Frequently Asked Questions

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Q - What is a standard?

A – A standard defines a set of criteria, rules or guidelines to be used for common and repeated use. Standards are established by consensus and approved by a recognised body. See the Case Studies for examples of information standards.

Q - Why do we need the Information Standards Board (ISB)?

A - The ISB is a key element of the DCSF Information Strategy. It will provide governance arrangements for information standards across the education, skills and children’s services (escs) system. By reducing bureaucracy and creating more joined up services, the ISB will produce real benefits for learners, and financial savings for developers, as well as time savings for users. These savings should ensure that more resources are available in the front line for children and learners rather than being used on bureaucracy. For more information on the ISB please see What We Do.

Q - Why do we need system wide information standards?

A - System wide information standards will bring a wide range of benefits across the escs. By implementing common standards across the system, we can reduce the implementation time and costs of developing and delivering programmes and solutions for the system, thereby increasing value for money. If data can be created once and used many times in the same format across the system, we can reduce operational costs. Common standards will benefit developers by creating a more open and competitive market for software and applications. Outcomes for learners and children can be enhanced as system wide standards will enable the creation of innovative and high value online services. For more information see Why Standards?

Q - What is the Information Strategy?

A - The Information Strategy is an overarching programme to achieve information systems across the escs sector that are modern, integrated and fully customer focused. There are a number of key elements of work which comprise the strategy:

• An overall information architecture

• Group governance for IT

• Information Standards

• Identity Management

• Information sharing and practice

• Practical pilots and exemplars

• More effective Information Management

• Building the right capacity within DCSF

The information strategy works with partners across the system. It is not an IT programme, but a strategy to put in place key building blocks to integrate existing IT programmes.

Q - What kind of standards will the ISB cover?

A - The ISB will not develop standards, but approve those which have already been developed. Only those standards which will have benefits for the whole escs systems will be approved. The ISB will cover standards including those for, but not limited to:

• Vocabularies

• Metadata

• Data collections and statistics

• e-Learning content

• Collaboration

• Assessment and qualifications

Standards approved by the Information Standards Board can be found in the Standards Library.

Q – What authority does the ISB have?

A - Although it is not an NDPB, the ISB has Ministerial authority to approve standards for the system. It also has the authority of its partners, who have signed a partnership agreement.

Q – Who is the ISB accountable to and how will its success be measured?

A - The ISB will work across the sectors covered by DCSF and DIUS. However as it is hosted by DCSF, the ISB (and its Chairman) is accountable to senior officials and Ministers within DCSF and DIUS. It is also accountable to all partner organisations through the Partnership Agreement. Its success will be measured against the objectives set out in the Business Plan for each financial year. At the end of each financial year an Annual Report will be published which will outline the achievements for that year. For more information please see Governance.

Q – Will the ISB be issuing guidance to teachers, care workers and other professionals dealing with children and if so what will is the expected impact on their responsibilities and workload?

A – No, not directly. Standards for professionals are outside the remit of the ISB, although guidance may be issued. The DCSF will continue to develop and issue professional standards as appropriate and deliver them through various policy agendas.

Q – What is the scope of the ISB?

A - The ISB will be responsible for standards across the education, skills and children’s services system in England. It is intended to be the system wide authority for all information and data standards that support the information strategy. See Scope

Q – How can you ensure the independence of the ISB if it sponsored by DCSF and DIUS?

A – Although the ISB is sponsored by the DCSF and DIUS, the majority of its members are drawn from outside of these organisations to ensure that the views of ecsc sector as a whole are considered. The make up of members will ensure the independence of the ISB. We have appointed an independent chair who will ensure that the views of all parties are reflected and that the ISB operates for the benefit of the whole system. A number of standards champions drawn from a range of partner organisations across the system will take the lead on specific standards. The technical support service will be provided by a third party independent of DCSF and DIUS.

Q – How will the ISB publish its decisions?

A – Decisions taken by the ISB will be published on its website and also in its Annual Report. It will also inform the cross-government CIO council of its decisions through presentations.

Q – How can you be sure that there is support from the industry for the ISB?

A – The consultation on the e-strategy showed that there is a desire from suppliers to collaborate in this area for mutual benefit. Developers will need to adhere to the standards approved by the ISB in order to be able to sell their products in the escs market. We will create a more competitive market and therefore more opportunities for developers. The Department is committed to a voluntary approach, but we may consider a compliance regime if necessary.

Q – How will the ISB fit in with cross-Government developments in this area?

A – The ISB is currently establishing working relationships with other standards bodies across the public sector, such as the NHS ISB and the local e-government standards board (L-eGSB). Together with these two boards, the ISB has set up a pan-public sector standards group

Q – How will you work with the FE Information Authority, how can you be sure there won’t be overlap with their work?

A - The Information Authority (IA) has a specific remit for collection of FE related data, and therefore its role is different to that of the ISB. However, we are committed to working effectively and efficiently with them through a Memorandum of Understanding.


Technical Difficulties

Q- I am having problems viewing web pages

A – There are several reasons why this happens. It could be due to a slower than usual Internet connection or increased traffic accessing our servers.

If a page consistently refuses to load in your browser, try refreshing or reloading the page. Hold down Ctrl and Shift key at the same time and click on the refresh icon (or press F5 on your keyboard) should make the reloading process more effective.

Clearing your most recently visited web pages (which are automatically stored by the browser) will also help. This can be done using the following menu options:

Internet Explorer: Tools > Internet Options > General > Clear History

Netscape Navigator: Edit > Preferences > Clear History

If you continue to have problems please email the . Any errors notified will be reported to the technical helpdesk for further investigation and resolution. Thank you in advance for your time taken to highlight website errors.

Q – How do I report / fix a broken link

A – If you have found a broken link or you can not access a page please contact the .

Please provide precise details of what you were doing to encounter the error, including the address of the web page you were visiting and how we can replicate the error.

Any errors notified will be reported to the technical helpdesk for further investigation and resolution. Thank you in advance for your time taken to highlight website errors.

Q There is a problem with downloading documents

A – Several of the ISB website pages will contain documents for you to download in a variety of formats.

The ISB tries to ensure as many users as possible have access to and can open these documents. If you are unable to open a document please contact the who will get back to you as soon as possible with advice and support