Fans of Eastenders may have recently spotted the first ever appearance of SIMS in a soap opera.
Yes, it’s true. This came about after we were approached by the producers of the programme when the storyline touched on the challenging issue of tackling truancy. We provided them with some imagery of the new SIMS Home Page coming as part of the spring release and the broadcast prompted a flurry of Tweets from eagle-eyed SIMS users.
Although not a regular viewer, I was naturally keen to see the relevant episode in which Bianca, the soap’s hard-pressed mum of four was struggling to get her 14-year-old son in to school regularly. The scene depicted a meeting between the headteacher of the boy’s school and Bianca to discuss concerns about his falling attendance.
One thing that struck me was that when it was suggested that the boy might be being bullied, this appeared to come as a bolt out of the blue for Bianca. She became increasingly irate and the meeting appeared to achieve very little in terms of getting the child back into lessons.
Fortunately, most meetings with parents are much more productive than this. And a headteacher using SIMS would have a great deal more information at their fingertips when they are discussing concerns about a child with their parents than the fictional school could show.
What this information does is reduce a lot of the emotion involved in parental meetings. Many heads I have spoken to say that when the facts are on a computer, a parent is more likely to accept the issue as it is and are less likely to become defensive. Discussions move more quickly on to ‘What can we do about this?’ rather than talking about what has occurred and when.
Likewise the school is likely to have picked up on the issue earlier. Many secondary schools use tools like SIMS InTouch for example, to let parents know immediately if a child has not turned up for school as expected. And regular behaviour tracking allows bullying, when reported, to be identified and stamped out quickly with the help of the parents of both bully and victim.
The vast majority of parents are keen to provide all the support they can at home to ensure their child makes good progress in school. Parental input is key to dealing with the issues around truancy or any other area of a child’s school life that is raising concerns.
And when parents and schools are working together, children are more likely to grow and achieve, both inside and outside the classroom.
I will be keeping tabs on the unfolding events in Albert Square and hope that by covering the truancy story, the programme plays a part in tackling it.