I’m writing this in the aftermath of the announcement that Becta is to close. The details of the close and its timescale are not yet known but interested parties are already pondering the future. A thought that occurred to me, and I suspect others may be thinking something similar, is that; In the 21st century, do we really need a Government agency, or quango, whose principal role is to oversee the implementation and use of technology in schools and colleges? After all, computers have been used in schools since the 1980s, surely after 30 years we know how to use them for learning and teaching? Surely, therefore, there is little need of a centrally funded agency to monitor and oversee their use? And yet, when I go into schools, I still see classrooms with only one computer or no computer at all. There are still instances where that one computer is covered over, presumably because it is a ‘distraction’ for the kids. That single computer in the classroom is often at the front of the room, attached to an Interactive Whiteboard or projector and clearly for teacher use. In other schools, I see computer suites; rooms full of computers which can be timetabled by teachers for use in their lessons if they need to. Some people will observe these extremes of provision and feel that there is a need for body that has a national overview to ensure an equality of provison in all our schools, if only to ensure that every learner has the same opportunities or facilities to learn. Does that body, though, have to be a separately funded agency? Could this work not be done by the government Department? The irony is that Becta have made steps to try to equalise the provision of ICT in schools. Its principle tool in this has been the Self Review Framework (SRF). This is an excellent tool which has been highly regarded by those schools and individuals who have completed it. The trouble has always been that the take up or adoption of the SRF has never been as great as hoped and the award of an ICT Mark has not been sufficient incentive for many schools. I recall when I first went to work on a project with Becta, my department manager introduced me to the organisation by saying that ‘Becta is this close to government’ and as she said it, she moved her thumb and forefinger close together. I didn’t doubt what I was being told but the thought flashed through my mind…”but how close are you to schools?” You see, I had recently left teaching as a long time ICT co-ordinator and shortly before leaving, the school received a circular from Becta which gave a detailed specification for computers suitable for use in schools. At that time, that specification was well below what we were using and seemed to have no future life built in and, at that time, it made me wonder whether the agency really knew what we were doing in schools. My own doubts about Becta being close enough to schools seemed to be reinforced later on in my work when I found myself ringing schools and saying I’m calling on behalf of Becta … only to be greeted by the question..”who?” All of this may be a little unfair. I’m sure that when Becta was set up, and its predecessor NCET, its role was to work closely with schools and Local Authorities to promote the use of educational technology. However, in recent years, its brief seemed to change and it became more an organisation for implementing national government policies. The Home Access programme and its predecesor, Computers for Pupils, were probably the best examples of this. With this change in role, it would appear that Becta’s outlook and priorities changed; it became more focused on procurement and obtaining value for money. In saying this, I imply no criticism; if that was the role given it by government then it was right to change its focus. However, it just seems so sad that in its statement regarding closure, Becta simply mentioned that it saved money for schools and made no mention of its impact on educational technology. Thinking back to what I said earlier about schools with only one computer in a classroom and other schools with ICT suites, you may think that one type of school is more ahead of the game than the other. In reality, though, both types of approach are outdated. Computer suites are not the way forward, which means that kids only learn on computers when they are timetabled to do so, and neither are classrooms were the one computer is the preserve of the teacher. So it seems we still need some body to steer our education use of technology into the 21st century.