This is a thrilling tale of the minor nightmare that is setting up a registration and billing system for our preschool. I thought I should see if anyone else had any ideas for approaches I could take.
Ideally we would like to be able to take attendance registers and calculate the appropriate bills within our MIS, SchoolBase, but I have not been able to find any useful way to make this work. The basic idea is that the preschool day is divided into five different time periods - each child may be booked to come to a range of different combinations of these sessions. A set of sessions for the week is prepaid for the term/month, but parents can book additional sessions right up to the actual session. We need to take an attendance register for these sessions. We need to record the extra sessions that were booked but not prepaid in order to bill for them, whether or not the child actually attended. The billing is further complicated as:
the rate is determined by age at the start of term, rather than by class
parents may opt to pay monthly or termly
There are plenty of extra complications but those are the core issues.
SchoolBase's core registration feature will not work as it expects every child to attend every day. It would be just about possible to use the activities feature to record attendance and take registers, but the process of entering the correct children into the correct sessions would be very unwieldy as each of the five sessions is treated as a separate entity with a separate list. In addition, this would not really help with the billing unless there was a separate activity for each age group and each billing type (so each activity would probably contain about one child).
I have had a brief look around some specialist nursery packages, and some seemed as if they might work, but they also include their own pupils records and invoice production, which would duplicate the functionality in SchoolBase, and potentially require maintaining the records in two places.
The least bad option I have come up with so far is a design for some clever spreadsheets which collect the registration and booked sessions, drawing on pupil data exported from SchoolBase. Then using macros to manipulate the data into a form which can be imported into SchoolBase's billing system Feemaster. This would be considerably more brittle, limited and labour intensive than I would like, but would probably meet all the requirements.
Does anyone know of something that might work well for us? What does anyone else use for preschool registration and billing? Would anyone like to tell me how much better their MIS is at doing this kind of thing?
I had to advise a SIMS school that had a similar problem to this, but not so much on the billing side, just the recording of sessions attended.
One of the solutions was to use a marksheet from the attendance module. Perhaps there is a similar possibility in Schoolbase, so at least you're not jumping out to an entirely different system. The pupil data is there already, use various columns to record the data, then pop out to Excel if you must before reimporting back to teh Fees system.