How software licensing can go a long way to saving schools money


n our third feature this month, we hear from Emma Rolfe, Head of Software at

Stone Group, who looks at the importance of software licensing, and offers some pointers on how schools can best manage the process while keeping a tight rein on costs.

Ask a head teacher what their favourite part of the job is – ask a thousand – and few of them will say administration, managing tight budgets, or dealing with the ageing equipment and software that keeps the school running. Reluctantly, these things become a part of daily life for decision- makers within education, but what happens when budget restrictions become a bigger problem? Why, and how, should you prioritise the safety of the school’s software when budget cuts are forcing some truly difficult decisions around IT to be made? Often, head teachers are told about the

importance of getting software licensing right, but without an explanation as to why, many would even struggle to vocalise what software licensing is. There is a common misconception that matters of software, and knowledge of such,

is the sole domain of the IT department, but if only a fraction of the team has prior knowledge on software licensing, the staff body at large cannot have a full understanding of why it’s necessary to ensure that it is safe, compliant, and in fitting with the school’s needs. Most importantly it is vital it does not cause greater issues for the school further down the line, as budgets and resources are overstretched as it is, without having to deal with legal problems. Simply put, software licensing is a legally

binding document which lays out guidelines for the distribution and use of certain software. It defines who can have copies of the software, what restrictions lie in place for using the software, and includes warranties, disclaimers, and all manner of protections to ensure that the intellectual property of others is not adversely affected. Official guidelines state that the head teacher’s responsibility to ensure that “all intended activities are covered adequately by licenses”, and that “all staff follow the terms and conditions”. Going beyond the general definition of the term and the legal requirements, there are many

different types of software licensing, and a complicated process of understanding all of the technical jargon, decoding it, and applying it to the care and protection of your pupils. Add in a time limit and heavily restricted budget, and making the right choice instead becomes a matter of time management and purse strings, as well as legality.

A time of financial difficulty A recent survey conducted by the Sutton Trust highlighted pressures on funding for schools and issues such as the use of pupil premium funding to plug gaps in the budget. It found that, of the 1,678 educators who answered the survey, many sacrificed spending some important areas to plug financial gaps, displaying in numbers the true pressure that teachers in today’s economic world feel on a daily basis. A certain portion of the school’s budget must

go on purchasing and licensing the software used in the teaching of its pupils, so there is always going to be a link between budgets and the need for software licensing. The percentage of heads who made cuts to IT

equipment was shockingly high at 61%. Should IT really be near the bottom of the priority list when it comes to budgeting? IT can automate admin processes to make them faster and more cost effective; not to mention that we are in an age where every student at school should have regular access to IT software and equipment as part of their education. It’s clear that schools are having to make tougher and tougher decisions regarding budgets, all while keeping the safety and wellbeing of their pupils at the top of their priorities. With this in mind, why should a school leader

consider outsourcing software licensing when budgets are so tight? The answer is to begin thinking in the longer term, and thinking of what can happen if software licensing is not dealt with in the proper way.

The benefits of software licensing – and do they outweigh the cost? First and foremost, the software licensing terms allow you to distribute software safely within the school, in the full knowledge that it is compliant

30 June 2019

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