Who Will Fill the Gap Left by Becta?Posted by Lawrence Williams on 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?