Tag Archives: Senior Leader

Assessments and Engagement with Microsoft 365 at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School

In this podcast episode, we speak with Rachael Howarth, Vice Principal of Bradford Girls’ Grammar School about how they’re using Microsoft 365 to assess and engage students in a blended in-classroom and remote learning setting.

Rachael walks us through some key ways in which they’re using Microsoft Forms, Class Notebook, Polls and Insights to increase engagement, save teacher time, give feedback and keep an eye on students’ wellbeing.

“We’ve been using Class Notebook to engage with students who have been learning from home due to self-isolating. It’s been a blend of live teaching and uploading class resources for those students who share devices and need access to content on-demand,” Rachael tells us. 

“We’ve also been teaching in school and using tools in Teams to set assignments and rubrics, run polls to get a quick measure of where students are in terms of their learning.”  



In the video, Rachael demonstrates how the teachers use polls to help students further embed their learning and see which students have understood the lesson and who may need a recap.

“We have been using self-marking quizzes quite successfully – they give the students the answers as they move along,” she explains.

“Polls are like the classroom equivalent of holding up mini whiteboards and getting everyone to hold up their answer – you can get a broad sweep of who is understanding and who isn’t.”  

This type of interactivity is carried through to providing feedback to students. Teachers at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School are adding audio files to students work to give feedback on assignments. Not only is this engaging for students to actually hear their teacher explain something to them as if they were in the classroom, but it’s also saving teacher time as they don’t need to type or format any additional words.

“We’ve also been using audio files for learning objectives – just inserting a clip into a Class Notebook that explains exactly what we want the students to do – they can listen instead of writing out learning objectives and it does save time,” she adds. 

By using Microsoft 365 in and outside of the classroom, the school has been able to collect valuable data around students’ learning and engagement.  

“Some of our students do not have access to the live lessons because they share devices. So we need to look at other metrics to see if they’re participating in other ways: Are they having conversations, are they completing assignments, are they accessing Class Notebook?” Rachael explains.  

But, the Insights dashboard goes beyond checking up to see whether students are completing their homework: 

“It’s been really useful for pastoral support. At one point, we had a large number of users who were working in the middle of the night. So we immediately put out welfare messages to staff, parents and pupils. It gives us the opportunity to have that conversation with our community.”  

Bradford Girls’ Grammar School is embracing Microsoft for the future and not simply a remedy to the pandemic:  

“We’re learning rapidly – we’ve been on a steep learning curve but we’re implementing these interactive methods of assessment into our practice as we develop as remote teachers. Week on week, we’re getting a high-level engagement on Teams – anything between 190 and 700 daily active users – it shows how useful our students and staff are finding Teams.”

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

Office 365 User Adoption Podcast Episode 1 – Thomas Deacon Education Trust

Smooth, frictionless user adoption can be tricky.

You’ve decided that Office 365 and SharePoint is right for you. But, there’s the small matter of convincing the rest of your team and getting everyone in your organisation on board.

We’re creating a series of podcasts focusing on real-life user adoption stories, with schools, academies and businesses just like yours.



Our aim is to share and encourage a community resource that will help others who may be struggling with user adoption.

The first episode of this podcast features Tony Phillips, Cloud Design Box Founder, Darren Hemming, our Operations Manager, and Martin Byford-Rew who is the Head of ICT Services at Thomas Deacon Education Trust.

Martin outlines the key challenges he faced when starting to move across to Office 365 and SharePoint, as well as giving some excellent actionable tips on how to roll out the suite across a school, academy or business.

“Our overall vision has been the same throughout the whole process – to move over to the cloud and get everyone to see the value in Office 365 and SharePoint,” Martin tells us.

“However, achieving this has been challenging and we’re still not 100% of the way there. I hope that my experience will help others avoid some of the pitfalls we have fallen down.”

Based in the East Midlands, Thomas Deacon Education Trust is a small but growing organisation with five schools and around 4,000 students. With experience using an on-premise SharePoint solution for several years in one of these schools, Martin has now begun gradually moving everyone over to the cloud. Here’s how he is achieving this:

1. Start at the top.

“We started user adoption from the very top – the board. This involved a very short, concise training session with board members to show them the basic building blocks of Office 365 and SharePoint,” Martin explains.

From there, the ICT team worked their way down the school structure, introducing the technology to each level of the school.

2. Take small, simple steps.

“It’s all about small, quick wins. Teach the ‘ABC’ steps of Office 365 and what you can do with it, instead of overwhelming people with the vast number of features that may not even be useful for them,” he continues.

Martin accomplished this by organising short, 10-minute sessions where he encouraged staff to log in, create and save a file and then share it with a colleague.

“When people see that they can create a document and not physically press save to save a file to OneDrive, they are willing to learn more. Everyone has a memory of the time when they forgot to press save on a document they’ve been working on.”

3. Know your audience.

“There’s no point in presenting a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Get to know how your staff work, get to know what their pain points are and offer a resolution from there,” Martin highlights.

“No matter how much training you give someone, if they don’t need to use a feature, they won’t use it.”

By tailoring your training to individuals or small groups of people with a similar job role, you can really get them to understand how the product can help them save time.

Finally, Martin gives some real-life examples of where he has rolled out Office 365 and SharePoint.

1. Parents evening feedback.

Previously, parents would fill out a paper slip, which would then have to be processed and sorted by admin staff. It was a slow process and many parents would forget to complete the forms.

Now, teachers approach parents with an iPad that has four or five questions on. It’s instant feedback and doesn’t require as much time from the admin team.

2. Friday quizzes.

A similar example of how Office 365 and SharePoint has transformed pupils’ learning experiences is with end-of-the-week quizzes.

Again, this was once a paper-based exercise that was time-consuming and unengaging.

Students now answer questions on an iPad or other device and can see their results straight away, as well as compare their progress to their fellow classmates. It gives them an opportunity to take control of their own learning, as well as providing the teacher with insight into how well their class understood the lesson.

Final, takeaway points from Martin on user adoption:

  • Keep training short and concise.
  • Leadership first and work down.
  • Start simple.
  • Solve problems.
  • Tailor for audience.
  • Transformation takes time.