in Education

The post-Becta, QCDA and GTCE future.

These thoughts are my own and don’t represent my employer’s, my wife’s or the those of Father Christmas. ;-)

On the one hand, the Conservatives’ education policies heavily (and negatively) influenced my vote in the recent General Election. On the other hand, now that we’ve got Mr Gove, at least he’s had the courage of his convictions to get rid of three bodies:

Becta

Probably the most useful of the three to go, Becta was the government’s advisory service for educational technology. I was part of their Open Source Schools project and attended events such as BectaX. Unfortunately, they became less relevant, increasingly unwieldy and seemingly more subject to internal politics as time went on.

QCDA

The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency advised the government on the National Curriculum, assessment and qualifications. The new coalition government believe that its functions can be discharged more effectively in other ways (e.g. Ofqual). I didn’t have much dealings with them, but never really knew why they were there.

The QCDA’s sample National Curriculum schemes of work were unfortunately taken as gospel by some Heads of Departments and Senior Leaders – rather than as a basis upon which to innovate. Sometimes it is your fault if the tools and resources you produce are used as instruments of repression…

GTCE

I have never hidden my utter contempt for the General Teaching Council for England, noting how ridiculous their ‘code of conduct’ for teachers was. The fact that they took money off you and then gave it back if you were employed as a teacher seemed utterly pointless. Their only purposes seemed to be to send out glossy magazines and discipline teachers who take drugs. I found their lack of proper consultation, their arbitrary stance and their waste of public money shocking.

The future?

I’m really pleased that these three organizations have gone together rather than in a piecemeal fashion. I think it signals a bright future for schools in England – so long as the Academies programme isn’t used just to shuffle the money from quangos to consultants. I hope that getting rid of these organizations means that money can be channeled more effectively to schools, partnerships, federations and authorities who in a position closer to the ground to gauge its impact.

Grassroots innovation and sharing of practice through online networks should now take centre stage. Instead of people being able to hide behind (their readings of) recommendations made by quangos, they’ll have to actually engage and think about their particular context. That can only be a good thing.

A note of caution, however. Just because a tool such as Twitter is open and decentralized does not make the networks it facilitates open and decentralized. We need to be careful not to fall prey to the age-old “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and gatekeeper-ism. :-)

I’d really like to hear YOUR views on this. Are you a teacher in the UK? What do you think? If you’re not, what’s your take from the outside?

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  • http://twitter.com/MarkAMacInnes Mark MacInnes

    I’d have to agree with your sentiments. As a PGCE student, I’ve had limited exposure to these 3 organisations, especially the QCDA. From what exposure I did have for the other two, I wasn’t left impressed in the slightest.

    As for Becta, I saw little use. I expected Becta to provide actual classroom level support for ICT. For example, I thought I’d be able to go to the Becta website and it would have suggestions of how I could use ICT tools within specific lesson. Unfortunately its focus was on school-wide ICT instead. When Becta started this focus was justified, but recently there has been more of a need to focus on how ICT can be used within lessons – classroom teachers need support on ICT as well as head teachers.

    As I say, I’m just finishing my PGCE year so my views are very much coming from the classroom rather than school-wide level.

  • http://twitter.com/paulwill Paul W

    Starting of working in a technical role in eduction, I found BECTA, useful at times but often bewildering, some of their efforts to increase the uptake of learning platforms or VLE was good, but they went around it in the wrong way. There is no 1 size fits all solution to ICT issues. So an “approved” list of suppliers would never work for everyone.

    For me, the longer that I teach the more I see using ICT as a much more personal teaching tool. Sometime its the correct tool for the job, often other tools are better served. The real value is knowing when such tools (VLE’s, IWB, Web2.0 etc) actually add value to a learning experience, and when they are just used for the sake of it.

  • http://evertonpom.blogspot.com/ Simon Crook

    ‘Down Under’ in Oz, we’ve been finding Becta’s resources fantastic. There is very little quantitative data as to the impact of technology on student performance. However, Becta’s ‘Harnessing Technology Review 2009′ provided some. This has been particularly important as the Australian Federal Government has given every Y9 student a laptop and we need as much evidence as possible to win teachers over. On top of that, we are just starting to adapt Becta’s concept of ‘e-Maturity’ to get our schools to self-evaluate to help with strategic planning.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      Good to know but, I fear, a rare example!

  • http://foxburg.edublogs.org/ Foxburg

    (From the TES) In a statement on Wednesday it [the GTC] said: “The GTC was created by Parliament to work in the public interest to improve standards of professional conduct among teachers, to contribute to raising standards of teaching and learning and to raise the standing of the teaching profession.

    “We are seeking legal advice on our position and will be seeking urgent clarification from ministers and Department for Education officials on the implications of today’s announcement for the GTC’s work over the next period and for its staff and members.”

    for me this seems to confirm most peoples opinion: that the GTC was, and still is, self-serving

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      Definitely. And now wasting taxpayers’ money on lawyers. Unbelievable!

  • http://twitter.com/johnmclear John McLear

    I spoke to Father Christmas, he shares your opinion. ;)

  • http://www.daveterron.com Dave Terron

    Interestingly GTC Scotland is not under threat and indeed is being turned into a real independent body much like the GMC with powers to accredit and retest teachers to ensure they achieve and maintain the high standards of the Standard for Full Registration. We’re waiting for the argument to start up here about abolishing the GTC(S)! Personally I think they’re much more efficient and effective than GTC(E) and will probably survive albeit in a new form as an independent body.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      I think I’m correct in saying that the GTCS existed before the GTCE?

  • http://www.keystone-education.co.uk @bartoneducation

    Great post. I’ve known QCDA since it was the National Curriculum Council (and had cool offices in Notting Hill). I am not a teacher but a volunteer teaching assistant (among other things).

    With change there is opportunity to innovate, make schools the centre, not the system but I echo your concern about things shuffling over to consultants.

    In my experience it is the first few days when the next organisation is finding its feet that there are opportunities to change and make a real difference.

    Academies will win the day and with that interesting pay negotiations!?! Bide time, build things and enjoy the freedom that’ll last for a while.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      Indeed – and I echo your sentiments about the first few days of changed.
      It’s during this period of flux that the ‘creative ambiguity’ I discuss
      elsewhere can (and should) kick in!

  • http://twitter.com/NSEAD_Sophie Sophie Leach

    In 2008, when the New Secondary Curriculum was first introduced, I worked as a Head of Department and for the Art and Design subject association . The Programmes of Study were very much welcomed by teachers, schools, LAs and essentially by students. The POS have vastly reduced content and the three overarching statutory aims provide a compelling case for making learning relevant. QCDA encouraged more personalised, local and flexible curriculums – a curriculum without prescription. With creativity figuring in fifty percent of subject’s POS – what’s to dislike?

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      With the greatest of respect, Sophie, you’ve been one of the privileged few
      with whom the QCDA engaged. As with Becta, I should imagine that if you were
      part of the QCDA’s projects and looking at things from the inside out, there
      were no problems…

  • http://twitter.com/NSEAD_Sophie Sophie Leach

    Unlike what we see emerging (re: the appointment of a panel of one for the History Curriculum) QCDA Future’s agenda invited literally thousands of teachers, schools, academics and advisors to participate in re-thinking the curriculum. As a full-time Subject Leader (and Curriculum Manager) I felt compelled to respond to this invitation and it was this interest which urged me to be more actively involved in changing what I perceived then to be an inflexible national curriculum (2000). My SA were consulted by CfBT and QCDA for their views and opinions and for the first time in many years all SA’s agreed with the creative, flexible and localised curriculum proposed. In the three years that followed Subject Associations worked with teachers from 90% of all schools in England – a programme managed by CFBT but implemented by regional subject advisors drawn from practising teachers in schools. It was a model of peer to peer support which gained the support of every teacher we worked with.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      I’m sure it did, Sophie. The trouble is that few teachers heard of it. I’m in favour of grassroots, but I’m not convinced that that’s what the QCDA stood for. In any case, sometimes a bit of benevolent dictatorship can go a long way… ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/jona1 jona1

    I think there’s a really important element to what Sophie has said. It’s the ‘What next?’ question. If we end up with Carol Voderman designing the Maths curriculum (http://bit.ly/drf9tI), with academy sponsors handling teacher’s pay, conditions and disciplinaries and with schools swamped by sharp-suited IT sales staff, then we may end up regretting the passing of the QCDA, GTCE and BECTA.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      That’s why we need to seize the day and make sure that the status quo that emerges is not as you describe!