Progress charted on screen

8th September 2000 at 01:00
Paperwork? What paperwork? Judy Mackie reports on a Web-based system which Aberdeenshire is introducing to all its secondary schools

Higher Still, baseline assessments, 5-14 information transfer, target setting, pupil progress filesI each brings its personal paper mountain to a teacher's desk, sparking secret fantasies of bonfires, shredding machines and rubbish tips.

But one school has lifted its head above the mound to pioneer a guilt-free way of ridding itself of paperwork. Peterhead Academy, in Aberdeenshire, has cast tradition to the wind, with a new web-based system which incorporates all of the aforementioned initiatives and practices and more.

The Pupil Performance Monitoring System (PPMS), developed in partnership with Aberdeen-based computer systems specialist Pisys, is a multi-purpose tool, accessed via the school intranet.

It provides the mechanism for raising pupil attainment, freeing staff from administrative tasks, and keeping pupils, parents, teachers and the authorities informed of pupil performance.

At S1S2 level, it records homework assignments and final homework marks; unit test marks and final coursework marks; final exam marks, national test marks in English and maths; primary school data with regard to attainment, and MidYis baseline assessment scores.

For S34, it records Standard grade elements, unit test marks, Yellis baseline assessment scores, homework marks, S3 exam scores and S4 prelim scores. It also imports and uses Scottish Qualifications Authority results to predict grades and set targets for S56 pupils. All results can be easily inputted and are reported in a variety of fit-for-purpose formats.

It produces yearly reports letters to parents, pupil progress file summary sheets, gender analysis by year and subject, literacy and numeracy target data, information relating to national targets, and provides correlation from one year to the next.

But perhaps its most winning feature from an education professional's point of view is that embedded within it is the entire Higher Still administrative process - an innovation that has delighted all those who have witnessed it in action, not least the Higher Still Development Unit.

"The Higher Still function sold the system to our staff," says Peterhead Academy's headteacher, George Milne.

The PPMS has grown like Topsy since it was first conceived of four years ago by Mr Milne and some of his staff. The breakthrough came when Peterhead became a new community school and the associated funding enabled them to commission a commercial firm to develop their dream system.

Pisys has taken the vision further, from database to web-based intranet - the first of its kind - enabling every pupil and teacher to access the system at their appropriate level.

"The two things that make a difference are Higher Still and report cards. It allow us to focus on more important aspects of teaching," comments Graham Souter, principal teacher of mathematics.

George Milne says: "The system allows staff to identify under-achievement in pupils at an early stage. Pupils can devise and record individual targets and recognise their achievements."

Aberdeenshire now wishes to create a primary version, working with Peterhead Academy and its associated primary schools, and aims to introduce the Higher Still function to all 16 of its secondary schools by October.

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