The very nature of your role within your LA means that you have to play devil's advocate and I completely understand.
What I feel personally is that LAs have taken the government initiatives further than has been necessary and to their own advantage but with every large government IT project they have yet to fulfil the real need of the students and in many many cases this is not happening due to the lack of understanding on behalf of the contract winners IT partner.
It is yet another quagmire of consultants creaming off the taxpayers money and leaving BSF schools and Academy's with an IT system that is not fit for purpose and as one Academy principal has said "If I could get out of this IT contract today I would but I can't" and this is after £11 million has been procured for the IT.
In essence there will be LAs who have listened to what the schools have said along with the technical people within those schools and have come up with a design which gives scope for flexibility and doesn't tie the schools down with all the PKIs and contracts which really are not worth the paper they are written on quite frankly.
I could rant on for hours and give particular references but as I have said it has grown old and I am weary of this so please unless someone has actually managed to get their school out of the BSF IT contract with their LA then please post otherwise can we close the debate as it is meaningless like a lion with out teeth.
The closest we have at the moment is Notre Dame in Sheffield who didn't win their fight for Opt out but are part of the BSF program, but are treated as an R&D house for BSF in the area and managed to get more flexibility that originally prescribed. Paul Haigh's blog has been linked on here before and he is pretty vocal about what does and doesn't work for them.
As far as I am concerned, any decision we make as an LA needs to have some bedrock in working classroom practices ... what makes a difference to the kid on the computer. I wish that this stance was always possible, that it is at least an important priority or that it is a considered factor ... but it isn't always and that annoys me as much as it does you. There are only so many fights though ... I would never say to people give up on it though ... just that sometimes how it is approached needs to have better backing from SLT/SMT ... if it can be termed in educational or manglement speak ... and if there are real outcomes (game based learning has raised levels of literacy with our boys by blah!) then you stand a better chance of getting somewhere ...
Ok everyone answer me this, if the school you work in is classed as outstanding by oftstead with the ICT facilities excellent and otherwise becta FIT's compliant, what advantage would BSF bring other than funding which the school has already demonstrated it can manage effectively?
Mmmm... me too.So, please, provide me with evidence of these other transformational things you speak of. Not just talk.
When did this BSF lark start? 2005 or 06? A (good) teacher can significantly improve their classes performance levels in a year, so surely that's long enough now to ditch the assertions and wheel out some hard evidence of:
a) Transformations (which some folk would surely have done or surpassed given the dosh) i.e. enumerate some real working "exciting" technology/tricks, including whether these matched, fell-short of or surpassed the initial promises. Yes I also want the promises that were completely abandoned.
b) The subsequent improvement in "outcomes" and "life chances".
From where I'm sitting it's all very reminiscent of the "can do" giddyness over the Internet in the mid-to-late nineties i.e. what it was like before reality reasserted itself and dotCom crashed. But I very seriously doubt many of the folk who made or are regurgitating the PR nonsense were in touch with that era... history is usually wasted.
 Back to where some of the "luddites" always said it was - there are laws of physics after all.
Last edited by PiqueABoo; 23rd September 2009 at 07:57 PM.
Oh $deity ... I'm back to defending BSF again ...
I'll try and cover the approach to transformation first.
The idea of BSF being transformational is not primarily down to the buildings or IT, it is down to the approach of the Head at the school, and strategies each school and the LA put together. An example would be the statement of 'all learners should have real-time, anywhere access to resources and tools for learning, to allow for teachers, learners, families and the community to be engaged with learning and reach the key improvement targets. (where the targets are moving all schools out of categories, decreasing authorised and unauthorised attendance, ensuring all learners meet or exceed their predicted attainment levels and provide real 'value for money' savings across all aspects of school finances.)
And what does really mean?
Partly it is down to the interpretation of the bidding companies, but the idea is to force schools to look at what they are doing (no matter how good they are at the moment) and to start a systemic change of how they run the school, what and how the kids learn, how they get families and the community involved and making sure it can be afforded.
Examples ... that real-time, anywhere access ... that could be translated as using Terminal Servers so that anyone with net connectivity can operate as if they were in the school ... it could be based on darn good use of a learning platform ... it could be all learners and staff have a mobile device as part of it ... and all of the decisions about what it put in the bid should be based on feedback from the schools about how they work now and how they will work in the future. None of this can work properly without that sort of conversation ...
And now I go on the offensive at BSF ...
And how often does all the above really happen? Well ... a fair bit to be honest but not all schools are involved in the conversations (otherwise you get committees rather than representation) and the schools don't always send the right people either ... so you get this mish-mash of people who may not have been involved in preparing the strategy for change, who have to work in a setup they have little control of, have to play each other off to make sure *their* school's needs take priority and have to deal with LA staff and consultants who may have already decided what the best options are.
It *can* work ... but we all know the horror stories about why it doesn't. Big barriers ... communication ... working out who is actually making decisions ... schools that are not willing to change what they do or how they do it ... schools that plan the changes far too late ... LAs who don't give enough advice and support ... stupid decisions and presumptions about what can work on all sides ... suppliers that want to sell their core products rather than sell what is needed / wanted ... the rarity of good consultants ... LAs who have stripped down their staff and don't have the people to do some of this work (hence the need for consultants) ...
None of the above is much of a surprise to anyone who has talked to people involved(indeed, all of the above has come directly from those experiencing BSF or BSF planning at the moment) ... and even airing them does nothing to move things forward. PfS are aware of the problems and do what they can to put mitigation in to do what some would say is damage limitation.
And to give the standard response about that high performing school and why do they need BSF ... it may be to do with buildings, it may be to do with giving them the resources and tools to *keep* them at the top ... but there is also the element of them being a leading light to the other schools ... and at that point we get into inter-school politics. Isn't it amazing how many top schools only want to share things on their terms ... are selective about the schools they link with ... and like to make sure that *they* are the people who have changed things in other schools ... hey, the recent missive from Ed B even goes on about federation saving dosh ... BSF but without the money for buildings and ICT?! To be honest I think that many here would accept this in preference to BSF ... but it is likely to still mean merging support teams between schools and even a managed service.
What right does anyone else have to turn around to a school that has worked its ass off to get to the top and tell them they need to do X, Y and Z. Why would they need *extra* resources when they can do as well as they are with what they already get? Why not leave them out of it, and use the money saved to double the funding being spent on poor performing ones.
Federation is not the same as BSF in any way shape or form - it is a voluntary process, led by school leaders. The schools involved get to shape their own federation how they want to. Our schools 'soft' federation is a lot different to another local school federation...
BSF vs Federation ... I can see it not being as optional as it is now. The same way that it was spotted that BSF would do certain things the recent comments on federation looks as if it will go the same way. People predicted it with CTCs becoming Academies and taking over schools (effectively hard federations) and groups of primaries forming clusters (soft federations becoming hard federations) ... the same is likely to happen again.
And I can't see other political parties saying anything that different to be honest.
As for the successful school ... I do agree that no-one should force them to change ... but to stay at the top requires constant change and tweaking. This does require funding and resources. This could be a new building only ... and then they get pulled in to help shape the changes that are needed in other schools ... but the other schools are often very resistant to this. It is stupid really that a school that is facing massive challenges are often so paranoid about another school coming in and telling them they are doing wrong, but will accept OFSTED (even though some of the inspectors could be from that successful school), the LAs School Improvement team (who might be buying in help from the successful school or others around the country) or consultants (who are often people who are originally the folk who worked for or with those successful schools).
It makes no sense apart from to say 'politics between schools' and that no-one likes to be told what to do. The worry that those successful schools quite rightly have is that they will be dragged down to the level of others (as we can see in the one size fits all approach for IT that can happen) but ideally you would use the extra funding to buy some time from that school to support others. It does happen in some places but that is when you have schools working in partnership with each other and the LA is the broker ... or other groups are the broker (eg SSAT, British Council, etc) ... it is just that the LA has the funding this time.
But you see, that is why I dislike this BSF process. It *is* forcing schools into situations like this. I didn't say staying at the top wouldn't require funding/resources - I said extra funding and resources. The base viewpoint seems to be 'they will eventually get worse, unless we keep putting more and more in' which is the wrong thing to think in my mind. What should be thought is 'this school has got to where it is via hard work, and good financial management, we should help them when they ask for it, but not think they need to have extra just because we say so'.As for the successful school ... I do agree that no-one should force them to change ... but to stay at the top requires constant change and tweaking. This does require funding and resources.
Well if you have to ;bOh $deity ... I'm back to defending BSF again ...I'll try and cover the approach to transformation first.
It's simply too convenient so I'll just quote from that Policy Exchange doc in response:
"Moreover, neither the experts in the sector nor the bodies running the programme
seem able to give a clear definition of what “educational transformation” actually
means. This has caused considerable delays, as local authorities have struggled to
define an aim that the Government itself does not seem to understand.
Almost all of our interviewees, even those who had written the educational
visions of local authorities, struggled to define “educational transformation”.
Some described it as a “swearword” and many others wanted the “t-word”
It's a different one, but just like theirs on my planet that is the same old smoke and mirrors marketing babble we've seen a million times before. If not, then given how taken we are with measurement, especially when it involves that other t-word (targets) I'd have thought we'd be dripping in suitably fudged dismal-before and new-improved-after numbers from the early BSF "adopters" by now.
Bottom line surely was/is: "We want to spend X on ICT and we don't trust you to spend it properly". That intelligent people way down the food-chain pay (or are forced to pay) so much serious attention to the vacuous political verbiage wrapped around this very basic concept, is quite surreal.
But some of these extra funding streams are either only available to the top schools (is that fair on others that don't get to the top because they can't afford to fund it?) or the funding streams are now drying up and so they need to look elsewhere. BSF *is* one of the replacement funding streams. Another is Academies that are not part of BSF. There are some really good education management books out there that explain this model and they are either written by those in the top schools, those that helped get them there or are avidly read by senior manglement in the top schools.
The top schools got there with help. They stay there with help, but yes ... I agree that it doesn't have to come via the BSF programme but if that is where the Govt is chucking the money then you have two options ... don't take the money or change the Govt and hope the next lot make the changes *you* want. Many senior manglers cannot risk that or think that the change will make no difference at all. Personally, if the money could be given out directly to these schools I would do ... on the proviso that they spend some time supporting the schools that have not had their extra support. I'm not talking just about IT here ... but the whole kaboodle.
Such an eloquent reposte may I commend your turn of phrase "vacuous political verbiage" it puts into words the real meaning of BSF.
I have stated before, this is the thin end of the wedge for education as Grumledook has termed the "transformation" and mark my words when I say this is the governments way of moving the responsibilty of education away from highly paid professionals to a system of online learning for the masses and only the rich having a private tutorage.
The government wins by saving billions both in teachers pay and not having to pay for the rental and upkeep of school buildings.
It may not happen within the next 20 years but it will eventually happen as it has in other countries.
As this recession has pinpointed we cannot sustain the spending which has happened over the last 20 years and something has to give.
I predict that in the next 20 - 30 years, unemployment will creep up to a level where one person out of every 3 employable will be unemployed and therefore radical measures will have to be taken whereupon out of every family only one parent will work and the other will be paid to stay at home and supervise the childrens online learning.
I can hear everyone thinking................................He's lost his marbles well.............................I might have but then again I might not.
webman (25th September 2009)
As for Transformational change being the latest set of buzzwords for smoke and mirrors ... yes, to most it is. Until someone sits down and gives real world examples.
The first time I came across the term was when I stumbled upon a Becta event in 2000 ... one of the Research conferences (a mistake .. I was meant to be going to an event on IWBs) and an American speaker was talking over lunch to a few of us about the importance of education research as part of systemic change that is transformational.
It was broken down like this.
1 - Just because it has been done before and works now does not mean it will always work in the future.
2 - Just because you are at the top or bottom does not mean you will stay there if you don't change.
3 - Are you [as a school] able to change if needed?
4 - How do you know you [as a school] need to change?
5 - How will change affect you?
6 - Only change if there is a need.
7 - There is *always* a need ... you might not be looking in the right place
8 - You have changed ... what now?
Yep .. smoke and mirrors ... and then came the example.
Why the heck do we still chalk and talk? Teacher at the front throwing precious seeds of knowledge at kids and hoping some land in the fertilizer. We spend money on IWBs but then stop kids from using them because they are too technical, they could get damaged or it will take too long for the kids to do stuff with them.
Then came out the research to show that this was tripe ... based on real world examples of using IWBs. It involved the schools make a big change in the way the kids learnt. It then meant changes in the type of resources used, which involved a re-write of the curriculum, which involved changing the technologies in the school, which also meant introducing other ways of learning such as VLEs, which then meant the approach to homework changed, as did involvement with parents ...
So .. one small change, getting kids out of their seats to use the IWB actually meant that larger changes where done and planned in as part of a big transformation!
How did they do this? Shed loads of funding to see if it worked. It did but they realised the mistake was always putting the technology at the front of the decision and then playing catch-up. Better to plan all the changes up front and then tweak as you go along.
How often do we moan about having to stick an extra server in without the chance to plan the backup changes needed, or the disaster recovery changes, or how it will hit the budget over the next few years? The same applies. It is tarted up with buzzwords and so on, but it is the same.
The fact that the carrot (and stick) for this programme is new or refurbished building and ICT funding is to also deal with what is seen as systemic failure by a good proportion of senior management in schools to sort out their IT. It is not pointing a finger at you as a failure ... and that is why I get frustrated to hear that the IT Managers who really understand education are excluded from what goes on .. and the same members of senior manglement end up going to the meetings.
Ok .. I don't have the answers on the IT side of things ... I wish I did. I have already said that I view certain things as damage limitation, and I am as eager as the next person to see the first ABCP win ... and the person next to me is Grommit!
I will still try to help people understand what goes on behind the scenes so that they can try and get most of what the school needs, but until that first school wins I don't think you can buck the trend. You can only hope for the best, and hope that you are given a flexible choice.
Last edited by GrumbleDook; 24th September 2009 at 11:30 PM.
What I want to know is this:
Would schools be better off if the £3 billion per year BSF funding was put directly into LEA's or even better, directly into schools? It seems that much of BSF is not actually what the school requires or wishes for, it is what the PFI company or LEA wishes for.
Schools should have the money directly and should be accountable for the changes that they make (or don't make!). Everyone involved in the education of pupils would be better off. (well apart from the consultants, PFI companies, LEA big wigs and nation wide advisory services).
At the end of the day I am a pleb and I still have to prove that a new technology will be better for the education of my pupils. E.g I had to prove that Thin Client computing will bring us significant initial cost, long term cost and energy savings. I proved that, and we did it. What exactly does BSF prove? it does not prove anything at all, no proof is required, £3billion per year is just thrown into it in the vein hope that it will work.
SHOW ME THE PROOF!!!!
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)