Introduction to the new SIMS KS4 Resources

In the Spring 2016 release of SIMS, secondary schools will get access to a powerful set of new KS4 resources. The resources are in three parts:

  • Templates and marksheets to calculate A8/P8 and analyse other useful metrics like 5+ A*-C EM
  • a set of Discover graphs
  • a SIMS report that creates a top-level Excel summary spreadsheet

This isn’t a KS4 system that could immediately replace your existing system – but does provide very timely and accurate one-click analysis that will reduce your dependence on third-party analysis tools. This post is in two parts: part 1 shows you how easy the resources are to install. Part 2 will show you how to use the analysis tools.

How to Access the Resources

Installing the templates and marksheets

From the Spring of 2016 the resources will be available for import from the Ampark subdirectory on your local PC. Look in the directory called ‘England Secondary (and Middle Deemed Secondary)’.

Alternatively the resources are available by downloading them from SupportNet. If you download them from supportnet the files will be zipped up and you’ll need to unzip them first.

For your convenience, I’ve uploaded Capita’s instruction manual for the KS4 Resources. Here is the version for SIMS 7.168 (Spring 2016):

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First, import the marksheet templates from the folder called ‘Assessment Manager Templates’ using Routines | Data In | Assessment | Import. There are three sample templates in the XML file, all for the Autumn term but intended for cohorts in year 11 in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The different version reflect the changes to the assessment system over the next 3 years, that is:

  • In 2016 Y11 pupils will take old fashioned GCSEs in all subjects
  • In 2017 Y11 pupils will take new 1-9 style GCSEs in English and Maths subjects
  • In 2018 Y11 pupils will take new GCSE in all subjects

Import all the templates (be patient, importing them can take a long time).

Only the autumn term template is provided for each of the the three variants so you’ll need to clone them appropriately. In each template notice that the original result set used is called TP Year 10 Autumn Term. As of Spring 2016 you’ll need to clone the 2016 template and replace the TP Year 10 Autumn Term with TP Year 11 Spring Term (or TP Year 11 Summer Term as appropriate). The 2017 version is the version you’ll need for your current Year 10 pupils, so you’ll just need to clone and swap the autumn result set for the spring equivalent. The 2018 version is designed for the cohort taking GCSEs in 2018 (i.e. your current year 9 pupils). Note that Capita are using their own result sets (beginning “TP” for Tracking Pupils).

Create a marksheet from the template for the appropriate year group. Note that these marksheets are huge and may take several minutes to open. They are certainly not designed for data input will be empty until we use the assessment mapping tool.

Tip: The marksheet easily exceeds the usual 255 column limit and will therefore trigger a warning message when you open them. Avoid this message by going to Tools | Performance | Options and making sure the option ‘Extend marksheet column limit’ is ticked.

The Assessment Mapping Tool

The aspect mapping utility has been around for over 12 months (it was introduced as part of the school report). Before your new KS4  marksheets will display any data you’ll need to transfer the data from your home-grown school aspects to Capita’s own standard aspects. The easiest way to do this is using the assessment mapping tool. There are full instructions for using the tool in Capita’s ‘Creating Assessment Components’ document on page 99:

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I’ll not provide full instructions here (you can download the file file above). My top tips are:

  • Make sure you map every grade from each gradeset. Remember that some grade sets will have earlier grade set versions which you will also need to map.
  • Photography GCSE was missing from earlier versions of the KS4 tool but has been included in the Spring 2016 release
  • Capita have provided an aspect for almost every GCSE  or equivalent qualification offered nationally
  • If a subject you offer is not included in Capita’s list of subjects you can map one of your aspects to a similar subject but make sure that the similar subject is treated in the same way for A8/P8 and eBacc purposes.
  • New for Spring 2016: You can map Exam Organiser result aspects into the system – so your final, Year 11 summer term marksheets can include real exam results rather that teacher assessments.
  • Data managers and exam officers might want to work together as they map school aspects to GCSE courses offered by the school!
  • Create a mapping that just transfers a single assessment period’s data (i.e. one result set). It’s a very quick process and you can clone the mapping for (say) Year 10 Autumn term very easily. I have seen timeout errors on sites that set up a mapping to transfer every single assessment.

Once you have run the mapping, your new marksheets should be populated with data. Press the calculate button if you wish but be aware that most schools I’ve visited have needed to tweak their data before arriving at definitive P8 calculations.

In part 2

In part 2 I’ll discuss the data tweaks you need to check to ensure the A8/P8 calculations work successfully. Then I’ll show you how to analyse your data, run the one-click report that generates a very powerful Excel spreadsheet and how to install the related Discover graphs.