Sturminster Newton School
Staff talk about their experience using PARS Connect and INSIGHT…
Author: Tim Weeks, Assistant Headteacher
Using Insight Software for Parental Reporting
Sturminster Newton High School, a co-educational county community comprehensive school for students aged 11-19, is in partnership with Shaftesbury School for the provision of A Level and GNVQ courses to students aged 16-19. The school currently has 570 students aged 11-16 and has 80 Sixth Form students based at Sturminster.
We accept students from the Sturminster Newton Pyramid of primary schools of William Barnes, Stalbridge, Child Okeford, Shillingstone, Okeford Fitzpaine and Hazelbury Bryan. We also accept students from other schools.
The school was designated as a specialist school in Mathematics and computing in September 2006 and was awarded the Becta ICT Mark in July 2010 in recognition of its work in ICT.
The introduction of Insight was part of a wider strategy to rationalise and improve recording and reporting of pupil information within the school. When we decided to change practices within the school we were already recording and reporting a broad spectrum of information about our students. However information was recorded in a number of different ways using a variety of systems which did not always make data transfer easy or efficient. Staff found it time consuming to bring together information for parents.
The process started when we looked at introducing a new information system which would be capable of holding all our data, attendance, contacts, grading, behaviour, etc. for the whole school and allow us to create reports easily for both staff and parents. Having looked closely at the systems available, we chose to go for PARS because this would allow all aspects of a student’s school experience to be recorded and monitored effectively and efficiently. This system was introduced and trialled in the summer of 2009, ready for full use from September 2009. Along with PARS, we also licenced PARS Connect allowing staff full access from outside the classroom. The introduction of these two packages was instrumental in fundamentally changing the way the school functioned on a day to day basis. Communication, tracking, behaviour, attendance, and reporting systems within the school all improved very quickly and the quality of information held greatly increased.
Following the highly successful introduction of PARS and being aware of the need to provide parental access to student information, we started to look for a suitable piece of software. Initially, we were thinking that we would provide basic attendance information and see how that progressed before exploring areas. However, because the range and quality of information held was now so vast, we decided that we would look for a system which would allow more than just the basic information to go to parents. The system needed to be easy to setup and maintain as we did not want to commit lots of additional administrative or technician time to either the set up or on-going maintenance of the system.
Again having looked at a number of options on the market, we asked TASC if we could trial the Insight Software for a couple of weeks. Set up was simple and we quickly found that the vast range of options within the package meant that we could allow access to everything from Attendance through to Behaviour Management to copies of Student Reports. Little technician time was required and the only Administration time needed was in the Management of Parental e-mails in SIMS, initially time consuming but that initial flurry of activity dropped to virtually nothing as our records have been updated
Actions taken to involve parents
Initially unsure about the best way to introduce the package to parents, we invited a small group to come in early one parents‟ evening with their sons/daughters and be introduced to the system. This was a very successful evening but we wondered if it was really necessary having seen how little assistance the parents required to get on and use the system. We repeated the introduction once more for another set of parents before deciding after feedback from both sets of parents that the session really wasn’t necessary. Subsequently, we now simply e-mail parents who are new to the system with a small user guide, a support e-mail address and let them start accessing the system. We have had very few support requests, most questions were regarding passwords. The system allows for the use of a randomly generated PIN number to be sent to parents for each log in – I would recommend this.
What parents think
As expressed earlier, we really wanted a system that would not prove time consuming to operate; we also wanted a system that parents could access without high levels of support from the school. We believe Insight does this on all levels and one of the killer features of Insight is its ease of use. This is evident by the comments from parents. Samantha Smith, mum to three children in Sturminster Newton High School stated, “I’m no good at reading instructions. I like to be able to work through something and I found I could do that with the Insight system. The school does provide an idiot’s guide but I’ve never read it. I learned it by playing with it”. Other reactions include, “I think it’s a great asset for parents to keep in touch with how their children are getting on in school”, “Thanks for the emails. We are now finding out what —- isn’t bringing home and telling us about!” Other parents have commented that they like the way information presented is laid out because much of the information is presented in graphical format; it is easy understand and interpret the information they are viewing. Insight has given them all the information they want in one place – why didn’t we do this earlier.
There is no doubt that as part of the co-ordinated effort to improve information management and communication within the school, Insight has delivered the parental aspect to the satisfaction of all involved. This package has allowed us to deliver the tremendous amount of information we now record to any interested parent „as it happens‟. We are continuing to develop this aspect of our provision and are keen to explore future developments