The more astute of you may have picked up this interesting debate initiated by John Pugh MP in his parliementary early day motion
, quoting from a campaign group called the Open Schools Alliance
. The motion brings together concerns about centralised contracts for educational hardware, software and services (Becta frameworks), and the promotion of Open Source
is a classic example of valued Open Source software developed and supported by a worldwide community of enthusiasts. The current Becta Learning Platform procurement
does not include Moodle; why? because there is no supplier to tender for the contract because it's free! The real debate about the use of Moodle is not whether it works; it clearly does for a large number of schools and colleges, but how it can be contractually supported?
Schools can of course choose to have mission critical systems, (and the Learning Platform will become such over the next few years), supported by enthusiasts within their schools, or they can purchase a managed service that includes support and upgrades. In both cases schools' should rely on effective management rather than enthusiastic individuals. The essential argument is one of risk management.
The linking of Open Source to the Becta frameworks is erroneous. The former is not prejudiced by the latter. The frameworks were originally intended to secure factory gate prices for common software, and to lower prices to education, which they are doing. The choice still remains with the schools. Open Source software use in schools will rise (it's already used in education across Europe, and by the Open University), but it will take time. Why? not because of Becta contracts, but more likely because the main market place for educational software is Curriculum Online
, paid for by eLearning Credits
(eLC's) a government subsidy aimed at propping up the school software market in the face of attempts to provide free digital curriculum resources through the BBC
(There is now a proposal for a public value test
Even the Apple Mac is not well represented in curriculum online; if schools want to run curriculum online software they need to run Windows! There is much great Open Source software that would save schools thousands, but curriculum coverage is not there, and currently requires a mixed approach. The direction of travel though is clear!