The use of Insight at Sacred Heart High School & Newent Community College

Author: Gerald Haigh, Journalist

What does “Insight” Do?

“Insight” picks up just the right data from your SIMS system that parents need, and makes it available online in a form that’s easy to read, easy to navigate and easy to understand. From the parents’ point of view, right from the start, it’s welcoming and reassuring. First, of course, you have to log in. Once past that hurdle, you see a set of menus. They can be configured by the school, but typically they might be “Attendance”, “Behaviour”, “Assessments”, “Reports” and “General”. And really, what you see is what you’re going to get. Click on “Attendance” and you’ll see first an option for reporting your own child’s absence to the school, and then a choice of visual displays of your child’s attendance record – graphs, or the traditional register display. And because TASC have a long track record in the area of attendance they don’t forget to allow you to compare your child’s attendance with the average for the tutor group and year group. (Because, as TASC Software’s Peter Rushton says, “Some people might think 85% attendance is fine – in an exam it certainly is after all. But actually for attendance it’s terrible, and the way to bring that home to parents is to compare it with the rest of the year group.”) There’s the same user-friendly and comprehensive approach in all of the menus. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s Michael Cousins, Assistant Head in charge of Raising Achievement at Sacred Heart High School in Newcastle.

Insight sets up this home-school face to face link that allows parents to see how their children
are doing, All the basic information is there in a very easy to read format easily tailored by the
school.

That last point’s important. Today’s schools are keen on the concept of branding. They want a consistent look across their presence on the web, and Insight allows that to happen.

Why do Parents like Insight?

At Sacred Heart High School, Assistant Head Michael Cousins had a feedback session with an early adopter group of parents to collect their early experiences of Insight. This is a summary of his report on the meeting.

The feedback was incredibly positive with phrases such as ‘It was easy to use, very intuitive, and has led to some informative discussions with [my
daughter]’ being typical responses.Parents were generally most impressed by the system’s security, immediacy and presentation – it was easy to navigate and, because we have been using PARS for a couple of years, it was familiar too. They liked the facilities that go beyond the basic requirements of online reporting such as reporting absences and teacher contact. By linking our merit and concern system in PARS to Insight, parents have a better flavour of their daughter’s achievements. Instead of just getting a tally of merit marks once a term they now see where and when these were achieved and can read the comments that teachers attach to such events, it improves the quality and feel of our merit system.The only negative feedback was basically linked to impatience. They would like the system to do more. Some of that is the school’s problem, such as uploading more information to it and some requests I will be feeding back to TASC. But every single parent in our trial group thought it a massive leap forward.

Why do schools and authorities like Insight?

Because it works seamlessly with Sims; It’s absolutely vital that any parental engagement software works with the school’s management information system. The principle, “Enter once, use many times”, was established very early in the development of school administration software, and it should now be second nature. To be fair, all reputable software suppliers recognise that. What’s important about “Insight”, though, is that it comes from TASC Software, a long-established Sims partner, which means that all of their products work seamlessly with Sims, not only taking the data and using it, but passing any permitted changes made in “Insight” (to a family address, for example) back to Sims.

Because it will add value to a VLE; Increasingly, schools, often with leadership from the local authority, are using learning platforms, or virtual learning environments (VLE) Used effectively, a VLE is the hub of all learning and teaching activities in the school. Many of these schools realise that if they give parents log-in access to agreed parts of the VLE they’ll be able to see the work their children are doing, and the assignments they’ve been set, and become much more engaged with their learning. It makes sense to include access to MIS data at the same time, and one way of doing this is to add Insight to the package that’s offer to parents, with a single log-in from the school website. So in Warwickshire, for example, all 33 secondary schools will have RM’s Kaleidos VLE together with Insight, both accessible on the same log-in. E-Learning Adviser John Pinkney feels that if a school has Insight as a separate, though complementary product, they can stay with it if they change learning platforms – which schools often do. Because it directly addresses the school improvement agenda.Don’t take our word for it. Here’s Del Hughes, Progress Leader for Key Stage 3 at Newent Community High School in Gloucestershire. Her enthusiasm for her job and shines out of her, as does her belief in the way that “Insight” provides her with the necessary leverage.

When I was appointed I knew that the keys to raising achievement lay in celebrating success, tracking pupil data and communicating with parents to create learning conversations at home. “Insight” just totally does all of that.

At Newent, too, the work of behaviour and attendance managers has been transformed by Insight. Because parents can see for themselves, in context, their children’s behaviour and attendance stories, home-school conversations are constructive and non-judgmental

Our job is ten times easier, and the relationship with parents is much more professional says Attendance Manager Sarah Smith.

Because it can grow with your requirements. “Insight” has many features, and you don’t need to bring them all into play at the same time. So, for example, a school might choose to begin with the most basic reporting features –presenting parents with their child’s attendance, behaviour and attainment grades. Then when everyone’s comfortable with that you might go on to set up forums for parents, and messaging to individual staff. Or you might start posting timetables and letting parents know about homework assignments with deadlines. Think of almost anything that parents might want as part of their home-school dialogue and the chances are that it’s possible within Insight – and if it isn’t the team at TASC are quite likely to relish the challenge of making it happen.

(There’s one note of caution about the facility to switch “Insight” features on as needed. It means if you visit a school and they show you “Insight” you need to be aware that you might not be seeing everything that it will do. As Michael Cousins at Sacred Heart says “A lot of Newcastle schools are moving to Insight. Not all of them are as far on with it, but because they can tailor the product to suit them, it always looks like a complete system”.)
Because no news is good news. “Insight” is a no-fuss tool that does its job unobtrusively and efficiently. Michael Cousins at Sacred Heart says,

When we installed it I didn’t have worry about the system. It just works. That’s made my life so much easier. It’s a big enough job getting 1350 sets of parents engaged without worrying about whether the system works.