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BBC culls Jam staff

Suspended education portal expels 200

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The BBC will cut all staff posts at its suspended online education portal, BBC Jam. Around 200 job slots will disappear.

The free-at-point-of-use service, which had an annual budget of £150m, was suspended in March after unidentified private education providers complained to the EU that the Beeb was damaging their market.

At the time, acting BBC chairman Chitra Bharucha said there would be "fresh proposals for how the BBC meets its public purpose of promoting formal education in the context of school age children".

Meanwhile, layoffs resulting from the Jam decision have seemingly been minimised.

Controller of learning Liz Cleaver said: "I recognise that the past few weeks have been stressful for everyone involved. We have tried as hard as possible to minimise the number of post closures when making changes to staff numbers and, in particular, to avoid compulsory redundancy by seeking volunteers or redeploying staff."

The Beeb reckons the net loss of jobs will actually be just 31, with many personnel redeployed and others leaving of their own volition. Discussions with staff and unions continue.

The corporation is still required by its charter to promote education and learning, and licence-fee payers aren't being offered their £150m back.

It now appears that whatever the fresh proposals may be, they won't involve the original Jam structure. However, according to BBC News, a new learning plan "will be submitted to the [BBC] Trust in the next few months".

Parents and perhaps teachers may be hoping the Beeb can manage to get back online. At the moment the position could appear to users as though fee-paying schools had managed to have state education shut down - without any corresponding reduction in the tax burden.

On the other side, a lot of companies offer paid online education services and would argue that it's totally unfair for the Beeb to wade into their market with free offerings. Others in the sector would have hoped for work as Jam contractors - a big chunk of Jam budget was earmarked for sourcing from industry. Outfits like Tutorvista and Research Machines will be watching the Beeb's progress closely. ®

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