The Information Management for Primary schools system has won over Isle of Man teachers. Now the mainland will get a chance to see what all the fuss is about. Gerald Haigh reports.
Primary heads and governors searching for easy-to-use software for school administration and pupil assessment could do far worse than look to the Isle of Man. For the system developed there for the island's 35 primary schools has won plaudits from all who have used it.
Called Information Management for Primary schools (IMP), the system was developed seven years ago by information and communications technology (ICT) adviser John Thornley and headteacher Graham Kinrade. At the time, the administrative demands on primary schools were increasing rapidly. Thornley knew ICT could save time and effort, but was not convinced the admin software on the market was right.
"Most commercially available systems for primaries are far too complex and difficult to use and are often based on secondary school solutions," he says. "I wanted to design a system that could be loaded on to a computer off the shelf so that with little or no training a school could be up and running in minutes."
The result was IMP and its creators' drive for straightforward access is evident. The main menu screen has point-and-click buttons for the available modules, which include pupil records, staff records, assessment, behaviour log, requisitions, school fund, inventory, suppliers and office retrn. Open any of these and you get information that's easy to understand and change with some nice primary school touches, too.
Proof of its friendliness is that users require little training. Kinrade says: "If there's a new secretary we might send somebody out for an hour to show her the system. Apart from that we have a two or three-hour session once a year to bring secretaries up to date."
Thornley adds that there is direct support from his office by ISDN. "This is a major time-saver," he says. "It means any head or secretary can be given immediate support by having their computer operated from the centre while being assured over the phone. Collective training sessions can be kept to a minimum." The ISDN link also enables direct transmission of statistical information from schools to the education department.
Since the Isle of Man has such a small community of schools, all networked and all accustomed to contacting each other by email, it is relatively easy for Thornley's department to keep the IMP system under constant review, responding to requests and adding features.
The next step for Thornley and Kinrade is to make their system available to any primary school. Thornley explains: "A single-user fully functioning version of IMP is to be made available on the Internet for any school to download and use free of charge." It seems fairly certain he will find plenty of interest.
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