What is it and why do we need it?
You may be surprised but when you collect your children for their meeting, the night is only half way over for the section leaders. There are a myriad of records that need to be kept up to date and it can take a over an hour each week. As we are all volunteers, this puts an additional burden on us when we still have our day job, families and organising more activities to get on with.
Until now the Group has been using a series of spreadsheets which we had been given for free a couple of years ago. When the group was smaller these were just great, but as our numbers have grown to near capacity our spreadsheet system is creaking and frequently breaks down with the constant changes that are made to the records.
The Scout Leader, who has the greatest burden of record keeping, has been looking at several options in the last month the best value for money he has found is Online Scout Manager (OSM). This system is still evolving and new features come out every couple of months. As they do we will evaluate them and decide if they would work for our group. There is a movie at the bottom of the page to show you all the features.
So the Group has to pay for OSM?
Unfortunately yes. Each section pays £38.50 a year for OSM. The Online Scout Manager also gives parents a chance to see what is coming up, what badges are due and to sign up and pay for events and camps on-line.
Is Online Scout Manager safe?
We are content that OSM is as safe as it can be.
- Access to the personal data on the system is limited to the leaders who use long and complicated passwords.
- All communication with the site is over SSL, so the information you see and send is encrypted and can’t be intercepted.
- The web-server/database are hosted in a datacentre in London. The database is constantly replicated onto a backup machine, and system-wide database backups are taken hourly, weekly and monthly.
- Passwords are hashed in the database (i.e. they not stored in plain text and it is impossible to reverse-engineer). Parents can only reset their password if they have access to their email address.
- Parents will only have access to their own child’s personal data.
- Leaders are given appropriate levels of access to the individual parts of the system.
- All the code has been written in-house by the Southampton company Online Youth Manager Ltd, there is no third party code with potentially known exploits.
- No personal information is shared with the Group Website.
So what do the parents get access to? How does it work?
On joining the Section Leader takes the name, date of birth, parents e-mail address and sets the young person up on the system. The parent is then sent a secure e-mail link to the site and has the option of setting up their own user name and password so they can log in at any time. If you choose not to register, emails out by section leaders will contain a personal link to the relevant activity. Once logged in the parents can see a ‘Noticeboard’ giving messages from the leaders. Along the top of the page (depending on which section your son/daughter is in) are links to Payments, Events, Programme, Badges and Personal details. There is also an ‘Account’ button for changing passwords.
What does each bit of the parent page do?
Lets go through them one at a time. It’s really not complicated and you don’t even need to remember any passwords as you can log in through the secure link sent out in notification e-mails from the Section Leader.
This is what’s coming up in the next few weeks. It tells parents, and young people what to expect. The next 2 programme entries or events are displayed on front page of the Group Website. The programme also ties in with a register held by the Leaders so we can keep track of who was present on a particular day and which badges are being worked on.
Now to the good stuff…. All new events will be e-mailed out to you with a secure link. No more letters home to be lost! If you are logged on clicking on ‘Events’ brings up a list of current events on offer for your Son/Daughter. It gives you the option of saying if they want to attend and gives you all the details of the event. The times dates and costs are all there. If you click on attending, and then change your mind you can always back out before a ‘closing date’ and if you speak to the section leader may be able to back out after the date.
This is one of the biggest bug bears for Leader is collecting and processing payments at the start and end of the meeting. And for parents, just imagine if you could pay for an activity or event without looking for loose change or trying to find a cheque book or a fiver just as you are about to leave for a meeting…. Here’s the beauty of this system. All events and activities for the Scout section (our guinea pigs for this) can now be paid online. When you first go to make a payment you will be asked for some bank information to set up a direct debit. You don’t need to enter these again. If your son or daughter wants to go on an event you can click on the ‘pay now’ button (just like e-bay) and the money will go into the Scout Group account. The Online Scout Manager uses ‘Go Cardless’ too manage the transaction but it is totally secure, covered by the direct debit guarantee and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The only person who can make a payment from your account is YOU. We will of course continue to accept cheques or cash, but our preference for Scouts at least is online.
What have they got and where do they go…. Keep track of all badges gained, what’s left to do and once earned where do they go. As some of the activities we do can count against multiple badges OSM makes sure nothing gets missed. It’s quite possible a young person can get a badge without even realising they’ve done it if the leaders get the combination of activities right!
Once you have given permission for us to hold your son/daughters personal data it goes here. There is nothing we don’t already hold on paper records, but this is quicker and easier for us to contact you if we need to.
We realise this is a new way of going about our business, but our business is Scouting, not administration and with a workload of several hours a week the old way of doing things was taking too long. This way we can focus more on the fun things like camps, trips and events. Already new programme ideas are coming forward, which breathes life back into the Group.
Should you have any queries about this new system please can you contact the Scout Leader using the [Contact us] page of this website.