Wednesday, 10 September 2008


Schools Interoperability Framework - Becta have recently published a of proof of concept pilot that was run in Birmingham. ( This got much much less attention than even I anticipated. After all school information data structures are not exciting, probably not even to those working on them.

So why is this worth anyone's time and interest?

Capita and the SIMS monopoly. The company have had a very easy time of it - hauling in school finances for their product and not much competition out there. They even charge third party suppliers of products that leverage SIMS to access a schools data.

A couple of years ago Becta fired a salvo across their bows with the catchily titled "Research report: School management information systems and value for money A review with recommendations for addressing the suboptimal features of the current arrangements." ( The criticism of Capita therein was surprisingly hard hitting for a quango. And yet not much has happened subsequently.

The SIF if adopted may unlock the potential of the schools data management market. Becta want it as the standard for all MIS systems for schools. The standard will allow software producers to create add-ons to any MIS without proprietary lockins or issues with interoperability. Instead of a SIMS competitor needing to come to market with a fully comprehensive, mature MIS for schools they could develop one incrementally. Replace one 'suboptimal' element of SIMS with their own every so often until all that's left of SIMS is a stub. Schools could mix and match from a number of suppliers. The potential is enormous as up to now, in my humble opinion, schools data management systems have been lacklustre and unhelpful in the task of automating administrative and other tasks for those working in schools.

Interesting to see what happens...

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