A few weeks ago, on 18th June, the Government cut the Harnessing Technology Grant, in order to find capital funds to start Free Schools. I wrote a blog post at the time to summarise the information.
Well, they’ve done it again – this time, when they announced the cancellation of the BSF programme, they also snuck in a further £50M cut in the Harnessing Technology Grant. Here’s a summary of where we stand today:
The Harnessing Technology Grant is a 3-year programme, running from 2008-2011 to provide £639M for schools and local authorities to fund some of the capital costs of specific parts of education ICT. This year (2010/2011) the grant was £200M, and was allocated out via formula to local authorities . Each local authority was allowed to retain 25%, to fund central costs eg broadband provision, whilst 75% had to be devolved to schools.
This means that schools and local authorities, who were expecting £200M of capital IT budget in this year, will now receive £100M instead. Because the first quarterly payment to local authorities has already happened, I’m guessing that what will happen now is that the local authorities will receive just 1/3 of the grant they were expecting in the next 3 quarters. This will have a big impact on the budgets that schools will receive – see “What Happens Now?” below.
The Harnessing Technology Grant is a 3-year programme, running from 2008-2011 to provide £639M for schools and local authorities to fund some of the capital costs of specific parts of education ICT. This year the grant was £200M, and was allocated out via formula to local authorities . Each local authority was allowed to retain 25%, to fund central costs eg broadband provision, whilst 75% had to be devolved to schools.
The DCSF/DfE, through Becta, gave very specific guidance  on what the grant was for:
And they also spelled out what it couldn’t be used for:
The reality, in some schools, is that head teachers saw it as “the ICT money”, and used that (and only that) as their ICT budget. For those schools (I hope you’re not one of them), this news will be a major issue.
Here’s some assumptions from me:
Before this news, when the grant was £200M, all local authorities will have told their schools how much grant they will get, and I’m sure that will have been factored into schools’ budgets at the full amount.
I think over the next few weeks, as the impact of the second cut hits, schools will be hearing from their local authority about their plans to ‘claw back’, or limit future payments, on the grant – and in many cases this may mean a total cut in the grant going to schools.
There’s more on this issue on Merlin John Online, but in a nutshell, DfE say that the promise was to protect the revenue budgets (the stuff that pays salaries etc), but that no protection had been guaranteed for capital budgets 
Now that the cuts have started, what do you do about it?
Well, for a school to rush off and spend their Harnessing Technology Grant as quickly as possible before somebody asks for the budget back isn’t wise (see above!), but perhaps it might be a good time to remind your customers about the primary purpose of the Harnessing Technology Grant (for the areas outlined above) and to continue the conversation about the strategic value of ICT in the learning process – not just for the subjects where it is core - like ICT, business studies, media studies – but across the whole curriculum.
And it might also pay to have a scour of the Top ICT Money Saving Tips, to see if there’s anything there that could help your customers to save money – not just in the ICT budget, but in other department’s budgets in the school.
Quickly find all the Money Saving Tips on this blog
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