Improving engagement in a school setting has always been of huge importance, stretching back to when it was best achieved via a chat at the school gates or a series of letters home. Thinking more recently, the last decade has seen huge changes in the way that schools reach out to parents and work with internal stakeholders, reflecting the rapid pace at which technology has developed in everyday life.
Since 2008, one of our most popular solutions for supporting and developing engagement strategies in schools has been SIMS Learning Gateway. Designed to make the data within SIMS more accessible, SIMS Learning Gateway, or SLG, allows schools to easily and securely share information between parents, teachers and pupils through an online portal.
SLG represented something of a breakthrough at the time, providing flexible and remote access to the SIMS environment, presenting schools with the ability to keep parents more up-to-date with many aspects of their child’s school life.
However, in the time that has passed since the arrival of SLG, a great deal has changed in both the way that schools operate and the broader digital landscape.
The most visible change can be seen in the rise of mobile technology through smart phones and tablet devices, significantly impacting how we consume information and communicate, fuelled by ubiquitous usage of apps and software.
At the same time, we’ve seen greater propensity to capture and utilise a broad range of education data providing schools and parents with more information than ever before to help driving learning outcomes.
This has led to the creation of increasingly specialised software that can drill down into the fine details of personalised learning journeys, with parents able to gain insight from the comfort of their own homes through a range of digital services.
A vision for the future of education engagement
SIMS are committed to support every learner to achieve their full potential by informing and helping parents to effectively support and accelerate their child's learning.
In my previous article, I outlined the SIMS vision for engagement and our plans to consolidate our products to provide a single Parent and Student product which includes schools updates, payment and communication services, homework and extra-curricular activities.
This article takes a look at some of the SIMS apps which make up the Engagement portfolio and are effective tools to reduce teacher workload, engage parents and support learners.
SIMS Parent app
The SIMS Parent app provides a simple, secure and reliable way for parents to access key information about their child’s school life. The app offers access to information such as attendance data, behaviour, homework reminders and school reports, in addition to extra-curricular activities and after-school clubs.
One of the challenges for schools in improving parental engagement is finding ways to connect with ‘hard to reach’ parents and families. In our increasingly-busy world, the SIMS Parent service provides parents with a perfect platform for receiving information from schools frequently, consistently and with clarity. The days of letters being sent home from school and getting lost in transition can be a thing of the past, providing schools with a trackable system and an audit trail that can be evidenced.
SIMS Teacher app
Teaching in a busy, modern classroom is, without doubt, a very different prospect today than it was a decade ago. As well as teaching, teachers are required to carry out a multitude of essential but time-consuming tasks.
The SIMS Teacher app helps to reduce much of that workload by making some of those everyday tasks more straightforward. Actions such as taking the register can be complete with a few touchscreen gestures, while information such as behaviour or achievement points can be viewed for a while class at a glance, with the ability to access more detail if needed.
The app also provides teachers with the ability to rapidly complete and update assessment tasks for their pupils, which, when combined with integrations to partner products such as Microsoft OneNote, creates a fully joined-up process for monitoring pupil performance and progress.
Effectively the glue that holds it all together, SIMS ID performs numerous essential tasks that help schools create a reliable platform for successful engagement.
Perhaps the most visible function of SIMS ID is to provide teachers, staff and pupils with a single login to access multiple applications via the cloud, making access to a wide range of data and service possible at any time and in any location.
In addition to supporting integration between other SIMS solutions, SIMS ID integrates seamlessly with Google and Microsoft Office 365, including functionality such as sending timetable events, helping schools to create an always-on, always-available environment in line with the way we all operate.
This becomes even more pertinent in connection with Hosted SIMS with SIMS ID performing a crucial role in connecting your services stored in the cloud to the desktop access points used every day in schools.
By creating this holistic and integrated ICT solution, SIMS ID enables schools to offer a more complete ecosystem for their services that benefits everyone – pupils, parents, teachers and senior leaders.
Pay360 Education Payments
Previously known as SIMS Agora, Pay360 Education Payments is our fully-integrated, online payment solution that helps schools collect payments from parents easily, cost-effectively and with security. As a stand-alone solution, Pay360 Education Payments has always been positioned outside the currently functionality of SLG, but its role in providing a complete engagement solution is essential.
By effectively creating a customised online shop for all kinds of payments, including activities, uniform and primary school meals (with SIMS Dinner Money), Pay360 Education Payments helps schools take a bite out of their administration processes, potentially saving hours of time every week.
In terms of engagement, Pay360 Education Payments allows schools to offer parents an easy-to-use platform for managing payments online.
Bringing it all together
Making use of the entire suite of apps within the engagement solution provides schools with the ability to provide an accessible and flexible approach to almost all interactions. Whether you’re looking to make life easier for teachers, effectively engage parents or support senior leaders with actionable insights to drive learning outcomes.