Well over a year ago, I wrote about a management information system being developed by Gloria Evans, information technology manager at Djanogly City Technology College in Nottingham. You may even recall that the system was actually and happily called GLORIA (Global Recording, Information and Assessment).
Although it was tailored to the school's own needs, it was very much the intention to develop GLORIA (the system, that is, rather than the person) to the point where it could be marketed. I promised readers then that I would keep them in touch with progress. The news now is that the system was launched in January in MS-Dos format, and a Windows version is expected any minute.
It is not, though, any longer called GLORIA, but Chameleon, and is being marketed by Oracle Educational Systems. Gloria Evans and the people at Djanogly are still very much responsible for the technical development.
Chameleon modules include Administration, Registration, Curriculum Mapping and Assessment, New Intake, Special Needs, Pastoral and Reporting. The system is currently on trial in a range of different schools, and the main focus of the trials, according to Oracle's Ken Aldred, will be "to define very clearly the level of support which is to be needed. Then we'll build the organisation to go with it".
A strong feature of Chameleon, claims Ken Aldred, is its flexibity. "It's user-adaptable there's the facility for schools to make amendments to the system to suit their own environment." (Hence, of course, Chameleon "It changes with the customer".) So, what schools are now offered is another modular software system for administration and management - yet more choice in what is becoming a very competitive and sometimes bewildering field. It becomes increasingly apparent that schools need to look carefully at their administrative IT needs, and spend significant time exploring what is on offer, and making visits to user institutions.
Chameleon is an example of a system developed for one user and then offered to a wider market. That this kind of branching out does not always happen when you think it should is demonstrated by Cleveland authority's county-wide dinner-money software for primary schools. Developed by the county's Technology Development Unit specifically to fill a gap in the coverage offered by the range of SIMS modules, the software provides support for school secretaries in one of the most fiddly and potentially time-consuming areas of their work - that of adding up dinner money, carrying forward credits and making balances at the end of various periods.
The system has been in Cleveland primaries for about three years now. Richard Jefferies, information systems manager for Cleveland Education, told me, "It alleviates a lot of work. I believe that the vast majority of primary schools are in need of a system like this - it's a good example of an innovation in a county council which has not been picked up by a major supplier."
Oracle Educational Systems Ltd, Fiskerton Manor, Fiskerton, Southwell, Nottinghamshire NG25 0UH. Richard Jefferies, Education Department Information Systems Manager, Cleveland County Council, 1st floor, Teeside House, Borough Road, Middlesbrough, Cleveland TS1 2HF.