October sees the annual Local Government IT awards for excellence, writes Daniel Thomas. The nominees who will be vying for the first prize have already been announced, and one of them is Camden Borough Council, who last year invested more than £500,000 in the complete overhaul of its school office management systems.
In a nine-month period Camden's primary and special schools removed their old management systems, transformed the office systems, retrained their staff, connected the offices to the Internet and installed e-mail systems for all office staff.
To achieve this the council first had to meet a series of requirements. These included replacing all non Y2K-compliant hardware and software. These new systems had to be completed by last December, when they were connected to about 50 NT servers. More than 200 PCs were hooked up both to the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) network and to the Internet, and were e-mail-enabled.
The council also needed to extend the use of existing management systems to cover attendance, educational achievement and special educational needs, so it could support changing statutory requirements. This gave the schools the professional skills and confidence to make effective use of more complex, interconnected sets of management support systems.
The council's success in meeting these targets was reflected in the Audit Commission's January 2000 report, prepared as part of the Ofsted inspection of the local education authority. The report showed that Camden consistently matched or out-performed the highest achieving local education authorities nationwide, for the delivery and support of administrative and IT electronic data transfer. This was an encouraging improvement from a 1998 Mori-commissioned report, which showed that administrative information communications technology was a relatively weak service that was inadequately supported by the authority.
Commenting on the project's completion, Michael Wills, government minister for education and technology said, "This project demonstrates the Internet's huge potential for enriching the learning environment of our children and empowering teachers to work more effectively.
"If we are to be successful in creating a culture of learning through the NGfL, projects of this scope and vision should be looked at as an example of what can be achieved."