SIMS to USO automation

As an authority making use of the ability to automate the USO account management through nightly SIMS exports we have come across a side affect of this system that we did not totally foresee:

A few of our secondary schools have already given their year 13’s leaving dates in SIMS, meaning that the next nightly export removed these peoples USO accounts and the associated email account. Right in the middle of UCAS applications, the same problem may occur to a lesser extent with Year 11 leavers and college applications.

On one hand I am not convinced this is a technical issue, as from a data security point of view if someone has left they are no longer under the control of the school and should no longer be entitled to use the schools or LA’s ICT facilities. However from a customer service point of view if these accounts have been used on UCAS or college application forms then it unreasonable to just dismiss them.

For the school involved we have disabled their nightly exports until late August/September to give the pupils a grace period.

Has anyone else come across this problem and does anyone have any ideas about what could be done to alleviate the problem in future years?

Darren King : LB Sutton

5 thoughts on “SIMS to USO automation

  1. Darren’s point is well taken and highlights a side effect of the overnight process we apply to the MIS exports whether they be via USO-AutoUpdate, Groupcall, Wauton Samuel, or indeed any local process of a similar or modified nature such as in this case, that can export data into USO.

    There are two sides to the answer, the first of which emphasises the need to recognise that MIS data used in this manner brings many benefits in terms of speed and accuracy of the creation and maintenance of USO (and other) accounts, but in return the MIS data MUST be fully accurate and up to date, and the schools must fully appreciate the implications of inaccurate or incomplete data.

    There is a second side, because even if the point above has been accepted and the data is accurate, situations can occur where a School A identifies a pupil as leaving/has left, but does so before the School B expecting them has identified them as due to start a few weeks later. In the normal course of events, that would leave the student being moved to the unallocated group of USO accounts with an appropriate (if temporary) loss of access to email, etc.

    If the pupil had already been identified by School B in the example above, there would be no problem since the USO account would have simply acquired a second association, which would have remained until School A had removed them from their MIS.

    During the roll out of any new automated process, Atomwide can discuss with an LA a modification to the above, which introduces a ‘buffer’ period to help alleviate the problem. This is achieved by preserving the accuracy of the data in the MIS in each location, but using USO to modify the overnight process as it receives that data as follows:


    If a pupil is no longer present in a school MIS export for the first time between 1 June and 31 August, then that pupil USO account is not transferred to the ‘unallocated’ pool immediately.

    During the process for 1 September all pupil USO accounts that no longer appear in a school’s MIS export will be transferred to the unallocated pool. The immediate transfer of pupil USO accounts will take place between 1 September and 31 May.

    This process will only apply to pupils who are in Year 6, 11 or 13 during the period 1 June and 31 August, and also provides schools and LAs with the time to make separate arrangements for students leaving full time education in the LA during the typical Year End period.


    The reason this workaround is not automatically applied, is that some LAs use Learning Platforms or other systems dependent on USO that may be synchronised to the MIS systems but are not able to match this workaround, or that have licensing limitations that would be compromised by allowing released students to have continued access to those systems after leaving.


    Peter Hall

  2. As an additional point: would it be possbible to automatically send an email to those approaching the end of Year 13, a month or so before, reminding them that thier email account will shortly be closed and that they should start packing any essentials?

    We’ve had extreme situations where ex-pupils in their 20’s finally have their accounts disabled by schools who don’t integrate their MIS or manage accounts effectively and call us aggrieved when they are finally removed.

    Equally, we have parents of recent leavers call for the same reason. An automated message reminding leavers that their accout ends when they leave school (or after a buffer period) would help us with schools that don’t let leavers know this will happen.

  3. Further to Mark’s comment, if that email could be sent to anyone’s who’s account is in that buffer, stating that unless they are defined as on role at another {athority} school then access to their account will be disabled on {date}?

  4. I do believe that it would be useful to have a day when the issues around this can be discussed and a path identified that will cover most of what authorities – and more importantly their users – would need. This is also needed for certain staff facilities as well, and it is not limited to the end of a year – people do move at other times.

    Fronter tells schools when it should and should not be doing things on SIMS, and everyone says that SIMS should be accurate, but we must remember that SIMS is a statutory record, and we cannot have any other tail wagging the SIMS dog.

    When ‘pupil mail’ was originally discussed, it was said that the account would become the pupil’s own after they left education – has this aspect disappeared?

    In all cases where someone leaves (defined by disappearing from the input SIMS export) – at any point in the year, we need to do things that are predictable and reasonable, and some of these for staff will depend on whether the staff member is in the file submitted rather than still on the USO.

    If a staff member is not on the SIMS export, and they have one of a number of profiles in the school (eg Nominated contact, head and some others – not all) then an action needs to be taken immediately AND the school and LA need to be nudged.

    Similarly, if anyone disppears off the SIMS input file, then we should do something about email – yet to be decided (and I don’t think the decision is just for Atomwide or me) – and I would suggest that the underlying account should be retained for a period – but that outgoing emails from an alias should be stopped and an auto-responder be set to inform senders of the change. The user could be sent ‘countdown’ reminders.

    Derek Biddle

  5. Initially we requested all schools to advise pupils that their accounts would close when they leave but it’s clear from the number of calls our helpdesk receives that it does not happen consisitantly.

    We also believe that if a pupil is no longer “owned” by a school that the account should close after reasonable warning. Otherwise when issues arise from the use of the account where can you take them? If you leave Tiscali you don’t retain your account past the last day of service.

    Hopefully by the end of the education process pupils will be fully versed in safely operating an email account and have the skills to move any attachments or address books out to another form of storage. They are then free to choose one of their own and will not be subject to continued scanning and monitoring as they are when they are younger when it is necessary.

    Agree that staff with privileged accounts should have them downgraded and or closed: we make this the responsibility of the NC’s within the site concerned.

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