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U.K.: Open source could halve school IT bills

A leaked report from British tech agency contains potentially bad news for software companies such as Microsoft.

The open-source community is expected receive a major boost this week from the U.K. tech agency, which has investigated the potential benefits of using free, nonproprietary software in education.

The Information and Communication Technology agency's research, carried out by the British Educational Communications and Technology Association (BECTA), concluded that primary schools could cut computer costs by nearly half if they stop buying, operating and supporting products from software companies such as Microsoft, according to the London Times.

BECTA's report won't be officially released until Friday, but as ZDNet UK earlier reported, its initial findings were presented to a workshop in mid-April. The panel of educational IT specialists heard that open-source software offers lower costs for support, hardware and software, and also discussed perceived barriers to open-source acceptance.

At present, Microsoft has an agreement with the U.K. Department of Education and Skills under which schools can receive sponsorship of up to $28,250 (15,000 pounds). This has sparked claims that schools are canceling open-source projects to avoid upsetting Microsoft.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK contributed to this report.