On Monday I spent time visiting Microsoft in London along with others in the education supplier community. The afternoon started with a keynote from Vanessa Pittard. Vanessa was one of the directors at Becta and now is responsible for Technology Policy at the DfE. The Technology Policy Unit is firmly located within the Schools Standards Group within the DfE. Vanessa is convinced that this is the best place to be. She says that the evidence supporting the use of technology in schools is compelling – it does make a difference and it does improve learner outcomes. Her task (challenge?) will be to produce a coherent policy for Technology in Schools that supports the Government’s White Paper. Vanessa highlighted the fact that excellent use of data is a common feature of excellent schools and this will be an important issue for her work going forward. I asked Vanessa about the role of games based learning (currently DCMS are taking a positive, leading role in this area along with organizations such as NESTA) – the response was that there is a recognition of potential, that we should expect to see more interest shown by the Department in the future, that there is a key issue – how do we realise value?
Vanessa provided some detail for the transfer of some of the functions of Becta to the Department. Procurement and e-Safety will transfer, along with the contracts that underpin these activities. The Department will be consulting BSI regarding the future of the ISP accreditation over the coming months. Becta’s responsibilities for providing support to Academies and Free Schools transfers to PFS and their activities around technology standards transfer to the CIO group within the DfE. In this context it was interesting to note that work around SIF hasn’t transferred – apparently there’s enough energy and momentum within the community without the Department’s involvement. This fits with Ministers’ aim for autonomy not intervention.
The recently awarded contracts for ICT Services Framework One will be promoted by the DfE and discussions are ongoing regarding the options for taking Framework Two forward – the latter framework had intended to include learning platforms and management information systems.
Responsibility for the SRF transfers to the DfE – they’ll be actively promoting it, it’s viewed positively by Ministers and schools, there will need to be discussions post April as it is important that the SRF is kept up-to-date and not allowed to stagnate or become irrelevant. Over 18,000 schools registered an interest and currently over 4,000 schools are progressing through the framework.
So – working towards a policy? There will be discussions with key stakeholders up to the end of April, identification of key priorities by the end of May enabling ministers to make decisions so that from June the agreed priorities can be taken forwards. Will there be a direct replacement for Harnessing Technology? Perhaps, but it will have to fit with the policy of autonomy and not intervention!
The rest of the afternoon had a more technology based focus – Microsoft Azure was in the forefront – hence the title of this piece! We had an interesting update but as ever the most exciting input came from those who’d been there and done that – organisations that had implemented Azure and achieved real efficiency and cost benefits. Education was never far away and a collection of free and paid for tools that make up the Learning Suite was mentioned along with changes to licensing and Office 365 for Education. Expect to see more about this in the near future. We were also pointed towards an online journal ‘ICT for Education’ – and the February issue is a good read and has much useful information.
It’s been a busy week, this post should have been uploaded a few days ago – you can keep up-to-date by following OPENHIVE_net on Twitter! Now on to the next task – preparing for the NAACE Annual Conference where myself and Sarah Shepherd will be presenting. I’m looking forward to the event – the programme the NAACE team have put together should provide a stimulating few days.