Becta – Opportunities lost and opportunities gained.

As most people will have seen Becta will be cut as a cost saving measure by the Conservative – Lib Dem coalition government. There is no published timescale on this but a number of people have said they have been told it is by November 2010 (myself included).

As with many others who have experienced working with Becta over the years I would like to thank the various staff there and others who have worked closely with them (and yes … that even means consultants). I have had the pleasure of having input from Becta in 5 roles. The first was way back with I was an IT Technician (in a pretty forward thinking school) and I was able to attend various events include expert workshops and the Annual Research Conference. It shaped my view of technology as a tools for education, and with things like FITS for me to be an enabler. Next I experienced then as a middle leader … a network manager. They allowed me to talk on a level playing field with teachers and other Heads of Departments. As a Senior Leader their work helped give direction for my school, especially around the Self-review Framework and as an LA worker the advice, guidance and clarity means I can cascade this down to schools and support schools moving forward with using technology.

The fifth one? Why, it was their support (and patience) with EduGeek. The first EduGeek Conference in Corby had Becta staff coming along for the keynote and happy to take an ear-bashing from a bunch of techies … EduGeek members and mods (I don’t think we even consider calling ourselves admins, never mind staff!) had the chance to air their views about the IT Infrastructure documentation … I was invited to give input into the advice and guidance to schools on Data Protection.

So … yes, I have a healthy respect for what they have done over the years and I am really thankful for it.

Do I think some things could have worked out better? Of course I do … some of the targets they were given were political.

But where do we go from here?

It will take some time for all the projects to run their course, for legal and contractual requirements to be sorted out and for elements of work they do to be taken on by others. People should not make the mistake that just because the organisation is gone the work will finish. Until Becta, DforE and others sort this out we are all down to speculation.

However, there are some things we do know and can do. If nothing else, make yourself familiar with the Becta site and materials. Even if you have thought “They don’t have anything to offer me,” still go and have a look. Dig into the research section to see some of the background work done over the years, because just as the Laptops for Teachers and IWB projects were large funded projects they came from small beginnings.

Have a look at the different schools and teachers who have won awards from Becta. See if you can track them down today. Are they still in successful schools? Are they now senior leaders? Do they work for LAs? Consultants? See if you can speak to other schools they have worked with? Can you find some good practice you can use.

Look at how they examined emerging technologies. What criteria did they use for seeing whether there would be benefits to learning and/or teaching? Look at how they took on some of the procurement frameworks. See how they worked out how to challenge companies to get the best deals they could, even if it meant doing a bit of a deal with the devil at times.

Look at the technical documentation. Examine how it has changed over the years … try to spot where it is going to change again. Look at the work, both historical and fresh, on open standards. Will this have an impact on what you choose to use in the future?

Why all this effort though?

Simple … you don’t know what bit of this work you may have to do yourself, or find someone else who is already doing it with whom you can work with. Some part may be taken on by other groups … some might get dropped and schools / LAs / Companies have to do it themselves … but start preparing now for what your requirements for the future are and learn how to plan.

If you are a school which doesn’t engage with stuff then this will mean nothing to you … you will still plan poorly, have a panic every few years because you have a sudden bill for hardware, and you will see computers as something to keep kids quiet with.

If you are a very proactive teacher / school / LA then you will be happy because you can gloat about being able to do it all yourself anyway and will be able to tell everyone how wonderful you are … but please start talking to others about how that can be effectively shared without costing the earth.

If you are the other group … those who happily work away, waiting for the early adopters to do their bit and learn from the experience of others, who know that in the mountain of priorities which is education you sometimes have to put things to one side and pick up a bit later or you have to get the advice and info from others … well, now is the time to start developing those networks of support and advice. Stuff that could have been cascaded down via the LA might not be there because some of that stuff will have come from Becta …

As you form those links then let me know … I will be doing the same and happy to share mine with you. I’ll also happily share any news about what I find out about the future of what is happening with technology in education … and I hope you will do the same for me and others.

7 replies on “Becta – Opportunities lost and opportunities gained.”

Hi Tony, some great advice. Whilst Becta had its “foibles” there’s no hiding from the unquestionable benefit that technology has on learning. I’ve set up a group on linkedin, it would be great to see you and others join up and share your passion.

They were probably one of the more positive organisations to be in the sector and did produce a lot of good stuff.

I will miss being able to quote their recommendations – for some reason the schools liked hearing the words of an official government body, even if we’d been saying the same for years.

Still – the body will probably just die and then get reinvented at additional expense somewhere down the line.

Good post, Tony. Enjoyed reading it.

A great reflective post, its one of those people won’t realise what they had until its gone and lots of staff and school who think Becta didn’t do anything for them don’t realise how Becta supported them through the once removed support school leaders and LA folk got via Becta.

Not that Becta was, or claimed to be, the font of all knowledge- to me it was the networks of people, the sharing of good practice, the films, case studies, events and web sites that helped me achieve what I have an let me contribute my support to others. Becta wasn’t always after the glory either, they funded without brand other great projects like SSAT’s ICT-Register and trained up ICT Register schools as Consultant Schools so the message could spread.

The power vacuum needs filling, Naace could take the ICT Mark back and adopt the SRF, LAs, as you say have a role but with Gove hoping all schools will become Academies in time will there even be LAs?

Perhaps SSAT’s finest hour is yet to come; their small ICT team are visionaries and has always had close links to Becta and with the growth in Academies surely they stock will rise and their ICT advice and support be a growing role? That’s my vote- policy from DfE and support fostered by SSAT deliverd school2school in SSAT’s time honoured method.

Excellent post.
I’m aware that lots of people are busily raiding their way through the Becta website for materials – we’ve been asked to get copies of things for various teachers and schools.

There is a ‘fear’ that the content which Becta has accumulated may just vanish, are you aware if anyone / any body has fully archived the Becta resources elsewhere?

If I have one observation (nay, gripe) about Becta’s publications it was there ability to use a complicated paragraph where a short sentence or even a single word may have done the job.

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