Microsoft's imminent Windows Vista operating system does not carry any 'must have' features that would justify a national roll-out in British schools, the education body Becta thinks. It is advising schools to wait until next year to install Windows Vista.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, Becta , said upgrading to Windows Vista means unnecessary risks and challenges for British schools since there is no guarantee of the stability of the operating system yet.

Widespread deployment of Windows Vista to schools and colleges around the country is expected to cost some £160 million, according to Becta.

In its report , Becta said until the benefits of Vista have become clear, and the operating system is proven to be stable and secure, it is 'strongly recommending' schools not to upgrade until it publishes its final report on Vista in January 2008.

None in Office either

The education technology body also stated that Microsoft Office 2007 should not be initially rolled out either. Becta recognises that there are many improvements in the upgraded software but states that these are mainly aimed at businesses rather than educational institutions. It found that "none of the new features were a 'must have' for schools and colleges".

Dr Stephen Lucey, executive director of strategic technologies at Becta, said: "In terms of Vista and Office 2007, our advice to schools and colleges is that they need to be sure that there is a real business case for upgrading to these new products, as the costs are significant and the benefits currently unclear."

Microsoft hit back by saying: "Customers should evaluate Vista and test it and decide 'Is this good for learning?'

"Rollout shouldn't be stopped if it aids learning," said Steve Beswick, Microsoft's director of education for the UK.