Remember the days when you would organise a school trip and not just have to organise the coach, but let everyone else know that for one day, there would be a large number of students and teachers needing a packed lunch rather than hot meal in the canteen?   Collect all students permission forms to attend?  Make a note of who have or have not paid? Send a letter out to each parent? The list of admin seems endless for a day away!

Alan Richards, Information Systems Manager at West Hatch High School, wanted to put and end to the paper admin trail that a school trip can create, and instead have all information loaded onto Microsoft SharePoint platform using forms generated by Microsoft InfoPath. This way, all information including the original request, calendar, senior leadership permissions, checklists, automatic generated e-mails to key people including parents are sent out, risk assessment forms, and finance are all kept in one place with no danger of losing anything.

It’s a further step on the continuing ‘’Paperless School’’ project currently led by Alan and his team. They aim to reduce paper and pricing costs  as near as possible to zero making full use of the software already available in school, especially with SharePoint 2010 and InfoPath.

Back in the Autumn, the team had a big win when they moved all the paperwork involved in the school’s Academic Review process, four pages, twice a year for each of the 1300 students onto their SharePoint learning gateway and using Infopath to create the interactive forms. They then followed up by looking for other paper empires they could capture for SharePoint. They settled on the application forms that staff use when they want to go on courses and these are now also on SharePoint. You can read the story, along with many others at the eBook Saving Money with ICT by Ray Fleming, which featured as  a key theme for Microsoft at BETT 2011.

It’s really important not to miss the point that using SharePoint provides visibility and accountability. For each of the processes that West Hatch now has on SharePoint there’s a complete audit trail, every step recorded, dated, and signed off, and any flaws in the process show up and can be ironed out next time.

If you want to follow Alan’s lead, he’s very carefully and generously detailed many of technical steps involved going paperless with SharePoint and Infopath on his own blog,  Education Technology Now.

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I can only imagine that if this type of technology had been available to my mum when I was at school, she would have found a lot less crumpled up school trip letters at the bottom of my rucksack.