Choosing a School Management System

School Management SystemsThe school I work at is currently investigating whether our current SMS (School Management System) meets our needs, and if there are any better alternatives out there. As someone invited to take part in this discussion, I thought I’d sit down and think about what are my must haves for any School Management System.

Here is my list. Note that I am primarily a teacher and involved in pastoral care and behaviour management…

Features any School Management System must have:

General:

  • Fast. Speed is important
  • Access. I need to be able to access the system when I need to.
  • Technology Agnostic. I should be able to access the SMS on whatever device I have in my hand at the time. I shouldn’t have to pay for this feature either.
  • User Interface. The systems should be clean (not too much stuff all over the place), concise (only show the stuff I need to see), consistent (menus, buttons, options all in the same place every time), handle errors (don’t let me kill the thing).

Teacher stuff:

  • Timetables. Student and staff timetables should be accessible on any device, whenever and wherever I am
  • Roll marking. I should be able to mark my class roll, pc roll, sport roll and any other roll, on any device, whenever and wherever I am
  • Smart absences. The system should tell me if a student was marked absent but is here now, of was marked present but isn’t in my class.
  • Behaviour Notes. I should be able to see behaviour issues of the student
  • Behaviour noting. The system should allow me to quickly and easily add behaviour notes (ie. detention given etc) on the fly, on any device… you get the picture
  • Reporting. Allow me to have a mark book, or synchronise with my LMS, and write reports in an easy manner. I should be able to import my reports from something like a spreadsheet, as well.

Students and Family:

  • Parent portal. Parents should be able to see their information – and be able to update it.
  • Medical records. These should be able to be accessed and updated online (no special app required) – as an organiser of camps etc, currency and correctness of this information is vital.
  • Fees. Inquire, pay etc.
  • Student Timetables. What will my student miss if I take them on holiday?
  • Behaviour notes (only the public ones) – what has my child done?
  • Automated emails. There should be a method where if a record is updated, depending on what it is, a daily digest gets sent to the parties involved, allowing for accurate and timely reporting.
  • SMS/texting. The school should be able to text important, or urgent, messages to individuals, groups or the whole.

Data stuff:

  • Expandable. The school needs to be able to add bits to the system as required.
  • Extensible. It should work with our login system and most major LMS (Learning Management Software) apps, e.g. Moodle, and cloud services (Google Apps for Education, Microsoft Skydrive etc)
  • Access to underlying data. Afterall, it is the school’s data – it would be great to do our own custom queries and reports without having to pay for them (our data!)
  • Database. We should be able to flesh it out to have data we need, not just what the company thinks we need.
  • Automated, and easy backups. Does this need to be explained?
  • Exportable. If we decide to move to another system, or for any reason, we should have access to our data. Eg. we should be able to do a database dump.

What it doesn’t need:

  • It doesn’t need to be an LMS
  • It doesn’t need to be an ePortfolio
  • It doesn’t need to be payroll
  • It doesn’t need to be a global markbook,
    in other words,
  • It DOESN’T NEED TO DO EVERYTHING!

There are plenty of options out there that do these jobs better than well, and while it should be able to work with those, it doesn’t need to replicate them. Work smarter, not harder.

What do you think should be on the list? Add your ideas in the comments below!

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