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The National Grid for Learning

In ...


Work in Progress - needs to be completed


More than just a portal

ngfl front page

NGfL Portal in 2002

By 2000 the NGfL portal had grown significantly and the acronym NGfL was being applied to many aspects of educational technology. There were: NGfL Targets, NGfL Funding, NGfL Accreditation, NGfL Managed Services, NGfL Research, but most importantly there was an NGfL Division in the Department driving many of these policies supported by an NGfL Directorate and NGfL Director General in Becta.

NGfL Division in DfEE

Doug Brown was appointed as Manager to run the newly created NGfL Division at the DfEE in 2000. He quickly expanded the unit and took on key staff, Owen McConnell, Colin Hurd, and Keith Holder.


NGfL Targets

A series of targets were set for 2002, which included:

- Connect all schools, colleges, universities, public libraries and as many community centres as possible to the Internet (and therefore the Grid) enabling 'perhaps 75 per cent of teachers and lecturers and 50 per cent of pupils and students to use their own e-mail addresses'.

- Ensure that serving teachers feel confident and are competent to teach using ICT within the curriculum.

-Enable school leavers to have a good understanding of ICT, with measures in place for assessing their competence.

- Ensure that general administrative communications between education bodies and government agencies largely cease to be paper-based.
- Make Britain a centre for excellence in the development of networked software content for education and lifelong learning, and a world leader in the export of learning services.
(DfEE 1997, 1998)

NGfL Managed Services

Schools and colleges had generally bought their computer equipment outright via their LEA or direct with suppliers with little regard to ongoing maintenance or servicing. They often supported their installations by employing technicians and using the spare time of their IT coordinators but few entered into any kind of managed service with commercial companies to maintain and run their IT equipment for them.

In 1998 the Department and Becta developed the concept of "NGfL managed services" to provide schools with a similar service to that used by many commercial and public organisations and this was launched as part of "Open for Learning, Open for Business". In July 1999 , Charles Clarke launched NGfL Managed Services as a “new model for school procurement”. In October 1999 Invitations to Tender were issued, 20 Tenders were received and 17 Suppliers were invited to submit their Networks for Testing. In January 2000 networks received from 16 suppliers were tested and 7 Suppliers were certified by Becta. This process caused considerable friction between Becta and the Industry and the results were disappointing, Fred Daly having to admit to the Minister Michael Wills, that only two schools had by October 2000 signed-up to NGfL Managed Services.

Becta persevered and gradually more LEAs and schools opted for this service but this was hampered by the high cost of the services. As Ofsted reported[1] in 2001:

"Most primary schools and many special and small secondary schools have been unable to fund adequate technical support. The take-up of BECTa-approved NGfL-managed services has been very low because of the high cost of the services being offered. (p"

Need to explain more about takeup and process

NGfL Funding

One of the key elements driving developments in schools was the creation of a specific funding stream which supported LEA and school activity to connect to broadband communications and provide equipment and advice to teachers. DfES funding for the NGfL amounted to £657 million over the four years to 2001 and began in April 1998. This was distributed to LEAs via the Standards Fund[2].

Each LEA had to provide matching funds and seek support, where possible, from commercial partners. Initial allocations were made in line with published criteria and each LEA had to submit development plans to the DfEE. In addition, ten LEAs received additional funding in 1998 and 1999 and were selected as 'Pathfinders' on the grounds that their proposals for funding outlined interesting and innovative approaches to implementing the NGfL Programme. (See Evaluation of NGfL Pathfinders)

From April 2000, allocations were made on a formula basis (See DfEE Standards Fund Regulations 2000/1) in order to make the system more equitable. In 2001, the NGfL scheme was extended, with £710 million of additional funding for 2002/04. The total spend – actual and planned – over all related initiatives from 1998 to 2004 was £1.8 billion.

NGFL Accreditation of Internet Services to Education scheme

Part of the NGFL programme also provided accreditation for Internet Services to Education to enable schools and other educational establishments to make an informed and safe choice for their ISP. The standards of assessment were developed in consultation with industry and included a technical assessment of filtering services provided by ISPs for factors such as browsing of web-based content, email filtering, blocking and filtering of newsgroups and chat services, and virus alerting.

Local Grids for Learning

rbc map

Regional Broadband Consortia


For 2000-2001 the Department invited groups of LEAs to submit proposals for innovative and sustainable projects for the introduction of broadband services for schools and other learning institutions on a regional basis in order to secure economies of scale in negotiations with telecommunications providers.  There was a heavy hint for the LEAs to work within existing Government regions and that they should focus initially on providing connectivity for secondary schools - including those in rural areas - at a minimum speed of 2Mbs. 

In the first wave, local authorities in eight regions submitted successful bids and granted a share of a total of £35 million of funding in 2000 but the attempt to get a complete regional structure failed with a number of 'opt-out' authorities including Barnsley, Bradford, Leeds, Oxfordshire, Tameside, Wigan and York.

In 2001all LEAs received broadband grants as an element of their NGfL earmarked grant for ICT and participation in RBCs was strongly encouraged. The Higher Education network, JANET(UK) interconnected all of the RBCs and some of the 'opt-out' authorities via the SuperJANET backbone.

Many of these regional broadband consortia developed web-based services providing information and learning materials to their schools and took on the "Grid for Learning" name and logo - as in London Grid for Learning. After a number of years this structure evolved into a coherent National Education Network which continues to provide most of the broadband connectivity for schools today


[1] Ofsted (2001) ICT in Schools: The impact of government initiatives: An interim report April 2001 Ofsted, London

[2] Ofsted Report "ICT in Schools:Effect of Government Initiatives" 2002

Add in note of Wills meeting