Same thing each year
I'll warn you a bit of a rant before I start and I'll go the short version had multiple patches for Exams over the last few months, anyhow off on holiday from about the 1st to 15th July thought I would go before the summer my 50th and had a fair bit on over the summer. Get back multiple emails from LEA and Exams Officer need to install Exams patch 18307 but probably best to do summer upgrade first ok, the information about this and what I needed to do seemed to change about 3 or 4 times, never mind we were going to move the SIM's Server to a new VM in over the summer then upgrade, anyway follow instructions summer upgrade and LEA run the patch after It have done the Diagnostic bit. Exams Officer deletes the manual entries she had done in Marksheet, we must have spent a good few hours sorting all this out. What happens Exams day we end up having to re-enter all this results back in Manually as we have still have an issue with this so was a waste of time doing the initial patch etc.
We also have another set of results into that won't import in on the day we download the Exam files two out of the three subjects are fine but third just won't import in we have a look and can't see the level in the Grade set so presume it is a Basdata issue so onto phone to Exams re-download, try again no joy, phone LEA who have a look oh try the Exam board we say we have tried this but no joy oh try again does anyone get the feeling we are going to be going round and round well your right three more phone calls to Exam board then LEA who to be honest were doing their best final call to Exams board oh a few schools have been having a similar issue theirs a SIM's patch that might work for that sorry but (WTF) phone LEA oh we will have to check, by now its 1.30pm and she still has to print and collate them for the students for 10am Exam officers is nearly in tears then suggest we phone someone we had been speaking to at another school who come up with a way we could get these in manually as we couldn't do it through a Marksheet as it kept giving us an error. So use the method suggested and just manually input these and print these off before we get kicked out of school. Exams Officer gets a phone call that evening their its a and known issue and theirs a SIM's patch cheers but have had to manually do this with advice from another Exams officer.
So cheers Capita rant over feel much better now, as I said this is the short version.
Same thing each year
Completely agree with you but might just me but this year seems worst than ever and to get to the Exams day without these issues being sorted even though we had followed all the recommendations is ridiculous especially with all the resources Capita have available. Don't get me wrong SIM's as a product is pretty good as in it does an awful lot and where something else does it better but and links into SIM's we have bought that product rather than the SIM's modules. It is just constant issues with Upgrades, Updates and Patch, Upgrades, Updates and Patch's which to be honest don't seem to offer much extra functionality but seem to be fixes for things that don't work right and then end up breaking something else.
The Spring upgrade was the first upgrade I thought actually offered a lot of extra functionality and looked really good and what happens someone decides to set a ridiculous refresh on the data to dashboards and causes massive performance issues for quite a few schools, which we were still having until the Summer Upgrade even after all the patches and is part of the reason we went to Server 2012 instead of 2008 R2 so we could throw more resources at this. It just the fact that this is also taking up more and more of my time to try and resolve issues caused by the upgrades, updates etc particularly this year.
Phil must be on holiday, normally he's blaming the exams boards and he's got a point, but why hasn't he though of using his power to force the exams boards to play fair? Oh you want to change your technical spec? Oh really? Well maybe I don't want to include those changes so close to the deadline - oh and did I mention I've banded the other MIS suppliers together? [Evil laugh] Oh ok, we'll do it this once, but if you ever try this again, we're taking u off our list of approved exam boards
@Matt44 I was indeed away for the weekend!
We have been working with the exam groups to improve the process and largely they have agreed to move to a homogenous method of working with on-line access to base data and results issuing. However implementation has been postponed on a number of occasions.
@Steven_Cleaver sorry you’ve had a hard time. The exam system is hugely complicated with vast numbers of qualifications from many bodies and I’m not certain that it is possible for all schools to have a zero issue results day until the changes mentioned above have been implemented. Even then, I’d be surprised if the first run went without any issues but they should be easier to resolve.
Dealing with boards & governments is the proverbial “herding cats” problem; we get information at the last moment or later. Everyone including us makes a couple of errors which have to be corrected.
This year we made extensive changes to the way SIMS deals with the various problems encountered with the equivalences and in general I think this paid off as we had very few issues that couldn't be dealt with promptly. One of the side effects of this change was that had results been entered already they would need to be re-keyed. We did issue notices to warn schools both on SupportNet and to LAs suggesting that results should not be entered until after the summer update.
We deal with errors, ours, the boards and governments by issuing patches and that always makes it look as if all the errors are ours – they aren't.
Can we do better? The team is constantly looking to do better so I’m sure the answer is yes!
PhilNeal Cheers for responding, I am glad that the Process is being looked at and can imagine with all the various qualifications and exam boards this is very difficult. It is just really frustrating when you follow all the guidance given which to be honest wasn't very clear in regards to patching, upgrade SIM's, re-keying, follow various steps and running various things you still have issues on Exams day. I am not saying the fault completely lies with Capita as I am sure it doesn't but is just very frustrating when you have followed all guidance as it is and you still have issues and we did get a workaround but with the guidance of another Exams Officer in the borough after spending about 5 hrs between Exam board and LEA support.
In general we have found SIM's as a set of Tools and MIS system really good especially the more we use the various features just the User Interface for showing the Analysis of data for staff not easy for staff to navigate so have created our own. For Reporting, Timetabling and various other functions excellent though the more we use this, just occasionally have issues with updates and upgrades which have seem to have happened a lot more this year for some reason but may only just be my experience.
Again Phil thanks for taking the time and effort to explain.
I am indeed referring to the A2C project although I am looking to make some changes to how we update base data if the A2C project gets delayed further.
@Steven_Cleaver thanks for your feedback. Communication is something that we have to address. We are implementing a new customer system that will allow schools to register interest in various areas for one or more people. So for example exams, timetable etc.
Interesting Phil. As are we. I share your perceived frustration at the delays in the project.
PhilNeal does this include the A2C software for downloading data from Exam boards, if so this is deffinately a step in the right direction as have found this to be a much better system for transfering of data between the school and exam boards.
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