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, the DfE have said (in the Q&A to the announcement) that they'll pay the next quarter's money, and then not pay any more. 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 your schools budget at the full amount.
I think over the next few weeks, as the impact of the second cut hits, you’ll be hearing from your 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 you’ve got all the facts, what do you do about it? Well, rushing off and spending your budget as quickly as possible isn’t wise (see above!), but perhaps it might be a good time to remind your head teacher 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 you to save money – not just in your budget, but in other department’s budgets in the school.
Quickly find all the Money Saving Tips on this blog
I've copied the entire release onto my own blog - and your review is excellent.
I'd add to what you've said by carefully highlighting a few key phrases from the press release along with my interpretation.
From the table -
"..allowing schools to reconfigure their broadband and IT infrastructure projects onto a more sustainable funding model"
From the notes -
"They have received the first quarterly payment and will get the second, giving them time to plan to reconfigure their broadband and IT infrastructure programmes."
This sounds to me that the government has targeted Regional Broadband Consortia, the National Education Network and are also saying 'Standard Network Builds - as dictated by RBCs and Becta can now be ignored'
The other missing fact from this is that Capital Grants are usually for a short amount of time (in this case 3 years) but are then replaced, if needed, with an increase in other grants or a ring-fenced grant to deal with the revenue / ongoing costs.
At this point I cannot see that this is going to happen. It would have been expected that the HT grant would go at the end of this year ... and that any running costs would need to be covered.
For me it raises a few concerns including -
1) Schools will opt for a 'cheaper' option for connectivity ... often of a lower quality and not as well supported (YMMV)
2) They will lose other services which are just in the background which could be costly to replace .. these include email filtering, hosted email, website hosting, security (firewalls, etc) and not forgetting ...
3) How many schools will now cut out web filtering? Why pay money for it? Surely something ad-hoc can be put together?
I know all of these can be covered by a school in-house, but like everything ... this costs, either in hardware, licences, training or simply time.