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August, 2009 - 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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August, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    We're going on a Quango Hunt


    Over the last month or so, after spending their time looking at MPs expenses, the newspapers have moved on to looking at other public bodies, and their costs. There have been a few stories about expenses, and a few more about the way that public bodies spend money on other things.

    But an emerging trend has been speculation about which quangos will disappear to save money. Which made me think of the Bear Hunt book my kids used to love:


    We’re going on a quango hunt,
    We’re going to catch a big one,
    What a beautiful day!
    We’re not scared. Endquotes


    Yesterday, I read a semi-humorous take on the situation from a political think tank the self-styled ‘UK Commission for Employment and Skills’:


    How many skills bodies does it take to change a light bulb?

    Type ‘electrician’ into the national database of qualifications and you’ll get a list of 84 accredited qualifications. These qualifications are offered by 11 different awarding bodies, in turn drawing from 292 different occupational standards under the heading of ‘electrical trades’. These standards have been developed by 13 different standard setting bodies or Sector Skills Councils. So far, so traceable. But then we turn to funding, inspection and auditing.  A conservative estimate is of a further 30 organisations involved here.

    In total this means potentially over 50 different bodies to design, fund, assure and develop the competent changing of a light bulb. Endquotes


    And today, the BBC news website is reporting that the Centre for Policy Studies (which is definitely a Conservative-leaning body, having been founded by Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher!) is calling for a ‘quango cull in education’ – suggesting that 7 of 11 education quangos aren’t needed, to save £600M*. Of course, the BBC story is then packed with individual quangos defending their roles, and also quotes the view that if the quangos disappeared, the responsibilities they hold would fall back onto schools – creating more workload for schools and teachers.

    So the thesis is – we can’t get rid of them, because schools would suffer. I think it’s time for some mini-poll fun. Although all 11 aren’t named anywhere, I’ve found 8 of the quangos – so here’s your chance to see how much money you’d like to save. Which ones could you do without, and which wouldn’t create more work for you?
    (Have made sure this list loads in random order, because alphabetical seemed unfair. And I’ve given you a box to name your other favourites)

    ps £600M savings sounds like a lot of money, but given that we spend more than £45 billion on education, it’s only a drop in the ocean, so these kind of stories are more about politics than anything else. But then, if it really did save £600M that would be equivalent to around £25,000 per school.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Another take on qualifications – have you thought about the Microsoft IT Academy?


    IT Academy Programme 2 b If you’re running the ICT systems in your school, and NOT running the curriculum ICT, then you may want to forward this onto the ICT Co-ordinator, or to the Deputy Head in charge of Curriculum Development. Although it’s got ‘IT’ in the title, the IT Academy is actually all about curriculum development and helping your students/staff to gain commercially valuable qualifications.

    Don’t tell the curriculum side, but it’s also a great way to get your school an inclusive MSDNAA and TechNet Plus subscription if you’re having difficulty getting it paid for otherwise!

    imageI’ve spent a few hours in the company of the team who promote the Microsoft IT Academy scheme in the UK. Basically the scheme offers schools the chance to deliver Microsoft’s IT training and qualifications to your students, staff and even your wider community. The qualifications that you can deliver will help your students (or parents in your community) raise their skills to prepare for business roles, or potentially for technical employment as web developers or systems administrators.

    The chart on the right (click on it to see the BIG version) shows the routes to the qualifications that students can attain. And because the qualifications are instantly recognisable in the commercial sector – like MCSE qualifications – it is an instant help with preparing for employment.

    But this isn’t just about student qualifications – it can also be used to provide training and qualifications for the wider community, and this is exactly how some of the current IT Academies use it – which is either helping to generate a revenue stream, or to increase parental engagement.

    Once you’ve signed up to be an IT Academy, the scheme includes:

    • Free Microsoft eLearning (over 300 courses)
    • Free Microsoft Software Licences
    • Massive discounts on Microsoft Certifications and Courseware
    • Free MSDNAA & TechNet Plus Subscription
    • Free Microsoft Certified Trainer Membership

    Currently about two-thirds of UK colleges and universities offer the IT Academy programme, and hundreds of schools. So it could be that your school is already doing it (in which case you might have some of these benefits already).

    But the key question I asked the IT Academy team was about cost. Because although they describe everything above as ‘free’, I’d assumed that the annual fee would be prohibitive. The actual answer is that it costs less than £600 for a school to become an IT Academy, and (thanks to the agreement with the SSAT earlier this year), it’s cheaper for Specialist Schools. Especially if you factor in the cost of an MSDNAA & TechNet Plus subscription, this is a great deal.

    Although there’s tons of information about IT Academy on our education website, I think there’s probably too much info there, so instead of reading it all I’d recommend giving the Prodigy team a call, or dropping them an email, to get them to explain it to you in plain English. (Just like buying software, IT Academy works the same way – you get access through our partners, rather than directly from us. In this case the partner is Prodigy)

    Email the IT Academy team or call them on 0845 3991553.

    Any lingering doubts? Take a look at the two case studies from current IT Academies - President Kennedy School and Sawtry Community College

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Conference – Sept 29 in London


    This is probably something for local authorities, who’re running big datacentres, but there are likely to be readers of this blog that are either in that role, or are running big datacentres in their school. And given the size of some of the transactional databases in schools today, this might apply to you…

    SQL Server 2008 Grid v I’ve just heard that the first ever Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Conference is being held in London on Tuesday September 29th.  Although it is not an education-specific event, there is a good agenda with excellent presenters that could be of use to you if you are running complex databases. It’s obviously useful for IT managers, and information managers, database administrators and architects will find real value to add to their knowledge of how to get the most out of SQL Server.

    The agenda focuses on some of the major data management challenges that we know SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition is more than ready to handle: high-performance and scalability, robust security, virtualisation, data warehousing and business intelligence.

    The cast of presenters includes:

    • Donald Farmer & Mark Linton from the SQL Server Development team
    • Mark Whitehorn, independent consultant and author on databases and data management
    • An array of Microsoft technical expertise on SQL Server, data management and Business Intelligence

    The agenda includes specific topics on using SQL Server in heterogeneous data environments (i.e. Oracle) and SQL Server as the data platform of choice for business critical applications such as SAP. It also includes a closer-look at the SQL Server 2008 R2 functionality in a presentation by Donald Farmer from the SQL Server development team.

    The full agenda, which includes a choice of tracks for the afternoon, is available on the website

    The event is free, and given that effective database management is top of the list for many organisations, you may want to book your place as soon as you can.

    You can book directly on the Microsoft events website, or register by phone on 0870 166 6670 (quoting event reference 4125)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Slides from the Windows 7 in Education event in Reading


    We had a Windows in Education workshop at our main offices in Reading today, with about 50 IT managers and network managers. We spent the whole day talking about how and why schools, colleges and universities might roll out Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. It was quite a geeky day and also quite relaxed – plenty of opportunity to dive into deep questions about particular things, and to compare notes between different establishments. Some people had already implemented Windows 7 and Server R2, whilst others were planning for the future

    All of the presentations are available to download below (or you can download from the SkyDrive folder directly).

    If you want to get a little of the flavour of the day, then go and read some of the tweets from the day, from some of the delegates. You can see it all by searching on Twitter for the #eduwin7 tag

    The slides

    My introduction

    The Windows 7 story in education
    From James O'Neill

    Windows Server 2008 R2
    From Gareth Hall

    How Microsoft IT have deployed Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
    From Asif Jinnah

    The experiences of West Hatch School
    From Alan Richards

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Data Protection Act and exam results


    One of the websites I read via its RSS feed is that of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). And you need to read today’s release before your students!


    Students receiving exam results this summer can find out more about their grades by using their rights under the Data Protection Act. Guidance produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) explains how students can access personal exam records. Endquotes

    I saw this through their Press Releases page (honestly, it sounds like ICO press releases would be quite, hmm, boring, but there’s never a dull moment, especially when you think through the implications of some of the things they say for your school!).

    They say more about the issue in their press release (PDF) and in the ‘Youth’ section of their website.


    I notice that three of four tabs on the page have been used, and the orange one is waiting for the next issue to be covered. Worth keeping an eye on…

    As an aside, if anybody thinks that Information Security in your school isn’t important, then you might want to send them the link to the Press Releases page and point out how many they publish a week, and how critical they are of people who don’t adequately protect personal data.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Do you work during your holidays?


    When I take a holiday, I like to really take a holiday. Which means I don’t check my email, I leave my phone off unless I can't avoid it, and I generally try to relax. My boss has just started a 10 week sabbatical* – a very extended holiday – and he’s definitely not checking his email, voicemail etc. But the culture of some workplaces, and of some people, is that if you’re on holiday you still check, just in case. Which means sometimes people’s Out Of Office message is an Out-Of-Office-but-still-in-touch message.

    But today, I laughed when I got an Out Of Office message from a colleague who obviously won’t be checking his email while he’s away:


    I'm now out of the office until Monday 24th August, during which time I will be driving nearly the length of England, as I shall be starting in Poole and ending in the Lake District.  During this time I shan't be checking email or voicemail - partly due to my not wanting to check mail on holiday, and also partly due to the fact that I shall mostly be in the middle of nowhere where I fear that my Windows Mobile Phone may not get signal, or may get me investigated for witchcraft. Endquotes

    I like his style.

    ps just after publishing this post, I was told about this BBC Magazine story about Out Of Office replies. Gave me some more ideas...

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free Event - Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2 – 21 Aug 2009


    Although it’s a little bit last minute, I’ve grabbed at the chance to get some of our Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 brains together on Friday 21st August, in our Thames Valley Campus in Reading. It’s August, and I know that it is one of the busiest times for network managers, however you probably have a bit more control over your diary than a normal month. So here’s your invitation to:

    imageI’d like to invite you to come along to our Windows workshop, where you’ll have the chance to hear about Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and to explore what they mean for education. The agenda includes James O’Neill from our Developer and Platform Evangelist team, and Richard Lane, one of our Account Technology Specialists, exploring how the new products launched this year can help you to streamline your ICT infrastructure and improve the ICT management and user experience. With Windows 7 available to existing School Agreement customers from the end of this week, and Windows Server 2008 R2 available from the 19th August, it seems like the perfect time to take a day out of school to understand how it fits into your future plans.

    There are already a number of schools planning to implement Windows 7 this summer, and so we hope to make the day as interactive as possible, with plenty of time for discussion with your peers from other schools, to compare notes and experiences (there will be schools attending who’ll have implemented Windows 7 by the 21st, so hopefully they’ll have practical advice for us all!)

    To allow for those making longer journeys, we’ll start at 10am and finish by 3pm.

    If you’d like to attend the free Windows in Education day, then simply drop an email to Sam Mills, who’ll reserve you a place, and send you confirmation details for how to get to our Reading campus.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Your invite to the UK Launch for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010


    Find out more and register

    Apparently we've had well over 1,000 registrations since we announced it. I'd recommend putting yourself on the wait list.
    Sorry. I'll work on a list of alternative events/webcasts to attend 

    From now through to January, it’s going to be a season of launches. And the kick-off event for the whole series is the UK Technical Launch for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, which is going to a big event at Wembley stadium on the 6th October.

    The agenda is packed – with a ‘desktop’ and ‘server’ stream (time to make it a team trip?), and we’re also expecting the event to be packed too – with a thousand spaces available.

    The theme for the event “The New Efficiency” is something we’ll be talking about more during the year, as it’s something that fits in with the current budget climate in education.

    Wembley Stadium Join us on 6 October in the conference rooms at the spectacular Wembley Stadium to hear from Microsoft's technology specialists on the new efficiency of the server and desktop. We have two tracks of content for you to choose from, one covering Windows 7, and the other covering Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. If you can't watch it all on the day - don't worry, all the content will be available online after the event.

    For those who couldn’t make it to the Windows in Education event last week, this is a good alternative. Although it isn’t specifically for education, we had some of the same speakers – James & Gareth – and I know that there will be plenty of things covered which fit into your IT thinking.


    If you only do two things before you head off for the Bank Holiday weekend, I’d recommend:

    • Register for your place (before all those other people get back from holiday Too late, they're back. You can now add yourself to the Waitlist for a place) 
    • Add it to your Calendar (to stop anybody inviting you to a dull meeting on that day)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Where are all the freebies now the budget's cut


    I received this query by email from an international colleague:

    “I heard that MS UK Education team created a DVD with all free products/links to Microsoft web sites that are potentially beneficial to teachers and students, and that you shared this with your education audiences. Can you point me to the folder where the DVD content is?”

    And after I answered it, I then thought I should share the answer, because if somebody in Latvia is interested, it’ll probably be interesting to somebody in Luton too, given the state of education ICT budgets.

    For more up-to-date information, there are some key web pages listing free resources


    Does that help anybody else too?

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    First school to deploy Windows 7?


    After last night’s post, about the first to deploy the full release version of Windows 7 amongst schools, the race has changed. At first, network managers appeared to be racing to get it onto their own laptops – now it has moved on to getting Windows 7 deployed across the school network.

    As far as I know, Alan Richards is in the lead, and by 11am this morning, he’d got it installed across his first classroom IT suite:

    image So could it be that when students turn up for the new term at West Hatch school, they are going to be the first to use Windows 7 in the classroom? (Hmm, just remembered that Scotland and Leicestershire start term much earlier – Alan could still be pipped at the post!)

    Update: When Alan finished for the weekend on Friday night, he'd managed to get four full ICT suites deployed, with a few left for next week...

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