1967 – The first NCET

1967 – The first NCET

One of the outcomes of the Brynmor Jones report was the setting up of the National Council for Educational Technology in 1967 with Brynmor Jones as its first Chairman. NCET was set up as a large council of experts with a small administrative team rather than a large executive organisation. Its purpose was to “advise educational services and industrial training organisations on the use of audio visual aids and media” but it quickly became more than this including developing an academic journal BJET and advising government to set up a major computer aided learning programme.

Its Formation

In March 1967 Anthony Crosland as Secretary of State for Education and Science announced that as a result of the Brynmor Jones Report Audio-Visual Aids in Higher Scientific Education (Jones, 1965) he was planning to set up a body to “advise educational services and industrial training organisations on the use of audio visual aids and media”.

It was formally set up under the terms of a trust deed dated 5 December 1967 and funded by government through the Department for Education and Science.

The NCET was a large council of experts with a small administrative team rather than a large executive organisation There were 31 members appointed from England, Wales and NI and 4 members from Scotland. In addition, assessors from eight government departments and educational bodies attended its meetings.. They from all sectors of education and training, appointed on a personal basis.

Brynmor Jones was appointed its first Chairman. It had a UK remit covering all levels of education and training. Its first Director was Professor Tony Becher. (Hubbard, 1980).

Geoffrey Hubbard became its Director in June 1969 and continued as Director until 1987. He turned the infant organisation into one which was recognised as the leading authority on educational technology in the United Kingdom.overseeing the smooth transition from NCET to CET in 1973. He (Hubbard, 1980) describes how he wanted it to deliberately 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 just a research funding agency or an information service.

Director NCET and CET

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.

Two critical developments that NCET undertook at the end of the decade were to have long term consequences: proposing to government that it fund a national “Computer Aided Learning” programme and publishing an independent academic journalon educational technology.

A Computer Aided Learning Programme

At the time of NCET’s formation computers were becoming more powerful and increasingly ubiquitous in education – although they were still very large, expensive, room sized machines. In the autumn of 1967, John Duke, the newly arrived assistant director of NCET proposed a major initiative in computer-based learning. (Hooper, 1977).

In response the Council set up a Working Party:

  • 1) to investigate the potential role of the computer as a component of educational and training systems in the United Kingdom, taking. into account as necessary experience and trends in other countries.
  • 2) to outline a systematic programme of applied research and development which it would be desirable to encourage in this country, aimed at exploiting the computer to the best advantage in education and training. (NCET, 1969a, p.2)

Following the Working Party’s report and a subsequent large feasibility study (NCET, 1969b), NCET set out the case for a 5-year programme in ‘computer based learning’ in 1969 (NCET, 1969c).

NCET recommended the application of computer based learning to maths, science and medicine at university level, to maths and science for the 16-21 age group, to technician training in electronics (especially in the armed services), to the training of computer specialists, and interestingly, proposed the development of a special student terminal to meet educational requirements.

At an international seminar in 1969 called to discuss these proposals he described the broad background to educational research which provides an interesting snapshot of the landscape at that time:

“The central Deperartment for Education and Science undertakes virtually no innovative research itself and directly commissions little more. It affects to stand back from influencing both curriculum and method, concerning itself with general policies and plans, but often does not make the wherewithal available to carry them out. At the user end authority is fragmented into units too small to sponsor useful developments. The Local Authorities do contribute to the NFER, but its work is mainly post-hoc evaluation. They do now support the Schools Council, whose committees are responsible for new curriculum design and the need for which arose out of the pioneering work of the Nuffield Foundation. The Schools Council only covers the primary and secondary sectors, it has no concerns with the further education field. At universitites the effect of their educational research on teaching has been infinitessimal.” (Annett and Duke, 1970)

NCET had acted quickly and provided clear advice to government. The Government, following much discussion amongst the interested departments and an intervening general election, announced the approval of Mrs Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education and Science to a ‘national development programme in computer assisted learning’ in a DES press release dated 23 May 1972. (See “NDPCAL”)


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 was 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.

Whilst the British Journal of Educational Technology is supported by the Council for Educational Technology for the United Kingdom, it nevertheless reflects an independent, and not official view, of developments or opinions on educational technology.

This suited both parties, Hubbard (1980) was clear that NCET and subsequently CET should not be a reseach funding agency but recognised that independent research was vital to the organisation’s developmental role. BJET continued through the decades and is now published by Blackwell and continues to publish academic articles on educational technology. Importantly its back numbers chronicle much of the history of educational technology in the UK and elsewhere.

The Transition to CET

Having set up the NCET, government realised, not least with the increasing importance of computer technology, that a stronger, less advisory, approach was needed. It needed the commitment of the key players in education through a representative body. It set up in 1970 a working party chaired by JH Hudson of the DES, which published a report “Central Arrangements for promoting Educational Technology in the United Kingdom “(HMSO, 1972) and from this the Council for Educational Technology was created on 1 October 1973.