Two Counties Trust, East Midlands

Virtue’s Office 365 migration future proofs pupils without sacrificing school autonomy

The Solution deployed?
We implemented x3 Office 365 migrations for 3 of the 8 schools in the MAT

Project Delivery

Hidden Costs

Staff & Students Data Secured

In-House Support

Trust Standardisation


Two Counties Trust is a Multi-Academy Trust that operates across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. There’s currently eight schools in the MAT, all of which are Secondary Schools. Heritage High School and Selston High School support students who are 11-16, while Ashfield School, Frederick Gent School, Friesland School, Swanwick Hall School, The Manor Academy and Wilsthorpe School also have A-Level provision so cater for students up to the age of 18-years-old.

As a Trust, Two Counties enable each school to operate with a great deal of autonomy which they believe allows them all to flourish as individual schools. However, the MAT is passionate about supporting all the schools in the Trust, providing a culture of collaboration and mutual support.

Two Counties MAT School Sites

Secondary Schools,
Across 2 Counties

Projects Customer Satisfaction

Overall Customer Service Score

Support Desk

Office 365 Migrations,
from On-Premise to Virtual

Two Counties and Virtue Technologies

The Trust was a brand-new customer to Virtue Technologies when we undertook this project with the team at Two Counties.

While it can be hard to gain large project business when you’re unknown to a customer, Virtue have grown year on year since we started, and all based on recommendations.

“We’ve really only grown through word-of-mouth. Education is a sector where people are fantastic at networking, it’s why when I set-up the company with Phil Lawson, we were determined to provide a quality solutions and unrivalled service. I’m proud to say that 14 years later, I believe we’re still doing that.”
Simon Steele, Managing Director, Virtue Technologies

With regards to Two Counties, Joe Redmond, Network Manager of Wilsthorpe School, which is the most recent addition to the MAT, introduced us to the wider Trust. We had worked with Joe on Wilsthorpe School’s migration to an Office 365 solution in late 2018 prior to them joining the Two Counties Multi Academy Trust.

This meant Joe had not only worked with Virtue previously, but that we’d actually deployed the very solution with him that the wider Trust required.

Friesland School & Swanwick Hall School

The Challenge

Two Counties was in a sort of half-way stage with their Trust when they were introduced to Virtue. Most of their schools had already migrated to Office 365, however, some of them were still using Microsoft Office as an on-premise solution. Due to their desire to have one cohesive IT Strategy, they wanted to move the remaining schools across to the Cloud version too, to Office 365.

They wanted to adopt Office 365 across the whole Trust to provide an improved user experience for students and staff. It would also give them the ability to introduce a Trust-wide O365 backup policy that they were preparing to implement.

When other schools had undertaken Office 365 migrations, they’d struggled to do so efficiently and effectively. Due to lack of specialist IT knowledge, they’d experienced issues, which in turn led to time scales not being adhered to and costs rising. The Trust wanted to ensure this didn’t happen again.

“I introduced the Two Counties Team to Virtue because they’d helped me so successfully with the Wilsthorpe Office 365 migration. I knew other schools in our Trust had struggled when handling the migration themselves and was keen to help ensure that the last three schools would get the solution in place seamlessly and cost-effectively.”
Joe Redmond, Network Manager, Wilsthorpe School & Friesland School

Virtue were able to provide a solution that joined-up IT across our Trust, on-time and on-cost.

In this instance, Two Counties needed to migrate data from multiple existing on-premise exchanges to multiple new Office 365 tenants. This would mean that Friesland School, Ashfield School and Swanwick Hall School were all on Office 365, like the other schools in the MAT.

Each school was operating slightly differently which meant there were various starting points for our team, adding to the complexity of the project; some schools had no O365 tenant, some had hybrid solutions. This was their primary reason for enlisting the help of professionals to support these last migrations.

Virtue’s approach, ensuring that Two Counties got the right solution for them, really impressed Mark Watson, the Trust’s Strategic ICT Manager and we believe it’s one of the reasons Two Counties trusted us to carry out the project for them.

Pete Challinor, Pre-Sales Engineer, Virtue Technologies said “I, or one of my colleagues, do a pre-sales consultation with our customers before we start deploying and even planning a project. It’s a really important part of the process because it lets me know what’s key for the school or MAT and that can alter our approach and set-up.” He continues “With Two Counties giving each school autonomy and embracing their individuality is such a core value of the Trust, we knew that the 1 tenant (and domain) Office 365 set-up that we’ve deployed in several other multi-academy trusts wouldn’t work for them.”

Virtue find a solution

Following a site visit to each school, Pete was able to assess the current set up of their Office solutions and understand how tricky the migration of each would be and therefore how long it would take.

Friesland School didn’t have a hybrid solution in place, so this was a case of dealing with legacy tenants. Ashfield School and Swanwick Hall School were a little different as both operated with a type of hybrid solution, however, both were set-up differently. Ashfield’s solution saw students using Office 365, while the staff were using Office on-premise. While Swanwick Hall had adopted Office 365 but no emails were kept there, meaning mailboxes required migrating over.

Pete knew that both hybrid solutions had each been set-up by on-site staff, which is why they were different. To fully align all the schools, he wanted to roll-out the same streamlined Office 365 set-up to ensure that they were easier to manage for the IT Teams moving forward, even if they moved to a different school in the MAT.

We scheduled all the work for each school to be done in school holidays to ensure there was no disruption to students learning. We spend about 3 days at each site, migrated all the data, tested the solution and ensured it was working prior to retiring the on-premise servers. We then checked that Two Counties ICT Manager Mark was confident the solution was working in way the Trust had envisioned before signing off each school and the project as a whole.

Two Counties MAT - all school crests

The Benefits

  • Faster user access
  • Standardisation across Trust schools
  • Improved user experience
  • School centralised storage for all emails and data
  • Enabled the roll-out of a Trust-wide Office 365 backup policy

We’ve been able to help Two Counties achieve standardisation across all their schools. The three schools that have been migrated across to Office 365 now no longer have to worry about how or where their data is stored. In fact, data and emails are now be stored on the tenants of each schools, rather than in a variety of places. The migration and standardisation has allowed Two Counties to roll-out an Office 365 backup policy that’s Trust-wide.

Added to these somewhat behind-the-scenes benefits of the migration, there are day-to-day benefits for Staff and Students. Teachers and pupils can now access their resources and data faster and from anywhere. With Office 365 which means learning’s no longer confined to the classroom, helping students to develop skills ready for higher education and the world of work.

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