As some people may be aware the next round of planning for the RBC in the East Midlands has started.
To give some background for the uninitiated, the EMBC (East Midlands Broadband Consortium) is the RBC for the East Midlands. Presently the lead LEA is Northants and this is where the project team abide. EMBC is not a seperate company but is made up of the 9 LEAs and each helping to do something with providing content and service (some more than others). The service is provided via Fujitsu who then sub-contract things out. EMBC has it's own helpdesk, but some LEAs (Northants for example) make you go through their support team before you get to the EMBC helpdesk.
On 31st March 2007 the present contract with Fujitsu finishes and the 9 LEAs are starting to think about what to do next. The Steering Group (containing a rep in a senior position in each LEA as well as the EMBC execs) will get together in early December to decide on which of 3 proposals to go for.
The options are to keep the status quo, for NCC to ditch the ide of the EMBC as we know it now and source a new ISP for connectivity and then worry about connecting to the NEN, or for the EMBC to be made a Company Limited by Guarantee.
This will then go out to tender as usual (the Prior Information Notice has already gone out to the EU noticeboard on this)
I say all this because I was at a meeting tonight about it ... one aimed at Heads or other Senior Manglers (notice it was done whilst some heads will be at the SST conference ... poor timing methinks).
It was shocking to see how little some of them knew about who controlled what and who talks to whom.
Don't get me wrong, there were some very informed people there, but these are usually the people that are already involved with steering groups / committees within the LEA.
I had a number of concerns (yep ... me at the front ... heckling and sticking my nose in again ... what's new!) including -
1 - Are there going to be decent SLAs between schools and the resulting group?
2 - Will this be decided by the Steering Group, the lawyers, by Heads or by people technically capable of saying what an SLA shold be?
3 - If the resulting group is a seperate entity to the LEAs will they then have the power to tell schools that they must do things a certain way on their networks otherwise they can bugger off? (an off shoot of a discussion on the common digital infrastructure for every school ... it has been misread as someone will tell schools that networks should be set up a certain way ... it was pointed out to them that Becta give technical specifications for schools to work to, but never say it has to be done a certain way ... this needs to be clarified)
4 - Will the technical stuff end up over-ruling the education stuff ... again!
Most of these were answered in a positive manner (Brenda Scoble doing most of the talking, but also some stuff from Jamie Clarke, Head of Sponne School) but the obvious concerns of cost and reliability came up time and time again.
There is a chance that schools will be dictated to about how to run things, and if you don't want that to happen then you need to speak to the relevant person in your school to get the put in the General Comments that you will accept advice and specifications about your network / systems, but not dictation.
The other noted thing was the lack of option 4. A school ditching the EMBC and going on it's own. This was apparently left out for a few reasons. Cost (more schools together drive the cost down), technical expertise in schools (there is still to much variation in the levels of technical expertise in schools), time (the steering group and their minions do the running around findong prices for you ... learn to accept what is offered) and then there is the connection to the NEN ... only one ISP is accredited atm. You have to go via an RBC, Redstone or UKERNA to get onto the NEN ... and even then you may not get everything at the moment.
What are the general thoughts on the above? Are we confident that Heads / Manglers are informed enough to be able to set out what some of the goals of the resulting group should be?