SMS project update

Issue: Volume 94, Number 10

Posted: 15 June 2015
Reference #: 1H9crH

Student Management Systems (SMSs) are key tools for running a school, but according to an investigation across schools, sector groups and the Ministry, there are problems – as well as opportunities to improve how the systems are used.

A key ‘pain point’ for schools is accessing and sharing data from the SMS.

The Ministry has launched an initiative to consider the ongoing strategy and use of SMSs. Sector-led discussion is underway using an online tool and the Ministry invites school leaders, teachers and administrators to join the discussion by emailing

There are currently about 100 participants in the online group representing primary, intermediate and secondary schools, SMS vendors and education consultants.

To date the group has discussed: online consultation tools; the Student Record Transfer (SRT) system, which was designed to facilitate the transfer of student data between schools, and why it is not widely used; the option of a nationally consistent approach to storing data; and the definition of common data.

It has also considered a proposal that the Ministry work with the sector to:

  • define the requirements for efficient and effective student data sharing and then compare these against the SRT service along with other solution options;
  • facilitate sector agreement on common data definitions, data capture processes and the definition of ‘Core’ data that moves with the student within the schooling system.

There is support and endorsement among participants for the need to share student data throughout the schooling system.

Efficient and effective student data sharing will require sector agreement on common data definitions, data capture processes and definition of ‘Core’ student data - the ‘must have’ data that moves with the student within the schooling system.

The SMS initiative

The SMS initiative is the outcome of a Ministry e-Admin Analysis and Feasibility Project, in 2014, which included discussions with a number of school stakeholders and reviews of previous reports, surveys and studies.

The project found that school data requirements, and therefore the demands on the SMSs, are changing. There are three emerging areas that highlight the importance of sharing data. They are:

  • the need for student data to follow the students, including when students change schools
  • the increasing desire for schools to collaborate and share their data
  • the ability for schools to share information on student achievements with parents and whānau.

However, because there are multiple SMSs, and schools configure the systems to meet their own requirements, there is a lack of standardisation across the education sector. That makes it difficult to share SMS data, good practice and IT solutions developed by individual schools.

All parties consulted as part of the 2014 project expressed a desire for change.


In December 2014 the Ministry invited expressions of interest in a working group to consider the ongoing strategy and use of SMSs. There were about 50 responses, the majority from school principals and senior staff, and all were invited to an inaugural workshop in Wellington in March.

One group of attendees recommended a single, centralised, cloud-based SMS, managed by an independent entity, with application programme interfaces that allow vendors to add functions individual schools require.

Another group said there should not necessarily be one SMS, but data has to transfer easily between schools and it should be a three-way street with schools, caregivers and students involved.

There were numerous comments about the problems transferring data between schools and the impacts on teaching and learning.

Download a fuller report(external link) on the workshop. 

Defining problems

The Ministry is drawing up definitions of problems that have been identified at the workshop and through the online discussion. It is also drafting a high-level plan to take the SMS initiative forward. These documents will be posted online for sector feedback.

It is important to have input from a wide range of people at this early stage, to ensure the initiative is on track to meet school leader, teacher and student needs. Please join the discussion by contacting and register your views.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:29 pm, 15 June 2015

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