Wales to become one of the first countries in the world to give schools free access to Microsoft 365
Wales is helping nearly half a million young people improve their digital skills by becoming one of the first countries in the world to give all local authority schools free access to Microsoft 365.
The Welsh Government will pay for all 1,521 “maintained” schools to have access to programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, in a bid to boost the use of technology among pupils and reduce costs for families and headteachers.
As part of the £1.2 million investment, which is expected to benefit around 467,000 young people, all teachers and students will be able to download and install the latest version of Office 365 ProPlus on up to five personal devices. Pupils can then collaborate and continue learning at home using the same programs as they do in the classroom.
Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, 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.”
The deal also includes Minecraft: Education Edition, which contains Code Builder. This version of the popular block-building game will allow teachers and students to learn coding using Tynker and Microsoft MakeCode, and supports the Welsh Government’s Cracking the Code plan to encourage coding in every part of the country.
Users will be able to securely access Office 365 ProPlus in Welsh or English via the government’s Hwb digital learning platform, which is available to all maintained schools and actively used by more than 85%.
Online versions of the software will continue to be available through Hwb for use in public spaces such as libraries.
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.