Improving the transfer of student information between schools

Issue: Volume 96, Number 19

Posted: 30 October 2017
Reference #: 1H9fjg

School representatives are co-designing a new initiative with the Ministry of Education to give schools access to information about new students on day one.

Every year 160,000 children and young people in New Zealand move to a new school. For some, the move is the next step along their journey from primary to secondary school. Others move because their families relocate or because a different school suits their needs better.

Schools do a lot of work before new students arrive to make the transition as seamless as possible. This includes obtaining information about the student from the previous school.

This is often done manually, which means extra work for administration staff and the need for teachers to reassess new students if there are gaps in their progress and achievement information.

The Student Information Sharing Initiative (SISI) aims to fix these problems by ensuring schools have the key information they need about new students on day one to support their achievement and wellbeing.

How would SISI work?

SISI has the potential to provide a secure electronic repository so that information about children and young people moves with them through the education system.

With the appropriate permissions, schools could access information about students via their student management system (SMS). 

The SISI repository would replace the current need for schools to obtain and re-enter information about new students, thus freeing up staff time and ensuring the right information is available when a child or young person first arrives at a new school.

SISI would start with schools, with the potential for information to be shared between early learning services, schools and tertiary institutions in the future.

The repository would provide schools with student information in a standardised format. This format is defined by something called the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) data standard.

SIF is already used extensively and successfully in education systems in Australia, North America and the UK.

Who would have access?

The Ministry takes the privacy of student information seriously. We are talking to school representatives and privacy experts about the type of information that would be held in the repository and who would have access to it.

“A lot of work is being done to develop tight controls about who can enter, access and share information from the repository and under what conditions,” says Graeme Barber, principal of Woodend School and chair of the SISI English-medium schools working group. “We know there is concern about how secure the information in the SISI repository would be and the need to protect people’s privacy.

Who’s designing SISI?

SISI is being co-designed with education sector representatives to ensure the best outcomes for everyone.

To help with the design, the Ministry has established an English-medium schools working group and a Māori-medium schools working group. The groups include representatives from schools, kura kaupapa Māori and Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako.

Teachers, principals, administrators and others from different types of schools throughout New Zealand have been involved in workshops and interviews to find out how they manage student information, what their issues are, and how to improve the current system.

“The project team has gone far and wide to talk to schools about SISI,” says Chris Nielsen, principal of Whakatane High School and member of the English-medium schools working group. “Workshops have been held at schools all over the country – and most importantly, at schools outside the main centres.”

More than 2,000 people working with education information responded to a survey on SISI. Their views, and those of education sector groups, education agencies, and SMS vendors, are all contributing to the proposed processes for entering, storing, using and sharing student information. Prototypes are being tested with school staff including principals, teachers and administrators.

The SISI team is seeking a technology partner to work with selected schools and their SMS vendors to develop the repository and supporting technology. 

SISI is a key project of the Ministry’s Integrated Education Data (iEd) programme. An iEd advisory committee, which includes early childhood and schooling sector representatives, is also providing advice on SISI.

What’s happening next?

The SISI team is talking with the SISI schools working groups, SMS vendors and others to develop an implementation plan for SISI. A major part of this plan is training and ongoing support for everyone who works with education information in schools. 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 30 October 2017

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