Cloud Design Box is working with The King’s School, Canterbury as they transition to Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to not only support the school throughout the coronavirus pandemic but to also enhance teaching and learning as part of their long-term digital strategy.
Cloud Design Box began working with Junior King’s, the King’s Senior School and the King’s International School , Canterbury in early 2020 and had to quickly fast-track the onboarding process in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent UK lockdown that saw schools across the country close their doors and provide digital learning materials.
With a rich heritage and strong community, it was crucial that the technology succeeded in keeping pupils and staff connected, as well as enhancing teaching and learning during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
The King’s School is an independent, co-educational day and boarding school in Canterbury, welcoming pupils aged 3-18 across both its Senior and Junior Schools.
Meanwhile, the King’s School Shenzhen International opened last year, adopting King’s tradition of education with modern purpose.
Founded in AD 597, The King’s School is Britain’s oldest public school and arguably the oldest continuously operated school in the world.
King’s prides itself on providing enlightened and stimulating teaching, cultivating a strong “King’s spirit” by encouraging individual passions for sporting, musical and artistic aspects through its vast choice of co-curricular activities.
And, thanks to the hard work put in by teachers and staff, alongside a fast rollout of Microsoft For Education, this strong spirit was not dampened by the global pandemic we all faced in early Spring 2020.
Prior to moving to Office 365 with Cloud Design Box, the school was using an off-the-shelf VLE to support learning. However, there were increasing limitations to what the software could support.
“We made the decision to transition to Office 365 and SharePoint after a few years of research. The question was whether to buy it off-the-shelf or work with a company like Cloud Design Box to help us facilitate the transitions,” Cathy Hills, Learning Technologist at Senior King’s tells us.
“By choosing Cloud Design Box, we were able to make a smooth transition to the platform, as well as make navigation and provision of Teams and SharePoint sites easier for teachers to get on board with.”
Within a few months of working with King’s, a new challenge arose for both Cloud Design Box and the school - Covid-19. From Friday 20 March, schools in England were told they had to shut down their physical spaces and had no choice but to deliver learning digitally.
In the space of a few days, normal operation at King’s came to a halt as the campus closed to protect the safety of its staff and students.
As King’s was in its early stages of transitioning to Office 365, training was prioritised to ensure that students stayed connected with their teachers and the rest of the King’s community.
“We went ahead with the original plan of Cloud Design Box training for our 15 IT Champions, who were a mix of IT and academic staff. These were to be trained up to then pass on knowledge to their departments,” explains Robin Falcon, Director of IT at King’s School.
All lessons at King’s during the pandemic have been taught through Cloud Design Box-created Class Teams, with many staff looking at new ways they can adapt their teaching of pastoral and PSHE curriculum to this new platform.
“There has been a silver lining in a strange way; uptake among both staff and students has been far better than we could have expected. Teachers have had no choice but to use it, and through that have realised what a powerful tool it is,” Robin explains.
One key thing King’s decided to do throughout the pandemic was to change their teaching timetable and move the focus to curriculum subjects in the morning and more creative subjects, such as art, PE and music to the afternoon.
“This has given students regular breaks away from the screen and promoted health and wellbeing,” says Louise Scott, Head IT Technician at Junior King’s School.
Over 50 extracurricular activities, including treasure hunts, drama classes, music lessons, podcast clubs and even sew-your-own-facemask sessions have been delivered to students at King’s using Microsoft products. “The technology has enabled us to sustain the King’s Community,” Cathy adds.
“We have a strong community spirit and the encouragement for students to get involved in academic and extracurricular activities digitally has enabled this to continue and flourish.”
Looking forward, King’s is working towards the rollover of the academic year, reviewing, and refining processes and building on what they have created over the last few months.
“For us, Office 365 and its suite of integrated tools, such as Teams, SharePoint, Office and Outlook, was irresistible,” Robin enthuses.
“Everything is in one place, stored in the cloud and backed up by us. In addition, we have now pushed out Surface Pro devices to all academic staff, which further enhances the use of these tools.
The next steps for the school are to focus on getting the user and timetable data correct in iSAMS, matching accounts correctly to AD, and following workflows to help setup Team and Class Notebooks.
“We’re so grateful to the Team at Cloud Design Box for the onboarding meetings, online calls, planning, implementation and technical support, as well as for their unwavering commitment and help throughout this process,” says Louise.