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.