No school has opted out of plans to provide managed IT services as part of the £50bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, despite widespread initial concerns from IT managers in the sector.
A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report into progress on BSF published today shows that, even though schools can choose not to take the IT services procured centrally by their local authority if they can prove a value-for-money alternative, none has done so.
BSF is a wide-ranging initiative aimed at improving the infrastructure of every secondary school in the country, covering construction and modernisation of buildings, and standardised IT and communications systems. IT accounts for about 10 per cent of the total BSF budget.
Under the plan, schools’ IT infrastructure will be managed by outsourced providers contracted at local authority level to support all schools in their region.
Last year, Computing received many complaints from schools’ IT managers worried about a loss of local control and innovation, and concerned that the vital close relationship between IT professionals and teachers would be lost.
“With BSF the local education authority is not a service provider, it is a service dictator. It will waste more money than I’ve ever seen,” one London school IT manager told Computing last year.
In March this year, school head of IT Tony Salter submitted a comment on one of our BSF articles in which he said: “As a head of ICT in such a school, I stand to lose my in-house ICT support and suffer the problems of managed ICT which will not allow me the flexibility I require, or the response time. I know of no public sector situation where managed services have led to a more satisfactory provision of ICT.”
The PAC report also said that the original timetables for BSF were overly optimistic, and that the aim of delivering the programme over 10 to 15 years was now likely to extend to 18 years, with the last school due to be completed in 2023.
“The Department for Children, Schools and Families was over-optimistic in its original planning assumptions for BSF, creating expectations for the speed of delivery that could not be met. Of the 200 schools originally planned to be completed by December 2008, only 42 had been finished by that date,” said the PAC report.