Phil Neal – commitment to SIMS and its impact on how Schools manage themselves

Some readers may have noticed a tweet at the the end of last year about the Education Investor Award. On 12th November 2015, it was announced that Phil Neal, managing director of Bedfordshire-based Capita SIMS, was named winner of the Education Investor Award for outstanding contribution by an individual. The ceremony that took place at the prestigious “The Brewery” in London, also used for the Annual BETT Awards (which are coming up). This blog post features the Press Release from Catherine Lane PR, with some additional comments and observations from myself. Happy reading…

Capita SIMS have also been nominated for their SIMS Assessment product (featured a number of times here on the blog), in the ICT Tools for Teaching, Learning and Assessment category.

Anyway, back to the Education Investor Award. Phil’s dedication to developing software that makes teachers’ working lives simpler has truly revolutionised how schools in the UK are run – which is the reason for this award.

I have been fortunate enough to get comments and views through regular catch-ups and meetings with Phil (arranged with thanks to Catherine Lane PR) for the past 3 years – and have always been grateful and pleasantly surprised by the levels of engagement with the community – Schools, Teachers, IT Staff, Education professionals and writers – that Phil gives. It is refreshing to have someone be willing to be so frank and open with their opinions on direction, development and the sector in general.

The SIMS management information system that Phil Neal helped develop was born out of his frustration with the endless routine tasks he faced during his time as a physics teacher, like writing reports or taking the register. Some 30 years later, Phil heads a company of more than 600 people and SIMS is the management information system used daily by 22,000 schools.

Undoubtedly, Phils vision and commitment to bettering the education system has had a huge impact over the decades. It seems strange to think such a “simple” thing such as presenting data can make life changing decisions. It is true though – providing access to key information about areas of a student’s development, whether it be academic, behavioural or personal; to those that need it at the right time and in a manner they can understand can allow life changing interventions to happen. SIMS was the start, and now there is an active ecosystem of other MIS systems and partner products; all driving each other forwards to make it possible for school staff to make better decisions and more informed decisions about a child’s future.

Phil Neal, managing director of Capita SIMS, says: “I am truly honoured to be recognised by the education sector in this way. Little did I know that the simple idea of computerising administration tasks in schools all those years ago would grow into an organisation serving so many teachers and support staff.

“This award represents the collective effort of every member of the Capita SIMS team – past and present. Together, we strive to develop tools that make teachers’ lives that little bit easier, so that they can focus on inspiring the next generation to fulfil their potential.”

As a sign of Phil’s passion, members of the education community have also recognised Phil’s remarkable achievements. Phil himself also wrote a blog post here

Stuart Lee, data manager at Sprowston Community High School, says: “If only more managing directors had the total understanding, commitment and enthusiasm for their product and sector as Phil Neal! There’s no doubt this has helped SIMS achieve what it has today.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, adds: “Phil is passionate about what he does because he understands schools. I meet regularly with him to talk about developments in education, and in my experience, Phil always listens intently to feedback and responds to it by doing his very best to ensure that SIMS meets evolving needs.”

Andy Parker, chief executive of Capita plc, says: “It’s absolutely right that Phil has been honoured with this much-deserved award. He is a fantastic ambassador for Capita, and his stewardship of Capita SIMS has secured its place at the forefront of the industry.”

Stuart Wilkie, consultant for SalamanderSoft and education writer, says “Phil has a clear passion for education, his unwavering view that data is the key, is what has in my opinion made the difference. From the early SIMS, to new and innovative ways of recording and viewing information – such as Discover and the Apps; are his vision”.

The Education Investor Award for outstanding contribution celebrates the achievements of a true pioneer – which is well deserved.


Updated some content and layout: 9th January 2016
Guest Author: Catherine Lane PR with additional content Stuart Wilkie

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