What is data harmonisation?

In broad terms, this means putting in place common data standards and data sets to create a unified data language, and a shared approach to business practices. Very significant gains can be realised through data harmonisation, ranging from much reduced volumes of data inputting, to the transmission of data in real time.

 Why align workforce data standards and definitions for the local government workforce?

This is an initiative which has arisen directly in response to local authorities' feedback over the past few years. The current fragmented approach of different data standards for different data collections (especially in areas with cross sector interest, e.g. children's services) is burdensome both in terms of time and money for local authorities, providers and national bodies and hampers the exchange and sharing of data. It also reduces the quality and usefulness of the data collected.

 Why harmonise data standards and definitions now?

The proposed provision of common standards and definitions is a recognition of the new challenges and complexities faced by local authorities and other service providers as they respond to the requirements of the School Workforce Census (SWF), the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC), the Local Government Earnings Survey and other major national collections.

 What areas of the workforce are covered by the harmonised data standards and definitions?

The scope of these data standards is any organisation involved in the provision of services for which local government has responsibility - including both those directly employed by public sector organisations such as local authorities and those working for agencies or service organisations that may be contracted by local authorities to provide services - excluding police, fire and courts services (although discussions are ongoing regarding these services).

This means that the standards should apply to all staff about whom local authorities have a requirement to maintain or provide data.

 What will be the benefits of using harmonised data standards and definitions?

Adopting and using harmonised data standards and definitions will reduce the burden of data collection, storage and extraction as different data would not be needed to meet demands from different bodies.

It will help ensure local authorities and other service providers have access to the data they need for management, planning and policy development with regard to their workforce, while keeping the effort of complying with statutory collections to a minimum.

It will also facilitate the sharing of data between bodies and enable accurate benchmarking across the sector.

 How will the standards improve information and data about the workforce?

They will provide consistency in the definition, meaning and use of data about the workforce. By providing standard definitions to those who commission, build, populate and analyse data systems, including collections and surveys, the quality of information about the sector's workforce will improve over time as these new standards are used in new and existing collections.

 How have we gone about developing the data standards and definitions?

A Standards Working Group was established in July 2009 to develop draft harmonised workforce standards and definitions. The Working Group included a wide range of organisations working across the sector including the Local Government Association, Department for Children, Schools and Families, Children’s Workforce Development Council, Skills for Care, Lifelong Learning UK, Office for National Statistics, Managing Information Across Partners, Further Education Information Authority, Higher Education Statistics Agency and the DIUS and DCSF Information Standards Board (ISB).

 I've heard that the ISB for ESCS are producing their own standards. Are these different?

The standards for ESCS and UK Government are undergoing change at this time. The Cabinet Office Chief Information Officers Council is reviewing the catalogue of eGIF Government Data Standards and consulting on proposals to refresh them. This may result in changes to person-related standards (name, address, ethnicity, religion, language, nationality) and others.

During the period of development of the draft workforce standards, and the subsequent consultation on them, the ISB-ESCS substantially revised its process for standards development and its definition of what a business data standard should comprise. As a result, existing standards will undergo revision (this includes the ADD).

The Technical Support Service to the ISB-ESCS is therefore undertaking an urgent and rapid in-depth review of Workforce Standards in comparison to its business data architecture and a due diligence review. The intention of the review will be to build on and use the good work that has gone into these standards, proposing changes only where necessary and after consultation.

 Were local authorities and other stakeholders consulted about the work of the Standards Working Group?

Yes. Local authorities were involved through a focus group. Expert help was also drawn from a wider range of organisations including the Local Government Employers and the Improvement and Development Agency.

A public consultation was undertaken over the Summer 2009 and revisions were made to the workforce data standards based upon consultation responses. The report from the public consultation is available to download from ...

 Are the workforce data standards a completely new set of standards and definitions?

No. The standards are based on existing standards and working practices.

Specifically, the standards and definitions reflect existing standards and workforce data collections including the SWF, NMDS-SC, Children Services Mapping Project and Local Government Earnings Survey.

 Do the standards and definitions include a standard occupational classification?

Yes. A job role code set has been developed that, if used fully, should enable local authorities to hold one role/occupation code against a post and still be able to respond fully to the SWF, NMDS-SC and other collections. This role code set covers all local government relevant roles, whether or not they are employed by local authorities, and directly relates to the Standard Occupational Classifications 2000 published by the Office for National Statistics which will, in time, enable comparison with wider economic data. The implementation of the role code set will also facilitate better quality local benchmarking and workforce planning.

 How did you decide which data standards and definitions to include?

The criteria for including a standard were either that the data was already used in one of the key central collections about the local government workforce, or any workforce involved in the provision of local government services, particularly children's and adults' social care services, or if there was a clear possibility that this area of data would be collected in the future.

 Do you expect all organisations to use the common standards and definitions immediately they have been agreed and published?

No. It will be for each organisation taking account of their own needs and requirements to decide when and how they adopt and use the workforce data standards. It is certainly not our intention to force local authorities or others to store data in a particular way.

We do envisage the Workforce Data Standards being adopted and used in due course for all key central collections about the local government workforce, including all children's, young people, and adults' social care services. Over time we would like to see the common standards and definitions adopted and used for all data relating to the local government workforce at both the local and central level.

 Does this mean all data in the standards will be collected at some point?

No. Just because an item of data is defined in the standards does not mean there are any plans to introduce them into existing collections or create new collection in the future.

The data standards will only lead to a reduction in burden for local authorities. The existence of a data item within the standards does not imply any intention to collect the item nationally in the future. Any additional data requirement will be need to go through the usual channels to prove there is a business case and that the collection would provide genuine additional value to the sector.

Contact details

DSD Helpdesk
Organisation type: Other
Telephone: 01325 392626
Website: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/adminandfinance/schooladmin/ims/datacollections/requestform