Magnifying Glass

I visit hundreds of schools every year and I’m always surprised by the number of schools who don’t use SIMS to anything like its full potential. Here’s my top tips for getting the most out of SIMS Assessment Manager:

1) Don’t start from scratch. It takes between 3 and 5 days of senior manager time to create an assessment system from nothing. Luckily you don’t have to. Use the Tracking system provided by Capita (for free), or better still, develop one in conjunction with you local SIMS support unit and perhaps share the costs with other schools in your LA.

2) Remember: you can do a lot of useful analysis from within an ordinary marksheet (grade analysis, average point scores, contextualisation). Make sure you know how to squeeze every last bit of information from your data.

3) Take the time to create and use tracking grids. They’re not difficult to create and feedback from the school I visit suggest that you will save many hours work. Though they are popular in primary schools I find that secondary schools very rarely use them. Primary schools are often unsure what a ‘tracking grid’ actually is, until I mention ‘brick wall reports’. Secondary schools likewise, until I explain that they can be used to create an output that looks like Excel ‘pivot tables’

4) Use colours sparingly but consistently. The ability to automatically put ‘traffic lights’ or ‘ragging’ colours on results (for example to indicate if the pupils has reached his/her target) is very powerful. But too many colours makes marksheets confusing, and using the same colour in different contexts makes marksheets harder to interpret.

5) Create ‘user defined groups’ to identify focus groups of pupils. For example, if you want to track the progress of pupils given one-to-one tuition you make them members of a user defined group. In any marksheet you can then use the ‘group filter’ button to display the selected pupils, and compare them with other pupils in the same group.

6) Use ‘individual pupil reports’ to print data out for parents. Once you’ve taken all that time to enter teacher assessments and targets why not print them out on a nice, formatted sheet of A4 and share them with parents? Individual pupil reports are easy to create, very professional in appearance and encourage parental engagement.

7) Don’t have separate administration and curriculum networks. These days network security technologies mean that there are no unsolvable security issues preventing SIMS being available both in the office and the classroom. Which leads on to…

8) SIMS Assessment and SIMS Attendance modules are fantastic way to engage teachers with SIMS. Once a teacher has taken the class register in SIMS Attendance, the marksheets are just a single click away.