Recap on a busy Spring

Its been a busy few months in Bedford since the BETT Show. There was the announcement of the forthcoming Parent and Student Apps – so not surprisingly, there has been much feedback gathering from pilot customers before the scheduled release later this year. It is coming soon, you can now place orders via the website or your SIMS Account Manager. A nice video presentation highlighting the key functionality is also now available on the website here http://www.capita-sims.co.uk/products/sims-parent-app-and-sims-student-app. That’s not the main body of this article though – I’m reserving this one for a selection of “best bits” from the Spring Release.Aside the usual batch of statutory changes and a healthy batch of fixes and enhancements (keep up-voting those change requests!) – there is also a fair chunk of new stuff as well. A little while ago, I also previewed two other forthcoming product releases – SIMS Options and SIMS Interventions.

Interventions

Let’s start with SIMS Interventions, which I featured in January (http://www.thescarfedone.co.uk/2017/01/interventions-goes-live/) after the launch at BETT. Over the course of the pilot period, it has been universally well received – even at the Annual Conference last year – attendees were full of praise and also enhancement ideas too (many of which found their way into the product or were already on the roadmap for it). As a refresher, the concept was simple – use the data that you already hold in SIMS, to give School Leaders oversight of which interventions are working best for your children.

Schools have always been able to do analysis regarding interventions, but this has usually meant that the data needs to be exported from SIMS or stored entirely separately – and then manipulated in Excel. SIMS Interventions removes the need for this – as interventions can now be viewed, updated and managed from one area, allowing you to evaluate and track them for effectiveness. It is also planned to surface further information about interventions through the rest of SIMS. For example, it works brilliantly with SIMS Assessment – take a look at this video walkthrough from product manager Rachael Marshman http://www.capita-sims.co.uk/resources/videos/did-you-know-new-sims-interventions-module-links-sims-assessment

Crucially, the effectiveness measures can be made on cost and progress, which make it possible to follow trends; as well as identify which interventions are making a significant improvement to their children. We know that early intervention is key; however in these times where resources are at a premium – School Leaders need to be able to prioritise which give the children the best chance; and pursue these. SIMS Interventions will also help with planning the interventions including allocating staff and resource.

To help you get started, following a recent Capita trend – a series of videos has been published which you can find here:

How to set up and run interventions and How to run reports.

You can find out further details of SIMS Interventions here. It doesn’t end there though – the true joined up thinking of the new solutions can be seen with the way this links to the new Parent (and Student) App. Once your specific interventions groups are set up in SIMS you could then add the activity to your SIMS calendar, giving you the choice to further share details with both app calendars so only pupils involved with that specific activity and their parents will see it. This keeps everyone informed, improving school and home communications and supporting improved outcomes.

Options

Next up, the next generation of SIMS Options. To meet changing needs of Schools – to reduce administration effort; and also to meet cultural change, the forthcoming version of SIMS Options will be paperless and web based. As previewed on the blog back in January – students and parents can access information on their GCSE and A-level subject choices from the comfort of their own home. Schools will benefit from reduced administration with the subject choices automatically feeding back into SIMS, saving countless hours having to collate every student’s options submission. Timetablers will be able to see the proposed number of students and define blocks and choices far quicker than before. They will also be able to track trends more easily, as all the information will be in SIMS from the outset.

SIMS Options should arrive in time for the Summer, hoped to be in May 2017, so look out! With it being another in the “cloud based” products range, it wont be tied to the same release schedules as SIMS.net.

Assessment

If you’re a PowerUser of SIMS Assessment, we’ve responded to a popular change request with an enhancement that will give teachers the ability to save their class selection as a default group in the Programmes of Study area.

Once a group or class has been selected and saved, it will then remain as a default group within the Programmes of Study area until changed. This default setting will also be carried into all linked Programmes of Study reports too.

This is quite a simple sounding change – but one which will make a massive difference. I hope to catch up with Rachael in more detail about forthcoming assessment changes at the SIMS Annual Conference – and will be sure to post a dedicated Assessment blog.

New filters have also been introduced into many of the assessment areas in SIMS Assessment that really open up the ability to focus on outcomes of children who are on interventions and compare them to those who are not, or indeed compare to any other contextual information such as whether a child is Pupil Premium, SEN or English as an additional language (EAL).

Rachael has also published a blog post here covering her “highlights” in SIMS Assessment – http://www.capita-sims.co.uk/resources/blog/managing-your-interventions-assessment-outcomes

As always, full details of all changes can be found in the Release Notes on My Account; where you will also find the current roadmap showing all intended functionality changes.

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