Beal Vale is a small, one-form-entry primary school near Oldham, with a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted. It was the first primary school to join the Crompton House Church of England Multi Academy Trust (MAT) in 2019. At that point, Beal Vale moved away from SIMS to adopt the MAT’s preferred systems. However, in less than a year, the school came back to SIMS to help reduce the burden on staff.
Small team, big responsibility
Beal Vale’s school office consists of just two FTEs, and they have a lot of critical work to get through each day to support effective teaching, learning and school improvement. Prior to SIMS, this was proving a real challenge, with staff using manual processes and workarounds to navigate their various systems.
Tania Tushingham, the school’s Business Manager, recalls: “We wereoften copying data from one system into a spreadsheet, then printing that off – or collecting written attendance sheets from teachers and physically inputting that somewhere else. It was hugely time consuming.”
When a new colleague joined prior to the school closures in 2020, it was clear to Tania that a change was needed: “We were barely coping as it was; there simply wasn’t time to train new staff up. We were desperate!”
A win-win solution
Based on the school’s previous experience with SIMS, plus the many different information management systems she had used during her career, Tania knew that it was the right platform to help them. She explained to the MAT how SIMS would help free up time in the school office, get information out to parents quicker, and even allow better reporting of performance to assist with school improvement strategies.
The MAT knew that any further primary schools joining them would likely use SIMS too. So if Beal Vale made the switch back now, it would allow easier collaboration and standardised processes in the future.
After the MAT had endorsed the idea, Tania reached out to ESS's accredited SIMS partner, Pennine Education Ltd, to take the next step.
The journey back
“Our staff really missed having the data they needed in one place. We simply didn’t have time to keep loading data individually. We needed a quick and slick process, like we had with SIMS before.”
Pennine Education helped negotiate the school’s new SIMS contract, and then managed the entire implementation process, including the migration of all finance data from the school’s existing platform. They also helped to quickly iron out some initial teething problems.
“We did have a few issues early on,” Tania explains. “Parental engagement, for example, was one of the main reasons we came back to SIMS, but we couldn’t get that part working at first. The support from Pennine Education was fantastic though – they got it all sorted and we were back up and running within a week.”
The ability to send texts and emails out to parents is currently more important than ever. With changing government guidance on COVID-19, Tania has been able to send instant alerts to all parents, from home, at the click of a button.
“In the past, we would have had to upload information to the website, or do a manual email send, or even phone parents individually. SIMS removes all that hassle, and I can use it securely over my VPN from home too.”
One place, all connected
“I think of SIMS like a digital filing cabinet. You open it up and everything is there. Before, we were constantly clicking around to find information, and logging in and out of different systems. SIMS has a far more logical flow.”
“For example, SIMS Dinner Money speaks to SIMS Attendance. So we don’t have to update dinner registers manually anymore. Everything is pre-loaded and can be reconciled in a few clicks. It used to be a full morning’s work, but now it’s a quick 30-minute check.”
This ability to integrate systems and join data together was one of the main reasons that Beal Vale chose SIMS.
“It works brilliantly with our online teaching tools like Purple Mash and Wonde, as well as our InVentry signing-in system. And it links up with our CPOMS safeguarding software, so we can quickly pull down the data we need about Looked After Children, Free School Meals, Pupil Premium and SEN, etc.”
Set for success
One of the key measures of success at Beal Vale is pupil progress, and SIMS enables the school’s leadership to easily track the data they need for school improvement.
“We’ve recently added the SIMS Teacher App, which means teaching staff will soon be able to upload attendance, behaviour and assessment data directly to the system. This will make performance reporting really simple for the leadership team, as they’ll be able to pull down reports instantly to review progress.”