Access 4 Learning Community (powered by SIF) is a mature international standard used widely to link together education data systems. SIF is standard for interoperability between schools, local and national government organisations. Established in the US, it is a prevalent data transfer standard in the UK education sector used by Academy Trusts, Local Authorities and third party suppliers. SIF facilitates better management and accessibility of data inside the institution (horizontal reporting) as well as between institutions and other interested parties, such as local authorities, children's services and possibly government agencies (vertical reporting).
Evidence from extensive use within the US and the UK suggests there are many advantages from these principles as they embody the key requirements of write once, use many times. SIF, when appropriately configured, enables the transfer of data from educational establishments almost in real time, to local authorities and onward to the DfE, along with its agencies and of course from these diverse organisations back to the institution. In addition, potentially diverse applications within an institution (i.e. library system, cashless catering, etc.) can be immediately populated with key information they require to operate effectively once the data has been entered, having a real impact on time and access to data.
The Access 4 Learning Community (powered by SIF) is a non-profit membership organisation whose members include schools, software suppliers, local authorities, regional broadband consortia and government organisations. These members have come together to create a set of rules and definitions which enable software programs from different companies to share information. This set of platform-independent, supplier-neutral rules and definitions is called the SIF Implementation Specification.
The SIF implementation Specification makes it possible for programs within a school or local authority to share data without any additional programming and without requiring each supplier to learn and support the intricacies of other supplier’s applications. The goal of the Access 4 Learning Community is to make it possible for administrators, teaching staff and other personnel to have access to the most current and accurate data available.
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