Capita SIMs Teacher App Review

We have run sitewide biometrics for registration that feedback to SIMs for 4 years now. 

The idea behind this was that we didn’t want teachers to have to worry about registration, pupils could sign in (not forget their details or their thumb) and boom, registration done.

Apart from it didn’t quite work like that. 

Pupils couldn’t move through the scanner fast enough. That was the main issue. That, and the fact that the staff are responsible for registering children. So if they don’t scan, for whatever reason, the school still needs to register then.

Staff ended up checking attendance via a web interface for the biometric solution. Ongoing costs were significant for the hardware too: if staff were going to have to check on the PC – why not just use SIMs

Well, simple answer is – SIMs is not the quickest or most user friendly of applications, something Capita themselves are well aware of (hence the new web based version on the way).

At BETT this year I paid a lot of attention to the new SIMs parent app and the teacher app, which is more established. 

We are lucky that the large majority of our staff have an iPad. Underused, but not for long – as we have just begun to roll out the SIMs teacher app.

When you are training staff on something new, you can tell in an instant if you have got them onboard. I could tell the moment I showed this to SMT and then the wider staff – that people could see the potential.

There are three main elements to the app (available on iPads, android and Windows 10)

  • Attendance – quickly mark users present, absent, late or code them. It’s all taken live and sent back live too.
  • Behaviour – log incidents in an interface that is a million times easier then usual
  • Assessment – easily add data into SIMs. It’s that simple.

You can also access info about a particular student quickly and easily, and it is all based around your timetable. Which again, is live, so is updated with any cover lessons.

It’s simple. It is well designed. These are very important points that make it so effective. Capita could have got it so wrong and spoilt it – but they didn’t. 

The setup process is all self service for schools – and it took me an hour, tops. With no need to read the instructions. 

We use Office365 to authenticate users, and, whilst the initial setup of users and devices is somewhat of a ball ache -it’s necessary for security.

Hopefully improvements to integrate with Intouch are in the future plans – but for now, our biometric units are being switched off in Easter.

The Question.

The question shouldn’t be “why should we do this?” it should be “why shouldn’t we do this?”

It feels like I have made my impact. It feels like we have all taken a huge step backwards. 

It’s not an individual school thing, it’s a mentality of education at the moment. And probably the NHS, social care and more.

These professions are being cut to within an inch of their lives. Yet the demands for them are still increasing.

I can only really talk about my sector, and how it is affecting my role. From being someone who was able to make impacts and introduce new and exciting technology (which has gone on to be considered crucial in schools and adopted by others) to not even being able to roll out a new piece of software or idea. And it’s not to do with me suddenly losing my skill set, my drive or my ability. 

Overworked, underpaid users are fearful of the impact change may have. Even if changes are being done to support them, to streamline and reduce workloads.

The ability and the appetite to introduce new and exciting solutions that move away from tradition has long gone. Not just because the budgets have gone,  but the time and the general ability to think past the current crisis has gone.

I’ve made a real try following on from BETT to introduce solutions that save cash, save time, improve workflows and engage pupils and support their learning outcomes. 

Products that use existing infrastructure in new and exciting ways. Services that users can rely and depend on. 

I want my team and I to be more than people who just answer support tickets. Because that is boring. We want to be getting excited with staff on the great things they can do with IT.

We can and should be taking our share of cuts. But you don’t need money in the schools where wise  investments in the infrastructure have left a solidly working network – you need the will and the want to introduce, and demand that we move forward.

Do not settle for something that works when it comes to IT in a school. Because in a few years time it will be outdated and then you will be getting angry and frustrated that your IT hasn’t moved forward. But ask yourself this: do you let it move forward? Do you encourage staff to be motivated for change, or do you all simply ask – why should we change – instead of why shouldn’t we?