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A New Zealand School Using Only Free Software

  • Warrington School is using the self managing principles that are encouraged by the NZ Ministry of Education to move from using proprietary software to now using only Free and open software


  • In 2006 the school had insufficient funds to purchase enough new computers to sufficiently support teaching and learning in the information technology area of the curriculum
  • The pupil to computer ratio was 1:7
  • Older "unsupported" computers were loaded with the Ubuntu and Edubuntu operating system and connected to the school server by a parent, the school's Principal and cleaner
  • These older computers were seen as a stop-gap measure to allow children increased access to computers until the school could afford to purchase some newer computers
  • The library and school management software were 1.5% of the school's annual budget
  • To purchase new computers to give the school a 1:3 ratio of computers to pupils the school would need to set aside 5-10% of its annual budget for purchase and depreciation

Warrington School

  • Otago, New Zealand
  • A 3 teacher full primary school teaching pupils aged 5-13
  • A coastal semi-rural community with a focus on environmental education


  • Will the children, teachers and community be disadvantaged by using Free software
  • Could the children and staff become proficient in using both proprietary and Free operating systems and associated software
  • Would the school management software run on the Ubuntu operating system
  • Could the maintenance of the older computers and Ubuntu operating system be managed by the school
  • Would a debian server without a warranty be sufficient for the school

The Warrington Gnu/Linux Goal

  • The School's charter was altered to include this goal

Warrington School to totally run on a GNU/Linux operating system with “Free software”* applications by 2010. *Free as in free speech not free beer

Rationale for this goal

  • The GNU/Linux operating system and free software had proven to be reliable, easy to use, setup and install
  • Staff and pupils can install a GNU/Linux operating system with very little knowledge or training
  • It is cost-effective as the software is free and readily on older computers at speeds close to newer counterparts
  • The School and community are allowed to choose computer operating systems and software to suit our needs and purposes
  • All that was achievable on proprietary running computers can be achieved successfully using Ubuntu or Edubuntu. Internet, email, manipulate data and images, save to and from our server, create presentations, run DVDs and play games designed for school children.

Expectation from the goal

  • We would be entitled to receive payment from the Ministry of Education at the beginning of 2010 for requiring a Microsoft licence agreement
  • That the School would not be discriminated against by the MOE for choosing Free software and would receive the same financial benefits that schools choosing Microsoft receive
  • We hope to use this money from the MOE to employ local people to assist us with our computing needs if so desired


  • The server continues to run smoothly - 3 plus years after initial installation
  • The pupil to computer ratio is now 1:3
  • Teachers, pupils and community members can install Free operating systems on new and old computers
  • Donated "retired" computers can be set-up for school or community use
  • Less than 3% of the school's budget is required to meet the school's IT needs
  • School management and library software is free software
  • The MOE allow their twice yearly school roll returns to happen on-lineEnrol
  • We had time donated from an "Open Source" company keen to see Warrington succeed in using Free software - money was spent on tweaking our server.

Computing Responsibility

  • The school has a contracted technician who maintains the school's debian server
  • The Principal maintains the school's 25 PCs and 5 laptops with technical assistance from an interested parent and the technician
  • Pupils and staff have learnt to install the Ubuntu operating system

Principal's Comment

I believe as the educational leader of the school that Warrington children and staff are advantaged from using Free software because..

  • We have had freedom to copy, install and redistribute the software to those who need it
  • It fits our philosophy of social consciousness of recycling societie's cast off equipment
  • Our interested pupils can get more deeply involved with computing and computers through installing software and taking ownership of an installation
  • It is free

We Should Use Free Software Because:

  • Schools can run without proprietary software if they choose to
  • Children will not be disadvantaged by schools opting to use free software
  • The NZ government presently in a recession should be looking towards innovative practices within its own civil services to save on expenditure
  • The NZ government should be encouraging thrift by those who are administering government funded budgets
  • New Zealand tax payers money should be used to pay for the employment of New Zealanders not for proprietary software licenses


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