Module A1: School records management

2. What is a school records management system (SRMS)?

School records are documented evidence of what a school does. School records contain data and information about various aspects of a school’s operations, including data about its students, teachers, classes, facilities and finances. The main purpose of a SRMS is to systematically record, store and update the school’s records.

The information from the SRMS is used to support evidence-based management of the school. School managers regularly make decisions about their school’s operations. To make good decisions, school managers need information that is up-to-date and accurate. A SRMS helps school managers to systematically collect, store and analyse information about their school so they have relevant and reliable information readily available to support decisions they make in running the school.

People who are responsible for making education policy – and for planning and managing the education system – realize that both the quantity and quality of data needed to support evidence-based decisions improve when schools systematically maintain and use school records.

Furthermore, improving data and information management in schools is crucial to decentralized management and accountability in the education system. The implementation of a SRMS can help to distribute accountability throughout the school system, and enable the schools to better inform and cooperate with their local communities.

2.1      The school records management process

A School Records Management System typically involves the following eight activities (see Figure 1):

  1. Creation – beginning a new record and starting to record data and information, for example creating a student record card for a new student.
  2. Storage – keeping the records in an organized manner so they can be accessed by authorized people but kept secure from unauthorized access, loss or damage.
  3. Update – adding new information to a record or modifying existing information in a record.
  4. Retrieval – searching for, locating and extracting records from storage.
  5. Use – applying information from the records to help make management and policy decisions.
  6. Appraisal and retention– determining whether and how long a record should be:
    • retained for active use;
    • archived; or
    • disposed of.
  7. Archiving – storing inactive records so they can be later retrieved for use.
  8. Disposal – discarding, deleting or destroying a record.

In a school, the SRMS has to involve various school staff to systematically record data and information about different aspects of the school’s operations. They use specific, pre-designed school record forms and follow procedures that are defined by school regulations and requirements. Different staff can be responsible for different school records and procedures in recording, storing, updating and retrieving information. At the end of each school year, the records that have been accumulated are appraised to determine which records should be retained, archived or disposed of.

A good SRMS is characterized by organized classification and filing of the school records in a way that makes it easy to search, access, retrieve and use the recorded data and information. Records about the same topic or issue are grouped and arranged in a logical order, such as by alphabetical order, chronological order, or sorted by other criteria. For example, individual student records can be classified and filed by grade, class or subject. Teacher records can be sorted according to years of service, and school facilities by type of facilities, etc.

If the information is recorded on paper, each file will group together all relevant supporting documents such as detailed inventories, receipts, invoices, payment records, copies of important correspondence and other related documents. If the records are computerized, such paper evidences can be scanned and stored in electronic format.

Computers can help to manage school records by storing information in a way that allows for rapid sorting, searching and retrieval of data. Besides reducing the use and handling of papers, an additional advantage of a computerized system is that it can help to analyse the recorded data and quickly generate various summary statistics, performance indicators, tables and graphs, and even detailed school management information such as lists of students and teachers who were absent on a specific day, or list of equipments needing repair, etc. Computers can also be used to archive inactive school records in electronic form such as on CD-ROMs, DVDs or other media, for efficient storage and retrieval.

Each of the record management functions (items 1 to 8 above) has a direct influence on the availability of information and their use for school management. Since various people in a school generate and use information, poor recording of key school management information and poorly managed school records can seriously affect the efficiency and effectiveness of a school. To systematically manage school records, each person must assume their respective roles in creating and updating school records using correct records forms, terminology and practices, and submit the record files to the designated place of storage on time (see Section 4 for further details).

Activity 1:  Ask school managers in your local area, district, province, or country about their practices in school records management, and then answer the following questions:For school managers and staff:

  1. Does your school keep records of what is happening in school?
  2. What kinds of records are kept in your school?
  3. Who creates and updates which kind of records in your school? How well are they doing their SRMS tasks? What problems do they face? Do they feel they have adequate support from the school in terms of clear instructions, standards, forms and equipment to handle their SRMS tasks properly?
  4. How do record-keeping practices in your school compare with the SRMS functions described in this section?
  5. What do you think should be done in order to improve records management practices in your school?

For district and local education officers and school inspectors:

  1.  Do all the schools in your district or local area keep records of what is happening in their school? Based on the list of school record management activities outlined above, can you describe how their SRMS work?
  2. What kinds of records are kept in these schools? What types of records are most commonly kept?
  3. Who creates and updates which records in these schools? How well are they doing their SRMS tasks? What problems do they face? Do they feel they have adequate support from the school in terms of clear instructions, standards, forms and equipment to handle their SRMS tasks properly?
  4. How do the records management activities in the schools in your district or local area compare with the SRMS functions described in this section?
  5. What do you think should be done in order to improve records management in the schools in your district or local area?

For central and provincial education administrators:

  1. Does your country or province have a SRMS policy?
  2. If no, why has no SRMS policy been developed? Is there a need for such a policy? Why?
  3. If yes, what percentage of schools implement the SRMS policy? How are they implementing it? What problems and difficulties do they face?
  4. What kinds of records are kept in the schools in your country or province? What types of records are most commonly kept?
  5. What needs to be done in order to further improve implementation of SRMS in schools?

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