Digital system helps transform Birmingham school admissions

The city council aims to have all of its 400 schools using the IMPULSE admissions portal by the end of the year

Birmingham City Council has trained its 150th school in using the real-time online portal helping to transform the authority’s school admissions process.

All of the 400 schools within its jurisdiction are slated to adopt the digital system by the end of the year.

The platform is available to all parties involved in the admissions process – including schools, the local authority, other agencies and parents – and is already helping to vastly improve efficiency.

Designed by CACI, the IMPULSE portal is a step change from the system it replaces; information was stored on disconnected offline spreadsheets, meaning that decision-making could take weeks.

“We’re excited about its potential to contribute to strategic planning and resource allocation, as well as policy-making”Sue Houghton, Birmingham City Council

“There were frequent delays in information exchange,” recalls Sue Houghton, Birmingham City Council’s school IT/data and fair access manager.

“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.”

Now, she says, real-time updates and instantly accessible information for all mean that decisions can be taken in a matter of minutes.

Twenty Birmingham schools were involved in designing the bespoke admissions process, helping with testing and offering feedback.

The next phase of the project will see parents and a variety of professionals offered access to the shared portal to update and input information.

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“Other service teams and agencies can connect and provide further context to improve safeguarding and optimise decision making,” said Houghton. “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.”

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