Schools: Open Source Software

House of Lords written question – answered on 14th June 2005.

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Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action is being taken in response to the report from the British Educational Communications and Technology Directorate which has concluded that primary schools could cut computer costs by nearly half if they stopped buying, operating and supporting products from software vendors such as Microsoft.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

The Government are making significant investment in ICT in schools and always look to ensure schools get the best value for money from this investment. In order to support schools in making effective strategic investments for their ICT the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) report on open source software (OSS) in schools investigated whether the findings from the OGC trials that open source solutions are viable and credible alternatives to proprietary software were applicable to the education sector.

The project report is based on a very small opportunity sample of 15 schools which varied greatly both in size and the extent to which they used open source software. Although the project findings report significant savings these are not consistent in all areas for the schools and further research would need to be done to confirm that these savings relate to the OSS elements and are achievable in all schools.

Schools can choose how to develop their ICT and are in no way compelled to take Microsoft software. They are perfectly free to use whatever software they feel meets their needs best and is most cost effective.

Becta, at the request of the Secretary of State, signed a new agreement with Microsoft Ltd in relation to their licensing framework for schools. Savings to schools from this agreement in England should reach £46 million over three years. Schools are likely to spend 20 to 37 per cent less over three years than might have been expected in the absence of this new agreement.

Building on the success of the agreement with Microsoft, Becta has introduced a software licensing framework agreement for operating systems and office productivity software. This framework agreement will introduce further improvement in value for money and will provide easier access by schools to as wide a range of products as possible, including open source products.

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