Becta or Worse?

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What on earth is going on at Becta? A couple of days after I write praising its new approach to Microsoft's strangelhold on schools, we read this:

Microsoft has managed to sign a three-year deal to supply software to schools despite failing to settle a long-running spat with the UK's procurement sheriff over its licensing terms.

Becta, the UK quango governing technology spending in education, swept the licensing issue under the carpet in order to sign a new three-year deal with Microsoft, the convicted software monopolist, last month.

So Becta has not only meekly acquiesced to another three years of lock-in, but it has guaranteed that thousands more schoolchildren will be indoctrinated into the Microsoft way, unaware that there is any other word processor than Word, or that Excel is not the only spreadsheet. Like all abusive relationships, the only way to break this dependence is to say enough is enough, and stop it.

A switch to OpenOffice.org overnight would cost nothing in terms of paying for the software, and the money saved could be used for training – not that much is needed, since despite Microsoft's protestations, a word processor is a word processor, and a spreadsheet a spreadsheet. It's sheer pusillanimity to carry on like this, and simply strengthens Microsoft's position for negotiations next time.