Schools fear being frozen out

17 Apr 2008 View Comments
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School infrastructure project sparks fury from IT managers

The planned £4.5bn schools IT revamp today faces a barrage of criticism.

The government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) initiative has provoked a fierce reaction from IT managers who believe they will be dictated to by local education partnerships comprising local authorities and private sector suppliers.

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These partnerships mean they will be steered away from open source software and concede control of procurement.

Computing has been inundated with comments from IT managers and technicians worried that the scheme will threaten the quality of IT support in schools and their own career development.

Others fear the scheme will leave students unable to exploit the latest web and social networking-based applications.

Schools are being prevented from enjoying a revolution in software provision, and self-sufficiency is being halted by the promotion of dependency, said Ian Lynch, spokesman for the Open Schools Alliance.

“Innovation starts with teachers and pupils, but under BSF the school’s IT strategy is taken out of its hands,” he said.

“The massive rise in Web 2.0 and social networking tells us that applications are moving to the web and tools are provided free and supported by advertising, not licensing and subscription.

“The further you remove control from users, the more likely you are to entrench the status quo, which many firms that would win BSF-style contracts have an interest in maintaining.”

Young people do not have enough input into the IT they use, which will do nothing for their skills, said Steve Molyneux, an independent IT and e-learning expert.

“The way young people use the web almost conflicts with the functionality of virtual learning environments, which were developed in the mid-1990s,” he said.

Partnerships under the BSF initiative are already being formed across the UK, however, the latest being Newham Council’s £53m deal with IT supplier RM.

See below for examples of school IT managers' angry comments on how BSF is affecting their ability to deliver IT.

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