Effective interoperable systems are those which can exchange information with one or more systems efficiently, using an open, standardised approach. This reduces the burden on front-line providers and helps to lower costs.
To achieve a coherent approach, the DfE commissioned an 'Interoperability Review' to look at the data exchange approaches, standards and interaction models being used by organisations and information systems within, and outside, the sector. The review was completed in the first quarter of 2010, and is based on desk study, market analysis and a series of interviews with a range of people including: representatives from government bodies (central and local), non-departmental public bodies and education service providers.
The research and analysis also includes a review of the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF), an open standard defined by SIF group for the exchange of information between IT systems used in schools. It summarises the analysis of the research carried out, and recommends the most appropriate approach to achieve effective interoperability based on the current landscape.
While SIF has made some inroads in the UK in recent years, this report is rather negative:
In summary, SIF was not designed for the UK education skills and children’s services system, and requires substantial vendor specific workarounds to meet requirements in key areas such as security. These workarounds are being developed in the absence of enterprise wide architecture standards. This will inhibit the extensibility, scalability, openness and flexibility needed in order for SIF to be considered as a viable approach for regional and national interoperability (Tiers 2 and 3). SIF could be considered as a viable solution for local interoperability (Tier 1) if a local authority so chooses, as long as it complies with the framework of national standards outlined above.
This is, frankly a good think in my book -- we all badly need an alternative to SIF, which has blocked innovation in educational data systems for over a decade.