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MIS Systems Thread, Changing from SIMS in Technical; Originally Posted by GREED We all have to remember that doing census will be disappearing in 3 years anyway when ...
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    Quote Originally Posted by GREED View Post
    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...
    Data Exchange, as in your article - "The Data Landscape is Changing - Are we ready for it"? This kind of thing has been talked about for years.

    I'm not a betting man but I will bet it fizzles and dies because, if the article is anything to go by, someone really doesn't understand the problem. The last few paragraphs of that article are IMO laughable, also quite insulting to schools!

    The biggest reason the schools census 'works' is because school funding is predicated on the submission. That's the key motivation for the schools to do the work and the key reasons the data quality can be relied on in terms of the broad brush stuff - pupil numbers. What motivation is there for them to feed everyone else quality 'master' data? Is there even such a thing as 'master' data in some kind of absolute sense? It might seem an odd concept, but there might be more than one truth out there. So for instance, A child's surname might be different for a given context even in the same moment, they are known to one school as X but known to social services as Y. Or schools might just record something about a child almost as a place holder - "Will bring address tomorrow" might appear in the school systems address - should that overwrite the DFE information, which having beeg sourced from the feeder primary is at that moment, 'better quality'? Many of the problems are not easily solved with automation and having been generally given more autonomy over the last decade, why do you think schools will generally put effort into arbitrary data quality standards where it is not absolutely central to their operations?

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    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post
    This is part of the problem open source attempts have come up against. Schools aren't willing to take the risk on a tiny, untested provider with no track record even though they usually have the same or similar legal obligations as the larger suppliers with regards to data protection, data security and so on.
    It's not that, it is Business Continuity - what do we do when when you go under a week before the delivery of this years Census and the software breaks?
    And open Source just isn't perceived as secure or corporate enough for the edutech sector.
    Then why are my web servers Apache? Why are people using Moodle? The problem isn't the perception of "open source" or that open source can't work. The problem is perhaps the problem space itself; an MIS for an English Secondary school is quite a particular thing. It is misleading that it has to be generic enough to work in schools - any implementation will be specific to the School and the cost of implementation will likely be higher than the initial purchase. It's pretty specific, so your access to development is minimised and the minimum you need to bring to the party to play would require a substantial development resource.

    Coming through this 'entering the market' process is painstakingly slow for newer suppliers, open source or otherwise, hence why there are about 4 of us in the last decade who have actually made a dent in the state sector, and many that have come and gone in that period too!
    And nothing much has changed in terms of the solutions that are offered. No really big ideas.

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    GREED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    Data Exchange, as in your article - "The Data Landscape is Changing - Are we ready for it"? This kind of thing has been talked about for years.

    I'm not a betting man but I will bet it fizzles and dies because, if the article is anything to go by, someone really doesn't understand the problem. The last few paragraphs of that article are IMO laughable, also quite insulting to schools!
    Well... Thank you... not sure how to respond to that. Given I worked within the project for months (not to mention the time put to writing the article).

    Are you suggesting I don't understand the problem?

    I respect these are your opinions, might not respect your saying the thing is laughable....

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    It's not that, it is Business Continuity - what do we do when when you go under a week before the delivery of this years Census and the software breaks?
    Sure, that's the risk I'm talking about.

    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post

    Then why are my web servers Apache? Why are people using Moodle? The problem isn't the perception of "open source" or that open source can't work. The problem is perhaps the problem space itself; an MIS for an English Secondary school is quite a particular thing. It is misleading that it has to be generic enough to work in schools - any implementation will be specific to the School and the cost of implementation will likely be higher than the initial purchase. It's pretty specific, so your access to development is minimised and the minimum you need to bring to the party to play would require a substantial development resource.
    Of course there is a multitude of highly important, even fundamental, open source software on the web like Apache etc but it's an entirely different market over in MIS land. Moodle might work, but VLEs aren't considered mission critical/funding dependent, so plenty of people will take a punt on those. You're right about the market's specific requirements and that's perhaps why open source is not a great fit. Generally, if the development requirements are large, it works better in software with huge possible userbases.

    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    And nothing much has changed in terms of the solutions that are offered. No really big ideas.
    Interested to hear what you'd consider a big idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GREED View Post
    Well... Thank you... not sure how to respond to that. Given I worked within the project for months (not to mention the time put to writing the article).

    Are you suggesting I don't understand the problem?
    In your article is sometimes a little difficult to distill reason from the rhetoric...

    "Because actually the school has not entered some compulsory or legislative information about the new intake yet (often waiting for the week before the census is due to do that little chore)."

    It's things like "little chore" that start to set a particular tone. Any information stored by a school about a data subject is available, by law, to that data subject on request. So

    "Too often in current and previous occupations have I heard stories about not allowing certain data areas or past records to be even opened up to parents, students or others."

    Is misleading. Schools want to send parents and students meaningful, quality data. We don't 'withhold' any data - we can't by law. But we don't send raw CBDS XML to parents either, tempting as it might be! We try and maximise the quality of the INFORMATION that is available to parents, not the quantity of arbitrary data. Data is very much a product used IN a process, it is not the end in and of itself.

    "Another angle for this staunch protectionism"

    "Staunch protectionism" is rhetoric. Of what exactly - data they need to do their job? I guess they would be protective of that!

    "Data Exchange will be taking into account the apparent ‘mastery of data’; what is the master data source."

    What if there is no master? What if different people need a particular view of data and what if the priorities of those people don't align? What actual question was this 'master data model' meant to solve and is that solution actually applicable to any other question? Is any of this new? What data sharing has been tried before? How successful was it and if the benefits of data are so desirable, why haven't those previous attempts taken over the world?

    I respect these are your opinions, might not respect your saying the thing is laughable....
    Rest assured, I always respect disrespect.
    Last edited by pcstru; 10th May 2014 at 12:16 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post
    Interested to hear what you'd consider a big idea.
    OK. I'll swap for next weeks lottery numbers.

    I have some vague notion of moving on from the structured, relational model - moving the problem up from "how do I record a representation of the world in schema" to "how do I impose schema on the world when I want to ask it a question with some (dynamic/arbitrary) consistency".

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    Difference between Moodle and any attempt thus far of a open-source UK focused MIS system is Moodle has the backing of universities who have the resources to develop and maintain the systems. Maintain is the key, years ago, before SIMS every LA had a designed their own MIS system, in Suffolk it was called SMAC, but when the time came for a rewrite in C, they didn't want to invest. If you look around, quite a few good ideas have been developed over the years, but the bit where they fall down is the maintenance. Before any code is written you almost need a large community to commit to funding it for a set number of years, document the requirements, then start building something. Perhaps even accept it will only replace one aspect of the MIS system at first then build upon it.

    With regards to @pcstru points about the data exchange, he is views will be polar, your got the almost day-to-day guy going up against the visionary, between the two you'll get what will actually happen. I think what is important @GREED is that the census is generally a clean up session, the tasks you often put off get done at once, some things, like data collection sheets that need to be manually entered won't get entered until closer to the census - it's unlikely your need to enter a pupil ethnicity on the first day of term - home address however I would say is critical, as is name (legal birth certificate AND known as). Long term the barriers of data re-enter will disappear, how long, who knows. I theory, you apply for a school place, the school gets all the details from day one when you fill in the form. The other aspect of the census is it gives you a overview that isn't normally seen. Seeing the odd day absence might seem ok, but when the cold hard summary comes in, it could be pretty shocking, which kinda leads me onto...

    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post
    Interested to hear what you'd consider a big idea.
    I would say 10 years ago Bromcom and their introduction of electronic registers was a big idea, not much else has really happened, personally, big data is the next big thing. I've been looking at Arbor and how they mash up those lovely extracts the DfE produce from all those returns schools do and give them a overview of the your school vs similar vs all schools. I think, this is the way forward.

    EDIT:

    Durr, the internet, how did I forget that little beauty - with all it's cloudy, virtualy goodness.
    Last edited by matt40k; 10th May 2014 at 12:33 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    In your article is sometimes a little difficult to distill reason from the rhetoric...

    "Because actually the school has not entered some compulsory or legislative information about the new intake yet (often waiting for the week before the census is due to do that little chore)."

    It's things like "little chore" that start to set a particular tone. Any information stored by a school about a data subject is available, by law, to that data subject on request. So

    "Too often in current and previous occupations have I heard stories about not allowing certain data areas or past records to be even opened up to parents, students or others."

    Is misleading. Schools want to send parents and students meaningful, quality data. We don't 'withhold' any data - we can't by law. But we don't send raw CBDS XML to parents either, tempting as it might be! We try and maximise the quality of the INFORMATION that is available to parents, not the quantity of arbitrary data. Data is very much a product used IN a process, it is not the end in and of itself.

    "Another angle for this staunch protectionism"

    "Staunch protectionism" is rhetoric. Of what exactly - data they need to do their job? I guess they would be protective of that!

    "Data Exchange will be taking into account the apparent ‘mastery of data’; what is the master data source."

    What if there is no master? What if different people need a particular view of data and what if the priorities of those people don't align? What actual question was this 'master data model' meant to solve and is that solution actually applicable to any other question? Is any of this new? What data sharing has been tried before? How successful was it and if the benefits of data are so desirable, why haven't those previous attempts taken over the world?



    Rest assured, I always respect disrespect.
    I will respond to each of your points in full tomorrow... but I just wanted to say that I do respect the opinion of someone on the ground. I have offered an opinion based on year of experience on both sides of the fence and working inside DFE towers. Your opinion is equally valid Matt makes an excellent point about our viewpoints. But my reaction is to your push one step into saying my opinion is wrong (laughable), rather than a different viewpoint. Your opinions are from your daily life and there are aspects you have mentioned that in my mind are while the way things are, not how they should be and just because x schools does it x way, doesn't mean it is the right way! Or rather the best way.

    Quickly on protectionism too, if you read the article properly by that I refer to how protective school heads are about legitimate others having access to the data because of the way the school is perceived as a result.

    More after sleep :-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    With regards to @pcstru points about the data exchange, he is views will be polar, your got the almost day-to-day guy going up against the visionary, between the two you'll get what will actually happen.
    I can only feel sorry for the "almost day to day guy".
    Last edited by pcstru; 10th May 2014 at 01:08 AM.

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    @pcstru just to clarify your point "we don't withhold any data - we can't by law", actually you can, there are provisions under other laws which allow for information to be withheld, mainly if the release of information would put the child at risk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by penfold_99 View Post
    @pcstru just to clarify your point "we don't withhold any data - we can't by law", actually you can, there are provisions under other laws which allow for information to be withheld, mainly if the release of information would put the child at risk.
    Requests under DPA are made as subject requests, that is the subject OR guardian with parental responsibility has to make the request. So yes, it is kind of implicit that we don't just send data to just anyone but given a valid request, we cannot withhold subject data.

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    Difference between Moodle and any attempt thus far of a open-source UK focused MIS system is Moodle has the backing of universities who have the resources to develop and maintain the systems. Maintain is the key, years ago, before SIMS every LA had a designed their own MIS system, in Suffolk it was called SMAC, but when the time came for a rewrite in C, they didn't want to invest. If you look around, quite a few good ideas have been developed over the years, but the bit where they fall down is the maintenance. Before any code is written you almost need a large community to commit to funding it for a set number of years, document the requirements, then start building something. Perhaps even accept it will only replace one aspect of the MIS system at first then build upon it.
    As I recall SMAC wasn't what we would call an MIS, it was geared specifically to support special needs & the centralised statementing process. It was a long time ago though, so I could be misremembering. I think that was true for many LEA's, their internal own rolled systems were rather narrower than what we now think of as a MIS operating at school or LA level.

    These days I don't think it's just maintenance that would be a problem. The initial build would be huge. Even companies with considerable MIS experience find it difficult to build new/replacement product - look at what has happened and is happening with Progresso. That should be a sobering lesson for anyone thinking that building a product is easy. I don't think schools could have the patience required to get past the teething problems an Open Source system would inevitably have. The MIS is central to the business of a successful school, you would have to be extremely brave to take those risks for the sake of saving a few tens of thousands a year. Would you do it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    Requests under DPA are made as subject requests, that is the subject OR guardian with parental responsibility has to make the request. So yes, it is kind of implicit that we don't just send data to just anyone but given a valid request, we cannot withhold subject data.
    I believe under the education act, subject data can still be withheld.

    For example if a child is on the at risk register and the parent (who is of concern) requests information about the student (such as where they are living) if releasing the information places the child at risk the information can be legally withheld.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    "Because actually the school has not entered some compulsory or legislative information about the new intake yet (often waiting for the week before the census is due to do that little chore)."

    It's things like "little chore" that start to set a particular tone. Any information stored by a school about a data subject is available, by law, to that data subject on request. So

    "Too often in current and previous occupations have I heard stories about not allowing certain data areas or past records to be even opened up to parents, students or others."

    Is misleading. Schools want to send parents and students meaningful, quality data. We don't 'withhold' any data - we can't by law. But we don't send raw CBDS XML to parents either, tempting as it might be! We try and maximise the quality of the INFORMATION that is available to parents, not the quantity of arbitrary data. Data is very much a product used IN a process, it is not the end in and of itself.
    I think you have misunderstood the meaning of what was being pointed out. I am commenting on experience first and foremost. I know that this occurs in schools and it is considered a chore to enter data purely for census. You seem to have focused very much on the point that the data stored is available to parents and students, which is perfectly true. I however have focused very much on the main subject of the piece which is how will the Data Exchange affect schools and their current processes. I have in no way suggested that schools send data in raw formats, in fact my focus here (although granted I realise this is not quite so clear) is on how data is shared or not shared via parent portals. You have taken some aspects out of context too to back up your points. My focus too was the fact that schools do not want to share the data they have because they are often unaware of the quality of what has been written, and I refer you to the point about behaviour information. How also is it misleading if I am referring to my own experiences given this is an opinion, as well as a fact in the schools I have worked with?

    "Another angle for this staunch protectionism"

    "Staunch protectionism" is rhetoric. Of what exactly - data they need to do their job? I guess they would be protective of that!
    I think I have responded to this, but what I am referring to is how schools wish to protect their data from reaching others, not with the focus of DPA and protecting the individual, but for the fact that the data in its current form (not format, but quality) can show the school in a bad light.

    "Data Exchange will be taking into account the apparent ‘mastery of data’; what is the master data source."

    What if there is no master? What if different people need a particular view of data and what if the priorities of those people don't align? What actual question was this 'master data model' meant to solve and is that solution actually applicable to any other question? Is any of this new? What data sharing has been tried before? How successful was it and if the benefits of data are so desirable, why haven't those previous attempts taken over the world?
    Well now this is the million dollar question, and i'm glad you picked this up because it was cunningly placed there to ask these questions (I really do hope to realised that...): How can one have a master data source, and funnily enough I was having an excellent chat with @PhilNeal on just this topic. A view of the data is one thing, that is not connected as such to the master data source. However, where there are two sources that consider themselves to be the master data source (for instance, school is one, the social care department of the LA is another), you have to consider how can they work together. I'n my opinion (and @PhilNeal I am sure won't mind me saying broadly agrees with me here based on that conversation) they cannot by any technological means without an human interaction. I believe that the Data Exchange is not properly taking this into account, and actually schools & LAs, and more so the DfE, need to start thinking hard about this, lest the Data Exchange does not actually make any difference (or does, worse) to our lives.

    I'm not sure where you got master data MODEL from, I refer to source of data. Therefore, I'm suggesting Data Exchange is trying to replace the vast collection numbers we currently have, and eventually to enable information that is shared currently by a multitude of means not just with DfE but other services internal and external of the school in a more convenient and joined up way, in a semi-automated fashion and in a timely manner. No none of this is new, but the way this is being done is new to the UK. Other countries such as states in the US and now in Australia are working down this path, but ultimately taking advantage of the technology that has been around for quite a while... finally. Because there is very little measure of success either way at such a grand scale, that does not mean it should not be done and we stick with this very manual census and CTF system we have had for what seems like ever. We do however need to proceed cautiously, ensuring the technology works, and ensure that schools and LAs, and the government, have the time to evolve at a pace they can work with! That is probably my biggest concern, and that takes me right back to the top where I consider if schools are ready for this. IT IS NOT A DIG AT SCHOOLS! I am saying that schools need (in a positive way) help to be brought into this new facility, and I'm not convinced there is now nor going to be that assistance.
    @pcstru I'm happy to talk further, possibly offline and even a call if you want. I am very happy to explain & explore my opinions (!), but if you want to explore my competence to speak to this topic, can we please take that offline? Lets keep it professional because we always have good conversations on here otherwise you and I

    To be honest... I'm just glad you read it!
    Last edited by GREED; 10th May 2014 at 11:38 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kinster View Post
    What does everyone think of SIMS? I'm looking at alternative systems and am wondering if other people have changed over to an alternative?
    This was the original question posed by kinster. I think this thread is now heading way off topic. If it fails to come back in line, I shall consult with my fellow mods on closing it.

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