Tag Archives: Multi-Academy Trust

Improving Communication Across a Multi Academy Trust with Microsoft 365 at PolyMAT

In this podcast episode on Microsoft 365 user adoption, we speak with Mark Guest, Director of Innovation at PolyMAT, a multi academy trust in Thamesmead and the surrounding areas.

Mark discusses how the trust uses SharePoint to improve communication across the schools and created dashboards with Microsoft Power Apps to save teacher time.

PolyMAT is a UK-based MAT made up of Woolwich Polytechnic School for Boys, one of the country’s largest boys’ secondary schools and its sister school Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls.

Watch the full podcast episode here:



“My job as Director of Innovation has so many facets to it. I focus on how we can make the most of data, systems and technology in our schools to become more efficient and ensure we’re getting value for money,” Mark tells us.

PolyMAT has been working with Cloud Design Box since 2020, and they have created staff collaboration sites in SharePoint for each of the schools, plus the main one for the trust as a whole.

“Each page follows a consistent layout and includes relevant news, a calendar, announcements, Quick Links to things like policies, a class cover manager and information about room changes that are all pulled from SIMS,” Mark explains.

“We’ve also got an area where staff can ask questions and share feedback directly to the trust leadership team.”

The three calendars – one for the boys’ school, the girls’ school and trust are synced using Power Automate so that they always contain the correct, up-to-date information.

Staff can easily send out a quick announcement by filling out a form and selecting a target audience – this allows them to publish the information onto SharePoint and have the option to send an email to the right people.

“We’ve created a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) app that teachers can download to their phones. They’ll receive push notifications if a student is removed from a lesson or SLT is required.”

PolyMAT is also taking advantage of the endless possibilities of Power BI dashboards.

“Our various dashboards can be embedded into SharePoint and save teachers loads of time when they need to access information about their students quickly,” he shows us.

“An example is our Tutor Reports – they show things like attendance and punctuality, as well as the number of students who are off due to self-isolation and therefore need work to be provided while they’re learning from home.”

A specific example of the technology reducing admin time for teachers is gathering information about a particular student:

“A Head of Year may need to know who teachers an individual student. This job would typically take around 10-15 minutes to complete. Now, they simply bring up a student profile and can get the information in a couple of minutes.”

PolyMAT is committed to training and continuous development, always seeking feedback and helping teachers use the tools to save time and get back to teaching.

“Regular training is available, and we’ve got a long term plan to increase efficiency even further. For example, bring all our Power Apps into one place and relocating our resources in centralised document libraries that will get shared across the schools and trust,” he adds.

“As the trust grows and more schools join, we need to make sure that they have the same setup. During the pandemic, we’ve had a massive increase in using Teams and Microsoft 365, but if we don’t have structures in place and a long-term strategy, we won’t be able to sustain that level of usage. So we’re working with Cloud Design Box on a five-year plan to make sure we make the most out of this technology.”

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your school or trust, please contact a member of our team today.

Blended Learning in Primary Schools using Teams with Cornerstone Multi-Academy Trust 

In this podcast episode, we speak with David James, Head of Education at Cornerstone Academy Trust and Anthony Lees, Deputy of Westclyst Community Primary School. 

The Cornerstone Academy Trust is made up of four primary schools, including Broadclyst Community Primary School, Westclyst Community Primary School, Yeo Valley Community Primary School and Monkerton Community Primary School. 

Broadclyst has an international reputation for its use of technology in education and has been awarded EdTech Demonstrator School status by the Department of Education. 

“At Broadclyst, we’ve been using Microsoft for the last 18 years and had been using it as a teaching and collaboration tool. When lockdown struck, we were in a good position and were able to support our other schools in using it,” David explains. 

“We faced similar issues to every other school where there was a variable level of staff confidence and competence with the technology, so we found the ability to host live training events via Teams invaluable.” 

Watch the full podcast episode on blended learning for primary schools here:




Using Microsoft tools to train and onboard staff. 

The trust uses Microsoft Stream to create powerful learning resources for their staff.

“We’re all learners, aren’t we? Not just the students but also members of staff,” Anthony says. 

“Microsoft Stream enables you to create automatic transcripts of the training session, allowing teachers to jump straight to the information they need by using the search tool.”

“We can also drop forms and links into a recording, which means we can check staff retention and ask them to respond to questions throughout the recordings.” 

Teacher training with Microsoft Stream

Saving teacher time with Microsoft 365. 

Teachers at the Cornerstone Academy Trust have been able to save time when creating centralised learning resources as OneNote and Teams have allowed them to collaborate across different schools within the trust. 

“Teachers use the collaboration tools to plan together so four people in four different schools aren’t all spending time planning the same lesson,” explains David. 

“We’ve been doing this to reduce the workload on teachers and decrease the amount of time they spend planning so they can use it creating additional amazing resources or focus their time on training and upskilling.”

During the UK school closures in 2020 and 2021, the four schools in the trust pulled together to deliver online lessons to students with one teacher remote teaching to several classes. 

Saving time planning lessons with OneNote

Starting digital learning early. 

Embracing Microsoft 365 at KS1 and KS2 level has allowed the young students at the Cornerstone Academy Trust to feel comfortable and confident with the tools from an early age.

“Even our nursery staff have started using Microsoft. It may just be a ‘What’s happening today’ picture, but gradually it teaches the children that this is how they can access learning,” says Anthony.

“As they move up through the school, they become more confident, more independent learners who take ownership over their learning.” 

Upskilling the parents and their children. 

A challenge the Cornerstone Academy Trust faced when the UK first went into lockdown was that many of the students were accessing learning on their parents’ mobile phones or shared devices. 

“We’ve run a proactive campaign with parents to help them understand how and why we’re using the technology. It’s about being mindful about the learning content so it’s suitable to be viewed on mum’s phone,” Anthony explains.

“Within two days of knowing the school was set to shut, we created a website and dedicated a team of 15 people to produce resources. We wanted to give them everything in one place, with resources and links for parents, as well as a help desk.” 

A central place for learning with SharePoint.

Student engagement and success with Microsoft 365. 

Tracking student engagement with blended learning has been a huge benefit for the Cornerstone Academy Trust. Each school has been able to have a clear picture of which students are succeeding and which ones may need extra support, as well as who is attending and engaging in the learning material. 

“A member of our leadership team is buddied up with a year group for a set amount of time to work with the teachers to find out what’s going well and what needs to be improved.” 

The future of the Cornerstone Academy Trust and Microsoft 365. 

“Our vision is to create one school with four campuses – this way, we can bring together those economies of scale and make things more efficient and effective. Teams is the place where everyone goes and accesses what they need,” David tells us. 

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your school or trust, please contact a member of our team today.

Reduce Your Workload and Deliver Outstanding Home Learning With These Free Webinars

Cloud Design Box is hosting five free virtual events in December and January, especially designed for teachers to help them make the most of Microsoft Teams and deliver outstanding learning to their students.

As Microsoft Global Education Training Partners with CPD-certified courses, we’re delighted to be partnering with two leading technology providers, who specialise in education – Novus and RivaNET.

Novus provides IT services to a wide range of schools, academies and multi-academy trusts, giving them access to market-leading technical services that are proven, dependable and reliable.

Meanwhile, RivaNET specialises in delivering enterprise-grade IT systems to UK independent schools and colleges, enabling them to deliver quality, innovation and excellence.

Below is a description of each event and how you can sign up for free.

Tailored to Secondary Schools and Academies

Best Practices with Microsoft Teams – Tuesday 1 December 2020 1pm-2pm

Delivered in partnership with Novus, our first event has been specially-designed around overworked teachers who are struggling with Teams.

Learn how to eliminate additional work by collaborating on resources in a centralised location.

Department leaders learn how they can free up their staff’s time by using these tried-and-tested best practices.

Centralising Resources and Reducing Workload using Microsoft Teams – Tuesday 19 January 2021 – 2pm-3pm

Focusing on how department leaders can centralise resources in one, accessible location, this session is perfect for those who want to learn more about collaborating in Teams.

The Novus and Cloud Design Box training team guide you through how to best centralise your resources in Teams in a way that reduces teacher workload.

Planning Long Term User Adoption Strategy for Microsoft Teams in Schools and MATs (Multi Academy Trusts) – Tuesday 19 January 2021 – 3pm-4pm

When adopting any new technology, it’s crucial to bring everyone along on the journey with you – not just the tech-savvy members of staff.

Teams is no different. In this session, Novus and the Cloud Design Box training team walk you through how to plan for long-term success with Teams, without leaving anyone behind.

Tailored to Independent Schools

Introduction to Microsoft Teams powered by Cloud Design Box and RivaNET – Thursday 3 December 2020 10am-11am

Blended learning has played a crucial part in providing students with uninterrupted learning this year. The blended approach also provides an effective way of reinforcing face-to-face learning with online resources and interaction.

In this session, discover how to best use Teams to support home learning confidently.

Save time and get more out of Microsoft Teams powered by Cloud Design Box and RivaNET – Thursday 14 January 2021 – 3pm-4pm

For many schools, moving to Teams has been an incredible culture change and also increased the workload of teachers.

This session demonstrates how you can save time and avoid duplicating work when creating quality online resources that can be re-used year after year.

If you sign-up but cannot attend, they will send you a video recording of the session. Feel free to share these links, anyone can sign-up.

Cloud Design Box solutions

In addition to the free events, we have provided some information below about the benefits and features Cloud Design Box add into Teams and SharePoint. If you would like any further information or would like to arrange a demo, visit the website https://www.clouddesignbox.co.uk.

Saving time for teachers

Central Resource areas help teachers reuse department resources from within each class and assignment.

A clear long-term strategy

Our program of rollout, training and follow up provides the school with a long-term strategy to succeed with Microsoft Teams.

Building confidence with new technology

Interactive online CPD certified courses for small groups of staff with a dedicated trainer so staff can gain confidence and embrace a new way of working. Creating and sharing quality resources in the cloud is no longer exclusive to tech-savvy teachers.

Easy-to-use

A global personalised menu for easy clear navigation into Teams and sites, even for beginners.

easy to use

Saving costs for schools

Large long-term savings when refreshing hardware and licensing. Potential to replace other third-party software packages into a single system.

Work with your current Teams or build you new ones

Already have Teams?

If you already have Teams and Microsoft School Data sync through another provider, we can integrate with that data directly without additional MIS integration causing no disruption.

Don’t already have Class Teams?

We can integrate with most UK MIS providers to sync class team membership using Microsoft school data sync.

Features in more detail

Replace school network drives

Create long-term storage areas in Teams and SharePoint for non-curricular shares currently on the school network. Saving costs and getting all the benefits of moving to the cloud.

Staff subject analytics

Ensure no one is left behind using the staff assignment analytic tool. Department leaders can track how often each department is setting assignments.

Staff Subject Analytics

Keep track of departments

Heads of department can easily keep track of the quality of resources being used in classes using centralised resource areas.

Staff department team

One version of the truth

Resources are centralised to avoid duplication of work. No need to upload resources for every class team you teach each academic year!

Students can drop off work

Each student in the class has an individual private folder and the class teacher can provide regular feedback on live documents.

Student Teams drop off folder

Departmental meetings and chat

A place for departments to meet online and share best practices.

Publish resources

A SharePoint intranet to help you publish resources such as policies and news throughout the whole school.

SharePoint intranet

Manage your own Teams

We provide a self-service tool to create teams and sites.

Contact us for a chat:

Email: info@clouddesignbox.co.uk
Website: https://www.clouddesignbox.co.uk/contact
Telephone: 01482 688890

Helping Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Work Better for your Teachers, School and MAT – Free Webinars and Training

Arbor MIS is partnering with Cloud Design Box to host three free training sessions specially designed for schools, academies and multi academy trusts who are using, or planning to use, Microsoft Teams to deliver blended learning for their students.



Click here to register for any of our three sessions

Arbor MIS works with over 1,250 primary, secondary and special schools in the UK, making it one of the fastest-growing MIS communities in the country. Helping staff accomplish more, work collaboratively and stay connected on the cloud, Arbor works closely with the Department of Education and Local Authorities to provide tools that save schools time and money.

We work with Arbor to help our customers enjoy more flexibility to set work, collaborate and share resources for their classes; their technology and data helps us to provide access to Class Teams, Class Notebook and centralised subject Teams through an easy-to-use class dashboard.

We’re thrilled to offer three sessions that will take place on Teams across two days, from Tuesday 24 to Wednesday 25 November.

Planning Long Term User Adoption of Microsoft Teams in Schools and MATs

The first session, taking place at 10am on the Tuesday will centre around helping schools with user adoption and planning for the long-term.


Planning Long Term User Adoption of Microsoft Teams in Schools and MATs

It’s perfect for you if you have already adopted Teams but need a hand getting students and staff on board and using the technology. We’ll discuss ways in which you can get started, as well as how you can develop a long-term plan to make the most out of the suite of tools.

Cloud Design Box hosted this at the Department for Education’s EdTech Festival earlier in 2020 and it went down well with school leaders and MATs who needed a clear plan of action to succeed with the software.

Blended Learning for Primary Schools with Microsoft Teams

Specifically built for Primary Schools, this webinar will provide you with a solid foundation of using Teams to deliver learning in and outside of the classroom, for example, using Class Notebook to host and online lesson and making the most out of the conversation features in Teams. This session will take place at 3pm on Tuesday 24 November.


Blended Learning for Primary Schools with Microsoft Teams

Centralising Resources and Reducing Teacher Workload using Microsoft Teams

We know this year has been tough on teachers, who have had to quickly increase their workload to provide digital and online resources for their classes.


Centralising Resources and Reducing Teacher Workload using Microsoft Teams

Tuesday afternoon’s session has been developed with overworked teachers in mind, who are struggling with Teams. We’ll show you some time-saving ways that you can centralise and improve your resources with Teams. This session will take place at 1pm on Wednesday 25 November.


All our webinars are open to anyone working within a school, academy or multi-academy trust. To sign up for any of the sessions, please fill out this form with your details and you’ll be send an email invite to join us in November.

Office 365 User Adoption Podcast Episode 9 – What is an MIE Expert and how do I become one?

In this podcast episode, we’ve taken a different approach. Instead of focusing solely on a school’s user adoption methods, we’re looking at how the process can be made easier when you have a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) in your ranks.

But what exactly is an MIE Expert and how can your school, multi-academy trust or organisation get one?

We spoke with Elaine Topham, Senior Learning Technologist at Grimsby Institute, MIE Expert and one of six UK-based MIE Fellows.



“An MIE is someone who has nominated themselves to join the Microsoft community of educators that work with Office 365,” Elaine tells us.

“The MIE Status recognises those who are using the latest Microsoft technology in their schools and classrooms to better learning and student outcomes.”

Elaine’s journey to becoming an MIE Expert is an incredible one:

“I’ve always been quite interested in technology; however, I didn’t have the best start – I left school at 15 with no qualifications, so it was quite difficult getting into work,” admits Elaine.

In 2001, she landed a work placement at Grimsby College, working with IT technicians to install computers around the campus and also supporting students who were studying Level 1 and Level 2 IT qualifications.

Several years later, she began working at community learning centres, supporting people who were also completing the IT course:

“I loved this role because it gave me the opportunity to work with people who had perhaps never used digital before – it was a really rewarding job.”

Elaine joined Grimsby Institute in 2010, working as a tutor and teaching IT Functional Skills to students.

“I spent five years in that role, but by this point, I felt that my skills were best suited to supporting teachers in grasping digital. For me, this has a big impact on the students’ learning experience,” she continues.

Today, she oversees the work that the innovation team does, administering VLE and ensuring all their staff have the right training and support they need to do their jobs well.

“Our goal is to make sure our staff are supported and can meet the demands of digital.”

Her recognition as an MIE came about after she was encouraged to apply for the programme by her manager:

“I hadn’t heard of the scheme before, but I looked it up and decided to apply. I put a lot of effort into my application, including all the ways I use Microsoft in my job.”

Elaine was accepted and has been an MIE Expert for almost four years now.

“You have to apply each year, answering questions about why you feel you’re an MIE, what tools you use, and how you share your knowledge beyond the classroom.”

The Microsoft Innovative Educators programme is all about building a community of educators that are willing to share best practice and techniques, so a lot of the benefits revolved around this powerful and well-connected community.

When you’re an MIE, you have a monthly connection call via Microsoft Teams with other MIEs, as well as being kept in the loop about early releases, product demonstrations and new features.

“It’s a global programme, so you get to meet and talk with people from all over the world and learn how they’re using technology in their roles as educators,” enthuses Elaine.

“Because we’re speaking regularly with Microsoft, we also get to guide some of the development of the products, letting them know what works best for us, what doesn’t and what we’d like to see next.”

As Elaine explains, having this kind of insight into the digital tools used throughout your school is invaluable:

“Digital moves so quickly, so being an MIE offers me a quicker way of getting the knowledge I need to be able to pass it onto the staff and students at Grimsby Institute. I’m able to know what’s coming out soon and even shape the future of some of the products to improve the learning experience of our students.”

You can find out more about being a Microsoft Innovative Educator here:
MIE Programs
MIE Expert Applications

There is no limit to the number of MIEs you can have at one organisation, anyone can apply and it’s completely free.

Transform Student Engagement with Digital Ink

Guest post by Courtney Farrow with video by Tony Phillips

With 98% of classrooms now using computers, laptops and tablets, it’s safe to say that digital learning is here to stay.

However, many teachers still find themselves chained to their desktop computers, whiteboards and paper notebooks, unable to invest time and energy into making lessons more engaging, diverse and dynamic.

Does this sound familiar?

If so, Digital Ink in Microsoft’s Class Notebook could transform the way you teach.

Combining the traditional hand-written word with the power of digital technology, Digital Ink has improved the quality of the curriculum for 90% of teachers who have used it.

On top of this, schools say that Digital Ink saves time, increases engagement and class management, creates more personalised learning environments where students can get authentic, timely feedback from their teachers.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of the proven benefits of Digital Ink in the classroom.

Save time.

One of the main advantages of Digital Ink is that it saves time, which will probably be music to every teacher’s ears.

In fact, 67% of teachers who used the product said that it saved them precious time when preparing lessons, allowing them to access pre-prepared resources quickly, without having to redraw or re-write everything the class needs to see on a whiteboard.

One teacher explained:
“When I taught geometry and got to the question that nobody in the class understood, I had to stop the lesson and draw on the whiteboard. It took five minutes, and then I had to add labels. Only after all this, could I finally start talking about how to solve it.”

With Digital Ink, any lesson resources can be prepared in advance and reused over and over again, without having to erase and recreate it the next time you cover the topic.

Meanwhile, half of teachers have found that it saves time marking and grading pupils’ work. There will be more detail on student feedback with Digital Ink later in this blog post.

Improve the quality of lessons by unchaining the teacher from their desk

Most teachers who have used Digital Ink have said that it allows them to be anywhere in the classroom – without being tied to the front desk – enabling them to manage the class and engage the students in the work that’s appearing on the smartboard.

Thanks to the connectivity between student and teacher devices, children can be interacting with what is being displayed on the smartboard within seconds.

A more personalised learning environment.

Real-time collaboration between students and their teachers allows learning to continue outside of the classroom.

Around 50% of teachers have said that the technology increases the quality of communications with students.

Authentic and timely student feedback

Because of increased communication in and outside of the classroom, digital ink has transformed the way teachers give feedback to pupils.

You can quickly and easily annotate a piece of work, feeding back to students instantly and supporting them when they need it, rather than days after they need it.

As with all Microsoft Office 365 products, everything is saved automatically and in one place. One key benefit several teachers have pointed out is that Digital Ink lets teachers give feedback during the school day, or even during the actual lesson, rather than waiting until they get home.

In the video below, Cloud Design Box Founder Tony Phillips walks you through some critical uses of Digital Ink in the classroom, including student feedback and annotations, ink-to-text capability and solutions and steps for Math equations.



*All statistics and research mentioned in this blog post was taken from Digital Ink in the Classroom – Authentic, Efficient Student Engagement, an IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Microsoft. IDC conducted a research study with 685 teachers who are using computers in the classroom to understand their classroom technology usage, and specifically how they are using Digital Inking devices.

Resources:

onenote.com/ink
digital ink in the classroom authentic efficient student engagement
White Paper: Power Digital Inking Classroom

Office 365 User Adoption Podcast Episode 6 – Conversations in the Classroom with Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a great collaboration tool and can be used to extend the classroom. In our latest podcast, Tony and Darren from Cloud Design Box discuss the real benefits of using Microsoft Teams in the classroom. This time we are focusing on the conversation aspect.

Communication is central to good lessons and learning in the classroom. That could be teacher to student, or it could be students working together in the class. Teams allows this communication to happen anywhere by extending the classroom.



The Invisible Child

In every class there are students who are shy or lack confidence to answer questions in the classroom. Although they may know the answer, they never raise their hand in class – so their classmates may never know the understanding and passion that person has for a topic. Other students simply prefer to draft and research an answer a little bit before they share it.

Microsoft Teams conversations gives these students a voice and helps the classroom become more inclusive. The same students who didn’t have the confidence to speak in front of the class can contribute to discussions via a digital platform.

Threads in Conversations

Controlling Conversations

Having class Teams with open conversations can be a concern for teachers. There are ways to control this which we will look at next but it’s worth remembering that everything is audited in Office 365 including conversations so this is a much safer place for students to engage than outside of the school on social media and other platforms.

If you are not ready to use Teams conversations with your class or want them to use it at limited times (such as in lessons), then you can mute individuals or the whole class using the mute settings.

muting students in Microsoft Teams

In the next user adoption podcast, we will look at the other aspects of Teams including files, Class Notebook, assignments and SharePoint integration.

End of Year Rollover Process in Microsoft School Data Sync

Lots of new and exciting features are coming to Microsoft Teams this summer, so get ready for the new academic year in advance and resolve any issues before the students are back.

I’m beginning the process of rolling over the academic year at many schools this month using Microsoft School Data Sync with the Cloud Design Box team. We have come across a few issues along the way. For the administrators out there trying to complete this process on their own, we thought it would be great to share our experience in the form of this video guide taking you through the process.



Before you begin the process, talk to SLT and teachers about the preferred clean-up options.

Expire All Classes

Adds a prefix to the start of the class name in this format: EXPMMYY. If you already prefix your classes with the academic year then there isn’t any reason to run this option.

Archive All Classes (recommended)

Archive makes the Team read-only. Teachers can restore a Team for a class and it will work as it did before. We recommend selecting this option so that teachers don’t have a long list of classes in the new academic year. If you have a course which lasts for two years, teachers can restore the class from the previous year and continue to use it; but it will no longer be updated with live MIS data.

Remove Students from All Classes

This removes students from class notebooks and all student data from assignments. This is non-reversible and therefore we do not recommend this choice.

A few issues to be aware of (which we cover in the video above):

  • Some classes will fail to clean-up – you will have to do these manually.
  • You may need to refresh the profile page if you get stuck on an error when starting the new term.
  • Occasionally a clean-up process may get stuck processing forever. If it lasts longer than 24 hours, log a support call with the Microsoft Education team.

We hope this video helps you out. Please feel free to share your comments, wins and frustrations with the process in the comments below!

Adding Announcements in Microsoft Teams for Education

In this video, I explore the new announcement feature in Microsoft Teams. It’s part of a big education release this summer, we will keep you posted on the latest developments!