Monday morning at Golightly Academy, and a teacher on a mission pops in to see the head.

‘Elspeth, Now we have Office 365, I think we could rethink the whole of the school’s online presence. For example, we can have a portal.

‘A whatll?’

‘A portal. Of you could call it a gateway if you like. I was talking to some of the staff from St Mary’s at the weekend. They’ve got this great thing going. The students log in first thing and there’s their own personalised page, with links they can click on to all sorts of stuff. It has reminders of their timetable, when course work’s due. They can change it to suit themselves, with their own profile, and it looks really good, branded with the school logo and everything. The staff have their own version, with timetables, meeting notifications, anything they need. It all looks great.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I saw it.’

‘What, you went to St Mary’s?

‘No, Jack Wilkins, the deputy, showed it me on his phone in the pub.’

‘How could he do that?’

‘Because the whole thing is on the internet. The users can get to it with their own password with any device that will get them on line – computer, tablet, phone. Students think it’s very cool and 21st Century. Jack Wilkins logs in on the way to school. He has a lift with another teacher so he can sit there getting an idea of what’s going to be happening that day, and adding announcements if necessary. Gives him a great start. Then there’s parent access.’

‘That sounds good. Time we improved home-school links.’

‘Well, this way, we give parents access to their own part of the portal, so they can keep up to date on their children’s progress and find out what’s going on. We’ll save on efficiency and paper, and generally be much more parent friendly.’

‘All well and good, but a bit of a headache for our lot in the IT department. Sounds expensive too. The guys downstairs will be asking for money for new servers and software what have you, and frankly we have little slack in the budget.’

‘Now, Elspeth, here’s the good news. We won’t need new servers, in fact we won’t need anything in school, because the whole lot is based on Microsoft Office 365. It’s a cloud service hosted by Microsoft, free to schools.’

‘When you say free……?

Office 365 is free to schools. That saves a huge amount of money in equipment and maintenance. To be realistic, we’ll probably need to pay for consultancy and expertise to get the portal tailored for us.

That’s what St Mary’s did and they feel it was a good cost-effective decision because what they now have is proving to be a great boost for the students and the staff. They waste less time and work more efficiently. And in the end they’ll save on paper and printing.’

This scenario was put together with advice from Steve Eyton-Jones, Professional Services Director of Microsoft Partner ‘Novotronix’.