Back in July, we posted a blog from Gerald Haigh, freelance writer to Microsoft on the Serco Pioneer Days. Gerald has since followed up on this story with the learning progress when he caught up with some of the ICT managers and directors currently leading the ‘’Progresso’’ project before the summer break.

In early July I reported on some of the 25 schools that were then being introduced to Serco Learning’s new Progresso cloud-based Management Information System (MIS). A month on, at the end of term, I was keen to do a pre-summer holiday catch up with the ICT managers and directors who are leading the Progresso project in their schools. What were their staff and senior leader colleagues feeling as they learned of the prospect of a new and different MIS?

Simon Chappell, ICT Director at Wellington Academy  in Wiltshire is just one who’d already made a presentation to the senior leadership team.

“It was very well received. The two heads of key stages immediately came back with things they want to see on the dashboard, and people are already thinking about how they want to develop it through November and December and then launch it in January. I’m really buoyed up by that.”

Andrew Daly, Deputy Head at Swavesey Village College, found great interest in the prospect of improved communication through the MIS.

“Easy communications, easy contact with parents, the whole link with the Exchange servers. We’re heavily into using Exchange - staff and students have Outlook accounts. It’s a big win for us.”

There’s hard work ahead for all these schools including the tidying up and transfer of data, and also making sure that favourite features within the existing MIS aren’t lost or degraded. Tim Murphy, for example, points out that Sandringham School in St Albans, where he’s Deputy Head, has had the existing Serco Learning MIS, “Facility”, for five years.

“We’ve developed many areas in there that we want to be able to keep.”

He’s keen, for example, to carry on giving parents paper reports.

“The fairly traditional one side written report on every child. I’m all in favour of online reporting, openness and visibility, but parents still want and value a traditional written report.”

For him, it’s a matter of feelings as much as efficiency.

“Personally I don’t feel as emotionally connected looking at a screen as I do holding the piece of paper, and I feel there’s still a need for that.”

In response, Serco Learning’s Head of Product Paul Harrington seeks to reassure Tim, and the others about this.

“ We recognise that schools have invested in their current MIS and want to take that best practice and build on it within Progresso. This is not about starting from a blank page. The Adoption Plan provides a programme of support for any school taking on Progresso. The package includes data cleansing and transfer tools and support from a dedicated Project Manager. “

So, the new term will see implementation start in earnest. Movement of data, CPD for staff, and trouble-shooting. They will, though, as more than one contact pointed out to me, have “Wizards” to help them, in the form of step by step prompts about how to use the various features.

So far, we’ve spoken to secondary schools, but this group of pioneers is deliberately drawn from all sectors. In the Autumn we’ll make a point of asking primary, secondary independent schools about their particular MIS requirements and their expectations of Progresso.