Capita LA Conference 2012 – Alton Towers – Learning Gateway Product Update

Post 3 in this mini-series giving you the information from the Capita LA Event… and up this time; a bit of history of the SIMS Learning Gateway product with where it’s headed. Incidentally at this point – this is probably the worst product name! It is NOT – never has been, never will be, was never supposed to be – a Learning Gateway. Nor was it ever going to be a replacement for! I did have some great discussions with Phil Neal and new product manager Ben Jones about this.

Now we have got that out of the way – what was this session all about? In short – the latest developments to the SIMS Learning Gateway [SLG] (grrr – there’s that name again!). Ben Jones (and a nice big welcome to the new product manager) told us how his intention is to revitalise the product into playing a key role in a school’s parental engagement policy whilst providing return on investment for schools.

Ben Jones, took over in Feb 2012… and was frank (as most of us as an audience were with him) about the need for updates in a dramatically changing market place. The original product has been around since 2006; and Home School communications have changed a lot since then. There are many more products on the market – many with significantly more polished interfaces.

However, despite that backdrop – over 41 LAs host SLG. This is roughly 1 in 2 Secondaries and 1 in 8 Primaries. 450 are self hosted, 650 hosted on Capita Platform. Those are massive statistics, and its still rising…

This is a changing market – and not surprisingly after the demise of BECTA, there was a drop off in school take up. Since then, there has also been a push back against the drive.

Making good progress with the Assessment for Learning, driven by changes in the primary sector. Drive for quicker feedback and monitoring of truancy.

So what has been the success driving SLG adoption? This all centres around maximising the potential of SIMS. From the first post in this mini-series, I talked about Schools being data rich, and not quite knowing what to do with it… well SLG can help. It provides simple tools for viewing data, and can be a way of getting it in. The less IT literate amongst us are often happier with browser access – this is direct feedback from Schools. The future development of SLG is targetted to allow access from all tablets inc iPads.

The other driver is still parental engagement – which still forms part of Ofsted requirements. Despite some of the perceptions, it can offer cost and efficiency savings through reporting to parents online rather than on paper. In turn, this can drive up School standards and the School Community thought better feedback to parents and increasing reporting timescales. As a direct correlation to this, one of the latest updates to SLG surrounds parents. Data collection sheets are a classic case of inefficiency. These are traditionally printed and sent home with Students or completed on parents events. The online version will allow changes to be reported at the time, directly. An important note – the School stays in control of data at all times, choosing what changes get made; and like with the rest of the SLG framework – what information is shown.

What schools who are using the product actually say then? This may surprise you – direct honest feedback on the failings!

Communications and messaging
Lack of understanding of capability. Redesigned marketing materials, with real life implementations
Template how to guides and starter sheets available, based on real schools
How to videos and guides
Production of news letters, to keep users informed

The most important part of this discussion – and it was more of a discussion than a presentation – was outlining what was coming up.


  • Parental two way communication… Data collection sheets. Parents view what you want them to see, and allow them to modify it for approval by school.
  • Online reports will open in new window
  • Profiles, screen jumping to top of the page on refresh fixed
  • Report card, hide historical reports
  • Data collection sheet (more detail below)

Data collection sheet detailed discussion…
This feature was driven by the desire to reduce the need for paper copies (which get lost) and school chasing parents.

The system works through reusing drop down lists populated by options in SIMS – helping ensure data consistency. That being said, in certain areas, you will also be able to add free text where option not available.

To ensure legal compliance, you can hide contacts where “Do not disclose is set”

Marking a shift in the development in SLG – you might be surprised to seen that the screen is in a wizard format – actually making it visually pleasing for the user. According to Ben, this is part of a drive for the “new SLG” to be much more user friendly. The wizard displays as a series of screens:

  • Basic details
  • Contacts
  • Medical
  • Dietary
  • Travel
  • Ethnicity

Currently missing is parental responsibility, eg when to teach PHSE. This is coming in autumn, when ability to choose which wizard screens are available.

As to be expected with a wizard – a “finish” option shows you the entries you have made with confirmation. This removes the ability to make other changes after, until they are approved. The School can view the information in Routines, SLG, Data Collection. This is not auto copying yet. Instead, until added in Autumn, there is a copy option with a link to where the data needs to go. You then mark them as actioned and closed.


  • Auto writeback, with validation
  • SLG teacher attendance iPad compatibility, popup with bigger buttons
  • Homework enhancements to include homework data fields in reporting
  • Mark sheet autosave

Coming soon

  • Mobile view versions
  • Drive adoption of student use through above
  • Options web part for choosing from above

And the future of SLG? The roadmap on SupportNet shows all – and is being regularly updated by Ben. The product can only grow with the support and feedback from the community.

  • Ui refresh of web parts for student details… Spring
  • Mobile views
  • Password reset process
  • Discover integration… Could lead to governor website, slt, parents view of their child as part of cohort
  • Homework enhancements
  • Pick which documents to publish

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