Best Practice Update

grey computer keyboard with blue key with white text:'Data Migration'

Considerations when migrating to a new MIS

Moving MIS is a daunting task and is no small undertaking for a school. Moving to the cloud from a legacy system means that there are cyber security benefits but may be something new to your organisation. There is often the assumption that the new MIS porvider will seamlessly migrate the data for you, however there is a considerable amount of work that the school must do beforehand in order to make this happen.  This article provides some practical guidance and considerations.

  • Allow enough time to plan, manage and check the project to ensure correct records are archived, and those of the current cohort are entered correctly to ensure the new database starts correctly (cleanly).
  • Involve the right people - this is not just the role of the Admin officer or the School Business Manager - IT support should also be involved.  Ensure that you have someone from the new MIS provider that is working on the project with you and is able to provide the right help and support.  There should be a project manager and a technical installer (from your IT support or the new MIS provider).  Someone within your school will also need to be responsible for managing the project and ensuring the timing is appropriate for the school and where they are in the academic year or term.
  • Understand what data you have and check whether it is needed.  Check against record retention requirements which may be governed by your local authority, so check with them. But also check what is recommended by iRMS: iRMS Schools Toolkit.  Ensure you understand which fields in the current database will map to fields in the new database, as there may be an element of data mapping, especially if user defined fields have been used.
  • Cleanse the data - ensure that the data is consistent, for example that the post code is in the relevant post code field rather than in the general address field, and that they all have the same format.  That there are the required number of parental contacts with the correct information.  Ensure that you are aware of any user defined fields that you may have created and how they will map across to the new system.  Ensure duplicate records are removed.
  • Review what you have and decide what can be archived and what needs to be moved across, and what can be deleted. Check if there are any housekeeping routines that can be run to bulk remove records on your current MIS system.   Remember that records must be kept no longer than necessary.  Further advice can be found in this article: TES: Streamline your filing.  We would advise also reviewing our Records Management Best Practice Area.  Consider what should be transferred to the next school setting and what should be kept.  Consider what staff employment records are required if that is a part of the migration.
  • Once the initial migration is complete, review the live data in the new MIS to ensure it is as expected and fields have mapped as required.  Pick some data and check the accuracy and integrity of it.  Be mindful of email and contact information and that this has correctly mapped across.  Incorrectly mapping/linking can lead to a data breach if incorrect emails/mobiles are linked to the wrong contact and a parent communication is then sent.
  • If you are able to, run a dummy school census and workforce census on the legacy system and new MIS to support data validation to crosscheck data (totals for different categories of data) between two systems.  If this is not possible, run a comprehensive set of reports for different data sets and categories of data i.e. ethnicity type totals, SEND type totals etc in your legacy system and then run the same reports after migration in your new MIS to check totals/details are correct.
  • Check what kind of license your exiting MIS is, as you may be able to keep an archive version running on a backup database without additional cost.  However, ensure that you are able to easily access the information for future purposes, for example for a Subject Access Request.
  • Ensure training is organised for staff on the new MIS.
  • We would advise against having two systems running as live.
The benefits of moving to the cloud:
  • There may be a better (cheaper) pricing structure (often 20-30% cheaper).
  • There will real-time updates to the system by the supplier.  Fixes will be applied to your system, rather than updates applied locally to your server.  This makes the system more robust against cyber attacks
  • The system is effectively available anywhere other than 'near' the server or onsite.
  • The supplier will do the back up as part of their regular schedule.
  • Cloud based systems are better equiped to bring your data into one system.
  • There is likely to be better integraton with third party systems.
Other hidden benefits of moving to the cloud:
  • It may help you go paperless
  • The MIS is available from more locations, so available on more devices making it more accessible (accessibility).
  • They may reduce the number of other third party software you need to use, such as online payments.
  • Money is saved through different onsite server (hardware) requirements
  • Less maintenance, manpower and computing power required (another monetary saving).
  • A cloud based system is more sustainable.
Data Breach considerations:
Consider a cyber attack on your current on premise server in school and how far back some of the data may go. Should you be unfortunate enough to suffer a cyber attack and subsequent data breach you would need to determine exactly what data had been breached and would need to contact all of the data subjects whose data had been affected.

In January, confidential data from 14 UK schools was leaked online by hackers following attacks that took place in 2022.  Article Infosecurity Magazine: UK Schools Hit by Mass Lead of Confidential Data.

Remember that the new system will not directly compare to the old one.  A school MIS will be accessed many times a day housing critical data for the school : attendance, assessment, behaviour, safeguarding etc.  So, it makes sense to ensure it works not only in an optimal way, but is easy to use with accurate data.

Information for Brighton Schools currently planning their migration:

We are aware that many of our customers are current in a project to move from SIMS to Arbor, with that in mind we contacted Arbor and the local authority directly who have provided the following information:

Advice form Arbor
In the first instance, can I suggest you review Arbor's approach to GDPR which is accessible from our help center.
You can also find a number of answers to migration specific queries - including what data is migrated - in this section.

Advice from the local authority:
Staff data is potentially migrating twice.  If the school is moving MIS then basic staff information such as name, email, classes etc move to the new MIS so there is secure access on the new MIS in order to take registers etc.
If the school is not using using an alternative provider for full staff information, such as PIER, then Full staff information such as name, email, classes, contract information, absence, NI number etc will move to Bromcom eventually as a second phase.

The advice from the local authority is to move across the current year and leave historical information in SIMS for any subject access requests etc.

Further information about data migration can be found in our Data Migration Best Practice Area.

We provide a Data Migration Checklist to get you started (this can only be viewed with a valid DPE Subscription):