The Badger Pastoral Management System
What house staff at boarding schools do is a difficult thing to pin down. The role is multifaceted – often demanding, always compelling and never dull. Beyond our roles within the boarding house we are also expected to play a full part in the wider life of the school which, again, can be entirely absorbing.
The real question concerns how we fit it all in, and find the time we need for some of the more mundane aspects of the role. Where do we find time to reflect on our decisions? Where do we find time to engage with the pupils we care for? This is crucial given that, ultimately, the welfare of the pupils must be at the heart of what we do. Such questions have to be answered taking into account any other family or personal commitments we may have. The question we really ask is: how do we give ourselves more time, and improve the value of the information we hold?
These points are what led to us designing software which enabled us to use the data we already have efficiently and effectively. In essence, it led to the building of Badger. We have spent three years developing Badger, which is an entirely bespoke solution for house staff looking to identify a means of reducing the vast number of hours spent dealing with the paperwork, emails, telephone calls and staff notices that come with their role. The result is a unique cross-platform product that enables house staff to deal quickly and efficiently with a range of data / information requests pertaining to all (day and boarding) pupils. The system also represents a valuable monitoring tool, and enables house staff to create easily a profile illustrating the progress of a pupil over a given period of time.
Speaking with other house staff at the conference, it became clear that we are all in the same boat. Although all schools are different, fundamentally the key aims and underpinning principles are the same. We are all familiar with the data available for helping predict academic results, however analysis has yet to be widely applied when it comes to tracking the pastoral welfare of pupils. The pastoral data exists, but can be difficult to compile, difficult to apply, difficult to share and consequently much pressure is exerted on house staff to usefully recall, store and action often sensitive, detailed information, with little more than a note stuck in the house diary. Badger provides a way to track pupils and use the knowledge we already have effectively and efficiently.
The conference generated a great deal of interest in Badger, and the feedback we have received to date has been overwhelmingly positive. We are looking forward to visiting a range of schools all over the country (many of whom have already booked follow-up meetings) and working with them to ensure Badger works for them in the best way possible. Having worked closely with Bedales over the last five months, we have learnt to configure the software to a different pattern of life, which has been a valuable experience and something which we will be taking forward as we roll out Badger into other schools. We have found that the key to success is maintaining the communication between house staff and us, the developers.
We are very grateful to Bedales for inviting us to speak at the Thriving in a Changing World pastoral conference. It was a fantastic opportunity not only to launch Badger but, moreover, to meet, discuss and reflect with like-minded colleagues on the challenges of working within boarding education. We are lucky to work within an environment such as King Edward’s Witley which shares our values of providing the best possible pastoral care. What we found from this conference was that these values are widespread and we hope that we shared something of value in demonstrating how we cope with the pressures of being housemasters.
If you are interested in Badger and want to know more about the significant impact it can have on your school, we would be happy to visit and demonstrate what it does and how it can be moulded to suit your school.