Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from Mr Roger Tuckett, Henley Community Online (ILA 09)


  Earlier career in IT and telecoms industry. Ran own business consultancy company 1997-2000. Focussed on pan-European public policy and regulatory development, and impact on business planning and market development, mainly in the telecoms sector. Previously worked at European Commission in 1994-95 on policy development for Information Society.


  Put mainstream career to one side to establish non-profit-making community organisation to bring the Information Society to Henley (population 10,000). Initial focus was supporting those using computers (or going online) for the first time. Start-up support for local sponsors, but no Governmental support other than ILA scheme. Equipped and opened ICT centre in the middle of the town (18 PCs, high-speed internet access, £30k capital investment)

  Launched in June 2001. Appointed UK Online Centre; Accredited as ECDL testing centre. In four months, 220 learners signed up for learning (using computer-based training material with tutor support). 2 per cent of the town's population. Average age about 60.


    —  Good: Flexibility. Low bureaucracy. Formal qualifications not a required outcome.

    —  Bad: Capita administration. Delays in payments. Failure to define the rules. Closure with no alternative scheme. Absence of co-ordination with UK Online, learndirect, LSC funding etc.


  Catastrophic. Revenue steam stopped at end October. Insolvent by end December. Substantial unpaid salary for myself. No alternative revenue streams. No Government support. Centre closed at Christmas. Six jobs lost. Many learners lost their learning. Community lost a valuable asset.

  Using my existing contacts, I took up the matter with my MP, and contacted others in the industry, with whom I have discussed their concerns. I organised a lobby of Westminster on 11 December, at which I called for the Select Committee enquiry. No formal organisation has yet been established, although the way we see ourselves representing independent IT training providers, mainly commercial. We estimated that 80 per cent of training centres (roughly 1,500 open today) are independently run.


    —  Almost every learning provider affected is laying off staff now.

    —  Between 25 per cent and 60 per cent of ICT training centres are likely to close within 6 months, with 2,000 to 5,000 job losses.

    —  Confidence and trust between learning providers, learners and Government has been shattered.

    —  Installed base of training centres able to deliver the digital society objectives has been savaged. Traditional colleges are unlikely to have the capacity to deliver a growing need.


    —  No statement on proportion of ILA funds applied to basic IT skills training (believed very high).

    —  Minimal linkages between ILA closure and delivery of Digital Society objectives.

    —  No concern or responsibility by DfES to independent learning providers (community or commercial) as partner organisations.

    —  No market analysis and impact assessment yet undertaken. DfES and/or e-Envoy should do this.

Roger Tuckett

Chief Executive, Henley Community Online (now closed)

January 2002

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