Last week someone asked me to summarise what SIMS assessment does well and what it doesn’t. I’m aware that SIMS can be a bit like marmite for many people – they love it or hate it. Here’s an honest review of SIMS pros and cons (with thanks to Gary Skelton who added to my original list of seven with an extra six excellent reasons of his own. Gary’s suggestions are in italics).

Sims assessment pros:

  1. Flexibility. SIMS has most of the functions of a spreadsheet but with all the benefits of an immediate and direct link to SIMS data. Schools using SIMS can create an assessment system that suits their children. So you can configure a good marksheet system to measure progress in whatever way suits you, to highlight pupil progress etcIdentifying and analyzing vulnerable groups. Easily compare each vulnerable group with its ‘non group’. E.g. PP and non-PP, SEN with non-SEN etc
  2. Enter data and analyse it immediately. Ordinary SIMS data entry marksheets provide a very powerful way of analysing data.
  3. Class teachers can enter and analyse their own data. This encourages better ownership of data by class teachers. Some other products require teachers to enter data, the data is whisked off to another program where senior managers analyse it, then the analysis is simply presented to class teachers. SIMS encourages class teachers to enter and analyse their own data.
  4. No extra cost. SIMS Assessment and SIMS Discover are part of the SIMS core licence.
  5. Built in analysis for EYFS, KS1 and KS2. Over the past 12 months Capita have released some pre-configured reports that take your statutory data and provide deep analysis.
  6. A common skill set. Most schools run SIMS and the interface is familiar, even for new staff.
  7. Summative or formative (or both). SIMS has an extensive new system for recording formative assessments (the Programme of Study marksheets). The old-fashioned marksheets that have been part of SIMS assessment for years are still very good at summative assessments (and see my comments about flexibility above).
  8. Assessment knows what each grade is worth (and this can be changed easily) – a pain in something like Excel.
  9. Discover Add-on – Analysis that can feed out of and back into SIMS
  10. Flexibility – able to create all manner of marksheets for various uses, audience and data collection/analysis purposes
  11. Relational – collect once – use everywhere
  12. Hard for users to break (unlike spreadsheets)
  13. Reporting (Profiles and Individual) – beats a mailmerge any day.

SIMS assessment cons:

  1. User interface is old and clunky (a new version of SIMS is being developed)
  2. No access over the web unless you use third-party solutions (the new version of SIMS will be web-based)
  3. Out of the box functionality is limited. It needs configuring first and hence schools can incur extra costs to buy in expertise from outside the school.
  4. Clunky, small step formulas
  5. Only able to create formulas based on preceeding columns, not anywhere in the list
  6. Moving columns is a pain
  7. Assessment can be slow on big marksheets.

Do you agree? Want to add any? Leave a comment below.