How much does your school spend on reprographics - paper, toner, printers, photocopiers, and the staff to run them and keep them running? I'm sure that the average secondary school is spending more on reprographics than they do on their whole ICT budget.

Mike Herrity, at Twynham School, found out his school used over a million sheets of paper a year (add to that cost, the printing cost). It's an obvious way to save money in the school budget!

How long would it take you to work out your spend? A quick trip to the office for the ESPO invoices? And is there a big saving that's possible?
But we've been hearing about the paperless office for year. Is "the paperless school" any nearer? And can it really save a lot of money and paper?

Saving paper, money and time at West Hatch High School

News of progress towards that elusive goal of “the paperless school” comes from none other than Alan Richards, Information Systems Manager at West Hatch High School in Essex. What he and the team have done is put the latest Microsoft products to work in a way that saves costs and improves efficiency right now, and opens up even more possibilities for the future.

The key is to transform paper forms into truly interactive documents on the school’s SharePoint Learning Gateway. The starting point was to tackle the extensive paperwork supporting the school’s Academic Review Days. There are two of these days a year for which staff collaboratively prepare two documents for each student– a Progress Review, and a Target Setting Document. Both are two pages long which makes four pages, twice a year, for each of 1,300 students. So moving just this process online (using the Serco MIS for the Progress Review, SharePoint for Target Setting) saves 10,400 sheets of paper.

The Target Setting document for each student is agreed by teachers, parents and students individually at the academic review day meetings. Up to now it’s been a paper exercise. Starting with the next review day, however, at the end of November, it’ll be done on an interactive form on SharePoint, created by InfoPath in Office2010. Each student, with their parents and a teacher will together work on the teacher’s laptop to come up with a set of targets. When they’re all agreed, the teacher will press “submit” and the final version will go off by email to the parents and to the student.

Inspired by this, West Hatch staff have looked around to see what other commonly used forms could be moved to SharePoint. One obvious candidate was what Alan calls “The training form” – a request by staff to go on a course.

You had to fill in the form, then somebody would read it and manually gave it the OK, then someone else manually filed it. Now it’s been redesigned and put online.

The plan is to do the same for all commonly used forms. And as Alan points out, though easy collaboration and access from home are real plus points, they’re only part of the story. The real bonus lies in the way that once the documents and forms are on SharePoint it’s easy to easy to extract data from them.

For example, under a manual system, if the head wanted to know how many people had been on training courses, for example, somebody had pull out the forms and go through them. Now the data’s kept centrally, and it can be analysed quickly and easily.

There’s real enthusiasm at West Hatch for moving away from paper.

We’ve got no end of ideas – but we wouldn’t have attempted it without our implementation of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. They’re the key factor. InfoPath 2010 makes it possible to create interactive and rich forms without the need for any coding knowledge.

Importantly, says Alan, the project is an excellent demonstration to the whole school community of what the ICT infrastructure is capable of.

Our governors have spent a lot of money on our ICT. And this is one way of showing clearly how ICT impacts on the way the school works. What we’re doing is working a lot smarter.

Learn MoreYou can read about the details of the implementation of the technology for the West Hatch Paperless-school project on Alan's blog