“The feedback we had from parents is that it’s so much easier to fill out a request and get instant feedback that their request has bent sent”

Michael Holland is the Director of Boarding at Guildford Grammar Perth, Western Australia. Michael has been a boarder, housemaster and Director of Boarding and continues in this role at Brisbane Boys College in 2014.

Michael is special to REACH because it all started with a conversation between Michael and our main man Steven Montgomery at rugby training one afternoon in early 2013. As a teacher himself, Steve identified with the problems Michael was experiencing and the seeds of REACH were planted.

Our discussion in this podcast covers various topics

  • REACH Boarding Software – how it began and this idea behind the product
  • Daily Student Management – How Parents and Boarders are adapting to REACH Boardingware
  • Leave Request – Leave Request via mobile App or PC
  • Boarding Staff – how have staff adjusted to REACH Boarding School Software
  • Pastoral Care – with boys education how has REACH assisted in better pastoral care
  • Australian Boarding School Standards – discussed UK examples of Ofsted.
  • “The framework for inspecting boarding and residential provision in schools”

Here is the complete transcript of our conversation:

Steve: Hi. My name is Steve and welcome to REACH Boarding Software web podcast. Today with Guildford Grammar here in Perth, Western Australia, I’ve kindly asked Michael Holland, the Director of Boarding at Guildford to join us today. Michael thanks for your time and how are you?

Michael Holland: I’m very well. Thanks Steven.

Steven: So, the first time I met Michael was probably January or February of this year. We were out here to do a bit of Rugby nothing to do with boarding and Michael and I were doing some rugby, we went upstairs, had a coffee, his phone went off about five times. I sort of said to him but “what’s that all about?” And then Michael started to talk about boarding and some of the issues he has in boarding. So, if you really like to tell our listeners about our first meeting or what our first meeting was about.

Michael Holland: Yeah, as I said Steve, we were looking some rugby we was talking about some coaching and might have possibility have some software we could use and then as you said, we got all those interruptions. We go talking about leave and we currently handle the system which requires us parents to call up and or send an e-mail in or fax and register to leave request which is then added to a spreadsheet, I approve the leave and then people on duty know that leaves ok so they can sign boys in and out. And then obviously you have boys who, for whatever the reason haven’t submitted their leave request on time or they haven’t fill their card and staff need to verify with me that it’s actually okay. So then we got to talking about why to streamline that process, and maybe look at an app or other software package that will be able to do that.

Steven: So basically, that’s probably quite common, or is a common trend throughout boarding schools, are very, very paper orientated?

Michael Holland: Yeah. Absolutely.

Steven: Very time consuming. So I think in the business where the use of word pinpoint so — I had to say identify two or three pinpoints within the administrative side of boarding what would they be

Michael Holland: Yeah, definitely the X that is associated with having to get leave requesting by a particular time to allow the necessary time to check, verify all of the details of their request to make sure it’s okay. Because quite often that wouldn’t be – that process wouldn’t be completed until the end of the week. And by then if you telling a boy that you — your leave request is being knocked back, it’s a bit late and, and that’s going to cause

0:02:22 and then the parents are in trouble because the boy will blame them for not having done the right things and it just causes problems all around. So, that would be one. The key thing is just the timeliness of getting a leave requesting and then getting feedback is to the status of the leave request. The other one would be communicating all of the details to all of the people who needed to know. And doing that in a timely fashion so, obviously updating parents on the status with their request and also boarding staff. Who need to know whether the boy actually has permission and what the details are of the leave, and communicating that to staff and then also keeping the records. At the moment massive paper trail and can be quite time consuming to go back and check details of leave.

Steven: So with all that and after listening to it, I just — for listeners when we did first meet Michael’s phone is just constantly going on. It’s just seemed to be people going all “Mom and dad are here. They don’t have a request. Can they leave?” or student A has come up and said that, he swears he put the leave request in but nothing was there?

Michael Holland: Yeah.

Steven: so I suppose we were just looking at leave request. Then we want to look at other things, thus REACH Boardingware begain

Michael Holland: Yeah.

Steven: And then we sort of have to play with leave and got leave up and running and how do you find that.

Michael Holland: Fantastic. The feedback we had from parents is, it’ so much easier to fill out a request and get instant feedback that their request has bent sent. And then because of the technology, these days with the Smartphone, I can get that e-mail request pretty much wherever I am and I can authorize it on the spot. So, realistically, in most cases, within 10 minutes of a parent logging their request they have got a response. And they know whether it’s been approved or whether it’s being declined and the boy does as well. So, everybody knows, it’s pretty much instantly whether the leave as been approved or not. So parents have been very positive about that and so have the boys obviously.

Steven: Yeah, so we sort of when we put on the app for the parents and boarders first, more so, just, because it was easy if they was mobile. They didn’t have to sit in front of their PC. But then what about, what about the staff like anything in school. New technology. Always had hiccups. You know, I love to tell you that REACH was fantastic and 0:04:35 there’s probably some hiccups on the way.

Michael Holland: Yeah, some of the things, just in terms of the staff navigating their way around the site. They have been a bit resistant to ’cause they used to the system where there’s a leave card. They know where to look for the information and, you know, finding their way around the leave site it’s been a bit of a challenge for some of the staff, but once they have got ahead around it and how it works. They like the fact. It’s updated. It’s any information that’s current is there.

Steven: So suppose that workflows in — REACH version 2 is due out at the very end of October, start of November and that’s probably one of the things we’d look at from Michael and some other of the pilot schools is ensuing the workflow was correct so the software that we deliver is based around the workflow that the directors of boarding have to do week in and week out. What about your staff then in training? You said there — maybe a few hiccups or they’re just used to going from one way to another.

Michael Holland: Yeah.

Steven: How have your staff felt, you know, you standing up there for them or saying this we are going to try and do something new how that go with them

Michael Holland

Look I think they were very excited about anything that would streamline the process and to be honest, a lot of our staff are fairly young and they are into technology so. Okay, they have embraced it fairly well. It’s probably been a little bit tricky from the sense that we have moved into it partway through the year?

Michael Holland: Yeah.

Steven: And it’s always difficult to get your boarding staff, together and provide training for anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. So, it’s probably been a bit of a challenge it’s been a little bit ad hoc sitting down with the particular staff member and then the next night with the different one as opposed to being in a room, teaching them all how to use it, correctly at the same time. So, you know, at the beginning of the year is a great opportunity to do that.

Steven: Fantastic. Well the next thing I sort of say, if you had a wish list seeing REACH and just so people know, I just give Michael a quick screenshot of REACH version 2. I said the — if you sort of had a crystal ball or a deep pocket or you could ask for any, would you have any must haves or anything on your wish list that you’d like to see in version 2?

Michael Holland: The big one and you have already mentioned it is just the workflow ’cause I think what you initially created is a very powerful tool to allow parents to make their leave request easily to communicate the details to all of the stakeholders and then also to maintain records of the information in a really easily researchable format. So I think what there is, is outstanding. The improvements that I would like to see and it looks like version 2.0 as made those improvements and that is just simply the work flow making it a bit easy to navigate and I said, it looks like you’ve done that.

Steven: So, we’ve got Michael. We’ve got two or three schools here in West Australia and we’ve got three across the other states who are having a look at the pilots and giving us feedback. So workflow was definitely one of the biggest ones. That — the other thing that I just love Michael to see is that, the new REACH version 2 is actually fully responsive so we’re going to — and put an emphasis on parents have the app, always have the app because it’s easy for them but you as administrators can look at your administrative accounts in any device. And because it’s responsive then you’ll be used to, to seeing work flow consistently. So that was one of the biggest things that we really want to get involved with was: the workflow, the responsiveness of the web portal and the feedback from others. Would you recommend REACH to others if you would? Why? And if there was areas that you want others to look at, like we know, for those who don’t know 0:08:10It that you did a reporting module. That was probably more complicated than the NASA Space Shuttle Graphics but he as now changed that and that came across from quality feedback from yourself and all the member of boarding staff, 0:08:24 Christ Church saying, “It works but I’m a little bit confused.” So if you were going to recommend REACH, why would you recommend it?

Michael Holland: You know, I would definitely recommend it for reasons I’ve have already said, just in terms of its ability to handle the leave requests, to communicate that information and then to store it as well as pastoral notes, attendance, all those sorts of features. I just think it’s, it’s a one stop shop in terms of keeping track of where your boarders are when they’re on campus and also when they’re off campus and looking at things like, you know, card readers signing in and out procedures. It just to me simplifies that whole process.

Steven: So we are looking at Western Australia the schools that have the Smart writer cards we can use that tag in tag out feature but there’s other ways in which students can actually log themselves in and then log themselves out of boarding. The other thing we supposed to we talk about REACH is, there is a quite large pastoral care module within it and we sort of find and in talking to Michael and our school is, schools have their own systems whether me is 0:09:28 whatever they’re using, but it seemed to be a little bit of the lapse in the pastoral care of the ability to report on students. Have you used the pastoral care much module much?

Michael Holland: Yeah, we have at the moment the previous system was to see they write a note in the diary and we got lots of boarding schools probably operate. A similar system where the person on duty will record an incident in the diary where the managers the boarding house. Will see that note at some point and we’ll do required follow up. Now the only problem with that is making sure that everybody who needs to know actually gets the information so with this system and it’s similar to what you might using in your day school. This system allows you to create pastoral alert and it could be a positive thing. You want to mention something that boys done really well. It might mention it might be a member of the family whose past away, certain staff need to be aware of that to be sensitive. The boy might have been involved in inappropriate behavior. Boys might need to be kept separate from each other for different reasons. So if you head to these pastoral records and then you can nominate which members of staff get alerted. So it’s just a really easy way of recording it, communicating it to the people. Who need to know and then being able to search for it again at a later date. If you need to run a report on a boy, maybe he’s got a record of poor behavior and it’s very easy then to search for examples rather than flipping through a diary and finding each time the boy’s name has been mentioned.

Steven: There really has been an enormous amount of paper work in boarding. I was quite flabbergasted from one of the better word for the amount of paper work on the paper trail…

Michael Holland: Yeah.

Steven: … that you got the go through. The other thing is then it’s new that we’ve got some other schools looking at as we said we talked about some of the students management software that schools use and just for or listeners out there and those within boarding that with the right API integration then we are looking at integrated with current systems so being able to extract the data that’s already in school ’cause they’re think initially we sent Jodie a nice big spreadsheet and then she had to configure that spreadsheet which was time consuming.

Michael Holland: Yeah.

Steven: It did take her a while but we know I have API integration so those if you use other software management programs for students will realize or your IT will realize that with API we can basically and the guru will kill me for this but that’s what basically sucked the data out of one data base and put it into ours so it’s current. But Michael this is your last year at Guildford. Where are you heading in 2014?

Michael Holland: Yeah, heading back to Queensland, the home state. Actually I’m taking up the role of head of boarding at Brisbane Boys College.

Steven: Fantastic. Well With any luck REACH Boarding will see itself at BBC and with any luck we’ll catch up with Michael before the end of the year and also in 2014. Michael thanks for your time. I know you’re very busy and I really appreciate the chat.