With 670 pupils, Waterloo Primary Academy is one of the largest primaries in the Blackpool area. It runs a 3 form model and maintained nursery. With twice the national average of pupil premium places, Waterloo is an ambitious school in a challenging environment. Ofsted has consistently awarded good ratings and it continues to offer an extensive enrichment programme, innovative IT equipment, well supported sporting and outdoor activities but above all an engaging and creative curriculum.
In 2012 Waterloo Primary converted to academy status the same year as bringing on board AudIT School Asset Management. AudIT is an electronic solution designed specifically for schools and academies. This software can track a school’s entire holdings to create a complete asset register for administration, insurance and financial planning. Three years on, we sat down with Sheryl Cardwell, the School Business Manager, to see how the school was getting on.
When Sheryl joined the business management team she went about introducing some new processes and procedures. One of these was adopting the SG World visitor signing in book and pass system. She had noticed the passes at another local school and was very impressed. “At the time we were using stickers at Waterloo and I felt a branded visitor pass looked so much more professional as well giving reception a better visitor record.”
Another area in need of some attention was putting an asset management system in place. “At my last post we used a spreadsheet which wasn’t ideal but at Waterloo we didn’t really have any record at all on our assets and I wanted a to introduce a central database solution.”
The number one priority was finding something that would be very easy and intuitive to use. “We needed something that could easily be integrated with our present processes with minimum disruption”. Being able to scan in asset barcodes was a specific feature Sheryl wanted.
AudIT was the first piece of software that Sheryl evaluated. Steve Morrissey, Waterloo Primary IT Manager , had already used AudIT in a previous role and was happy to recommend it. “The AudIT software ticked all of the boxes, we didn’t need to look around for anything else.” said Sheryl. “We just had to weigh up the benefits of bringing in a piece of specialist software as opposed to going the spreadsheet route but we felt the benefits of a central asset database was well worth the investment.”
Lots of SG World’s customers make the transition from spreadsheet to AudIT for many reasons. Typically a school without one central database will be juggling several sets of spreadsheets . Just like with any manual process, creating and updating spreadsheet reports by hand is error prone: it is easy to cut and paste the data into the wrong cells, over-select the cells when defining a formula, mistype an expression, etc. Spreadsheets also lack a data audit trail. Without a trail, it is near impossible to manage the risk of inaccurate or inconsistent information being passed around the school. Additionally a spreadsheet is only designed to hold information in a certain way – costs and basic descriptions work well but mapping physical locations and including useful supporting information such as photographs, purchase receipts and warranties is difficult with a traditional spreadsheet format.
SG World offer schools with as little or as much support as they need including an Asset Discovery Service including a little extra help getting up and running with the first audit. A team of DBS checked engineers will come into the school, tag the assets, set up user accounts, train staff members and populate the AudIT database with a virtual map of your school and assets. However, Waterloo Primary Academy got the system off the ground themselves very quickly by incorporating it into their annual PAT testing.
AudIT is now very much part of the school procurement processes, any new piece of kit coming into the school is tagged and loaded in the system as a matter of course. “The reporting function is very flexible,” said Sheryl, “the information is at our fingertips whether it’s working out capital depreciation on fixed assets or tracing mobile assets. Obviously being an academy we have external accountants coming in – the information on hand provided by AudIT software completely satisfied their financial requirements.”
Steve Morrissey also commended the reporting function as a big time saver, giving the user the ability to report on asset groupings by location or by department.
“Like any big organisation sometimes a laptop or tablet turns up and people have lost track of where it originally belonged. We just scan the asset tag and can make sure the resource is allocated back to the area it was originally intended for. AudIT brings another level of security to our IT resources – we do regular checks including random audits of specific pools of kit. We can quickly identify if a piece of equipment goes missing and give the police a full description including the asset tag which is actually pretty difficult to remove.”
Going forward Waterloo Primary Academy will continue to use AudIT to keep their assets under control and make sound business decisions on new investments.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to other schools, I’ve shared our experience with our cluster group and know a number of local schools are now also using the software,” said Sheryl.