Not all of this is a true story.
January 31st 2011: Becta’s Web Site was taken down and interned in the National Archive; its work will be enshrined forever. Becta itself will be gone in March. I have no intention of revisiting their achievements and travails save to reflect that an electronic mausoleum is still a mausoleum and will be of use to historians only.
Ok, I did have a little peek, boy there were some gems in the vault, like when Becta told the school world that “current levels of ICT spending were unsustainable” (this was before the recession at the height of Gove spending!), or when they referred Microsoft to the Office of Fair Trading and advised schools not to adopt Vista, or even when they concluded that schools could save money by using free software.
You have to hand it to them, few quangos can top those exemplars from the ‘school of the bl*****g obvious”.
But I miss them; it’s a bit boring now. Schools are broke and stuck. We all use a virus-prone ten year old desktop OS and run entire schools from the ‘P:’ drive. Meanwhile students have headed off into the Cloud and have little or nothing in common with the Network.
Seems all the old sparring partners have gone too. Mighty RM PLC, best buddies with the once feared Building Schools for the Future (BSF) crew as well as Becta, now sell Lego and live off support contracts for the 80% of schools that run their ageing equipment.
What would Becta have done to cheer us up if they had not been ‘quangoed’?
First of all we’ll have to get out our crystal ball; the same ball the world’s leading financiers were using prior to the melt down of the banking system, which they later gave to the Israeli secret service who in turn used it to advise their Government, that there were no major stability concerns with their neighbours. That’s the one, the one used by experts.
Becta Returns (allegedly)
Imagine the scene; it is Michael Gove’s Office in the Houses of Parliament, next to him is Joe Harley the government CIO and Becta’s new CEO, Richard Granger ex of NHS fame. They are staring out of the windows with high-powered binoculars and on the walnut table is the crystal ball.
“It’s no good, she won’t appear at the window today” sighed The Secretary of State, “I so loved that sheet wrap, we may as well draw up a road map for school ICT”,
“With milestones?” chipped in Richard wincing at an involuntary memory of a distant IT project. “Of course, we must have milestones”. “And skunks?” queries Joe
“You mean ‘skunkworks’, we are the skunkworks: now let’s do it”.
The ball starts to glow and the mists clear. Mr Gove sees the problem right away:
“We must modernise and get up-to-date; most of our schools are running Windows XP on Office 2000! We must get Windows 7 and Office 10 to every school in Britain”
“But the cost,” blubbed Joe. “The cost! Can’t we give them skunkworks like Ubuntu and Libre Office?”
“Nah, I’ve sorted that” said Mick, “ever heard of an MOU?” Well, I was speaking to a nice man from Microsoft who said we could have the bundle for free in schools so long as we continued with MS in the Public sector and what’s more ... the new software actually costs us less than the old software ... so we save money twice!”
“Was that the scary guy with the swivelly eyes?”
“The very same it’s agreed then ... what’s next?”
The ball glowed again and they all peered in.
“Think up to date” hissed Mike as they all held hands, “That’s it! ... Social networking!!! Big Society! ... It’s all the rage they even made a film about it”,
“Saw that film,” said Joe, “but what are these ‘friends’ everyone keeps on about?”.
Mr Gove was ecstatic now “Joe you know that G-Spot thingy you’ve built”,
“Yes of course, I meant Cloud, but we could use it to create a schools’ social network, Class-Book, it would have cyber-bullying protection like CHEPOs and parents will have access too, how cool is that?”
“CEOPS Mike, CEOPS”
“Yes, yes the kids will love it, the young really find IT motivational you know ... it’ll even have a Toilet Wall they can leave notes on ... Dick, you do projects: Becta will manage the roll out”.
With that the ball went dark and they returned to the windows.