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Birmingham City Council reaches milestone in school admissions digital transformation

150th city schools trained on IMPULSE-based shared admissions portal

Birmingham City Council has trained its 150th school as part of a city-wide school admissions digital transformation. The council is introducing a real-time online admissions portal, powered by the IMPULSE platform from CACI, and plans to have every school within the authority ready to use the system by the end of the year.

The new admissions portal was designed in collaboration with over 20 local schools and promises significant efficiency, quality and safeguarding benefits. It provides a shared, end-to-end dashboard for all parties – schools, council, parents, agencies – involved in the admissions process.

Information is updated in real-time and instantly accessible by all. Integrated and streamlined workflows allow decision-making processes which used to take weeks to be completed in minutes, allowing authorities to allocate staff and resources more efficiently.

The previous system saw all applications, rankings and correspondence managed manually, with the council using several disconnected offline spreadsheets to store information. Labour-intensive, slow, prone to human error, and rarely up to date, the process was very inefficient.

Sue Houghton, School IT/Data And Fair Access Manager, Birmingham City Council explains:

There were frequent delays in information exchange. Everything had to be done in sequence over the phone or by email, which often resulted in confusion for parents. Sometimes a school would say one thing to them, and the council another. We needed to get up to date and overhaul the system.

After engaging with several internal stakeholders, technical experts and management, Sue Houghton and her team secured funding from the council cabinet to work with CACI to create a bespoke, end-to-end, admissions process. The council also invited periodic feedback and testing from 20 different schools in the city as the system was designed and developed.

After taking delivery of the portal from CACI in late summer 2019, the council began a comprehensive training program for its 400 schools. The portal provides shared access to real-time admissions information, records and child status, visible to all parties and stakeholders.

Terry Lovegrove, Implementation Consultant, CACI explains:

Multiple, disconnected, internal spreadsheets and documents are a thing of the past. Schools no longer need to call the council for official distance measurements. Data quality, control and accessibility is vastly improved through an intuitive dashboard interface. The portal also provides a single, GDPR-compliant, information repository. Parents and children get quick and fair decisions, based on accurate and transparent data.

The system has also brought extra safeguarding benefits in that child records, movements, admissions rankings, exclusions and appeals are always up to date and visible in real-time. It means children can get onto school rolls more quickly, and helps the authority and agencies provide better support for the most vulnerable.

The IMPULSE-based portal also helps school and council admissions teams better manage their workflow, by processing applications and referrals on an ongoing basis, rather than in batches. The automated system has been used to process over 14,000 primary and 16,000 secondary applications in the first six months of use.

Sue Houghton continues:

The next phase of our end-to-end admissions project will see parents and professionals gain access to the shared portal to update and input information. Other service teams and agencies can connect and provide further context to improve safeguarding and optimize decision making. We’re excited about its potential to contribute to strategic planning and resource allocation, as well as policy making.

Because we can all see the same real-time information, the portal has helped improve mutual understanding between the council and school admissions staff. Feedback from headteachers so far has been very encouraging and positive. We firmly believe it will contribute to better working relationships in the long-term.

For the latest information on IMPULSE, please click here.

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