Tag Archives: professional development

How senior leaders in education can make the most of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint

Microsoft Teams and SharePoint have emerged as powerful platforms for schools and multi academy trusts (MATS), facilitating collaboration, improving communication and driving up the quality of teaching and learning. 

In this guide, we showcase some of the ways in which Microsoft 365 is supporting our MAT customers in accelerating digital transformation and streamlining senior leadership. 

Here’s an example of one trust-level intranet site we’ve created:


Build trust-wide communication

One of the biggest challenges for MATs is managing trust-wide communication, whether it’s distributing resources, informing staff of new policies, sharing best practices or publishing news and announcements.  

It’s challenging in two key ways: 

  • Getting information out to the right groups of people. 
  • Delivering the content in an engaging way.  

With SharePoint, you can bring together your entire trust with dynamic central hubs where you can tailor and share content for specific groups of staff, students and even parents.  

A centralised SharePoint intranet allows you to create a place where everyone can get the latest news, updates, announcements and resources.  

Not only does this help senior leaders to communicate the important stuff, but it also cuts down the amount of emails being sent, received and forgotten about in people’s already-overloaded inboxes.  

A main school or trust homepage can be created in SharePoint; this can be a central hub for school news, announcements, events and resources everyone needs on a regular basis.  

Design a SharePoint homepage

Here’s a full guide on how to design a great SharePoint school homepage, but here are some ideas to get you going: 

*Cloud Design Box customer exclusive. 

Meanwhile, areas for specific departments, subjects, year groups, and more can be created, with user permissions set up only to allow access to those who need it. 

Again, you can fill these hubs with all the information staff and/or students need about that specific topic. For example, a list of quick links to resources, a section for upcoming dates, links to resource libraries, an FAQs section and more. 

You can use a combination of SharePoint and Teams to have a designated place for each type of update or announcement.  

Add a news feed to your SharePoint homepage to share announcements and news.

The Call To Action SharePoint Web Part is a Cloud Design Box exclusive feature that allows you to quickly create professional-looking and eye-catching call to actions on your SharePoint sites. 

call to action banners in SharePoint

And, with the CDB Section Breaks Web Part, you can make sure your sites look interesting and professionally designed.

CDB Section Breaks


Here’s a guide on how to easily share news onto a SharePoint site and post documents as news in SharePoint. 

Create Eye-catching announcements in Microsoft Teams

Alternatively, you can share important announcements to specific groups in Teams.

Facilitate collaboration and improve quality of learning resources

Centralising learning resources in SharePoint and Teams allows your trust to build a powerful library of materials that can be shared, reused and improved year after year.

Instead of ten teachers creating ten versions of the same document, you can pool together your resources and free up time to spend on other areas, like grading, working with students or professional development (or even just taking a break!). 

centralising resources

With Microsoft 365, teachers can co-author Word Documents, PowerPoints, Excel Spreadsheets, and more in real-time with colleagues.

Why spend hours creating a resource from scratch that your colleague has already spent time making?   

Instead, easily and securely share, edit and co-create documents with others in your school, academy or trust.   

sharing resources

And, when everything is centralised in the cloud, resources can be used and improved upon year after year.

Here are some more ways that your teachers can save time creating learning resources with Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. 

With our Cloud Box solution, we manage your end-of-year process, so you don’t have to.  
Using our subject and department teams, you don’t need to start from scratch every academic year. It helps save teacher time by having a single approved set of resources. SLT can easily keep track of the quality of resources being used in their department.
We use Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) to start a rollover and clean-up process; our centralised resource areas allow you to reuse resources year after year, while the Class Dashboard enables students to easily access archived Teams from previous academic years.

Connect across different schools

Getting everyone from the different schools in your trust in the same room can be difficult for MATs.

Microsoft Teams empowers MATs to function as one unified entity, regardless of physical distances between schools.

For example, you can create dedicated Teams channels for certain staff groups to instant message colleagues to discuss the latest projects.

Meanwhile, video calls in Teams bring everyone together and reduce the need for in-person meetings.

What’s more, you can record and store Teams meetings in OneDrive for rewatch later or if colleagues cannot make the call.

meeting recording

OneNote is another great tool for staff collaboration. You can create a Staff Notebook that sits within Teams that facilitates collaboration, saves time and keeps everything organised and in one place.

Create a Team Staff Notebook

Find more time in your day

As SLT in a MAT, there’s always something to do, whether it’s strategic planning, staff management, curriculum development, policy management, budget management or looking after student and staff welfare.

With a combination of tools in Microsoft 365 and Cloud Design Box’s purpose-built education solutions, senior leaders are able to find more time in their day to focus on the important stuff.

Check in with students and staff

Reflect check-ins in Class Notebook are a brilliant way for teachers to get a good understanding of which students may need additional support or guidance. 

Find out more about Reflect here.

Check Reflect check-in responses

Get insights into teaching and learning

Microsoft Teams Insights can help in providing detailed information on student engagement.

In these video guides, we take you through adding the insights tab to Class Teams and how to use it to track student usage, assessment trends, digital activity and much more.

Manage class cover quickly

Cloud Design Box’s Class Cover Manager allows SLT to quickly and easily organise class cover, making sure the member of staff has temporary access to the right learning resources and Class Team within seconds.

Here’s how to get started with our Class Cover Manager tool.

Organise class cover quickly in Microsoft Teams with CDB Portal

Search for student assignments

Our new Student Assignment Search allows you to effortlessly search for a student and view all of their Microsoft Teams assignments. As a head of year or registration group teacher, you can use this tool to support students with their workload or quickly check the status of assignments.

This feature not only displays current assignments but also allows you to view all past assignments. You will see the name and status of each assignment, as well as the class name and subject.

Assignment Search Feature

Select an assignment to delve deeper, where you can easily access teacher comments and view the assignment grade. The user can easily start a Teams chat with the person who set the assignment or send them an email.

Speak to our team today to find out how your school or MAT can make the most of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.



Microsoft Learning Accelerators at The Cornerstone Multi-Academy Trust (TCAT)

Microsoft Learning Accelerators aim to make education more accessible by providing students with vital tools to develop their learning, while teaching them essential skills in further education and later in their professional life.  

In our latest Microsoft 365 User Adoption podcast, the Cornerstone Academy Trust (TCAT) reveals how they’re embracing the new Microsoft Learning Accelerators to enhance teaching and learning. 


About The Cornerstone Academy Trust

TCAT is a multi academy trust comprising four primary schools in southwest England.  

Its motto – “Fortune Favours the Brave”, is unequivocally reflected in its forward-thinking approach to technology in education. The MAT is a Microsoft Training Academy and runs a DfE English Hub, Behaviour Hub, a Science Learning Partnership and is also part of the West Country Computer Science Hub.  

Cloud Design Box (CDB) has been working with TCAT since 2018 to develop a modern intranet in SharePoint and Teams, facilitating communication at the MAT-level and within the individual schools. 

By automating the management of various Class Teams and Staff Teams across the schools based on daily MIS data, the CDB team helped TCAT establish a strong digital foundation for teaching and learning. CDB has also provided comprehensive training and consultancy to TCAT through workshops and an online training portal, ensuring that colleagues stay updated on Microsoft’s digital tools for education. 

Jonathan Bishop, CEO of TCAT, joins podcast host and CDB Chief Operations Officer, Darren Hemming, to talk about the impact of the new Microsoft Learning Accelerators and how Reading and Search Coach are empowering students to become independent, avid learners.  

Reading Progress Learning Accelerator Cornerstone Academy Trust

Enhancing reading skills with Reading Coach. 

Reading Coach – available within Microsoft Teams and Immersive Reader – provides students with valuable opportunities to practice reading and improve their skills.  

“Reading Coach helps teachers provide those elements in lessons that are hard to achieve when you’ve got 30 children in your classroom,” Jonathan begins.  

“If you wanted to sit down one-to-one with every child for even five minutes… well, you do the maths! How much of your school week is taken up?”  

Students can read out loud to the Reading Coach, which responds with helpful feedback to improve accuracy and highlight any words the student has struggled with. Offering gentle guidance on pronunciation, reading speed and vocabulary, this tool is particularly beneficial for supporting students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).  

“What I like about Reaching Coach is that it’s like a virtual teaching assistant, listening to the student as they read, highlighting words they’re stumbling over, looking at accuracy and giving them real-time feedback. Plus, if they don’t understand a word, they’re able to click on it and get definitions,” he continues.  

“There’s no sense of failure or fear of reading aloud in front of, say, a parent or a teacher. It’s not about passing or failing. It’s not a test. It’s the idea that the child can improve their fluency, which is a key step to becoming an avid reader. There’s an immense power in that.”  

Microsoft Learning Accelerators with The Cornerstone Academy Trust

Empowering independent learners with Search Coach.  

Search Coach helps students develop their research skills when searching the web. The tool can be added to any Class Team and works in a very similar way to a typical search engine.  

Offering tips on how to form effective search queries and trusted sites, the tool allows students to add filters to their searches in a distraction and ad-free environment. 

“Search Coach enables independent study in a safe way and has been empowering our children to operate and exist in a modern world filled with misinformation and false news,” Jonathan enthuses. 

Students can view the credibility and transparency of each website, alongside other information like the region it’s from, and the type of website it is.  

“It’s teaching children how to validate the information they’re getting online, making sure it’s appropriate, correct and safe.”  

Microsoft Learning Accelerators with The Cornerstone Academy Trust

Equipping children to thrive in the modern world. 

“Both Reading Coach and Search Coach are supporting students to develop skills for the modern world. The tools help them learn how to present their ideas coherently, succinctly and speak with clarity, as well as be confident in what they’re trying to articulate,” Jonathan adds. 

What’s more, students at TCAT benefit from their own one-to-one devices – a Microsoft Surface Pro and Bluetooth-connected wireless headset. 

“Bring that raft of tools together – the Microsoft Surface, Digital Pen, Bluetooth Headset and the Learning Accelerators – and this gives learners a sense of empowerment and independence,” he explains. 

“Together, with more traditional tools, like a pen, pencil, ruler, art supplies, learning to bike and climb walls, creates a broad, balanced and exciting curriculum where we’re putting learning in the hands of the students as they become independent, avid learners. And, that’s surely the goal of every teacher in every school.”

Find out more about Microsoft Learning Accelerators in this introduction video by Cloud Design Box Founder Tony Phillips:

Speak to our team today to find out how your school or MAT can make the most of Microsoft Learning Accelerators.

New Search Coach: Enhancing student research skills

Search Coach is a Microsoft Learning Accelerator that helps students develop their research skills when searching the web.  

Microsoft Learning Accelerators aim to make education more accessible by providing students with the tools they need to develop their learning and teaching them skills that are essential in further education and later in their professional life.  

Many of the accelerators are integrated into Microsoft’s existing apps, such as Microsoft Teams, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word.  

In this guide, we’re focusing on Search Coach, which students can use to improve their research skills.  


How to use Search Coach.

Search Coach can be added to any Class Team and works in a very similar way as any other search engine.  

However, the difference is Search Coach offers tips on how to form effective search queries and trusted sites while allowing students to add filters to their searches in a distraction and ad-free environment. 

To start using Search Coach, all you need to do is type something in the search bar and hit Enter on your keyboard.  

Your search results will appear normal, and you can tap on a result to open a website, as you would with Google or another search engine. 

How to use search coach

Search Coach features we love:

Search tips – Every day, there’s a new search tip on the homepage. Search tips also appear as you search.

NewsGuard – Rates the credibility and transparency of each website.

NewsGuard Search Coach

Domain filter – You can set up Search Coach to only show results from specific domains, for example, .com, .gov or .edu. You can also choose to filter by specific regions.

Domain Filter Search Coach

File type filter – Helps students find resources in specific formats, like PDF or PowerPoints, which can help them discover academic articles.

File Type Filter Search Coach

Date range filter – Students can select a specific date range from which they want to find relevant information. This allows them to discover the most up-to-date information or even choose to find articles from a previous time period.

Operators filter – Help students make their search more specific.

vOperators Filter Search Coach

How to add Search Coach to your Class Team as a teacher. 

Search Coach can be added to any Class Team.  

  1. Go to the Class Team you wish to add Search Coach to. 
  2. Select the plus button (+) at the top of the channel.  
  3. A window will appear. Type Search Coach in the search bar and select Search Coach. The icon is green with a magnifying glass.  
  4. Tap Save to add to your channel.  

How to personalise Search Coach for your class. 

When you have set up Search Coach, you can personalise the settings to suit your class.  

Simply tap Class settings to: 

  • Change the background. 
  • Choose which search filters are activated. 
  • Choose which search filters students can switch on/off.  
  • Create your own optional filters.    

Found this helpful? Share this guide with your colleagues.

Cloud Design Box finalists for People in Business Awards 2023

We’re delighted to reveal that Cloud Design Box and our dedicated team members are finalists in the Hull and East Yorkshire People in Business Awards (HEY PIBA).

The awards – which celebrate their fourth year this summer – acknowledge the remarkable talents and contributions of individuals and teams across various industries and raise the profiles of dynamic professionals within the region.

Cloud Design Box as a company has earned itself a spot as a finalist for the Judges Recognition Award. But we’re also thrilled to say that many of our staff members and our Onboarding and Adoption Team have secured places in several categories.

Cloud Design Box Team

Joe Bannister, Deputy Support Manager, has been shortlisted for the Mentor category. Reflecting on his nomination, Joe expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to the growth and professional development of his team members:

“I am truly grateful for the opportunity to assist others in achieving their goals. I take immense pride in being selected as a finalist for this award, and I am excited to see what lies ahead in the future.”

joe bannister

One of our newest team members, apprentice Jack Fullard, has also been recognized as one of the top three finalists in the Apprentice of the Year category:

“Being nominated for the Apprentice of the Year award is a great accomplishment. The nomination not only reflects my hard work but also demonstrates how much the team has helped me progress both professionally and personally,” enthuses Jack.

James Emmett, the Onboarding and Adoption Manager, has been selected as a finalist in the Manager category. James attributes his success to the unwavering dedication and resilience demonstrated by his team. Together, they have transformed challenges into opportunities, leveraging their strengths to propel the organization toward excellence. James regards this recognition not only as a personal achievement but also as a testament to the remarkable efforts of his team.

James Emmett

Furthermore, James and his entire Onboarding and Adoption team have been named finalists in the Team Impact category:

“The Onboarding and Adoption Team have worked diligently and relentlessly to improve the processes and procedures that have had a positive impact on the wider company and our customers. Becoming a finalist for Team Impact in the Hull and East Yorkshire People in Business Awards is a humbling recognition of the transformative power we possess when we come together with a shared purpose,” James adds.

Tony Phillips, the Founder and CEO of Cloud Design Box, expresses his pride for the whole team:

“I’m so proud of our exceptional team and their outstanding achievements. It was a surprise to see so many of our team nominated for awards, it’s great to see their hard work being recognised and the rest of the team is looking forward to supporting them on the night.”

The winners of the HEYPIBA awards will be revealed at the ceremony on Friday 30 June 2023.