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Free Online Resources Justify Government's ICT cuts

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The government’s decision to abolish the education ICT agency Becta by November has been met with mixed view. The scrapping of the quango which promotes the use of technology in schools is part of cuts worth £6.2 billion in what Chancellor George Osbourne has called 'wasteful' public spending. While up to 240 jobs will go and it's services cut, many are asking if Becta will truly be missed.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) was established in 1998 with the objective of guiding the strategic direction and development of national education policy to best take advantage of technology. In its capacity, it oversees the procurement of all ICT equipment and e-learning strategy for schools.

The agency was part of the Labour's government's plans to bridge the "digital divide" by ensuring all children have access to a computer in their home. Becta encouraged secondary schools to employ virtual learning environments so parents could monitor their child's progress in the classroom. It also sought to arrange framework agreements to ensure reasonable prices for ICT in the classroom and among other things, provided laptops and broadband to over 200,000 of Britain's poorest children.
While Becta's lofty ambitions of integrating ICT into every classroom in the UK are commendable, things rarely matched their original plans in reality.

The agency was originally mandated to make ICT more assessable to the tech-naïve teacher by procuring hardware and infrastructure from suppliers. Arrangements were made between Becta and IT suppliers which left little in the way of input from schools. With so little say in the decision making process, all too often schools were left frustrated by inadequate technology not fit for its purpose. The inability to source the required technology was confirmed recently when Becta admitted that only one school in five knew how to effectively utilise their new technology.

A further complaint over the agency was that their building schemes were so inflexible that the technology was out of date by the time schools opened. For example, often times prearranged contracts between Becta and IT suppliers meant hefty fees had to be paid to IT suppliers if even the most basic of new software was to be installed. These exorbitant fees resulted in reluctance to update software which forced the technology to become antiquated very quickly.

As technology evolves at a lightning quick pace, downloading the latest free software would have allowed schools to keep their systems up to date. Instead large sums of money were profligately used to upgrade systems. Becta also sourced expensive versions of the latest e-learning software to create enhanced learning outcomes in the classroom. However this proved to be ineffective and an inefficient waste of funds as the majority of users were unable to utilise the e-learning software.

Today there is a multitude of free high quality open source software on the web which achieves the same objective as the expensive software Becta procured. One website which provides free online training courses is

ALISON recently forged strategic partnerships with both the British Council and the Irish Health Safety Authority and will soon pass the 500,000 in terms of registered learners.

The website offers free interactive self-paced training courses and certification in a wide variety of topics including ICT, Health & Safety and Schools Curriculum. The resources are ideal for students and teachers alike and as government funding in elearning programmes in schools is axed, ALISON offer an ideal substitute.