Why the decision to close BECTA reminds me of HCI


Why the decision to close BECTA reminds me of HCI

Those who remember the moment when the announcement was made that the Home Computing Initiative (HCI) was going to be canned will also be acutely familiar with the chaos that followed it.

You fear the same might happen with the announcement that BECTA, the education IT buying advisory group, is being canned as the current government looks to claw back the public deficit.

Tender processes were ongoing and the education market was concentrating on delivering products and services through an established tender and approval process. Now suddenly that is in the air and the prospect for the channel is a divided one.

As one contact, who had found negotiations with BECTA over the last six months going nowhere, this now could potentially be an opportunity. But of course for others, including the likes of RM, years of investment and established corporate practice are now under threat. There will be winners and losers as a result of the BECTA decision and although it might take months to settle you can already see the glint in the eyes of those keen to take a slice of the education market.

But the real fear here is that schools will lose their way in technology terms. Most teachers are not IT literate and concentrate on delivering what is a demanding curriculum and look to organisations including BECTA to provide guidance and advice on where they should be spending and what tools need to be deployed in classrooms.

There has been the usual talk about schools, along with everyone else, tightening their belts and having to make do. But try to square that with the ongoing demand for the next generation to be world beaters. No one doubts that cuts have to be made but unless they are done in a way that protects the investment in developing skills we face reaching a situation where we cannot produce the skills required to keep and develop our IT and creative industries.

What a fair few people who went through the HCI debacle will fear is that in the hunt for cost savings not enough thought will have been given to any of this and it will be a mess with schools and resellers picking up the pieces in an atmosphere of agressive competition and pressure on very limited budgets.

This was first published in May 2010

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