“The current state of affairs with regard to
virtual and managed learning environments
in UK schools.”
The Bill Tagg Bursary
(Presented to Naace/Becta)
This report is based on initial research
September – November 2007
and continued thereafter.
R J Tolley
(Maximise ICT Ltd)
Some Background .................................................................................................................................................3
Initial findings ........................................................................................................................................................3
Progress over the last six months ............................................................................................................................5
Issues affecting change ..........................................................................................................................................6
Some Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................9
Quality control of the questionnaires ...................................................................................................................... 11
Appendix-1 list of Learning Platform Services Framework suppliers ....12
Appendix-2 Extracts from Becta re Learning Platforms........................13
Funding for your learning platform [Dec 2006].......................................................................................................13
What are procurement frameworks? ......................................................................................................................13
Appendix-3 Statement on BSF from 10 Downing Street ......................14
What is Building Schools for the Future? (Tony Blair March 2007) .........................................................................14
Appendix-4 Analyses of Data from October 2007 Research ................15
Copy of On-Line Questionnaire - The Status of VLEs in Schools ............................................................................15
Appendix-5 Charts of statistical Analyses ............................................16
1. Percentages of schools with/without VLES:........................................................................................................16
2. Home ownership of PCs: .................................................................................................................................17
3. Home accessions of the VLE............................................................................................................................17
4. The physical location of the VLE Server(s).........................................................................................................18
5. Percentage of Identified Named Suppliers: ........................................................................................................18
6. What level of influence did/will groups have in the choice of VLE?........................................................................19
7. Do you have an e-Portfolio system up-and-running? ...........................................................................................19
8. Schools’ familiarity with using an Intranet as number of years before installing a VLE ........................................... 20
9. Schools’ relative Intranet usage before installing Moodle.................................................................................... 20
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 2 of 27
Some Background Learning Platforms or Managed Learning Environments are not new. For some 25 years
schools have had their ‘Networks’ of computers even before web-based technologies became
popular in schools. These, for some time were called ‘Intranets’ and along with the improvement
due to the introduction of ISDN, we then had, for a short time what were called ‘Extranets’ or
‘closed Intranets with secure remote access’. All of these, including the use of free-standing
machines, have been referred to by Becta as a school’s Learning Platform. Latterly, for several
years, schools have supplemented their MLEs with websites able to provide more general
information to teachers, pupils, parents and other interested parties.
Concurrent to the above developments, it should be noted that quite independently schools’
administration service providers had been steadily been developing their MIS systems for
schools. Way back in 1981 information was being passed to LAs via TTNS or Prestel and then
via ISDN and now broadband. These data- transmissions have evolved to include aspects of
funding, requisitions, staffing, pupil data etc. For many years, due to the obduracy or caution of
office administrators, the MIS and the learning platform have been kept rigidly apart. The notion
of teachers actually downloading lists of pupils’ names or performance data or SEN notes was
incomprehensible. Admittedly, the most common MIS tool, SIMS was quite arcane and took
some time to adapt to the more common MS Windows format, overtaken, in the writer’s opinion,
by CMIS in the last 4-5 years.
Becta’s emerging understanding of the above, along with the individual progression of a few
education infrastructure specialists, such as RM, Viglen and a variety of smaller companies, has
therefore produced a plethora of versions of what a VLE might be.
It is interesting to note that even some of the latest software providers whose work might have
been based on supplying administrative systems to schools still have a somewhat parochial
approach to what a Learning Platform might be and how it is used.
Initial findings Where progress has been made in the introduction of a VLE into schools it has been generally
down to the interest and enthusiasm of individuals rather than any clear sense of leadership
Leaderless, ‘from above’. In only a few schools have I discovered a ‘whole-team’ consensus or motivation
for their VLE.
RBCs are all very different in their approaches. Some, like the Northern Grid for Learning appear
to have worked well with schools but others appear not to have made any significant contribution
to the initiative. Similarly many Local Authorities appear not to have shown clear leadership
generally due to a very limited ICT team having too many day-to-day pressures to see the bigger
A few Local Authorities (LAs) have made corporate decisions about the establishment and
‘Everyone delivery of an LA-wide platform but even here the actual take-up by schools has been
which was inconsistent. Some, for instance, have made unilateral decisions for Moodle but with little
right in his reference as to how the Primary schools would fare.
The most significant factor in this national debacle is the limited and now outdated guidance
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 3 of 27
given to the suppliers by Becta. The technical specifications given to potential suppliers gave a
very free hand for them to interpret solutions as they wished. I wrote to Becta early last year
asking if they were able to issue a set of clearer definitions in relation to Learning Platforms,
MLEs and VLEs. At that time their reply was that as individual suppliers had embedded their
own terms it was then too late to “claw back and redefine terminology”. Despite the long-held
frustrations by suppliers and end-users alike, I understand that Becta may not be issuing a
second set of Technical Requirements but might issue a set of Functional Requirements.
Again, in speaking to the representatives of the approved suppliers it was obvious that few really
understood teaching and learning in the light of potential VLE access. Furthermore, teachers
(particularly those at the chalk face) have very little perception of how a VLE could impact on
their work and thus have very little ability to ask the right questions of VLE suppliers. Generally
teachers have not been involved in the procurement process, rarely have parents been involved,
and the actual end-users, the pupils have had no say at all. (See Appendix-2)
In ‘casual’ conversations with teachers, very few have admitted that they knew about Becta’s
Technicians are requirement that all schools should have a VLE in place by Spring of this year. Several
not fully aware respondents to my survey last Autumn stated that they were in no position to even consider
of teaching and
learning theory installing a VLE due to the lack of direction by the Local Authority.
not aware of Having attended Becta’s meeting with software suppliers last year, following the meetings of the
the full potential Information Authority and as a member of The Suppliers Association for Learning and
of the VLE.
Few teachers Technology Interoperability in Schools (SALTIS), I have been following the debates on
know of Becta’s interoperability for some time. Issues of interoperability and the agreement on whether a
SCORM standard is required continue to rage. Some commentators have said that it might be
5-10 years before full interoperability is established – if at all. Of course a further concern is that
of the costs involved in establishing interoperability.
Of the schools that have installed VLEs about 50% claim to have gone for the ‘non-Becta-
approved’ Moodle solutions (see Appendix-1) often created by individual enthusiasts. Here
there is also the question of sustainability and the degree to which a ‘one-man’ solution can meet
the full range of educational requirements.
My overall observation is that most commercial solutions and those of the DIY-Moodle brigade
have modelled their solutions on prevalent university practice and only a few have really
A one-size- attempted to meet the needs of younger children in schools or those not of the top academic
may not be quartile. Of particular concern to me is the number of LAs that have gone for sophisticated
helping Moodle-type of solutions, probably designed by ‘techies’, which have no appeal to the Primary
Primary sector or those who may be less-able.
As far as the VLE interface is concerned there is a whole range of visual designs ranging from
the somewhat technical interfaces of Moodle, Winvision, FirstClass or WebCT through to the
more limited but child focussed offerings such as StudyWiz or Kowari. Some LAs have
recognised this and are in the process of developing their own systems which appear to address
all ages. How successful such services will be is yet to be discovered. How individual schools
will adapt to a system ‘foisted upon them’ is yet to be assessed.
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 4 of 27
Where VLEs have been installed there is a disturbingly wide range of satisfaction/ dissatisfaction
indications relating to all areas including installation, training, functionality and content. Despite
the expenses involved, I have reason to believe that many schools, dissatisfied with current
products, may look to procuring from other suppliers.
It was noticeable from the initial research that where schools had established a true VLE in
response to Becta’s requirements it was generally the case that the school was already using a
successful Learning Platform or Intranet for between 5 – 9 years previously. In such cases it
was easier to bring the whole staff up to date with the strategies for remote access and the use
of assessment tools etc.
Progress over the Visiting schools over the last six months has revealed only minor changes in the situation.
last six months
Some schools have very sophisticated installations well used by all staff, pupils and some
parents. They are significant leading edge institutions.
Many schools may have a VLE installed and used to varying degrees by staff but pupils see no
difference compared to their previous intranet and website services. In these scenarios children
are often unaware of the potential ability to access their work remotely.
Still, months after Becta’s Spring 2008 deadline, many schools do not have a VLE up and
running. Teachers are still saying that they cannot see the point of a VLE (or MLE) over their
It is my opinion that many teachers have not received sufficient leadership ‘from the top’ by
senior staff who have the vision, technical understanding and abilities to engage staff in ‘whole-
school adoption. Where that vision is difficult to generate, alternative approaches can be used. I
“ Don’t throw all the learning technologies at teachers who are not ready, but start on the
simple things first, like daily notices, registration, timetables etc. Once teachers have
got used to logging on as a matter of habit then they will get round to using the
technologies for more educational things like asking for resources, using assessment
packages etc. This is a long-term view rather than selling all the bells and whistles in
strategies One consultant working with a large number of schools has also recognised this situation and
handling of all suggests a ‘softly, softly’ approach to helping staff to engage with their VLE:
including “ We tend not to put pressure on teachers to introduce use of the digital environment into
administrators, their classroom practice when launching the digital environment (because the teachers
parents and are teaching very well in their non-digital ways), but once forced onto the environment
even the pupils. for lots of information, communication and collaboration purposes, their personal
realisation of the power and impact of the environment kicks in, and their
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 5 of 27
professionalism as teachers does not leave them any choice but to explore with pupils
what they themselves are finding liberating and empowering - so the introduction of use
of the digital environment (and all the associated issues of digital content and digital
tools) just naturally gets introduced - with a lot of peer support from other teachers who
are likewise discovering the benefits - leading to a massive attitude and practice
If a general insecurity about using the VLE is one issue, then several further issues must be
overcome. Generally, teachers and pupils alike will expect to find the same resources as they
have been previously using. This, in itself, can take many hundreds of hours. In one school that
I worked in we employed a ‘sandwich-year’ Teacher-Trainee student for the full year in migrating
copies of existing resources onto the new system.
This, however, raises another issue, that of teaching and learning strategies and the appropriate
use of the technologies. It is my chief concern that many of the resources of the ‘old regime’ do
not lend themselves to the ownership of learning. The didactic styles of the 19th century do not
New wine into
old wine-skins adapt well to the 21st century. A wider range of resources, ‘learning maps’, a recognition of
is not good Multiple Intelligences or the 12 Learning Styles and, most significantly, collaborative tools and e-
New Portfolios are still often beyond the comprehension of many teachers.
are an The VLE suppliers are extremely inconsistent insofar as to what content is delivered. There is
opportunity for no guarantee that so-called SCORM content provided within one platform will work successfully
and learning if the school decides to migrate to another vendor.
The availability of appropriate resources is another major concern. Many well-developed
resources (such as LearnPremium) cost several thousand pounds per year. The new version of
‘BiteSize’ promises to revolutionise on-line revision. However, teachers appear to be increasingly
wanting products ‘for free’ and this raises another issue.
In essence, the shareability of resources, designed, developed and refined over years raises
issues of ‘ownership’ or ‘Intellectual Property Rights’. Some authors have volunteered their
work as ‘Creative Commons’ with a variety of limitations. Another approach has been by Gary
Clawson of the NWLG who has set up the National Digital Resource Bank (NDRB) through NEN.
The NDRB has 110 LAs who are members. Out of these about half are delivering shareable
resources to a common pool which are then tagged and made SCORM compliant.
Issues affecting There are a number of convergent issues all of which are affecting change:
change 1. The ‘Technology Movement’: Perhaps, foremost, was the CTC movement, started some 20
years ago and the subsequent establishment of Technology and Community Schools. This
recognised the place of Technology as enhancing education and subsequent examination
results were impressive. Expectations to ‘disseminate and replicate’ good practice have been
varied, sometimes creating excellent nation-wide staff-training facilities and yet at other times
creating vicious jealousies.
2. Access to funding: Perhaps the greatest generator of change is the actual financial support
for the initiative. Becta’s announcement of a £41M grant to Local Authorities “to help meet these
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 6 of 27
requirements” hardly meets the administrative costs of the schools, LAs and RBCs. The actual
amount of cash, as a one-off payment, that comes to each individual school is in actual fact a
mere pittance at £1,640 or £5.00 per child. The drive, therefore, for PFI funding is clearly
understood if any real developments in VLEs are to take place. (See Appendix-2 for some of
3. The Ownership of Learning: has, for some time, worried educators as to how personalised
or differentiated learning would actually work. Expectations for quality formative feedback,
independent learning and intelligent assessment tools have been high on the wish-list of many
school agendas. Much good INSET has been provided over the years and yet it is not until the
technologies have arrived that such things have been reasonably possible.
4. Low-cost Technologies: are beginning to have a dramatic change: Twenty years ago,
when I proposed installing fibre-optic cabling in a school the price was prohibitive, now it is
common. The dramatic drop in the price of PCs, partly fuelled by the import of the ‘sub-£200’
notebook, the ability to configure workstations to one’s own specifications, wireless connectivity,
the availability of a whole range of low-cost ‘hand-held’ devices all have made computing
5. Low-cost software: Along with the emergence of low-cost hardware has also developed the
concept of Open Standards Software and also Social Software. These two aspects of software
have enabled the cheap range of hardware to be used by pupils at home without resorting to
piracy. Again, Social Software has also encouraged users to develop their communication skills
far more than any other ‘carrot’ to encourage students, for instance, to do their homework.
6. Rival Suppliers: My recent survey identified some 35 VLE suppliers which is a massive
increase over the original 10 accredited by Becta or the choice of two (RM and Viglen) that were
initially available for schools. This proliferation of suppliers may be over-saturating a limited
market but there is a place for niche delivery for some sectors. Recognising the limited funds
available (see point 2) I would suspect that the increased competition may only lead to confusion
and dissatisfaction and thus inevitable loss of investment and embarrassment for decision-
7. MIS Support: Only since the safe ‘bridging’ of VLEs and Administration networks has it been
possible for teachers’ dreams to become true. The whole concept of pupil-data access is now a
reality. Through the school’s MIS, appropriate pupil-data can now be accessed by all staff in the
classroom, staffroom or at home. Attendance registers, marks books, assessments and reports
can all be made available. For some staff this might have been a whole sea-change in their
practice but discovering the benefits of Write Once Read Many has now become a real
accelerant to record keeping and the more efficient use of information.
8. The Digital Divide: has been well-recognised for a number of years. However, it is only
recently that it has been possible to provide funding the support of deprived learners, to access
the hard-to-reach and communities which might feel excluded from mainstream education.
Furthermore, there are many very strong drivers, such as the Leitch Review, the Lisbon Treaty,
Freedom’s Orphans, Every Child Matters and the Gilbert Review to name just a few. All of these
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 7 of 27
talk of accessing a learning environment which will enable an up-skilling of the workforce and
allowing children to develop to their full potential.
9. Home Access: The ability for any parent to see how their child is performing, to check out
data on absences, school meals or even detentions is something that the Government has
promised. Pupils will also be able to access their own work area from home and continue with
their schoolwork without the usual complaint that their USB memory-stick is full or lost. But,
more than the above, the Learning Platform can become a place of pride or a celebration of
one’s learning. This, of course, does again demand high quality access, 24/7/365.
10. The 14-19 Diploma: allows a new type of learning which will enable young people to obtain
a high quality and relevant qualification. It develops generic skills of team-working, collaboration
and communication and requires good levels of ICT competency. One particular aspect of the
Diploma, which is different to traditional schooling, is the necessity to work in different locations
with a range of instructors, supervisors and validating staff. The Diploma, therefore, requires a
very efficient ICT system based not only on a reliable VLE but also on the interoperability of
systems. The Diplomas MUST work and thus VLE funding will have to be forthcoming.
11. Lifelong Learning: Not only is there significant pressure upon the relatively narrow 14-19
sector, there is an increased pressure to develop access for Lifelong Learners. Unfortunately
much of the thinking about Lifelong Learning has been centred upon FE and HE institutions and
students who may be more academically inclined. However, as NIACE is keen to point out,
there is a vast body of other learners who want increased access to ICT-based courses.
Similarly, the Leitch review is demanding a significant up-skilling of industry’s weak underbelly of
under-skilled workers, those who wish to return to work, and those that need re-training. This
could significantly increase the demand for access to VLEs not only in schools but also libraries
and community premises etc. Perhaps this is an area for a niche market for suppliers?
12. BSF and PFIs: Funding for the building of new, custom-designed schools is not new. The
CTC movement proved that well-designed, well equipped schools did marvels for self-esteem,
attendance and examination results. I have observed this in one PFI school re-build programme
where both parts of the old building along with parts of the new were being used by the same
pupils day after day. When in the new building there was an air of calm, pupils walked on the
correct side of the corridor and lessons were enjoyed. Staff felt that they were in a comfortable
and well-organised environment. The same children, often with the same staff, when working in
the old building were unsettled and inattentive to say the least and little learning got done.
Generally, the BSF programme has given both staff and pupils the feeling of a new start. Senior
staff and project designers have been able to make new learning approaches a reality. Shared
work areas, glass walls, flexible classroom layouts, break-out areas etc have all played their
part. However, perhaps most significantly, school designers have been able to make proper
recognition of the part ICT will play in all learning scenarios. Many schools are anticipating
installing equipment which will make 1 : 2 or even 1:1 pupil : computer ratios a reality.
Although the BSF funding is primarily aimed at Secondary schools, it is envisaged that much
stronger links will be established with local Primary feeder schools and one aspect of such links
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 8 of 27
could very well be extending the use of Secondary schools’ VLE servers to host local Primary
As far as BSF is concerned, the significant funding of some £45Bn should encourage schools
that have not yet established their VLEs to spend significantly in this direction. There is,
however, significant pressure upon schools to reform policies in exchange for the new-builds.
Some Conclusions Market Share: The analysis of the relative market share is somewhat disturbing and needs
refinement through a much more robust survey mechanism. As of last Autumn (including some
expectations of installations early this year) the market share was identified, as on Appendix-6/
chart #5. Here, as is often claimed possibly by the enthusiasts, Moodle stands out at circa 50%.
This is not altogether a surprise when whole Authorities have opted for a Moodle solution.
Patterns of Adoption: There is no clear pattern of adoption, although, of those who
responded, Secondary schools are generally more enthusiastic about adopting VLEs at 87% as
opposed to 42% in Primary schools. My observations led me to believe that quite a number of
Primary schools still have no network (and in some cases do not see the point of a VLE) but rely
on stand-alone laptops.
Secondly, there appears to be no correlation between previous schools’ experiences of using an
Intranet before adoption of a VLE (Appendix-6 chart #8 ) It is significant that the largest
proportion of those adopting a VLE have not previously used an Intranet.
Funding Arrangements: The funding arrangements according to Becta (Appendix-2) refers to
a relatively small sum as a once-off payment of £41m shared throughout all Secondary schools.
This, I calculate, is the equivalent of £1.640 per school, ie half the price of a server or per capita
equivalent to £5.00 per child. I note elsewhere that these costs will hardly cover administrative
expenses. The BSF announcement from 10 Downing street (Appendix-3) gives cause for more
encouragement if the installation of a VLE is considered part of the new build and infrastructure
services. Talking to various staff, I understand that many schools are only looking at the
installation of a VLE as a replacement or upgrade to existing intranet services. I am not in a
position to delve further into the financial transactions of RBCs or LAs.
Selection Criteria: The selection criteria vary greatly from school to school, often depending
more on previous bad experiences. However, it has also been my experience that schools will
often stick with a known supplier. I list criteria from my own experience and anecdotal
evidences in a possible order of priority:
1. User-friendliness – is the interface appropriate for the age and abilities of the pupils?
2. Support Service – access to on-line or telephone support (hours not days or weeks)?
3. MIS Compatibility – Some VLEs may only work with particular MIS applications;
4. Cost Implications (1) – new servers, software licensing, e-security, technical training;
5. Cost implications (2) – significant PDP for new teaching and learning strategies;
6. Ease of Uploading – existing and new resources take significant time to collate etc (1 year?)
7. Network Management – the increased activity over the VLE will require 24/7/365 policies.
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 9 of 27
Barriers to Usage: The most significant barrier to usage is the failure to find the right
combination of Leadership and Vision. “Without a vision the people perish.” Is relevant here.
School Leadership in this case requires three things,
1. reasonable technical ability – so as not to be hoodwinked by salesmen or technical staff;
2. a good understanding of the new teaching & learning strategies;
3. charismatic leadership, management and communication skills.
Functionalities: The VLE has a very wide range of functionalities. Primarily a VLE should:
1. Provide a secure workspace for every user with remote access;
2. Include sophisticated filtering and monitoring of all work-flows;
3. Integrate seamlessly with the MIS services;
4. Provide formative and summative feedback through assessment tools linked to MIS;
5. And thus provide on-line, any-time access of appropriate information by parents/carers;
6. Permit configuration of the user interface according to age and ability of the pupils;
7. Allow appropriate staff to easily upload new resources with SCORM compliance;
8. Allow access to appropriate Web2.0 files and collaboration tools;
9. Allow connectivity to numerous ‘hand-held’ devices;
10. Link to an e-Portfolio – preferably externally hosted (for portability or ‘transition’).
1. There is a serious need for staff development. The classic syndrome still exists in many
schools which are in the process of understanding their VLE: they are still using their old
resources to underpin old didactic teaching styles. As long as this remains, the purpose and
thus the motivation for using the VLE will not adapt to new teaching and learning styles.
2. The consequence of the above is that, whilst bound to the preparation and presentation of
existing courses of study staff have no time to give to the development of new courses of
study which include modern learning strategies including the ‘ownership of learning’.
3. Another aspect of training is in the enablement of teaching staff to upload their own resources.
Strictly this is a responsibility of Learning Assistants but in the first instance teachers will need
to understand the processes involved.
4. There is an urgent and specific need to establish good VLE interoperability particularly
between institutions delivering the 14-19 Diplomas. Perhaps one ‘work-around’ solution would
be to use an externally hosted e-Portfolio such as eFolio.
5. Only a handful of VLEs presently available are anywhere near the addressing the requirement
to ‘mature’ with the user. The interface for, say, a nervous 11 yr-old should not be the same
as that used by the same 18 yr-old student. Similarly, where VLEs are supplied throughout
the Authority, it seems unreasonable for that same interface to be used by the 5 yr-old as for
the 6th-form student.
6. The issues of ‘content’ need to be resolved. Commercial ‘ready made’ content, impressive as
it may be, is often not easily adaptable to individual lesson plans. However, ‘free’ content
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 10 of 27
available through Creative Commons and SCORM-compliance is not always readily
discoverable. Despite the arguments against re-purposing others’ works, there is an urgent
need to build upon the impressive works of NEN and the NDRB (National Digital Resources
7. Now that people are beginning to understand the range of facilities that a VLE can offer, and
the very wide range of suppliers (See Appendix-1) a serious effort should be made to
categorise the range of services of each, possibly as a database, with free to access videos
and tutorials. Presently the processes of gaining this information is a complex, time-
consuming and fraught with repeated logins and passwords.
8. Another major problem is caused by Becta’s refusal to clarify the fundamental differences
between a ‘personalised online learning space’, a ‘Learning Platform’, a ‘personalised learning
environment’, a ‘virtual learning environment’, and an e-Portfolio. Until such time as there is
agreement on terminology there will never be any possibility for the categorisation as above.
9. Perhaps the most significant barrier to progress is that cause by the ‘digital divide’. Until such
time as the Home Access Programme addresses the needs of the ‘have-nots’, the ‘hard to
reach’, those in hospital- or home education programmes, travellers’ children and those in
custody there is a problem. Teachers cannot be expected to develop new Teaching &
Learning resources, knowing that a significant proportion of children would not have access to
the newly developed materials.
Quality control of The questions were carefully prepared to avoid ambiguity or confusion (and despite guidance on
the questionnaires preparation before accessing the questionnaire) it soon became apparent that several
respondents attempted and gave up, not having appropriate information immediately to hand.
There was also the issue of my two questionnaires (LAs and Schools) cross-referencing
responses in order to ascertain some level of quality control.
Of some 177 responses to the questionnaire to schools only about half were completed to any
significant degree and even then, responsible and named officers did not always know the
names of their suppliers or the names of products used.
Few schools are willing to stand as ‘Case Studies’ as they are presently still implementing at this
time. Even the better schools are still awaiting the next mind-blowing implementation.
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 11 of 27
Appendix-1 list of Learning Platform Services Framework suppliers
Name of VLE / MLE Website address
Alpha Learning - Engage http://www.alphalearning.co.uk/
Assimilate (Ramsys) http://www.ramesys.com/default.aspx
Azzuri (Talmos) http://www.azzurrieducation.com/index.html
Digital Brain http://corporate.digitalbrain.com/web/digitalbrain/about
eCognition (Moodle) http://ecognition.co.uk
Engage (Hebron) http://www.hebron.co.uk/
Kalaidos (RM) http://www.learningplatform.rm.com/
Learnwise (Capita Sims) http://www.capitaes.co.uk/SIMS/gatewaydemo/index.asp
Merlin (SWGfL) http://www.swgfl.org.uk/services/learning_platforms/
Pteppic (Moodle) http://www.pteppic.net/
Schoolsmaster n/a – please advise
Viglen (It’s Learning ) http://www.itsolutions.no/
WebCT See Blackboard
NB Pearson, formerly listed, is now part of the Uniservity group – thus 9 suppliers in all.
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 12 of 27
Appendix-2 Extracts from Becta re Learning Platforms
Funding for your learning platform [Dec 2006]
The Government's e-strategy sets the expectation that:
by spring 2008 every pupil should have access to a personalised online learning space with
the potential to support an e-portfolio
by 2010 every school should have integrated learning and management systems (a
comprehensive suite of learning platform technologies).
To help meet these requirements, the DCSF is allocating £41 million to local authorities under Standards Fund
The provision of a personalised online learning space for every pupil is the minimum requirement, and the
DCSF advises local authorities to consult with their schools' forum or equivalent body and target the funding to
achieve maximum impact.
The procurement approach is for local authorities and/or regional broadband consortia (RBCs) to form
collaborative arrangements that will meet national framework agreements.
Becta's Learning Platform Services Framework offers a list of approved suppliers to provide a learning platform
Local authorities are expected to assist schools in purchasing infrastructure services, consultancy services,
software licensing, interactive whiteboards, internet safety provision and learning services. Provision within and
between local authorities and/or RBCs is variable, so the DCSF expects local authorities and RBCs to choose
the most appropriate next steps in line with the national targets for provision in 2008 and 2010.
Where the functionality to provide an online learning space for every pupil does not exist, it is expected that the
local authority (working in association with the RBC where appropriate) will ensure that this level of provision and
the associated access is available by 2008.
Where the functionality is provided but coverage or potential for access from outside school does not match the
requirements, it is expected that the local authority (and where appropriate, working in association with the RBC)
will ensure that appropriate access is available by 2008.
In all circumstances, but in particular where the functionality and potential for external access is provided, local
authorities should consider carefully the next steps for working towards the 2010 target. In this situation, the
Learning Platform Services Framework provides a vehicle for procurement of more comprehensive services.
For further information on Standards Fund Grant 121a, see Teachernet.
Further information on the School Standards Grant 2006-08 (SSG) and SSG (Personalisation) Conditions and
Calculators is also available on Teachernet.
What are procurement frameworks?
EU regulations govern public procurement. Procurement frameworks enable local authorities and schools to buy
goods and/or services above the EU procurement threshold value (£139,893) from approved suppliers with
levels of service, defined to meet the needs of education.
Becta has established a range of procurement frameworks for education that comply with EU regulations. These
provide a simple way for you to purchase the best value and most appropriate ICT products and services,
without having to conduct a full EU procurement process. Becta has already conducted the EU tender process;
all you have to do is run a mini competition between the suppliers on the framework.
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 13 of 27
Framework suppliers must meet Becta’s standards and specifications, which support the aims of the national
digital infrastructure. These specifications will provide more efficient and sustainable technologies for your
authority and schools. The functional specifications will be useful when you are planning area-wide technology
implementation. There are specifications for institutional infrastructure, learning platforms, information
management and connectivity.
Becta recommends that purchasing should not be done by individual schools, but by a larger organisation, such
as a local authority. Purchases can then be aggregated to achieve economies of scale along with better terms
and levels of service.
Appendix-3 Statement on BSF from 10 Downing Street
What is Building Schools for the Future? (Tony Blair March 2007)
Building Schools for the Future is an unprecedented, once-in-a-generation £45billion programme to rebuild or
refurbish every single secondary school in England over 15 years. The first full BSF secondary schools are due
to open in September 2007.
The Government is committed to devolve significant funds - about £3 billion in 2005-06 - to local authorities and
schools to spend on maintaining and improving their school buildings.
But it also wants to promote a step-change in the quality of provision. That is the focus of Building Schools for
the Future (BSF).
"This is an opportunity to revolutionise education by harnessing the best of the public and private sectors. We are
investing in the future of our children and in the future of the country."
BSF aims to ensure that secondary pupils learn in 21st-century facilities. Investment will be rolled out to every
part of England over 15 waves, subject to future public spending decisions.
By 2011, every authority in England will have received funding to renew at least the schools in greatest need -
many will have major rebuilding and remodelling projects and the remainder will have received resources
through the Academies programme or Targeted Capital Fund
By 2016, major rebuilding and remodelling projects will have started in every area
BSF is just part of a massive capital investment addressing decades of under-investment - rising from less than
£700 million in 1997 to £5.9 billion this year and £8 billion in 2010.
Since 1998, 836 schools have been built including 334 complete new campuses. These projects have been
funded by a total private sector investment of almost £4 billion.
Another 700 schools have either been refurbished or rebuilt through money allocated via targeted capital
programmes over the last five years.
Extract from 2004 on Academies: (http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/page5352.asp)
"Through the 'Building Schools for the Future' programme... we intend to build such schools nationwide. Every
school up to a good standard, and very many of the exemplary quality we see today," said Mr Blair.
Under the plan, LEAs will be asked to match the investment from the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) fund
with the need for reform. Every local authority will be invited to consider the scope for independent academies in
their area. The new academies will be funded directly from the BSF investment.
Academies are schools run on independent lines, but forge strong partnerships with the community. They are
targeted on areas where, for whatever reason, traditional school management has not succeeded.
"Academies are radical public service reform in action," said the Prime Minister.
"Where the challenge is greatest, reform must be boldest - and academies embody that principle."
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 14 of 27
Appendix-4 Analyses of Data from October 2007 Research
Copy of On-Line Questionnaire - The Status of VLEs in Schools
Status as at October 2007:
Q. 1. Please enter your school's full name:
Q.1b and Local Authority.
Q. 2. Please provide your name/post for verification purposes: *
Q. 3. Please give an e-mail address where we may contact you, if follow-up is needed:
Q. 4. Which education sector best describes your school? *
Q. 5. Number on roll
Q. 6. Does your school have a VLE with opportunity for remote access by pupils? *
Q. 7. What percentage of families have a computer at home?
Q. 8. What percentage of pupils remotely access the school's VLE regularly?
Q. 9. What percentage of pupils remotely access the school's VLE occasionally?
Q. 10. Do PARENTS have their own login ID with read-only access to their child's work?
Q.11. What percentage of PARENTS use remote access to view their child's work/ progress/ attendance etc?
Q. 12. Have you used a whole-school parental AUDIT to support the above responses? *
Q. 13. What percentage of TEACHERS regularly use remote access to prepare or mark students' work etc?
(Q. 14. As your school presently has no VLE please indicate when a VLE might be installed)
(Q. 15. As you have no VLE installed please identify the approximate strength of barriers to implementation)
Q. 16. Where is your VLE server located? (or will be located?)
Q. 17. Please enter the name of your Supplier, Authority, 'Self' or not known.
Q. 18. Please enter the name of the VLE used eg FirstClass, Moodle etc or not known.
Q. 19. What level of influence did/will groups have in the choice of VLE?
Q. 20. Do you have an e-Portfolio system up-and-running?
Q. 21. Before the introduction of your VLE, for how many years have you had a functioning Learning Platform or Intranet?
Q. 22. What proportion of subjects/departments have materials on the VLE? (For Primary Schools please substitute 'whole
school' for 'departments')
Q. 23. What proportion of staff have had training in transporting/uploading curriculum materials onto the VLE?
Q. 24. How many hours per week are spent in managing/uploading curriculum materials? Give total hours for all groups
except 'Teachers' - please give average.
Q. 25. How much 'Interactive' software is used regularly on your VLE?
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 15 of 27
Appendix-5 Charts of statistical Analyses
1. Percentages of schools with/without VLES:
Secondary Schools that have a VLE
Primary (inc Middle) & Special Schools
NB Despite the very positive outlook that this might show for Secondary schools questions must be asked about the
actual access that both pupils and parents have and to what purposes. Further analyses follow later.
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 16 of 27
2. Home ownership of PCs:
% Home ownership of PCs
3. Home accessions of the VLE
% Remote (home) Accessions by users
35 33 32
Primary Secondary Teachers
NB The accessions by teachers is somewhat disconcerting when the range is so very wide. Some schools claiming
100% of teachers regularly gaining remote access down to 10% or even 0% in some cases.
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 17 of 27
4. The physical location of the VLE Server(s)
% locations of VLE servers
30% LA centre
5. Percentage of Identified Named Suppliers:
% of Identified Named Suppliers
Class Server Fronter Kaleidos Moodle SharePoint Studywiz Uniservity
NB The large proportion of Moodle systems is probably due to DIY enthusiast ‘early starters’. Significant players in the
field such as FrogTeacher or Viglen’s It’s Learning are notably missing.
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 18 of 27
6. What level of influence did/will groups have in the choice of VLE?
% influence in selecting a VLE
NB Parents, as suppliers of Home PCs and thus one of the major drivers of VLE access, were the least consulted.
7. Do you have an e-Portfolio system up-and-running?
Status of e-Portfolios in schools
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 19 of 27
8. Schools’ familiarity with using an Intranet as number of years before installing a VLE
% of Schools and years using an Intranet before installing the VLE
Yrs 0 Yrs 1 Yrs 2 Yrs 3 Yrs 4 Yrs 5 Yrs 6 Yrs 7 Yrs 8 Yrs 9 Yrs 10
NB No statistical correlation. Significance only in ‘new-starts’
9. Schools’ relative Intranet usage before installing Moodle
Relationship between previous years using an Intranet and installing Moodle
Yrs 0 Yrs 1 Yrs 2 Yrs 3 Yrs 4 Yrs 5 Yrs 6 Yrs 7 Yrs 8 Yrs 9 Yrs 10
NB No statistical correlation
R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 20 of 27
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