Tag Archives: Multi-Academy Trust

Getting the best value from Microsoft 365 for Education with Jonathan Bishop from The Cornerstone Academy Trust

In this podcast episode, we speak with Jonathan Bishop, the CEO and Executive Headteacher of The Cornerstone Academy Trust (TCAT), about getting the best value from Microsoft 365 for Education.

TCAT is based in the southeast of England and comprises four primary schools. Their motto “Fortune Favours the Brave” is undoubtedly reflected in their forward-thinking approach to IT and technology, as Jonathan explains in this podcast episode.   



“We run our academy trust like one school with four campuses. We use technology to bring our four schools together and pool our money and resources to do everything centrally,” Jonathan tells us. 

TCAT has spent the last few years rolling out one-to-one devices to each student in their trust and working with Cloud Design Box and other partners to move all their infrastructure to the cloud: 

“We had a clear vision to have one device per student, with a cloud-based learning platform that allows flexibility and enables a teaching and learning strategy built around blended learning,” Jonathan describes. 

Because of their success with technology, they have been involved in several Department for Education programmes, working with schools regionally and nationally on a number of projects.  

The EdTech Demonstrator programme is one example – this is where TCAT works with schools and trusts across the UK to deploy networks and devices, set up learning platforms and help with ed tech strategies.  

On top of this, all four schools within the trust are Microsoft Showcase Schools, English Hubs and run the Science Learning Partnership. 

“This allows us to have a big outreach and work collaboratively in partnership with other schools on school improvement projects.”  

How do you get the best value from technology in education? 

“Getting the best value out of technology is not about getting the cheapest option. It’s about looking at what outcomes you want to achieve and choosing the solution that will deliver those outcomes best,” Jonathan explains.  

“The danger with going for the cheapest option to get ‘the best value for money’ is that if it doesn’t change the outcomes for the children and doesn’t have any impact, then it’s not value for money, is it?” 

When looking at your ed tech strategy, Jonathan explains that you must first look at your infrastructure.  

“You could spend lots of money on devices but have utterly frustrated students and staff because they don’t work due to slow internet speeds or short battery life,” he adds. 

“Device selection is so important, and changes depending on your desired outcomes. For example, when we built our TV studio, we wanted a place to create media content for the curriculum, do staff CPD and bring our schools together for assemblies and conferences. So we needed high-end machines, hardwired with good broadband. However, when we looked at one-to-one devices for our students, we wanted mobility and long battery life.”  

Investing in IT to enable specialist learning. 

This approach to ed tech strategy has enabled TCAT to work in new and flexible ways, transforming how they deliver the curriculum. 

One example is the ability to get the most value out of specialist teachers. 

By investing in noise-cancelling wireless headsets and mics, the trusts can now deliver specialist learning (like languages and coding) to hundreds more students at a time. 

“Before, we would have 30 children in a classroom with one teacher and maybe a teaching assistant. Now, we have 250+ children in one lesson – they could even be across different year groups – being supported by specialists in that subject.” 

“What you’ve got is value for money because while I’ve invested in the headset, the digital pen and the tablet, I’ve got lots more children getting a better-quality education, delivered by a specialist.”  

Jonathan Bishop shows the noise cancelling headsets he invested in for TCAT.

Your ed tech strategy isn’t optional – trusts cannot afford not to invest in IT.  

Jonathan is a firm believer that if schools and trusts aren’t investing in ed tech, then they are denying students vital opportunities and skills: 

“Too many people think ‘we have no money, so we can’t achieve this, and therefore we’re not going to do it’. But, you’ve got to think differently. Getting the right devices and technology in the right hands of students and teachers brings MAT-wide efficiencies – it’s not an option,” he continues. 

“We’re in the business of education, and I’m a teacher. And whilst I might oversee these four schools in this role, I want to get as we all do the very best for children, the very best experiences, opportunities and outcomes for children.” 

Catch up on all the episodes of our podcast on YouTube, Spotify or on our website.

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.  

How to add your upcoming events to a SharePoint site with the My Events web part

In this guide, we show you how to add the Cloud Design Box exclusive My Events web part to your SharePoint sites.  

The My Events web part gives you a quick glance at your upcoming events by showing your calendar events from Outlook.  

It would sit perfectly on a home page so users can see their calendar items at a glance whenever they log in.

An example of the My Events web part on a SharePoint homepage

How to add the My Events web part to a SharePoint site. 

Before you add this web part, you need to make sure your Office 365 global admin has approved the Calendars Read API permission. This can be done via the SharePoint admin centre.



 

  1. Head to the site you wish to add it to and hit Edit in the top-right corner of the screen. 
  2. Decide where you want your calendar events to appear on the site and hit the plus button to add a new web part.
  3. Search for “CDB My Events” and Cloud Design Box customers should be able to see our CDB My Events web part.

Search for My Events to find the web part in SharePoint

4. Selecting this will show your personal calendar events for the day.

5. Select Republish in the top-right hand corner. 

With this web part, you can flick back and forth through the days of your calendar.  

An example of the My Events web part in SharePoint

You can also select Open My Calendar to open a full view of your calendar in Outlook. 

An example of an Outlook calendar that can by accessed via the My Events SharePoint web part

There is also a privacy mode which will initially hide the events. This is particularly useful if you are a teacher with sensitive events and you regularly share your screen on a projector. This mode can be configured using the pencil icon when editing the web part.

web part properties

The My Events web part for SharePoint is only available to Cloud Design Box customers. If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today. 

How to add an FAQ web part to a SharePoint page

In this guide, we show you how to add the Cloud Design Box Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Web Part to your SharePoint sites.

The FAQ web part is an extremely versatile addition to any SharePoint site and can be customised to create an interactive FAQs section to help give quick guidance to your users.  

What’s more, it’s searchable, allowing users to type in a question and quickly get an answer.  

The Cloud Design Box FAQ web part on a SharePoint site

One example of the FAQ web part being particularly useful is for IT Help sites. Simply make a list of your most common questions and add them to the web part. It can be really useful for onboarding new staff to SharePoint.  

Meanwhile, it can also be used on teaching and learning sites, guiding students on how to use SharePoint to find their learning resources.  

Below, we show you how to add the FAQ web part to your SharePoint sites – it only takes a minute or two.  



How to add the FAQ web part to your SharePoint site.

  1. Head to the site you wish to add it to and hit Edit in the top-right corner of the screen.  

Note: You need Designer access to be able to do this.  

  1. Decide where you want your FAQ section to appear on the site and hit the plus button to add a new web part.
  2. Search for “FAQ” and Cloud Design Box customers should be able to see our FAQ web part. Search for FAQ on the SharePoint web part options
  3. Select Republish in the top-right hand corner. An example question and answer section will appear.

How to add questions and answers to the FAQ web part. 

  1. Select the cogs icon to open SharePoint settings.
  2. Choose Site contents and you will see there’s now an FAQs folder stored here.Via Settings, go into Site Contents to add a new FAQ
  3. Select the list to add a new FAQ.The FAQ folder in Site Contents on SharePoint
  4. Select + New to add a new FAQ. You can add a question (Title) and answer.

There’s also an option to enter an order number. For example, ‘1’ if you wish this question to appear first.  

Additionally, you can choose to add an attachment.  

Add a new question and answer to the FAQ web part in SharePoint

    5. Hit Save to save the question.

Your FAQs will now appear on the SharePoint site and be visible and searchable for any users with access to that site.

An example FAQ web part on a SharePoint page 

The FAQ web part for SharePoint is only available to Cloud Design Box customers. If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.  

Moving from a single Microsoft 365 tenant to a central trust tenancy with Sacred Heart Catholic High School

In this podcast episode, we spoke with Martin Edworthy, eLearning Coordinator at Sacred Heart Catholic High School about how they moved from their school’s Microsoft 365 tenant to a centralised tenancy for their trust (The Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust). 

“Working between two tenancies was becoming unnecessarily complex as our members of staff needed multiple logins to access the resources they need,” Martin tells us.  

“We made the decision to move to the central trust tenancy to make life easier in the long run. As the trust grows, new members of staff will be able to join and instantly have access to resources with a minimum amount of effort.”  



 

The challenges of migrating from one tenancy to another. 

Sacred Heart was already using SharePoint and Teams for teaching and learning; storing learning resources in SharePoint and setting work and assignments in Teams.  

“We had gradually moved departmental resources from our network drives into SharePoint. And during lockdown, there was a massive uptake in Teams as teachers used it to deliver live lessons and teach their classes,” he explains. 

“So, when it came to migrating everything across to the trust tenancy, it required a bit of thinking to make sure everything was moved across seamlessly and permissions and access was set up correctly.”  

As our Operations Manager Darren Hemming explains, SharePoint permissions can quickly get messy if it’s done on an individual basis: 

“We recommend using groups instead (that’s security groups, not distribution lists). For example, ‘All staff’, ‘All students’, ‘Senior Leadership’. This makes it a lot easier to manage permissions and access to files,” Darren describes.  

“The shift in how permissions are managed took time to get our heads around, but we are seeing the benefits of this now. One example where having groups is useful is if a new teacher joins a department and needs to change something on a site, we can just drop them into an appropriate group,” Martin acknowledges. 

Teaching and learning with Microsoft 365.  

Equally, Martin is impressed with how easy it is for teachers to be able to find and share resources now they’re all centralised in SharePoint: 

“One thing that’s caught my eye is the ability to attach resources to assignments without having to look for files in different drives,” Martin enthuses.  

“It makes it easier for both teachers and students to have all the resources in the same pool, rather than spread across different storage areas.”  

This centralised approach to resources has also given students the opportunity to take control of their own learning.  

“We’re moving in the direction of embedding learning journeys for students so they know exactly where they are in their learning. This is to help tackle lost learning due to Covid-19,” Martin continues. 

“If they need to have time off due to illness or isolation, they can easily go into SharePoint and for example go to ‘Maths, topic 3, lesson 5’ and catch up with any learning they’ve missed.” 

This has also led to keen students looking ahead at what they need to read up on and completing work before it’s even been set in the classroom: 

“One or two students have seen something before the lesson and done the work off their own backs – it’s great to see that when it happens.” 

Not only does this help students develop independence, but also instils important skills for the future – whether that’s in further education or a job.

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help your school or MAT achieve more with Microsoft 365, book a free demo today.  

3 essential resources for educators and school leaders

In this podcast episode, we spoke to Microsoft specialist and TweetMeet lead Marjolein Hoekstra about her journey with Microsoft, TweetMeets, MVPs, MSEduCentral and much more.

She reveals three must-have resources designed especially for educators and school leaders.

Marjolein first became connected with Microsoft after diving deep into OneNote and designing an example of what features she thought OneNote should have.

“I wanted to tell them about my desires for OneNote and they were so impressed with my ideas that they asked me if I wanted to become a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional. Of course, I was honoured,” says Marjolein.

“It was around this time I discovered how often OneNote is used in education, and I started to focus my efforts to showcase features of OneNote to educators and get involved in the Microsoft Education community.”




Microsoft asked Marjolein if she would like to organise TweetMeets for Microsoft educators, which she ran successfully until 2020 and has recently started back up in 2022.

“TweetMeets are a multi-lingual conversation on Twitter between educators globally. It takes place once a month and focuses on a certain topic. For example, previous TweetMeets have discussed equity and inclusion, hybrid learning and reading fluency and literacy,” explains Marjolein.

“Every TweetMeet is led by different hosts, who are experts in that month’s topic. It’s a chance to find like-minded people from around the world and connect with other educators and school leaders.”

You can find details about the next TweetMeet via the TweetMeet Twitter account.

Marjolein has also been building a spreadsheet of ‘Frequent Edu Links for Educators‘, which is a compilation of resources centred around certain topics or Microsoft products, especially for educators.

“We have topics for multiple different products used within Microsoft education. Teams plays a major role in this because it’s the underpinning platform for so many tools nowadays, but we have resources on Microsoft Edge, Whiteboard and other tools in the Microsoft suite,” Marjolein describes.

“The spreadsheet lives in your browser, so you can open this whenever you need to and share it with others.”

Microsoft Frequent Edu Links screenshot

The spreadsheet currently has a collection of 1,300+ resources that Marjolein and her team have been collecting over the past year and a half.

“We intend to keep updating the spreadsheet and we listen to feedback from users so that we can decide which resources to include,” she continues.

The third resource Marjolein talks about is the Daily Microsoft Ed Tech Newsfeed.

“This is basically a news page with blog posts, tweets, videos and other resources from Microsoft Education. It’s a mixed bag of the latest resources that could be of interest to educators,” says Marjolein.

“We also include announcements from the Office 365 IT Admin centre, so educators who are a bit more technically inclined can prepare themselves for what’s coming in the near future.”

Daily Microsoft EdTech News screenshot

Remember, Cloud Design Box also has an extensive library of resources focusing on Microsoft 365, SharePoint and Teams for education. Access all of our videos, podcasts, blogs, guides and more here.

How to see exactly who has viewed your documents in SharePoint – SharePoint Viewers feature

Have you ever wanted to see exactly who has viewed a document and when? In this guide, Tony demonstrates the SharePoint Viewers feature, which allows you to see who has viewed your documents in SharePoint.  




By default, when you hover over a document in SharePoint, it shows how many people have viewed the file. But, it doesn’t show you who those people are.

Example of hovering over a document in SharePoint to see view count

However, if you change the settings for your SharePoint site, you can easily see who has accessed your files.

This feature is handy for organisations who have policy documents or other important documents stored in SharePoint, as you can see who has opened and viewed the file.

You need to be a Site Collection Administrator or ask your IT Administrator to turn on this feature.  

  1. Go to Settings (the cog in the right-hand corner) and select Site information. Go to Site Settings in SharePoint to turn on SharePoint Viewers feature
  2. Select View all site settings.
  3. Open Manage site features.Go to Manage Site Features to turn on SharePoint Viewers feature
  4. Scroll down the list of site features and look for the SharePoint Viewers feature.
  5. Select Activate to turn on the SharePoint Viewers feature. This is then turned on for all the files in your selected SharePoint site.Scroll down the list of site features and look for the SharePoint Viewers feature.

Here’s an example of a policy library in SharePoint where the SharePoint Viewers feature is activated.  

As you can see, when you hover over the document, you can see exactly who has viewed the document and when they viewed it.  

An example of a policy library in SharePoint where the SharePoint Viewers feature is activated.

If you click through on X Views, you can see a timeline of when people have viewed the document and compare unique views with the total number of views.

Viewer graph in SharePoint

Microsoft 365 user adoption tips from a large multi academy trust (MAT)

In this second podcast episode with Bridge Academy Trust (BAT), we discuss user adoption tips with Mark Fuller, IT Director and how he is supporting 12 schools to embrace the tools in Microsoft 365.



Bridge Academy Trust is a large MAT made up of four secondary schools and eight primary schools. In 2021, the Trust worked with Cloud Design Box and its partners to merge ten different Microsoft 365 tenants and roll out SharePoint and Teams to each school in the trust.

You can read the details about this merge and migration project in this blog post.

One of the key challenges when rolling out Microsoft 365 across BAT was that each school was at a very different stage in terms of blended learning.

“Some of our secondary schools were already using the full suite of tools in Microsoft for teaching and learning. Meanwhile, other schools were only using it for email and storing some files in OneDrive,” Mark explains.

“We also had a school using G Suite that we needed to migrate across and support them in using brand new blended learning tools.”

Mark describes his approach when it came to encouraging user adoption of Cloud Box in each school.

His first quick win is to set the school’s SharePoint intranet as the default homepage:

“This way, I’ve won half the battle because they’re already using it. The page contains links the staff will find useful – timetables, web applications, finance forms, HR forms, policies etc,” Mark tells us.

“When they open their computers, it’s the first thing they see – they haven’t got to start typing out the URL. It just makes navigation so much easier.”

As they roll out, Mark is working with each school to introduce them to SharePoint and Teams and support them with user adoption.

“I speak to staff and give them a brief demo of what SharePoint and Teams can do. I do live webinars and drop-in sessions using Microsoft Teams and record them so staff can watch later if they miss the live events,” he continues.

“I have also created a training site within SharePoint for staff to access. This not only has my own resources on there, but I have links to the courses created by Cloud Design Box and Microsoft. There’s no point in me re-creating what has already been done and they have saved me so much time.”

Access our free training videos here.

Mark points out that it’s important to recognise that each school, even if they are in the same trust, has very different needs and will use Microsoft 365 in different ways:

“It’s important we work with schools to create something that they will use, rather than telling them exactly how to use it. This has worked well, and we’ve had schools ask for all sorts of things, like a place to store all exam information and a site dedicated to assemblies,” Mark enthuses.

Lastly, Mark has made himself available to answer questions for any school that needs it:

“It can be a bit of information overload for some staff, so alongside the training and drop-in sessions, I have made myself available to answer questions from schools.”

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.  

Improving communication and collaboration at Bridge Academy Trust

In this podcast episode, we caught up with Mark Fuller, IT Director for Bridge Academy Trust (BAT) – a multi academy trust based in Essex – about how they have extended Microsoft 365 with Cloud Box to improve communication and collaboration between their 12 schools.



Bridge Academy Trust is a large MAT made up of four secondary schools and eight primary schools. Providing education to students 3-19, the Trust needed a solution that would not only enable collaboration between its schools but also allow each individual school to embrace blended learning in its own unique way.

Following a merger, BAT found themselves managing ten different Microsoft 365 tenants across the trust – one for each of the schools and one for their central trust team:

“We quickly realised that this approach was unsustainable. Our staff had several different logins to access what they needed. It was complex and time-consuming, and didn’t promote any kind of collaboration or communication between our schools,” Mark explains.

“To make everything simpler and to encourage more collaboration between our schools, we made the decision to merge all schools into one BAT tenant with the help of Cloud Design Box and their partners.”

Cloud Design Box worked with SalamanderSoft and AspiraCloud to migrate all 10 tenants into 1 and rollout Microsoft 365, Teams and SharePoint across the whole trust.

One of the key challenges of merging the 12 schools was that they were all at different stages of blended and online learning – each unique in the way they were using Microsoft for teaching and learning.

“Some of our secondary schools were already using the full suite of Microsoft 365 – doing a lot of their teaching and learning in SharePoint and Teams – so there was a lot of data to merge. However, some of the other schools were only using Microsoft for email, while some were using Google’s education tools,” Mark describes.

By rolling out Cloud Box to every school and supporting Mark with training and resources to boost user adoption, we have been able to help every school progress in their Microsoft journey and make the most out of the tools that most benefit their way of working.

You can read all about how Mark has been working with each school to boost user adoption of Microsoft 365 in this blog post.

Moreover, while one of the main motivations for merging to one tenant was to encourage collaboration across the trusts, Mark wanted to make sure address lists stayed useful and relevant to each user.

“We didn’t want students to be able to see the email addresses of every other student across the 12 schools. But, we did want staff to be able to communicate with the central trust team and other relevant groups of people within the trust,” he adds.

“We worked with SalamanderSoft to create separate address lists so that students and staff have access to the contacts they need, instead of a whole list of BAT users.”

This information is driven by the MIS data so automatically stays up to date as students and staff join and leave the trust.

“Our central team all work off SharePoint now. We are working with each school to see how they can benefit from Microsoft 365 and Cloud Box,” Mark enthuses.

“If a new school joins the trust in the future, everything is already set up and we can onboard the school really easily.”

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.