BESA in conversation with SIMS Independent

Sponsored: Deborah Fisher, Head of SIMS Independent, talks to the British Educational Suppliers Association about how data use in schools is changing

What are the trends you are seeing in the way data is managed in schools?

One of the most exciting trends is that senior leaders are increasingly in the driving seat when it comes to their management information systems (MIS). Advances in technology mean that school staff no longer have to seek out information –  be it contact details for a family, a student’s latest achievement marks or the current location of a teacher – or ask administrative staff to find it for them.

More and more school leaders are using a personalised data dashboard to view the information they need from their MIS, whenever they need it. Chris King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, relies on SIMS to give him a current overview of school and pupil data at a glance. Information is being shared in real time across the whole school community much more efficiently and effectively than ever before. We’re also seeing data being pushed out to staff, parents and students in many schools via an app on their mobile phone
or tablet.

With the new GDPR regulations entering into force in a couple of months, are schools becoming more concerned about how and when they share data? how are you supporting schools in complying with GDPR?

We hosted a discussion recently to give schools the opportunity to talk to each other about the issues they are experiencing in preparing to manage GDPR. The event highlighted that while some schools are already putting action plans in place to comply with the new rules, others are still considering how to go about their data audit. To support our schools during this transition phase, we are providing guidance on the use of SIMS for improving data collection and reporting.

‘Senior leaders are increasingly in the driving seat when it comes to their management information systems.’

Can you share some examples of how schools are using data well to identify the issues holding children back and help ensure they make good progress?  

Schools I speak to often talk about the value they place on having key information in one place. They see the huge benefit of teachers being able to use assessment data to track the value added to pupils’ learning, for example, and ensure best practice is replicated across the curriculum.

Senior leaders are increasingly using data to spot trends and address more school-wide issues too. Jerudong International School in Brunei used SIMS to build a full academic and pastoral picture of students, encompassing information on achievement, attendance and behaviour. This enabled staff to identify a need for additional support to be put in place for students who speak English as an additional language. It’s also helped to shape an initiative designed to encourage children to share their opinions in lessons and allowed teachers to monitor the impact.

The data in SIMS is helping staff at Hoe Bridge School in Surrey to check if pupils are progressing in line with expectations or spot those who might need a little extra support to prevent them from falling behind. This means action can be taken quickly to boost their achievement.

Do you cater differently to schools in the UK and abroad? What are the specificities and special needs and challenges of international schools? 

In our experience, the key differences between UK schools and schools abroad are often rooted in the culture of their society. There might be differing approaches to boosting pupil progress or rewarding good conduct, depending on where the school is based. In addition to this, many international schools offer a mix of qualifications and exams that need to be managed efficiently.

As a key supplier to 670 schools in 49 countries, we know that every school is unique. We are cognisant of cultural differences and mindful that schools may use varying terminology or have differing views on best practice.

For more, please visit And you can find BESA here

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