What do they mean...Information Management Strategy

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
In MI6, they talk of a "need-to-know basis". This involves not telling anybody anything unless they absolutely have to.

In state schools we have an information management strategy. As every field operative (or "teacher", to use the professional jargon) knows, not being told anything is practically part of the job description.

Experiments carried out at the Department for Education and Skills's top-secret research establishment, somewhere in Watford High Street, have proved that, for maximum efficiency, all teachers should be kept in a permanent state of bewilderment, frustration and paranoia.

Heads regularly attend courses to learn how to do this. Naturally, they don't tell you when they are going, which is why they are never there when you need to talk to them urgently. Brilliant, isn't it? Pupils do it too, of course, but with them it is just instinct. You know they are always plotting something, particularly when they are being especially nice.

If form 4C choruses "Good morning" when you walk in, and smile broadly, you know something ghastly is going to happen, but you have no idea what. So, there is fear in the staffroom, terror in the classroom, you are a complete nervous wreck and the champagne corks are flying in Watford.

Seriously, though, the purpose of the information management strategy really is about keeping information to a minimum and avoiding unnecessary duplication. Anyone who has ever had to fill in their name, address, date of birth, national insurance number and favourite colour in 10 different places on the same form will appreciate that this is a good idea. But this is the DfES we are talking about, so keeping things simple just doesn't happen.

Instead you get something that sounds like a computer game. To begin with, you need to have a common basic data set. Once you've got one you can proceed to level 2, where you have to negotiate an inter-operability agreement. Later, you will have to confront the PLASC (pupil level annual schools census) and grapple with compliant systems before attaining the common transfer file. You use this to file through the school gates, before running screaming to MI6 headquarters, where you can get a nice quiet job in a war zone.

timhomfray@aol.com

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