Microsoft in £3.6m software giveaway for schools

SCHOOL pupils and their families will be able to hone their computer skills thanks to a free software giveaway worth £3.6 million.
Portobello High pupils use the free software. Picture: Colin HattersleyPortobello High pupils use the free software. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Portobello High pupils use the free software. Picture: Colin Hattersley

City leaders will hand out 46,000 Microsoft Office licences, worth £80 each, to pupils in a bid to boost IT expertise in the Capital.

This will allow every pupil to install Microsoft Office programs – such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint – on up to five computers or tablets in their home.

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One of the schools already benefitting from the giveaway is Portobello High School, where all students have previously been equipped with tablet computers as part of a city-wide pilot scheme to improve learning.

Brian Clark, curriculum leader of technology at Portobello, said: “The really nice thing is the software is exactly the same as what we have at school so students can start work on a report at school and then carry on with their work at home.

“They can pick up exactly where they left off and there are no compatibility issues.”

The software will contribute to the school’s drive to create a new way of learning, said Mr Clark, who added that the digital initiative was a major learning curve for staff as well as students.

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He said: “It’s something as a school we are really trying to push forward. I would say we are in the ‘toodlerhood’ of our digital work but this will really help to push things forward.”

Access to this software also helps students from poorer backgrounds who might not have the facilities available at home.

Mr Clark said: “It really levels the playing field as well in terms of accessibility, as any pupil will now have access to an iPad and this software.

“It also helps with file sharing and combined working among the students.

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“Before it was tricky to arrange for group work outside of class but now it can be 7.30pm and they can all work together remotely on a project.”

The software would cost more than £3.6m if bought individually, but council officials insist the deal has not dented the public purse as the programs are provided by Microsoft as a free add-on to the council’s existing software contracts.

Cllr Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said: “This development is great news for pupils and families across the city.

“It means children can now use the same computer software they have in their schools at home and opens up even more exciting learning opportunities for them.

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“An added bonus is that it’s free for families so will save them money and is yet another positive step forward for our ICT projects across the school estate.”

Every primary and secondary school pupil in the city will be given access to the software while they are at school as well as at home.