The data standards being rolled out as part of the A2C programme are based on the ISB data standards model commissioned by Department of Education. We can therefore ensure that the A2C data structure is aligned with these standards. In fact, JCQ will be the first organisation to make use of information from the learners section of the new ISB data warehouse, which will contain all DfE information on learners within the British education system. In practice, this will mean that for all centres who procure examination services from JCQ awarding bodies, there will undoubtedly be new terminology and new ways of working to assimilate, but the A2C data standards will also be applied by other key educational bodies so that they all have joined up ways of working and aligned data structures going forward. For example, our expectation is that the annual school census will now be completed using the new structure, which has also been written with LARA and RITs in mind. Therefore whilst the changes to the way in which you order and receive outcomes for general and vocational qualifications will have a significant business and cultural impact initially and there will be a steep learning curve to go through, the end result will be a common and well-constructed theme, which should simplify business transactions in the future.

The full benefits of the A2C data standards will be realised by MIS suppliers and awarding organisations by being incorporated into the design and implementation of their updated systems. Such benefits will bring quality, consistency and ease of use to examinations officers (EOs). Some of these benefits are detailed below:

  • All Awarding Organisation applications and updated management information systems are being written to ISB/A2C standards, and the long term aim is that they will all have a similar look and feel. The A2C data standards will ensure greater consistency in process and for example in the use of harmonised lists. MIS suppliers also have an opportunity to standardise terminology and naming conventions in their interface, although most suppliers are expected to introduce these changes gradually over time.
  • Awarding Organisations will make product catalogue data available via A2C interfaces once a centre’s MIS is A2C compliant. This will include both general and vocational qualifications offered across all participating awarding organisations. Centres should, for example, be able to compare all available offerings for GCSE English, or be able to find providers of the less common products. Some FAB Awarding Organisations, including NCFE, plan to become A2C compliant and when this happens their product catalogues will also become available from within your centre’s MIS.
  • Awarding Organisations will provide messages which can be used to keep data held on centre MIS systems aligned with Awarding Organisation records. These messages will provide detail for transactions which have taken place outside A2C e.g. using Awarding Organisation extranet services. This information will provide guidance on the updates to MIS data which are required in order to maintain alignment with Awarding Organisation records. MIS suppliers will present this information to centres so that they can make manual changes if necessary.
  • Results outcome data will be harmonised and significantly enriched to include contributing outcomes, certification detail where appropriate, data previously issued via secure extranets and updates to the product catalogue to support centre staff (raw mark grade boundaries).
  • When an A2C order (entry) is submitted, your upgraded MIS will be able to provide immediate feedback based on the validation rules within the relevant product catalogue. This validation will cover issues like provision of the appropriate learner identifiers; requirements like these will be defined by individual Awarding Organisations for individual products, but the validation process will operate consistently for all. This function will be consistent regardless of which Awarding Organisation is satisfying the order.
  • The event schedule will provide details such as system deadlines and early bird discounts allowing EOs to obtain best value for money options.