When I started at St Cuthbert's College we had a very manual system, we printed out a spreadsheet each week on which we wrote in the leave details for each girl. That required permissions via e-mail or a phone call from a parent and the host. It was a lot of follow up to make sure that that emails corresponded with each other. And while the system worked well it was certainly quite time consuming.
The leave weekend process is now managed purely through Boardingware which is fantastic. During the week the girls apply for leave which is due by Wednesday night,their parents and hosts are notified and Boardingware requires approval from both places. Then on Wednesday night our staff members can review and approve the leave. When it comes time for the Boarder to leave at the weekend they come into the school with the parent or host and they ‘activate the leave’ through Boardingware. What we like about that is, we get the host to double-check all of the details and to confirm the return time so any adjustments we need to make can be made there and then before they leave.
Prior to Boardingware we managed our sign-in and out process through a paper book which was in the reception area of the boarding house. If they were going somewhere on campus, the girls would state where they were going, give the estimated return time and then sign back in on their arrival. If they were going off-site we had another system where they came into the boarding manager's office and they would sign out with whoever they were going with.
The sign out process with Boardingware is much more streamlined. It’s all from one place and we manage it all through the iPad in the boarding manager's office. We wanted to keep the face to face contact so they come to the boarding office and they sign out with the boarding manager on her iPad and it’s the same for when when they come back inform leave. If the girls are running late it shows up very clearly which is fantastic, it keeps us right on top of where they are and when they should be back.
The reservations were around losing that face to face contact but in fact, it's improved that even more than I expected it would. Due to Boardingware being completely cloud-based, it means that any girl can come and sign out from any house in any location therefore it's improved face to face communication with all staff. We now have a much better understanding of what all our girls are doing and I can have a girl from any house come to me and sign in or out. I also know exactly where the girls are - I don't have to run up to the house to grab the book, verify all the leave details and come back. The girls just love that they can come to me wherever and I'd pull out my phone and sign them out, it's just efficient, and parents love it so it has been a bonus all around.
When schools say to me 'Should we?' 'Shouldn't we?' I say go for it. You won't be disappointed. Another reservations we had and what I know others have is whether people [students, parents and staff] can cope with it. How would people embrace it? Because it’s so easy to use, it has been embraced really well. So I'd say just go for it and it's great.
One of the big things that's been a bonus for us was the fact that you can connect siblings from other schools to one parent account. We are a girls school so we have got brothers at schools nearby that are also using Boardingware. So it works even better for our families as well as us that they're not having to learn a new system and they can connect with their students.