Becta and school ICT: end of the line for the gravy train? (II)


Not so long ago in early March this year I wrote a light hearted obituary for the Government schools' ICT quango called BECTA.

I apologise for not including the acronym explanation for BECTA in parenthesis but truly I am fed up with them. Education is awash with (ever changing) acronyms viz DFE, DFES DCFS, D for E, QCA, QCDA (RIP). However they tell a story.

I remember as a child whenever I got a new exercise book I vowed that this time it would be kept neat and contain only good marks. So, I suspect it is with Government departments. As you all know, the exercise book soon became as horrible as the previous ones and thus it was, is and will be for the above acronymical reincarnations of good intentions known a public sector bodies.

But now, with a new Government BECTA and QCDA are no more. They both moved to Coventry recently, I knew that was the end of them, apparently they did not. NO ONE voluntarily moves from London to they? But no acronym change…just abolishment?

For Becta's potted history go to, it was well received by several insiders within the organisation.

However there is some things to add that make me think stuff is afoot.

Rampant Speculations (ie they are bound to be right).

The Qualifications and Curriculum...blah blah Department (QCDA) oops, sorry it got downgraded to Authority (or is that upgraded?) oversaw BECTA ( well it did until recent past) which in turn guided school ICT.

The rub is that despite everything, they both did important jobs, really, doing exams and getting your expensive ICT investment right are quite important things in schools.

So what did they do that was so bad they got the oh-so-public bullet today?

Here is my take, a traditional Spencer confabulation, so hated by those in charge.

Firstly, QCDA and BECTA grew exponentially in the past ten years it was empire building of the first order, but this is just normal, to get abolished you have to really b******ks something.

The major crimes I think were as follows:

  1. The QCDA presided over such an increase in child assessment (tests, exams) that literally it broke our educational system, which is why we are now bottom of the childrens' well being league in Europe. That's a big crime.
  2. 2) BECTA presided over an escalation in costs for ICT by promoting a vendor-driven model that lead to a completely unsustainable position for schools. That's a big crime
  3. Given the above, which I am sure has brought about their punishment, why were the top honchos at BECTA so upbeat in March when they knew what was coming?

Why have so many QCDAers already slipped into the Civil Service?

I feel a new exercise book (or two) coming on here.

The new Government's education bill makes the proliferation of LA-independent Academies a reality.

No longer can they be vetoed or tied up in red tape by LA's and the LA gets to keep only 10% of the school funding. Academies will proliferate.

I expect that in order to keep these new schools on the straight and narrow they will need bodies to make sure that the students are assessed properly and make wise investments in technology.
But first you have to cauterize the haemorrhaging of funds from the open wounds. This means that:

  1. You can 'kiss goodbye' to the cosy relationship between the 'generators of tests' (QCDA that was) and the expensive vendors of outsourced testing, aka the profitable Examination Boards.
  2. You can kiss goodbye to the cosy public sector 'arrangement' between all powerful LA's and the all powerful Capita-Serco ICT outsourcers.

Regarding ICT, Tim Pearson, ex CEO of RM PLC and a leading member of BECTA's board knows that a new model of ICT is required in schools. One that has a much lower cost base.

I expect Tim to be already deeply involved with the new Government and the best in the ICT suppliers sector (RM, Viglen) to form a technocratic body of industry and ex industry technocrats to create and oversee the New ICT model that the Acadamies will naturally adopt.

This will include all the Open Source stuff and Web2 ideas but it won’t be the proprietary network monolith monster that prevails now.

Hmm, bet I'm right. We are not looking at new exercise books now, more like a change from 'little school' to 'big school'.

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