Why on earth I'm writing this on Monday morning, I have absolutely no idea. It's bad enough that it's Monday morning. But writing about licensing? Am I mad?

(Well maybe - watch the comments flow from my colleagues!)

The reason to write about this now, at the beginning of term, is that it's the beginning of the summer term. You may have just finished a few ICT projects, while school was quiet. And you've got a few months ahead before the summer - when the BIG ICT projects tend to go ahead (in these days of 24x7 learning, there's still a quieter period for most schools in the summer holidays).

Many schools don't know how much and what software, they are using on their school computers. Now, that's a sweeping generalisation, which I'm sure has just prompted dozens of "Yes I Do", but look at your extended estate of computers. For example, do you know what software teachers might have installed on the laptops you gave them under "Laptops for Teachers", or pupils under the "Computers for Pupils" scheme? Once you've handed them over, do you know whether they're downloading this and that, installing a few extra things they think will be useful? And through that, turning your best-laid-licensing-plans into dust? And on top of that, are you sure that you're licensed correctly? You may be over/under-licensed thanks to the activities of your staff/pupils.

So what can you do about it?

You may remember a while ago I wrote about Parago, which is a web-based software suite which allows you to monitor hardware and software changes to a PC, whether they are in school or at home.

Tim Roots at IT Vision, has introduced a special offer for readers of the blog, of 50% off prices for the subscription service for the first year*. Normally, an annual site licence would cost a secondary school £850, so this blog offer would save you £425. For primary schools, the offer makes the site licence a more affordable £125 a year. More from Tim...

Parago® is a low cost Internet based asset management system developed in conjunction with schools and authorities and is now used in approximately 1000 schools. Through an easy process of downloading from the web the Parago® Agent discovers the specification of your PCs and all installed software. This includes PCs out of school and it even updates you when new software is installed. This gives you the ability to manage your school's software by identifying what is licensed and most importantly what you really need.. saving you money! What's more, Parago® enables you to manage all your other school assets in the same database.

If you want to know more about Parago, then take a look at the website. If you want to find out more about the offer, then drop an email to Tim at IT Vision. (Don't change the subject line - it'll ensure that you can get the blog-reader discount)

But isn't this somebody else's problem

Well, no. At the end of the day, the school (and ultimately the governors) are responsible for proper licensing of the ICT system at the school. Both local authorities and Becta provide advice to schools about licensing. On the IT Vision website, there's an excellent article about Software Asset Management, which has some of those views. The quote that caught my eye was about the Computers for Pupils (CfP) scheme:

FirstquotesStephen Lucey, executive director of Becta explained to IT Vision: “Your particular concerns of licence issues with regards to CfP are well made. As the device is actually owned by the school the licence issues are the responsibility of the school. Your concerns have been taken on board, and as a result the Local Authority guidance, in respect of CfP, is currently being updated to reflect this and a nuEndquotesmber of other areas of interest including topics such as Internet safety."

And taking a local authority perspective, the article quoted Andy Jackson, from the Children, Young People and Families Directorate of Birmingham Local authority 

FirstquotesSchools have a Duty of Care to know what software is on every school owned computer. Expecting a school to carry out a regular manual audit on every PC, especially on student and teacher laptops is unrealistic. Parago was a cost effective solution to our problem under our Computers for Pupils (CfP)/ UsEndquoteser Home Access (UHA) initiative.

* Aha, you say. There's an asterisk - so there's small print. The offer is limited to the first 1,000 schools that apply only, using the MSP1000 code on the email subject line