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IT News Thread, Becta budget cut by £40m in Other News; Originally Posted by j17sparky Totally agree. On top of that some of the companies they accredited didnt even meet their ...
  1. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by j17sparky View Post
    Totally agree. On top of that some of the companies they accredited didnt even meet their own requirements!!

    I remember having a chat with Smoothwall before they got accreditted. We wanted to go with them but our SMT wouldnt as they wernt accredited. We stuck with the RBC provided garbage which was accreditted but was an absolute joke.

    A few years on and pretty much teh whole LEA is dumping the RBC provided proxy in favour of homebrews and smoothwall like proxies.

    In this situation what did becta do? As far as i can see all they did was stand in the way of progress, the opposite of what they are ment to be about.
    The choices about how filtering is implemented and controlled at RBCs tends to be based around decisions from LAs. IME (and from talking with companies doing filtering at RBC and LA level) it is the LA who screw things up ... not the provider themselves. Just look at the different ways NetSweeper is used by Synetrix ... even within the EMBC.

    When it came to the filtering accreditation, it is a blooming nightmare to get through. The idea was that all would have it via the RBC. At least they had the common sense (in spite of LAs and RBCs saying not to!) to allow others to get into the market.

  2. #17
    mb2k01's Avatar
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    Don't worry GrumbleDook - wasn't taken as a prod! (Nice phrasing!)
    My previous post was a bit emotive and really only relating to the discussion about BECTA!

    I get it from the same places. In fact, it is an extension of the reason I signed up here a few years back. A resource like this with such diverse membership is perfect, as you get arguments (sometimes quite literally!) from all sides.

    I would partly agree with the highest priest comment. I don't see myself as the carbon copy of your definition. In my current role I have a high level of accountability, but make informed decisions and often make them as part of a wider consultation. Ultimately there has got to be someone who makes a decision though. (Of course, that doesn't mean every decision will be work out right, but at least it will be made for the right reason!)

    I have come across those who I think you are describing, and yes, know-it-alls who actually know very little can be infuriating! I have gone through a range of positions and always made sure that I never set myself up as a know-it-all (even though on certain topics I might "know a lot"). It is always much better to go in with a solid understanding, invite conversation and leave with a broader understanding.

    I think we are on the same path here... although I'll never agree to BECTA being anything more than "occasionally useful".

  3. #18
    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
    I'm looking for a decent article to referance here, but it is true. Becta will have it's £55m budget reduced to £15m. Ed Balls was on the radio at lunchtime describing the cut, and explained that Becta had done the job it was set up to do (support the expansion of ICT in UK schools) and that it should now focus on 'other areas'.
    Personally I wouldn't say that Bectas job is done, rather that it was never done properly in the first place, it was a toothless tiger that should have been leading the way, but instaed it could never make up it's mind one way or anther what official policy in some areas should be, and in any case could not enforce them anyway.
    here's a link which refers to the BECTA 'cuts', amongst others. These definitely seem to be cost saving measures on the hand and to increase funding per pupil on the other....

    BBC News - Balls supports 'pupil premiums'

    There would also be £300m cuts to non-school sectors of the education budget - including £100m for start-up costs for breakfast and after-school clubs, £45m from Becta the technology agency, £55m from teacher recruitment and almost £20m from the exam watchdogs and regulator, Ofqual and the QCDA.

    A further £200m in savings had still to be found, said Mr Balls.
    The 200m additional savings from other areas they should be able to find without looking too hard......but are these cuts really about addressing the budget balance as far as education spending
    Or is it really just moving money around.

  4. #19


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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    The choices about how filtering is implemented and controlled at RBCs tends to be based around decisions from LAs. IME (and from talking with companies doing filtering at RBC and LA level) it is the LA who screw things up ... not the provider themselves. Just look at the different ways NetSweeper is used by Synetrix ... even within the EMBC.

    When it came to the filtering accreditation, it is a blooming nightmare to get through. The idea was that all would have it via the RBC. At least they had the common sense (in spite of LAs and RBCs saying not to!) to allow others to get into the market.
    It wouldnt suprise me if it was the RBC but from what i understand the problems lay with the company and their badly thought out product. It ticked all the boxes and so got the contract, while companies like smoothwall (due to the amount of hoops they had to jump through) didnt even get a look in.


    Dont get me wrong, this isnt any single parties fault. But to me the Becta accreditation, with its many hoops and its willingness to approve products which fell short of its own requirements, was more of a hinderense then a help. This was down to LAs, SMTs, RBCs etc thinking any company which made Bectas list must be good, and any company who isnt on the list as second best (which to some point, why shouldnt they?). Whos fault this is i dont know, both really. Was the accreditation used as a way to shoulder the blame in the event the s**t hit the fan?

    Like i say, i only saw this side of it while you saw the other side. Like you said, the good stuff they did didnt get filtered down to the people who really matter, the people on the front line, which IMO begs the question "was the £55m well spent?"
    Last edited by j17sparky; 15th March 2010 at 07:30 PM.

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    RBC funding

    Hi,

    can i ask what will happen to funding for RBCs? will this be cut as well or is this a seperate thing. The problem i seem to have is that the Harnessing Technology grant is always taken up by LAs to fund the RBC cost etc. where as sometime people have to realise that there are schools who are not with any RBCs as such and therefore should be given their bit directly to the schools.

    The problem why the above doesn't happen in some LAs is the fear of many schools following the same model i.e. getting out of the RBCs and going elsewhere. The question to ask here is why do you think they will leave RBC and go elsewhere, is this due to the service reliability, features offered, cost or feeling of locked in?

    Throwing the question in the open.

    Ash.

  6. #21

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    To be honest, EduGeek stands a better chance of getting info FITS out to schools
    Funny you should mention that Tony. Watch this space very shortly.
    As regards to Becta though. I do think communication was a big problem with them. Mainly becuase it was not very well done, the site was a nightmare to navigate and some blatent adavantages of the very technologies they were supposed to be providing advice on were never utilised by themselves. I'm going to blow mine and EduGeeks trumpet a bit here, which is not something I usually do. When I set up EG all those years ago I knew several things:

    1. Who it was aimed at.
    2. That those it was aimed at would be able to understand and use it.
    3. People, naturally like to communicate.

    If Becta has adopted at least one of those points they could have done so much more. The trick is not to be a one sided conversation. At least if your site is a mess have peoplewho can point others in teh right direction. There are so many features on vBulletin (our current platform) that I never get to use most of them, but you guys do. Shaun is always going 'Have you seen this?' with me usually commentingin surprise 'We can do that!', Becta could have communicated a hell of a lot better for a lot less money if they'd done it right, but they didn't. I suspect one roblem they had is that when they were formed in 1998 at the start of the NGfL project there were real educational techies in the state school system, and it was populated primariliy by educators and techy types from industry and FE, non of whome had an idea about what it was schools were to face, as you, my friends here, are pioneers. We have built and developed systems and networks which are the envy of the educational world, but for Becta, they were quite remote from what we were doing. Even when EG opened it's forum doors in 2005 we were communication many times the vital information and help that we would have expected Becta to be doing. They had plenty of information, but that information is useless unless someone knows where it is and actually gets around to using it. That is something we do rather well. I do however wonder is going to be 'in charge' of school IT advice in the future? Especially as now, more than ever, good, centralised and acessible advice is required on a huge number of areas in the world of ICT.
    Last edited by Dos_Box; 16th March 2010 at 10:49 AM.

  7. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by spc-rocket View Post
    Hi,

    can i ask what will happen to funding for RBCs? will this be cut as well or is this a seperate thing. The problem i seem to have is that the Harnessing Technology grant is always taken up by LAs to fund the RBC cost etc. where as sometime people have to realise that there are schools who are not with any RBCs as such and therefore should be given their bit directly to the schools.

    The problem why the above doesn't happen in some LAs is the fear of many schools following the same model i.e. getting out of the RBCs and going elsewhere. The question to ask here is why do you think they will leave RBC and go elsewhere, is this due to the service reliability, features offered, cost or feeling of locked in?

    Throwing the question in the open.

    Ash.
    I think, but its my opinion, that not all LA's keep the Harnessing Tech grant, we get a small slice (small as in tiny tbh) bit but the rest is, we assume, kept for paying for "Central Services" IE the Email (that doesn't work), the Internet / Connectivity (that's unreliable and tbh pant), the web filtering (that doesn't work and hasn't done correctly since day 1), the VLE (that is painful to use), Web-Hosting (that a lot of secondarys won't use as it supported back in the day nothing basically) etc.... (you get my drift).

    Now if we pull out of these "Central Services" we don't get any money back as if we did the costs of the services would go up for others who do want to use them. Now that in my view is unfair as we have proven significant cost savings going it alone as well as meeting more BECTA recommendation's and providing far more functionality to harness technology within our school.

    We showed a very significant cost saving on our previous Connectivity Fee by ditching the LA provided solution (pre-harnessing technology grant we had to fund the Connectivity ourselves at a cost of up to around £12K for Secondary's for a 10mb symmetrical connection). Due to the change in these central funds we got "free" connectivity, VLE, E-mail etc for 2 years and are just entering into year 2 of them in April.

    We asked the question recently of what will happen in Year 3 and no-one knows is the answer, but certainly in my view we will be looking at seeing that £12K fee coming back, and as soon as that does I will be taking the wire cutters to the LEA connection in my school and ordering my lines from BT as I can get a service that meets our needs and requirements for around 80% less than the LA will charge me.

    For us, we have already agreed to remove our entire E-mail from them due to the poor system (2 weeks to go till the final switch over ), we have our website hosted elsewhere and have done for some time due to lack of basic server side options, we purchased Smoothwall to sit on top of our LEA Internet due to the poor filter system that meant ICT was NOT being used in lessons as students Internet may as well have been unfiltered as it was such a poor product and implementation (this also sits on our own connection to filter when we use that over the LA one), and if the VLE costs are not minimal (we pay £200 for our own at present) then I would expect, that as a school with server financial difficulties, that we will make a U turn on the Central VLE and go our own way.

    In some ways, people will argue we are being selfish and by leaving these Central Services we are making others lives harder, and I can see there point, BUT surely in this credit crunch age as well as Every Child Matters, we need to be doing and be seen to be doing what is best for OUR students, not the students 150 miles away in a completely different Socio-Economic area (we are a larger rural area not a city) and as a result if our establishment can prove that by leaving the central services we can make significant financial savings, provide a better quality of ICT Service (EG Internet Connectivity, Filtering and Email) whilst meeting all Child Safe-Guarding standards and ensuring that by leaving the Central Services we are not putting the students at any risk / reduction in Education Potential then we should be actively encouraged to do so and supported by the LAs to do so.

    I personally feel that LAs should be abolished in dealing with these Central Services and schools should deal direct with RBCs and the other providers and get what they need, and if a school doesn't want to use them, then we go it alone, if a school is shown by Inspection to be poor in ICT due to them leaving Central Services then fine enforce the acceptance of them, but when we have great ICT Results and high level of ICT usage and its proven by inspection then we should be allowed to spend the money from these Central Services how we like.

    So in summary, we want to actively leave our RBC / Central Service as its over-priced (when we used to pay for it), provides no services that we feel offer us actual educational benifit, has a poor level of reliability, offer no 21st century features that we as modern schools (and our case a Technology College) want and need and overall it costs too much, if it was a couple of £K a year then yes its probably worth it, but to say that the idea of Central Funded services should mean we don't have to pay for them, we have spent a good proportion of what we used to spend on our Connectivity Fee pre the Harnessing Technology Grant, purchasing technology - both soft and hardware to ensure that we have the technology needed to be able to offer the 21st Century Computer Systems that we pride ourselves on!


    Anyway that's my rant over for the night and I feel better for that!

    PS - we have successfuly opted out of one Central Service and get a refund and thats the MIS, we use Serco and not Capita and we do get a rebate for that, its not a huge amount, but it goes to contribute to the annual cost of Serco, for which i feel is a much better product for our schools needs.

  8. #23

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    HT Grant ... not known what will happen with it in the future yet.

    Retention of HT Grant by LAs ... it varies from LA to LA but a minimum of 25% is retained and the rest *may* be devolved to schools ... in our LA we went to Schools Forum and asked to retain it all for central procurement. They said yes. We can spend time arguing about it but that is what tends to happen ... it'll go to a central group representing schools and a decision is made by them.

    When it comes down to looking after *all* learners then LAs will be fair to all. If that means that you pay more than you might if you went to a raw line with BT (because you run your other services in house or with other suppliers) then yes, the LA will say tough ... as they have to treat *all* learners equally. I do get some schools asking for money back or saying they can get cheaper elsewhere, but I have yet to have any come back with full figures of what they would pay for alternative connectivity, services (eg email, webhosting etc), filtering (web and mail), firewall and time to manage it all ...

    Yes, I know you are already managing it yourself anyway ... but surely you should have those figures for your Head too.

    When I have pointed out the examples of what it would cost for them to pay for connectivity alone they find that they are getting a reasonable deal (the last 2 that asked were very rural and damn expensive).

    Sorting out large scale contracts is a nightmare as you want to get best value, but have to accept that you can't please everyone.

    I did ask at teh beginning of the EMBC procurement (the doc me and Russ prepared is still around on here somewhere) that the SLA should be between the schools and EMBC / Provider ... neither EMBC or the bidders wanted it ... and they would not have been able to run the contract that way either. Only the LA has the clout to push the provider ... and yes, LAs may vary.

    The problem with trying to purchase in large scale is that you have to say to the bidders what are the sort of levels of purchase you expect ... x number of mailboxes, y number of sites to be connected ... that way you negotiate a better cost. If you are not getting a good service out of it then it is up to your Head to shout and scream at the LA (and grid) to get it sorted ... or to work with others in the LA to shout even louder.

  9. #24
    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
    Becta could have communicated a hell of a lot better for a lot less money if they'd done it right, but they didn't. I suspect one roblem they had is that when they were formed in 1988 at teh start of teh NGfL project there were n realeducational techies in the state school system, .
    both becta and ngfl were formed in 1998 i think. not '88.

  10. #25

    Dos_Box's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    both becta and ngfl were formed in 1998 i think. not '88.

    Thanks, typo on my part.

  11. #26

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  12. #27
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    So according to what i've so far read on the internet, becta's budget is either 112.5m or 108m or 55m, and the cuts are either 45m or 40m......and if it's 40% of 108m and that 108m includes the cost of rolling out/administering the Home Access scheme, then i doubt that part of the cuts are going to come out of the funding for that project.

    clear as mud really.
    Last edited by torledo; 17th March 2010 at 08:20 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by john View Post
    So in summary, we want to actively leave our RBC / Central Service as its over-priced (when we used to pay for it), provides no services that we feel offer us actual educational benifit, has a poor level of reliability, offer no 21st century features that we as modern schools (and our case a Technology College) want and need and overall it costs too much, if it was a couple of £K a year then yes its probably worth it, but to say that the idea of Central Funded services should mean we don't have to pay for them, we have spent a good proportion of what we used to spend on our Connectivity Fee pre the Harnessing Technology Grant, purchasing technology - both soft and hardware to ensure that we have the technology needed to be able to offer the 21st Century Computer Systems that we pride ourselves on!
    This caught my eye - Devon CC retained all the HT Grant in previous years but, in 2009-10, passed it to the schools. At the same time they passed on the SWGfL fees to schools - funnily enough they were identical.(previosult HTC had been used to fund SWGfL fees)

    I began asking about opting out of some of the SWGfL 'services' that we were paying for and got the same response 'Oh dear that will put the costs up for the others'. Inquiring about leaving the SWGfL and going with a third party ISP/connection got more moans and groans from 'above' with the rider that the 'removal of all lines and equipment belong to/provided by SWGfL would have to be paid for by the school' - cue blank cheque which the head is not keen to sign.

    Excuse me but we are a teeny, weeny little school and we do not need/use many of the 'services' so do we really care if Big School down the road with its 1200 pupils has to pay more? No.

    A load of the other small schools have joined in with a clamour and we have been told that 2010-2011 should see our SWGfL bill drop from £6500 to around £2000. Fine but I'm waiting to see where the £4500 balance comes from (or has the over-priced GfL cut it's prices?)

    Graeme

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    leco's Avatar
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    Not wishing to go off topic but I found it interesting that today I received an email from Becta research. (When I was doing my degree I often consulted the research arm.) Anyhow I was invited to take part in a survey, it would take 15 minutes and to compensate for my time spent they would donate £4 to the Haiti appeal. (I would really like to get paid at that rate!)

    I completed the survey/questionnaire, but it took the best part of an hour. Not necessarily because any of the 16 questions were particularly difficult to answer more that some were shall I say poorly worded. The whole thing was aimed really at senior manglement but asked some technical questions at the same time.

    On the whole quite intriguing given the current financial situation under discussion here.

  15. #30

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    @leco ... IIRC with these things (one was done the other year in a similar vein) a company is contracted to run the survey and report on it. They get x amount per response and they then get matched sponsorship from another company (often as a tax write-off) to make a donation.

    The company needs to get responses ... Becta don't care that there is an enticement as they have already paid for it to be done.



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