Online service Jammed

30th March 2007 at 01:00
Pupils' work and valuable resources may be lost with the demise of the BBCeducation website

THE LOSS of the BBC's pound;150 million online education service would be a "major disaster" for Scottish schools, it has been claimed.

The corporation announced earlier this month that BBC Jam was to be suspended, amid complaints from private companies that it infringed competition laws. It is not yet clear what will happen to the resources created within BBC Jam, much of it with the help of Scottish schools.

Murdo Maciver, chair of the Educational Broadcasting Council for Scotland, hopes an equivalent service can provide similar resources to those devised by BBC Jam, which had 10,000 registered users in Scotland and 170,000 in all. "It would be a major disaster if online learning were to be left fully to commercial providers," said Mr Maciver. "Those areas of the curriculum which are uniquely Scottish, such as modern studies and Gaelic, are of no interest to commercial providers."

Stewart's Melville College in Edinburgh has helped develop a resource for BBC Jam. Stuart Longair, acting head of the design and technology department, said it had augmented the school's specialism in product design and that there was "nothing else like it before".

He would be "very disappointed" if pupils never got to use the final, as yet unfinished, version.

BBC Jam employed 26 staff in Scotland. They have been producing three commissions for BBC Jam, covering technology, drama, and an innovative initiative using symbols to support literacy for children with additional support needs. Geography content was also produced in Scotland. Staff were due to start a large-scale modern studies commission in the summer, and considerable work has gone into Gaelic resources.

BBC Jam was also lined up to be a major provider of resources for Glow, the forthcoming online digital schools network for Scotland. Marie Dougan, its director, said the network's development would provide "greatly enhanced opportunities" for effective communication among pupils and teachers, which BBC Jam would have increased.

While pressure was placed on the BBC by commercial rivals, it is believed the decision to suspend BBC Jam was taken after the British Educational Communi-cations and Technology Agency (Becta) decided to impose new bureaucratic measures that would have restricted the service.

The BBC now plans to spend the next three months looking at ways to provide learning content, with new proposals subject to a market impact assessment by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator.

The corporation has stressed that BBC Bitesize, the online service for Standard grade and Higher exam revision, would not be affected.

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