A growing range of management support packages is helping to alleviate the administrative burden in schools, writes George Cole
Read the advert for one of the leading packages of school management software and it asks: "Love teaching, but hate the paper work?" These resources are designed to ease the administrative burden borne by class teachers, school managers and professional administrators. They range in price from a few hundred pounds to thousands, but many supporters say the software more than pays for itself in terms of efficiency and time saved.
So what exactly are the benefits of using management software over traditional pen-and-paper record keeping?
Chrissie Pittman, managing director of Chelmer Educational Services, which markets Progress Manager, says: "Management software is fast, accurate and you can see progress at a glance."
Keith Farr, deputy head at Devonshire junior school in Smethwick, West Midlands, uses Primary Complete from Skills Factory. "Management software gives teachers more time to think about what they're doing," he says. "It makes you excited about your planning, and it raises the quality of teaching."
John Leak, headteacher at Birchely St Mary's school in Wigan is also a convert to Primary Complete. He uses the package to keep up with staff progress.
"It's a wonderful monitoring tool," he says. "On my laptop I can go into any teacher's planning and marking scheme, and see how things are progressing.
"We've given every teacher a laptop to use the program."
It could save time and money in the long run, according to Geoff Broadbent, director of learning platforms at Granada Learning, the company that markets Primary Complete.
"One school reported that using software had saved it pound;500 a year in photocopying fees alone," he says.
How you use the software is just as important as the package you choose, says Sarah Neild, ICT co-ordinator at Birchely St Mary's.
She adds: "You can't just throw everything at people. We targeted one or two subject areas and it grew from there."
At Hayes Park school in Hillingdon, Middlesex, teachers have found that the TargSATS package has had a huge impact on the school.
Deputy head Deb Barlow says schools should take advice from other teachers before they commit to buying anything.
"Talk to other people who have bought the package and seen it in operation," she says. "They can tell you how easy it is to use."