Ask any teacher about their workload and theyll tell you that preparing teaching plans and dealing with administration takes longer than ever. According to a poll published by the Guardian Teacher Network, a remarkable 82 per cent of teachers said their workload has become unmanageable. On average, respondents to the survey gave their schools management a rating of just six out of ten.It was to help teachers deal with the ever expanding administration that theyre saddled with that James Sutherland launched his company Publishing Foundry, which delivers a work and document management system called Educater. With Educater Central, whenever teachers log in theyre immediately presented with a notifications area that shows them the tasks they have set or have been assigned to them. It also breaks time-consuming administration processes into simple, manageable chunks with modules for Attendance, School Tracking & Assessment, Journal and SEND paperwork. Schools then have the freedom to choose to subscribe to whichever modules suit their needs, according to Sutherland. Sutherlands original idea was to supply a system to help schools process documents on a specific workflow, designed around specific requirements. However, the final service is much more integrated supporting the sharing of information both within the school as well as helping with external communication. Before starting the Publishing Foundry in February last year, Sutherland had 12 years experience selling document management solutions to schools. I had built up a strong customer base and found it quite easy to get appointments with schools to talk about their document management because it was an issue for them they were processing huge amounts of documents daily,” he said. It was a more difficult to persuade them to buy software to solve this problem and that was because the software was designed for business environments. I realised that if schools were willing to meet me and had recognised that they had a problem, it meant that what I was offering wasnt solving the problem. This is where the Educater concept originated.
Sutherland had mainly worked for other company, but he was a freelance salesman for a short amount of time before setting up the Publishing Foundry because he had to leave full-time employment for personal reasons. I spent this time looking at the marketplace to see what I could sell on a freelance basis, for commission only, that would solve the problems schools have but I couldnt find anything,” he said. By chance, I was meeting with a developer about another business venture and realised through conversations with him that we could use technologies from other industries to address the problems that schools were facing. Investment came from an individual backer who was impressed with the idea and shared Sutherlands vision. It was very much a case of being in the right place, at the right time, having the right conversation,” said Sutherland. He believes that the company has been successful so far for two reasons. First, because it’s solving a real problem suffered by teachers that has so far not been addressed from a technological or strategic point of view. The second reason is that weve worked with schools right from the beginning and have invested a lot of time in understanding the problem in detail and exactly how we can go about solving it, before we even designed the system,” said Sutherland. Read more about education:
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