Good progress for education IT project

The head of the Building Schools for the Future programme said progress is good and laid out plans for managed services and carbon neutral schools in the future.

The Government's 42 billion programme to upgrade school infrastructure - including IT - is making good progress, the head of the body organising it said today.

Tim Byles, the head of Partnerships for Schools, the group delivering the Building Schools for the Future project, told attendees of a conference in London that 12 new, IT-integrated schools had now been opened since September.

As well, 18 BSF schemes had already signed contracts worth some 2.5 billion, while 72 of the over 400 local authorities in the UK were now engaged in the first stages of the BSF programme.

Byles said he expects that every local authority will signed on to BSF by 2015.

But this is just the beginning of the massive infrastructure upgrade programme, which will see new facilities with integrated IT systems. Byles said the goal is to create schools which are safe, welcoming and inclusive, as well as energising and inspiring. "It's a challenge in which ICT has an absolutely crucial role to play," he explained, echoing a speech by Education Minister Jim Knight earlier in the day.

He said that the programme was difficult because of the pace of technological change. "Schools need to stand the test of time, but with technology, you have no idea how it'll be used in five years," he explained, adding: "When it comes to technology, education is often behind the curve."

Byles stressed that short, five-year contracts with managed services firms were the best way to keep schools on top of technology, especially as students increasingly bring their own devices to class, and schools must be able to support them.

He also described the environmental aspects of the BSF programme. Byles said Partnerships for Schools is looking to cut the carbon footprint of new and refurbished school buildings, in order to make up for increased energy consumption from greater IT use. "Sustainability is a key part of the whole approach of BSF," said Byles.

BSF is striving for carbon neutral schools by 2016. Newly-built facilities already have emissions 60 per cent below those for existing schools, as a result of policing and managing everything from lights to ICT.

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