27th June 1997 at 01:00
Plans to appoint a new chief executive at the National Council for Educational Technology have been put on hold as the Government carries out a review of the advisory structure needed to implement its plans for information and communications technology (ICT) in schools throughout the UK.

The search for a new boss, undertaken by consultants Price Waterhouse and understood to have cost at least Pounds 20,000, first hit the buffers when the only favoured candidate withdrew. The freeze also affects appointments to the NCET's council, which currently has only six members out of a possible 13.

The NCET has been without a full-time chief executive since Margaret Bell resigned in January after conflicts with the IT unit in the Department for Education and Employment. The acting chief executive is Mike Littlewood, the NCET admin director.

Fancy having a "managed" IT service, so that when your school network plays up, someone in another part of the country can sort it all out for you by remote control?

That was the model tried out by ICL and BT in the Bristol Education OnLine Network (BEON), part of the Government's education superhighways trials. This was managed from ICL's HQ in Wakefield. Now ICL is getting the chance to put it into practice in a Pounds 4.77 million contract with the Merseyside Learning Partnership.

This deal will provide 10 secondary schools and two adult education centres with IT equipment and services that will be managed by ICL.

It is funded by the Single Regeneration Budget and Merseyside schools and will be known, suprise, surprise, as MEON - the Merseyside Education OnLine Network.

ICL says it will take responsibility for the hardware, networking, services and curriculum expertise (it will be using software it is developing with other companies, which is known as OILS - Open Integrated Learning Systems).

A senior research fellow at Exeter University School of Education and head of the education integration team for MEON, Bruce Wright, says: "I see the signing of MEON and the interest from local education authorities around the country as the next step down the road towards what the Government calls the National Grid for Learning."

Details from Alison Knott, ICL Education: 0ll7 9842018

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