Unfortunately, not every student in Victoria has access to a high end computer running the lastest in all software at home. As more and more schools include computer skills in their education and request parents to provide computers in the home environment more and more students from lower income families are being disadvantaged. High school students who only have access to computers during school time are less advantaged than their peers who are able to spend their evenings writing up essays and CATs.
Running the latest Microsoft Office suite at school disadvantages the students whose machines at home are too old to run these products as well as those who cannot afford to upgrade. Files saved in the latest version of MS Word cannot be read by previous versions. Files saved in previous versions of MS Word lose much of their careful formatting when being opened in the latest version.
Since Microsoft upgrades its Office suite regularly, and none of these are particularly backwards compatible with the previous versions, a family may find themselves paying to upgrade their software several times and probably their hardware once or twice during the education of one student.
Fortunately many of the open source software products run on lower end machines with very little difficulty. What is more, since files are saved in open formats it is possible to move files between different versions of many products (and even between different products in some cases) with very little data loss. Many open source word processing products can also read and save files in the Microsoft Word format.
Choosing to run open source software, where possible, on your school computers allows parents to save money by not requiring them to upgrade their computer and software just so that files can be used both at home and at school. Choosing to run open source software on your school computers allows parents to buy cheaper computers in the knowledge that they will be suffient for their child's education. Choosing to run open source software on your school computers makes it easier to level the playing field for all students.