Organisations

 

Please note this site is in development

The development of educational technology in England over the last fifty years is a remarkable story involving remarkable people. As technology evolved from slide projectors to computers to the internet many teachers sought to use it to improve their teaching. Government, often belatedly, tried in various ways to assess the benefits of these new approaches and where successful shape them into system-wide changes through various organisations and programmes.

The purpose of this website is to chronicle the story of the people that made up these organisations and programmes that were set up by government to support educational technology in England (My expertise doesn't stretch to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - perhaps others will help?) and the changes they tried to create. It is as more about people networks than about computer networks. For much of my career I have worked in this arena alongside many creative individuals and would welcome including their accounts, photos or documents here as well. Many of the old documents and photos included in this site were part of Becta's archives and are available at the National Archives. I've also agreed with the National Archive of Educational Computing to give them any documentary evidence for their collection.  

The site is still being created, there are presently many gaps and loose ends and I need help and encouragement to complete it. If you feel you can contribute to its development please email me at peter@edtechhistory.org.uk. Many thanks in advance.    

  • Educational Technology Timeline

    Along with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll the sixties invented technology. Well not quite, but it was a time when governments funded large technology from the Apollo Space Mission to Concorde, and a time when ordinary people began to buy and use small technology - TVs, radios, cameras, slide projectors. It was also the time of the Cold War and the UK and US governments were shocked when the USSR launched the sputnik and the first man into space and they worried their education systems lagged behind in the quality and quantity of their scientists and engineers. From these beginnings government's interest in educational technology began and this timeline puts together some of the key highlights of this story.

  • Technology in the home

    During the 60s people began to buy and use technology regularly in their everyday lives, washing machines, cars, hoovers and there was great interest in new audio-visual devices; TVs, radios, slide projectors. These became much more accessible at home - and of course to schools and colleges.

  • Computers

    Computers in the early sixties were large, expensive and run by teams of specialist staff. Only large businesses and higher education establishments could afford them. Hatfield Technical College, pictured, installed its first computer, an Elliott 803, in 1963.

  • First Computer lessons

    The earliest recorded use of a computer in school teaching in England was in 1963 when Bill Tagg negotiated for his pupils from Hatfield School 2 hours a week access to an Elliott 803 - the first computer installed at Hatfield College of Technology a precursor to the University of Hertfordshire.

  • Brynmor Jones Committee

    When in doubt set up a committee, and in 1963 the Ministry of Education (soon to become the Department for Education and Science), recognising the importance of audio visual devices and other technologies asked Dr. Brynmor Jones (Vice Chancellor at Hull University) to make recommendations about their use - he did not only for Higher Education but also for schools and colleges. The report was partly based on a study trip to the USA looking at new initiatives on programmed learning, computers, and open and distance learning initiatives. The report, published in 1965 was significant because it led to the setting up of a new national body NCET and it brought together audio visual education, programmed learning, distance learning and early work on computers - under one name - Educational Technology - for the first time.

  • First School Computer

    The first school to own its own computer was probably the Royal Liberty School in Romford in 1965 (Fothergill, 1988, p. 9) run by its Maths teacher, Bill Broderick (see picture to left). These computers were large but primitive, using paper tape for input and teletypes for output and had memories of at most 8K! These pioneering efforts naturally focussed on computer programming and the functions of the computer hardware and early work was strongly linked to Mathematics..

  • Audio Visual

    In the 1960s new equipment, projectors and tape recorders designed for the home, became popular in schools and colleges. Broadcast radio and television also showed what might be done by way of providing information and educational materials. The use of this technology in primary schools was given educational blessing by the Plowden report of 1967 which spelt out the value of their use not only for whole class teaching but also for individual and small group work.

  • National Council for Educational Technology created

    In 1967 the National Council for Educational Technology was set up to "advise educational services and industrial training organisations on the use of audio visual aids and media". It was a large council of experts with a small administrative team serving England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland from all sectors of education and training. Brynmor Jones was appointed its first Chairman, its first Director was Professor Tony Becher. It was formally set up on 5 December 1967 and funded by government through the Department for Education and Science

  • Geoffrey Hubbard

    Geoffrey Hubbard became NCET's Director in June 1969 and continued as Director until 1987, overseeing the smooth transition from NCET to CET in 1973. He deliberately steered it to take on a developmental role, aiming to bring about "beneficial change in the education and training system in respect of methods of teaching and learning" - not Geoffrey Hubbard became its Director in June 1969 and continued as Director until 1987. Geoffrey Hubbard's background was as a development engineer with GEC Labs and subsequently as a civil servant in the government's Ministry of Technology giving him both an understanding of the development of new technologies and also, most helpfully, of the inner workings of the Civil Service machine.

  • A proposal

    By the late sixties computers were becoming more powerful and increasingly ubiquitous in university and college education - albeit large, expensive, room sized machines. John Duke, the newly arrived assistant director of NCET proposed a major initiative in computer-based learning and following a feasibility study NCET set out in 1969 the case for a government funded 5-year programme in 'computer based learning' at university level and 16-21 age group at school and in training.

  • BJET

    Many of the Council were from higher education and one of the key roles they saw for it was in sponsoring academic research. The British Journal of Educational Technology published its first issue in January 1970. Professor Norman Mackenzie was its first editor and the prime mover behind its creation (Hubbard, 1980). It was sponsored by NCET, and then its successor organisations CET, NCET and Becta but it always kept a strong, peer-reviewed, academic approach to its work - as it said in its Auspices at the front of each volume

  • OU and the BBC

    The Open University was officially opened in July 1969 and on 9 February 1971, the OU was broadcast on TV for the very first time, providing programmes for many of its 25,000 students enrolled in four multi-disciplinary courses in the arts, social sciences, science and maths.

  • CET

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  • NDPCAL

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  • Computers in the Curriculum

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  • NDPCAL Making Progress

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  • The Great Debate

    In 1976, the then prime minister, James Callaghan, gave a Ruskin College speech initiating a "great debate" on education. This led the authorities to consider how education could respond to the challenges of technology and the needs of the British economy

  • Early Microelectronics

    In the mid-seventies a number of small single board computers like this KIM-1 began to be taken up by electronics hobbyists and one or two schools. They were programmed in machine code and had small 1K memories that allowed them to run small computer control programs.

  • Commodore PET

    The Commodore PET was introduced in 1977.

  • RML 380Z

    The Research Machines 380Z (often called the RML 380Z or RM 380Z) was an early 8-bit microcomputer produced by Research Machines Limited in Oxford, England, from 1978 to 1985. The 380Z was sold mainly to schools in the UK, with some also sold to industry. In 1979 a dual 8-inch disk system with 56 KB of memory cost £3266, and a 16 KB cassette-based system cost £965 (excluding VAT).

  • Quangos

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  • MEP launched

    MEP was launched in 1980 by the DES on a budget of £9 million and four year timescale. Its priorities were the dissemination of information, teacher training, curriculum and software development. Richard Fothergill was appointed its Director in the November.

  • DTI Micros in Schools

    , DTI Micros in Schools offered 50% finance towards the purchase by schools of their first microcomputer. Schools had to find the other half of the money themselves. The aim was to get one micro into every secondary school by the end of 1982. The scheme was extended to primary schools in July 1982. For secondary schools, choice was limited either to Research Machines' RML380Z or Acorn's BBC Micro. Primary schools could choose between the 48K Spectrum, the 32K BBC Model B or the RML 480Z.

  • BBC Micro

    The earliest recorded use of a computer in school teaching in England was in 1963 when Bill Tagg negotiated for his pupils from Hatfield School 2 hours a week access to an Elliott 803 - the first computer installed at Hatfield College of Technology a precursor to the University of Hertfordshire.

  • Semercs

    Under MEP a network of centres was established to further the cause of the use of IT in Special Education. These were the Special Education Microelectronic Resource Centres (the SEMERCs) situated at Redbridge (London), Newcastle, Manchester and Bristol. They provided in-service training and an information service and organised the Blue File system for making good software available at minimum cost. They were supported by a Software Development Centre at Manchester and the ACE Centre at Oxford. Because of the pressure of work on the ACE Centre, a Northern ACE outpost was established in Oldham.

  • NAACE Formed

    NAACE - the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education - was formed in 1984. An HMI Conference for IT Advisers at Newman College established the need for a professional association and a provisional committee was appointed to produce draft constitution. The first NAACE Conference was at The Abbey Hotel Malvern in 1985 when Bryan Weaver elected first Chair, Steve Bacon elected first Vice Chair.

  • Software Explosion

    In the early 1980s there was a remarkable explosion of creativity and innovation, driven by the relative ease of producing computer programmes for the new microcomputers like the PET, RM 380Z and BBC B. Many teachers began to produce educational programs and small, innovative software companies were formed to market them. The illustration is from 'Granny's Garden", written by Mike Matson and published by 4Mation. The MEP Micro Primer pack compiled some of these for schools and distributed them to all schools. It was the start of a flourishing home-grown software industry that continued into the 90s and beyond.

  • MEP Finishes

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  • MESU created

    The Microelectronics Education Support Unit was set up in January 1987. Its main functions MESU were to exploit the potential of successful MEPs, promote the curricular integration of information technology via LEAs and teacher-training establishments, and set up curriculum development projects. MESU retained MEP's structure for work in the area of special educational needs. In Scotland SMDP continued in existence, collaborating with MESU as it had done with MEP. In 1988 MESU was integrated with CET to form the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET).

  • ESG Advisory Teachers funded

    The Department of Education and Science funded the Education Support Grant (ESG) from 1988-1990 for Information Technology to create a cohort of 650 new advisory teachers available in England and Wales. These advisory teachers were employed by the local authorities and MESU ran a series of national and regional conferences to provide them with support and a range of materials.

  • NCET formed from MESU and CET

    NCET was formed by the merger of ...

  • National Curriculum includes IT.

    The Design and Technology Working Party of 1989

  • Multimedia Schemes

    CD Roms ....

  • Curriculum Advice developed

    DES and NCET worked together.

  • Hardware Schemes set up?

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  • Superhighways begun

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  • NCET-TV

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  • Stevenson Report

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  • Becta is created

    Becta was formed in 1997 by the renaming and reshaping of NCET to become the British Educational Communication Technology Agency. This followed a review by Dennis Stevenson who advised government (Kim Howells was the Minister responsible at the time) that this was needed and led to closer working with the Department (The DES at the time) particularly on the development of the National Grid for Learning (NGfL).

  • The National Grid for Learning

    The National Grid for Learning was...The NGfL was driven by a central idea of a connected education system linked by the internet – but behind it was a major increase in funding and support for educational technology and a set of targets and management. It started off as a website directing schools and colleges to other websites of interest to education, Becta also created specific resources such as the Virtual Teachers Centre and the Teachers Resource Exchange to support schools and colleges on the Internet.

  • 1999

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  • 2000

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  • 2001

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  • 2002

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  • e-strategy

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  • 2004

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  • Self Review Framework

    At BETT 2005, the Secretary of State for Education announced that the way to 'help all schools use ICT effectively' was through the development of a 'route-map which enables all schools to identify where they are, and shows practical steps they can take'. This became the ICT self-review framework. Becta developed the self-review framework in collaboration with a range of partners, including: Ofsted, TDA,QCA. NCSL, National Strategies, Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT, DfES and Naace.

  • e-safety

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  • Harnessing Technology Strategy

    Ministers asked Becta to review and refresh the Harnessing Technology Strategy in 2007, partly because of policy changes outlined in the Department's Children's Plan and to take account of the fast changing technological environment with its increasing focus on personal use and internet access. In reviewing the strategy Becta carried out an extensive series of events and seminars during the autumn of 2007 involving about 2000 experts, policy makers and practitioners and published a revised strategy in June 2008. Following this it set up a national strategy group supported by sector implementation boards with representatives from each of the major agencies and key stakeholders including local authorities, head teacher and other unions. Becta continued to research progress against the strategy and published annual reviews.

  • Next Generation Learning campaign

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  • Home Access

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  • Becta is closed

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