As a school we are struggling with clunky SIMS and various paper and Excel mark books. Theoretically we should use SIMS Assessment Module more because it is a centralised database that solves a number of excel problems (multiple users, new/leaving students, marking at home) but it’s so clunky and you loose most of the screen with all the menus.
A few years ago I heard that SIMS was to be forced to allow others to access the data contained within it, thereby opening the way for smaller agile companies to innovate and provide new solutions to provide important new functionality. So the search continued this year at BETT. It’s a great opportunity to get around a lot of solutions in a short time.
And this year – at last! – I found a stunning solution - Go4schools – which also happened to win a BETT award (not necessarily a recommendation in my view based on previous evidence). Classroom Monitor I also found interesting and will investigate further for the English and maybe (my) ICT dept.
Allows heads of department to set the departmental tracking points for each term and to check they have been completed – with work flow that reminds teachers. There is nice granular permissions that allow people that need to see the data. And then, the holy grail, all vital statistics are visible in a dashboard in real time (rather than just 4 times a year). Statistics include:
- Performance against target (whole year, each class, each teacher, by vulnerable group, individual student). This makes the Ofsted requirement of tracking vulnerable groups trivial.
- Nationwide Residuals (as above)
- Tracking of interventions is based on live data. Allows year heads, tutors and subject teachers to ‘be on the same page.
Then the killer punch is that reports can be provided to parents digitally with work flow that manages a 2 stage reviewing process (by teaching colleague, then Head of Dept) and statement banks that improve quality and saves teachers time. Reporting cycles can be reduced from Weeks to days.
So not only can you get a world class assement module, it will pay for itself. You can more than offset the 4-£5000 cost (large secondary school) by saving £thousands on admin and printing costs.
On a personal level I met with Paula Benchly, a deputy at Neale Wade School, who’s husband John developed the initial solution for her when she was up to her eyeball in shared spreadsheets and trying to pull aggregated data from them. So it was nice to discuss the vision and development as she has been through what I have been struggling with the past few years.
If Go4school.com is about what to do with assessment (data). Classroom monitor is about better, more transparent assessment. APP grids or exam board leveling criteria are preloaded (but customisable) and there is a sophisticated interface that allows you to select a student (or group using a mouse) and mark their progress in relation to the criteria (Met, Almost, Not or Targeted – meaning awaiting evidence). Aggregated statistics are produced.
The cost would start at around £400 per department ( there may be customisation fees). So this could really help an English Department implement APP but I felt perhaps not a whole school solution.
I wonder if Classroom Monitor could be linked to Go4Schools so once the assessment is done (CM) the data flows into the school wide system (G4S).