Farewell to Becta

The UK government today announced that Becta, a government body to “promote technology in learning”, is to be closed. Becta stands for “British Educational Communications and Technology Agency”.

I have mixed feelings about this, though in a period when severe cutbacks are required a body like Becta is hard to justify. I first came across Becta in the context of the debate about Office Open XML, Microsoft Office and Open Office. Becta, which claims to provide “rigorous research and evaluation”, came up with a full report on Microsoft Vista and Office 2007. These are products which I know a lot about, and I thought the report was poor. I liked the fact that Becta was positive towards open source; but disliked the uncritical advocacy which it seemed to indulge in at times.

My other observation comes from attendance as a speaker at the Education conferences organised by Forum Events. When I asked what delegates thought of Becta, I found that most attendees, in seminars on open source and on cloud computing, had not heard of it. I think the way IT is handled in education is a key issue for our industry and economy; but from my limited contact did not see evidence that Becta was achieving its goals.

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4 comments to Farewell to Becta

  • Clyde Davies

    My partner, who is a deputy head in a primary, had never heard of Becta, and neither had most of her colleagues. I don’t think they’ll be mourned by many.

  • In several discussions with teachers about ICT I found they either haven’t heard of BECTRA, or consider it irrelevant. While it could, and should, have been a force for good governance in practice it would appear not to justified the cost.

  • Ed

    I agree about your mixed feelings on Becta and I also remember the issue on Becta stating schools should avoid Vista and Office 2007. But as it turned out, this was more for pragmatic security and cost issues, there were no tech politics or social progress thinking involved. Becta was just taking a short term approach to a long term problem.

  • Clyde Davies

    But as it turned out, this was more for pragmatic security and cost issues, there were no tech politics or social progress thinking involved.

    So why didn’t they say so in the bloody report, then, instead of wittering on about interoperability and document formats?