Say hello to SIMS Activities

Fairly quietly at Bett 2016, Capita launched a new product to the SIMS family – SIMS Activities. Activities has been designed as a web based portal to allow schools to efficiently and effectively manage extracurricular activities and school trips. According to research, some schools are running as many as 50 extracurricular activities throughout the year, from music lessons to sports clubs to trips away, the administration can be extremely time consuming. SIMS Activities can save hours of daily administration time, gathering disparate bits of information from those running extracurricular activities.

The product has actually been around for longer than you would think, with pilots running since June 2015; before the announcement at Bett 2016 – and release on 31st March 2016. At the time of writing, there are 50 + schools now actively using it. As the product is web based, and has been in its “live” environment for some time – adoption and subsequent support have been relatively simple. Installation, taking a leaf out of the Teacher App methodology, is self-service. As the product itself is pretty simple, with deliberately cut down options – support has also been very limited in its demands. It just does as it says on the tin!

Why the product?
So where did the product come from? The idea was to remove the administrative overhead of running extra curriculum activity; which was inevitably going to come from the increased funding for schools driving ramp up of numbers of activities being run. There was also a need to combat the expectations of Parents that schools and their activities are available for “free childcare” – and for schools to demonstrate the true cost of running events in a transparent way.

Without a system to manage the activities a school runs – centrally, inevitably there are challenges – firstly around how to cohesively communicate the availability of different events. Secondly, if the activity requires consent – how do you confirm this? Then, lastly – and perhaps most importantly – how do you maintain up to date registers, for safeguarding, when the attendee list may change.

Phil Neal, managing director of Capita SIMS, says: “Most schools currently manage extracurricular activities through a plethora of spreadsheets held in various different locations around the school.”

“We have developed SIMS Activities to allow information to be retrieved from a single location using any internet-connected device, saving time and making the process much simpler for schools.”

Ofsted are also starting to ask very difficult questions around what activities are taking place – and further than this, the take up including breakdowns by key indicators such as percentages of Pupil Premium, Education Need, gender, ethnicity and more.

Fits the bill…
Let’s start with that most critical area first – safeguarding. There is a heavy focus coming from Ofsted for schools to know where any pupils in their care are – which includes outside normal lesson time. Visibility is key – and something that many schools have been picked up on in recent inspections.

If there is a need for emergency registers outside lesson time, like a fire alarm, or an offsite trip – how can you quickly account for who was/wasn’t there at the start? SIMS Activities provides a “dashboard” with instant visibility by search of name; as well as a live register for all clubs running and all children on site. Whether you are responsible for the club, or need overall visibility – your needs are catered for.

In the register, there are indicators for Pupil Premium, Educational Needs, English as foreign language and medical summaries. Each pupil is clickable to “dive in” for additional info and contact details. Having access to emergency contact details is critical for those off site clubs. Functionality will be added soon to show whether a pupil was in school on the day of the register for the club too.

As well as the built in graphing functions (which might look a bit familiar to those using Discover), there are further deep-dive analysis options available to the data-savvy by using the xls export functionality.

For parents – there are automatic emails for activity subscription, with consent and date ranges for event (to allowing showing of availability). From these emails – the parent can directly accept/reject individual dates or all – just by following the clickable link in the email. Alternatively, they can use the built in parent portal. The school (eg the Reception/Office staff) can change this via the admin portal – for phone call confirmations. These options provide a method of the school re-engaging with parents about the clubs and activities available – via a dynamic automatically updated portal, with notifications on changes, cancellations etc.

Development
So, where next? Activities is a “baby” product – and being cloud based, will have a rapid development and feature expansion. Areas which were discussed in the presentation at the SIMS Annual Conference in June were…

  • SIMS Activities when offline or via a mobile phone browser; with potential for an app
  • Activities with Agora, which currently doesn’t have any direct integration yet. There is a work around where you could add link to product in Agora, and will auto signin with same credentials
  • Addition of a tick box to show paid or not while awaiting agora link
  • The ability to launch activities from within SIMS as a widget
  • Visibility of activities from the student teacher view
  • No data push back at present, but it is being considered
  • Add visibility of whether the pupil was in school that day as discussed above

In terms of the bottom lime – SIMS Activities is based on a price model by pupils on role. This is currently 75p per pupil, with a minimum of £150, and a maximum of £600. It is available in one year or 3 yearr contracts. There is also an Installation fee, which covers a tour of the product and overview as well as the on-boarding process. This has a £99 one off fee.

Further details are available via http://www.capita-sims.co.uk/products/sims-activities, which also includes video walkthroughs. Pricing information correct at June 2016. Please contact Capita for further/up to date pricing information

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