The Home Access pilot starts

You may remember that in January, I wrote about the DCSF’s Home Access Programme – providing free home computers for students from disadvantaged families - and reinforcing to all families the importance of access to an Internet-connected computer to support learning. Just in case you missed , here’s the three articles to read – the basics, the suppliers, and the Microsoft software package. Well, we’re now into the pilot phase – with children in Oldham and Suffolk starting to receive their computers through the scheme.

imageThe BBC NorthWest film crew followed Jim Knight to Oldham earlier this week, and then all the way to Evan’s house. It must have been a little surreal for the family – sitting in your lounge with the Schools Minister and a TV crew. You can see 10-year old Evan’s interview, with his mum, on their website.

Anyway, the scheme’s underway as a pilot, and parents are starting to buy computers. They do this by applying for a grant, which arrives in the form of a single-use debit card they can go and spend with one of the 6 approved suppliers.
The strange thing is that, even though the cheapest computers cost £600, they don’t have Office 2007 on them. Even though we’d been working with the Ministerial Task Force for 18 months, and even though we’d offered our Home Learning Package at a special price (which included Office 2007 Ultimate Edition, plus a range of other learning and family safety resources). In what seems like an even more bizarre twist, I don’t think that the suppliers are allowed to offer it as a pre-installed upgrade – instead, the families have to buy it and install it separately.

To be honest, this doesn’t make sense to me. The scheme is aimed at families getting their first computer, and the more that’s pre-installed and ready to go, the better. And if their local school is using MS Office, surely it would make sense to offer them the option to have the same software on their home computer. I do understand the decision not to put it onto every computer, but to not even offer it as a pre-installed option?

Anyway, the cheapest solution for these parents (and for some of your students too?) is that there are a pair of Microsoft partners who run online shops which sell student licences of Office at Academic prices – ie less than you’d normally pay for a copy of Office 2007 if you buy it in a shop.

Software 4 Students

RM’s The Basement

image image

Office Standard from £35
Office Pro Plus for £44

Office Standard from £35
Office Pro Plus for £44

You simply order from the site, and they’ll send you the DVD to install, along with the licence key. And you’re off…

Comments (4)

  1. kristianstill says:

    Netbooks projects are in place, or like ours – in the final stages of planning. We are looking at donation vs purchase schemes and one of the main hurdles in licenses suitable for school networks. Who can we speak with on this matter – for sure it must be the same for the home piltots?

  2. Ray Fleming says:

    Hi Kristian,

    Like most licensing questions, the best place to start is one of our partners. We have a category, called "EdLARs" – Education Large Account Resellers – who are able to offer the widest range of all of our academic licences.

    All of them are on this page:

    Basically, for a situation where a school is buying netbooks for students, and the school will own them, there’s a couple of choices:

    – Buy Select licences – from under £30 for a full copy of Office – which are yours forever, but you only get the version you buy

    – Buy it under the School Agreement Student Option – which costs about £11 a year – which you pay every year, but you automatically have rights to upgrade to the latest version. But it’s like a subscription – if you stop paying, you have to stop using the software.

    The second option is the cheapest up front cost, but you pay every year. The EdLAR will be able to give you the best advice on which option to choose, as it will depend on budget, whether you tend to upgrade to latest versions etc

    (Would anybody else appreciate it if I had a go at a "how to get Office for your Netbooks" post?)


  3. alexjones says:

    Perhaps the alternatives to Office that might offer some of these students the ability to word process or use a spreadsheet that have no cost are worth mentioning?

    The recent government policy announcement on Open Source


    and Becta’s positive response


    make me think I’m not being impractical in suggesting this.

  4. Ray Fleming says:

    Hi Alex,

    Well, you wouldn’t expect me to write about OpenOffice would you 😉

    What prompted me to write the post was a corridor conversation with a colleague, who told me that parents are asking for Office 2007 on the Home Access computers, and I wrote it to explain that there are cheaper ways to buy for students than simple retail packs of "Home & Student Office 2007".

    Quite often parents/students want something that’s compatible with school, and/or what a parent uses at work.

    When the scheme was announced, one of the regular commentators said he feared this becoming the IT equivalent of NHS specs – and although he was referring to the fact that "a computer" was the only choice, rather than offering mobile phones, PDAs and game consoles, I think the point may come true anyway.

    If a "Home Access Computer" is a premium price computer, packaged with software that parents don’t recognise (and chosen because it’s free, not because of consumer choice), it risks having the "NHS Specs" reputation.

    Remember the early days of netbooks – 90% Linux based. Well, a year down the line consumers are voting with their wallets:


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