Prestigious independent school implement multi-site wide interactive technology solution
Upgrading to interactive technology proved an easy and popular move for Bury Grammar Schools, and one that’s now paying dividends for staff and pupils alike.
As part of its ongoing commitment to educational excellence, prestigious Bury Grammar Schools began a major overhaul of its technology assets before the global pandemic hit the UK. The challenges of COVID and blended learning only accelerated demand for better technology, and the school group responded by signing up to a customised 1:1 device scheme supplied by educational technology specialists, IDNS.
More recently, Bury Grammar Schools has continued its exciting technology upgrade programme with a switch to interactive technology right across its multi-site campus, not least to help it take full advantage of all the benefits brought about by the new device scheme. Vicky Leaver, Assistant Principle and Director of Academic Provision, explained, “Our teachers and pupils already had Microsoft devices, so it was time to address the missing piece of the triangle: what happens in the classroom itself. Collaborative activities are crucial for successful learning, so we wanted to upgrade to an interactive digital system that would seamlessly link teachers and pupils in the classroom.”
Bury Grammar Schools’ senior team had some specific requirements they needed any new display system to meet. Firstly, the new system would need to improve the teaching and learning experience for everyone that used it, making it easier to access more sources of knowledge, and streamlining the process of sharing and working collaboratively on different documents and media. Secondly, they wanted a system that would integrate well with the Microsoft Surface devices now used by all pupils and teachers. Lastly, the new system needed to be an all-in-one solution: one capable of replacing a complex mishmash of different brands’ technologies used up until now. Part of the point of the upgrade project was to minimise system downtime, reduce the IT team’s workload and create an identical teaching and learning experience across every classroom. The right stand-alone system would achieve all of these goals.
The school began by conducting its own research into possible options, engaging with other institutions to gather knowledge and opinions about the different products available to them. With an investment as significant as this, it was essential that the selection process was a consultative one internally too, involving as many Bury Grammar staff as possible. It wasn’t just obvious that getting teaching and non-teaching staff involved would help the school group choose the right product: it was clear that the upgrade’s success would partly depend on staff buying into the new technology.
On the strength of its already successful relationship with the technology provider, Bury Grammar Schools asked IDNS to suggest a solution and demonstrate it to the wider project team. IDNS was confident that the interactive technology solution from Clevertouch would answer each of the school group’s needs. Together, IDNS and Clevertouch spent a total of three days demonstrating the capabilities of its award-winning interactive technology. They explained its features, answered questions and gave the team at Bury Grammar Schools a chance to see for themselves just how smooth, intuitive and feature-packed the product is.
It's fair to say that staff at Bury Grammar School were quickly and completely won over by the Clevertouch product. More accurately, they were actually wowed by it, as Vicky Leaver explained, “There wasn’t just buy-in among our academic leads and teaching staff: there was genuine excitement about the new product. In fact, we had teachers virtually pleading to be the first ones to have it in their classrooms!” Ben Whittaker, Bury Grammar Schools’ Head of IT Services, went on to explain, “IDNS’ sector experience means they really understand how educators will use the technology, and this meant they had answers to all of our questions. This kind of expertise added significant value to our partnership with them."
There’s good logic behind the system’s popularity and Bury Grammar Schools’ ultimate decision to go with it. Not only is this product well established and widely proven in the world of interactive technology; it is also a product that perfectly meets the customers’ very specific goals. There’s great compatibility to its existing Microsoft eco system, including Teams and Office 365, while features like Clevershare perfectly support the imperative to make collaborative working easier and more rewarding.
Once the decision to invest in 84 Clevertouch screens had been made, installation and roll-out was handled seamlessly, right across the school group and all in one go, with classrooms slightly adapted in order to put the new digital displays centre stage. The package supplied by IDNS included training and support as well as the products themselves, and this holistic and ongoing approach helped minimise disruption to Bury Grammar Schools’ busy everyday routines. Ben Whittaker explained, “Just as we expected, training and aftercare from IDNS has been superb, with regular contact and clear lines of communication. The great thing is that this system has longevity built in, not just with technical future-proofing but with training and support too, including refresher training in a couple of years’ time. It means we’ll really get the most out of our investment and always be confident using it.”
“Going down the interactive touchscreen route was a great way of future-proofing our pupils. This is the technology they’ll use at university and in the workplace, so introducing it at this age helps them prepare for life after school to hit the ground running when they get there.”
Today, just a few months after Clevertouch’s installation, pupils and staff at Bury Grammar Schools are reaping the rewards of it on a daily basis. Teachers are enjoying simplified lesson planning and wider scope for including interesting content more easily, such as online media or pupils’ own documents, which can be shared from personal devices, discussed and even annotated digitally. The online capability puts more internet-based knowledge and resources at the users’ fingertips too, of course, enriching the learning experience. Pupils also enjoy the exciting interactive dimension it brings to lessons, often going up to the front of the class to use the displays themselves, or sharing screen shots with the entire class. Even Bury Grammar Schools’ IT and estates staff have welcomed the new technology, which performs reliably, integrates seamlessly with other technologies and software, and reduces the amount of peripheral equipment that they need to manage, maintain and move around the campus. The fact that these displays can still function as a simple white board just adds to their versatility.
There has been another significant benefit of going down the digital display route, less obvious but nevertheless important, as Vicky Leader explained, “Going down the interactive touchscreen route was a great way of future-proofing our pupils. This is the technology they’ll use at university and in the workplace, so introducing it at this age helps them prepare for life after school to hit the ground running when they get there.”
Ultimately then, the switch to digital displays has helped to transform the classroom experience for teachers and pupils alike at Bury Grammar Schools, and in that respect it’s very much been a win-win situation. Escaping the limitations imposed by conventional white boards was always one of the school group’s ambitions, and Clevertouch has certainly opened up exciting new possibilities for both teaching and learning and, as a consequence, has also given a boost to staff morale and student engagement. Speaking on behalf of her teaching staff, Vicky Leaver certainly has no reservations about making the switch to Clevertouch, “We’ve only had them for a matter of months but already I don’t think the staff would know what to do without the new screens!”