Spring, well almost Summer weather is on its way, Easter has been and gone – and we are now into the Summer term for Schools. This means that the SIMS Spring update has also been released, so its time for a short roundup of updates and forthcoming changes.
Not all of SIMS now has to be updated this way – as any of the users of the Cloud Products will know. Agora and the Teacher App are updated in waves throughout the year – meaning that customer requests and general product development are much more responsive.
So what came about in Spring?
As well as all the recent assessment changes that schools have been dealing with, there have been numerous changes to statutory assessment arrangements being introduced at Key Stages 1 and 2 for 2016. Those pupils at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2 will be the first cohort of pupils to be assessed against the new national curriculum in May 2016.
In light of the removal of the levels grading system, the outcomes for both will no longer be reported using levels. Scaled scores will be used for tests and new descriptors used to record teacher assessments. As for every year, SIMS Assessment has been adapted to support the statutory assessment process by providing resources and ‘wizards’ to guide you through the recording of teacher assessment and test outcomes, including ‘P’ scale results if applicable. I would strongly recommend Rachael’s blog (via the Blogs section on the Capita SIMS website), where she regularly discusses the changes and impact.
Reporting and Analysis
Most of the Assessment changes in SIMS had previously been for Primary Schools – but features for Secondary are catching up fast. Bear in mind that there was far less guidance from the DFE about how this would work, so considering this, it’s surprising in some ways we have got to where we are.
Speed and time is of the essence, so to ensure that teachers have time to do the most important things – teach and prepare resources – Capita have provided a set of new importable resources, allowing schools to quickly review and analyse their key performance information.
This includes a pre-defined templates and reports available to all secondary schools, allowing you to record results (both old and new style GCSE grades, BTEC, AS) and display instant analysis for individuals, key groups and cohorts on both attainment and progress Key Performance Indicators, such as A*- C English and Maths, Ebacc, Attainment 8, Progress 8 and Best 8. This means that no matter what method you use for recording assessment, there should be something here for you.
And just in case you have been using your own custom aspects for tracking, you can use the Mapping Tool within SIMS to link school aspects to those provided by Capita and still take advantage of the new analysis and reporting being introduced. Soon, you will be able to export your resources too – which will be extremely useful for Local Authorities, Support Units or Multi Academy Trusts – who want to use a common set of resources.
If you are a secondary school choosing to use GCSE grades within Key Stage 3, you could also adapt these new resources for use in years 7, 8 or 9 if appropriate. These resources are available to download now from My Account.
It’s rare to see changes in FMS these days – as largely, the product just does what it says on the tin. However, a popular change request has made its way though. There is now the option for you to add notes against a supplier record in FMS. So if you’re communicating with a supplier and want a record of those communications, you can record a short note against those records in FMS. This will be viewable to those users with the appropriate access. Nice; and furthers the “modernisation” of FMS – which has had emailing of Purchase Orders and a new icon set as its most notable other recent changes.
In line with payroll changes, you will have the ability to flag contracts that fall under a recognised apprenticeship scheme. FMS will then not calculate National Insurance contributions until the month of that employee’s 25th birthday. This is to cover that from April 2016, employers of apprentices under the age of 25 will no longer be required to pay employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) on earnings up to the Upper Earnings Limit (UEL), for those employees.
If you are a user of SIMS Agora, there are a variety of enhancements to improve usability for your administrative staff. Previously added were the cashless catering links, and improved administration dashboards. Well, now there is a new ‘Communications’ tab. From here, you can create and use email templates. Also new is the ability to put a transaction charge on the items they are selling, providing schools with greater financial control. There is the option to pass the transaction charges back to the parent on a per product basis. This can be particularly helpful for expensive items, such as school trips, where on-costs charges can add up.
Some statistics from Duncan Hield and his team first – the Teacher app is currently being used by over 2,000 schools, with 15,000 school staff using it each day. For a “young” product, those are impressive statistics – no wonder it played such a part in the BETT 2016 award win with Assessment. It has also been shortlisted for an Education Resources Award 2016, once again demonstrating the positive impact the app is having on schools.
Last Autumn saw the introduction of the Programme of Study into the SIMS Teacher app, providing a streamlined view for efficient data entry and supporting in-class teacher practices, allowing teachers to record achievement as it is observed. February added Programme of Study updates, including new summative assessments plus the addition of group filters and new on-screen analysis.
For iOS users, coming soon will be attendance comments – providing the ability for teachers to add comments at registration directly into the Teacher app and view attendance comments that have been recorded directly in SIMS. This will support the ongoing initiative to allow early interventions.
For Windows and Android users, support staff access to the app is being added, providing the ability for any member of staff in SIMS to access the Windows/Android app. This will continue to close the feature gap between these and the iOS versions. There is still a body of work going on to bring together feature parity – it is getting there.
Summer should bring updates to Service Manager, allowing improved interactions with InTouch and other Cloud Products – including future developments. There will be ongoing refinements to Assessment in response to the user groups; and education landscape changes. The usual array of census “required” updates will also be present and correct.
I hope to bring more news on Summer, as well as Autumn developments; in the annual roundup from the SIMS Annual Conference later in the month.