As many parents already know, the process of applying for selective or private schools can be complex and emotionally fraught.
Application forms need to be completed, documents submitted and potential students tested and interviewed. It’s no less complex from the other side with schools needing to manage the often cumbersome and traditionally paper-based application process.
Queensland Academies however has digitised and transformed the application process – streamlining application and offering much greater transparency to parents and guardians.
Comprising three state schools in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Queensland Academies caters to more than 1,300 highly capable students in Years 10-12 and positions itself as a bridge between high school and tertiary study. Starting in 2019 the Queensland Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology has also accepted students in Year 7.
To apply, parents and guardians now complete an online application and attach photos, birth certificates, school reports and NAPLAN results through a secure portal. Following that eligible students sit an exam, are interviewed, and if successful, offered a position at the school.
It can be a stressful period for parent and student alike – having a streamlined online application process at least smooths that phase of the process.
Martin Halmarick is Managing Partner of IT consulting firm ECLEVA which developed the solution for Queensland Academies and delivers it as a managed service on an ongoing basis to strip away any administrative burden on the schools. He explains how it has transformed the school application process and helped reduce stress for parents and students.
Tell us a little about your business?
Martin Halmarick (MH): ECLEVA is a Microsoft partner creating business solutions on the Microsoft platform using Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure. We work with the client to understand their needs then develop a solution that we look to deliver through the Agile project methodology.
What was the challenge for Queensland Academies?
MH: Essentially they had a whole lot of spreadsheets and manual processes and large amounts of documentation. Every parent or student manually sent in their reports, NAPLAN results, potentially also visas and citizenship and documentation. All of that was then managed by Queensland Academies using spreadsheets, individual emails, phone calls and individual notes. It was a heavy manual process with spreadsheets being sent back and forth with a risk to data integrity and privacy.
What technologies have you deployed?
MH: It has three main components – Queensland’s Department of Education has an Office 365 licence and we use SharePoint within that to help with document management. We also use Azure to create a secure portal for the application and to manage all communication once the application is submitted.
Once the application and documentation is loaded, we drop it into Dynamics 365 and the administrators at Queensland Academies can view and assess the application.
The initial project took about four months to roll out over four sprints, and we have added extra functionality including a payments gateway through the portal.
What impact has this had?
MH: Queensland Academies are reporting a 50 per cent improvement in productivity through the saving of time and HR effort. Using a secure cloud foundation means that applications can be reviewed by each of the three campuses while maintaining pupil privacy.
And it’s streamlined the process for parents – they upload documents rather than printing them off and sending them through the mail.
There has also been a massive reduction in calls or emails to the schools from parents and guardians – instead of calling to find out whether the paper application has arrived – they know it has because it is all handled online.
Does this have any other uses?
MH: Queensland Academies runs the Bright Minds and Brilliant Futures programs – essentially academic development initiatives and the application process for those courses is handled the same way.
What does the future hold?
Queensland Academies would like to do more short programs – so this can help with the application process. Being cloud based the solution scales as fast as they need.
They are also using ClickDimensions which integrates with Dynamics 365 to improve the communications with parents and students.
I can’t emphasise enough how competitive it is for these schools – they have thousands of kids applying for these positions. It’s a very emotional time for the parents and the children. Now there is much more transparency about where things are up to.