Over the past few months I’ve spoken to an increasing number of schools who are starting to use SIMS assessment again, after using third-party assessment products for several years. Talking to these returning schools, it seems there are several drivers behind their return:
Configurable. SIMS assessment is similar to MS Excel – effectively it’s a blank canvas for your own personalised assessment system. You decide what data you record (what grades, reading ages, scaled scores, standardised scores etc) and how often you want to record them. You decide what colours you want you to highlight attainment or progress. And you decide which groups you want to monitor and which percentages are important to your school.
Costs. Of course this is a major factor for many schools. Although nobody would accuse SIMS of being cheap, if you already run SIMS in your school, assessment manager is effectively already paid-for, so there’s no further cost. And although getting an external consultant to configure your new assessment system may cost money, it’s still likely to to be cheaper in year 1 than many third party systems. And because there are no recurring costs in a SIMS assessment system, year 2 costs really can be £0.
Simplicity. Assessment systems tend to grow big very quickly. They may start simple but they add new features and facilities regularly. Some systems have become massive, data hungry monsters. Of course this can happen to SIMS assessment systems too but if that happens to your school system, you have only yourself to blame!
Skills. Because SIMS has been around for so long, almost every teacher in England and Wales knows how to use it, if only to take the register. Okay, maybe this isn’t the best reason to move back to SIMS, however returning to SIMS from a third party program often requires very little re-training. For a school, SIMS can be riding a bike or swimming – you never really forget how to do it.
Although not often mentioned by the schools I talk to, here are some other good reasons to move back to SIMS assessment:
Backed by Capita. Over the last few years other systems have provided healthy competition for SIMS and that’s great, but SIMS remains the biggest, most used pupil database and Capita are spending millions on its update and development.
Secure. All your data is kept together without the need for reports or uploads. If you have a locally hosted SIMS server your know your IT support team are looking after backups and security (of course they are!) and if you use hosted SIMS you know that your data is secure in the Microsoft cloud.
SIMS 8 is in development. Okay, I’ve been saying this for ages but yes, it really is. With SIMS 8 we will get a much better user interface, more features and all in a web-based, cloud hosted environment.