We all have to remember that doing census will be disappearing in 3 years anyway when the DfE Data Exchange comes online and is sucking our data directly and more regularly...
[Awaits screams from 27000 head teachers]
Census is not really that hard, the validations are a bit of a bugger, the issue is communication of change of requirements from DfE has been know to be only 24 hours in advance of census day (giving suppliers no chance to make changes!).
To answer the other point, there is only 1 schools census 3 times a year. Depending on the phase and type of school you have to return different information, but the structure is the same.
There are about 6 different types of standard return for schools (excluding financial ones) and about 30 overall across the sector, a lot at LA level.
PS: I know this because I directed the construction and structure of the census' for Aspen... although take no responsibility for it's rollout!
The required output is reasonably well documented -76 pages of technical specification for 2015 - although I'm not sure that covers Welsh flavours, (it definitely doesn't cover Scotland!). How you then get that from a particular system is down to the system and not documented at all. The DEF do provide validation tools but how helpful that is will depend on your software. Perhaps as big a problem assuming someone can dedicate a few man years of development time to actually produce such a thing would be support - when it breaks on the day, who are schools even going to call?
Regarding returns we have multiple flavours:
- Two vanilla bog standard returns over Spring and Summer.
- Post-16 hell in Autumn (this one is nasty and comes whilst the end of year transition hasn't settled down).
- CES Census for faith schools.
- Schools Workforce Census.
- Whatever Wales, NI and Scotland do because I have no experience of those LAs. The Welsh one probably needs the MIS available in Welsh though.
Bear in mind major changes get announced but the suppliers don't get the information until too late with changes often missed, making the DfE scramble to fix it in another census or a back-dated one.
Also consider it isn't just the DfE you have to worry about. Anyone in on Exams Download Day knows the horror of exam boards sending rubbish and malformed files EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. I have never seen a year where an exam board hasn't screwed up.
If last year was anything to go by, they could use a bit of Azure or Amazon Cloud as their servers fell over due to heavy traffic until after midday.
Eh? I thought exam officers all logged on at 1min past midnight!
Yes, cloud was designed for this sort of thing. I'm sure someone like Rackspace would absolutely LOVE them to come a customer, would be a perfect case study.
Was quite an eye opener when one of the AO's was revealed to be under the impression that schools update their Learner record information more than 3 times a year (ie. at census time)
Which brings its own lovely brand of hell as your MIS dutifully transmits the exams data which is subsequently disregarded by the AO because the students name isn't the same...
and THAT is why we have a 12 month staggered roll out of the A2C interface processes.
Yes, eye opening is an understatement! Particularly how expectation by the designers and the reality from the exams officers and software suppliers is so vastly different. The design has solely the AOs in mind... Once again not the customers (schools).
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