The Harefield Academy is a boarding school in Uxbridge, London, that has a strong presence in sports. Their world class boarding facilities allow them to provide an incredible breadth, depth and quality education for their students and their co-educational boarding house, Lord Adonis House can accommodate up to 48 students.
The joys of working at a boarding school typically come with hours of administrative paper work and labour-some student management duties. However that’s no longer a problem for the staff at The Harefield Academy. We sat down with their Director of Boarding – Steve Gardner – and talked about how he’s dramatically reduced his paperwork and increased the security of his boarding house with Boardingware’s simple boarding school software.
Day to day sign-in was all done with pen and paper which was very labour-some so we were always chasing people up. For weekends and exeats we had a lengthy manual process that required permissions from parents and host families which resulted in email after email to make sure we had the correct approvals in place. So as you can see, everything was very archaic!
The way Harefield previously managed their students is very common practise among other boarding schools around the world and as we’ve encountered, most boarding schools have also found their traditional methods to be very “labour-some” and “archaic”.
Steve knew that pen and paper was not an ideal solution for boarding schools in the 21st Century and understood that technology was the way forward, so when we first met with Steve at the annual BSA deputy heads conference, we were already on the same page.
One of my goals has been to make our environment paperless so when I met the Boardingware team at the BSA Deputy Heads Conference in Brighton I was straight away intrigued. We looked at other solutions but the simplicity of this product really appealed.
Steve and the rest of the Harefield academy have been using Boardingware to efficiently and securely manage their students. They’ve particularly enjoyed the simplicity and ease-of-use of Boardingware as well as how easy it was for his staff, students and parents to get on board.
You can read the full interview below:
Q. Before Boardingware how did you manage daily sign in/out, exeats and pastoral notes?
SG: Day to day sign in was all done with pen and paper which was very laboursome so we were always chasing people up. In the weekends and for exeats we had a lengthy manual process that required permission from parents and host families which resulted in email after email to make sure we had the correct approvals in place, so as you can see, everything was very archaic! In terms of pastoral notes, the matron would record everything on paper and store it all in each pupil’s file and then send emails around to everyone that needed to know which is pretty standard practice
Q: What made you want to look for another way to manage this information?
SG: One of my goals has been to make our environment paperless so when I met the Boardingware team at the BSA Deputy Heads Conference in Brighton I was straight away intrigued. We looked at other solutions but the simplicity of this product really appealed.
Q: That certainly sounds like the direction a lot of people are heading in but we find a lot of schools worry about the time and process it takes to change, with that in mind how would you describe what it was like to get started with Boardingware?
SG: After I met them at the conference they set me up on a free trial within a week so we could see if it could fit within our current processes. Almost straight away my staff picked it up and the pupils and their parents really liked it which was a big factor in the decision because having their buy in is crucial to making anything like this work. During the entire process their staff have been great to work with and helped us to ensure a successful launch.
Q: Now that you’ve been using Boardingware on a regular basis, how has it impacted you and your team the most?
SG: The first thing I have noticed so far has been the fact that everyone really enjoys using it. The engagement with the system has been a huge success because the kids are filling things out on time and there has been a great response from parents as well. This has resulted in far less stress because we’re not chasing people around to get things submitted and filled out, plus we have better knowledge of where everyone is at all times. We have an iPad set up in a bracket at reception and the kids just come up and tap to sign out and tap to sign in so that covers the day to day sign outs; then for exeats and weekend leave the pupils, parents and hosts [if they’re involved with the process] can just log in and make applications and approvals right from their phone or computers. For pastoral notes, it’s now stored in the pupil’s file on Boardingware and there’s a feature that allows us to flag certain pupils so our staff is made aware of what’s going on as they need to know it rather than being bombarded with emails.
Q: What do you think other UK boarding schools would benefit most from ?
SG: The biggest aspect I think all of us will benefit most from is the heightened security that Boardingware provides which is achieved in two ways. First, the sophistication of the product but also the attention and focus on simplicity which really encourages the usage of the system so there’s no friction from people within your school’s community. This ultimately leads to accurate information and much greater communication for your boarding houses
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say for those in the BSA community that might be interested in Boardingware?
SG: Yes, feel free to give me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you might have.