The FileMaker solution:With a range of different processes powered by FileMaker, the College has taken full advantage of its ever-increasing power and flexibility to develop a comprehensive set of systems. Initially developed in house by Chris Boulton, now a Director of CJM Software who still maintain the overall structure, the solution runs as an open system, in which users are able to create and develop their own databases whenever they need, Nicky says that everyone at Cheltenham College Junior School now uses FileMaker between three and four times a day for a range of uses.
"For a subject like PE for instance," says Nicky, "FileMaker Go now gives tutors the ability to update grades and assessments during the actual lesson itself. Rather than having to produce written notes and key them in later, our teachers are able to update the central database very simply with the minimum of fuss. That logic is something that we're now considering applying to the management of our sports teams with a new system from CJM Software called Sports Team Manager."
While the system is already proving its use in class and during extra-curricular activities, it is also making its presence felt in the background too. With the school having built a major contact database for the parents of its pupils, Nicky has applied FileMaker Go to take that system to its next logical evolution.
"We're now able to access that database on the move thanks to an app from CJM, which means that we can instantly search for any pupil and make a call to their parents straight from an iPhone," she says. "That has big implications for everything from the run of the mill things like making sure that they've been collected at the end of the day, through to saving valuable time if there has been an issue of any kind. And, as it ties into the database containing their daily schedule, you can pretty much instantly find out where a pupil is."
Nicky quickly allays any security concerns about the privacy of this naturally sensitive data. "Essentially, the system only works when it's in your hands. The database will automatically close itself after any period of inactivity, and as soon as it does, you have to log back in. Contacts will also only update within the school network, so if one of our iPhones was stolen and someone tried to access the contacts, a failsafe kicks in and deletes all of that information from the handset."
In addition to its many standalone uses, the wider FileMaker system also integrates well with some of the College's other technology. Used as a partner with the school's Clarion Call 'one to many' messaging system, FileMaker allows any information entered into the Clarion system to be simply distributed to all parental and guardian contacts within the database.
Nicky concludes by explaining that FileMaker is making its way into the curriculum as well. "It's a fantastic system, and one that is easy enough to develop that we see a real advantage to making it part of the ICT course here. Every pupil aged 13 and above uses FileMaker on a regular basis, and I'm now introducing it to the year sevens and year eights too. We're already using iPod touchs as a way of supporting learning from the Foundation Stage upwards and we do plan on bringing iPads into the school too. FileMaker Go will be another big part of that process."