January 7, 2013

Capita teams join forces at Bett to bring innovation and inspiration to schools’ ICT

Capita SIMS and Capita IT Services are bringing their joint expertise together at Bett 2013 on stand B250 to show schools how technology can help raise standards in leadership, day-to-day school management, teaching and learning. – 07/01/2013

7 January 2013: Capita IT Services and Capita SIMS are bringing their joint expertise together at Bett 2013 on stand B250 to show schools how technology can help raise standards in leadership, day-to-day school management, teaching and learning.

Whether schools are at Bett to understand how to improve pupil attainment, how to use technology to create inspirational lessons or simply to find affordable ways to use emerging technologies, experts will be on hand to demonstrate how it can be done.

“The combination of these two Capita education teams together at Bett will ensure that visitors can come along to the stand with virtually any question related to their school’s systems and they will find an expert with the knowledge to help them,” said Phil Neal, managing director of Capita SIMS.

“We will be able to show school leaders at Bett how they can improve decision making and raise attainment. Teachers that visit the stand can find out how to enhance assessment, tackle behaviour issues and engage pupils. We also have something for school IT managers and bursars, who can discover how they can make their finite resources go further,” he continued.

Steve Smith, director of learning at Capita IT Services, added: “If schools are concerned that their IT budget will not stretch to the extent of their aspirations for their school, we can look at their existing infrastructure and see what can be reused to make their funds go further. Or if schools are looking to move into the cloud or implement a Bring Your Own Device infrastructure, we can talk them through the options and explain what has worked for other schools.”

SIMS Agora, a new online payment solution, will also be available for schools to view for the first time. The plug-in for school websites allows schools to provide a safe and secure way for parents, guardians and even extended family members to make payments and purchase school items online.

Other highlights on the joint stand include SIMS Discover. Shortlisted in the innovation category at the Bett Awards 2013, SIMS Discover brings data to life for teachers and school leaders. With an Apple iPad-type interface, teachers can simply select which data they wish to analyse – perhaps Year Nine’s behaviour – and drop the data into a colour graph, Venn diagram or pie chart. This helps them spot trends, such as recurring poor behaviour or a child that starts to slip below target, before they become major problems.

“We will also show a range of affordable ‘out of the box’ solutions and technology bundles that will make it easy for schools to innovate – backed up by a range of options as to how they can procure them,” says Steve. “By bringing together the expertise and experience of SIMS and Capita IT Services, we can demonstrate how technology can help improve the experience for learners and expand the range of tools through which teachers can engage and support their pupils, parents and whole school community to help drive improvement.”

Capita SIMS provides the SIMS management information system (MIS) used by 22,000 schools.Capita IT Services, a finalist in the ICT Company of the Year (over £3 million turnover) category at the Bett Awards 2013, provides an unrivalled menu of ICT services. This includes a fully integrated cloud-based managed learning environment and connectivity/ISP services to the full range of in-school technologies, NAACE Marked training and consultancy as well as flexible procurement options.

TWITTER CUE: @CapitaSIMS and @OPENHIVE_net join forces to help schools with all their ICT needs at #Bett_Show

Ref: CAP905
Issue date: 07/01/13

Capita contact:
Phil Neal, managing director, Capita SIMS, Tel: 01234 838 080 Email:
You can follow Phil Neal on Twitter at

Press contact:
To arrange interviews, for further information or images, please contact:
Olga Hadjilambri, Catherine Lane PR, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PY.
Tel: 020 8351 2542. Email:

About Capita SIMS:
Capita SIMS is the leading supplier of information systems to the education sector, providing a range of software and services to schools and local authorities to help raise standards and reduce administration. Capita’s SIMS is the most popular management information system for schools and is used every day by more than 22,000 educational establishments in the UK.

Twitter:   @CapitaSIMS

Blue skies ahead?

March 3, 2011

On Monday I spent time visiting Microsoft in London along with others in the education supplier community. The afternoon started with a keynote from Vanessa Pittard.  Vanessa was one of the directors at Becta and now is responsible for Technology Policy at the DfE.  The Technology Policy Unit is firmly located within the Schools Standards Group within the DfE.  Vanessa is convinced that this is the best place to be.  She says that the evidence supporting the use of technology in schools is compelling – it does make a difference and it does improve learner outcomes.  Her task (challenge?) will be to produce a coherent policy for Technology in Schools that supports the Government’s White Paper.  Vanessa highlighted the fact that excellent use of data is a common feature of excellent schools and this will be an important issue for her work going forward.  I asked Vanessa about the role of games based learning (currently DCMS are taking a positive, leading role in this area along with organizations such as NESTA) – the response was that there is a recognition of potential, that we should expect to see more interest shown by the Department in the future, that there is a key issue – how do we realise value?

Vanessa Pittard

Vanessa provided some detail for the transfer of some of the functions of Becta to the Department.  Procurement and e-Safety will transfer, along with the contracts that underpin these activities. The Department will be consulting BSI regarding the future of the ISP accreditation over the coming months.  Becta’s responsibilities for providing support to Academies and Free Schools transfers to PFS and their activities around technology standards transfer to the CIO group within the DfE.  In this context it was interesting to note that work around SIF hasn’t transferred – apparently there’s enough energy and momentum within the community without the Department’s involvement.  This fits with Ministers’ aim for autonomy not intervention.

The recently awarded contracts for ICT Services Framework One will be promoted by the DfE and discussions are ongoing regarding the options for taking Framework Two forward – the latter framework had intended to include learning platforms and management information systems.

Responsibility for the SRF transfers to the DfE – they’ll be actively promoting it, it’s viewed positively by Ministers and schools, there will need to be discussions post April as it is important that the SRF is kept up-to-date and not allowed to stagnate or become irrelevant.  Over 18,000 schools registered an interest and currently over 4,000 schools are progressing through the framework.

So – working towards a policy?  There will be discussions with key stakeholders up to the end of April, identification of key priorities by the end of May enabling ministers to make decisions so that from June the agreed priorities can be taken forwards.  Will there be a direct replacement for Harnessing Technology?  Perhaps, but it will have to fit with the policy of autonomy and not intervention!

Blue sky and clouds

The rest of the afternoon had a more technology based focus – Microsoft Azure was in the forefront – hence the title of this piece! We had an interesting update but as ever the most exciting input came from those who’d been there and done that – organisations that had implemented Azure and achieved real efficiency and cost benefits.  Education was never far away and a collection of free and paid for tools that make up the Learning Suite was mentioned along with changes to licensing and Office 365 for Education.  Expect to see more about this in the near future.  We were also pointed towards an online journal ‘ICT for Education’ – and the February issue is a good read and has much useful information.

It’s been a busy week, this post should have been uploaded a few days ago – you can keep up-to-date by following OPENHIVE_net on Twitter!  Now on to the next task – preparing for the NAACE Annual Conference where myself and Sarah Shepherd will be presenting.  I’m looking forward to the event – the programme the NAACE team have put together should provide a stimulating few days.

Patrick Kirk

Education and the Election 2010 – news roundup

April 19, 2010

A few sources of information as the campaigns develop:

Patrick Kirk

Education and the Election 2010

April 15, 2010

Following on from my earlier posts about The Spectator Conference and the Learning & Technology World Forum we’ve been watching the political debate around education and how the parties are positioning education issues within their manifestos.  The profile of education is rising during the campaign and in my searches I came across SecEd – ‘The only website for secondary education news and jobs’.  On the site is a page entitled: ‘Taking your questions to Parliament – 15 Apr 2010’ where a number of teachers and school leaders have posed questions to the three main parties.   SecEd has written responses to the questions from Messrs Ed Balls, Michael Gove, and David Laws which have been summarised by the site editor. From the article:

On parents choosing schools rather than the other way around – the consensus appears to be that if all schools are good schools then everyone would get the school of their choice – of course, the approaches to achieving this are somewhat different!

On the gap between the funding that is spent on education and the funding received by schools – Messrs Law and Gove are both saying that there should be less money spent on ‘quangos’ and bureaucracy.  Ed Balls has already reduced the budget for Becta by £40 million so perhaps he agrees – he states that with the increased settlement and further efficiency savings (within schools), schools should be able to meet the cost pressures they face.  It’s interesting to note that part of the efficiency savings are to be met through smarter procurement – key aspects of the work of two organisations (quangos), Partnership for Schools and Becta – so let’s hope that the cuts within these organisations don’t make this goal unachievable.

On change, about having time to embed success before moving on to the next big idea – I’m not sure about their responses.  Gove: we’re going to give schools more freedom – yet he’s already made pronouncements about curriculum reform. Balls: we’ve had a lot of successes since we came into office and we’re going to build on these successes. Laws: there’s been too much meddling by politicians – we’ll pass an Education Freedom Act to ban this meddling.

On how to keep politically driven agendas out of education – there’s a level of agreement here – greater freedom for schools with increased accountability – again though, how to achieve this varies considerably.

On Diplomas – the responses varied from Laws: they’re a flop, to Gove: they need some changes to Balls: they’re a success story but we need further work on some areas (functional skills in particular – have a look at Guroo for functional skills for useful resources). So no consensus there then!

On SATS, league tables and testing – Gove: we need some changes but without them the work of some of our brilliant schools would have gone unnoticed. Balls: we need a smarter and fairer accountability system. Laws: they don’t work and are in need of reform.

On fair funding – Balls: we’ve reviewed funding mechanisms and are proposing changes but there should be local investment where it’s most needed. Laws: unfair funding is a real problem and we’re proposing changes.  Gove: funding mechanisms are too complicated and obscure and so we’re proposing changes. There’s a theme running through this response!

On OFSTED and head teacher recruitment– Messrs Gove and Laws: we need OFSTED and we need changes in the framework. Balls: there have been problems with the recent changes in the inspection framework; we need to clear up some of the myths.  Head teacher vacancy rates have been less than 1% for the last 10 years; we need to ensure that we reward those leading underperforming and challenging schools.

On pensions, pay and conditions – Gove: we’ve no plans to reform teachers’ pensions; we want to give schools more flexibility on pay and conditions. Balls: we’ve no plans to reform teachers’ pensions; and we believe that the pay and conditions agreements are a universal right – organisations can supplement them but not dilute them. Laws: we need to examine pensions across the public sector and we need to reform the rigid and bureaucratic pay and conditions rules.

On whether their education philosophy is substantiated by research – Laws: we took evidence from many involved in education. Gove: I’ve visited schools and spoken to teachers, I think good things are happening in Singapore, Finland, Sweden, and the USA.  Balls: I’ve visited many schools and had dialogues with those involved including students.  Most of the best ideas come from schools not from Whitehall.  I’m not sure that any of them answered the question!

On funding for attendence, behaviour and attainment initiatives, post-16 participation, PE, school clubs and sports – Gove: we’ll devolve budget responsibilities to schools – it’s up to them what they prioritise.  Balls: school funding will continue to increase we’ll build on the progress we’ve made. Laws: we’ll invest extra funding in schools but they’ll have to decide where their priorities lie.

So – the debate is getting under way – there’s even consensus in some areas – if you want to read more then try the following links to the education manifestos: Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.

Patrick Kirk