We may have to merge administratively with the school next door in the near future. MIS data will have to be merged as well.
School A is on SIMS and school B is on CMIS. The scenarios as far as I can see are:
School A keeps SIMS and school B moves over to SIMS, school B keeps CMIS and school A moves to CMIS or both schools keep their existing MIS and just carry on as they are (there won't be too much cross over in pupils between sites - it'll pretty much carry on as it is for the time being with pupils still going into the same building they've always used).
Assuming the first scenario, would the data from CMIS (school B) be able to be merged into a new SIMS database along with the existing SIMS data (from school A)? I assume historical data for analysis will be required so a new blank database from scratch will not be the preferred solution here (I know we could give access to the old database(s) but the ideal solution is to have all previous data available).
A name change may take place and the possibility that a new DfES number will be assigned means that a patch from Capita may be required.
Does anyone have any experience of this scenario and know the pitfalls we may encounter (apart from the obvious timetabling and admin ones)?
Not easy. The situation will depend on whether the schools do become one, ie a single DFE number. Just one example would be the Census issue, there would have to be just one submitted. As an ex implementation consultant for Serco I understand how data is taken from SIMs and imported into a new CMIS database, but an existing one I wouldnt like to say. For a real basic solution, you could create CTFs for all students at one school and then import these into the other school. It would of course only give you basic data - name, DOB, address, contacts, national assessment data etc. But you wouldnt have any 'school specific data' like internal assessments, timetables etc. IMHO you will not achieve the ideal solution. The structure of the two databases, ie tables names and designs etc will be very different. I can only suggest you speak to both Capita and Serco. I think you need to suggest to each one that to continue using their services they need to identify what it is they can do. It will cost you. Obviously if you say you are ditching their software they are unlikely to be really helpful (??). It may also be worth speaking to @michael2k6 another edugeeker, who works for Serco. Anything else I can help with just let me know.
I don't like to be the bearer of bad news, but I think that if you stick with SIMS, you're going to have a LOT of data entry ahead of you (possibly the same with CMIS, but I don't have any experience of that).
In September, we merged with another school. Both schools were using SIMS, and yet we STILL had to manually enter the vast majority of data (anything that wouldn't come across on a CTF basically, which is a hell of a lot of it!).
You will probably have to pick one MIS to use, for the simple reason that you will very likely be asked to return one census if you are merging, so all data will need to be in one database (unless you manually create your census files, which I imagine is a complete nightmare for a school of any significant size!)
As you stated you will be getting a new DfE number, you may have to start afresh with a completely new database, as this may mean you're classed as a new school at that point, so any data relating to the previous school would have to be separate from the new school's data for census and exam results purposes.
Another issue I'm aware of (with SIMS at least, I suspect CMIS is the same) is that if you are going to be seating exams on both sites, depending on the distance between the two sites, the exam boards may want you to use seperate centre numbers so to ensure that papers are delivered securely to the correct site, as a single missing paper would mean cancellation of the exam for the entire country. The problem is, SIMS doesn't support multiple centre numbers in it's exams module, and we were told by Capita (via local support) that if we went ahead with using seperate numbers, we would not receive support if anything went wrong. A bit of a pickle! However, I have created some software that will help you out if you come to that problem (I've been trying to get it made in to an EduGeek project, but no luck yet!): MIS Doesn't Support Multiple Centres? Try Exam File Split
On a technical side, if you do find you have to use one database, you then need to think about how both sites are going to access the server holding the database. We opted for terminal services on this, as there's a good mile between our two sites so running a fibre would have been ridiculously expensive.
That's all I can think of for now, if I remember any other catching points, I'll post back!
Last edited by LosOjos; 27th May 2011 at 12:40 PM.
On a side note, if you find you do have to use one database (as I suspect you will), then you do have the perfect opportunity to move to an entirely new MIS, and you should certainly have a look at what's available.
Had I been consulted on this when the decisions were being made, I'd have opted for something like ScholarPack, as it's entirely web based so can be used from any machine with an internet connection. Would have saved a fortune on terminal services, and it was free at the time! Not sure what the costing is like now though.
We have a lot of experience of bring data in from other systems and have consultants who do this as a full time job.
We were told this was not possible by our local support team Phil when transferring data from two SIMS databases in to one fresh SIMS database, it took us a considerable amount of time to transfer our data manually. The only data that was automatically transferred was that which was contained in CTF files - were we wrongly informed this was the only way?
EDIT: also, if it is possible to do that, is there a cost involved?
This might be really obvious but its worth noting I think - if you get Capita (or any third party) to do data migration, get them to list in detail what data they will deal with. It is very easy for company 'X' to say for example, your assessment data will be dealt with, but then on inspection post-data merge/export/whatever job they do, it may only be SATs data and not include some internal assessments. It is very important to be clear of the expectation and the job that will be done. Be aware of what you're being charged for!
Just some brief input. As Phil says regarding Capita, we too (Serco) can transfer data around for you. There is a consultancy charge for this. Data is relatively easy, it's the internal politics you'll have problems with if anything.
If the schools are going to be using one database, presumably you'll be using one way of managing behaviour and doing assessments? One team for dealing with attendance, etc?
If these are different in both schools at the moment, (take assessments for example) then the data may not be relevant once transfered. And, for example, if you wanted to transfer assessments in, the assessments and exams would have to be created first else there's no where to import the data (or atleast nothing to associate it to). The same principals apply with lots of areas of the software.
There is also something to consider around the amount of data you can transfer - if you have a new name and DfES number, and you're legally a new establishment, you are only entitled to have the information relevant to current learners and given to you by the responsible adult. Therefore, importing previous years data isn't possible, and things like assessments over multiple years (such as a key stage) becomes tricky.
I think it is things like this that need to be considered initially. Once you have the policies in place to deal with such issues, you can then present the ideal outcome to both Capita and Serco (and indeed any other providers you may be considering), and see which solution works best for you as one new establishment. I can't speak for Phil, but I know certainly in our case we can only really give you a rough idea of what we can and can't achieve and the cost involved without such framework, as James says, one interpretation of an assessment transfer may vary wildly from the next - and there may be additional work to do in prepping for the data to be entered.
We've done a fair old amount of these transfers now with schools merging to become academies, and indeed schools merging and just combining resources, so I'm sure we'll be able to give you some input where required. In the mean time if you think I can be of any more use to you, feel free to PM me.
JPS makes very valid points, as does michael2k6. I guess ideally, you want to take over as much data as possible, at least that which you're allowed, but i can imagine a lot of wrangling.
I like the idea of considering a completely different MIS altogether, and it fits in with the whole VfM shebang, and is an ideal time to evaluate what you're doing with exisiting companies and whether you want to continue.
The biggest issue is going to be time, and how long they are giving you before they start jumping on your back to get things converted. The worst thing you'll do is to rush into this. As was mentioned elsewhere with regard to the conversion to academy status, the pressure from management to get going will be quite high no doubt.
It sounds like you're planning for the future which is great, so when you get back from your intergalactic cruise you might want to try and get the managements together and present some of these thoughts. Certainly about policies with regards behaviour / assessment. Sometimes a clean start can be a really good thing.
LosOjos- we do provide a SIMS merge for teams and can offer a service direct to schools if required. Its been available for quite a while and has been improved over the years. (I hope it wasn't one of our people that said it couldn't be done.)
For assessment data, if you can get it out of your current system into Excel you can bring in virtually anything quite easily on your own. SIMS will match on quite a number of fields - all you have to do is define the assessments. Schools quite often use this to bring in all sorts of departmental assessments when a school policy to use SIMS is brought in.