Cloud Design Box is working with The Ashcombe School as they adopt Office 365, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to continue education for students during the Covid-19 pandemic and enhance teaching and learning as part of their long-term digital strategy.
The Ashcombe School, based in Dorking, Surrey, is a mixed community comprehensive secondary school and sixth form that provides education to children aged 11 to 18.
The school had been using Office 365 in some aspects of teaching and learning but had not been able to roll out across the entire school.
“We knew that there was a lot of potential for Office 365, but we didn’t know how to harness its power. A lot of the learning and training material out there is highly technical, and as I’m not very technical, it was a challenge to get teachers on board,” explains Chris Panting, Headteacher at The Ashcombe School.
The second challenge was the start of the UK lockdown and school closure, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were faced with an incredible challenge of needing to continue to deliver lessons remotely, but our current system wasn’t serving our needs,” Chris continues.
“I stumbled upon Cloud Design Box on the day before our school shut - how lucky! I found a video on Office 365 by the company’s founder Tony Phillips; I sat there listening to him and it was everything I’d been looking for. The Cloud Design Box team make everything so easy to understand, and explain it from a teaching perspective, instead of technical.”
Cloud Design Box worked with Ashcombe to roll out Office 365, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint across the whole school.
“Initially, due to the demands of lockdown, we were keen to roll out quickly. But, to give credit to the Cloud Design Box team, they helped us set a sensible pace to ensure we wouldn’t lose any long-term impact,” Chris tells us.
“We now have every student and member of staff using the Microsoft Suite. I’m not saying it hasn’t been demanding - a lot of us have been out of our comfort zone. But it has offered us some real, practical solutions to the problems we were facing, even before the pandemic.”
Cloud Design Box also delivered staff training to ensure each member of staff was comfortable in using the new technology to deliver lessons and stay connected with their classes.
“Lloyd Tuton led our training, he’s been an absolute gem. I had 50 members of staff take part in the online sessions, and each of them left saying it was one of the most fantastic training sessions they’ve had,” he enthuses.
“We’ve achieved more than I could ever dream of,” Chris tells us.
“We’re using recorded feedback, video feedback, Immersive Reader and pupils are able to review and amend their work. It has strengthened learning and also connected pupils in times of isolation.”
Helen Myers, Assistant Head at The Ashcombe School, describes how teachers have been using it throughout the pandemic:
“We’ve been able to monitor the student’s progress and usage of the platform, while providing useful resources and giving feedback on assignments. It’s extremely useful for seeing which pupils have viewed documents and there has been no need to halt the curriculum delivery,” she explains.
The Ashcombe School has really thrown itself into using all aspects of Office 365, embedding audio and video into OneNote to provide feedback on assignments.
“It has been transformational in the way we work and create learning content. We are now beginning to create revision resources that can be accessed by our pupils at any time on a connected device. Not only is this brilliant for the students, but also for staff who can dedicate more time to sharpening their message and delivery,” Chris continues.
Collaboration has also been possible for The Ashcombe community, even throughout the school closure:
“Before, the only way students could work as a group on shared essays and assignments is around a table with a big piece of paper, now we are able to set shared work for outside the classroom.”
For Ashcombe, the transition to Office 365 has been about more than tiding them over during Covid-19.
“It is firmly embedded in our long-term digital strategy. We are not only delivering key learning to our young people, but equipping them with essential digital skills that they will need in their future workplaces. I don’t want to exaggerate, but I think this is a revolutionary moment for us,” Chris tells us.
“Cloud Design Box is exceptionally good at working with a range of people. They can speak to the technical roles within the school, but what makes them stand out is their ability to explain it to teachers, like myself, who aren’t that technical.”