Education, Skills and Children's Services - Interoperability? Ouch!
The Department for Education's predecessor, DCSF, commissioned a report (PDF) to review information and data sharing within education, skills and childrens services (ESCS), with the aim of suggesting a way forward. The report makes interesting reading, concluding that the current lack of interoperability wastes £300m per annum! The report also concludes that a national approach to interoperability would deliver financial benefits of around £250m, (payback within 3 years), and would join up services to learners, families and young people.
The report recommends a central infrastructure to support national and regional interoperability, and adoption and imposition of standards on Local Authorities and Schools.
All of the above sounds fine, but how do we get from where we are now? Currently we have a hotch-botch of standards, approaches and commercial influences. Schools (Services) Interoperability Framework (SIF) is a US approach that has been adapted to fit the UK market, and is designed to control access to schools managament information systems by third party systems and services, e.g. e-catering, library systems etc. This can be extended to Local Authority data collections, but most use Capita SIMS or similar products that already include school census collection features. The report dismisses SIF, which has prompted a response from SIFAUK.
I believe the approach identified in the report is the right one, but doesn't stand a chance of being supported. Why?, because it requires agreement on standards (something that convulses SIF), underestimates interference of public sector IT suppliers who prefer proprietary rather than open solutions, and wholly underestimates the scale of the task. Success would also require a hard line from a big central government, and that's not going to happen to support an approach commissioned by its predecessor.