myUSO – a new online bookmarking service

myUSO is a password-protected bookmark service for all USO-enabled schools, giving school staff the ability to pre-configure a set of managed links to Internet and Intranet-based services for their users.

By creating a publishable ‘Home page’ from which staff and pupils can easily access all USO authenticated services, plus any additional web-based services linked alongside, myUSO presents a simple, convenient and organised route to online resources for schools.

myUSO can be configured by staff for use by any person in their school that has a USO account. Staff can create tabs within the website which contain links relevant to all users, staff-only, or specified year groups or classes, and make each tab visible accordingly.

All users except young children using a special ‘Early Years’ log in can sort, search and filter the links available to them through an intuitive control which also defines how the information about each link is viewed.

Additionally, all users can easily create a set of personal bookmarks with just a simple ‘drag & drop’ structure enabling links to be organised into folders.

An unlimited number of links can be placed within each tab, and the collection of bookmarks presented to pupils and staff can be as limited, or as comprehensive, as the school wishes.

myUSO is a free service available to any USO-enabled school, and can be accessed via using any student or staff USO account.

Full details about the service are available here.

USO Instant Messaging (Atomwide Chat)

Following the recent notice from Microsoft of the imminent demise of Windows Live Messenger (AKA: MSN), and the additional challenges that schools may face when asked to deploy Skype as the alternative, Atomwide is pleased to make Atomwide Chat available to full USO-subscribing schools at no additional charge.

Operating in a similar, and hence familiar, manner to MSN or Windows Messaging, Atomwide Chat is an authenticated instant messaging service that can be used in schools, with access controlled via a USO account, and which keeps a secured history of conversations.

Atomwide Chat can be used in schools with a greater degree of security compared to publicly available messaging services, and access can be restricted to staff and/or pupil groups separately on a per school basis. Messages can be exchanged between any valid, and locally-enabled, USO accounts.

Users can access a simple web-based interface or install one of the several more feature-rich client applications that are available for most platforms, including PC and Mac, and many mobile devices.

Further details are available to USO Nominated Contacts via the Support Site User Guide.

LGfL Access Management Federation

As part of schools’ LGfL 2.0 subscriptions in London, access is included to a wide range of premium software from commercial providers that would cost many thousands of pounds if purchased separately.

Some of these software packages have been enhanced to be “LGfL aware” – meaning that they include additional, unique features linked to a school’s staff and pupils’ USO accounts. For example, the popular website “MangaHigh” can “know” the names of a school’s classes, along with their teachers and pupils. This makes the process of setting up MangaHigh accounts automatic – a job that would otherwise be very time-consuming and require continual manual updating.

LGfL has established a “Federation” of carefully-selected partners that may be permitted to access USO data, and has strict rules in place to regulate this activity.

Access by Federation partners to each school’s data is managed through the Federation data release page of the LGfL USO Support Site, accessible only by the Head Teacher. The page summarises what, if any, data is available to which Federation partners and why. It also allows a Headteacher to switch on, or off, any data sharing links for their school.

For full details and instructions, school Nominated Contacts and/or Head Teachers should read the associated page in the support site user guide.

Important changes to Bulk user creation request procedure

In a change designed to assist establishments unable to use either USO-AutoUpdate or GroupCall to automate the management of staff and pupil USO user accounts, Atomwide has made changes to the bulk user request process. This is designed to improve data security, safe-guarding, and the accuracy of user data.

From today, newly-submitted bulk request spreadsheets must contain user details for the whole establishment (all staff entitled to a USO account, all students, or all entitled staff and students) with certain fields mandatory. It is anticipated that the fields in the spreadsheet will normally be populated with data derived from the establishment’s MIS, using its in-built export facilities.

Whole establishment spreadsheets uploaded via the support site will be put in the same automated queue for overnight processing that is used by the fully-automated MIS export systems. The results of the processing will then be made available on the User Accounts : Whole school bulk results page of the support site.

Wherever possible, USO-AutoUpdate software should be used instead of the manual process described above as AutoUpdate automatically exports user data from a establishment’s MIS, guaranteeing that USO account data is accurate and up-to-date.

Any questions about AutoUpdate or the all-school bulk update process should be raised via a support case. Full details regarding the installation of USO-AutoUpdate can be found in the Help section of the support site.

Nominated Contact status for external ICT support providers

In response to the need for external contractors to provide ICT support to some schools in the capacity of a Nominated Contact, a new process to facilitate the provisioning of such USO accounts has been established. It is now possible for a Head teacher to sign off a form requesting that the manager of the external support company be given the ability to grant other employees of that company the status of Nominated Contact for that school.

To obtain the form required to initiate this process, an existing Nominated Contact in the school will need to log in to the USO support site and download the form found under Resources > Forms. The form signed by the Head and the manager of the ICT support company will then need to be scanned and attached to a support case raised by an existing Nominated Contact at the school.

Once the manager of the external support company obtains the Head’s permission and the forms are processed, they will be able to request that the company’s employees be granted Nominated Contact status by raising a support case via the USO Support Site. No further intervention from the Head teacher will be required.

A maximum of 15 Nominated Contacts per school may be created in this way. Each employee of the support company applying for Nominated Contact status will also be required to obtain an OTP tag and register it to their personal USO account. These tags may be purchased from Atomwide.

When employees of the support companies leave their current employment, it is expected that their USO account and Nominated Contact status be terminated by the company within 24 hours. When a Head teacher who signed the initial release form leaves their post at that school, the school must notify Atomwide of the change, either by providing the name of the new Head or explaining the circumstances if no new Head is in place. The usage of any account to access LGfL USO Support Services and/or to access school or user-related data, and the conduct of each individual account holder in their usage of those accounts, remains the sole responsibility of the contracting company’s manager that has accepted this administrative role.  This responsibility is discharged for the individual account once the account has been disabled.

In order to ensure that general user account data is maintained up-to-date, schools must adhere to the LGfL mandatory requirement of operating nightly exports from any supported MIS using LGfL USO-AutoUpdate.  This service is currently available for schools using Capita SIMS, Pearson e1, RM G2/S2, Wauton Samuel, and Serco CMIS platforms.

This process is intended to allow external support companies to employ different individuals to assist a given school, as circumstances require, while continuing to safeguard that school’s data and allow for accurate auditing of activity taking place within the USO support site.

External support companies that are new to working with USO are welcome to contact for further information.

USO-AutoUpdate for Serco CMIS is undergoing release trials

USO-AutoUpdate software has recently been updated to allow extraction of data from Serco CMIS. Schools using this MIS can obtain a copy of the USO-AutoUpdate software on request to create and maintain their pupil and staff USO accounts. All schools using USO-AutoUpdate for the first time will need to enable the software to export data via the AutoUpdate settings page in the USO support site.

The software is undergoing final trials in various schools at the moment.  Anyone wishing to participate in the trial may do so on the understanding that the software provided is a Beta version. To obtain the software, a Nominated Contact will need to raise a support case and request that the software is enabled for their school. A link to the correct version of the software download will then be provided via the support case. All details regarding installation and configuration, as well as the software download, can be found here.

USO-AutoUpdate has been released for Wauton Samuel users

Schools using the Wauton Samuel MIS can now make use of LGfL USO-AutoUpdate software to create and maintain their pupil and staff USO accounts. Schools that have been managing user accounts manually can now automate the updating of USO account data, greatly reducing the amount of work involved in the administration of user accounts via regular, scheduled exports of agreed data fields.

Schools that have been using a different, or third party, exporting process can now switch to USO-AutoUpdate. The current software will need to be disabled before AutoUpdate can be used. All schools using USO-AutoUpdate for the first time will need to enable the software via the AutoUpdate settings page in the USO support site.

Schools will need to have a recent, USO-AutoUpdate-compatible, version of Wauton Samuel School Web Services installed and obtain the relevant login details from Wauton Samuel. They should then download the USO-AutoUpdate software from the link provided in the USO Support Site User Guide (via the Blue ‘Help’ button). All details regarding installation and configuration, as well as the software download, can be found here.

Online Security, Child Safeguarding, and the Data Protection Act

Atomwide and its core service delivery partners, Virgin Media Business and Fronter, take security extremely seriously with regard to all aspects of the services provided in the format of broadband education service.

In order to operate the most robust, sustainable, and scalable hierarchy of user security and identity management across schools, Atomwide has operated for many years within a wider organisational structure assisted by key LA officers and senior Local Authority Advisors (or their commercial sector partner equivalents where LA services have been outsourced), all typically holding the status of Super User or Power User within the USO that underpins all LA services. To obtain this position, LA officers will have been appointed by the Local Authority’s  key contractual contact.

Within schools and similar individual establishments, this status is replaced with the local role of Nominated Contact, authorised for appointment, without exception, by the school’s Head Teacher (or equivalent for non-school establishments).

Nominated Contacts are the vital, recognised and authorised ‘conduit’ for communication, support and action between Atomwide and the school. They can be nominated by any in-post Head Teacher whose role can itself be verified by a combination of the school’s up to date DfE EduBase entry, Local Authority officer-sourced information, or in some cases, practical supporting evidence from the school.

The validation of the Head Teacher’s identity is taken very seriously by Atomwide, since we recognise their role as the school’s Data Controller in the eyes of the law, and also the person on whom responsibility ultimately rests should any breach of security result in the unauthorised release of sensitive, perhaps child-specific, personal, geographical, or status-related data pertaining to USO account holders.

Accordingly, no facility is offered for any person not previously authorised to communicate with the Atomwide USO Help Desk on any school or user-specific matter. The only exception to this is reserved for communications with law enforcement officers acting with appropriate authority.

Schools not wishing to have their service provision in any way governed or influenced by LA officers or policy, can arrange this by issuing an instruction by the Head Teacher via a support case on the support site, at which point appropriate changes to the governance process will be made for that school.  Due to the significance of Head Teacher’s responsibility in a number of key areas relating to data protection and service management, no opportunity is provided for the Head Teacher’s role and responsibility to be over-ridden or otherwise bypassed by another party.

Atomwide greatly appreciate the ongoing support for this strategy by Local Authority ‘leads’, support staff, school Head Teachers, education-associated establishment Managers, and school staff in general, as well as third-party commercial partners employed under the direction of schools and Councils. We appreciate that urgency can spawn frustration, and so are all the more grateful to those users that respect the structures put in place to ensure the safety of information, user identities, and ultimately the children, students and staff that Atomwide exists to serve.

Access to all LGfL content will be via LGfL USO only from 1 September

LGfL is moving towards using a Unified Sign On for all its services. Users should be aware that as of 1 September 2011 access to all LGfL content will be via LGfL USO accounts only. (This is the same login as is used to access StaffMail or LondonMail accounts.)

This means that from 1 September:

  • Users wishing to access content from home will not be able to do so using a Fronter login.
  • Screens where a choice of the type of login is offered will no longer appear as all logins will be via LGfL USO.
  • Users whose London MLE account is not linked to their LGfL USO account will still see a Fronter Login screen but  LGfL content within the MLE will require a further login.
  • Access to content via network IP recognition will continue within the schools as before.
  • Access to personalised content will require USO authentication as normal, whatever your location.

For the full briefing document, including details on the compatible MIS platforms and how to obtain USO see:

Atomwide offers Nominated Contact Training

Atomwide is offering free one-day training courses to Nominated Contacts within LGfL schools. The courses are designed to give Nominated Contacts, particularly those who are new to their role, a good understanding of USO-account administration, the USO Support Site, and the relevance of these to the wide range of LGfL services.

Courses will cover the following topics:

  • Overview of LGfL USO, Shibboleth and OTP authentication
  • Getting the most from the USO support site
  • Raising and tracking support cases and contacting the Service Desk
  • Manual account creation and administration
  • LGfL USO-AutoUpdate – configuring settings, understanding data export results, matching accounts
  • Overview of functionality that hinges on AutoUpdate
  • Introduction to ADSync
  • Configuring LGfL StaffMail, including creating aliases and shared mailboxes
  • Configuring LGfL LondonMail/SafeMail
  • Secure file transfer with LGfL USO-FX
  • Introduction to LGfL WebScreen 2.0 web filtering system
  • Introduction to parent USO accounts to access parental reporting
  • Overview of  LGfL USO-AutoText

Spaces can be reserved via the Course bookings page found under the Training tab in the Support Site. Each person wishing to attend a course is requested to make a booking themselves as it is not possible to make reservations on behalf of others. Once an initial booking is made, it must be approved by the school’s Head Teacher or a designated Course Booking Approver. “Course Booking Approver” is a newly-created USO profile setting that is granted to Heads by default and can be granted to other individuals by raising a support case.

The courses aim to ensure that Nominated Contacts have the confidence to carry out all tasks related to their role and so, questions and interaction are welcomed throughout the day.

How to terminate USO accounts

Most of the information made available to users concerns the provisioning and administration of USO accounts. However, knowing how to terminate USO accounts correctly is of high importance when pupils or staff leave an establishment or are otherwise no longer eligible for a USO account.

A comprehensive document available on the USO support site outlines steps that should be taken to stop a user’s USO account and their access to licenced services or to keep an account temporarily under the “sponsorship” of a school. Please refer to this document for the latest guidance.

USO-Parent Accounts now available to support web-based Parental Engagement on LGfL 2.0

Atomwide can now provide Parent USO accounts for use with compatible parental engagement services. These accounts are available to parents through a secure self-registration process and will allow parents to view parental reporting data within the online interface provided by a variety of services, currently including the London MLE, USO-integrated SIMS Learning Gateway, and Atomwide’s own ParentLink Reporting pages.

Parent USOs are initially available for use with LGfL 2.0-subscribing schools for use with the London MLE, SIMS Learning Gateway and ParentLink services as described above.  They are also released today for use by all Buckinghamshire LA WAN-connected schools for use with SIMS Learning Gateway within the Bucks Learning Portal (BLP).  In all cases, Parent USO capability is enabled on a per-school basis in response to a request from a school Nominated Contact via the USO Support Site.

Schools are asked to contact their Parental Reporting service provider to ensure that the appropriate reporting service is available to their school, and also to ensure that USO-AutoUpdate is being used to export the necessary data to Atomwide, prior to requesting Parent USO accounts to be enabled.

Schools in other USO-licensing LAs should contact Atomwide or their LA for further details on the future availability of Parent USOs.

More information on the creation of parent accounts and what is required to access parental report data can be found in the LGfL/Atomwide USO Support Site online manual. Click the blue “Help about this page” button from any page in the USO Support Site to access the manual, then select the “Parental Engagement” topic from the menu structure on the left-hand side.

Secure password storage

The support site offers all users a place to securely store usernames and passwords for all the various websites they may need to access.

My Account >> USO Password Vault provides a page where anyone with a USO account can keep a record of any personal or work-related passwords that they are not meant to write down on bits of paper that can get into the wrong hands. Full details can be found here.

SIMS to USO automation

As an authority making use of the ability to automate the USO account management through nightly SIMS exports we have come across a side affect of this system that we did not totally foresee:

A few of our secondary schools have already given their year 13’s leaving dates in SIMS, meaning that the next nightly export removed these peoples USO accounts and the associated email account. Right in the middle of UCAS applications, the same problem may occur to a lesser extent with Year 11 leavers and college applications.

On one hand I am not convinced this is a technical issue, as from a data security point of view if someone has left they are no longer under the control of the school and should no longer be entitled to use the schools or LA’s ICT facilities. However from a customer service point of view if these accounts have been used on UCAS or college application forms then it unreasonable to just dismiss them.

For the school involved we have disabled their nightly exports until late August/September to give the pupils a grace period.

Has anyone else come across this problem and does anyone have any ideas about what could be done to alleviate the problem in future years?

Darren King : LB Sutton

Modification to support reporting

Information for Atomwide USO School Nominated Contact (NC), Power Users and Super Users.

As you may already be aware, during 2008 and 2009 there has been an increased focus, supported by government guidance, relating to information handling and information security, especially with regard to staff and pupil details in the context of schools.

In response to this guidance, Atomwide has been reviewing its own data security methodologies and practices, and discussing their implications with its contracting customer authorities.

With the increased amount of data now being transferred in support of USO-integrated services, and with an ever increasing range of services relying on that data for access and authentication purposes, those discussions resulted in Atomwide changing the process by which personal user data could be sent into the Atomwide Service Desk at the end of 2008.

Following that change, all personal user data was required to be submitted via automated secure upload, or via manual upload using the secure utility within the Support Site.

A similar change will take affect from 1st August 2009, that will result in authorised contacts needing to post support enquires via the ‘Raise an Issue’ option under the Service Desk tab in the Support Site.

In this way, we can ensure that all sensitive data, whether intentionally submitted to us, or unintentionally included in a support request, is sent to us in an encrypted and hence secure fashion, rather than via an email system that cannot be verified as secure in the same way.

As a consequence, any emailed enquiries posted after 31st July 2009 will receive an automated reply with details of how to log a case via the Support Site.