UK government promotes open source in schools

A report due out after the general election is expected to highlight the lower support, hardware and software costs associated with open source software
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) is expected to encourage the use of open source software in schools in a report to be published next month.

The report follows a three year study on the use of open source software in 15 schools across the country, according to sources. One of the schools involved in the study was Handsworth Grammar School in Birmingham, which has been running open source software on desktop computers since 2003.

Richard Rothwell, the head of computing at Handsworth Grammar School and the chair of Schoolforge UK, said the Becta study will highlight the lower support, hardware and software costs associated with open source software.

The initial results of the Becta study were presented to a workshop on 14 April. This workshop was attended by Sun, IBM and various open source organisations including the Association for Free Software, SchoolForge UK, the Open Source Consortium and the UK Unix and Open Systems User Group.

The workshop discussed some of the barriers to the adoption of open source software, according to a workshop attendee. These barriers include the perception that educational establishments need to 'rip and replace' proprietary software, while in fact open source software can be used in conjunction with the current infrastructure. There is also a perceived lack of support for open source software.

Becta is understood to be working with representatives of the open source community to overcome misperceptions around open source software.

This is the latest government initiative to promote the use of open source software. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has funded an initiative, known as the Open Source Academy, which will provide information on open source suppliers and give local authorities a platform to collaborate on open source software projects.

The full report on the use of open source software in education is due to be released by Becta next month, after the general election.

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