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NAACE and Local Authority Advisers


Naace's early logo

Early Days

In the 1970’s a few local authorities were pioneers in setting up advisory support for educational technology.  ILECC in London, AUCBE in Hertfordshire were early centres for development, initially focussing on computer studies but quickly developing support for computer aided learning in other subjects. Going in to the early 1980’s more and more Local Authorities appointed IT advisers to support schools in these new developments. They set up a national organisation NAACE and quickly became a powerful group with strong voices including Steve Bacon from Derbyshire, Tony Richardson from Birmingham, Ian Birnbaum from Humberside making major contributions to the national debate.

As more and more schools began to be interested in computers, and as government emphasised its importance, Local Authorities began to appoint 'advisers' or 'inspectors'. Derek Esterson was the first appointed by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) as staff inspector in the late 1970s. He was later joined by Brian Weaver and Ann Iles specialising in Secondary and Primary.

Other early authorities to appoint advisers included Steve Bacon in Derbyshire, Bill Tagg in Hertfordshire, Ian Birnbaum in Humberside

From article with Brian Weaver here

ACITT: So from 1980 to the end of ILEA were you an inspector for all of London or were there local inspectors allocated?

BW: We had 1000 schools and we had the FE colleges before the Tories broke them up. Derek originally did everything, then he did the FE and I was appointed to be the secondary inspector, and very rapidly we grew that into secondary and primary, in time appointing a third inspector, Ann Liles. We started installing equipment in ILEA primary schools very, very early on - around the turn of the Eighties. Then we appointed advisory teachers at various times and we grew a primary team and a secondary team. People like Alistair Webb, Leon Shuker, Keith Duggan... then the government created a scheme which appointed advisors for computers across the secondary curriculum as opposed to computer studies advisory teachers. Primary was always about the use of computers to develop the curriculum. Basically our line throughout the ILEA magazines for computers in primary was "whatever you do, as long as it's worthwhile, is worthwhile".

So it didn't matter what you hadn't done or what you should do because we were only putting our toes in the water.

ACITT: So how did ILECC come about? Those programmes were an invaluable legacy for so many teachers.

BW: ILECC grew and developed gradually. We were based at the City of London Poly using their equipment, then Derek arranged the purchase of a couple of HP minicomputers and he installed those there and they were being run for us. Then it was decided to have an organisation to support London schools and that's what ILECC was. It was both a curriculum development centre, as it had programmers and technical support people, but it also housed the advisory staff. Strictly speaking we were called ILECAS - the Inner London Education and Computing Advisory Service. The building was called ILECC. Some of that disk pack software came from that source, but the model that I adopted was that if we could find programs that seemed to be of some use, and we could get them cheap enough, it didn't matter if school A or school B did not use them, because school C might. So we put the disk pack concept together where we would go out and buy software, test it as a team and with schools, and then negotiate a licence for the whole of ILEA. So some of that software was designed and written by us but a lot of it was written commercially.

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.

Its Deputy Director, John Duke described it as:

"The NCET is a largely advisory and exploratory body, set up by government, but independent of it, to advance the application of educational technology in this country. It is not a grant giving organisation and has to exercise its persuasive powers to exhort action in others." (Annett and Duke, 1970)

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).

Brynmor Jones

Dr. Brynmor Jones

First Chairman of NCET

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.

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.

geoffrey hubbard

Geoffrey Hubbard

Director NCET and CET

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 deyelopment 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")


The British Journal of

Educational Technology


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.

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 its 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.


Jones B., 1965, Report on Audio-Visual Aids in Higher Scientific Education, London: HMSO

NCET, 1969a, Computers for Education, Working Paper 1, London: National Council for Educational Technology

NCET, 1969b, Computer Based Learning Systems, Report of a feasibilty study, London: National Council for Educational Technology

NCET, 1969c, Computer Based Learning , A Programme for Action, London: National Council for Educational Technology

Annett J. and Duke J.,1970, Proceedings of a Seminar on Computer Based Learning Systems, London:NCET

Hooper R., 1977, Editorial Introduction, British Journal of Educational Technology, 8-3 p164

Hubbard G., 1980, The Business of Educational Development, British Journal of Educational Technology, 11-3 p156

HMSO, 1972, Central Arrangements for promoting Educational Technology in the United Kingdom, London:HMSO