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February, 2010 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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February, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Getting the cold-shoulder the day after Valentine’s Day?


    From today, if you’re running Windows 7 RC (Release Candidate) - ie the pre-release version from last summer - then your computer will start to remind you that you really, really need to get on with upgrading to a fully released version of Windows 7. I know that quite a few IT people in school installed it on their own netbook or laptop. And some of those have been too busy since last August to get around to putting the released version on.

    So, if you’re running the released version of Windows 7, you’re good. But if you’ve left upgrading too long, then you need to pay attention to it.

    If you don’t, your friendship with the Release Candidate is going to be a bit like a failing relationship in your personal life:

    • From 15th Feb it’ll start by nudging you and dropping hints – like a little message here and there.
    • From 1st March, things will be a little frostier – every two hours you’ll get the silent treatment (well, a controlled shutdown) and when it is talking to you again, it’ll claim to have forgotten everything you’ve said (ie it won’t save your work when it shuts down).
    • And then finally from the first of June it’ll be terminal decline – painting your wallpaper black, announcing “This copy of Windows is not genuine” on your desktop, and refusing to talk to your friends (or at least, your Windows Update server)

    More details, and advice about making the switch, on the Windows Team blog

    This won’t be news to you – it was all covered in depth when we gave you the download for the RC. Just a nudge to get on with it before 1st March

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Saving money with ICT – Answering the real question "How much money will I save?"


    So, if you’ve been following the Top ICT Money Saving Tips, how much money could you actually be saving, using my Switch-Stop-Save strategies?


    I thought I’d go back and find out.

    Save £400,000 over 3 years

    If you’re not already doing some of the things in this list, then a secondary school has got a potential to save just under £400,000 over the next 3 years. And a primary school could save just over £100,000 over 3 years.

    How can that be true, when the average school doesn’t spend that much on ICT? Well, let me go back to what I said when I started this blog series:

      The reason for doing this…was that we all know that there’s a bit of a budget crunch going on – and 80% of network managers in a recent survey reported that they’d had their ICT budget cut. But I’ve come across many examples of where a bit of spending on ICT had saved a heap of spending on another part of the school budget. So I had one really simple goal: To help the ICT team in school to explain to the leadership team how they can help out the rest of the school  

    So the savings below aren’t just in your ICT budget, but also in the electricity bill of the school, and the staffing budget, and your phone bill. All things which could be reduced by putting into place some of the advice. And really helping you to have the right conversation in the school – about the way that ICT can save money elsewhere in the school budget. As you get down to the detail for next year’s ICT plans, then I hope this list is helpful in drawing up priorities for your strategic ICT development.

    Specific ICT cost savings

    I based my assumptions on large-ish schools, who are reasonably technology rich - mainly because that’s probably the closest match to you, as a blog reader. (I’ve put my barebones assumptions at the bottom of the table.)

    All of these savings are based on money that could be saved over the next three years, and in most cases, they are based on costs from a real school used in the original blog post.


    Secondary School Saving

    Primary School Saving

    Cost/Difficulty to implement
    (1-low, 5-high)

    Switch to Virtualisation




    See post

    Switch on Power Management




    See post

    Switch to lower energy devices




    See post

    Switch your communications




    See post

    Switch to remote access




    See post

    Stop buying every computer yourself




    See post

    Stop photocopying/printing




    See post

    Stop buying so much software




    See post

    Stop your email servers




    See post

    Save students money I




    See post

    Save students money II




    See post

    Save money on upgrades




    See post

    Save your old computers




    See post

    Save your software budget




    See post






    • For Secondary schools I assumed 1,000 pupils, 400 computers and 13 servers.
      The ‘average’ secondary school would have 860 pupils and 300 computers.

    • For Primary schools I assumed 100 computers and 4 servers.
      The ‘average’ primary school would have 240 pupils and 50 computers.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Home Access – tell your parents NOW


    I read earlier in the week that Becta have had more than 180,000 enquiries for the Home Access programme, and have sent out 132,000 application forms for the free grant.

    Quick summary: Disadvantaged children (think: who qualify for Free School Meals) in KS2 and KS3 can get a free computer and broadband connection, fully funded by a Home Access grant card. Parents apply for the grant on 0333 200 1004 , receive a special Barclaycard, and can then go and spend it on specific approved computers with specific approved suppliers. And it’s England only.

    There are only 270,000 computers/grants available, and the scheme is allocating them on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you’ve not yet sent anything out to your parents yet, then now’s the time to get moving. If it keeps going at this rate, all the grants will be gone by the middle of March.

    Where to get more details on Home Access 

    A word of advice for your parents: Each supplier chooses what computer they supply. Whilst some are providing free computers with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office, some others are providing computers with only Windows XP and Open Office. My recommendation is to send your parents to one of the following suppliers:

    • Comet – because they are the only ones where you can go into the store, see their range, and take it away with you that day.
      And every Comet computer has Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007, as well as the Home Learning Package, which includes theDigital Literacy Curriculum

    • XMA/T-Mobile – because you can place your order in their high-street T-Mobile shops, and they’ll deliver to you at home within 10 days. 
      And every XMA computer has Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007, as well as the Home Learning Package, which includes the Digital Literacy Curriculum

    • Misco – because they’re the only supplier currently with a desktop. You can only order from Misco over the phone, although you can find details of the products online.
      And every Misco computer has Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007, as well as the
      Home Learning Package, which includes the Digital Literacy Curriculum 

    Act now

    I know it’s nearly half-term, but I’d recommend getting something out right now to the children who qualify for free school meals, urging their parents to call the grant line (0333 200 1004) to register for the application form. Before they run out of grants.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 14 – Save your software budget


    So here we are the very last part of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.  It’s taken me a while to get all of these written down, because although I know the story behind each of these money saving tips, to actually structure it in a way that makes sense on the web takes longer than telling it as a 20-minute story at BETT. But hopefully it has all made sense so far. So on to the very last one.

    My last bit of advice is to make sure that you’re buying our software in the most cost effective way, by using the right licensing scheme. We have lots of different ones, and possibly the worse thing to do is to walk into your nearest software shop to buy software off the shelf. You’re likely to pay too much for it, simply because most places can’t or don’t want to supply the Academic licences – which is the absolute cheapest way for a school to buy. So here’s my handy step-by-step guide to make sure you’re getting the best deal

    Subscription Licences

    This is easy - if you buy your software under subscription, then that means you should be buying a School Agreement, or using the SESP pilot programme. More on this here. The upside of subscription is that it is normally the lowest cost upfront, but you do have to pay an annual subscription fee.

    Perpetual Licences

    This is where you buy the software licence once, and you can use it forever

    Of course, there’s small print, eg sometimes the licence is linked to the specific computer, other times you can transfer it to a replacement computer in school. But normally it’s forever (hey, that must be why it’s called perpetual Smile)

    We have two main Academic perpetual licence schemes – Select and Open.

    It is always cheaper to buy a SELECT licence, so it’s worth exploring it…

    • Select Licence
      This is normally the best deal of these two types, but there's a catch to be aware of (wouldn't you know it!). Select licences are designed for customers who normally buy lots of software - typically people with 250 PCs or more. In the rest of the world this isn't much of a problem, because local or central governments buy in bulk, on behalf of schools. But here in the UK, each school has complete choice - so you mostly buy individually. Secondary schools are normally large enough to buy Select licences, and most do. But for primary schools, it is normally difficult to reach the minimum purchasing quantities, so what you should do is identify whether you are able to join up into somebody else's Select agreement. For example, if your local authority education team have one (what's called a Master Select Agreement), which you can then buy through (but make sure it is the Academic licence they buy, not a normal government licence, which costs more). This could save you quite a bit of money.
      There are other organisations that have these master agreements, like the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), so if you're an affiliated member, you can buy through their agreement.

    • Open Licence
      This scheme is normally more expensive than Select, but is handy if you want to just buy a single bit of software quickly, with a copy of the disks etc, and you don't have a Select agreement already in place. For example, if one member of staff needs a copy of Microsoft Project to help plan the new Sports Hall, and you need it now...

    Take a look at our main Education website for more information on the Select licensing scheme

    Our Education Licensing Partners

    While we’re here, let me also explain the different types of partners you can buy Academic licences from

    • Education Large Account Resellers (or EdLARs)
      Stop. Just before you think "I'm not a large account" and skip this bit, read on!
      These partners are our largest education partners, and they can sell you any of our Academic licence types. We call them "Large Account Resellers" because they are our largest resellers, not because you have to be "large account" to buy from them. So even the smallest primary school sh/could get a quote from them!

    • Authorised Education Resellers (or AERs)
      These tend to be partners that are either much smaller, or where education customers are just a small part of a bigger business. They can only provide some of the Academic licences I've mentioned above. So you can get a School Agreement or Open Licence from them, you can't get a Select Licence (which is the lower priced of the two perpetual licences).
      I can hear you thinking "So, if AERs can't always sell me the lowest cost perpetual licence, why would I buy from them?". Good question.
      Well, back to the example of a small primary school - you may prefer to deal with a bigger company, because you think that's how you get the best value; or you may prefer to deal with a local company, just around the corner, because you think that's how you get the best service. So if you wanted a couple of computers, with the software installed for you, and an agreement that they'll pop around and fix any problems, you could got to a local company, who is a Microsoft AER, and will supply you with Academic licences under the Open scheme. It might cost a little more, but you may be willing to pay for that to get a local supplier. It's your choice.
      You should always check that you get the licence paperwork - for example, the original software CD and the licence key - when you buy an Open Licence, and especially if the software has already been installed for you. If you don't get this, you'll have no proof that you own the licence for the software you are running on those computers.

    Finding the right partner

    The UK Education website contains the lists of partners.

    EdLARs all work nationally, so there's a page with all of their contact details (there's 19 to choose from)

    AERs tend to work more locally, so you can search in your local area by county or town, or by company name. (And there’s over 500 to choose from)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How many people are using Windows 7 in UK schools?


    imageI just had a look at the statistics for visitors to this blog, for UK Schools. It was prompted by the website sharing with me that about a quarter of their visitors are using Windows 7. The answer appears to be over a quarter now. The table is the last fortnight’s visitors.

    Although I don’t believe that it means that a quarter of all school computers are running Windows 7, it is representative of network managers. And they’re probably already planning whether they are going to roll out Windows 7 to the rest of the school at Easter or in the summer.

    imageQuickly find all the other Windows 7 posts on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 13 – Save your old computers


    Part thirteen of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.
    Good news, my counting was hopeless, and my Top 10 tips actually contain 14 Top ICT Money Saving Tips. So there’s one more to come after this one


    Last summer, I wrote a blog post called “What does Windows 7 run on?”, which took a very early look at what computers people were running Windows 7 on. And the answer appeared to be that it coped with older hardware much better than previous versions of Windows. (Like me, I’m sure you’ll remember the days when a new version of Windows meant you needed to upgrade your own computer too).

    And a little later in June, PC World created an article with the headline “Windows 7 Hits a New Low”, which made exactly the same point (my heart sank when I saw the headline, until I read the article and realised it was actually being positive about Windows 7).

    So the message was clear – Windows 7 was going to allow you to sweep up lots of older equipment and get it all onto the same version of Windows. Something that’s a big win for a network maanger

    Then the forums on got going, and started dragging old computers out of cupboards to have a go at installing Windows 7. My favourite is the one that started the whole thread off – a Pentium 2 266MHz processor with 128MB of RAM had somehow managed to run it, with a Windows Experience Index of 1.0 (I guess it got 1 because the scale didn’t start at zero!).

    Now, there is a minimum specification for Windows 7 system requirements, which is 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM and at least 16 GB of hard disk, and I can’t recommend you straying below that. But it certainly seems to be the case that with Windows 7 you are likely to be able to use quite a lot of your older equipment in school.

    The management time saved by having every computer on the same version of Windows, combined with some of the ways Windows 7 saves energy, means that there a few good reasons to think about making the move sooner rather than later.

    And there’s money to be saved by not having to buy new computers, as well as reducing your power bill, and saving your time.

    imageIndex to the whole series of Money Saving Tips on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Ofsted report The safe use of new technologies


    According to the BBC News this morning:

    Blocking pupils' access to unsuitable websites does not encourage them to take responsibility for their safety online, Ofsted inspectors say.

    "Managed" online systems were more successful than "locked" ones at safeguarding pupils' safety, they said.

    In a report, Ofsted said the area most in need of improvement was online safety training for teaching staff.

    The report was published in E-safety Week, which aims to raise awareness of some of the dangers of technologies.

    Ofsted inspectors visited 33 primary and secondary schools, a special school and a pupil referral unit and found e-safety was outstanding in five, good in 16, satisfactory in 13 and inadequate in one.

    The five schools judged outstanding for online safety all used managed systems to help pupils become responsible users of technology.

    Where the provision for e-safety was outstanding, the schools had managed rather than locked down systems

    Key Findings

    In the report, they identified a number of key findings, which included that outstanding schools shared responsibility for e-safety across the school, and that pupils in the schools that had ‘managed’ systems had better knowledge and understanding of how to stay safe than those in schools with ‘locked down’ systems. They also noted that pupils were more vulnerable overall when schools used locked down systems because they were not given enough opportunities to learn how to assess and manage risk for themselves.

    The weakest aspect of provision in the 35 schools visited was the extent and quality of their training for staff. Typically, it didn’t involve all the staff and was not provided systematically. Even the schools that organised training for all their staff did not always monitor its impact systematically.


    In addition to three specific recommendations for the DCSF, working with Becta, CEOP and local authorities, Ofsted also identified 7 recommendations for schools. (Is it me, or is that a little unfair – just 3 recommendations for the whole government, and 7 for each school?)

    Ofsted said that schools should:

    • audit the training needs of all staff and provide training to improve their knowledge of and expertise in the safe and appropriate use of new technologies
    • work closely with all families to help them ensure that their children use new technologies safely and responsibly both at home and at school
    • use pupils’ and families’ views more often to develop e-safety strategies manage the transition from locked down systems to more managed systems to help pupils understand how to manage risk; to provide them with richer learning experiences; and to bridge the gap between systems at school and the more open systems outside school
    • provide an age-related, comprehensive curriculum for e-safety which enables pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies
    • work with their partners and other providers to ensure that pupils who receive part of their education away from school are e-safe
    • systematically review and develop their e-safety procedures, including training, to ensure that they have a positive impact on pupils’ knowledge and understanding.

    You may want to download Ofsted’s full report “The safe use of new technologies (PDF)” and send it on to the right senior manager in your school.

    For some help in identifying good curriculum e-safety resources, a great starting place is the Think U Know website, which has specific teacher resources for each age range.


    imageQuickly find all the other Internet Safety posts on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Today is Safer Internet Day


    imageIf you switched on the radio this morning, you’ll have heard Jim Gamble from CEOP, and know that it’s European Safer Internet Day today. As I mentioned in my post a couple of weeks ago, we have been supporting schools, parents and young people in a variety of different ways. Today, we have lots of our staff, who are CEOP-trained volunteers, working in schools talking about Internet safety and helping parents and young people to protect stay safe online. In fact, I learnt earlier that it’s 100 people out and about today.

    * CEOP is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which is part of the UK police force. You can read about their work and background here

    In the UK, the place to look for resources is the ThinkuKnow website, which is run by CEOP. There is a special minisite for the Safer Internet Day, and it links to specific resources for lessons, assemblies and parents meetings. On their site, they’ve got a range of ideas of what your school could do.

    imageThey’ve also announced a CEOP specific version of Internet Explorer 8 that has a ‘Click CEOP’ button on the toolbar for instant access to Internet safety information for children and parents. (If you’re already using Internet Explorer 8, then you can add it to your existing toolbar).

    The Click CEOP button brings up a specific menu, that helps young people to learn about staying safer online, provides links to activities, and also where appropriate links them straight through to the CEOP team. (This menu can also be installed by default on school browsers, using the download on their site).


    But this isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan. Last year the UK Microsoft team directly educated 12,000 young people and 2,000 parents in online safety.  Our commitment to safeguarding young people online saw us join the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) as an executive board member.  And this year as part of the “Click Clever Click Safe” campaign UKCCIS will be launching a new digital safety code for children– “Zip It, Block It, Flag It”. 

    If you want to find out about our advice to parents, or would like to contact us regarding having a volunteer from Microsoft speaking at your school, then here’s the link for more information.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 12 – Save money on upgrades


    Part twelve of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.
    Good news, my counting was hopeless, and my Top 10 tips actually contain 14 Top ICT Money Saving Tips. So there’s more to come after this one

    If you don’t spend all of your time obsessing about licensing, then it is pretty easy to decide that it is too complicated (and I’m definitely not just referring to Microsoft licensing!). And amongst all of the licensing detail, it is sometimes a little difficult to see the wood from the trees – or to stop and take a few minutes to work out if a big change to the way you license software would be a good thing or not.

    A few years ago I wrote a blog post called “How to get the best on Microsoft Software in Education”, and it has been in the Top 10 posts ever since. It just steps you through the decisions you need to take one by one.

    So here’s one key element of it, which is absolutely critical, and especially worth reviewing in the months coming up to a major product release.

    Subscribe or buy?

    There are two basic ways of buying Microsoft software. One is to buy a perpetual licence, and the other is to buy a subscription licence.

    • 'Perpetual' licences are exactly what they say - you buy them, and keep the licence forever. You are only licensed for the version you have bought. So if you buy a licence for Office 2007, you can't run Office 2010 without buying another licence.

    • 'Subscription' licences are where you pay to use the software for an agreed amount of time, usually a year. Of course, this costs less up-front, but may cost more over a number of years; however it does come with the automatic right to upgrade to newer versions.

    For schools, the subscription licence is called either a School Agreement or an SESP agreement, and basically it involves counting up your computers, and then you license all of them for the software you need (often that means Windows upgrades and Office).

    So how does a School/SESP Agreement save money?

    There’s a number of tricks to thinking about your subscription:

    • If you like to upgrade to the latest versions of software as they are released, your subscription means you can do that without having to buy new licences. And these days, with technology moving so fast, the upgrade cycle is pretty much every 3 years for both Windows and Office

    • If a new release is due shortly (as in the case of Office 2010) a subscription automatically covers you for it. If you buy a perpetual licence for Office 2007 now, you aren’t entitled to upgrade to Office 2010 without buying a new perpetual licence.

    • The School Agreement is based on you counting your computers once a year. If you count them all in March, and then add 100 new computers in April, they are automatically covered without you having to pay more in that year’s subscription. You only have to start paying for them from the next year’s count. (SESP is slightly different, as you have an option to license a number of PCs or a number of users)

    • The annual cost of a subscription is lower than the up-front cost of a perpetual licence. Which means that if you’re budget is being squeezed, you can help reduce this year’s cost, at the same time making next year’s cost predictable.

    Let’s say you’re just about to open a new BSF school in March, and you’re going to use this year’s budget to buy 200 Office 2007 Professional Plus licences. You’ll pay about £37 each for the licences under the perpetual Select scheme (Source: Pugh). And if you want to upgrade to Office 2010 in September, you’ll need to buy new licences – which may be another £37 each.

    Alternatively, if you’re covering all your computers with a School Agreement, then you’ll pay about £14 each for the licences on subscription (Source: Pugh). And the subscription includes the upgrade to Office 2010. Now, because it’s a subscription, next year, you’ll pay again to continue it. But you can perhaps see that if you’re a frequent upgrader, or there are new versions due, it saves you money if you buy using a subscription agreement.

    Over 3 years, you’d pay £42 for Office 2007/2010 Enterprise on a subscription licence (eg School Agreement), or £74 for Office 2007/2010 Professional Plus on a perpetual licence (eg Select Licence). Of course, after 3 years you still have a subscription to pay, which you don't for a perpetual licence, it does reduce your upfront cost, and makes your budget planning more consistent.

    The other thing about the subscription schemes is that you automatically receive the Enterprise versions of the software – in the case of Office, that means you get OneNote and Groove (See table). Or in the case of Windows 7, you get the Enterprise version that includes BitLocker Drive Encryption, AppLocker, Windows XP mode and a pile of other things (See table)

    To find out if it will save you money, then you should either give your Microsoft Education partner a call (just like I did for the pricing quoted above!), or read more about our licensing on our UK Education website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Ready-made IT user documentation


    When I started working at Microsoft, I hadn’t been in such an open, technology rich culture before. And with so many IT systems around, and so many different software resources, my head was buzzing. In fact, I remember that at the end of the first week, the number of links in my Favourites was massive – just to internal websites.

    I’d never used internet telephony, encryption, instant messaging, live meeting, SharePoint or Groove before, so I was all at sea until I could play around and work out how they were supposed to operate. Meanwhile, people who’d been at Microsoft for a while were metaphorically whizzing past me, as they collaborated, shared, published and distributed information. Whilst I was trying to work out how to answer my desk phone.

    imageOne of the godsends for me was a set of documents called Work Smart Guides, which walked me through the basics of some of the new technology I was encountering.

    As our IT team describe it, Work Smart Guides bridge the gap between technology and users. Work Smart guides provide employees with scenario-based, best-use productivity aids on Microsoft products and technologies.

    We produce them because we expect to see more consistent, productive, and cost-effective use of products and technologies across the company – which helps the business ROI on IT investments, as well as helping people to understand the benefit the IT team deliver to users.

    Ready-made IT guides

    I found out today that we have also published them for customers to modify and use. This seems a great step – because I’m guessing that lots of schools are either producing user documentation for staff, or want to. And I bet that 80-90% of the content of some of them is identical. So these guides would make a good starter for 10, either for the format, or the instructions, or simply the screenshots. As an example, here’s the Email Basics one.

    The subjects covered in the step-by-step guides for users include:

    • Environmental sustainability (hints like using Balanced power settings on your laptop)
    • Protecting data with BitLocker
    • Getting started with email
    • Transfer files and settings to a new computer
    • Collaborating with SharePoint
    • An overview of collaboration tools
    • Customising SharePoint sites
    • Integrating Outlook with SharePoint
    • Basics of managing email (Are you a stacker or a filer?)
    • Office tips
    • Outlook email signatures
    • New features for users in Windows 7

    Download the Work Smart Guides

    You can download the customisable versions of Work Smart materials from TechNet. There are 23 of them, and they come in one big Zip file for you to play with.

    Bonus: You should also be looking at the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder, described by Long Zheng as a miracle tool. It does what it says on the tin, and the best bit is that the document it creates is brilliant for creating user guides, with screen shots and step-by-step instructions. Just stick “problem steps” into the search box of your Windows 7 Start menu. It would be fantastic when you’ve got to start from scratch, and especially for curriculum materials and lesson plans.

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