Cutting out paper – Getting rid of paper forms

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Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

Looking at other sources of paper use around the school, then there’s an obvious opportunity to get rid of paper forms used internally. The obvious benefits of this aren’t restricted to saving paper, time and money – it also can help you to make your internal processes and communication much smoother, and more accurate and efficient.

Yesterday’s example from Alan Richards, of removing paper from the Academic Review process at West Hatch High School, was a first step in a longer set of steps that Alan took in his paperless school project. The next obvious candidate for moving off paper and onto the school’s SharePoint was what Alan calls the ‘Training form’ – a request by staff to go on a course.
As Alan said at the time:

  You had to fill in the form, then somebody would read it and manually gave it the OK, then someone else manually filed it. Now it’s been redesigned and put online  

The plan is to do the same for all commonly used forms. And as Alan points out, the whole “paperless school” initiative isn’t just about the cost of paper and printing. It makes for a more efficiently-run and cost-effective school. There’s improved collaboration both within the school and between home and school, together with better administration and easier access to useful data. As Alan explains:

  Once the documents and forms are on SharePoint, it’s easy to extract data from them. For example, under a manual system, if the head wanted to know how many people had been on training courses, somebody had pull out the forms and go through them. Now the data’s kept centrally, and it can be analysed quickly and easily.  

And because the data is going into the school’s SharePoint system, it’s possible to use the workflow system to manage the way the form is handled once it’s been completed. For example, for a training request, you might route it through a departmental head for approval, then through the Finance team for budget allocation, and then finally route it to the manager responsible for allocating a cover teacher to cover the lessons the teacher might miss. The other thing that can be done is to automatically add it to different calendars once it’s been approved – maybe in the teacher’s calendar as well as a school-wide calendar.

The intent of the idea was to remove the paper, but the end result goes much wider – removing  manual processes and improving communication. The process makes it easier for teachers, because they have much better visibility of what’s going on and where a request might be in the process, as well as being able to make an absence request online without needing to find the paper form.

You can read more details on Alan’s project in an original blog post I wrote in late 2010, as well as on Alan’s Edutechnow blog.

Read more ideas to help cut out paper

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