Oh My God – POD – losing my faith
It’s been a month and a half since I’ve written about the POD pilot. There are a number of reasons for this, June being the main one; but almost equally, getting the information that POD wants on to POD is a long-winded, arduous, labour-intensive, prickly affair and, despite my attempt to finally get all the information required on to the system, I have failed dramatically. I am thinking of giving up until it becomes law not to.
The biggest problem with getting information on to POD is that it requires a huge amount of information about the children in the school. We have a medium-sized school in Irish terms – roughly 180 pupils. POD requires a crazy amount of data. It doesn’t just want names, addresses, dates of birth and the usual stuff. It wants ethnicity, special needs, exemption from Irish data and loads more stuff. Even a tiny school would spend hours inputting the data required manually.
POD is supposed to integrate with the various Management Information Systems, which do exactly the same thing already (and more). In order to link the two, I was under the impression that I could simply hit an export button and then import it into POD. I use Aladdin, the most wonderful techie tool ever to come to schools, and it does the exporting business very nicely. The problem comes when we need to import it.
The first problem seems to be that POD can’t read the export file from Aladdin without a several step manipulation of the data. I spent a good 20 minutes copying and pasting bits and pieces in an Excel sheet. Now, because the DES want data that we don’t generally collect, the next job is to manually “fix” these bits. This involves selecting items from a list and it takes ages. It would be so much handier if one didn’t have to fill in data when a criterion doesn’t apply. For example, we don’t ask people about their ethnicity or religion but on POD you have to fill in a box to say “unknown” or “no consent.” You have to do this for everything that’s missing and there is a heck of a lot of stuff they want. The next problem is that one has to encrypt the file before it goes to the Department of Education. That was another 30 minutes, following more instructions.
A couple of days after sending the information, it turns out I still haven’t filled the Excel sheet out properly. I know a lot of people are against the POD system coming into primary schools. I can see the benefits of it but the way things are going, I cannot see where schools are going to find the time to get this right in its current form. While I understand that the initial process is going to take a long time to do, there’s still a fair amount of work to do every year when enrolling new classes. Unless POD gets itself completely integrated with a Management Information System properly, I am going to lose my faith in it very soon.