Headteachers cause a 'traffic jam' on DfES site

28th July 2006 at 01:00
Thousands of schools were caught up in an end-of-term traffic jam last week - on the Department for Education and Skills website.

Heads were trying to submit school profiles, their online accounts of performance and activities which are replacing the governors' annual report to parents.

They were told six months ago they had to lodge them with the Teachernet website before this end of term, but it was predictable that most schools would leave it until the last couple of days. Predictable, but not it seems, predicted by the DfES.

The site was overloaded and refused to respond to the thousands of schools trying to fill in profile templates. The templates are pre-loaded by the DfES with data such as Sats results, leaving schools to fill in accounts of their aims and achievements, and their range of activities and facilities.

The profiles will be available to parents online (with foreign language versions where needed) and schools will also have to meet demands for printed copies.

The DfES, besieged with calls from heads, admitted it was the site's fault and told schools to try again the next day. But many heads were still unable to get their entries accepted. This time, because the site rejected the school logo, which goes on every profile. The DfES said it was because the logo had to be in the form of a particular type of file - a fact buried in guidance it originally supplied.

Even then, though, schools still found that the site rejected their completed form. Wearied DfES staff explained that schools needed to tick off each section of the template; a requirement, they admitted, that was not readily apparent.

A spokesman said: "Many schools have been working on their school profile in the run up to the end of term. This has put a heavy demand on our systems, but while some schools may have experienced a slow service at some peak times, the system has remained stable."

But one head said: "It's a pity the department doesn't have the kind of communication skills it expects in primary school pupils."

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