The following post is written by Gerald Haigh, and takes a closer look at some of the recent activities and developments from Capita, following on from Gerald’s conversations with them at BETT earlier this year.
At BETT 2016 I spent some catching up with news from Microsoft Partner Capita. It was good news, too. They were delighted to have won a BETT Award – ‘Best ICT Tool for Teaching, Learning and Assessment’ no less – for their ‘SIMS Assessment’ product which, especially in combination with their ‘Teacher App’, which is available for Windows, considerably eases the process of classroom assessment. I also understand that more and more users are moving to Azure-hosted SIMS as they discover the considerable benefits for support, updates, security and reliability.
I was particularly interested, though, in Capita’s new ‘SIMS Activities’ product, also Azure-hosted, which is one of those ideas that’s surely come at the right time.
Schools have always, I guess, had ‘activities’ -- clubs, music groups, teams – that meet after school or (more rarely these days) at lunchtime. Children are supposed to turn up regularly to those they’ve joined, but sometimes they ‘skip’ a session, for any one of a dozen reasons, some better than others. There will probably be a register, but the only follow-up may well be next day when the staff member running the group stops a child in the corridor to ask why they missed football, or choir, or chess.
There are obvious problems with such a loose arrangement . For one thing, it means that at four thirty pm on a school day nobody really knows who exactly is in the building or on the sports fields. It’s quite common, in my own experience for a parent to phone the school office and say something like, ‘Ahmed has not come home, has he stayed for football?’ and then have to wait for quite a long time to get an answer that might still be not as precise as the parent would like.
Now, though, schools rightly have tighter statutory safeguarding responsibilities, and uncertainty simply doesn’t do.
Some schools devise systems whereby, in effect, they extend the electronic attendance registration system to incorporate out-of-hours activities but that’s difficult and unwieldy, and rarely ticks all the right boxes. E-attendance systems were not originally designed with that task in mind.
SIMS ‘Activities’ though, is purpose-built, based on careful research with schools, and covers all the necessary angles. It provides for the keeping of registers by activity leaders, and as the pupil data comes from the main SIMS database, there’s immediate access by the leader to necessary information on the pupil – emergency contacts and so on. Parents can be emailed about changes in activities, and because all the registration data is centrally available, school leaders or administrators can have management oversight of all that’s happening across the school in out-of-hours sessions. Not only does the school have a better hold on its duty of care, but students who, in the past may have had insufficient recognition for loyalty and dedication to teams or music groups can now be highlighted.
Ofsted, too, will undoubtedly approve of a system that demonstrates a serious approach to safeguarding in out-of-hours activities.
There’s more to SIMS Activities than I’ve described but all the information is at http://www.capita-sims.co.uk/products/sims-activities-extra-curricular-management