The government has named the 12 resellers certified to sell to the UK education sector.
Schools minister Charles Clarke announced the companies selected as National Grid For Learning (NGFL) certified managed services suppliers last week.
The elite few include Centerprise International, Elonex, Hugh Symons Group and IBM.
"Schools will no longer have to make hand-to-mouth decisions about buying computer equipment. No longer will the risk rest entirely with the school.
Nor will they be locked into contracts with a monopoly supplier for years," said Clarke.
Almost 120 companies applied to join the scheme and were vetted by BECTa (the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency). Clarke told the unsuccessful companies that the onus was now on them to improve quality and cut prices.
"We will not tolerate learning institutions being charged excessive prices or having to settle for second best," he said.
The chosen group will be recommended to educational institutions for the next 12 months of IT purchases. They will all provide kit, networking, and support and have "MOT" tests each year.
A second round of tendering for managed services will start soon. The winners will be announced next April, said BECTa.
The government aims to have all schools online by 2002. BECTa estimates that 90% of secondary schools are connected to the Internet.
The full list of certified suppliers also includes Akhter Computers, Bull, Clifton Reed Consultants, Comtec (Business Systems), EIS Kent, Research Machines (RM), Apple Xemplar Education and XMA.
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