Highlights for Spring, in Capita SIMS

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? Continue reading

BETT 2016 Roundup – Microsoft Class Notebook and OneNote in Education

thI’ve always loved OneNote – in fact all my blog notes; and day to day work notes are all kept in OneNote Notebooks. I’ve got at least 6 different Notebooks syncing for different things – and that’s even before I consider the personal ones too. The reason why…its so simple; and flexible – you can store anything in them; and when you combine them with the power of mobile and inking (via tablets such as the Surface, or even non Microsoft ones with a pen) – they come into their own. Text, images, tables, links, images, videos…the full works. Oh, and yes, formatting is in there too. Some of you who saw me at BETT may have noticed that myself and a colleague were both sporting rather fetching purple “OneNote Avenger” capes…! Continue reading

Assessment – taking a look at the whole picture; Spring, Summer and Fall (Autumn)

1So, its now a year on since levels were removed – and while some are well down the journey and have built their own systems; lots haven’t and there is still a lot of uncertainty. The title of this post is a nod to the well known song (just missing the Winter (and, Fall is Autumn in our case). Still, there’s a bit of creative licence! Anyway, I digress… where does the SIMS Assessment, Performance Suite and Discover fit into this jigsaw now?

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Windows 10 – Reviewed

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – you can’t have missed that Microsoft have been rather busy for the past 18 months.

Back in late 2014, Microsoft surprised everyone when it took the wraps off the Technical Preview of its next Windows operating system. It had been widely expected that there would be a next generation of Windows: we just didn’t expect it to be called Windows 10, and nor did we expect such a drastic change in user engagement. The preview programme was huge, and I think it can be considered that Windows Insider was a huge win. Over 4 million people joined the programme and helped test and shape the next version. So much of a win was it, that it was extended to the Windows Mobile version, and also to Office 2016 as well.

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Capita Development Priorities – SIMS 7 and beyond…

Ok, so this post needs to start with an apology to the team that gave up their time to speak to me – namely Phil Neal, Graham Cooper and Cath Lane (and colleagues) for excellent organising skills as always.Back in the Summer, I was privileged to attend the Capita SIMS Annual Conference – where I was treated to the latest news and developments from the inside. This post serves both as a record of the even – and as a eye-opener to where Capita are taking SIMS. There’s some really interesting things coming up, some of which some people may already know about. Its fitting in some ways that this is posted on the dawn of BETT – where you will get to see some of the great work that is going on. At the same time, its key to see that there is not just “new-ness” here, Capita are listening; and some of the developments are in direct response to customer (ie us Technical folk!) feedback.



Straight from the horses mouth “Sims easy to deploy easy to configure” – Phil Neal. Well there’s a gauntlet laid down then. A cursery browse of the forums show a selection of member gripes about installations and upgrades. Well – both of these are going to be the focus of a lot of time. Im also told that there will be published recommended configurations, going much further than the current “specifications” documents. This is very “Microsoft”, and can only be a good thing. It provides extra support for technical services on the ground.

Improving the installation and upgrades process should also be helped by reducing the need for patches by AMPARK and PI resources – by putting these online. As has now happened, the patching and database numbering has been changed. Why? Well this is to help a move towards consolidated patches. Now that the SIMS ecosystem has grown to more than just SIMS.net, there is a need to consolidate some of the code and services as well. Look at a machine with Discover and all the rest on it! Integration is the key – and work to unify SiMs windows services and ensure services do not require restarts is coming. This will also increase performance especially on startup. Products continually evolve, and as new features have been added in the past – some of the routes have become a bit cluttered. So, the team want to look at the big picture again. This will aim to “remove niggles” as Graham put it – on extra clicks, screen redraws. I guess what we are really talking is completing polish on high traffic areas, eg registers and assessment. Nice.

Under the hood things are happening too – XP and Vista are “dying”, so support is ending. Take note! Server OS and Platforms (ie SQL) continue to develop – and te product is improving and taking advantage of new features. Solus upgrades and SQL version support are moving on. That means migrations. Tools are coming (some are already out there) for SQL migrations. The best time will be Spring – although that, in reality means most Schools will be considering this for Summer.

This next one is bound to get a cheer…move installers to MSI wrappers. Yes, really – commitment from Phil himself. A nod to the community there. See… feedback makes a difference. You know exactly who you are…

The desire to improve team support is a nod to the excellent work by LA support teams. Information is scattered so far and wide about performance etc, so one idea to combat this is to effectively manage complete set of assessment resources. This would unify Capita and LA/National Curriculum guidelines. How could this look? Well, one clear example would be to provide Discover with pre configured templates and graphing.

There are some interesting statistics around surrounding use of SIMS and the associated products in the Classroom. Harking back to previous posts about the importance of the centralised data and use of it, show the difference it can make in School Improvement. Aside from that, its a component Ofsted look at too. Schools must be data literate throughout. On this note, Phil has set himself and the team the challenge of improving uptake in classroom. I guess the Technical Teams will say once the earlier notes above are completed it will be easier! well, take that a step further and “melting-pot” ideas include…

..teacher setup can be done remotely, dump a configuration file onto a machine for example
..increase primary widgets for home page
..develop AFFORDABLE tablet apps

Yes, I did just say develop Apps. Capita are coming to the App party. Capita have always supported the great work that Partners do, but now – they are taking this one on themselves. Apps are great for delivering and consuming data. Everyone uses them now. However, they are often poor for input, although HTML 5 improving this. I strongly suggest you take a look at what Capita are showing at Bett. Its very, very exciting. This is only the start though, and its important you remember this. That being said though – it is complete and very exciting. Did you get to see this at BETT? I know… 2 months have passed since then! Well – so much kerfuffle there was about this and the SLG (Sims Learning Gateway), I thought it best to actually sit down with a certain product manager and get the full details. That is coming soon…

So, I hear you say, what does that mean for SIMS.net and the future? That one is relatively simple as an observer -Sims as a service
..hosted Sims and FMS (already provided by Capita direct, some LAs and also some Academy groups0
..hosted SLG (as above)
..SIMS Multiview (Multiview takes data from Academy Schools, to central repository with dashboards)

So, why now announce all this? Key to SIMS for the furture is that customers (and by that I mean Academies and LAs) understand what future developments are underway – and to inform future purchases. Sims 8 is a long way away, and the market needs to know the more immediate future. Its key that SIMS isn’t seen to be stagnating and just “following legislation” changes.

Its well accepted that the move to the cloud fully will happen. It has already started – Agora is a cloud product, and many LAs and Schools run Local clouds. Its not surprising that there is a growing school of thought that this is how apps will be developed, to link to cloud based resources.

So… go and take a look at what is changing. Keep posing the difficult questions. Here, is a case of a product changing to meet changing School, Academy and Free School needs. Any questions, please send them over…