Top Trends in MIS Switching

Stewart Nutting
Data from the May ‘21 Department for Education school census shows the sector is on track for a record year for MIS switching in schools.


Each day, a school’s MIS (management information system) will be accessed hundreds if not thousands of times, housing critical school data including attendance, assessment, behaviour, FSM, safeguarding, clubs, parental contact details – the list goes on. So vital is this system that historically, some schools have been reluctant to change it.

While it may seem like a daunting task – proven data migration processes and the huge gains made from better ways of working mean thousands of schools have successfully moved to modern providers in the last few years.

In fact, there is now a competitive market for schools to choose the right MIS provider for them, each offering new technologies, rich features and more efficient ways of working. Indeed, following the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in schools opting to move to an entirely cloud-based system – providing a real lifeline for schools and rates of switching seem to be accelerating.

Data collected from the May ‘21 Department for Education school census shows the sector is on track for a record year for MIS switching in schools. With all this movement going on, we’ve picked out the top switching trends.

1. 2021 is a record year for switching

451 schools switched their MIS from SIMS to another provider between the January ‘21 & May ‘21 Census. That’s the largest number of SIMS leavers recorded in a May census since the Key started collating data in 2015. This follows a similarly bumper January. With October’s census still to come we’re seeing an upward trend stretching back to 2015 of schools choosing to leave SIMS.

Of all the schools switching in the May ’21 census, 94% moved from an on-premise provider of MIS to a modern cloud-based solution – a trend hugely impacted by the pandemic. 54% of those on-premise to cloud switchers chose to move to Arbor and 18% to ScholarPack.

This has resulted in the biggest calendar year of switching we’ve seen in the data to date. Based on the January & May censuses alone there have been 715 switchers in 2021, which already outstrips the whole of 2016. Projecting this census data forward supports our internal data which suggest that for the first time, the sector could be on track to break the “1,000 Switchers in a Year” mark. This also continues a linear growth trend we’ve seen in switchers since 2018. Schools are voting with their feet. Clunky, on-premise solutions are no longer fit for purpose. Clearly, the sector is ready for change.

2. Maintained schools switch quickly when given the chance by their local authority

The other big trend that’s causing more movement in MIS switching is that LAs are increasingly starting to allow their school’s to procure their own MIS provider. North Yorkshire is a good example. Since opening up their tender process in Spring ‘17, 51% of their 238 maintained schools have taken the decision to move to modern cloud-based providers.

South Gloucestershire is another example of an LA starting to open up with 29% of their 84 maintained schools moving to Arbor over the past 2 years. This is really exciting as it means LAs are increasingly allowing schools to make a procurement decision that’s right for them and their school.

3. Arbor now lead in secondary schools switching away from SIMS

The secondary market has lagged behind primary in terms of switching to the cloud. Secondary schools are now moving to the cloud at pace and Arbor’s secondary school functionality is winning the majority of switchers from SIMS.

4. Schools aren’t switching to SIMS 8

Originally launched in 2018, SIMS 8 was positioned as the modern, cloud based upgrade for SIMS 7 schools wanting to move to the cloud. DfE census data shows us that by January this year only 30 schools had made the switch to SIMS 8. To put that in perspective, during the same period over 2,400 SIMS schools chose to move their MIS to the cloud with other vendors.

It’s great that schools now have options and improved system choice, we are looking forward to processing the Autumn 2021 census data shortly.



Please note: The Key Group includes The Key, GovernorHub as well as Arbor and ScholarPack, two cloud-based MIS providers that support thousands of schools across the UK.

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