Last week I met with Graham Cooper and Ben Jones from Capita to talk about progress with SIMS Primary. A few weeks ago I blogged about how quiet progress seemed to be, since the official launch back in January and Graham was keen to update me on recent progress.
As of September 2018 there are 30 pilot schools and one school which has full adopted the SIMS Primary. Capita are planning to have over 200 pilot schools by Christmas 2018. A full roll out will start in 2019 for Primary and Secondary schools.
Why the delay? Problems with the original reporting engine, data migration and GDPR were the main culprits.
A replacement for the mishmash of current reporting tools (the SIMS Report, individual pupil reports, various pre programmed lists, special attendance and behaviour reports plus the assessment grid analyses) are to be replace with a simplified reporting tool. Originally Capita had planned to buy-in a commercial solution, but this proved impractical. So now Capita are developing their own reporting solution, the first part of this solution will be a catalogue of 30 core reports, rising to 80 core reports within the next few months. (Interestingly, links to dashboard software such as Microsoft Power BI are talked about – so assessment geeks might want to download a copy).
Data migrations have also proved difficult, understandably so given that many schools have historical data going back decades. A lot of historical school data was input under much different legislation than the current GDPR rules allow. So a massive amount of development time has had to go into new migration routines which will benefit from a smoother and improved user experience.
What will SIMS Primary do for us?
Will SIMS Primary be worth the wait? SIMS Primary promises many things:
- a much improved user interface
- an evolution of SIMS with minimal re-training
- a classroom interface that teachers will find compelling
- easy access via any browser on tablets and computers
- access over the internet (even access over a 4g mobile phone data connection)
- streamlined workflows
- easier search
- automatic backup and upgrades
- simple reporting and powerful analysis for senior leadership teams
For assessment coordinators and data managers:
- A streamlined templating system that helps us to deploy and manage whole-school systems.
- For primary schools, an ‘out of the box’ assessment system that can be configured to the needs of the school.
- Very flexible excel-style formulas in addition to the old-fashioned formulas (eg marks to grade)
- An integrated reporting engine that incorporates individual pupil reports, SIMS Discover, SIMS Reports and analysis grids – and then expands our ability to create dashboard-style reports and higher level analyses.
- Integration for MATs – the new reporting solution will be able to analyse data across multiple schools with each data item linked to a school identifier.
- More programme of study marksheets tailored to the schemes produced by Rising Stars, OUP, local authorities and other providers, as well as the school’s own.
So, will SIMS Primary be worth the wait?
So will it be worth the wait? Emphatically yes. SIMS remains a well trusted, very popular and effective tool for managing pupil data. All these changes will enhance schools’ abilities to understand their pupils better. Sure, it will take a while, but Capita will be wise to hold their nerve and not release it too soon.
Although behind schedule, SIMS Primary is clearly very advanced. I think they are right to proceed cautiously – many of us still remember the painful process of moving from the previous DOS based software to the windows .NET framework. I’m not expecting to be using the the software till 2019 and many schools probably won’t start using this new version till 2020 or even later. My advice to schools remains: don’t hold back – continue to develop your assessment systems in SIMS 7 – it’s going to be around for a long time to come. Remember, Capita won’t be retiring the current version of SIMS (SIMS7) anytime soon, so schools can migrate at their own pace.
And finally, screenshots
Meanwhile, for those of us who get excited by this kind of thing, here’s a gallery of screen shots of the new software: