Open Source Schools screenOpen source software has big implications for UK education but its non-commercial nature puts it at a disadvantage in the schools "market". The OS virtual learning environment Moodle, for example, is not the subject of a government pilot or study, even though it is popular and motivational among teachers and learners. And until the invasion of "netbooks', with the Asus EeePC (RM Asus miniBook) in the frontline, most teachers and learners had not seen an OS desktop (now the most popular choice of Asus EeePC).

So it's important that Leon Cych and BBC Backstage's Hannah Wise filmed the OS seminars at the BETT 2009 technology show at Olympia, London, on January 19. Now you can view online video presentations by Becta award-winner Miles Berry (introduction and Moodle), Michelle Walters (Open Office and the Open Source Schools website), Jose PIcardo (working with audio and Audacity) and Doug Belshaw (netbooks and Linux).

BETT 2009 logoBETT 2009 saw an all-time record number of visitors from the UK and abroad - 30,008, a 4 per cent increase on 2008. “For BETT to attract such a huge number of visitors in a year of economic uncertainty really does prove that the sector is supported by suppliers who provide rich and innovative resources, and that educators really care about the future of learning and teaching both here and overseas,” said exhibition director Richard Joslin.

Croydon has been recognised at the 2008 e-government national awards for its e-Pay Cashless Schools Project which will see dinner money collection across the local authority exceed £3.4 million during the 2008/2009 academic year through its online ParentPay service.

The awards are supported by prime minister Gordon Brown and intended to recognise organisations that use new and innovative technologies to deliver better public services. This year saw a record 588 nominations across 11 categories. The e-Pay Cashless Schools Project, dreamed up four years ago by catering manager Allyson Lloyd and ParentPay founder Lynne Taylor to create cashless schools, won its award in the "Local e-Government excellence: Take-up & usage growth" category.

John MellorLitcham High's John MellorStudents file casually to the two check-outs, staff enter their purchases on touch-screens, fingertips slide over biometric scanners, a photograph of the student's face pop up momentarily in the corner of the screens for visual confirmation... and lunch is served - without any cash changing hands. It's as simple as that.

The award-winning ParentPay service means fewer children carry money to school (parents and teachers can even top up accounts over the web) and children having free meals are no longer easily identified - so bullying and other anti-social behaviour is down. In addition, electronic top-up means no sneaking off to buy goodies in local shops.

Litcham High School, in rural Norfolk, is not unique in using this kind of technology, but the ways in which it connects its management technologies are thoughtful and ambitious. And with a browser-based school management information system at its heart (in this case Pearson Phoenix's e1) Litcham now has distinct advantages for developing and involving teachers, students and, ultimately, parents in management information services (MIS). It's a decision worth looking at in the world of school MIIS systems where one service - Capita's SIMS - has 80 per cent of the market.