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Alternatives to SIMS?

Discussion in 'Senior Leadership Team' started by ohdoshutup, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. Sorry for the cross-post - I put this in Administrators too, but I wanted an SMT perspective.
    I'm a borough consultant, and part of what I do is helping people
    use their NOVA and Assessment Manager modules to better effect. My
    experience is that people who b1tch about SIMS tend not to have
    realised what it can do and aren't using it properly - usually, when I
    train them, they come around (although I will admit that if you have a
    slow computer, using SIMS is a real snooze).
    However, I'd be interested to know if anyone has experience of using CMIS or any of the other SIMS competitors.
    particularly interested in how they handle electronic parental
    reporting, since many of my client schools find the fees for SIMS
    Learning Gateway a bit on the steep side. My response to them is
    generally "yeah, but it works well, doesn't it?". A well-administered SIMS db is a great thing, and many of the problems people have with their SIMS are just as a result of poor data discipline and bad training.
    Anyway, I'd just like to have a better sense of what's out there, as I feel a bit underinformed on the competition.
  2. What happens if he leaves?

    Can anyone else manage the system or make the changes as they are needed?

    Could he claim copyright on it in the future?
  3. Blimey. As a former database designer, I can honestly say that building and maintaining that database to a decent standard is a full time job in itself.
  4. trinity0097

    trinity0097 New commenter

    Well he does all the ICT teaching in the school, plus maintains/repairs the ICT stuff, as well as the website and database. He only works part time, but also works in the holidays.
  5. HSE


    We trialled Uniservity for Parent Portal as we use this for our VLE/Learning Platform. Didnt work very well, too many 'synch' issues. Bromcom is another still hanging in there but 'no-one ever got fired for recommending IBM', Mircosoft, Capita...
  6. I don't wish to appear negative trinity0097 but I do know of a school where someone developed a management application using Excel that grew and grew until the school got dependent upon it and his job changed into the person who managed the application. What then happened is the person left and no-one else could fix it if it went wrong or change it when it needed changing. Eventually the school had to invest in a 'proper' commercial solution.

    These things can easily evolve from someone doing something on their own initiative into something that begins to take them and the school over. They might even dream of selling it to other schools. The problem is that developing mission critical management applications is a serious professional activity. It isn't sensible to think someone can do it in their spare time, even though they may be so absorbed by doing it that they may try to make you believe that they can.

    A secondary school is a £3-4 million pound business. Any serious director of such a business wouldn't let an employee knock together an application that runs part of the company. It makes no sense and says a lot about the director.
    The investment in professional systems that run a business should be related to the size of the business and the risk should such systems fail.
  7. speccyteacher

    speccyteacher New commenter

    Having worked in a number of schools and been i/c of the admin systems and introduced one instead of sims - my advice is SIMs is the best.

    Yes it has evolved and become the animal it is now, but it works. AM7 is pretty good and lesson monitor and parental reporting is fine.
    It does take someone to keep a constant eye on it but it works.
    I have worked with CMIS, bromcom, excel/access sheets, and now Integris and the best is SIMs.
    I would love to go back to SIMs and fix the problems Integris has created.
  8. Many thanks, everyone, for the excellent responses. [​IMG]
  9. Is SIMS hosted in your school or by the LA. In Devon, a lot of schools have the dated hosted and the LA provide VPN access for schools who need access from home.
    If it is your own SIMS server then you can set up VPN access in your school if you have the technical knowledge and budget for kit.
  10. We used CMIS in my last school and we use SIMS in my current one. They both do a basic job but we also use PARS and 4matrix. We recently had an Ofsted outstanding and inspectors commented on how effectively we were using our school data. The big difference for us is that every teacher now has access and can see how their classes are doing. SIMS on its own isn't really something that teachers find easy or useful.
  11. We are having to make cuts across the board and we are looking to save money in this area. Our combined costs for SIMS, technician support, a SIMS manager, exams officer and another data person is enormous. We don't think we get as much from this investment as we ought to. Anyone got any ideas about how we can save money?
  12. Most schools could save a lot of money in the way they manage their MIS. The big savings are in salaries. If you host your MIS off site you wont need a technican to keep fixing it when it doesn't work. Serco are developing a cloud computing MIS and there are a couple of free ones but I am not sure how good they are. SIMS will always be expensive because it is a monopoly but you can cut costs by having the minimum system and using some of the very good third party products out there. Tasc Software sell Pars and Target which are much better than the SIMS equivalent. Sisra does exam analysis well but 4matrix goes a lot further and is much cheaper.
    You should also think about how you use your data systems. Most schools have data managers who simply type stuff in and print stuff out. Then they have a deputy head who spends a lot of time using spreadsheets. You should really try to combine these two roles with a post that works to SMT but does high level stuff like tracking and intervention. The person does need to have better IT skills than you find in most data managers to take advantage of being able to work across several applications including spreadsheets, and I don't mean just filling in columns.
    You should also think about how to save time because time is money. 4matrix ticks a lot of boxes by being able to produce reports in minutes that would normally take days to do. Look at how you get your grades from teachers. If you get it in marksheets and then process it in spreadsheets then you are wasting a lot of time. Go through all your processes to find where you are wasting time and money. Ask yourself how your school's use of data empowers teachers to teach better. I don't suppose it does most of the time but it should.
  13. chipsfortea

    chipsfortea New commenter

    You pays your money and you takes your chances! We employ an attendance officer, an exam officer, a student data clerk and a data manager - all under the management of a deputy headteacher who manages the options and the timetable.
    The teachers are all paid to teach and that is what they do.
    Everyone has to pay attention to data to evaluate how effective what they are doing is in terms of the outcomes we want - high attainment, high attendance and punctuality levels, good behaviour, inclusion support etc.
    SIMS works fine for us. I've visited many other schools to look at what they do, whether SIMS, CMIS or one of the many other systems available and have not found anyone who has a better setup than us - FOR OUR SCHOOL.
    The point of the MIS is to help classroom teachers do their job effectiveley. THERE IS NO SINGLE SOLUTION THAT SOLVES THE PROBLEMS OF EVERY SCHOOL. Refer back to my first sentence - decide what you want and don't worry about what others are up to or whether you could be doing it more cheaply.
  14. This is exactly right. It is what you do with your data that counts. SIMS essentially stores data but it is a clunky system for all staff to use and doesn't really let you do much with your data, whatever the last person says. SIMS know that too because they have been showing their new program called Discover which lets you make a Venn diagram by dragging fields. But it is not ready yet, and it needs a powerful PC to run it and most of the admin ones we use are old spec machines.
    If I ask myself what I need I wouldn't say I needed a program to produce Venn diagrams. I have been using a spreadsheet for tracking because of all the different reports I need to produce. I want to do much more analysis at teaching group level using residuals. I would like to predict the same range of information as Raise produces, only for groups that haven't yet taken their exams. SIMS does none of this.
    I agree. That is why the person who mentioned additional products is probably right. I would like to know of schools that have used some of these and what new things you can do with them.
  15. Richy you should look at 4matrix because it will do student tracking and it will put subjects into quartile groups based on residual. It will do much more than RAISE because it will compare every teaching group in each subject. Every time I use it it seems to have a new feature. It will create pie charts rather than Venn diagrams. There is now a useful tool that will print out photo posters for the staff room by analysing the at risk groups. It can use whole grade but is more accurate if you ask teachers to say if it is a strong C, a comfortable C or a weak C for example.
    We had a free trial when we started using it and it wasnt expensive I seem to remember.
    The biggest advantage is the time it saves creating reports. It pulls data straight from SIMS and I think it works with other school data systems. My feeling is that unless you see what it does you wont know what you could be doing with your data but we haven't used everything it does yet because of time pressures.
  16. Thanks to brazen hussy for recommending 4 Matrix.We took up the free offer this term and most teachers are now using it to print graphs for their PM folders.It puts our data up on the network for everyone to use.Very good system.We couldn't do any of this with Sims.

  17. This FREE online
    report-writing software might be of interest to you (now has an OOOPS! DETECTIVE that helps stop cut&paste errors!)
    See TES resource here:
    manages statements, auto-replaces names, his/hers, she/he,
    etc plus also has a nifty option to make drop-down lists for
    achievement levels and project titles to include in
    your statements. The result is less editing of the final text and hence fewer mistakes. It's
    free, easy to use and works online. Can be used for project-work and homework feedback too.
    Best wishes,
  18. boolix

    boolix New commenter

    Does 4Matrix work only with KS4 or can it also analyse data at KS3?
  19. September

    September New commenter

  20. ever heard of MAILMERGE and no SIMS

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