BECTA Back in Play


Just in case you thought things were getting a little dull in the world of UK computing compared to, say, UK finance, here comes the BECTA roller-coaster again:

Becta has been working closely with Microsoft to understand how the various issues identified in relation to interoperability in its Office 2007 product will be addressed. Becta takes the view that effective interoperability is an important component of the technology infrastructure needed to improve educational outcomes, facilitate home school links and address the digital divide.

Ah, yes, interoperability: Microsoft's favourite word of the moment.

Microsoft announced recently its intention to provide built-in support in Office 2007 for the Open Document Format (ODF) file format. This will give schools and colleges additional flexibility to use a wider range of software. Becta will work collaboratively with Microsoft to evaluate the improvements being developed, and as part of that process will provide updated guidance to the education sector on their deployment as and when appropriate.

Yeah, well, there's support and support, and I'm pretty sure I know which kind Microsoft will be offering: “ODF file doesn't open in Word? Must be a problem with the document....” I have a bad feeling in my bones about what the “updated guidance” might propose.

Microsoft has also been reviewing its school licensing arrangements in the light of the refreshed Harnessing Technology strategy which Becta published recently. Microsoft will introduce a new licensing programme for schools, initially as a pilot available to all schools, in approximately six months alongside the current School Agreement arrangements. Becta will continue to work collaboratively with Microsoft to secure the intended benefits of the new programme and ensure effective implementation.

And there we have it: Microsoft is clearly aiming – yet again – to make UK Education Ltd. an offer it can't refuse, even if it should for the sake of truly open standards (ISO? Never heard of it...), to say nothing of the children whose innocent, receptive minds (“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”) are entrusted to it.

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