Woman using Surface Book on a table

Department for Education rolls out Microsoft Surface devices to empower employees and improve ties with schools

The Department for Education (DfE) is using Microsoft Surface devices to transform how its staff work.

The government department, which oversees around 20,000 schools in England, has offered each of its 5,000 employees either a Surface Book or a Surface Pro 4.

The introduction of the new devices forms part of the department’s broader digital transformation programme, and they allow workers to be more mobile, collaborative and efficient.

“We have seen significant technology modernisation over the past 18 months, and the Surface devices have been a big part of that,” said Adrian Tucker, Chief Technology Officer at the DfE. “The Surface Book has been a core part of our mobility and productivity; it’s allowed us to use a device that’s secure in a mobile way. We have also upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and we are able to collaborate, share documents and use the cloud. We haven’t had these benefits before, and now we want to exploit the technology.”

Government departments have been under pressure to cut costs in the wake of the Efficiency Review, which was announced in the 2016 Budget. It aimed to generate £3.5 billion of savings in 2019 to 2020, to ensure public finances are “on a sustainable path”.

Tucker chose Surface devices as they could offer staff the ability to work from anywhere and enable the department to maximise the space available.

“Ensuring that technology offers the best possible value to the department has been a big driver all the way through our transformation,” he said. Part of this was making our services more efficient and cheaper, so we looked at our end user devices. We had been trialling the Surface Pro 3 and that felt like the right device, partly because of the annotation and collaboration capabilities and partly because of the way it works. So we took the decision to roll out the Surface Pro 4 as it became available.

“The key characteristic that led me to choose the Surface Book was that it could become a tablet. Everything that’s on the Pro is on the Book and vice-versa, so it gave us flexibility, annotation and a tablet. It was a decision based on the future, not today; it’s about efficiency, and that’s good for the taxpayer.”

Schools across the UK are keen to adopt new technology to transform how children are taught and help teachers manage workloads, while Microsoft recently announced it was working with universities across the world to include digital skills in traditional teacher training.

Ryan Asdourian, Windows and Surface Lead at Microsoft UK, added: “It really is significant to see government departments such as the DfE make bold IT decisions for the future. By deploying Surface devices, organisations like DfE can drive substantial efficiencies and boost employee productivity. In a traditional ‘pen and paper’ industry, it’s refreshing to see such a large-scale transformational push towards paperless working, with colleagues collaborating in an intuitive and secure manner, whether in the office or in the field.”