The Scottish Council for Educational Technology has denied it is losing the battle to win replacement orders for computerised school management systems and rebuts an accusation that it "will soon cease to have any significant presence in this field".
The startling claim was made by Aberdeen City Council on Tuesday. Like most other authorities, Aberdeen is currently reviewing its management and administration systems and has concluded that the SCET package is flawed. Virtually all 20 authorities not within the former Strathclyde Region are said to favour the rival Phoenix system, produced by the Hampshire-based Scott Reed Associates.
Ann Scott, a director of Scott Reed, confirmed that Stirling, Clackmannan, Shetland, Orkney, Dumfries and Galloway, Midlothian, Dundee and Fife had placed orders and said others are likely to follow. The company's system was commissioned by Shetland six years ago and is "a tried and tested Windows product", Mrs Scott said.
But Nigel Paine, SCET's chief executive, dismissed Aberdeen's claims as "nonsense". He believed a number of councils would shortly come out in support of the revised SCETWorks package. "It is all to play for," Mr Paine said.
He added: "We did make mistakes and we were not close enough in listening to schools in the past year or two, but we have remedied that. We have done our best over the last 10 years to give local authorities serviceable management information systems at extremely low prices. We have listened to authorities and bent over backwards to make products that suit them. I would have hoped local authorities would have shown SCET some loyalty."
Potential contracts for management information systems are put at close to Pounds 2 million, with annual running costs to councils of an estimated Pounds 500,000.
David Eastwood, assistant director of education in Aberdeen, said the long-established Schools Computer Administration and Management Programme had been hit by "long delays in delivery of the software and by inflexibility in use". SCAMP has been widely used for the past 10 years in recording pupil attendance and carrying out essential administrative tasks.
Mr Eastwood said "deficiencies" in the SCAMP package "have been apparent for several years". SCET had made "repeated promises" of an updated version and after failing to produce its own package had bought a system called Key Solutions from an English supplier. No Scottish authority had opted for it, he told councillors.
Mr Paine argues that the partnership with Key Solutions is tailored to the Scottish market and the package will have a more complete back-up service than its competitors. But Mr Eastwood said: "It is now clear that SCET will soon cease to have any significant presence in this field and that SCAMP cannot be supported for much longer." He advised councillors: "A new system will offer significantly better value than SCAMP." Aberdeen has now allocated Pounds 156,000 for city secondaries to switch supplier.
Dundee last month backed the Phoenix system after councillors heard that the SCET replacement "has been frustrated through repeated failure to deliver robust and usable software either on time or in a state of design as agreed by authority representatives".