Beta Testing SIMS Marksheets for the new National Curriculum
In the spring 2015 release of SIMS schools will have access to Capita’s new marksheets designed to allow schools to record assessment against the new national curriculum 2014. It’s the biggest new development in SIMS for several years as it constitutes their first attempt at adapting SIMS for formative assessment.
Tip: If you’re a non-teacher and not familiar with the new national curriculum 2014 here’s a link to the curriculum documentation – now’s a good time to familiarise yourself with it.
Here’s my summary of the new functionality:
The Basic Screen
The first thing you’ll notice about the new system is it’s comprehensiveness. The whole of the national curriculum is covered by the new system, including the foundation subjects. Every element of every programme of study is listed and available for data entry in a format similar to the one above.
At first glance, and despite the complexity of the new national curriculum, Capita have done a good job of simplifying the screens, re-using familiar components from ordinary marksheets which makes these new marksheets quite intuitive and easy to use.
The new marksheets are available from the usual Focus | Assessment menu and from a new icon on the menu toolbar at the top of the SIMS homepage. Once selected, you get the following selection parameters. You must choose a subject, strand, term and year group to work with. At this point you must select a term – half terms are included in the list. Regular assessment manager users will remember that not selecting a term was a major issue with old fashioned progress grids.
The top of the screen includes the ‘selection parameter’ section – here you can choose the subject and, within each subject, the strand you want to view. For example, strands include ‘reading comprehension’ and ‘word reading’ (within English) and place value (within Maths). Once you have selected the year group and pressed the populate button you can start entering grades.
For this initial release, Capita have restricted schools to using Emerging, Developing, Secure and Mastered grades (E, D, S, M). While many schools will find this absolutely fine, other schools will already have adopted schemes that don’t fit this particular paradigm. For now, schools who want to use the new marksheets will have to adapt their existing systems, but Capita are suggesting that the flexibility to use different grades will be included in a future release.
New users who might be unfamiliar with the new grades will appreciate the ‘select grade for cell’ option (above). Regular users of marksheets will appreciate the new ability to move on to the next grade for the same pupil rather than the next pupil’s grade (horizontally rather than vertically) – achieved using a new tickbox (see above).
Next and Previous Terms
If you want to enter grades for the the next term there is a drop down list in the top left of the marksheets (see above). Choosing a later term highlights an interesting way Capita have devised to differentiate between grades achieves this term and grade achieved in a previous term: results entered in a previous term are chevroned (if that’s a word!) – diagonally divided into two (see above). You can also ‘wind back’ the terms to display historical results term by term.
The new national curriculum groups the programmes of study into age related expectations. Some programmes of study are expected to be studied across a particular year group, some are designed to be studied over a couple of years. For example reading comprehension programmes of study (PoS) are listed over upper KS2 (year 5 and year 6). As a school, you wouldn’t expect a year 5 pupil to have secure understanding of every element of the PoS, especially if some of the PoS elements aren’t studied until year 6. So the new marksheets allows schools to highlight individual elements as ‘school expectations’. You can set those expectations as ‘end of year’ or ‘end of term’ expectations – it’s your choice.
Existing users will recognise how useful the ‘grade distribution’ and ‘filter by results’ options are and you’ll be glad to know they are also available in the new marksheets.
Filter by results allows you to select pupils based on the results in the columns – for example, to select all the pupils who are ’emerging’. You can also filter by results in more than one column – so you can discover the pupils who are only emerging in one element but secure or mastered in another. The functionality is exactly the same as in a standard marksheet, as is the grade distribution function below.
Once the individual assessments for each stage have been made, teachers can decide on an overall assessment for the strand. The grades you can assign to a pupil are again based on emerging/developing/secure/mastered but with the addition of a year to signify which age group’s expectations the pupil is working within. Hence you can enter 1D, 4S, 6M to denote year 1 developing, year 4 secure or year 6 mastered. Note that this is an assessment for the strand, not the entire subject.
At the same time, teachers can enter free text comments on the pupils next steps and strengths.
Extra Analysis Rows and Columns
Grade distributions and filter by results work in much the same way as in a standard marksheet. However the new marksheets provide a new set of summaries by row (i.e. by pupil) and by column (i.e. by element)
Summary rows analyse each column and display the percentage of pupils who have achieved (defined as secure or mastered) or not achieved each element. Useful rows also provide the total number of pupils and the total number of results.
A new innovation in these marksheets is a horizontal analysis that gives the met/not achieved statistics for an individual pupil. This is expressed both as a percentage of the entire PoS and the percentage of the PoS that are ‘school expectations’ – useful as a guide for teachers when deciding the overall grade for a pupil. For example, schools might want to define what percentage of the PoS a pupil must have secured or mastered before being judged as overall Y5 secure.
Pupils Working Below or Above Age Related Expectation
Finally, for pupils who aren’t working within their age group (for example a Y5 pupil who is working at the level of a Y4 emerging pupil) there is also a facility to show and record the PoS from a year earlier and from a year ahead
So far, I’ve only seen the system in its latest beta test version but it looks promising. I’m hoping to post a detailed review on this blog later this month. Meanwhile, please feel free to use the comments below to post questions. I’m happy to try things out on your behalf!