Time to renew schools’ information engine

Sports days, free school meals eligibility, social care flags – CDPS is helping to procure the crucial system that handles school management data, putting users’ needs at the centre

18 August 2022

Management information systems play a critical role in safeguarding children’s health and wellbeing in schools © Unsplash

Management information (MI) systems are critical in schools. Schools input data on pupils’ attendance, their exam results, whether they’re eligible for free school meals and much more.  

Some MI systems are also used to send communications to parents or guardians about, for example, school trips or sports days or to remind them of teacher training days. In some cases, the systems are used to record and flag information relating to social care.  

Schools must also share such data with their local authority, ministers and Estyn (the education and training inspectorate for Wales), using an MI system.  

Essentially, MI systems play a huge part in the management of schools and in safeguarding children’s health and wellbeing – so buying the right thing is crucial.   

The need for change  

The contract with the current supplier of schools MI systems in Wales is coming to an end. With the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), CDPS has started work on finding a new solution that will meet the needs of teachers, schools and local authorities.  

Based on these needs, we’re writing a set of requirements with the WLGA to procure a new MI system. We hope that, by sharing why and how we’re going about this procurement, we’ll encourage other public sector organisations to put users first when they’re buying their own goods and services.  

Considering user needs early on makes a solution more likely to suit its purpose (and be adaptable) for years to come. Using digital products that last also saves money.  

Outcome vs output  

Traditionally, when buying software, the buying organisation tells the providers (the people selling goods and services) the solution or ‘output’ it thinks it needs. However, a better way to do this is to state the ‘outcome’ it wants – in other words, the problems to be solved.  

Writing requirements that give providers the context of user needs makes them more likely to propose an appropriate solution. We also hope it will encourage competition and innovation in the search for the best solution.  

Once for Wales 

We’ve started a 10-week discovery – the research phase of Agile service design when you try to clarify a problem. We’re working towards a ‘Once for Wales’ approach, which would allow local authorities and schools to share a set of requirements for a new management system – one resource for all.  

For example, recording exam results and reporting to Estyn would be standardised across the country. There will of course be some differences in individual organisations’ needs but a consistent and clear core dataset would present new opportunities for collaboration. 

The discovery will look at the user needs for: 

If you have any questions about our research, please leave a comment or email us.

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