The Department of Education, (DES), have decided to pilot an online database for primary schools called POD. Apart from having a nice name, the news of its arrival has been met with rumbles of dissatisfaction from primary school principals who believe it will add even more to their workload than the time it promises to save them. The DES are running a pilot of the programme so I thought I’d give it a go and report on it.
Before I begin, for the record, the DES have given me permission to give my opinion on POD but I won’t be publishing any of the documentation that I have received. I also, for obvious reasons, won’t be identifying any of my staff or pupils in the articles.
Before the spring break, I received a letter to say the pilot would be starting on the 28th April and sure enough at 4pm, I received an email with a manual to get me started on the pilot.
POD is going to work through the Department’s Esinet portal, which is the same place schools alert the DES of staff absences, etc. It looks like the first job for all schools will be to input the details of all their students. There are 3 options for this.
Schools can manually enter individualised pupil data directly into the Primary Online Database.
- Schools can choose to enter the pupil’s details into an excel template, which the DES will then deal with
- Schools can contact their admin software provider for some synchronisation
Option 1 isn’t really an option if you’ve more than 20 children in your school. With the amount of information the DES are looking for, it could take 10-15 minutes to upload a child’s full details. Option 2 sounds ok except that you have to know how to encrypt your Excel file for data protection reasons and I don’t know too many people who know how to do that. It looks like option 3 is the only real option. My school uses Aladdin and they told me that their synchronisation is becoming available later this week.
The information that the DES is looking for is the following:
- Name, surname
- Date of birth
- Birth Cert Name
- Mother Tongue
- Ethnic or Cultural Background
- Irish Exemption
- Mother’s Maiden Name
- Mainstream or Special Class
Some of the above have caused a stir amongst principals who do not ask for a child’s religion or their ethnicity. Some people are wondering why this sort of information is required at all. One assumes it is for statistics rather than ethnic profiling! I’m a bit suspicious of the nationality question as if a child has dual nationality, i.e. Ireland and another country, you are required to put in Ireland. To my eyes, that equates to “goodbye EAL” Interestingly, the mother tongue question relates only to Irish and English. To be honest, I have no idea whether any of my pupils speak Irish at home. If I were a Gaelscoil, I’d say this question alone could be difficult.
Once all this stuff is entered and the will to live hasn’t been sapped out of you, you are then able to assign classes to these pupils and search them under different criteria.
I’ll be giving all this a go as soon as I can and I’m looking forward to working with Aladdin in the coming days with the synchronisation. My first impressions of this system are that it looks incredibly clunky but I will reserve judgement until I have a proper play with it. If any other schools are piloting POD, perhaps they might add some comments too.
Last Update: August 22, 2017