Let’s Stick Together

So, Becta is to go, and The Coalition Government is here for the foreseeable future. I feel a blog post coming on..

Probably best if I set some cards on the table before I start. These are my views, and only mine (tho’ it’s conceivable that others may share them I guess).

Yes, I work for an RBC. I work for The Northern Grid for Learning – it’s the best RBC (I can make this claim as I’ve already stated that these are my views – and it’s my blog so there’s nobody within earshot to dispute this).

You may dismiss my views as biased, slanted, jaundiced – or even invalid – hey ho, that is a possibility I’ll have to deal with.

25 years ago I started my career as an English, drama and dance (I know, I know) teacher. Taught in an inner city challenging secondary for 15 yrs, an exchange teacher in Canada, ICT advisory teacher in an LA with 350 schools, worked for a commercial content provider and I’ve been with Northern Grid for five years working with children (across the age range), teachers, LAs, LSCBs, Becta and DCSF (as was).

This interesting and exciting career path has meant I’ve been privileged to meet  1000’s of inspiring teachers, headteachers, senior leaders and subject leaders and hear them describe their vision, experiences, challenges, priorities, hopes and ambitions for their learners and their schools. It is from this point of experience that I share with you the following..

Becta’s demise seems to have prompted 2 polarised responses;

What did Becta ever do for us?

What will we do without them?

Many others have blogged and commented on this so here’s my brief personal summary, based on what I’ve seen first hand, locally, regionally and nationally.

Becta’s frameworks have provided the security of a yard stick by which companies can be measured equally. We could debate all day the unfairness of a framework for the supplier who’s not on it and the individual teacher or school who feel their individual rights have been violated if they can’t buy what they want.

But let’s look at this more closely. Buying stuff for schools is serious stuff. It’s public money, tax payers’ money, finite and needs to be spent wisely. Too often I’ve had to bite my tongue, hold my peace and keep schtum when I’ve been told; ‘I nailed the sales rep to the table. Got myself a great deal on blah blah’. Let’s get something clear here. Unless you really have met the world’s worst sales monkey, you got the price they allowed you to have. Sales is about helping the customer believe they have achieved value for money – it’s not necessarily the best price you could have achieved by other means.

It really doesn’t matter if you’re a large secondary school, ordering 500 laptops, to the sales rep. Yes it’s a good sale, but it’s only one school. Now a whole LA sale or a group of LAs will command a much stronger bargaining position than the lone school. It’s not only about unit price either. The LA agreement can achieve greater benefits in terms of technical support, software and refresh costs.

Becta’s frameworks go a long way towards helping ensure that schools and LAs have access to rigorous purchasing procedures and, therefore, a greater chance of funds used effectively.

Becta provides advice and guidance. As someone who has been at the bleeding edge of esafety, Becta’s support has been invaluable. At a local, regional and national level I’ve found myself required to offer support, information and resources to teachers, heads, governors, LAs, LSCBs and parents in areas of activity I didn’t know existed until five years ago. Examples include primary school children successfully stealing an adults’ online identity, teachers victimised on Youtube and other social networking sites, adults who work with children uploading videos of themselves doing things I didn’t know people did.. and the list goes on and on. Becta’s website, collaboration forums and consultants have provided guidance and support that helped people in my position help keep children and adults safe in a complicated world of technology and communication.

So, what will we do without them?


..If we stick together.

The network of teachers, heads, LA folk and other educators using social media such as Twitter and blogs is phenomenal. This international connection of people striving to be the best they can be and to nurture and support youngsters is truly inspirational. We need to channel this powerful support network to ensure that there is no chance that learners and learning communities suffer.

Northern Grid is owned by its partner local authorities. These local authorities see the benefits of cooperation, collaboration and the power this brings that simply cannot be achieved by single LAs.

Our clear focus is to ensure that we support and add value to the offerings of each LA. We procure and manage services on their instruction and behalf. Each secondary school has 100mb connections and primaries have 10mb – with 99.99% uptime SLRs. This broadband contract saves each LA millions of pounds, year on year.

Our learning platform procurement framework was developed and refined by each of our partner LAs and offers a robust mechanism to ensure that price and service level agreements are fit for purpose. The good news is; this framework is available to LAs and schools outside our region.

For 10 years we have identified and created resources in partnership with teachers, schools, LAs and other organisations. We host one of the most comprehensive esafety resources available and we’re happy to share our expertise nationally, wherever it is felt we can add value to local delivery services.

So, I’m sorry Becta, in its current guise is to end. I know some good, committed and effective Becta people. Both @iusher and I have worked extensively with Becta and national colleagues on the Learning Platform Adoption Model and it’s been one of the most effective and purposeful projects with which I’ve had the pleasure to be associated.

There are over 200 Becta people looking for work.

Not bureaucrats.


This is an opportunity though, for us to look to our own strengths and talents. An international network of willing, able and committed educators, ready to step up to the mark to provide support and guidance to one and other.. and I’d like to add my own commitment to you. If there is anything, we can do to help, then let me know – am only here to help. Let’s stick together.


4 Responses to Let’s Stick Together

  1. Doug Woods says:

    This is a thoughtful post and I support the sentiment behind it; that by sticking together we shall survive.
    I know that twitter is a powerful tool for bringing people together and for exchanging views and ideas. I sometimes fear though that using twitter might be the converted talking to the converted. How could we get our message(s) across to non-twitterers?

  2. Bob Harrison says:

    A really balanced and thoughtful perspective…thanks….Naace are hosting a meeting on Friday 4th June in London for “associations” and membership organisations and I hope they all take your advice and stick together!

  3. Roger Neilson says:

    Excellently put Simon sadly I think Becta is only the first casualty. It is to be hoped that informal web facilitated work can thrive in this ‘new. Landscape’

  4. Think u and doug belshaw need to be sat around a table to discuss this one.

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