All of the projects we work on use Agile methodology.
The discovery phase of a project is the phase where you understand the problem you are trying to solve, and work through the challenges and problems so that you can work out if this problem can be solved, or the effort to explore ideas or options is worth it. This phase also helps to understand if there really is a problem.
The Government Digital Service shared that “What you learn during discovery should help you work out whether you want to move forward to the alpha phase. Running an alpha means you’ve decided that the benefits of looking further into the problem outweigh the cost”.
North Wales councils, alongside most local councils in England and Wales, have been using Capita Education Management Systems in one form or another for approx. 20 years to manage student’s data, including all student-related needs within a school. The two main systems used are SIMS and Capita One at the school and local government level respectively.
SIMS is a management information system (MIS) used by teachers and other staff members at school to manage daily school life activities and drive improvement in learner’s outcome.
Capita One is an education database of student information used by the local authority to collect data from SIMS to carry out statutory responsibilities which ensure that the right services and support are provided to school pupils to improve their overall learning experience and positive outcomes.
We worked with local authorities in North Wales to understand their requirements and processes.
A review and capture of the high-level functionalities of the current education information management systems used by local authorities in North Wales.
This provides us with a clear view and end-to-end oversight of the data flows between schools and local authorities, and a check in on our own performance, giving us a better understanding of how the system is fit for purpose, technologically suitable, and meeting the needs of wider organisations.
As part of this project, we worked with IT leads, policy people, system administrators, information officers, training officers, and Heads of Education in six local authorities across the North Wales region.
Following this discovery, we want to do more of the following:
- We need to talk to more stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, headteachers and school committees.
- We need a deeper dive into each module, to gather more detail on requirements for each module, to enable testing and to find areas to improve.
- We need to explore what is missing in the current systems, and what other opportunities there are within education MIS.
With any project of this size and scale, there are some challenges.
One of the challenges is that the local authority internal structures are all different, with different processes for making decisions and varying priorities.
There is also the challenge for an education project of the time officers can give to this work with already stretched resources and a rigid school calendar.
As part of this work, it was important to understand how the systems operated and the processes involved.
Jay Uzoewulu also created the following diagrams as part of this project:
- An overview of the Capita One modules [link to PDF]
- The data transfer from Sims to Capita One [link to PDF]
- Capita One data inflow process [link to PDF]
The requirements have been given identifiers (HLFR = Functional Requirement and NFR = Non-Functional Requirement) for traceability and ease of discussion.
The following additional add-ons are used sparingly by a couple of councils in North Wales, these are standalone solutions identified by schools to meet their needs.
- Personnel – Staffing module used to add on staff for Census/Timetable/ Academic Structure/Monitoring Staff Absences/Cover
- Alerts – module used to send emergency alter from homepage, if a member of staff is in trouble
- Profile – module applicable to only secondary schools used for reports, built, and produced using profiles
- AMPARK – Automatic download of all statutory assessments, e.g. end of key stages, will included WG templates & marksheets
- NDC – Key Stage Data Returns and Reporting (End of KS 2 and 3 / FP Outcomes / FP Baseline) – Entering the statutory assessments, using marksheets as above and uploading via DEWi to WG & LA
- Year End Processes – used for creating all the procures to ensure the roll over into a new academic year happens smoothly, includes importing ATFs and CTFs
- Examinations Organiser – Exam entries / results / base data import / analysis of results
- Staff Cover – Used in Secondary and links to Nova T and Personnel
- Academic Management – used for yearly setups
- Course Manager – All pupils in secondary put into courses after they choose options, some parts are covered from Nova and some via Course Manager.
- Curriculum Assignment – Timetable setup
- Discover – We do use discover, mostly for attendance setting and analysis
SIMS and Capita One Non-Functional Requirements
We’ve also created non-functional requirements for SIMS and Capita One.
We explored the Capita One system and the modules in the system, with which of the LAs are using which modules.
Since this discovery, the Local Authorities in North Wales have decided to procure a new Capita One system for the region.
The Local Government Digital Team hosted a show and tell event to share the discovery findings. There is a lot of interest across the Welsh local authorities so we are currently scoping what an Alpha and what would be of most value.
Watch this space!
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