Staff Planner and updates

Staff Planner Updates

  • Parents now sign their child’s planners electronically via Parent Portal. Staff can see which parents have signed off planners via their Staff Planner app
  • Monitoring is now accessible via the Staff Planner app

Book Reviews

Our Head of English came up with the idea of creating an app that allows you to review books and share these reviews. I pushed this app to all of Year 7 today with a hope of getting some feedback before we go for a whole school release!


Year 8 finally get their iPads

Yesterday after months of patiently waiting the Year 8s finally received their iPads! There are still some issues with caching apps we need to deal with but other than that the roll out went fairly smoothly.

In September when we start back we’ll have around 850 staff and students all using iPads every day and by October that will rise to well over 1000 as the new Year 7’s receive theirs – I can hardly believe that this time a year ago we had only had 56 staff with iPads, what a journey!!



The impact of iPads on our network

When you add 1,000 devices to any system you would expect to see a significant impact on any bottlenecks or points of stress. These are some of the issues we’ve discovered and how they’ve been over come or how we plan to tackle them.

Internet connection
Prior to iPads being added to the network, we had a BT fibre providing a 50Mb link for about 650 devices and it was ticking along ok. We’ve now upgraded the line to a 1Gig bearer throttled back to 400Mb. You can read more about this here.

Network congestion
Previously we had 1 Windows 2003 Domain Controller provided by RM running most of our curriculum and admin network services including DHCP, DNS, WSUS and file and print sharing. This was supplemented by a Windows 2008 R2 x64 server to share some of the increased load as a stopgap to migrating away from RM’s CC4 solution. Watch this space for a future blog post on how and why this was necessary.

As well as this we’ve had a number of issues with Apple’s AirPlay and AirPrint not being reliable enough on a large network. You can read more about this here.

Network Backbone
We have 13 edge cabinets with 40(ish) switches all connected back to the server room and our core switch by 1Gig fibre links. Prior to the iPad project this wasn’t an issue but as we’ve added more devices this has become a noticeable bottleneck.

Thus far the situation has been mitigated using link aggregation and stacking the edge switches but over the summer break we will start a phased migration to 10Gig fibre connections and HP Pro Curve managed switches to key areas around the school initially but rolling out to everyone over three years.

Security and BYOD
Once the lower school were issued with iPads, we allowed bring your own device (BYOD) for our sixth form students. This included a dedicated wireless network on its own VLAN which just provided a connection to the internet without compromising the security of the network. Using RADIUS authentication to control who could or could not connect we were able to provide a good managed service without any additional expense. Students are able to access their files through our VLE from anywhere so we didn’t have any issues with file access.

The same approach was taken for guest users and mobiles and tablets owned by staff.

The student network is secured with a security key that is distributed using our MDM solution followed by RADIUS authentication to work out who each student is. This combination avoids us providing an internet connection to most of the student’s phones etc.

Web filtering
We’d outgrown our existing proxy server and while you were able to get a managed iPad working using an IPS file (most of the time, if the wind was in the right direction!), this was going to cause a number of head aches.

We settled on a Rocket Appliance from Lightspeed which has been in and working for just under a year now. The RADIUS authentication on the WiFi works out who it is and from there the web filter applies rules accordingly. It does exactly what it says on the tin!

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it should provide a fairly good idea of the scale of the challenges we’ve over come.

D&T doing all GCSE coursework on Goodnotes!

Our Design & Technology department have championed Goodnotes from day one, but I’ve just heard the great news that from now on all GCSE coursework is being done on the iPads!

They have set up a blank A3 design sheet template for the students to download into Goodnotes, made sure they are typing in size 12 font and then off they go! Today I was on tour and found students creating pie charts in Numbers to display their research, importing photos and writing up their design sheets either by hand with a stylus (those with the most arty handwriting) or typed.

The teachers have produced exemplar work that they have airdropped to the students so that they constantly have something to model their work on.

One of the teachers has set up a shared Dropbox folder with a sub-folder for each student which they save their work into so that she can access it, mark it and give written feedback (on Goodnotes of course!). Students self and peer assess work throughout the lesson as well and work can be projected on the whiteboard at the front for the class to critique. This has been really successful and the rest of the department will be following suit!

An added bonus is that there is no printing until the exam board call for some to be moderated – about as paperless as you can get!

Here’s a few examples of the work they’ve produced so far…

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.25.18 Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.25.28

The teachers give feedback on Goodnotes and send it back to the students either as a PDF or as a Goodnotes file (which means it’s still editable).

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.25.07

I can’t wait to see the final pieces!


Ofsted praise the use of ‘hand-held devices’!!

Ofsted payed us a visit on the 8-9 May 2014. They observed 43 lessons in which around a third involved students with iPads. Their feedback was extremely positive overall and we were graded outstanding in every category.

It was very pleasing to see that the inspectors valued the contribution that iPads are making to learning and this impact is mentioned in our report…

“The highly effective use of small hand-held devices has substantially improved pupils’ access to a wider range of knowledge. One student remarked, ‘These have improved what and how I learn and I can share this much more quickly with others.’ Students were eager to show how quickly teachers check and correct work on this resources making suggestions for improvements.”  Ofsted, May 2014
What a fantastic achievement by all the staff and students in such a short space of time – 12 months ago only a handful of staff had an iPad as part of the trial, now there are over 700 of them in school being used every day! I’m really proud of what has been achieved in such a short space of time and am very lucky that the staff here have embraced it so fully! So what next…?!

Creating with iBooks Author

We’ve ventured into the world of creating our own iBooks… Quite easy to do in principle using iBooks Author on a Mac, but not quite so easy to make them look great. Thankfully we’ve got the expertise in that area!!

You can include graphics, text, video, images (zoomable) and multiple choice questions. Anna R and Fliss have created some great little animations to help illustrate some of the key points – I think there is an opportunity for students to create their own in future using apps like iMotionHD and PuppetPals…

This tool is going to allow us to create great interactive revision resources for the students – the plan is to start now and get things up and running for next Feb so that they are created in time for next years exam season.

Another use that is being explored is for exemplar work – more details to follow when I have some examples to post.

Here’s a little peek at the Checmistry Foundation revision guide – just a random selection of pages.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.43.10 Cover

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.44.03 Menu

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.44.17Zoomable graph

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.44.27Multiple choice questions

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.44.38Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.45.15Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 21.45.30 Embedded video


Students will be able to download the iBook on ReviseWise, be sent it in an email or have it pushed out to them. In time they may also be available on the iBook store!


iTunes U – The process for staff

After enrolling in iTunes U, we brainstormed for a while about the best way to streamline the process for staff. We decided that the process would be:

  • Staff member emails me their iTunes email address
  • I add them to the site manager users section
  • Staff member can then create courses using their personal iTunes login
  • Staff member will transfer the course to their department email address* when they are done

*I set up an iTunes U email address for every department and added them to the site manager users section.

We decided that we would create a course icon and person icon for each department so that staff could use them whenever they wanted.

Maths Person IconMaths Icon

Simon Petri, a member of the Maths Department, was the first to create a course on iTunes U and created an instruction booklet for staff to follow. So far staff are really keen and it’s a great way to presenting loads of resources in an organised way!