For the first time in my teaching career I have heard something about ICT and software in schools that makes sense, when it come to talking about Microsoft.
After years of the government telling us all to install Microsoft software in school without hesitation, Becta, a government agency, have at last announced that schools should be very careful about signing any deals with Microsoft and should review whether open source software might be a better option.
The problem is with this advice is that it flies in the face of everything that schools are told and advised to do by education authorities and the government itself.
The problem is that some local education authorities have purchase agreements with Microsoft . this means that the LEA has a cosy relationship with Microsoft that they are not keen to break, even if it means schools pay more.
Then there are the ICT advisers who go out to schools from the local education authorities. I my old school when we went for Open Office, a free open source piece of software that replicate the functions of Microsoft Office, did everything they could to put us off it, told us it would not work, indeed they acted like agents for Microsoft such was the vigour of their opposition to the school's stance. In truth Open Office worked fine and the school are still using it without problems. We were lucky that we had a group of ICT competent teachers and support staff who could understand when the advice we were being given by the LEA was rubbish. Most schools are reliant on LEA advisers and will therefore have done what they said, and gone for Microsoft Office instead.
The final thing is the government's own attitude towards Microsoft. The government have made no attempt to ditch Microsoft Office for an Open source alternative. The Indian Government and others have done this recently, adopting Ubuntu ( A Linux based operation system) and use Open Office too, cutting out Microsoft completely and saving hundreds of millions of pounds of tax payers money in to the bargain. When will the UK government catch up with the third world on this ?
And what of the government's own relationship with Bill Gates. Didn't Labour award him with an honorary knighthood for his services to education ? This from the man who sells Microsoft software to UK schools for a profits whilst it is given away to US schools for free ?
So it is good news that Becta are advising schools to stay clear of Microsoft software, but let's hope this advice also gets to the local education authorities and to central government too.