How can real-time data help save a student’s life?

By Simon Freeman, MD for Education, IRIS Software Group
Data holds huge opportunities to improve pupil safety. Without a joined-up, intelligent system, patterns that indicate potential harm could go unnoticed

Virtual teaching exposed that many school technology stacks needed a rapid upgrade. As we approach the start of the first ‘back to normal’ academic year, educators have now recognised the technology gaps and opportunities around full-time in-person schooling. 

Schools are no strangers to data as an educational tool, but it also holds huge opportunities to improve pupil safety. For example, imagine a scenario where a child leaves home, intending to go to school, but something untoward happens to stop them arriving. 

Sometimes there is only a small window of opportunity to realise that action needs to be taken and this cannot be missed. Data can hold the key to this, but only if schools are set up to gather and react to it in real time. 

When it comes to critical decisions, schools must be empowered to act fast. With attendance, old-style paper registers often result in information being ignored long into the day, or only used for reporting purposes. To change this, schools and Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) must reassess their technology stacks. They need one that puts real-time intelligence into the hands of staff to take immediate action when needed. 

Identify worrying patterns

If a student’s attendance is usually excellent and they have never shown any challenging or disruptive behaviour, but then are suddenly always late and getting in trouble, teachers must be alerted as early as possible. Without a joined-up, intelligent data system, patterns that indicate potential harm could go unnoticed.

From the minute students arrive (or don’t), data is being gathered from all around the school. From registration and lunch choices to assessments and behaviour – all these pockets of data can build up a holistic view of each individual pupil, but only if they’re connected together and in sync. The more a school knows and understands pupils, the better it can support them and ensure their safety.

The life-saving power of real-time data and cloud

A tidy school environment means a safe school environment. Yet, this is far from the reality teachers and senior leadership teams (SLTs) are facing. Although schools are swimming in information and data about pupils, research shows 70% of school IT  is still running on desktop management information systems (MIS) locked away in the school office. This means too much time is spent on gathering information rather than using it. In emergency situations, acting fast is critical and not having access to information where it is needed only exacerbates delays. 

While desktop MIS are notoriously difficult to extract insights from, new cloud technologies are being built with integration and usability in mind. Using cloud, real-time platforms overlayed with artificial intelligence and a myriad of other smart tools has the potential to completely transform the way schools use the data they already have. 

By adopting a cloud-based MIS, teachers can much more easily view and interpret real-time data. This can be accessed at any given moment, including in emergencies, to inform critical decision making. For example, previously siloed data like pupil absenteeism can be connected to generate welfare alerts so SLTs can act quickly, inform parents or guardians (via automated communication tools), and provide immediate support with confidence. Cloud-based data platforms allow schools to be more responsive, proactive and productive.

Alongside emergency alerts, real-time data insights can also support positive pupil intervention at other times. For example, to monitor and compare progress across departments or year groups. Proactive changes made early, however small, can have a huge impact on a pupil’s life and learning outcomes.

No parent or teacher wants to hear that a student is in danger. Thankfully, the technology now exists to continue improving student safety in ways that were previously not possible. Real-time, intelligent data enables a school to rapidly alert the right people, no matter whether mum, dad, or a guardian, and find out why the child is unexpectedly absent. The information can be acted upon immediately and decisively and has the very real potential to save lives.

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