Wales will be one of the first countries in the world to fund Microsoft classroom software applications for all maintained schools, thanks to new investment from the Welsh Government.
As classrooms continue to digitally evolve, this approach will ensure all schools across Wales have the same level of access to these essential software applications. This will help learners gain the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world, an essential aim of the Welsh Government’s Digital Competence Framework.
Not only will this new £1.2 million investment improve equity of access to digital resources, it is a direct measure to support schools in reducing their costs and that of families. It follows recent announcements by the Minister for Education on support for school uniform costs and other kit, as the government increases its share of funding for new school buildings and increases the number of children who benefit from free school meals.
The Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, confirmed the software will be available via the Welsh Government’s Hwb digital learning platform, which is currently used by over 85% of schools in Wales.
The licensing deal contains a range of Microsoft products, including the full desktop version of Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus which includes a Welsh language interface and proofing tools, along with additional security features.
Also included is Minecraft Education Edition with Code Builder which provides a range of ways for learners to explore, create and experiment with coding. This supports the Welsh Government’s Cracking the Code plan to expand coding in every part of Wales.
All teachers and learners will be able to download and install the latest versions of all these software applications on up to 5 personal devices at no cost. Online versions of the software applications will continue to be available through Hwb for use anywhere, such as public computers in libraries.
Kirsty Williams said:
“I’m proud to say we’re one of the first countries in the world to take this progressive approach to providing schools with this software. Through our curriculum reforms we want all learners to have relevant high-level digital, literacy and numeracy skills, and access to these applications is an important step towards achieving that.
“This will reduce the burden on schools to pay for their own licensing fees and also ensure all our schools have the same level of access to the digital tools they need to progress these skills in our learners. This is vital as we aim to reduce the attainment gap and increase standards in our schools.”
Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, said:
“The introduction of Office 365 will be transformational for both teachers and pupils, empowering them to collaborate more effectively, saving time and generating better learning outcomes. Equally, Office 365 provides students with valuable skills to help them obtain employment following school,” said Cindy Rose, CEO, Microsoft UK.
“Additionally, the accessibility tools built into Office 365 will mean all students gain the confidence to contribute to learning discussions. Similarly, with Minecraft Education Edition, students will develop computational thinking skills in an immersive and classroom-friendly format that sparks creativity and innovation. This agreement ensures Wales retains its position as a world leader in digital education delivery.”