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A guide to the terms, abbreviations and acronyms used on the ISB website, in documents and in ISB business.
Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.


A2C Data Standards search for term

The system interfaces of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) A2C Data Standards (Version 1.0) have been aligned with ISB standards.

Implementing the A2C Data Standards will bring significant benefits to schools and colleges.

It will allow harmonised transactions and processes, and will support several types of qualification. General Qualifications (GQ), Vocational Qualifications (VQ) and on-demand qualifications (which are qualifications where the assessment is available to be completed, and the qualification awarded, when the learner is ready - rather than on a fixed date or dates in the year).

From: A2C Data Standards accessed 2014-10-07

ADCS search for term

ADCS used for: Association of Directors of Children's Services. The Association of Directors of Children's Services is the national leadership association in England for statutory directors of children's services and other children's services professionals in leadership roles.

From: Association of Directors of Children's Services accessed 2014-10-07

Attributes search for term

Attributes are properties of an entity. They provide more detail about the entity they are associated with. Examples of attributes of [PERSON] are date of birth, gender, weight, height.

Attributes must not contain any embedded logic. An example of embedded logic would be, for example, where the first two characters are used to indicate the country of origin, and the next eight characters are used to indicate the date of birth.

More information: Enterprise Architecture for the ESCS system accessed 2014-11-11


BDA search for term

BDA used for: Business Data Architecture.

The Business Data Architecture is one part of the overall Enterprise Architecture for the Education, Skills and Children’s Services system; it is intended to be the authoritative model of the business data that is used in the system.

The ESCS ISB business data architecture is available from the standards library section of the ISB website.

More information: Business Data Architecture for the ESCS system accessed 2014-10-07

BDS search for term

BDS used for: Business Data Standard.

A Business Data Standard is defined in response to a business need captured in a Standards Development Request and approved by the ISB.

ISB BDSs standardise a part of the Business Data Architecture component of an Enterprise Architecture. The architecture as a whole is a stand-alone document, available from the standards library, those parts that are approved by the ISB are contained in the set of approved BDSs.

Only by alignment to an architecture can the BDSs be made modular yet fit together in ways appropriate to the overall business of ESCS.

Business data standards for the ESCS ISB are contained within the standards library.

From: ISB website accessed 2014-10-07

BESA search for term

BESA used for: British Educational Suppliers Association.

BESA is a trade association. They work on behalf of c300 members to support UK-based companies that supply goods and services to the education sector.

From: British Educational Suppliers Association accessed 2014-10-07

BIS search for term

BIS used for: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is the department for economic growth. The BIS invests in skills and education to promote trade, boost innovation and help people to start and grow a business.

From: GOV.UK: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills accessed 2014-10-07

BSI search for term

BSI used for: British Standards Institution.

BSI facilitates business improvement by helping its clients drive performance, reduce risk and grow sustainably through the adoption of international management systems standards, many of which BSI originated.

It is a founding member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

From: British Standards Institution accessed 2014-10-07


CBDS search for term

CBDS used for: Common Basic Data Set.

The Common Basic Data Set (CBDS) database provides a standard for data used in software systems for management information in schools, local authorities, other children's institutions, the Department and other Government bodies.

All changes to the CBDS will be made within the one database file, using a change control process.

From: Common Basic Data Set, Department for Education website accessed 2014-10-07

CEN search for term

CEN used for: European Committee for Standardization.

CEN is a major provider of European Standards and technical specifications. It is the only recognized European organisation according to Directive 98/34/EC for the planning, drafting and adoption of European Standards in all areas of economic activity with the exception of electrotechnology (CENELEC) and telecommunication (ETSI).

From: European Committee for Standardization accessed 2014-10-07

Controlled vocabularies search for term

There are several different types of controlled vocabularies.

Controlled lists in the ISB context are often flat code lists. Their only relationship is that they are all narrower terms of the main code list subject. These lists could have new terms added, or terms deprecated from them, as changes are made to the subject area.

Sometimes ISB controlled lists include a simple hierarchy, where there are top level terms within the controlled list and these, in turn, have narrower terms. This means that there could be two or three levels below the main code list subject.

Search the ISB standards library for controlled vocabularies.

Other types of controlled vocabularies are, for example, thesauri and authority files.

Thesauri are controlled vocabularies with a hierarchical structure that develops as the subject matter evolves. It includes relationships between terms, including broader terms (BT), narrower terms (NT) and related terms. Terms can be deprecated, but this is rare. 

Authority files are are headings, that relate specifically to names, subjects and series. Usually, once a name or term is added to an authority file it is not deleted and it becomes an alphabetical reference list.

From: ISB website accessed 2014-10-07

COTS search for term

COTS used for: Commercial Off The Shelf.

Something that has been bought to fulfil a particular function, and which does not require any additional development work for it to perform effectively.


DfE search for term

DfE used for Department for Education

The Department for Education is responsible for education and children's services.

From: GOV.UK: Department for Education accessed 2014-10-07


Entities search for term

An entity is a real world thing which is recognised as being capable of an independent existence, and which can be uniquely identified. Entities can be thought of as nouns.

An entity is a “Thing, Person, Place or Event” about which the organisation records data.

More information: Enterprise Architecture for the ESCS system accessed 2014-10-07

ESCS search for term

ESCS used for: Education, Skills and Children's Services.


FAB search for term

FAB used for: Federation of Awarding Bodies.

It is the trade association for vocational awarding bodies in the UK.

From: Federation of Awarding Bodies accessed 2014-10-07

FE search for term

FE used for: Further Education.


HaSC search for term

HaSC used for: Health and Social Care.

The Information Standards Board for Health and Social Care (ISB) closed on 31 March 2014.

Responsibility for the recommendation for approval of information standards has transferred to the Standardisation Committee for Care Information (SCCI). For further details visit the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) website.

The approved information standards in the standards library on remain current and will continue to be updated, to mark items as superseded, on approval of changes by SCCI.

ISB HaSC website and Standardisation Committee for Care Information (SCCI) website accessed 2014-10-07

HE search for term

HE used for: Higher Education.

HEFCE search for term

HEFCE used for: Higher Education Funding Council for England.

HEFCE distributes public money for higher education to universities and colleges in England, and ensures that this money is used to deliver the greatest benefit to students and the wider public.

From: HEFCE accessed 2014-10-07

HEI search for term

HEI used for: Higher Education Institution.

HESA search for term

HESA used for: Higher Education Statistics Agency.

HESA is the official agency for the collection, analysis and dissemination of quantitative information about higher education.

From: Higher Education Statistics Agency accessed 2014-10-07

Alison Allden represents HESA on the ISB board.


ICO search for term

ICO used for: Information Commissioner's Office.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

From: Information Commissioner's Office accessed 2014-10-07

ILR search for term

The Individualised Learner Record (ILR) is a collection of data about learners and their learning that is requested from providers in the Further Education (FE) and Skills sector.

The data collected is used by organisations in the FE and Skills sector to ensure that public money is being spent in line with government targets for quality and value-for-money, for future planning and to make the case for the sector in seeking further funding.

From: The information authority accessed 2014-10-07

ISB search for term

ISB used for: Information Standards Board.

ISO search for term

ISO used for: International Organization for Standardization.

ISO develop and publish international standards.

They are a network of national standards bodies. These national standards bodies make up the ISO membership and they represent ISO in their country. The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the ISO member representing the United Kingdom.

From: International Organization for Standardization accessed 2014-10-07


Keys search for term

A primary key is the unique identifier of an entity, where possible natural keys are used rather than surrogate because:

Natural Keys limits the possibility of data content being swapped to the wrong key – easy to do with a surrogate key

Natural Keys provide additional validation of the entity – natural keys describe the entity, surrogates do not

Natural Keys provide built in data integrity when loading data or assembling messages.

In order to support the relationship between two entities then the primary key of one entity (the parent entity) needs to be included as an attribute of the entity to which it relates (the child entity). This is sometimes referred to as primary key propagation or migration.

Inclusion of a primary key as an attribute of another entity is called a secondary or foreign key since it identifies the entity to which it is related.

More information: Enterprise Architecture for the ESCS system accessed 2014-10-07


LeGSB search for term

LeGSB used for: Local e-Government Standards Body.

LeGSB exists to promote eStandards that support efficiency, transformation, and transparency of local services.

LeGSB and the ISB work in partnership.

From: Local e-Government Standards Body accessed 2014-10-07


Metadata search for term

Data about the structural content of data or its business meaning

MIS search for term

MIS used for: Management Information System


SIF search for term

SIF used for: Systems Interoperability Framework.

SIF provides a platform-independent, supplier-neutral data standard which in turn enables true interoperability among data-driven applications within the education sector. Schools and local authorities can maximise their investment by ensuring interoperability throughout their institutions and therefore reducing redundant data entry.

From: SIF Association accessed 2014-10-07

SIFA search for term

SIFA used for: Systems Interoperability Framework Association.

The SIF Association is a non-profit membership association. It brings organisations together to create a set of rules and definitions which enable software programs from different companies to share information.

This set of platform-independent, vendor-neutral rules and definitions is called the SIF Implementation Specification.

From: SIF Association accessed 2014-10-07

SIG search for term

SIG used for: Special Interest Group.

The ISB has a number of Special Interest Groups covering different subjects and overarching areas.

The SIGs:

provide specialised knowledge in various business categories across the ESCS system;

participate in different process area working groups; and

are the leading expert advisory groups to the TSS in the development of the data and information standards.

More information: ISB website accessed 2014-10-07

For further information please contact the ISB secretariat.

ISB Secretariat

Standards search for term

Standards define best practice in many different areas. They’re put together by groups of experts and come in a number of different kinds, from a set of definitions to a series of strict rules.

From: British Standards Institution: information about standards accessed 2014-10-07


TSS search for term

TSS used for: Technical Support Service.

The TSS:

  • coordinates and develops the business-led standards approval and adoption process on behalf of the Information Standards Board (ISB) and the Education, Skills and Children’s Services (ESCS) system
  • supports delivery of the ISB business plan
  • assists the ISB with management of the wider ESCS stakeholder landscape

More information: ISB website accessed 2014-10-07


UCAS search for term

UCAS used for: Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

UCAS is the organisation responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the UK.

From: UCAS accessed 2014-10-07

UPN search for term

UPN used for: Unique Pupil Number.

UPN is a number that identifies each learner in England uniquely. UPNs are allocated to learners according to a nationally specified formula on first entry to school (or in some cases earlier).

Learners' UPNs are intended to remain with them throughout their school career regardless of any change in school or LA (there are a few exceptional circumstances where this may not be the case).

From: GOV.UK: Department for Education: Data, research and statistics accessed 2014-10-07


W3C search for term

World Wide Web Consortium


XML search for term

A format for electronic document encoding defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language.

XSD search for term

A format for describing the rules to which an XML document must conform. XSD stands for XML Schema Definition and is defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In the AIS, XSD refers specifically to the rules for structuring Business Data Messages that are maintained by the ISB.