Now is the perfect time to nurture those all-important softer skills!

If we’re to take some positives from the last 12 months, it’s the fact that, for various reasons, we’ve all had to stop and think about our lives, and how fragile ‘normal’ can be.

It’s been a wake-up call and a time of reflection and a period for re-evaluating what’s important to us. We keep being told that the future will be a ‘new normal’, and we should be prepared for it. Click here to read our full blog.

Sentral keeps moving forward in uncertain times

Uncertainty is one of the key themes for 2020. Whilst we can never really be sure of what’s around the corner, COVID-19 throws challenges and curve balls at us every day. Just when we think we’re beginning to understand it, the disease presents us with something new. Reports of the economic impacts of the pandemic are also mixed. Some businesses are thriving whereas others are struggling or failing. Click here to read the full blog.

The new Sentral for Parents App: rebuilt for 2020

Sentral is excited to announce the launch of the new Sentral for Parents app. Completely rebuilt from the ground up, the Sentral for Parents app hosts a fresh new look with improved functionality.

The new app offers a significantly better experience for users and was rebuilt based on extensive school and user feedback. The app now supports a seamless experience with the Sentral Parent Portal, offering access to all features from the convenience of a mobile device. Read the full blog here to find out what Anne-Maree Kliman, President of the Victorian Principal’s Association, has to say about the new app.

Sentral streamlines Primary School Reports amidst COVID-19 crisis

The COVID-19 situation in 2020 provided unprecedented challenges for schools as they faced a variety of closures, transitions to online learning and phased restarts. In response, the Department of Education in NSW issued new guidelines for 2020 Semester 1 Primary School reports. In close collaboration with the NSW Primary Principals’ Association, Sentral quickly assessed the options available to NSW Primary Schools and made a recommendation for best practice. ‘… There’s no doubt that Sentral’s efforts saved many schools countless hours in providing quality reports for Semester 1, 2020. Thank you, Sentral.’ – Phil Seymour, President of NSWPPA. Read full story here.

NSW Bush fires: Sentral enables better communication

From the team at Sentral

Ahead of forecast catastrophic fire conditions for Tuesday 12 November, Sentral activates automated messaging for all its NSW schools.

On 11 November 2019 the state of NSW was put on notice for the severest of all fire conditions. Catastrophic fire danger was declared for the Sydney, Hunter, Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions.

With high temperatures and high winds forecast across the state, communities and businesses were instructed to make the appropriate preparations. This included schools, and over 600 made the decision ahead of time to close for the day to reduce the need for students to travel through potentially fire affected areas. Transport NSW also encouraged commuters to leave work early to avoid potential problems and delays with public transport.

Whilst this no doubt placed many people in difficult situations, the decision for schools to close was most certainly appropriate. By the end of the day on 12 November 2019, the NSW Rural Fire Service Website was indicating around 100 fire incidents across NSW of varying alert levels. The loss of life and property was tragic.

Sentral contributes to the fire effort

From a school’s perspective, communication is a critical factor in emergency situations. To quickly send messages to the entire school community is a key capability.

In preparation for this very stressful period, Sentral activated automated SMS messaging for its NSW schools at no cost.

For schools in fire affected areas, continuous communication with the latest updates was made possible. In addition, schools were also given the option of a ‘Dedicated Mobile Phone Number’ connected to the SMS messaging service. This means that messages always come from the same number, enabling parents to save the number into their phones for effective 2-way communication. The dedicated number option was provided free for one year.

Sentral enabled these services for schools swiftly as an expression of care for its customers.

Sentral is a key component in school communication

Built on decades of experience, and trusted by over 3000 schools across Australia, Sentral places a high priority on the communication capabilities provided by the platform. With features including bulk and automated SMS messaging, dedicated mobile phone numbers and email, schools are able to keep parents informed of their child’s wellbeing quickly and efficiently.

Into the future

Sentral recognises that the future will bring further challenges and critical events. Schools can be assured that the safety and wellbeing of all people in the schools it serves is of paramount importance. It’s one of the key aspects that drives product innovation and the ability to respond quickly in difficult situations.

Sentral salutes our heroes

Sentral would like to acknowledge and thank all volunteers and emergency services for their frontline work to protect life and property. Sentral recognises the great personal risk taken by those actively dealing with the fire situation, and the contribution they make to ensuring the safety of our homes, communities and schools. In many cases, their efforts are truly heroic.

Inspiration from a leading advocate: Julie Bishop

Sentral Embraces Cloud Innovation

Written by Colin Klupiec

Last week the NSW Primary Principals Association, 2019 Annual Conference was held at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth. This year’s inspiring theme: Building Us. Sentral was there as a key sponsor to the event with several contributions that supported the theme. More on that later in this post. Let’s first take a look at a critical issue raised by one of the event’s keynote speakers, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

The overarching message presented by Ms Bishop was the “rising importance of science, engineering and technology.” This is an ever-pertinent message for Australian educators, and something that became very apparent to her as the Minister for Education and Science in 2006-2007 (Bishop, 2018). Whilst Ms Bishop has held several other significant senior political roles including Shadow Treasurer, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, and most recently the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the mandate for Australia to provide quality science and technology education is still a topic she speaks about passionately. In particular, supporting and developing women; from early school education (Bishop, 2018), right through to inspiring women to be successful in innovation, business, politics and leadership (Bishop, 2019). Let’s take a look at a recent example of Ms Bishop’s experience.

Whilst still Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Bishop presented at the 2018 Vogue Codes event with an emphatic and confronting message. In her opening lines, Ms Bishop stated that “no country can reach its full potential unless and until it embraces and engages with and utilises the skills and talents and intellect and energy of the 50 per cent of its population that is female” (Bishop, 2018). A strong statement indeed, and of course entirely valid. Given the challenges ahead, it seems unlikely that we will meet them without this equality. Quoting statistics referring to the fact that “75% of the fastest growing occupations worldwide require STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] skills and STEM knowledge”, Ms Bishop went on the state that if we in Australia are to “sustain our standard of living, then we need more women and girls who are STEM-literate and undertaking STEM careers” (Bishop, 2018).

One outstanding example of this message becoming reality is the Commonwealth Digital Identity Initiative. It’s one of several projects pioneered by the innovationXchange, a hub introduced to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade by the then Hon. Ms Julie Bishop in 2015. In partnership with the UK and other public and private partners (Innovation Exchange, 2019), it’s a project designed to help people with no formal ID; e.g. birth certificate, driver’s licence, credit cards or similar. It’s hard to believe, but it’s estimated that there may be around 1 billion people affected by this around the world, making access to basic services including health and education either very difficult or impossible (Bishop, 2018). And in fact, “women are more likely to lack an ID than men, particularly in low income countries, where over 45% of women do not have an ID compared to 30% of men” (Innovation Exchange, 2019).

Why is this innovative? It’s a question openly asked on the innovationXchange website. Along with the clear humanitarian benefits, the program answers this question with this very clear statement;

Digital identity along with internet connectivity and digital financial services are considered to be the building blocks of a modern digital economy. With these core elements in place, it becomes easier for governments, businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate further and to find new ways to engage a connected population. (Innovation Exchange, 2019)

So, the mandate for raising awareness about science, technology and engineering in our schools is clearly supported by real life examples. It’s not just about increasing student numbers in subjects. There are real human and economic benefits, both locally and globally. Delegates at the conference were indeed privileged to listen to Ms Bishop’s address, which comes from a background of much experience.

Sentral embraces cloud innovation

Innovation also lies at the heart of Sentral’s mission: to help schools work smart. Harnessing the power that science, technology and engineering have to offer, Sentral embraces this message through constant development of its product offerings. Perhaps one of the most salient advances of computing technology in the last 15 years has been the development of cloud technology, and Sentral is helping schools understand and take advantage of the benefits it has to offer. For example, consider the key points presented at the conference, by one of Sentral’s dedicated Education Consultants, Cassie Martin.

The Cloud is simple and flexible

As administrative demands on schools grow, IT systems can become more complex and onerous to manage. With Sentral in the cloud, local infrastructure requirements are significantly reduced with a corresponding reduction in IT support. Maintaining ageing and expensive hardware is no longer required, and the management of software updates happens seamlessly in the background whilst your school gets on with business. And, as your school grows, the capacity to expand your data requirements can be added as needed.

The Cloud is always on and accessible

A key issue facing teachers today is managing the increasing responsibilities of their jobs, in addition to actual face to face teaching. And in a world where people are increasingly working at times most efficient for them, it’s critical for schools to have a system that works when their staff do. So, when teachers need access to Sentral, they can rest assured it will be there for them, 99.9% of the time. The high-speed nature of Sentral in the cloud means no risk of outages at critical or peak times.

The Cloud is cost effective

Moving from an onsite server to the cloud results in a lower total cost of ownership for most schools. This is made possible by the reduction of capital costs associated with owning and managing computer hardware and infrastructure. This includes simple, and sometimes overlooked running costs such as electricity, air conditioning, security and support associated with server rooms and specialised equipment. In addition, there are no more limits on data.

The Cloud is safe and secure

Safety and compliance are of paramount importance to your school. They are also a critical part of Sentral’s cloud solution. When schools migrate to Sentral in the cloud, they can rest assured that it complies with all government privacy requirements. Through our partnership with Microsoft, school data is hosted on the acclaimed Microsoft Azure cloud computing service. It offers best in class security and redundancy features, being located in numerous Microsoft-managed data centres. And of course, regular backups and fast restoration of systems are all included.

There is no doubt that as we meet current challenges, new ones will arise. The exceptional educators at the PPA Conference, Sentral’s presence and the inspiring keynote presentations demonstrate part of the collective commitment to addressing what lies ahead for our children. And it is this commitment that will help Australia continue to ‘build’ and prosper socially and economically.



Bishop, J. (2018). Address at Vogue Codes. Retrieved from

Bishop, J. (2019). Julie Bishop: We need more women leaders. Retrieved from

Innovation Exchange. (2019). Commonwealth Digital Identity Initiative. Retrieved from

How access to key data regarding students can empower school leaders

Technology has broken new barriers to bring data, people and organisations together. It is safe to say that we live in a fast-evolving environment and education is moving with it.

Increasingly, data is used to improve decision making and deliver scalable and measurable results. Instead of making ‘gut feel’ decisions or doing things the same way it’s always been done, data arms us with facts and figures that help shape a better future.

“Data-driven decision-making is about gathering data to understand if a school or district is meeting its purpose and vision,” says Victoria Bernhardt, author of Data Analysis for Comprehensive Schoolwide Improvement. “If we do not have a target, we make decisions that essentially lead to ‘random acts of improvement.’” Instead, Bernhardt says, superintendents should strive for “focused acts of improvement,”. This only occurs when school leaders are clear about their purpose.

To lead the change and achieve desired outcomes, school leaders must be knowledgeable about data and utilise it as a leadership tool. By using data in their leadership tool box, school leaders can easily track and identify weaknesses, see the challenges of individual students and classes so that they can further base their plans for improvement to maximum potential. Student data offers invaluable support for making good decisions. How that data is then used is critical.

At Sentral we believe, to empower students, teachers should first empower themselves. The use of data provides evidence of impact that can inform teaching to enable accuracy on what is happening to students in the classroom. By providing training to teachers on how to analyse data, they can examine their data, evaluate their performance and establish learning goals. School leaders can then use student data analysis to identify factors that motivate student performance and adjust their process to meet student needs.

According to the NSW Government, ‘Effective self-assessment, improving classroom practice, and reporting to the community involves schools collecting, analysing and presenting data. The ability to investigate, reflect on and make the most of available data is a core competency for everyone in schools – leaders, teachers and support staff.’.

Using data is now an essential tool in our education system. Sentral incorporates the use of data across every segment of our platform. Here are a few tips for using student data to empower teaching and learning:

Don’t ‘data dump’: Start small, try not to take in a large amount of data at the same time to allow for a proper thinking process when interpreting the data.

Start with core issues: Prioritise your objectives and start by choosing core issues you think are the most important and time sensitive. Use data as the basis to plan and evaluate your current situation.

Focus on the big picture: Don’t lose yourself on small unimportant details. Instead, focus on the data to show you the big picture of your overall performance.

Choose reliable partners: When it comes to starting your digital transformation journey, make sure you have a reliable partner to help you understand the current landscape, evolving environment and school requirements to ease your digital migration.

With technology underlying your school, you can use the data it generates to see what’s happening in your school and use that information to make the school more agile. Sentral offers a cloud-based SaaS that enables schools to generate qualitative data and insights on the school’s progress.

Simply contact Sentral to discover how you can streamline your school and provide an on-demand, shared service that includes IT support, services, and program software. We can help ease your digital transformation journey.

Solving the culture/technology dilemma; could it drive our nation further?

Written and produced by Colin Klupiec

The Dilemma

In late 2014 I had the great privilege of visiting a Festool advanced manufacturing facility in the middle of Germany, not far from the city of Stuttgart. As a technology educator, this was akin to a child visiting the best toyshop in the world, since Festool makes some of the finest power tools available, and I was using them in my daily work. Given my German heritage, and fluency in the language I knew I could approach this with confidence. I stretched out my hand and greeted the energetic process engineer, and in my excitement, realised that I had just committed my first faux pas. I used a casual greeting. How could I make such a beginner’s mistake? Traditionally, this would be a social disaster, particularly in a corporate context. Yet my young (and progressive) host recognised what was going on, smiled and graciously welcomed me in. I hadn’t even made it through the door, and culture was already playing a significant role.

Fast forward to the present, and the experience still resonates, particularly given that technology education, and more specifically STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is yet to demonstrate a significant uptake in student interest (Education Council, 2018). Why aren’t more students passionate about STEM learning pathways in senior school years? Perhaps it is because there are many definitions for what STEM actually is, which results in lack of consensus of what the ‘subject’ looks like (Holmlund, Lesseig, & Slavit, 2018). This undoubtedly forms the first hurdle, because it’s hard to implement a learning area with so much ambiguity. At the same time, Australian education bodies note that the number of students studying foreign languages is also in decline (ACOLA, 2013). Is this a curious coincidence, or an opportunity for investigation, or both?

Consider the plausibility that there is a connection between declining interest in STEM and foreign language learning in schools. Not because they are seemingly unrelated. But because there are overlapping elements of ‘culture’ which are easily overlooked or forgotten, as I was quick to experience in my visit to Festool. Referring again to definitions, it is noteworthy that many describe STEM in much broader terms than its component subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Definitions include an “enterprise that operates with a social license”, which is “truly global” and “bridges cultural divide” (Office of the Chief Scientist, 2013). STEM “contributes to personal, social, and economic outcomes” (Timms, Moyle, Weldon, & Mitchell, 2018). STEM outcomes are “cultural achievements that reflect people’s humanity” (National Research Council, 2011), and “broaden student understanding of STEM disciplines through exposure to culturally relevant STEM contexts” (Moore, 2008). Comparing these definitions with the rationale for languages as stated in the Australian Curriculum (AC) makes for interesting reading, where “language capabilities represent linguistic and cultural resources through which the community can engage socially, culturally and economically, in domains which include business, trade, science…health and communications” (ACARA, 2018). And notably the rationale from the International Baccalaureate (IB) which aims to “enable students to understand and use the language they have studied in a range of contexts and for a variety of purposes” (International Baccalaureate, 2014). There is certainly an overlap. Ironically, the introduction of computers into schools was meant to be part of the solution. Who can forget the bold claims of a ‘digital education revolution’ made by Kevin Rudd in the 2007 labour election campaign? The benefit to trade and technical students, to the study of sciences and chemistry, and the turbo charging of foreign language learning that computers would facilitate was certainly a vision. But the results have been lacklustre. Despite the above, thousands of teachers have tried to move the needle on this issue and are doing great work. But perhaps the complication of culture is just too difficult to overcome. We need innovation, but what kind?

Clayton Christensen is known the world over for his ground breaking work on disruptive innovation (Christensen, 2000). He distinguishes disruptive technologies from what he calls sustaining technologies, in that sustaining technologies “improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions of performance that mainstream customers in major markets have historically valued. Most technological advances in a given industry are sustaining in character”. In other words, we like it when the products and services we buy continue to get incrementally better. According to Christensen, managers generally allocate resources to such innovations because it makes sense to do so. Seems obvious, right? By contrast, disruptive technologies “bring to market a very different value proposition that had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value” (Christensen, 2000). Historically, managers have been hesitant to allocate resources to disruptive innovations because it doesn’t make sense to do so. Schools can learn from this dichotomy. What if the STEM and language declines could be turned by an unknown or nonsensical value proposition? Not that we ignored it. It’s just that making classes work in unusual combinations is difficult, especially when students are mostly choosing other subjects. It doesn’t make sense to allocate resources that way. Although doing so, may be precisely what Australia needs if it is to address the aforementioned declines. This is a dilemma.

The Alternative Value Proposition

Consider the opening story. It’s easy to consider wider factors when you’ve suddenly found yourself red-faced in a culturally awkward situation and everything becomes crystal clear. But it’s a tough sell to students and school administrators when the resource allocation doesn’t make sense and the benefits only become apparent years later; potentially in another country, contributing to another country’s economy. But could the complementary cultural themes across learning areas drive an awareness of unknown value propositions? Could a disruptive approach to designing learning pathways and resource allocation indeed contribute to reversing the STEM and languages declines? Maybe. But it will take vision, and risk taking to find out.




ACARA. (2018). Rationale. Retrieved from

ACOLA. (2013). STEM comparisons. Retrieved from

Christensen, M., C. (2000). The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Education Council. (2018). Optimising STEM Industry-School Partnerships:Inspiring Australia’s Next Generation. Retrieved from

Holmlund, T. D., Lesseig, K., & Slavit, D. (2018). Making sense of “STEM education” in K-12 contexts. International Journal of STEM Education, 5(1), 32. doi:10.1186/s40594-018-0127-2

International Baccalaureate. (2014). International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Subject Brief, Language Acquisition: Language B – Standard Level.

Moore, T., J. (2008). STEM integration: crossing disciplinary borders to promote learning and engagement. Invited presentation to the faculty and graduate students of the UTeachEngineering, UTeachNatural Sciences, and STEM Education program area at University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.

National Research Council. (2011). Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science. Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Office of the Chief Scientist. (2013). Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach. Retrieved from Canberra:

Timms, M., Moyle, K., Weldon, P., & Mitchell, P. (2018). Challenges in STEM learning in Australian schools. Policy Insights Issue 7. Camberwell, VIC: ACER.

Not all heroes wear capes! Sentral takes their development heroes for a night at the movies with Avengers: EndGame

In what was the busiest period yet for Sentral, finding a balance between work and everyday life can be a challenge for some.

At Sentral, we like to recognise and reward our employees throughout the year which provides a sense of recognition and empowerment in their day-to-day activities whilst also promoting a healthy work-life balance all year round.

This time, to celebrate the highly anticipated Avengers: EndGame movie release, Sentral rewarded the development team for an evening at Hoyts Chatswood to relax with colleagues and bond over the biggest box office hype at the moment.

To capture the mood and excitement of the event, we asked fellow employees about what it meant to work at Sentral:

Will who is a mobile developer at Sentral really enjoys working with his colleagues. He is enthusiastic about the work he does and believes “management is lovely and really encourages a health work-life balance.”

Ewan who is a test analyst at Sentral believes his colleagues are great to work with but also fun to hang out with. During busy periods, Ewan believes “the camaraderie and playful banter really helps us maintain positivity and celebrate our successes.”

Sentral encourages other businesses to pursue similar initiatives to celebrate success and recognise the efforts made by teams in achieving business outcomes. Happier employees translate into greater employee satisfaction and better results!