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Summer 2024 - Breaking changes to statutory attendance

Updated on 1st July 2024 Summer 24 is now live. (Beta-2 shipped on 25th May and is no longer available).   Please contact us  if you have yet to receive details and you need a copy.  NB: Access to releases is subject to your entitlements within you technical integrator agreement.

More Info

1/7: SIMS Summer 24 is now live.  The patch for English independent schools will be available shortly.  This is likely to be the last post on this topic. If please contact us if further support is needed.  As a reminder, the new code set doesn't go live in schools until August but the APIs to support the change will be in place upon upgrade to Summer 24.

28/6: I've seen a number of questions about SQL errors when a save is attempted for a mark that does not require a statutory explanation and is given one. Validation should only allow for statutory explanations when one is required and not otherwise.

20/6: Guidance on changes for Independent Schools

19/6: We have had confirmation from DfE that Independent Schools must now follow the statutory list of codes.  Since Independents have been able to edit their statutory and physical meanings for codes we will be providing a patch.  Please advise of any impact.

Beta Feedback

19/6: Anyone who installed beta #1 needs to check in the c:\SIMS\Setups folder for database upgrade scripts dated 9/5/24.  These will be beta #1 updates and have broken upgrades to beta #2 giving a 'Reason 0' error on login.

19/6: We are now seeing a number of TIs requesting guidance as to whether extracting attendance marks via command reporter will be broken by the Summer release.  We have looked at 2 examples, both might still run but they are likely to be slower than on the earlier release (1 more join) and we would not recommend getting attendance marks via reporting; simply because the APIs are far more optimal for pretty much all attendance needs.

29/5: We have a green light for Beta #2 and will contact eligible TIs tomorrow with details of how to access it.  There is no default upgrade path from Beta #1 to Beta #2 and we are working to the comms to go with it.

28/5: Event End has been removed as a mandatory field from the session and lesson saves in the beta.  Thank you for your feedback.  We await clearance to publish a 'Beta-2', details of which will be sent to appropriately contracted TIs / Aggregators as soon as we get a green light.

24/5: Bug has been fixed and drops event end from the call.  I hope to have an updated beta next week. A

23/5: We have had a report that an additional data item is now mandatory (Event end) for session attendance and we are looking in to this.  We are looking to remove the requirement for event end... Details to follow...

23/5: Added the save call to session attendance example code.

22/5: Please note that the new APIs expect session/Lesson 'Extended XML records e.g. LessonAttendancesExtended / LessonAttendanceExtended


Updated on 25/03/24 (14:30) and will be the 'go to' place for further information.  We are working on the API changes and will list these below as soon as we have them confirmed.

Update 15/4: We are working towards a beta for TIs in the near future.  We are investigating some issues that have arisen when testing the APIs which may delay the beta for a short time.  Anticipated changes include standardising the read and write data formats.  

Update 23/4: Small delay to the beta (eta within the next 2 weeks).  We have corrected the validation and standardised the formats for read and write on codes - see the new links above. This is now in test / internal review.  One of the validation changes is that stored procedures now implement the validation, there is a possibility (or probability) that any TI using internal DRAS APIs and not correctly validating marks will simply receive SQL exceptions whereas the recommended TI APIs will return more meaningful errors.

Update 26/4: We are working towards the beta ASAP and work is in code review.  Our focus will be on the 3rd party calls for TIs and we will prioritise any issue that arises from testing / TI feedback on these calls. We would recommend that all TIs use these for reasons of efficiency and controllability.  We have no plans to build/update samples / documentation to reflect changes in the internal APIs at this time.  

Update 2/5:  Beta intention date provided (Subject to testing at our end).  2 new APIs which we want TIs to use for changed attendance data.  These return data formats compatible with the earlier calls but for changed data.  See example above.

Update 17/5:  We are expecting calls on the beta release and are happy to assist.  NB: Secondary training data - Green Abbey is required (English variant) and will either need dates to be changed in the sims.att_code table or machine dates to be rolled forward because the code change kicks in on 1/8. (Sample SQL script in the links above).


The DfE are making perhaps the first significant change to attendance coding in 50 years for the 24-25 academic year as per the information above.  Whilst we have had conversations with many of our technical integrators prior to this announcement and within the guidance set by the DfE, it is only as of 1st March 2024 that we can announce the set of breaking changes below.

The Summer 2024 release of SIMS will include the changes required to implement the guidance above. Any third party application that reads or writes attendance data from / to SIMS will require modification to work correctly against this release of SIMS.

Who will be impacted?

Any school upgrading to the Summer 2024 release of SIMS.  Whilst schools in Wales, Northern Irelands and other countries will see no change to their attendance process, the underlying code base will be the same for all schools and will require the same set of changes to be made to third party applications.

When will this happen?

We anticipate that the Summer 2024 release of SIMS will ship in June / July 2024.  State schools in England will need to upgrade prior to the start of the Autumn 2024 term.  Outside of English state schools, upgrade patterns may vary.  In short most third party applications would require versions to work with the pre-Summer 24 release and the Summer 24 release onwards.  Different vendors may choose different strategies to accommodate the changes.     

Change #1 - The set of codes will change and be dated.

SIMS will implement a dated set of attendance codes and return 2 extra fields along side the attendance code list:

  • Start Date (Will default to a date that pre-dates SIMS but will always have a valid value)
  • End Date (Could be blank and mean the end of time)

Regardless of how the application gets it's set of attendance codes, it will need to filter on dates to get the correct set valid on any given date.

Change #2 - Existing Lesson Codes may be changed.

On the assumption that a new statutory code is introduced that could be currently used as a lesson code (There are only 26 letters available!), the upgrade will change the existing single character code to a 2 character code to a new code beginning with an exclamation mark, followed by the letter in the lesson attendance tables. 

  • Code K in lesson attendance will become !K
  • Code Q in lesson attendance will become !Q

This would render any cache of lesson marks held by the external system invalid.  This may also yield large numbers of changes if calls to change tracking are made for lesson marks.

This will impact some but not all schools and is unlikely to show in test data. 

Change #3 - Codes may be up to 10 characters.

SIMS will implement a change which allows attendance codes to be up to 10 characters. This is in line with Next Generation SIMS. At present there is no plan to use codes of more than 2 characters in the near future, This is fairly innocuous, but in conversations it has a potential to create a small change to database structures and a massive wait whilst the change is made.

Change #4 -  Some codes may require an statutory explanation to be supplied.

This will apply only to England 

Codes that require a statutory explanation will have a start date and end date for when that is required. 

  • B
  • K
  • Y7

The above codes will require statutory explanations. The B code will be in use prior to the 24/25 attendance year and will require a statutory explanation after 1/8/24.

Outside of England, the same logic should be used but the B code will not have a start date for statutory explanation. (K and Y7 would not be in use outside of England at present).

Marks that have a requirement for a reason will not be able to be saved without one.  NB: This is different to the 'Comment' field which remains unchanged.

See SIMS 7 - Summer 24 - Attendance Codes | ESS Portal (sims-partners.com) to show how these codes can be identified.

Change #5 -  Sub-codes will be retired.

Partner APIs that specifically access sub-codes will be retired.  Sub-code 'fields' may still appear in calls to get marks.  

Scope of the changes

Whilst the changes are intended to facilitate the consultation from the DfE, they will be rolled out to all schools when they take the Summer 2024 release.  Whilst outside of England, these changes will be inert from the user perspective in SIMS, the integration required by our TIs will change for all regions and these are breaking changes for all regions.

Changes impact upon

  • Statutory / Session Attendance
  • Lesson Attendance

The changes put us in a good place to accommodate any future changes from the DfE or other governments. 

Partner Applications

Any application that assumes or has storage for a single character marks would need to be updated. 

Applications would also need to accommodate a statutory explanation field. 

Caches of marks may be invalid.

Partner APIs

We plan to release a new set of V3 APIs to replace existing APIs.

Current thoughts are to retain the previous version signatures, mark them as obsolete and to throw exceptions if these are called.  This would in theory allow TIs to handle both versions of the APIs from the same application but this would need to be proven by the TI themselves.

  • Get Attendance Codes - Structure change and will need filtering
  • Get Session / Lesson Marks - longer codes and reasons
  • Save Session / Lesson Marks - longer codes and reasons.  Change to validation.

NB: The V1 of save lesson marks which was a fail one- fail all model will discontinued.  The V2 version saved as many marks as it could and returned a list of exceptions and it is this model that will form the basis of the V3 call.

A full list of supported partner APIs will be provided when avaialble.

DRAS (Date Range and Scope - SIMS Internal calls)

As far as we are aware, very few technical integrators are using these.  However, the changes to these will be less 'managed' and reflect the needs within SIMS first and foremost.  Initial likely breaking changes look like they are methods where attendance codes are 'char' have been changed to 'string' and some signatures require the 'reason' field to be provided.

SIMS Reporting

Extracting attendance marks via reports is very inefficient and is not recommended.  It is anticipated that reporting will be updated to support longer codes and reasons in time for the Summer release.  Based on the statement that the set of codes will change, it is possible that any TI using reports may need to change their filters but this would need to be decided based on the final code set.

How can PPG / SIMS Help?

We have coded the changes for SIMS itself with the possible exception of making the changes in reporting.  We have assigned a team to update the partner API to support the changes above. Whilst work is in progress, we have yet to get a planned date for this work to complete.

Post the spring release and once we are relatively confident with the new partner APIs, we plan to make a beta of SIMS available to contracted TIs to enable them to plan and develop.  Changes to the reporting dictionary may or may not make the beta.

It is likely that we will provide a patch for waters edge and green abbey data to set the start of the new codes to 1/3/24.  Without this, it is very difficult to test.

Beta releases have no upgrade path and must not be used on live data without written agreement.

When would TIs need to complete the work?

The Summer release is scheduled to ship in June / July 2024. TBC.

  • Current expectation would be that English schools would need to upgrade before the summer holiday in preparation for the start of the 24/25 academic year.
  • Schools elsewhere may choose to upgrade upon release or later.  There will however be a mixed economy of SIMS versions in use (as would normally be the case).
  • It is expected that TI applications consuming attendance data will break upon upgrade to Summer, some more subtly than others. SIMS Connected (hosted) being one of the first to upgrade and covers schools in many regions.
  • TIs will need a plan in place to cope with this.

We will:

Whilst we note that the timelines are outside of our normal commitment of 6 months notice, we were subject to our confidentiality agreement with the DfE and have, within the scope allowed, advised and informed our TI community that this is coming and will need action.