Friday, 23 January 2009

PWC Report on BSF

This has appeared having a publication date of December 2008. The full report can be downloaded from here. This is the teachernet website run by the DCSF. It has the following upbeat summary of the report.
'The report shows that BSF is making good progress, that there is increasing belief in all stakeholders that it will deliver strong benefits for teaching and learning, and particularly from schools as they actually go through the programme. There is strong evidence of satisfaction with their new buildings from the staff and pupils of the first four new BSF schools opened.'

Strange then that the actual report should say:
'.. staff ... were generally less knowledgeable than other stakeholders of the aims and objectives of BSF for their school, or the potential for the programme to have longer-term educational impacts.' and, 'Schools should review their communication strategies in order to ensure that the processes used to inform teaching staff are effective'.

I suppose if staff had known almost nothing at the last review then it would be fair to say they have an increasing belief in the strong benefits. Or perhaps the DCSF doesn't include staff as a stakeholder group?

I found these headline findings very interesting.
  • 'BSF managers and directors in four of the 11 LAs interviewed stated that they did not provide funding to schools to enable them to implement BSF.' Although the remaining 7 did provide funds. I would have thought all schools would need financial support to undertake all the very necessary preparatory work for BSF. The report says 'Most [heads] said there was a shortfall, sometimes a large one, between LA funding received and the actual costs they had incurred' and so it goes on to recommend better funding. I've seen a very great deal of capital investment in schools be less effective because of a failure to invest in human resources. ICT put in to schools where staff receive insufficient training and support is just one example. So this is a particular disappointment.
  • The effectiveness of the LEP (Local Educational Partnership) as a tool for delivery of BSF is examined. I find it very concerning that this was reported, 'Given that ICT provision and maintenance is one of a number of key responsibilities of the LEP, it is surprising that only one-fifth of headteachers (20%) agreed or strongly agreed that the use of a LEP for ICT provision and maintenance and other related services would be a good thing, and that negative responses were higher than for other questions ... (at 21%).' BSF has been a trojan horse for the imposition of managed ICT services in schools. This is an experiment. The evidence for the effectiveness of managed services in schools is limited at best. (See for example the Becta research I posted about here.)
  • The views on the LEP itself were also worrying. 'Just under one fifth of headteachers overall (19%) thought that educational interests would be adequately represented in the LEP, with a higher number of positive responses from Wave 1-3 schools than from Wave 4-6 schools (32% and 13% respectively).' So even in the wave 1-3 schools two-thirds of the heads interviewed were not able to be confident that educational interests would be paramount to the LEP. If I was running Partnership for Schools (PfS - the quango steering BSF) I'd be very worried by these numbers!
  • Further 'A small number of interviewees expressed concern that the contracting company might be too dominant within the LEP (reflecting the fact that the LEP model is 80% private, 10% BSFI and 10% LA controlled).'
So overall not the terrific success the teachernet website claims.

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