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About STEARsoft


School Attendance

STEARsoft's primary 4 goals are:

  • To improve the effectiveness of teachers by giving them a tool they want to use.
  • To improve school attendance by making the process of marking attendance more efficient, reliable and accurate.
  • To improve school attendance by giving summarised attendance data at the fingertips of teachers and support staff.
  • To improve school attendance by automatically analysing attendance data and messaging relevant teachers and staff.

STEARsoft's secondary goals are:

  • To be a flexible school attendance system that works smoothly alongside and with existing school data systems.
  • To be easy and simple to deploy across the whole school, and to update with equal ease.
  • To be able to integrate fully with handheld devices for added mobility options.
  • To streamline the process of reporting school-wide attendance totals for government returns.

STEARsoft has evolved to hit all these targets and has seen successful deployment in a few schools now. Although any system tries to achieve the primary goals (to lesser or greater effect), STEARsoft was chosen ahead of other systems for the strength of its secondary goals; particularly its flexible ability to integrate and run alongside existing data systems, and for its easy deployment.

The development of STEARsoft

Although it has always been structured from the start to be a whole-school attendance system, initial development was focussed on single teacher use. We feel the initial four years of development and trials in this area has paid off with an easy to use, yet powerful teacher interface. Working with a web interface has been more challenging to bring the desired feel and features to the finger-tips of a teacher, but the effort has paved the way for some of our ultimate goals.

The initial teacher-centred interface has remained while, in phase two, the full school product was developed around this. At this stage, the web interface became very powerful, as STEARsoft only needs to be installed on a single server machine. Within minutes (rather than hours), you can have a full school deployment operational and usable throughout the school. Equally important, any updates only need to be done in one place, and take just seconds.

The resulting strengths of STEARsoft

There is much to be said for an electronic school attendance system over a paper one for a few immediate benefits:

  1. Neater records that are clear to read, even when adjusted.
  2. Faster, more reliable transfer of data to a central office.
  3. Easy backup possibilities for your school attendance data. (Losing a paper register can be a serious problem.)
  4. Direct access to school wide attendance data, without leaving your classroom.
  5. Instant statistical summaries counted up for you for government returns, or your own use.
However, once you have a computerised system, as well as doing existing things more efficiently, there are opportunities to provide extra, useful features. We have chosen with STEARsoft to focus on features that help teachers manage situations themselves by giving clear, helpful information at their finger tips rather than removing control by doing things for them. There is a whole debate to be had over which approach is right, and different people will want different things from a system. Part of your evaluation of STEARsoft and other products will include such thinking about how you want to operate. If you want a system that automatically contacts parents, chases them for authorisation notes, centrally informs for automatic sanctioning of truanting students and generally relieves these and similar tasks from the tutor role of teachers, then another product may be more suitable for your needs. If you value the involvement and interaction of a teacher with a student in these situations, then we hope you will like the supportive features STEARsoft provides in this regard which include:
  1. Summary lists of outstanding unauthorised absences;
  2. Automatic highlighting of absences reaching critical rates (customisable to check both long-term and short-term patterns, as well as patterns regarding a particular day of the week; eg absences always falling on a Thursday);
  3. Summary statistical views of a class of students;
  4. Comprehensive single student attendance analysis showing session-by-session attendance over a period of time in such a way as to visually highlight and report on trends;
  5. Automatically analysing session-by-session attendance of each student and immediately sending a message to relevant teachers if such student attendance is inconsistent. For example if a student is marked present in all classes except for Geography in period 3, then their Geography teacher and pastoral tutor will be alerted for further investigation.
  6. An integrated incident management tool for individual teacher use (think small classroom incidents, not incidents that would go on a student's school-record).

How STEARsoft has been received

The nicest thing has been positive responses from teachers. The fact that STEARsoft has been initially inspired and created by a teacher and trialled with input from numerous other teachers has been reflected back in these comments. The real testament though has to be that STEARsoft is being used, and continues to be used, and not just by individual teachers but also in whole school deployment situations. In one school deployment, STEARsoft was chosen ahead of far more expensive systems even though a large budget of several thousand had been already allocated and authorised. Part of the reason for STEARsoft being chosen in this case, as mentioned above, was its flexibility and ability to easily fit alongside and work with the existing school database.

Thoughts about training and support

Chauffeuring a racing driver, clothes shopping for a fashion designer, installing a sink for a plumber, giving medical advice to a doctor or legal advice to a judge are all uncomfortable tasks which somehow seem a bit cheeky unless the circumstance is right. Similarly, going to a school to teach something simple doesn't feel quite right when there are numerous people already there more than qualified to do that. Using STEARsoft is very straightforward. You click on the class you want to mark attendance for. You click on the sheet to put in present, absent and late marks, and right-click to put in more detail. Yes, there is a little bit more to it than that, but in a one-to-one environment it is possible to train someone to be comfortably using STEARsoft in under 5 minutes, and most people will then explore further when they are ready to.

Teachers are smart, educated people and can also communicate and teach (train) effectively, so we suggest that you ask one of your teachers to read the (relatively short) User Guide, follow the online interactive tutorials and generally become familiar with STEARsoft. They should then have little difficulty in 'training' the rest of your staff, with the added bonus that you then have a permanent expert on site to help people if questions arise.

Equally, any expertise required to integrate STEARsoft to your school database will be best provided by your school IT administrators. The interface at STEARsoft's end is very simple, well documented and uses the widely standardised ODBC interface to connect to your school database. The challenge (if there is to be a challenge) will be finding the appropriate data within your school database to extract, and making it available though the ODBC standard. This will be most efficiently done by someone familiar with your system.

So in short, we would like you to reward and professionally develop your own staff to help yourselves, as we believe this will give you the smoothest long term operation, whilst also enabling us to keep prices low and our efforts focussed on developing the product of STEARsoft. If your home-grown experts do need help, they can turn to the STEARsoft Forum for relatively quick support in the vast majority of situations.

Ordering a trial and getting started

No need to arrange an appointment for someone to visit or discuss your needs. Just go to our Download page to download and install STEARsoft now. An automated registration of your email address will allow you to activate a trial of 100 attendance sessions. This registration process also gives you access to the STEARsoft forum, which you can use to contact us should you require a more extensive trial situation. Our pricing is also very straight-forward.

We hope you will like STEARsoft and find it to be a useful tool. If you do have any feedback or suggestions, good or bad, please do communicate them to us via the Forum, as all comments help build a picture to further improve our product to fit your needs.