Windows 10 at Arnhem Wharf Primary School


The following is a guest post written by Gerald Haigh, and is a first looks Arnhem Wharf Primary’s move to Windows 10. In a future post Gerald will explore the wider impacts of Windows 10 on the school, but for now, he delves into the thought process behind the change, and the adoption itself.

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We’ve been hearing about what must have a good claim to be the earliest whole-school adoption of Windows 10 in the country, if not in the world. The installation – at the 700 pupil Arnhem Wharf Primary in Tower Hamlets– began on 3 August this year, five days after the Windows 10 global release.

Melvyn Akins, Tower Hamlets Technical Lead for Schools told me the story. He explained that the school had already, back in April 2015, begun working towards a major refresh of their ICT estate, which then consisted of some elderly RM desktops using a mix of Windows 7 and Windows XP.

Plans were well ahead, on the assumption that the new operating system would be Windows 8, when the Windows 10 date became known.

Speaking about what happened next, Melvyn said: ‘They asked what would be the risks of moving so early to the new system. Would it work?’

Melvyn was confident in his answer:

‘We assured them that Microsoft would not release the new system worldwide unless they were sure of it. We agreed we would go ahead and push it out across the school, and that’s exactly what we did.’

The hardware refresh consisted of acquiring 70 new Lenovo desktop machines for teachers and administrators, and 165 Lenovo laptops for the children. This worked out as one laptop between two in Key Stage 2. In effect, classes can work with one-to-one devices for significant amounts of time. In addition, there was new network cabling throughout the school and new Microsoft servers.

‘It took two to three weeks and we finished in mid-August, ready for the school returning in early September,’ says Melvyn. The installation, he adds, has been very straightforward.

‘It’s the first Windows 10 set up we’ve done and apart from one or two small issues, the actual fundamentals of the process have been seamless.’

One result of the refresh, he says, has been that Arnhem Wharf, in common with many schools, now has no dedicated computer suite.

‘With the number of laptops available, they would be promoting the use of ICT in the classroom at many more points throughout the learning week as opposed to bringing children to a computer room for lessons. As a result they have decommissioned their IT suite to put in a food technology lab.’

Melvyn is full of praise for the positive attitude that’s come from the school during what have been very significant changes.

‘We work with a lot of schools and there’s an amazing range of confidence in the way they approach decisions on ICT and being prepared to set aside budget for example. There was a level of confidence from Arnhem Primary that we’re not used to seeing. Many schools are reluctant to spend the money, and when they do it’s usually reactive, in response to a problem. In this school it’s been pro-actively planned and budgeted.’

Melvyn points out that one of the key factors here is the school’s highly able business manager, Zoe Waterfield, and so, clearly, she had to be my next call.

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‘I came here last October,’ says Zoe, ‘and in partnership with the head teacher, we decided that the ICT really needed a refresh, and that the way to do it was to replace all of the PCs in one go.’

Zoe has project managed the whole process, piloting it through decision-making layers including the governors. ‘Everybody has been up for it one hundred percent.’

Echoing what Melvyn said previously, Zoe added: ‘At the end of last term, we agreed that if Windows 10 was out in time we would go with it, and it was released on 29 July giving us a couple of days to make the decision.’

It’s very early days with Windows 10 at Arnhem Wharf, too soon to explore the classroom impact and the reaction of teachers and children. That will come later, for we hope to have a more detailed look at that as the system beds down.

Meanwhile, there’s every indication that the early adoption of Windows 10 at this large urban primary school has begun, and continues, smoothly. Certainly neither Melvyn nor Zoe report any significant problems or complaints.

What, then, in summary, can we identify as keys to success?

  • The presence in the school of an effective business manager who shares the vision and has the administrative and management skills to bring ideas to reality.
  • A highly experienced local authority schools IT team well equipped to take on new challenges with confidence and deep knowledge.
  • The enthusiasm and creative vision of the school leaders and governors, ready to live up to the part of the Arnhem Wharf vision statement that speaks of, ‘A creative curriculum embracing new technologies.’
  • Not least, the robust nature of Windows 10 itself, carefully designed as it is to ease adopters through the implementation process.
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