Jason Lamb is the Boarding House Master at Christ Church Grammar in Perth, Western Australia. Jason has worked in all education systems in Perth and uniquely also worked in an all-girls school.

REACH Boardingware contacted Jason to see if he would be interested in running an automated system within his boarding house.

Some of the key features we wanted to use and trial with Christ Church were:

  1. The Leave Management Module is the busiest module in REACH Boarding School Software. It is a secure communications and transactions processor between staff, parents, hosts and students. The Leave module enables parents to request leave on any device and staff to approve or reject instantly from any device. All transactions and communications are tracked. Not a thing is missed in the audit trail so you have total risk management and reporting for all activity in the leave module.
  2. The Attendance Module allows you to take a boarding house attendance at any time and to immediately produce and circulate the results as a report to relevant stakeholders. Students with approved leave are automatically identified and noted in the Attendance screen and changing the status of a student is a one touch process, unless you wish to add a note to the student’s record, which of course you can do as you take the attendance.
  3. The Notifications Module is the communications hub of REACH Boarding School Software. It manages the automatic communications to stakeholders for various transactions and allows you to distribute manual communications to any individual, group or combination of groups by push alert to app, sms or email. In the Notifications Module you can customise the procedural rules for automatic notifications throughout REACH for activities such as leave requests.
  4. The Student Tracking Module is the gatekeeper in REACH. It tracks and reports student movements in, out and around your boarding house or school and integrates that data with all other relevant modules within the REACH Boardingware system. Movement transactions and student monitoring can be created manually or electronically.
  5. The Pastoral Care Module enables you to record and track student behavioural aspects from their first night to their last night in boarding. It provides for instant, accurate and historical monitoring and reporting on student well-being and behaviour. This module ensures that boarding staff can adequately manage their duty of care with the tools to accurately record and track students in their care.
  6. The Customisation Module enables you to mould REACH boarding School Software to better suit the requirements of your school. It allows you to put your signature on REACH, set procedural rules for leave, notifications and reporting, alter field names or create additional fields. All your needs can be managed from your own web portal, by your staff, easily and for immediate application. Your REACH Daily Student Management App will adapt to your customised changes on REACH CMS.
  7. The Kitchen Manager Module provides instant, real-time and projected student meal requirements 24/7. Catering management can manage costs and reduce wastage by accurately predicting meal requirements at any time … for the day, the week-end, the week or whatever period they wish. Students who participate in extra curricula activities that run during meal time can still ensure they receive their meal through the Kitchen Module.
  8. The Reporting Module harnesses the integrated data capturing capabilities of REACH into a powerful and flexible management tool. Rapid Reports from any screen enable quick access to and sharing of relevant data reports without leaving your activity screen whilst our automated scheduled reports are a convenient and efficient tool which allows you to set regular reports to run automatically with circulation to relevant stakeholders. Turning your REACH transactional data into powerful management reports happens here.
  9. The Audit Trail Module provides a thorough chronological record of every transaction carried out on the REACH system. Every activity and every communication is recorded in the Audit Module with instant drill-down ability for additional detail. This module plays a critical role in tracking procedural workflows for any activity or boarder at anytime.

Jason was prepared to use REACH Boarding Software via the REACH Mobile App for iPad and iPhone to help assist parents and boarders. REACH Boardingware system was designed by Directors of Boarding and part of the agreement with Jason was to ensure we get feedback on the system. Daily Student Management takes an enormous amount of time and paperwork, now the idea of REACH is a complete Paperless system.

Here’s a transcript of our discussion:

Steven 0:00:06: Hello! And welcome back to boarding line my name is Steven Montgomery from Reach Boardingware. Today we’re in Perth Western Australia, at the Christ Church Grammar; beautiful location for boarding on the Swan River in Perth. And today I’m joined by Mr. Jason Lamb. Jason, how are you?
Jason 0:00:22: Well, thanks.
Steven 0:00:23: Mr. Lamb is in charge of Knutsford House, did I say that right Jason?
Jason 0:00:26: Yes you did.
Steven 0:00:27: And Knutsford House, what’s your group in it Jason?
Jason 0:00:30: We have years sevens and eights.
Steven 0:00:31: Sevens and eights and how many?
Jason 0:00:33: And we have also about roughly between seven and eight mentors that also live in the same building as well.
Steven 0:00:40: Fantastic! And Christ Church is an all boy school, isn’t that correct?
Jason 0:00:43: That’s correct.
Steven 0:00:45: So, just a little bit about yourself first, how long have you been in teaching for?
Jason 0:00:48: This is my sixteenth year in teaching. I’ve taught within the state system for a couple of years and then I move into Catholic Coed School for five years and then moved across to an all-girl school at Penrose College, an Anglican School and worked there for five years. And then I was lucky enough to get a job here at Christ Church and this is my sixth year across Church grammar.
Steven 0:01:15: And how many years in boarding?
Jason 0:01:17: It is my fourth year in boarding here.
Steven 0:01:19: Fantastic! Now, Jason married to beautiful Jacky and also has two young boys. And I really wanted to ask Jason, about the environment from boarding from an all boy school and raising two young boys. How is it been effect on the two boys while you’ve been here boarding?
Jason 0:01:36: You know, I think it’s definitely, allowed them to grow as kids but with the having the residential community environment where they basically got this massive backyard and they’ve got another eight kids roughly around the same age bracket. It’s been fantastic for them to grow up to this sort of environment having the pool facilities and being able to sort of run around and move around the campus without us having to worry too much about them. So it’s gonna be a bit of shine when we eventually have to move off campus and move back to what we call the “real world.”
Steven Just to explain the boys backyard, it’s an Italy an Olympic pool, gym, what have we got, a cricket wicket for the oval, we’ve got the river, we’ve got a boat ramp, it’s not a bad environment for two young boys to grow up in.
Steven 0:02:26: No. Jason, began looking Reach, the concept of Reach probably in term two when we first started conversations but we didn’t actually start the process, Jason, until term three this year, is that correct?
Jason 0:02:40: That is correct. I sort of started looking at the concept of technology and boarding earlier this year in term one when I have visit to Singapore. I did a Singapore exchange with my school and while I was up there, I took the opportunity to reach, to visit some other ABSA Schools, boarding schools up there. And one of the main things I noticed at all of these schools, they had some sort of electronic system in place to monitor all aspects of boarding. And I brought that back with me at the end of the term. And then I did start to notice that Steven started to pick my brains a bit about a lot of things. And that sort of where it started with me, and then once I heard, once he finally told me, what the hell he was doing, and why was asking me all these questions, I was more than happy to take on board and see if we could give it trial here.
Steven 0:03:32: And just for our listeners that are not Australian based, Australian Boarding School Association with Richard Stokes. They have got a few skills that are members of the association in Singapore on actually believe that hopefully Richard and I are gonna have a podcast for themselves and Tom are in Singapore in the next couple of weeks. So that will probably be our next episode or the one just following. So when we start to have a chat about Reach originally it was, we just look to sort of leave, how can we get boys out of boarding, know where they are and actually come back safely. And then we sort of discuss what else can we ask from parents. I suppose what is it legitimately that we can ask parents to do when they drop their young men off and leave during the week.
So, reach and itself has its leave module. And do you wanna explain a little about that leave module, Jason so you know how you have used it?
Jason 0:04:22: We use the leave module predominantly at the moment for weekend leave. When boys might either going into sport, to community sport, they might be going out with their parents for half a day or all day or overnight or they might be going in for the whole weekend. We’ve been toying with leave and using a check in, check out for casual leave which we call casual leave with minimal, with some sort of success but I think that’s more a staffing and a training issue on our point, not necessarily the system itself. And that’s pretty much how we’ve been using leave at the moment. To really good success, it makes my job a lot easier and the parents get feedback really quickly and instantly about it. And we’ve toyed with that in fixed minor things up that were issues in terms of granting leave.
And parents perhaps not knowing why leave have been rejected. And we’ve recently changed that. So there was note attached to that so that they were aware of it. And they can go back and make alterations and then very quickly that leave could be approved.
Steven 0:05:32: So just so people are aware, how many boarding houses are there on the Christ Church Campus, Jason?
Jason 0:05:38: We have two boarding houses. We have split boarding houses. They’re both communally called Walters. One is called Walters and that houses the year nines to 12’s and then we have the Knutsford House which I am sort of oversee which has these sevens and eights. So in total, we have around, we have the capacity to have up 110 boarders.
Steven 0:05:59: So what Jason was talking about when he said, initially at the start about leave and the ability to approve leave. Yeah, when we set up the system for Jason, we imported all his data from their current student’s management system yup synergetic. But we haven’t done for Jason is we hadn’t decided who have the ability to grant leave. So the first few leave requests that came through I think all staff at Christ Church, it would involve the boarding, got their emails and got their SMS’s. So we actually went into the system and we showed Jason, you can make someone a leave approval for a certain house or a certain year group. So now, Jason only gets his leave for the students within his care.
The other thing we had to look at was actually, Jason really started to look at the pastoral care section. And what I mentioned before of our pastoral care of students and the rejection of leave. We didn’t have anything, purpose built and Reach to let the parent know why there was a rejection. So, Jason, just to explain out a little bit further for us please.
Jason 0:06:58: The rejection for leave?
Steven 0:06:59: Yep.
Jason 0:07:00: Basically, what was happening is that we were sending online, the rejected leave and their parents would know why it was being rejected. So they would then basically send me an email or phone me. And that was an obviously a useful tool and was taking up a lot of times. So by adding this small box that allows me to put a brief comment in saying, why the leave request was declined. And quickly alerts the parents to what the issue is. they can go back in, make it a small alteration, then that’s normally what it is. And they resubmit it and I prove it straight a while.
Steven 0:07:37: And with the leave, let’s say time wise. How is it making your week more efficient from being able to approve or decline that leave from your mobile device or from your PC?
Jason 0:07:50: For me, generally what was happening before is the house mothers would oversee all of the leave. They would monitor whether the leave it come from the boys’ face lists. And they would go through it all. If there was any leave that day, for was a bit suspect or I should be overlooking, or not overlooking but having a closer look at. They would present that to me and I would sign it on a Friday. So, really it was more, a lot of it was more of the house mothers’ workload.
And then I would check with them on Friday. Now, what this has done is, it’s definitely getting me more a breast of what’s happening and what’s going on by me being part of that loop and seeing what the leave is. And I can quickly approve it and I can be anywhere because of my, obviously having an iPhone or Smart Phone that enables to be able to work no matter where I am, I’ll get the request and I can approve then and there. It doesn’t mean that I have to then come back to my laptop and spend hours going, strolling through leave. I can do it as I get it. And that’s definitely made it much easier for me.
And it’s made much easier for the house mothers and in terms of all of that leave and they compiled and being generated reports is a lot easier as well.
Steven 0:09:01: And before we get on to reports, because we’ve got a good discussion on reports. And Jason has really gone through the reports. And again, version two of Reach which is on beta testing and we’ll be ready by middle of November this year, 2013. Again, due to the reporting structure I suppose we could say of the module. It was more ATV as more than educationally based. So, I’ll definitely talk to Jason about the reports and his comments on the reports on how we were able to change the way we’re gonna report from, from this original module.
But also I wanted to talk about the pastoral care module because, Jason, you started to enter incidences or reports on the students within the pastoral care module, haven’t you?
Jason 0:09:40: Yeah I have. Initially, when we first started using the pastoral care unit, it was purely and simply for negative outcomes. And just recently, I have started making effort too when I hear about something positive going in and entering them that relates to my boys obviously. And that’s been a good thing because we also run a community service element and that’s a good way we’re gonna find, I think that’s where we’re gonna log all of that boys community service hours. And then I should be able to print up a report on that particular boy and to ascertain how many hours and what sort of activities he’s been involved in. The other element we got added in which we came across was medical. Issue ever came up.
We had a few of those I was getting staff into the meeting but it didn’t really fall under the heading of negative or positive. So we created another tab and that really made our job lot easier in terms of logging those things because before, when boys were or staff were dealing medical issues before they made the health center, I felt was important that we also logged what we had done in terms of prior to them going to the health center, whether it be handing out tablets or whatever, food might first aid, that would been handed out, how long ago, dosage, et cetera. So that was a really useful tool that we had in our system prior to them going to the health center where they have their own meticulous reporting system.
Steven 0:11:07: I know, it was last or the week before there was an incident regarding a boarder or boarders. You received the incident but if I remember rightly, you didn’t receive the report on the incident or there was no information?
Jason 0:11:21: None, no, none.
Steven 0:11:22: So I know you contacted us and Brad did something for you. Can you just explain that for us please?
Jason 0:11:27: Yeah, I had some feedback from some staff and also myself. A couple of times we went into log a report. And when I got a — an alert that came through to me, there was no name attached to it. And…
Steven 0:11:42: So the name of the boarder, yeah.
Jason 0:11:43: The name of the boy. So had no way of searching the system to find out what the issue was. And obviously that’s extremely difficult if you know the name of the boy, you can’t search the system. Brad was really good at that. He’s been really good all the way along. Every time I’ve had a question, he’s got back to me within, I don’t know, literally minutes sometimes.
And we’ve tried to sort out the problem there and then which is been great. If not, he said that he’s logged the request and then was got E-map that change for version two. And, I mean, within the, with the last change that he made with the pastoral care system with the addition of a reason for why, that was the other problem we had. We’re getting, staff we’re getting frustrated who weren’t directly responsible for the boy. For example, when I posted a positive outcome for a boy and I wanted all staff to be aware of it, all I did was say, there was positive outcome and haven’t reach to the boy’s name and there was no reason for why. And unless the staff members, particularly the duty masters that have house mothers, they wouldn’t sit down then get into the system to check that.
Steven 0:12:49: Yep.
Jason 0:12:50: They would really have a vested interested exposed in doing that. So, however, what I did request from Brad which he did it literally within 10 minutes was to then add a small box where the comment or whatever or they have the outcome was whether it was a medical, negative, positive, whatever it was that was entered in then that also came up with the alert so that staff can then see straight away without having to go into the system. What the issue or the positive comment or what the medical situation was.
Steven 0:13:20: Yeah and that’s part of the reason why it’s been vital for us for Christ Church to take the initiative and have the trial weaknesses because for version two that there’s too many little things that when it’s been programmed, you can miss quite easily on the work flow. And it’s not until it’s in the environment of the boarding school and you’re going through the daily management of your students that we can actually see within Reach Boarding. We can actually see what we need to improve on and what already is working? So that’s been really vital for us. Alright Jason, let’s get on to reports.
Jason 0:13:51: Before we get to reports, can we talk about attendance?
Steven 0:13:53: Certainly.
Jason 0:13:54: Because attendance was another issue initially for us in terms of I ask them, we’re questioning and got the ability to be able to edify time. And then I also said, so there was a photo, particularly at the beginning of the year when we got lot of new boarders and boarding staff unaware of who certain boys are. The other element that was added to that made up the workflow a lot easier and easy to access was pastoral care information. So for staff, then who wants to know something about that particular boy whether it’s in that, their parents’ names, the phone numbers, I need to contact, et cetera. They could quickly click in the attendance on that boy’s photo and I have all his personal data as we can. And there’s also have the tabs of luggage then go and check in past reports, et cetera.
So, from that point of view, that was really good thing that changed and happened to all my systems tirelessly again. Thanks to Brad. So that was another good thing to that.
Steven 0:14:46: So actually from them, that’s a good point Jason. I forgot about the attendance. So now, from Reach version two, when you land on your dashboard, you’ll actually have that little thumbnail of the student, their picture and their name. And part of our one of I supposed our core abilities for Reach Boarding version two is on the dashboard, when you click the name of the student and or the photograph, it will take your directly to the pastoral care. If you’re in the leave module and you click the name or the photograph of the student, it will open up on our big box to say, this is the complete leave profile of the student. So we have really tried to get it down to, if you see a name or you see a picture and you click on it, you know you either gonna get the full pastoral care summary or you wanna get the full summary of the module you’re in. So if it was attendance, be attendants, if it was leave, be leave.
That’s a good point I forgot about that. And just for people in case you’re not too sure, Bradley is out IT guru. He is called aka the guru and generally we do enjoy the challenge. So we’re quite happy with our pilot students to email or call us and say, listen, I’ve thought about this, can you do it? And generally Brad, our guru is pretty came for a challenge and generally turns them around pretty quick, except for, let’s get in to the reporting module Jason.
Jason 0:16:00: Yeah.
Steven 0:16:01: So the reporting module initially was drag and drop. So, get in to leave, drag and drop all your requirements for leave and then you’re gonna be able to do your report on leave. Whether that was leave type, method of leave. The idea of the leave report was fairly simple. The usability was a little bit different, wasn’t it?
Jason 0:16:20: Hmm, it was very difficult. I mean, I tried three or four times the first couple of weekends that we had leave, to generate leave report for leave for that weekend. And I just physically couldn’t sort it out. And I just thought it was too laborious, not very user friendly in terms of what we required. And having looked at the new version two, it does look much better. It’s basically simply clicking a box, entering in some dates and hopefully there will be some other easily generatable reports for other things which are relevant to boarding like, you might wanna look at boy’s leave profile or attendance.
Steven 0:17:02: Yep.
Jason 0:17:03: For us here at Christ Church, we might want to have report on a particular boy’s community service in us. For example, we keep track of that and produce report for a particular year group or two-year groups. I’m hoping that that will be something that we’d be able to generate reports. So I’d like the ability, would also like we’d be able to once you’ve created a report that sort of almost memorizes those reports and you can basically just keep regenerating them without having to go into it and as far as generate a report every time you’re doing something. If it’s a report that you’d constantly have to create on a regular basis, I think the system should be able to create perhaps and memorize those that you don’t have to keep it going.
Steven 0:17:45: Basically, your favorites, you want a favorite list for the reports that you’re doing.
Jason 0:17:48: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.
Steven 0:17:51: So that’s in a little snapshot that Jason seen the version two, when we bring it up for other recording or rapid reports. So maybe for example you’re on leave module, you don’t have to leave the leave module to do your reports. So we’re calling that a rapid report and then up will come basically or take the boxes. So, you know, years, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, what hosts have you’ve got listed, types of leave and you’d basically just take a box to say, whether as you want to report on and then just as if you’re working on your calendar, give us a start date, give us an end date. And then we’re gonna have three functions or so; we do have three functions now in version two.
So you can export that, you can print it or you can email it. So those are always gonna be three components as you’re gonna be able to have within your reporting module. So Jason, just, I know it’s only been a quick view of Reach two because you’re extremely busy. But, just having a quick look at Reach two, what would be your top three, what would be your top three things if you logged in, what would you want to see or find?
Jason 0:18:49: I suppose I wanna what’s going on in terms of leave. Definitely, I’d also wanna have an easy access to be able to do attendance. And then something to do with pastoral care because I think those three things are probably the most used components within the system. And I wanna be able to visually see those. The leave wheel I thought was a good concept that you had on your, the front hind page where you could see different types leave coated in a color in terms of a pie chart. You can quite easily see how many boys around on record; leave for example, how many are on casualty, how many months down the gym, et cetera, et cetera.
So I thought that was a good visual and allowed duty staff to quickly see and monitor whether the majority of boys were at certain taunt.
Steven 0:19:37: I’m just showing Jason airport view, we’re recording our airport view for arrivals and departures and we are having a discussion just before we started this podcast of, you know, how does the duty master, how does house mom, how did they know who is coming, who is going, where are they? So, I just showed Jason our departure line suites. So we’ve got arrivals in one side and we’ve got departures on the other or just to expand the color code and if the boy is late, it will start to flash red. So at least, it’s a very visually and to notify you of who is there and who is not. So, do you think that will be, you know, if we can display that on the second screen or it’s just, it’s constantly up on the screen. The boys can see who is coming, who is going but also the staff? Do you see that as a visual aid?
Jason 0:20:18: Yeah. I particularly do on weekends when we’ve got and duty master is on and they’re monitoring what’s happening and where boys are coming and going. There’s a lot of flow where boys coming in and out and doing various things. And I think that visual reminder, and hang on, this is flashing red, why is it flashing red, is gonna be great for them because that means that they know that they should be following up. This kid has checked out, should have all, he should have arrived back and he hasn’t on there with a ring and might contact with him because I find particular on Sunday evenings, some duty staff can be a little lax in this area. And should have made contact earlier to find out of why the boy wasn’t back by the time that he said he has, he was going to be. So, that green color flashing system going to red is I think is a great reminder for staff to follow up on attendance.
Steven 0:21:09: And probably just to almost conclude Jason, how have your parents gone because it really is a big, it is a completely different, almost a different, better gadget for parents, you know, with their young boys at boarding school that part of them been used to requesting leave, part of them been used to filling old forms. Now, all of a sudden, you say to them, log in once, fill in your details once and that’s basically and we’ve got control up. How have your parents find it?
Jason 0:21:35: I think probably 85-90% of the parents have embraced it. And the other minor percent that haven’t have had either limited IT skills or that had software problems in terms of their computers perhaps being a little bit behind in terms of the software that would actually use this application. But Brad has been fantastic. Where I haven’t been able to address an issue myself, I have copied them into an email; he has then directly spoken into the parent via email. And I would say on probably 98% of the time, he’s been able to sort out their issue. So, we’ve had a very good uptake of it from the seven and eight parents.
We plan to roll the whole system out next year across about boarding houses next year. And it will be interesting to see how the older parents of the older boys take on to the new electronic system. There have been discussions or whispers about parents perhaps deciding that they’re going to give their log in details to their son and their son will submit and do all of the other things behind it. But, at the end of the day, if the parent chooses to do that and they’re basically taking the risk that we are presuming the parents have approved it. So, that’s one little concern I have but will be interesting to see how that ends up next year. In terms of the younger boys, it’s been fantastic. And the parents have really embraced it and I’ve had quite a bit of positive feedback to that system.
Steven 0:23:12: Suppose a good thing then for next year. Those who are in seven, eight will become eights and nines. So that’s, you know, almost a third of your cohort will be used to the system. So we’re just slowly, slowly, it’s like a uniform change. It doesn’t happen overnight but we slowly get it through the most people.
Jason 0:23:26: Yeah. And I hope next year, initially with the exporting that data from synergetic across to Reach that we can get more fields coming across than what we have this year. I’d like to have all the parent details, all the staff details as well because I know I had to initially wanna set up the system. I had to go and then physically set up every staff members, security systems and information because I suppose it was an addition or more, so we didn’t export that out. The other one is the parents host lists. If you are thinking about perhaps setting up and doing a trial, make sure that you get permission from your IT to be able to export all of your parents’ current host lists.
They might have in your existing school system so that parents don’t have to go, brought back to that laborious task of entering in all of their details. They’re all their host families. I think that would stream line the system a little bit better but you live and learn and then and in hind start, that’s something I would have done. And we definitely something we do or would like to be able to do next year when we export only a new data app and into Reach for the beginning of next year.
Steven 0:24:41: So, if you would say to a school list into us, and as I say, we still offer the trial to schools. They can get in to our demo site at reachcms.com.au; they can have a look at our boardingware. If other trial school rings me on Monday and I say, well you can ring Jason Lamb at Christ Church. What would you say to them about just given the system a go?
Jason 0:25:03: I’d say, definitely give it a go but nothing to lose. It’s a free trial. You use the bits and pieces of the system I think that suit you for where you are, the circumstances. And as you become I think more aware of the system and the usability of it, I think you’ll then start to explore different aspects. And that’s what I did. We started with just straight attendance, look to that, how does this fit our circumstances, and then started to go about changing in Reach, doing things to sort of suit our circumstances. And then as we got more confident with that, more happy with that, we then started to look at the leave.
And as we became confident with that, the parent bodies were happy with that. We then started; I started looking at particularly the pastoral care side of things. So I think it’s a gradual thing as you get more and more confident with using parts of the system. You can gravitate to the next system and I think you can try and take a whole thing on it once.
Steven 0:25:57: Thank you. So it’s just like a new software system that comes in the school, like a new synergetic. This is your first year and you’ve been well-guided throughout the schools, schools that use made or sector or test come in. It’s all the gradual process there and a gradual process of learning, adapting to what you need and then implementing the full system. Well, Jason that’s almost 30 minutes of your time on a Saturday when you are on duty. So I just like to thank you for allowing us to come into Christ Church Grammar here in Perth, West of Australia and being able to have a chat with you here on a Saturday.
Jason 0:26:27: Thanks for coming. I am more than happy to chat with anyone else that would like to discuss the system. So, please get in contact with Monty and he could pass on my content details. Thanks for coming to have chat list.
Steven 0:26:40: Okay. Thanks Jason. And that’s the end of our podcast today here at Christ Church Grammar here in Perth West in Australia. My name is Steven Montgomery and this is a podcast of Borderline by Reach Boarding Software.