UK School Headteachers 'out' ICT outsource scam


The National Association of Head Teachers is getting stroppy. They are fed up with being pushed around by an endless stream of initiatives from centralised government many of which they know are just plain bad for schools and children.

Early in May 2010 the NAHT boycotted the infamous SATs tests for 11 year olds. This was an unusually militant stance from some very conservative people. They think that these SATs are bad for children, schools, their teachers and, to cap it all, don't achieve anything useful.

Such a turning of worms was perhaps inevitable. At some point, one or another of the centrally dictated edu-dogmas which fly in the face of evidence to the contrary was bound to create a tipping point when suddenly 'enough was enough'.

The SATs were an obvious candidate but it was a surprise when ICT appeared on the headteachers' radar... its origin, so it is said, was from the forums of Edugeek.

The Headteachers’ union have called for an investigation into ICT outsourcing.

Yes, they know it's a scam and now, short of funds they are shouting about it. Phrases taken from their general secretary Mick Brookes such as 'ripped off', 'dodgy practices', 'expensive contracts', 'schools are treated like open cheque books' give you some idea of the flavour of the article that appeared in the TES recently.

Mick Brookes is correct when he says that schools are treated as an open cheque book. They have been so ever since Tony Blair uttered his immortal 'education, education, education' list of priorities and his Chancellor started pouring money into schools. 'Cash cow, cash cow, cash cow' was how it was heard elsewhere.

And 'cash cows' they remain. The game is: the public sector pours money in and the private sector rips it all out again: never has this been more the case than with ICT costs.

Mick Brookes makes a plea for schools to be able to access advice that would enable them to make wise procurements. He would like a Which Magazine-style review of the ICT options available.

I can see it now: 'Which ICT this week compares virtualisation technologies for schools, which is right for your school?. We compare solutions from RM, Capita, Viglen, and Red Hat. First up: which hyperthreading protocols deliver value for money? Second, who has the coolest looking kit. Next week, 'how good is cheap and Open Source explained'...please stop.

It was ever thus. Government organisations such as BECTA have tried to bring open procurement practices and impartial advice to schools for over a decade now, but it makes no difference.

There are two essential problems, in my opinion:

1) There remains a myth that outsourcing to the private sector delivers better value through competition and industry-style efficiencies to what otherwise would be a grossly inefficient public sector in house monster.

What nonsense. The private ICT sector is in my experience neither competent nor efficient but it is greedy and needy. Schools are indeed treated like suckers.

2) School ICT is just too complicated for decision makers to be able to make informed choices. They may have the information but de-geeking it is nigh on impossible. A 'Which ICT Solution' is a nice idea, I would happily dispense my version of wisdom but it won't help.

"Recommended For You"

BT delivers coding software to UK classrooms Has Becta presided over the collapse of the UK PC industry?