very, very sly answer from BECTA
They're actually talking about the computers at home initiative
It's a government run scheme, whereby students within certain financial criteria qualify for a laptop. AKA underpriviliged.
When I was sysadmin at a school, we opted out of this initially, as we didn't want the extra administrative ball-ache we assumed would come with, and I suspect quite a few other schools did the same, because they quickly modified it so that the school itself would have no responsability over the laptops handed out.
All we had to do was identify the students that qualified under the criteria. (confidentially and discretely, of course. We didn't want to mark them out as the "poor kids").
The scheme then provided the pre-configured laptops, a 3G wifi connection, and even a tech support number for the student/family to call in case they had problems, so we as a school bore no support costs.
This was enough to sweeten the deal for us, and we opted in. Although we were never forced to support these items, I did on rare occasions deal with them, and can say with absolute confidence that those laptops were indeed provided without any form of Big Brother spyware on them.
But there's nothing stopping a school in the UK from providing their own IT equipment to students to to take home, which is what we also did. We provided all the 6th form students with Samsung Q1 tablet PCs, which they were able to take home.
Again, we didn't put anything particulary sinister on those machines as they were more a symbol of trust and responsibility (which suprisingly worked out rather well, even if the samsungs performance didn't)
But compare and contrast, if you will, what we put on our student desktops:
These are the 2 most commonly used products in UK schools (I think, the latter appears to have changed its name) and as you can see from the feature lists, they are pretty intrusive.
Before any parent starts objecting, I'll first point out that your "little angel" is inevitably and systematically trying to access a whole slew of of innapropriate material, trying to break into their friends or teachers resources, or simply no getting on with their work cause they're playing flash games.
This software is absolutely catagorically required within the classroom. Without it the teacher loses all control. Because of that nearly all schools have this type of software in one form or another.
So what we have is schools by default owning monitoring software, and the ability to issue their own IT equipment. I can personally say I wouldn't have dreamed of putting camera monitoring software on students take-home machines, and common sense would dictate that no school would want to put itself in such a vulnerable position.
There was one occasion I gave a teacher an ex-student machine, and forgot to rename it. Because of its name, the next Impero update snared his computer, and to my horror, the students in one classroom were breifly shown a thumbnail of his desktop while he was working on some confidentail documents.
The text wasn't readable, and the client very quickly removed, but mistakes can happen.