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September, 2011 - 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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September, 2011

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Saving money with Microsoft School in a Box

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    Still striving to find ways to help cost save in schools, the new School in a Box is software-as-a-service (SaaS) providing infrastructure from a Microsoft cloud giving opportunities to deliver ICT in a new way. Not only are significant cost savings made as cloud technology means the school only pays for the technology  it uses, the concept of having flexibility to how schools can now teach students over a range of devises from laptops and desktops in school by using  SaaS, operating from across the internet with no requirement to any software installation, also saving time.

    West London Free School is one of the countries first free school’s to pilot Microsoft’s School in a Box scheme. ComputerWeekly.com recently reported on the schools move and why they chose IT in the Cloud.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Do any of your students want to become the next Bill Gates?

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    Microsoft Imagine Cup 2011

    For the last 10 years, Microsoft have held the prestigious Imagine Cup, a competition open to students around the world to use technology, creativity and knowledge to help solve global issues and make a difference in the world.

     

    Recently Software4Students interviewed 2011 winners ‘’Team Hermes’’, made up of four students from Sligo IT; Aíne Conaghan, Calum Cawley, Matthew Padden and James McNamara. The team’s lead software developer, James McNamara, provides some valuable information for those who wish to become the next MS Imagine Cup winner. of 4 students from Sligo, Ireland focussing on their initial thoughts of the competition, involvement and experience overall.

     Software4Students (S4S): Hi James! First of all congratulations to you and your team on winning Microsoft´s Imagine Cup 2011! It´s been almost two months since you won, how has your journey been so far? Team Hermes Celebrates

    James: It’s been amazing, and very busy! The Imagine Cup gave us the opportunity to take a nugget of an idea, develop it and present it to a global audience. The solution’ s development was a very intense process and a great learning experience for four students to go through, and especially getting the feedback and insight you can receive through the Imagine Cup. Winning the competition has enabled us to learn even more, like learning how to work with the media (they are all, of course, very nice people!), how to pitch a product in a business environment and make great contacts.

    S4S:Could you give us a brief overview on what your project consisted of?

     James: Our solution monitors and evaluates driving behaviour and provides real time feedback to both the driver and a third party. It consists of three main parts. Firstly, we have an in-car device, which plugs into the car. This monitors the driver’s behaviour and evaluates their performance. If the driver behaves poorly, the device alarms, much like a seat belt alarm. This monitored data is sent to and stored on the Azure cloud. Secondly, this data displayed on a Silverlight website using Bing Maps, which sections of a completed journey colour coded depending on the drivers behaviour. Thirdly, if any dangerous driving behaviour is recorded updates are sent to our “vehicle owner” mobile app. So in essence, through making drivers aware of their dangerous driving habits they can use the tools we provide to make themselves a safer driver, and safer drivers mean safer roads.


    S4S: Wow, sounds amazing! So where did your idea come from?


    James: Road deaths are a huge problem in Ireland, especially in the North West, and we wanted to build a system that would reduce road traffic accidents. The initial idea was for the development of a pot-hole monitoring system. We believed that if authorities were aware of, and fixed the bad roads, it would improve safety. We realized that the real problem with road safety was not roads but drivers, and from there the idea evolved. We designed a system that is globally adaptable and scalable, as this is a global problem.


    S4S:It certainly is. So you had the problem and the solution, what approach did you take on developing the project?


    James: We wanted a massively scalable architecture as this was global solution. So we decided on implementing a cloud solution. We also wanted an easily deliverable solution, so decided on using a phone app and a web app. The most efficient way of implementing this type of solution we found was with Azure, as the homogeneous nature of the Microsoft products meant we could develop the system very quickly. So we built our SQL Azure database, built our WCF services to transport and parse data and fronted ended it with Silverlight. Silverlight was great as we could copy and paste a lot of code from the Windows Phone apps to the web app and vice versa, especially the mapping code as they both supports Bing Maps. Our in car device runs the .Net Micro framework so that could simply consume the WCF services. Apart from some tricky work with the communication from the device to the cloud, it all work perfectly.


    S4S:Well it certainly worked for you and your team. So tell us - what are Team Hermes’ plans for the future?


    James: The plans are big! We plan to set up a company shortly to commercialize the product. We have received a lot of positive feedback from the business community and the public in general, there seems to be a real desire out there to see this product on the shelves. The feeling is that this product really could save lives on the roads, and if we could deliver on this it would be amazing! We have received massive support from our college IT Sligo, and especially the Innovation Centre based there and also Microsoft Ireland.

     
    S4S: We wish you the best of luck with it too! For those students out there who dream of winning the Imagine Cup, what advice would you give them?

    Imagine Cup 2011 Winners
    James: The best advice I can give is to find a topic you have real passion for, and give it all you’ve got. Don’t get too vague, focus on a problem and build the solution around being able to deliver tangible results. Also, remember that for a project to deliver real change it needs to sustain itself through generating revenue, so don’t forget the business side. We found having an interdisciplinary team was a huge boost, especially having a business/marketing student; the idea is no good unless you can sell it!


    S4S:What are your 3 favourite software applications from Microsoft and why?

     
    James: Visual Studio 2010. I am a programmer, VS is my life! I’ve use a good few development environments but the sheer power of VS is impressive. And, dare is say it…it’s pretty! The second one is Zune. I started using it when I moved to Windows Phone. It’s very nice to use and nice too look at, which is important for a media player! Thirdly, although it is not strictly a piece of software, the Windows Phone OS. I have been using Windows Phone for a while and I love it. Very smart and stylish, functional and since all Imagine Cup finalists are getting a free one off Microsoft, it’s at the right price!


    S4S: How important do you think school life is for enhancing pupils’ digital skillsets?


    James: It’s huge. The need for exposure to as much digital technology as possible is school is ever increasing. Technology is becoming ubiquitous in the work place, from the move away from a paper based environment to technology like slate PCs and touch devices to the huge increase in smart phones and the constant emergence of new technology, students emerging from the academic world into the workplace need to have a firm grasp on technology, regardless of their industry.


    S4S: As you know, we are dedicated to offering software with huge discounts for students to help bridge the digital divide. What else do you think is important to encourage students to use and develop their skills in technology?


     James: Affordable software is a huge benefit to students. Being one myself I know the challenges of being able to acquire software, so what Software4Students are doing is great. Students need to be made aware that there are massive benefits in developing their skills in technology. Currently in Ireland we are experiencing a surge in jobs in the software development industry and also have a huge lack of graduates in the industry. This just shows there are real tangible benefits in looking to development of technological skills, not just as a means to an end but a goal in itself.


     

    If you think any of your students would be interested in entering the Microsoft Imagine cup 2012, registrations can be made here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Looking for the Next BRIT thing – now open for entries…

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    Posted on behalf of Radiowaves, Microsoft UK Education Partner:

    Next BRIT thing – www.nextbritthing.com

    Next BRIT thing is a national music competition for all 11-19 year olds in UK running between September 2011 and March 2012.

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    Young people are invited to upload their audio or video performances to the Next BRIT thing website now. The tracks with the most votes will go to an industry panel who will invite the best to perform live at 6 regional finals. A panel of artists and industry experts will choose the best to perform at the national live final in March. Any style of music can be entered, including cover versions. Entries can be submitted by individuals, groups, orchestras etc.

    There are two performance categories ‘general’ and ‘classical’. And a separate song writing/composition category supported by PRS for Music.

    Next BRIT thing is supported by Department for Education and Department for Culture Media and Sport. It is managed by the BPI and delivered by a partnership including Radiowaves.

    NBT has the support of government ministers, regional assemblies and MPs. It has a media partnership with Metro and Global Radio as well as endorsement from many music and education organisations.

    Next BRIT thing is now open for entries.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    SharePoint 2010 and Parental Engagement at Blatchington Mill School

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    Gerald Haigh, independent writer to Microsoft took a visit to Blatchington Mill School, down in Hove to see their work on SharePoint and parental engagement. Here in his own words details his trip.

    I took the opportunity recently to visit Blatchington Mill School and Sixth Form College, a very large (1800 students 11 – 18) comprehensive in Hove, to renew contact with Assistant Head Mark Leighton. I wanted to talk to him about the school’s longstanding work with Microsoft SharePoint and particularly his plans for migrating to SharePoint 2010.

    Mark Leighton Blatchington Mill School (3)

     

    Mark’s done excellent work at Blatchington Mill over several years, using SharePoint as the preferred basis upon which to build and develop Blatchington Mill School (BMS) Portal – an integrated platform for handling communication, information and resources. Though clearly a whole school environment for learning, the portal is also very much a response to requests from parents for good online access to information. Now, as well as the government defined basic data on attendance, attainment and reporting (through embedding Capita' SIMS Learning Gateway inside the BMS Portal) parents can find, in their own section of the portal, information on supporting their child, for example, teaching materials, lesson topics and schedules, assignments and test dates, revision materials and a personal online homework diary maintained by their child’s teachers. They can also view colour coded progress charts for each child in each subject they study, tracking their journey through a key stage towards their ultimate target grades.

    The BMS Portal began life in SharePoint 2003, then moved to SharePoint 2007 and when I visited the school, at the start of the 2011 summer holidays, the latest version, “BMS 360” was nearing completion in SharePoint 2010.

    All the proven key features, as you’d expect, are maintained in the new version, but now there’s an even more attractive home page with log in access for the community, students, parents, staff and governors.

    Parents, in particular, will be pleased by what they find. Up to now it’s been up to teachers to make curriculum information available on the parent portal. Now, though, from, September, parents will find that they can click straight through to the school’s curriculum subject sites on the same terms as the students.

    “For example if a parent wants to see what their Year Eight child is doing in maths, there’s a link in the parent portal taking them straight to the maths curriculum site. They can see current topics, revision materials, what kind of testing is planned. And that’s the result of a direct request by parents.” – Mark Leighton

    There’s always been a real effort at Blatchington Mill to keep parents coming back to the portal, and there’s no doubt that providing easy access into the heart of the curriculum is going to be a real driver for increased engagement.

    As the latest version of Capita’s Sims Learning Gateway is also being installed into the new BMS 360 over the summer, the total effect should be a considerably enhanced service to parents.

    Development won’t stop there, though and a further step for Mark and his colleagues during the coming year is to make the already accessible basic MIS data more useful. “We want to rework it and analyse it for parents. What they tell us they want is more detail on progress and targets.”

    As well as this there are plans to include parents in pastoral work individually with their children and tutors through the online system.

    Paying attention to parents has been a priority at Blatchington Mill for some years. In 2009 the school was one of five featured in Microsoft parental engagement case studies, and Mark Leighton’s work with Sims Learning Gateway is also frequently referenced by Capita.

    In that 2009 Microsoft case study, Blatchington Mill’s head, Janet Felkin said  “An effective home-school partnership is essential to a child’s achievement in the classroom.”

    (At the last Ofsted inspection, in Spring 2010, the school was judged “outstanding” on engagement with parents and carers.)

    There’s no doubt that the school is still driven by that principle, which is why Mark Leighton will be working during the summer to ensure that SharePoint 2010 can provide an even better than usual “back to school” experience for parents and students.

    A schools blog post  in August 2010 discusses parental engagement issues and provides links to the five MS parental engagement case studies, both video and pdf.

    You can see Mark Leighton in this Capita parental engagement video

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Join us for the next Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum -FREE!

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    The 8th Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Forum is a one-day conference, free of charge to all teachers and educators who wish to attend. The workshops and keynotes this year have a STEM ‘flavour’ and address the theme of ‘Teach more, learn more, inspire more.’

    This forum connects Teachers with Teachers, Educators with Educators, allowing you to share expertise and learn from each other, giving insights into how you can inspire your students with teaching through technology, that connects them with their learning.

    This year the Forum is being held at the Microsoft Headquarters, Thames Valley Park in Reading on the 24th Nov 2011.

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    We have a rich STEM focused agenda that includes as Keynote speakers, the world renowned Ian Livingstone OBE, Life President of Eidos and co-author Next Gen, Alex Bellos, the author of the popular science book Alex's Adventures in Numberland and Ollie Bray, the National Adviser for Emerging Technologies in Learning at Learning & Teaching Scotland

    In addition, delegates will be able to choose from a range of practical workshops covering areas such as using free software, inspiring Maths learning, the XBox 360 and Kinect in the classroom , Outdoor Learning with Mission explore, Games based learning and computer science.

    Also, find out who are Microsoft’s 2011 Award-Winning Innovative Teachers. The awards will be presented to Teachers who have submitted projects that illustrate the innovative use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. Not only will they receive award recognition, but have the chance to be invited to the next Worldwide Education Forum and win a Xbox 360 and Kinect package for their school. These projects will be on display at the event.

    Don’t miss out, register today – Early Bird Registration now open

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    European Electronique Announce Free Schools Forum Event

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    Posted on behalf of Microsoft Partner European Electronique:

    To share at first hand the experience of leading free school proposers and their advisors the Place Group has teamed up with European Electronique and Stone King LLP to organise: Free Schools Forum: The inside story of opening a Free School.

    Tuesday 4th October, 8.30am ~ 13.30pm Cardinal Place, Victoria, London

    While little more than a year old, the Free School policy has developed rapidly in terms of the entry requirements and assistance available. What is unlikely to change is the demands placed on proposers and proposer groups throughout the process. The myriad of tasks range from establishing the free school company through carrying out consultation and hiring the staff to governing the school effectively. The forum will explore each of these areas and give an independent insight into the reality of running a free school project.

    Those opening schools in September 2011 are the pioneers in a new style of education in this country but how did they manage it? What was the real financial cost and what was the time, effort and emotional commitment?

    Toby Young, founder of West London Free School and Peter Kessler, founder of Eden Primary in North London will be joined by leading expert advisors who have set up a range of free schools.

    The Free Schools Forum is a unique opportunity to gain a personal insight and to share knowledge and experience of people who have been integrated in the process from its inception.

    Participation for school proposers is free and all attendees will be given the opportunity to participate in a:

    • ½ day risk planning workshop
    • ½ day legal/governance workshop
    • ½ day ICT workshop
    • Evaluation of Office 365

    Representatives from commercial organisations will be charged a fee of £495 plus VAT.

    Agenda

    8.30 ~ 9.15 Coffee & Registration

    9.15 ~ 9.30 Review Opening ~ Clare Riley ~ Microsoft

    9.30 ~ 10.00 Free Schools Key Milestones & Events ~ Tom Legge Place Group

    • Getting Started
    • Avoiding meltdown
    • Crossing the line
    • Panel Q & A discussion

    Muswell Hill Free School

    10.00 ~ 10:45 Opening a Primary Free School ~ Peter Kessler , Muswell Hill Primary School

    • “What I’ve let myself in for”
    • Lessons Learned
    • Time & team commitment
    • Panel Q & A discussion

    10.45 ~ 11.00 Coffee Break

    11.00 ~ 11.30 Legal & Governance Considerations Graham Burns, Stone King

    • Free Schools and the law
    • Getting governance right
    • Panel Q & A Discussion

    11.30 ~ 12.00 ICT Planning can make all the difference Graham Fox, European Electronique

    • West London Free School & Bristol Free School Lessons Learned
    • Maximising provision & minimising disruption, externally hosted services can be key
    • Panel Q & A discussion

    West London Free School

    12.00 ~ 12.45 Toby Young , West London Free School

    • West London Free School turning vision into reality
    • Challenges and how we faced them
    • Looking Forward
    • Panel Q & A discussion

    12.45 ~ 13.15 Review Close Clare Riley, Microsoft

    • Summary Q & A discussion
    • Event summary
    • Close

    13:15 ~ 15:00 Buffet Lunch Served

    • Networking
    • Opportunity to meet speakers

    Registration process

    To register for this event please complete the online registration form. Participation for school proposers is free, representatives from commercial organisations will be charged £495 + VAT.

    Registration

    Location details

    London

    SW1E 5JL

    Telephone: 0844 800 2400

    Map: MS website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Re-building infrastructures, skills and lives with Microsoft Certified Trainers- the Haiti story

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    Part of the reason I enjoy my role here so much in the Education team at Microsoft is the opportunity I have to see how educators around the UK can use our solutions and technologies to help others find their own potential and build skills to help make for a better and improved way of life.

    Andrew Bettany, IT Academy Manager at York University has literally done just that.

    When an earthquake hit Haiti in the Caribbean of January 2010, over 200,000 people lost their lives. Since then, the Haitian people have been trying to rebuild their lives as best possible with very little resources and money. Many of the skilled workers were those who lost their lives meaning aid workers found it difficult to find skilled people to call upon to help rebuild the infrastructure of the island.

    Shortly after the earthquake Microsoft and NetHope established links to the island and conducted a IT Skills boot camp for 39 young people, which then led to a six month internship with relief aid agencies which were quickly mobilized to the country.

    Andrew remembered a presentation by Ken Rosen of Microsoft Learning about NetHope, a non-profit organization partnered with Microsoft who uses IT to assist in relief efforts around the world. At the MCT Summit in Zurich a few years ago, Ken spoke to the audience of 450 IT Trainers about the issues that the aid workers across the world were facing and asked for any volunteers to go out and help rebuild the technology skills infrastructure.andrew bettany v 2

    So, after reading about the success of the initial wave of IT Training in Haiti, Andrew, a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) for 5 years, volunteered to go out to Haiti and train IT Professionals and Developers from local colleges to become Microsoft Certified Trainers.

    He suggested an additional program which would train the Haitians to become MCT’s themselves - ‘’Train the Trainer’’ - a fantastic idea that would mean Haitian residents could once again become self-sufficient and in turn enable them to take control of their own destiny and train others directly; thus providing a local skill base of IT professionals in Haiti.

    Before Andrew travelled out to Haiti, he set up a plan and agenda to implement the training in a week long ‘boot camp’’, which included a packed out week of training, exams and presentations, testing all round skills of the students.

    Together NetHope, Microsoft and Andrew narrowed the 35 online applications to just 13 whom demonstrated the necessary desire, experience, ambition and learner focused mind-set to attend the week’s training in IT and delivery skills hosted and supported in a community college (Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haiti (ESIH), based in Port-au-Prince, the Haiti capital.

    Over the course of the week, the student’s boundaries of learning were indeed stretched. Many were shy and didn’t like to initially ask for help when unsure, and could take up to an hour to complete a task that many of us could complete in a couple of minutes. Andrew had the job of teaching everything from technique and how to apply skills learnt as well as the actual MCT program. The days were long and hard in a room with very little air-conditioning and basic amenities, but incredibly rewarding.

    However over the days, more and more shone through and soon were able to stand up in front of the class and deliver a short 15 minute presentation, such as Windows 7 Firewall, overview of DNS or DHCP, giving good examples of using the skills needed to become an MCT.

    All 13 participants succeeded at the "Train the Trainer" part of the boot camp, and of the 13 students taking the Microsoft Certification Professional (MCP) exams, 5 passed first time and could apply for MCT status, more than doubling the number of MCTs already on the island, with those who didn’t pass, being able to retake over the coming months.

    Microsoft and NetHope will be working together again at the NetHope IT Academy Internship Program at the end of September, an event where the newly minted MCT’s will have the opportunity to present modules in front of 30 recent graduates which aims to help them secure IT work experience with aid agencies to rebuild not only the infrastructure using IT but also help those displaced after the earthquake.

    It’s just over 18 months since the earthquake hit Haiti, many people are still without homes, choosing instead to live in communities built up of tents. Maybe this is down to being frightened that if hit again, they would lose what they had. Hopefully with the help given between Microsoft and NetHope as well as individuals like Andrew, Haiti can slowly begin to re-establish itself. This will not be easy and certainly will not happen overnight, however giving people the confidence and more importantly the ability to use IT to grow and rebuild can only mean they are on their way up.

    Haiti 124

    Andrew with his class of students

    You can read more about this ''Boot Camp'' and read all about the NetHope IT Academy Internship Program via Born To Learn website.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Back to School – Learn more comfortably by personalising the PC!

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    Today a new blog post went live on the Microsoft Unlimited Potential blog entitled Back to School: Personalizing the PC so Students Can See, Hear, and Learn More Comfortably.

    This blog features a series of how-to articles, easy to follow hints and tips and videos that show educators and parents how to help students personalize their PCs and highlights Microsoft accessibility in education resources to support students with different learning styles, special needs, and disabilities. It also includes a reminder to check the online safety settings on PCs students are using.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    IT Academy Summit Announced

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    After an eventful summer, which saw events such as 15 year old Rebecca Rickwood from the UK pulling off a significant shock at the 2011 Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office by being crowned 'World Champion in Microsoft Excel', Microsoft's IT Academy programme continues on its quest to add value for both students and academies across the sector.

    The achievements seen by the likes of Rebecca could only be made possible by hours of hard work from students and the support and facilities of the IT Academy, itself.

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    To help equip IT Academies, both existing and prospective, with the information they need to continue developing the Rebecca Richwood's of the future we are hosting another of our popular IT Academy Summit's.

    Hosted at Microsoft's UK Headquarters at Thames Valley Park Campus on Wednesday 19th October from 9am, the IT Academy Summit brings together speakers from Microsoft, industry and the academic community to cover a full range of topics to help those involved get the most from their IT Academy memberships.

    With keynotes from Karen Price (CEO at E-Skills) and Stephen Uden (Head of Skills and Economic Affairs at Microsoft UK) the sessions and discussions will include;

    • How will the shift towards Cloud technologies change the skills that the IT Industry will demand?
    • Updates on new IT Academy benefits including free certification vouchers
    • Discover new technology releases and how they can help you, including Windows Phone and Kinect

    Additionally, there will also be opportunities for networking with other academies, Microsoft employees and our education partners.

    Spaces for the Summit are limited. If you would like to attend or learn more about the event itself, please do not hesitate to contact Marc Barfoot at marc.barfoot@itskillsman.co.uk for more information.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    West London Free School

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    As one of the sponsors for the opening of the West London Free School last Friday, members of the education team made their way over to Hammersmith to support Headmaster, Tom Packer, and Toby Young in welcoming the Mayor of London and other dignitaries in officially opening the school.

    The opening was a proud day for all involved and we look forward to supporting West London Free School, in conjunction with our partner European Electronique, for many years to come.

    For a heartfelt overview from Toby Young on his experience of open the school, please see below for a copy of his Telegraph blog post covering the event:

    Boris Johnson opens West London Free School on the proudest day of my life

    Toby Young, centre, and headmaster Tom Packer at the newly formed West London Free School. (Photo: PA)

    I'm writing this from the headmaster's office at the West London Free School which was officially opened this morning by the Mayor of London. Miraculously, the whole ceremony went off without a hitch – even our hastily cobbled together curtain-pulling mechanism worked. Boris gave a brilliant speech, praising our school as one of the first taxpayer-funded schools to be set up by a group of parents and teachers, and expressing the hope that other parents and teachers will follow in our footsteps. He paid particular tribute to the Secretary of State for Education and said he'd added a new inflection to the verb "to give": We give, they gave, he gove. "He gove us these fantastic free schools," he said.

    We've had a great beginning of term here at the school. I joined the pupils for a fantastic day out at Priory Farm in Surrey on Wednesday where they got to fire catapults, make fires and build rafts. It was straight out of the Dangerous Book for Boys, except that the girls joined in as enthusiastically as the boys.

    Yesterday, we had a run-through of our opening ceremony in the school assembly hall, and then our Director of Music, Mr Watkins, took the pupils off to St Paul's Church in Hammersmith, where they practised the song they sung this morning for the benefit of the Mayor and our other guests. Mr Watkins also organised an inter-form singing competition in which each of the five forms that make up Year 7 learnt a different Abba song. The competition was judged by Dr Elisabeth Cook, head of academic development and undergraduate programmes at the Royal College of Music, and, I'm happy to say, a governor of the school. It was heartwarming to see so many parents sitting at the back – we really couldn't hope for a more supportive or enthusiastic group.

    Then today we had our official opening. We had a mad scramble last night to try and collate all the RSVPs that have been coming in, inserting a code in the Excel spreadsheet so our ushers would know where to seat people – front of stage, named seats, reserved section, etc. Needless to say, it turned into a bit of a scrum this morning and I was terrified that Stephen Cowan, the leader of the Labour group on Hammersmith and Fulham Council, would end up in the press pen at the back. If that did happen, I may have my work cut out persuading him it was a ***-up rather than a conspiracy. In truth, he's been very supportive of the school.

    The headmaster, Mr Packer, was the master of ceremonies, welcoming everyone and calling all the VIPs and dignitaries by their proper titles. In addition to the Mayor of London, we had the Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham, the Mayor of Ealing, a couple of MPs (Ed Vaizey and Angie Bray), the Leader of the Council and numerous Councillors and officials. As a former Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, Mr Packer is very polished on these sorts of occasions. I then got up and made a speech, followed by the children singing 'Wade in the Water', which they pulled off remarkably well, then Boris was his usual funny, ebullient self.

    The most memorable bit was at the end when Mr Packer, the Mayor and I were surrounded by the children for a group photograph. I think it meant a good deal to them that Boris opened the school – they all shook his hand – and it meant a great deal to us, too. The fact that everything went off so smoothly was a tribute to our administrative staff, particularly Jeremy Willes, our excellent site manager, and the whole occasion couldn't have taken place without the generous sponsorship of Apollo, our builders, Sodexo, our caterers, European Electronique, our IT provider, and Microsoft, one of our education partners.

    This was one of the proudest days of my life, but I'm sure there will be many more days on which the West London Free School makes me feel just as proud.

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