They've sorted out most school internet connections – their remit – so what next for the RBCs?
The Regional Broadband Consortia were set up in 2000 by the then Labour government under its National Grid for Learning Programme to connect all schools to fast broadband for internet services and safeguarding. Funded and managed by local authority clusters in the main, and guided by the now defunct ICT agency Becta, there were 10 RBCs in England.
Some were more successful and high profile that others but they mainly fulfilled their roles. With Becta gone and less LA accountability for education – what now for these vital but often hidden school providers? Stepping out from LA apron and purse strings is just move number one. And the Yorkshire and Humber Grid for Learning (YHGfL) is doing that and more.
YHGfL started 2014 with a new company ICT4Collaboration Ltd (ICT4C) through which to market broadband and technology services to schools. ICT4C is a specialist provider of professional technology services for schools and colleges. It aims to provide secure and reliable connectivity, content services, consultancy and e-safeguarding to educational establishments in the Yorkshire and Humber region and beyond.
“With, recent, significant changes to how local authorities fund, procure and provide services to schools, and schools increasingly in charge of their own budgets, the consortium of 12 LAs that own YHGfL, decided that schools in the region would be best served by a new entity.," explained its chief executive Phil Moore. "This new entity, ICT4C, is able to operate with a more flexible approach and a wider remit. Over the next year there will be a phased handover of services provided under the banner of YHGfL to ICT4C.
“YHGfL built up a reputation for providing schools with the very best in ICT support. As ICT4C, we plan to continue that service and to add to that offering. With our consultative approach we will partner with schools and build their trust in us to deliver their mission-critical connectivity and supporting technologies. Like YGHfL we will help schools save money and offer the very best in professional advice and consultancy."
As ICT4C has no ties to a particular vendor or supplier it says it will be offering impartial and best value advice, much as YHGfL has in the past, but with more choice.
As part of YHGfL, ICT4C will continue to be part of the UK's National Education Network (NEN) and provide access to its rich resources and expertise. As such, it will enable organisations to be part not just of a regional community, but a national community too.
This is a bold move for ICT4C, and it will be interesting to see what the other RBCs do. Over the years their services have become more professional, secure and even slic. The London Grid for Learning, for example, offers its services outside its usual area and it too has a more flexible approach to its schools. Schools in Islington, north London, have happily opted out of the "London VLE", Fronter, and are reported to be happy with the support they have had for their alternative. Perhaps schools in England are moving into a National Education Network 2.0.