the child’s head teacher could view this on their computer screen that same afternoon.
Schools may have never been aware of this information previously as they would have had to rely on parents to reveal it to them. It means that if there is a particular concern about a child, heads can check to see if there may be something else going on and play their part in ensuring children and families get the support they need.
We have plans to extend real-time data sharing to include information from the police, healthcare professionals and Early Years teams so that all those working with children have access to information that is relevant to their role.
Delivering the best possible service to schools and other partners is central to our ability to improve outcomes for children and families. The more information we can share automatically, the less burden there will be on our staff and the better the support we can provide to children and families.
Sharon Rogerson, systems co-ordinator at East Riding of Yorkshire Council