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Becta 14 - 19: Technology to support reform

Education and training in the UK is changing to ensure that every young person has a high-quality, interesting and useful curriculum that will help them achieve their potential and progress to further and higher education and skilled employment. Becta is working with DCSF to support the delivery of this entitlement.

The 14-19 reforms, including the new Diplomas and Apprenticeships, provide many opportunities for technology to support teaching and learning. Technology can support students in remote and dispersed locations, enabling them to 'to work individually, collaboratively and in large groups irrespective of their location. Technology offers learners a choice of what, how, when and where they learn. Most importantly, technology is now a fundamental feature of how the world works, and young people need to understand and use technology to survive and succeed.

E-learning is a general term applied to the application of new technology in education. It includes, for example, students using a computer to access interactive learning materials in the classroom or from home, using video conferencing to demonstrate the skills they are learning in the workplace, and communicating with fellow learners and tutors through online discussions and blogs.

E-learning motivates and stimulates young people and provides access to a world of resources and communication. Research evidence also shows positive results for both learners and employers. To find out more about how e-learning can be used in 14-19 reforms see our Guide to the use of e-learning for Diploma Delivery.

The expansion of what can be done online opens up new opportunities for learning creatively, but means everyone also has to be aware of new risks. We all need to think about being safe in an increasingly digital world. It's not just about having the right technology safeguards, it's about empowering learners, as they mature and expand their horizons, to keep themselves safe. For guidance on safeguarding learners online see Safeguarding children in a digital world: Developing an LSCB e-safety strategy.

Diplomas require consortia to work together as partnerships. It is essential that adequate planning is given to the free flow of information between all partners, a model which changes the perspective from one based on institutions, to one based on the learners themselves. It is vital to have effective interoperable systems for sharing data with and between organisations, learners and stakeholders. Becta is working with partners across all sectors to ensure that appropriate standards are used to support this process. Case studies illustrating aspects of information and data sharing in current practice are included in the Guide to the use of e-learning for Diploma Delivery.

When sharing information with partners it is essential that all partners trust each other and have confidence in their information security processes. The Data Protection Act 1998 requires all organisations to secure any personal data they hold. This covers data held both electronically and on paper. Personal data is any combination of data items that identifies an individual and gives specific information about them, their families or circumstances. This includes names, contact details, gender, dates of birth, behaviour and assessment records. The Data Protection Act 1998 specifies additional data items as 'sensitive personal data', this includes medical records, criminal convictions and ethnic origin. For further information see our good practice guides.

It is vital to have effective interoperable systems for sharing data with and between organisations, learners and stakeholders. Becta is working with partners across all sectors, including the Information Standards Board, to ensure that appropriate standards are used to support this process. Organisations developing and/or commissioning new systems that may be required to interoperate with other systems (either those of partners or central systems such as the Diploma Aggregation Service (DAS) or Managing Information across Partners (MIAP) or with awarding bodies, are advised to use open standards.

The Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) is a mature international standard used widely to link together education data systems. A series of UK proofs of concept, which Becta are involved in, are looking at how the standard could work in practice across the UK education sector.

One of the aims of the 14-19 reforms is to ensure that young people have genuine choice and are provided with high quality impartial information, advice and guidance, including being able to apply for these opportunities through the same online resource. Becta is working closely with DCSF to implement the Action Plan for the 14-19 Prospectus and Common Application Process.

The 14-19 reforms present particular challenges to rural areas. These are outlined in the DCSF final report Delivering 14-19 Reforms in Rural Areas. Technology has a great role to play in addressing some of these challenges. DCSF has provided additional funds to support the most rural authorities and Becta is supporting those of them that have decided to use all or part of their grant on technology. We held a workshop on 25 September 2009 to introduce the various projects being undertaken and to enable those involved to form networks of like-minded/similar projects and/or challenges. Projects covered the three broad areas of e-learning, video-conferencing and integration of systems. Notes of the workshop and details of the projects can be found under related links. Visits to the regions will take place during the autumn and winter and all the projects will be developed as case studies.