Government: Open source could halve school IT bills

A leaked report from the British Educational Communications and Technology Association contains bad news for software vendors such as Microsoft

The open source community will receive a major boost this week from the UK government's ICT agency, which has investigated the potential benefits of using free and non-proprietary software in education.

The research, carried out by the British Educational Communications and Technology Association (BECTA), 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, according to the Times Educational Supplement.

Becta's report won't be officially released until 13 May, but as ZDNet UK reported last month, its initial findings were presented to a workshop on 14 April. The panel of educational IT specialists heard that open source software offered lower support, hardware and software costs, and also discussed perceived barriers to open source take-up.

At present, Microsoft has an agreement with the Department of Education and Skills under which schools can receive sponsorship of up to £15,000. This has sparked claims that schools are cancelling open source projects to avoid upsetting Microsoft.

ZDNet UK's Ingrid Marson contributed to this report.