Every school has a management information system (MIS) that handles key attendance and performance data on its pupils, and a Financial Accounting System (FAS) that supports effective financial and budget monitoring. These systems support the day-to-day running of the school and produce statutory returns throughout the school year. Most schools manage their finances and budget within the same system/supplier, but this is not obligatory.
A previous SIMS contract was in place 2014 to 2021. The current contract for maintained schools has been in place since 01/04/2021. The core contract term of three years ends on 31/03/2024. During this contract, the LA has paid for SIMS and then this money has been recouped from schools through de-delegation.
ESS, the supplier of SIMS, are no longer issuing or extending LA contracts, as they are moving to more cloud-based systems and the data storage and information governance requirements change with this, meaning that they will only contract directly with schools.
Over the last few years, the MIS and FAS market has changed significantly. Nationally, SIMS have dropped to a market share of 55%, down from 75% in 2020. In Kent, some maintained schools have already opted to move away from SIMS to an alternative MIS provider. Academies often use alternative providers. The MIS market is therefore splintering in Kent, and some schools are currently paying for two systems, which is not a sustainable position for stretched school budgets. With this backdrop schools need to make their own decision about what they pay for.
Risks if the decision isn’t taken:
It is vital that schools are supported to have a valid contract for their MIS and FAS, with a DfE-accredited supplier, to ensure they can continue to fulfil their statutory obligations to both the LA and central government.
If Kent doesn’t sign the Facilitation Agreement schools would have to pay significantly higher prices, which would be reputationally damaging. We know quite a lot of schools want to stay with SIMS and are relying on continued low prices, guaranteed for this next 3-year term.
Kent does not want to seek to enter another LA contract with a different supplier as the market has splintered and different schools want different systems. It would be reputationally damaging if we tried to force schools down a particular route.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;
Decision status: For Determination
Notice of proposed decision first published: 17/10/2023
Decision due: Not before 15th Nov 2023 by Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
Reason: To allow the required 28 day notice period under Executive Decision arrangements
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
Lead director: Christine McInnes
Department: Education & Young People's Services
Contact: Katherine Atkinson, Assistant Director, Management Information and Intelligence, Integrated Children's Services Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or 03000 417013.
The Children’s and Young People Cabinet Committee considered and endorsed the decision on 21.11.23.
No public consultation has been undertaken, as this decision only impacts schools. In Spring 2022, we agreed to set up a working group with maintained schools to look at systems and suppliers so we could pull together information to support and inform decision making about suppliers and future contracts from April 2024.
The working group, made up of a range of school types, and with a range of MIS and FAS experience, has met several times since autumn 2022 and we have surveyed schools, seen demos from the main suppliers, and have gathered responses to key questions arising from those. The working group have a variety of differing views about their preference going forward which reiterates the fact that there is no ‘right answer’, and that schools need to be free to make their own decision about which system to use going forward.
The proposed decision will be considered at the Children’s Young People and Education Cabinet Committee on 21 November 2023.
Financial implications: The current SIMS contract is cost-neutral for the LA, as the costs are recovered from schools through de-delegation. KCC, Cantium and The Education People have been working with suppliers to negotiate the best possible prices for Kent maintained schools. Competitive pricing has been agreed with Arbor and Bromcom, the two systems that most schools move to (and which are also supported by Cantium and The Education People). To benefit from ongoing competitive pricing from SIMS we need to sign a Facilitation Agreement which ends various terms and licences under the existing contract and means the supplier (ESS) will then offer schools the same pricing they’re currently on for the next three years. By moving away from an LA contract for SIMS, there is no budgetary implication for the LA. However, Kent is keen to secure best value prices from the main suppliers for schools to ensure their costs remain as low as possible.
Legal implications: The ESS Facilitation Agreement has been reviewed by solicitors commissioned by Legal Services and are content with the terms of the agreement.
Equalities implications: EQIA Implications The EqIA screening has indicated this to be low risk, as there is no change to the information that is recorded within schools. All MIS used by schools must be accredited by the DfE to capture all the required information in order that they can meet schools needs and produce all the statutory returns to the LA and central government.