Microsoft's school scheme sparks fears

Tes Editorial

Concern is mounting over Microsoft's new method of charging schools for its software, with fears that costs will rise.

Instead of purchasing programs such as Word or Excel outright, a Microsoft School Agreement will see software licensed for 12 months at a price based on the number of computers in a school or local authority. It will give schools the latest versions, the company said, so that children do not use "outdated software".

An agreement will save schools money and make sure that all copies of programs are legal, said David Burrows, head of Microsoft's UK education division. "Because the licence covers Microsoft software on all computers, schools are automatically protected against the illegal use of software."

The company is working with the Business Software Alliance to ensure schools realise the importance of ensuring all software is legally licensed and are taking steps to avert potential prosecution. Burrows said Microsoft was not targeting schools in search of illegal software use.

More than 700 schools and six education authorities have signed an agreement, which Burrows calls an answer to the problem of "providing current, legal, software at an affordable price". All secondary schools in Glasgow are covered by an agreement, the largest in Europe.

However, industry observers believe the move is a stepping stone to making all customers pay a subscription fee for Microsoft products in a bid to increase revenue.

The company would like customers to upgrade every two years - more regularly than they do, as most users still have the four-year-old Office 97.

Microsoft's claims that licensing will save users money has been disputed by the Society of IT Managers, which has predicted the switch will cost local authorities an extra pound;50 to pound;80 million over the next two years.

Burrows said licensing would require schools to regard software costs as general expenditure rather than a capital cost. Schools will still have the option of buying programs outright.

However, Dale Frith, head of Porters Grange junior school in Southend, said most schools did not have that degree of flexibility with their budgets.

The British Educational Suppliers Association survey says many schools are still confused about software licensing, with less understanding in secondaries of agreements than last year.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Tes Editorial

Latest stories

New headteachers - here are 9 things you need to know

Headteacher wellbeing and sources of 'streth'

Former headteacher Chris McDermott set out to find out the true causes of leader stress and support – and in doing so coined a whole new term, as he explains here
Chris McDermott 2 Dec 2021
Transdisciplinary learning: how to embed it in your school

Why you need a transdisciplinary curriculum

At the Aspirations Academies, six hours a week are dedicated to applied transdisciplinary learning - but how does it work? And should you apply something similar at your school?
Steve Kenning 2 Dec 2021
Expert governors can now come and help schools and trusts

Why schools and trusts can now hire 'expert governors'

Providing access to expert governors for struggling settings - or those willing to pay £500 a day for their insights - could have a huge benefit across education, claims the National Governance Association
Emily Attwood 2 Dec 2021