I’m often asked for advice from schools who are implementing SIMS Assessment Manager for the first time. In no particular order, here are my ‘top tips’ for secondary schools:

  1. Go on the ‘Essential Assessment Manager for Secondary Schools’ course. Capita run them frequently. Your local support unit (if you have one) may also run them.
  2. Put plenty of time to one side. Expect to spend at least three to five full days developing a KS3 system. The same again for a KS4 system. It can take up to an hour to create a template and you might have 20+ subjects at each keystage. Plus you probably need a template per subject per year. 20 subjects x 3 years = 60 templates!
  3. Develop a ‘model marksheet’ for one or two subjects and show it to everyone. Get them to ‘buy into’ the design because the last thing you need after you’ve just completed 20+ subjects is someone wanting to change them all…
  4. Keep the marksheets as simple as possible. Don’t try and re-create each teacher’s markbook – you don’t have to record everything. A teacher assessment or working at grade for each term is usually sufficient for starters, especially when paired with a target grade.
  5. Use ‘resultsets’ from the start. If you don’t know what results are you probably need to go on the course (see above!). If you use resultsets correctly you can create a single template for each subject for a single year and then easily copy that template to provide the templates for other years.
  6. Staff find colours (alias ‘traffic lights’ or ‘ragging’) very helpful. But don’t over use colours and make sure that colours are consistent. Also, colours take ages to implement in assessment manager – so beware!
  7. Flight-paths/milestones are very popular. You can use a KS2 result to calculate termly target grades that ensure pupils are on track to achieve their KS3/4 targets.
  8. Name all your aspects, templates and gradesets consistently. You’ll create many hundreds of them and you’ll soon loose track if you don’t.
  9. Once the system is up and running and you have input some data, explore ‘tracking grids’ and the performance analysis modules (group, aspect and chance analyses especially). Of course, SIMS Discover is the new big thing…and can interface with your system to create useful graphs.