Open source can save schools billions

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Sometimes I think the BBC's on-line news front page is written just to wind me up.

This weekend it carried a Gov report from the DCSF (Department for the most recent Government Edu Acronym) who commissioned ex WHSmith Chairman, Richard Handover, to conduct a "value for money review" in education.

In it he claims civil servants and head teachers appear to have no idea what value for money means, and calls for 40,000 teaching assistant jobs to go and cites as an example of incompetence a case where £35,000 was spent on a £1,000 photocopier.

His report follows last week's statement from Education Secretary Ed Balls that schools could save £2bn by sacking Senior Teachers.

Seems that it's not just me that thinks schools are being let down by a bunch of dopes.

For this reason I am compelled to repeat the following:

ICT in schools is hopelessly bloated and unsustainable being as it is completely dependent on expensive vendor-driven proprietary software and solutions.

I also restate the following (and as a company we have proved it):

Open Source Software can save UK Schools billion of pounds.

Luckily, having been a teacher, I have no qualms whatsoever repeating myself. In fact I am accustomed to doing so over and over again until at a least a few of my cloth-eared charges get the message.

And then I test them on it!

So, oh cloth-eared brethren responsible for value for money procurement in schools... heedless of the risk of repeating myself here goes:

Open Source software can save schools billions of pounds.

Now, If you look back through some of my past blogs you can browse the facts and figures at your leisure. If you regard this as revision you will be in a position to take your GCSE in ICT Procurement for schools.

From which six sample questions taken from the examination board are below.

GCSE ICT Procurement. Level One 2009

You have five minutes to complete this test. Read each question carefully. You are not allowed to use a calculator or any of the data sheets handed out by that nice Microsoft man with the scary eyes.

1) What are the free, open source alternatives for Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Internet Explorer 7 and what do they cost?

(6 marks)

2) Which of the following operating systems are susceptible to viruses and trojans?

Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Mac OsX, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris

(3 marks)

3) Kahlid and Jasmine support a Windows network and so need to protect themselves against viruses. In order to get value for money for their school they would use:

Sophos, ClamAV, AVG, Norton or McCaffee anti-virus software? (tip: one product is free)

(1 mark)

4) Gordon has ten servers running his school ICT infrastructure on Windows Server 2003. He knows this costs the taxpayer thousands of pounds a year in electricity and many thousands in software licences.

Which of the following strategies do you think provides him with best value for money?

a) upgrade the physical servers and buy new Win 2008 server licences
b) virtualise the physical servers (to save electricity) using MS Hyper V
c) virtualise the physical servers using free KVM and use free Linux virtuals where possible
d) do nothing he has no idea what you are on about

(4 marks)

5) Baroness New Hibernia is a Governor of a local school. The school is about to adopt a VLE and Docu-management software package. She is concerned that what they buy meets all regulations and is fit for purpose.

Which two of the following are free AND have the most features AND comply to Open Standards.

MS SharePoint; Kaleidos; Fronter; Alfresco; Moodle

(2 marks)

6) Roger your financial manager has just presented you with the electricity bill. To save money which of the following do you decide NOT to do:

a) go around the school switching off the lights
b) ban the use of interactive whiteboards
c) replace 400 watt desktop workstations and monitors with 20 watt systems
d) turn off the air-conditioning and close the computer rooms.
e) upgrade to Windows 7 and buy more powerful computers to run it

(tip: four points are correct)

(4 marks)

Total 20 marks

Score: A* 15-20 marks: Very Good Do you work for us by any chance?
A 10-15 marks: Not bad Obviously the message is getting through.
B 5-10 marks: Poor I hope you have lots of spare money.
C 0-5 marks: V poor Which Local Authority do you work for?

PostScript: The GCSE in ICT procurement is being phased out in place of a new Diploma in "Stakeholder Empowerment in ICT Procurement Strategies in the Public Sector' which will be launched by BECTA at the forthcoming secret Open Schools meeting at Bletchely Park in October.

PostPostScript: I challenge you to work out which of the above I made up and which is true

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