Further to the government announcement regarding school closures, many schools will be considering how they can continue to support their students’ learning in this difficult period.
To help schools respond to the current situation and act in the best interests of their students, we’ve put together a list of steps you can take by making use of free resources alongside your existing technology suite:
Step 1: Keep everyone informed
How can you communicate effectively to staff, pupils and parents and carers in different scenarios, e.g. if a student is infected, the school needs to close and so on:
- Plan the scenarios and the relevant different communications. By agreeing policy and wording early, you can communicate as soon as a particular scenario or change in circumstances is known.
- Ensure all contact details are up to date in your management information system (MIS) – including students, staff and parents and carers. If you have SIMS Parent Lite or the SIMS Parent App it’s easy to make sure information is correct and GDPR compliant.
- Even if your school is closed, you can keep up lines of communication, including setting work for students to do at home. For instance, if you have the SIMS Parent App, teachers can distribute work to students and parents, keeping students engaged from wherever they are and enabling students to submit their homework online.
Step 2: Use free online classroom tools to continue teaching
Microsoft offers free online classroom tools for schools which you can start using immediately via SIMS ID – a service available to all SIMS schools at no extra charge.
Microsoft Office 365
First you need to set up your Microsoft Office 365 users – you can do this with SIMS ID with no need for complex network changes or IT expertise. Within just an hour, students and teachers entered in SIMS can be set up with an Office 365 account and can be provided with their mail address and initial password.
As well as provisioning and managing Office 365 accounts with SIMS, we can make SIMS data available to Microsoft Teams if your school is managing Microsoft Office 365 via another mechanism. SIMS data can also be made available to the Microsoft School Data Sync service (SDS) without using SIMS ID to create the Microsoft Office 365 accounts.
Microsoft Teams for Education
Free for schools, Microsoft Teams for Education provides an online space for students and teachers to focus on learning. pulling together face-to-face connections, assignments, files and conversations into one place, accessible on smartphones, tablets, browsers and PCs. Once your Office 365 users are set up (as explained above) SIMS ID can enable assessments taken in Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook to populate SIMS Assessment Manager at the touch of a button.
Further guidance on setting up Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams for Education can be found here
Step 3: Use data carefully in line with your GDPR responsibilities
With more teachers and staff working remotely, it’s important to take additional steps to ensure your school stays the right side of GDPR requirements. GDPR in Schools Ltd provides a suite of free GDPR resources for schools, including the recent issue of a useful video.
Step 4: Manage your hosted library from home
If your school has Reading Cloud you can manage your hosted library system from home, providing remote access to valuable resources for your students – all you need is a computer with an internet connection. Simply login as you would normally and carry out activities such as managing loans and reminders. This useful Reading Cloud article guides you through the process, offering useful tips on being as prepared as possible.
Step 5: Before/if the doors close for those with local servers
If you're school is required to close completely, where possible local servers should be left on. Many of these will be communicating with external systems and will need to remain on to ensure that data is kept up-to-date. These include but not exclusively: HR and Payroll Systems to ensure staff are paid correctly, Communication Systems to keep everyone informed, and Active Directory Sync / School Data Sync / VLE Sync to ensure learning environments are running correctly for pupils.