End of the line for SIF?

Ed Whittaker

Ed started his career in chemistry, working for ICI Organics Division in Blackley. Having decided that 21 days holiday a year was simply not enough, he left industry to take up teaching at the age of 30. He spent the next twenty odd years teaching chemistry to GCSE and A level - and learning about behaviour management the hard way. Early in his teaching career he became interested in classroom management techniques following some Keystone Kops style episodes in his Y9 lessons. For the last few years of his teaching career Ed was the behaviour lead in a large Manchester comprehensive and was responsible for the successful introduction of BFL into the school. In July 2008 Ed left teaching to form Schools Data Services Ltd, specifically to promote IRIS, an on-line behaviour and rewards management facility devised by Ed and ex school MIS manager Andrew Rose.

Ed lives in Rochdale with wife Helen, two boys and a dog of very small brain called Archie. His main ambition is to make a difference in education by providing an alternative low cost, high value MIS to schools.

Follow @IRIS_behaviour

Website: www.iris.ac Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The recently released Interoperability Review from Education, Skills and Children’s Services appears to pour a considerable quantity of cold water on the idea of adopting the US based Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF).  The report declares that there is a compelling case for a national interoperability capability, but goes on to suggest that SIF probably isn’t it. The report outlines several issues with SIF and suggests that unless these can be effectively resolved then SIF is unlikely to be able to provide an effective solution for current UK interoperability needs.

SIF is another example of the way UK governments scour the world looking for solutions to issues here in Britain. Now, whilst I’m all in favour of not re-inventing the wheel, the idea that you can pluck a system from its home environment – for which it was purpose designed and in which it may well function perfectly – and drop it into a UK context is to me both lazy and somewhat naive. For example, the Swedish model of free schools / open schools or whatever touted by Team Gove may work perfectly well in Sweden; but why should they do so here; where social values and issues, parental engagement, pupil work ethic etc may be quite different? Surely, rather than continually come up with workarounds in order to ram the square SIF peg into a decidedly round UK hole, it would be much better to come up with our own solution to suit our needs, not America’s. Indeed, the report does suggest looking at the work of the Information Standards Board, which has an evolving set of national business data standards.

The main problem with devising our own systems for schools ICT, whether it’s MIS systems or whatever, is that the debate tends to be dominated by a small number of big players; each of which is more concerned with pushing its own self interest than working for the common good.  My own company applied for membership of the Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIFA UK) and we didn’t even get a reply, that’s how interested they are in consultation.  We need an independent, impartial body to take the lead and lay down clear standards with which we can all comply, rather than the endless circular debates and self-interest which dogs progress at the moment. That body could have been Becta, had it not allowed itself to be hijacked by the main MIS providers. I for one won’t mourn its passing. More on Becta another time.

 

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