With the Easter break fast approaching, I thought I would share some of our updates for Spring, including those featured in the Spring release. While many of you will be familiar with the Spring, Summer and Autumn releases, as technology evolves, many of our software updates will no longer be delivered this way. This means we can update our cloud products, such as the SIMS Teacher app and the new SIMS Activities, automatically throughout the year, so you don’t have to wait for releases to apply your updates.Supporting your primary school’s assessment strategy
This year has already been a success for SIMS Assessment and we were delighted that SIMS Assessment with the SIMS Teacher app won the award for ICT Tools for Teaching Learning and Assessment at Bett this year. We are continually enhancing SIMS Assessment to meet your needs and this award win reflects the impact SIMS Assessment is having on schools.
As well as all the recent changes that schools have been dealing with, there have been numerous changes to statutory assessment arrangements being introduced at Key Stages 1 and 2 for 2016. Those pupils at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2 will be the first cohort of pupils to be assessed against the new national curriculum in May 2016.
However, as the national curriculum has changed so too have the tests. In light of the removal of the levels grading system, the outcomes for both will no longer be reported using levels. Scaled scores will be used for tests and new descriptors used to record teacher assessments.As for every year, SIMS Assessment has been adapted to support the statutory assessment process by providing resources and 'wizards' to guide you through the recording of teacher assessment and test outcomes, including ‘P’ scale results if applicable. You can read Rachael Marshman’s blog for full details and to help you understand the full extent of the changes.
Secondary school analysis and reporting
For secondary schools, we have introduced a set of new importable resources, allowing schools to quickly review and analyse their key performance information.We are making pre-defined templates and reports available to all secondary schools, allowing you to record results (both old and new style GCSE grades, BTEC, AS) and display instant analysis for individuals, key groups and cohorts on both attainment and progress Key Performance Indicators, such as A*- C English and Maths, Ebacc, Attainment 8, Progress 8 and Best 8.
If you are a SIMS school already using your own custom aspects for tracking, you can use the Mapping Tool within SIMS to link school aspects to those provided by Capita and still take advantage of the new analysis and reporting being introduced.
If you are a secondary school choosing to use GCSE grades within Key Stage 3, you could also adapt these new resources for use in years 7, 8 or 9 if appropriate. These resources are available to download now from My Account.
Streamlining financial management even further
As we enhance SIMS, we are constantly listening to your feedback and we take on board any Change Requests that come through. Following a Change Request, we have now added the option for you to add notes against a supplier record in FMS. So if you’re communicating with a supplier and want a record of those communications, you can record a short note against those records in FMS. This will be viewable to those users with the appropriate access.
From April 2016, employers of apprentices under the age of 25 will no longer be required to pay employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) on earnings up to the Upper Earnings Limit (UEL), for those employees. We have enhanced SIMS FMS so that you will have the ability to flag contracts that fall under a recognised apprenticeship scheme. FMS will then not calculate National Insurance contributions until the month of that employee’s 25th birthday.
Making parent payments easier
If you are a user of SIMS Agora, we have included a variety of enhancements to improve usability for your administrative staff.
We have created a new ‘Communications’ tab in Agora, which will help save time by creating email templates for you to use whenever you need them.
We have also introduced the ability for schools to put a transaction charge on the items they are selling, providing schools with greater financial control. There is the option to pass the transaction charges back to the parent on a per product basis. This can be particularly helpful for expensive items, such as school trips, where charges can add up.
To find out further SIMS Agora updates, look out for our blog which will be published in March.
New summative assessments in the SIMS Teacher app
The Teacher app is currently being used by over 2,000 schools, with 15,000 school staff using it each day. Last Autumn saw the introduction of the Programme of Study into the SIMS Teacher app, providing a streamlined view for efficient data entry and supporting in-class teacher practices, allowing teachers to record achievement as it is observed. This February we have introduced new Programme of Study updates, including new summative assessments plus the addition of group filters and new on-screen analysis.
For iOS users, we will be including attendance comments providing the ability for teachers to add comments at registration directly into the Teacher app and view attendance comments that have been recorded directly in SIMS.
For Windows and Android users, we are now adding support staff access to the app, providing the ability for any member of staff in SIMS to access the Windows/Android app.
To find out more features of the SIMS Spring release, take a look at our pre-release notes, available on My Account.