The MIS Challenge Survey Questions

Below is the full list of question compiled and put to the MIS suppliers in the MIS Challenge.

The results will be slightly different and some questions/answers may have been summarised where there was felt issues of commercial sensitivity. This survey was not looking to expose or exploit suppliers and we greatly appreciate their time and effort in responding and being part of this project, and so such requests have been upheld.

However, the original set of questions serve another purpose; one to schools and Local Authorities who may wish to use these questions or variations of them in their own procurement or Requests for Information. Any school or Local Authority may use these questions in part or in full without restriction. As a courtesy, Graham & the Eduware Network would simply request acknowledgement that you have done so, and feedback to them of the use and any success you had during your procurement.

The full set of questions are also published in a Word document available here: The MIS Challenge

 

 

THE MIS CHALLENGE

Section 1: Product Services

Data Policies

Is you solution’s database stored locally in the school, hosted offsite by the local authority or hosted offsite in your own/leased servers/data centres? Please state which if multiple options are available.

Which method is most advantageous for schools and why?

If your solution’s database is hosted offsite, is this hosting on dedicated servers or is it hosted in the cloud (i.e. using distributed servers using services such as Amazon Cloud)?

Assuming you follow all Data Protection policies, where is the ECC is the data stored? Do you make this information available to your customers/are they actively aware? Could you prove this if questioned by customers/partners/Information Commissioner? (If data is stored outside the UK, but in the ECC, of course this still complies with the DPA, so feel free to reinforce this in your answer and help dispel any remaining myths that data MUST be stored within the UK).

Is your solution security audited by an external third party (Yes or No) and how frequently does this occur (every release, every year)?

How do you deal with security vulnerabilities? For example do you do specific security patches or are they bundled into main releases. If you use underlying technology such as Java or .NET how do you notified customers of security patches. Do you provide public information – such as reference to CVS ratings (http://cve.mitre.org/about/index.html)

What are the estimated timescales for patch\release rollout, and how much effect is required by the school or LA to update the system?

Are you registered with the Information Commissioner?

If you do host services in any form, what back-up procedures do you employ?

If you do host services in any form, what disaster recovery precautions do you employ?

Please state you minimum server specification and setup (if multiple servers are recommended) to support a single school of 1000 students and 150 staff. This would be deemed a secondary school.

Please state you minimum server specification and setup (if multiple servers are recommended) to support a single school of 300 students and 30 staff. This would be deemed a primary school.

Please describe how your solution’s database is updated including any supporting applications, services or user intervention required.

 

Markets

Which markets do you have customers in? Markets are Primary, Secondary, Independent, International British, International Other (Academies, Free Schools and other divisions should be included appropriately with the states groups).

Which markets do you typically target? Markets are Primary, Secondary, Independent, International British, International Other (Academies, Free Schools and other divisions should be included appropriately with the states groups). Note that this question is not designed to limit your audience but describe if your software is specific to a subsection of schools. Please be honest if, for example, you software is currently designed for Independent schools, but also mention if you are now or soon developing for other markets too.

 

Database Structure

What back end database technology can be used with you solution (MS-SQL, MySQL, Oracle, etc.)?

Does your data structure comply with any ISB (Information Standards Board) standards? Please use one example if Yes.

Is you data structure compatible with any SIF objects, or do you have a SIF agent? Please use one example if Yes.

 

Client/User Interface

Is your solution presented via a dedicated application or through web browser?

If you employ a browser interface, what browsers are supported currently?

If you employ a browser interface, does you solution employ HTML5?

Does your solution require any players or stud applications to support functionality (i.e. Flash Player, .Net Framework)?

Please state the Operating Systems (including versions) you solution supports.

Please state you minimum system requirements.

Please describe how your solution’s user interface is updated including any supporting applications, services or user intervention required.

 

Updates, enhancements, fixes, new features and general support

What is your typical release schedule?

How many staff do you employ per customer (as a ratio) on your helpdesk?

Where is your helpdesk located (in the UK or outside the UK)?

What are your support hours?

Do you have an online helpdesk?

Do you employ a live online helpdesk/chat facility to support customers?

What support models do you employ (for example, direct to school, via LA, via third party support)

What is your method for reporting a bug or issue?

What is your typical SLA timescales for issues of all seriousness?

What is your method for requesting an enhancement or change?

How do you engage with the market for new features and what sectors or bodies influence how and what is implemented?

Do you publish your 12 month (or more) roadmap? Please share this as part of your response (if you do).

 

Data Integration

Do you have an API?

Describe how this works. For example, does it employ web services?

Does it cover all the basic aspects for your solution (Pupil details, contact details, relationships, staff details, attendance, behaviour, markbooks, and timetable?) Please state which if only part covers, or covers more aspects.

Does your API allow write back? Please state which data elements can be written back.

If this API free to access? If there is any aspect of using the API that you charge schools or third parties for, please state. This includes charging for write back, charging for sandbox or test environment use, requirement to pay for a licence of the software (but does not include charges for consultancy or support of the software or API).

Does your solution use any other form of open standard integration or technology?

Does your solution integrate in any way with popular cloud services such as Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365?

 

Legislative Requirements

For the following questions, it is expected that your solution will provide any census or other exports stated in the defined file type and structure requested by the DfE or Awarding Organisations (An Excel export requiring user intervention for example is not acceptable as a yes answer)

Does you solution, either internally or through a third party interface, produce the School Census?

Does you solution, either internally or through a third party interface, produce the Staff Workforce Census?

Does you solution, either internally or through a third party interface, produce the Independent Census?

Does you solution, either internally or through a third party interface, produce the Key Stage Assessment Returns?

Does you solution, either internally or through a third party interface, produce the CTF File?

Does you solution, either internally or through a third party interface, produce Exam Entries and other files in EDF compatible files? Are you working towards the A2C standard?

 

Section 2: Software Characteristics

 

Core Pupil Database (Real time alerting)

Does your solution store pupil basic/demographic/personal information?

Does your solution contain all statutory fields required for School Census?

Does your solution have any real-time alerting to inform staff of changes in any aspect of ongoing observation?

Does your solution archive past student records? How far back can a student record be recovered/reviewed?

Does your solution accept the latest CTF import?

Does your solution accept the latest ATF import?

 

Pupil Attendance

Does your solution record AM/PM (Statutory) attendance?

Does your solution record lesson by lesson attendance?

Does your solution alert to patterns of absence or patterns of students consistently absent? Please elaborate if yes.

Does your solution record the number of minutes late?

Does your solution allow the storage of absence notes?

Does your solution connect with messaging systems to alert absence to parents?

Does your solution record responses through such a system, if yes?

Can a teacher see their class absences for a whole term? A whole year?

Can a school administrator see a student statutory attendance record for a whole term? A whole year?

Can a school administrator see a class/form/year group statutory attendance record for a whole term? A whole year?

Can the system report back to the Local Authority system, such as to ONE via B2B OPEN?

 

Pupil Behaviour

Does you solution record behaviour incidents?

Does you solution record positive achievement events?

Does you solution record conduct points (positive/negative)?

Does you solution record exclusions?

Does you solution report exclusions to the local authority where necessary?

Can your solution record evidence for incidents (and achievements) such as photos, videos, audio recordings, documents etc?

 

SEN

Does your solution record SEN data?

Does your solution maintain SEN records in a workflow to ensure date sensitive information is acquired in a timely fashion?

Does your solution maintain an IEP within the software (that is, not on Word documents)?

 

Document Storage/Content Management/Discovery

Does your solution store documents against student records?

Does your solution store documents against staff records?

Does your solution store documents in internal but public locations (for example, on a notice board facility)?

Does your solution have facility to make documents private to an individual or group of individuals?

What file types can your solution store?

Are documents stored within the database itself or on a generic file store outside the database (Note that this is specifically the files and the back end database, not the interface)?

Does your solution provide interfaces to external content, such as education resources, eBooks, etc?

If so, is this content searchable?

 

Markbooks

Does your solution contain a markbook style facility?

Does your facility require the creation of each class markbook each year, as a manual or semi-automated process, or are markbooks provides for each class regardless based on a pre-defined template? Briefly elaborate on the process. This is a free answer.

Can teachers create their own markbook columns?

Can homework be set and associated with a markbook column?

Can online tests be set and associated with a markbook column?

Can comment banks be used on markbook columns (or you have another facilities where comment banks are used, often for parental reporting, then this is an acceptable answer)?

Can formulae be placed into markbook cells to make calculations on other cells?

Can conditional formatting be placed into markbook cells?

Can gradesets or other value limiting mechanism be used on markbook cells?

Can averages and other summary calculation be made on columns or rows in the markbook?

Does your solution have any built in parameters for measuring progress against targets, assessments etc?

 

Assessment

Does your solution record statutory (non GCSE) assessment such as Key Stage assessments?

Are these assessments recorded in the main markbook or elsewhere?

Does your solution record baseline assessment such as FFT or MIDYIS assessments/results? Please list all baseline assessments available to be imported.

Are these assessments recorded in the main markbook or elsewhere?

Please briefly describe the import process for any of the above. This is a free answer.

Does your solution contain progress tracking or other analysis on these assessments?

 

Early Years Assessment

Does your solution provide assessment templates and features for Early Years assessment and the Foundation Stage Profiling?

Does this assessment facility show levels of progress against criteria based on age group? If not, but does provide other analysis, please briefly describe. This is a free answer, but please keep to brief features.

Does your solution provide for the Early Years statutory return?

 

Progress Tracking

Please detail what progress measures can be tracked within your system. This is a free answer but please list the measures.

Does your solution have any alerting mechanism to inform staff of changes?

 

Exams Management

Does your solution record exams (by this, GCSE/A Level)?

Does your solution import basedata from Awarding Organisations?

Does your solution send Entry and Amendment files in the EDF format?

Does your solution accept Results files?

Does your solution facilitate seating charts?

Does your solution facilitate exam timetables, for both students and rooms/exams?

Does your solution alert to exam clashes?

Is your solution being converted to the new A2C protocols in preparation for the A2C switchover?

 

Multi-Tenancy/Multi-School

Is your solution a multi-school solution? By this, can multiple schools access the one solution, each with their own protected information set, but able to still share data or resources?

If yes, does your solution contain a multi-school interface, particularly useful for academy chains to view and analyse cross school/trust wide information.

 

Admissions Management/Online Admissions

Does your solution provide admissions management?

Does your solution provide enquiry management?

Does your solution provide facilities to manage waiting lists and priorities on enrolments?

Does your solution provide facilities for entering entry test results?

Does your solution provide facilities for recording enrolment fees?

Does your solution provide Fees management facilities? This would be associated with billing.

 

Lesson Planning/Curriculum Planning

Does your solution contain any form of curriculum planner? (This being a facility to manage the content of lessons over a term or year).

Does your solution contain any form of lesson planner? (This being a facility to create and manage a plan for a lesson, with content, resources, outcomes planned, homework assignments, individualised learning styles etc.).

Is this facility integrated or able to integrate with the markbook, if available?

Timetable/Curriculum Structure

Does your solution contain a timetable creation facility?

Is this facility integrated with your solution? (Integrated means data is not synchronised or sent back and forth). If not, briefly describe the data movement process.

Does your solution manage ‘Options’?

Are option ‘Choices’ able to be entered by students/parents online?

Does the options facility directly integrate with the timetable creation facility? (Integrated means data is not synchronised or sent back and forth). If not, briefly describe the data movement process.

Does the timetable facility:

  •          Incorporate student data
  •          Incorporate staff data
  •          Allow rules to be set on student/staff availability, student/student in the same classes, student/staff in the same classes, lesson blocking, and lesson pattern structure? Are these rules customisable?
  •          Allow multiple timetables to be created
  •          View room and staff utilisation
  •          View class sizes

Can your solution have different timetables, even different day structures, for different year groups?

When the timetable structure is built, do students have to be manually added to classes or is this already does (because student data have been incorporated into the timetable creation).

Are student/staff timetables available online?

Are student/staff timetables available to print?

Can your timetable solution take multiple schools into account (that is, is a student or staff attends a second or more schools for part of their week, can time timetable incorporate this)

 

Portals:

 

Pupil Portal

Does your solution contain a specific student portal? If so, what information is available to a student?

What security is provided to protect data?

Can student amend or request an amendment to their personal details?

 

Parent Portal (Can parents amend personal details?)

Does your solution contain a specific parent portal? If so, what information is available to a parent?

What security is provided to protect data?

Can parents amend or request an amendment to their/their children’s personal details?

What safeguards are in place to protect split parents from seeing data about each other or their children they are barred from accessing?

 

Governor Portal

Does your solution contain a specific governor portal? If so, what information is available to a governor?

What security is provided around sensitive data?

 

Mobile Apps/Access

Does your solution have a mobile ready interface?

Does your solution have a dedicated app for mobile devices?

For either question, please provide details of which Operating System (iOS, Android, Windows) and browser your solution is available for.

 

Remote Access

How can staff access your solution from outside the school? List options that are offered by your software (i.e. not taking into account what schools might put into place separate from your solution)

How can parents access your solution from outside the school? List options that are offered by your software (i.e. not taking into account what schools might put into place separate from your solution)

 

Staff Management

Does your solution record and manage staff personal/demographic details?

Does your solution contain all statutory fields required for Staff Workforce Census?

Does your solution archive past staff records? How far back can a staff record be recovered/reviewed?

Does your solution record contractual details? If so, what security safeguards are available to prevent administrative but non-HR staff from viewing this information?

Does your solution record financial/bank details? If so, what security safeguards are available to prevent administrative but non-HR staff from viewing this information?

Does your solution manage and monitor staff checks and renewals for these (Checks being CRB, List 99, and Immigration).

 

CPD

Does your solution manage staff professional development?

Does your solution allow staff to interact with their own CPD recording?

Does your solution allow managers to review and evaluation CPD records?

Does your solution allow training courses to be provides, signed up for and managed online?

Does your solution interface with IfL for CPD recording?

 

Cover Management

Does your solution provide cover management facilities?

Can a staff member be covered for part day, full day, or for long periods of time (several days/weeks) in one step?

Can a room be covered for part day, full day, or for long periods of time (several days/weeks) in one step?

Are cover statistics recorded against staff records?

Does your solution provide analysis for staff absences/covers against pupil performance, attendance and behaviour? If so, please briefly describe. This is a free answer, but please keep to brief features.

 

Transport/Bus Management

Does your solution provide facility to manage school or LA sponsored transport (such as buses or taxies)?

Does your solution provide route management and optimisation technology?

Does your solution provide alerting to staff/parents/student for changes in transport provision (such as bus cancelation for example)?

 

Extra-Curricular Activities

Does your solution provide facility to manage extra-curricular activities?

Can fees be associated and charged through this facility?

Can attendance be associated, recorded and reported on through this facility?

Can progress (markbooks) be used and reported on through this facility?

 

Reports

Does your solution provide a reporting toolset? (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution to create the report, but this does not include the final output, such as Word or Excel or PDF).

Are all data fields within your solution available to be reported on?

What output formats are available for these reports?

Can charts be produced as reports?

Can mail merges be produced as reports?

Can reports be sent or viewed online via portals?

Can termly reports be sent or viewed online via parent interfaces, if available?

Can termly reports be sent via email by facilities within the solution? (This should be answered no if a report or batch of reports would need to be produced, output, saved and then separately attached to emails, manually by staff).

Does it allow importing\exporting of templates, for example provided by the LA?

Can you integrate third party BI systems – such as Cognos, Microsoft Power BI or Business Objects?

Does your solution have a dedicated data warehouse for reporting to reduce load on the main transactional database

 

Communications

Does your solution provide text messaging facilities? (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution). Are responses able to be recorded against student records?

Does your solution provide emailing facilities? (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution). Are responses able to be recorded against student records?

Does your solution provide voice message facilities? (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution). Are responses able to be recorded against student records?

 

VLE

Does your solution have an integrated learning platform (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution).

If yes, please describe the basic characteristics of this platform. This is a free answer, but please keep to brief features.

 

Library Management

Does your solution have an integrated library management solution (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution).

 

Asset Management

Does your solution have an integrated asset management solution (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution).

 

Facilities Management

Does your solution have an integrated facilities management solution (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution).

 

Helpdesk

Does your solution have an integrated helpdesk management solution (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution). Helpdesk does not need to be specifically for IT support, although this is the common need.

 

Room Booking/Facilities Booking

Does your solution have an integrated room booking or facilities booking solution (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution).

Can booking be managed by the customers, if yes?

 

Parents Evening Management

Does your solution have an integrated parents evening management solution (This should be answered no if you connect to a third party solution).

Can booking be managed by the parents, if yes?

 

AD Integration/Provisioning/Single Sign On

Does your solution provide any form of provisioning of Active Directory accounts? Are these accounts synchronised with the MIS account?

Does your solution provide other forms of Active Directory integration?

Does your solution provide Single Sign On? What technology is used for this?

Is yes, what level of security policy is provided to mitigate data loss?

 

Customisation/Workflows/Imports/Exports/Process Management/Database Management/UDFs/Validation Control

Please list any facilities within your solution that allow the creation and customisation of:

  •          Customise interface (over and above the colour of the interface and logos)
  •          Workflows, to control data flow based on school requirements
  •          Data imports
  •          Data exports (this is different from general reports that output to Word or Excel formats)
  •          Custom processes (where a school might want to build a process of data specific to them, within the solution)
  •          Database Management (Can the school manage the database tables directly or indirectly, create or remove base and user defined fields, assign complex data types and relationships, add data format and validation).

Note that for these answers, a no answer with a valid positive reason for not offering this will be seen just as positively as a yes answer.

 

Data Auditing & Data Migration

Does your solution audit data entry/change/delete and is that data audit reportable?

Please list what popular MIS solutions you are able to migrate a school from, in terms of the data transfer:

What are your typical migration times from each MIS solution you have mentioned?

What is the typical data migration success rate (that is, how much data in breadth and history are you able to transfer) for each MIS solution you have mentioned?

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