Schools across the country will save an estimated £10m on licensing costs over the next three years, under an agreement between Microsoft and the Department for Education (DfE), the education body has claimed.
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The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreement, which began on 1 January, will give UK schools the opportunity to buy Microsoft academic software at improved discounts and under better licensing terms.
Part of the agreement will involve Microsoft factoring freeware into the arrangement. According to the DfE, the MoU will enable schools to use more of their budget on teaching instead of back office administration, although a complete breakdown of how schools will reach the £10m in savings has not yet been revealed.
Education secretary Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that we have been able to reach this new agreement with Microsoft. Schools spend a significant amount on software licensing. Through this new agreement we can make sure more money goes on front-line teaching.”
The negotiations between Microsoft and the DfE, led by Government Procurement Service (GPS), build on an existing arrangement that has operated with the supplier since 2004.
“We are continually reassessing the provisions that we make for UK schools to make sure this happens," said Steve Beswick, director of education sector at Microsoft UK.
“We know from our long-standing partnership with the education sector in this country that high-quality technology and software, combined with high-quality teaching, will help our children flourish at school,” he said.
Getting young people ready for work
Separately, skills minister Mathew Hancock unveiled plans for a new programme designed to aid young people in completing apprenticeships.
Due to be in place by September 2013, the Traineeships programme will provide young people aged between 16 and 24 with a support package, enabling them to complete their apprenticeship and compete in the market with more experienced adults.
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To help develop the programme, employers, education and training providers and young people have been asked to comment on the initiative.
“We want to support everyone in our country to reach their personal best," said Hancock. "To do that, we are introducing Traineeships to help young people with the skills they need to get a job, and hold down a job. That’s vital for our economy to compete in the global race. And it’s a question of fairness.”
According to a recent review of vocational education, conducted for the government, long-term changes in the labour market have been hard on young people.
“It is increasingly difficult for them to gain the work experience and workplace skills that help them move into permanent employment," said the review's author. "The government needs to address this issue as a matter of urgency, and I am delighted to see that they are indeed doing so.
“The aim of the programme will be to help those young people who are motivated by work, but whose lack of experience often means they fall short of employer expectations.”
Depending on the specific needs of each participant, the length of a Traineeship is expected to last around six months.