Posts Tagged ‘education strategy’

What Does the UK Spending Review Mean for Education?
October 21, 2010

Winding roadThe headline from the recent spending review is that education as a whole appears to have got away lightly. Although the balance between schools with a slight rise in their budget fare better than the universities which face 40% cuts and colleges with 25% cuts. But of course, the devil is in the detail and the complete picture will no doubt emerge over coming weeks.

What might this mean for schools? As the UK teacher’s trade union NASUWT commented, trying to understand the new funding arrangements at this early stage is like trying to ‘knit fog’.

The problem is twofold. Firstly there are a number of different funding streams that schools draw upon both centrally and locally which will now be merged into core funding as a Dedicated Schools Grant and secondly, the schools budget is not evenly spread across all schools. This combined budget, which also includes the pupil premium, means that based on social and economic factors those schools with higher numbers of disadvantaged pupils might gain from these changes while those with fewer numbers may lose out. Those that lose out will be faced with reduced budgets which may place teaching posts at risk.

The increase to the schools budget is being paid for out of cuts being made elsewhere. As we know, capital spending has been cut with the cessation of the Building Schools for the Future and Primary Capital programmes. Additionally the harnessing technology grant was reduced in two £50m stages to support the free schools policy and the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance frees up a further £500m. Funding for specialist schools looks to be in danger as the Coalition appears set to remove direct funding to 3,000 secondary schools with rumours that the money will be used to fund the ‘fairness premium’ or the free schools policy.

Further savings to fund the increase to the schools budget come with the closure of seven quangos, including the QCDA and Becta. The future of the nine other bodies remains uncertain, among them the TDA (since closed), NCSL and YPLA (since closed), as they are still under review. No doubt many of the functions that these organisations carry out will be transferred back to their department of origin but there will be gaps left which may never be filled, for example Becta’s work with special needs and assistive technologies. This will be further compounded by the reductions to local authority budgets which are already under considerable strain.

We are therefore at a very early stage in the review process so it remains to be seen, once the dust has settled, how the education landscape will emerge over the coming weeks and months as the cuts start to bite and the reforms are implemented.

Tell us your thoughts on the recent spending review. How might your school or local authority be affected?

Who Will Fill the Gap Left by Becta?
September 7, 2010

Online teaching and learning communities of practice come in many different shapes and sizes.  In this blog, I will be looking at three different working models through the eyes of many of my own colleagues, and through those of other professionals, and asking what will be happening in the near future.  The three on-line community models briefly discussed here are Becta, MirandaNet, and Naace:  Becta is/was government funded, MirandaNet is funded by industry links of various kinds, and Naace is funded both by industry and by membership subscriptions.

The reason for our current interest in these models is, of course, because the government has recently decided to discontinue the funding of Becta, to the dismay of professional educators across the globe.  Professor Niki Davis, Christchurch, New Zealand, commented, “I can tell you that the shock of losing Becta is being felt worldwide – the UK is risking its reputation as a leader in 21st century education”.  And an Information and Communications (ICT) consultant from Outstream, Allison Allen, summed up the position of many other international consultants when she said, “I have found many visionaries in the organisation. The negative impact on ‘UK plc’ is not to be underestimated”.

Becta’s areas of particular success, according to a recent online survey, have been these:

  • Strategic advice for schools on the real costs of implementing digital technologies
  • Funding for research projects, especially for small and innovative projects initiated from the grassroots of the profession
  • Support for new models of informal professional development
  • Retention of key programmes like Self-review and Home Access
  • Continued availability of the online resources and research publications
  • Support for international events (Example: I was sent, on Becta’s behalf, to the Presidential Conference in Paris to represent “Best ICT practice in the UK”, a week-long event which was an international showcase for the creative use of ICT)
  • Effective procurement

Graham Badman, Chairman and Stephen Crowne, Chief Executive of Becta commented, “Naturally we are very disappointed at the Government’s decision. Becta is a very effective organisation with an international reputation, delivering valuable services to schools, colleges and children. Our procurement arrangements save the schools and colleges many times more than Becta costs to run. Our Home Access programme will give laptops and broadband to over 200,000 of the poorest children.”

The question then is: who will fill the gap left by Becta?

Naace is the ‘professional association for those concerned with advancing education through the appropriate use of information and communications technology (ICT)’.  Like MirandaNet, it also has industry, rather than government sponsorship, and has been a powerful voice in the service of both teachers and pupils.  But Naace, too, is affected by the demise of Becta, which was responsible for the accreditation of the ICT Mark, so highly valued by schools.  Naace will, of course, continue to survive and prosper.  But how will its role develop?

Professor Marilyn Leask, the new Dean of Education at Bedford University suggests, however, “Perhaps it is time to have an independent professional body setting standards of pedagogy and curriculum, since decision-making on ideological grounds is sending us in circles”.

Tom Rank (NATE) offers an important solution to the absence of Becta, based on the new forms of informal ICT CPD that MirandaNet has been pioneering. “As with so many of the initiatives in education over the last dozen years, the implementation of an international Learning Platform is a potential catalyst for teachers to discuss the fundamentals of education with all partners, to challenge themselves, and to develop and spread expertise”. And Albin Wallace, United Church Schools Trust / United Learning Trust, extends this argument by suggesting that communities of practice such as MirandaNet and Naace are well placed to take this whole debate forward.

So, Becta, which helped to place the UK ahead of the world in the creative use of ICT tools for teaching and learning,  is about to go.  Naace and MirandaNet will be much needed in order to fill the gap left by the demise of this highly talented group of visionaries.  An International Learning Platform is one possibility.  The further development of communities of practice like Naace and MirandaNet is another.   But, are there other solutions?

What do you think?

Enhancing an Education Strategy Through Digital Learning
July 29, 2010

With constant changes in the world’s economic landscape, nations are always seeking new ways to develop their citizens and prepare them today for the challenges of tomorrow.

Individual nations have different reasons for this. The drive to move from agriculture to industry and then onto a knowledge led economy. The realisation that existing resources and sources of income aren’t sustainable. Or perhaps it’s just the desire to try and keep a position as a global leader in one field or another.

Whatever the reasons, there is a constant need to prepare future generations – and that’s what we call education.

Education is recognised as the enabler in every nation around the world. To sustain and improve a country must educate its citizens. But education is changing. Literacy and numeracy are no longer the only basic skills; IT literacy is as important as any other skill today. Indeed, perhaps even more important as life becomes more dependent on our use of technology.

So as the world around us changes, so does our mode of education. Embedding learning in other processes we need is a very effective learning mechanism. It’s been successfully used to teach English in Malaysia – by teaching maths and science in English. And it’s used every time a learner uses digital content to explore resources and learn using a computer. Computer skills increase directly alongside subject specific skills. The act of information gathering itself becomes an invaluable learning experience in itself.

But is using digital resources more effective than other educational processes? Digital resources open up so many different ways of learning for users, such as interactive learning objects that cover a specific topic, image and libraries that allow users to browse historical archives, an e-book that’s accessed on a mobile phone and a wealth of tools that enable users to create and share their own content.

It’s the way that today’s consumers expect content to be delivered and why today’s publishers are embracing the digital revolution. It’s about supporting the student who plays computer games and uses FaceBook and who is used to their specific individual needs being catered to. Plus, if the content is managed and tracked, teachers can better understand each learner’s needs better.

So preparing citizens means new, improved curriculum design that embraces the benefits that digital learning provides.

That’s why the United Arab Emirates has an educational policy with Information Technology at its core, with access to computers to all students from kindergarten upwards. There’s an understanding too that self-learning by students familiar with technology forms an integral part of the learning experience.

It’s why Malaysia has actively developed a programme of education using technology because they are aware that a digital divide is bad for the long-term development of a knowledge economy.

And it’s why digital resources, online learning and information technology need to be a core component of any learning strategy development, whether it be an individual’s personalised learning programme or a national educational strategy.